Recipients of the 2023 Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards were announced today by the Jane Addams Peace Association. Since 1953, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award annually recognizes children’s books of literary and aesthetic excellence that effectively engage children in thinking about peace, social justice, global community, and equity for all people. This year marks the Award’s 70th Anniversary.
Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement, written by Angela Joy, illustrated by Janelle Washington, and published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing, is the winner in the Books for Younger Children category.
Undercover Latina, written by Aya De León, and published by Candlewick Press, is the winner in the Books for Older Children category.
In addition, two Honor Books were named in the Books for Younger Children category:
Sanctuary: Kip Tiernan and Rosie’s Place, the Nation’s First Shelter for Women, written by Christine McDonell, illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov, and published by Candlewick Press; and Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth: Educator, Feminist, and Anti-Lynching Civil Rights Leader, written by Michelle Duster, illustrated by Laura Freeman, and published by Godwin Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company.
Two Honor Books were named in the Books for Older Children category:
Yonder, written by Ali Standish, and published by HarperCollins an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; and Swim Team, written and illustrated by Johnnie Christmas, published by Harper Alley, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
The 2023 Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards ceremony will be held on April 25th at the Winter Garden of the Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago, Illinois. Details about the award event, and securing winner and honor book seals, are available from the Jane Addams Peace Association at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement, written by Angela Joy, illustrated by Janelle Washington, is a powerful and necessary story, in Joy’s words, “It was the braver thing that changed everything.” Her storytelling commences with the horrific discovery on August 31, 1955, of “the boy they found far from home.” Joy then takes us all the way back and tells us about the young Mamie Elizabeth Carthan before the nightmare. We learn her story, her roots, her move during the Great Migration, her hard life in the North, her marriage to a boxer and how she stood up to him as an abuser. Joy recounts the love and dedication Mamie had for Emmett, raising him without a father. The story leads us into when Emmett travels South to visit family despite an “ache deep down in her soul.” Mamie’s story is not buried with Emmett; she uses the pain to fuel her life, a life of achievement and heroism. Washington’s beautiful and careful illustrations show pain and also power. Her technique of paper-cuts gives the story a unique feel by incorporating both black and white silhouettes and full-color figures.
Undercover Latina, written by Aya De León, is a fast-paced middle-grade novel narrated and centered on 14-year-old Andréa Hernández-Baldoquín, who has been introduced to the spy world by her parents. Her whole family works for the Factory, an international organization of spies whose mission is to protect people of color. Although the Hernández-Baldoquín family typically go on missions together, this story is all about Andréa’s first solo mission. She and her mother must leave her father and brother behind because only Andréa and her mom can pass for white. Andréa straightens her hair and assumes the identity of Andrea Burke, a white girl. Her mission: befriend the estranged son of a white nationalist. Andréa’s assignment doesn’t mean just changing her appearance. She must also quickly learn about her target’s interests, comic books, and gaming. This story highlights Andréa’s journey of trying not to blow her cover by being true to herself, all while discussing issues of colorism in the Latine community, the threat of white supremacy, and handling a first crush, who happens to be her target’s Latino best friend. Readers are enthralled as they continue turning pages to see if Andréa can remain undercover, code-switch, and actually thwart a terrorist.
Two Honor Books were named in the Books for Younger Children category.
Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth, written by Michelle Duster, illustrated by Laura Freeman, demonstrates Wells’s fight for justice over nearly 50 years. Seventy years before Rosa Parks’s famous bus boycott, Wells refused to move from a train’s “ladies’ car” to their “colored car,” which doubled as the smoking car. As a teacher, Wells lost her job for having the heart to write her frustrations about separate and unequal school systems in her co-owned publication Memphis Free Speech. After losing three of her friends to lynching, Wells wrote the truth about those lynchings, knowing that “her friends were only guilty of being economic rivals to a white-owned business.” After marriage, Wells-Barnett was involved in the suffrage movement, started the first kindergarten for Black children in Chicago, and helped recently-migrated Black men find work. Wells’s legacy lives on today as we still learn that “the way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”
Sanctuary: Kip Tiernan and Rosie’s Place, the Nation’s First Shelter for Women, written by Christine McDonnell, illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov, is a biographical picture book about Kip Tiernan, a community and women’s activist during the Great Depression. Inspired by actual events and women in need in her community, Kip started Rosie’s Place, the first women’s shelter where “women wouldn’t be reminded they were poor, a shelter with no chores, no questions asked, just good meals and warm beds”. Her continued value for humanity is evident throughout all her efforts to bring food and shelter to communities and future generations in need. Both text and watercolor illustrations showcase the love and humanity of our unhoused population and the value of human connection. The picture book’s back matter includes detailed information and sources about Kip’s life and her activism that led to establishing a place of not only shelter but also compassion and respect for women.
Two Honor Books were named in the Books for Older Children category.
Yonder, written by Ali Standish, is a middle-grade historical fiction title that aptly captures the sentiments of a small Appalachian town in North Carolina during WWII and specifically in 1943–an era of suspicion and racism. The narrative is recounted in the first-person voice of 13-year-old Danny Timmons, whose father is fighting in Europe and whose pregnant mother is the local newspaper editor. It opens three years prior, during a major rainstorm when he witnesses 15-year-old Jack Bailey plunge into raging flood waters to rescue two sisters while fearful townsmen look on. Subsequently, Jack saves Danny from the middle-school bully, cementing in him an admiration for the older boy as the two develop a sibling-like relationship. During the year, Danny realizes how the unimaginable evil occurring in Germany began as small individual choices to ignore injustice, as his own community forced a Black family out of town and ostracized another when their son deserted the military. The use of flashbacks allows readers to experience events alongside Danny as he pieces together the puzzle of these events, Jack’s disappearance, and how his own moments of indecision, fear, and silence enabled others’ cruelty. He also becomes aware of the meaning of true bravery and takes immediate action to expose truths, while accepting Jack’s disappearance as leading to a greater good.
Swim Team, written and illustrated by Johnny Christmas, is a middle-grade graphic novel that shares Bree’s story as she transitions from her math- and puzzle-loving world in New York to a new life in Florida in a middle school that centers around swimming, and she cannot swim. Enith Brigitha Middle School is named for a Black Olympian swimmer and the school has a history of almost winning at the state swimming championships. When Bree makes friends with an elderly Black neighbor who was a competitive swimmer, she not only finds an amazing coach and mentor, she finds someone who helps her understand the deep racist history behind swimming and how that is still impacting people of color today. Christmas’s accessible illustrations vividly match the emotions of the text as the reader experiences anxiety, hope, and joy hand in hand with Bree as the story unfolds. In the end, Bree learns how to navigate not only the water but her own anxieties and to build meaningful relationships.
A national committee chose the winner and honor books for younger and older children. Members of the 2023 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Selection Committee are: Josefa Bustos Pelayo (chair, CA), Jackie Marshall Arnold (co-chair, OH), Shanetia Clark (MD), Dora Guzman (IL), Annisha Jeffries (OH), Kharissa Kenner (NY), Nanesha Nuñez (NY), Ruth E. Quiroa (IL), Naomi Solomon (NB), Jade Valenzuela (NM), and Jongsun Wee (MN).
Read more about this year’s finalists and about the Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards
View a complete list of books honored since 1953.