We envision a future where people actively work to dismantle injustices and build a more peaceful, equitable world.

New Year and New Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Winner and Honor Titles!

What makes a new year new? Change, and opportunity for more change! Young and old, we have a part to play in bringing in the new!

From among our 26 powerful 2020 Finalists, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Selection Committee has chosen the following 2021 Winning and Honor titles. Each of these books is an invitation to young people to engage in the kind of dialogue that leads to active participation in change for social and environmental justice.

Make plans to join us for a virtual awards ceremony that will include author and illustrator presenations and questions from young people on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, at 1:00 pm!

2021 Younger Children’s Winning Title


This book empowers the reader to stand up for environmental justice and one of the most important elements for our survival – water.  The story, with its foundation taken from the 2016 Standing Rock protests in the Dakotas, takes place on Indigenous land and reminds us “we are stewards of the Earth and that together we must fight to protect our planet’s sacred water.”  Fighting against the arrival of an oil pipeline, the female main character, literally and metaphorically, stands up against the evil “black snake” calling on us all to embrace that “we are water protectors. WE STAND.”  Goade, through vibrant watercolors, communicates the clear and imminent necessity of communities standing together in solidarity for our world.  Young readers are called to respond passionately by joining the stand, pledging to become water protectors and earth stewards. 

2021 Older Children’s Winning Title

A Wish in the Dark, by Christina Soontornvat, published by Candlewick Press.

This book is set in a Thai inspired fantasy world in which Pong and Somkit, nine-year-old orphan boys, must live in Namwon prison until the age of thirteen. Pong, however, escapes the prison and begins a new life at a Wat (temple) in a different city, hiding his fugitive status. Nok – an obedient daughter of the prison’s warden – is eager to capture Pong to gain the approval of her family. As she discovers secrets, Nok transforms from the perfect daughter of a wealthy family to stand with Pong and Somkit, and for the people who are oppressed by the governor who controls the city of Chattatana and the lights that power the city. Loosely based on Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, this beautifully narrated fantasy encourages reader reflection and dialogue about structural social inequity and the role of protests in creating social change.

2021 Younger Children’s Honor Book:

Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed The Ocean’s Biggest Secret by Jess Keating, illustrated by Katie Hickey and published by Tundra

This book is the lyrical biography of Marie Tharp whose curiosity and fascination with the natural world led her to the study of oceanography and cartography in a time when women weren’t welcome in the sciences. Since women were considered bad luck on ships, Marie was left behind when her male colleagues embarked on research trips.  Undaunted she explored from her desk, using the depth measurement data to plot a map of the ocean floor, which revealed an undiscovered deep rift valley on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. Nobody believed her evidence, especially explorer Jacques Cousteau who sent his cameras down into the depths of the ocean, to prove her wrong, instead validating her discovery of the ocean’s biggest secret, the largest mountain range on our planet. The exuberant illustrations rendered in a flowing ocean palette of teal, indigo, and blues with earth tones of green and gold invite young readers to explore the wonder and beauty of the world around them. More importantly, the text challenges readers to consider and investigate the role of unrecognized women behind the scenes of past and future scientific discoveries.

Younger Children’s Honor Book

Black is a Rainbow Color, by Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, and published by Roaring Book Press

This book is a powerful anthem that celebrates all things Black, the colorful and the cultural. The story takes us on a journey with a young girl who reflects on the meaning of being Black, which leads her to question, absorb, and share information about her culture. The lyrical text coupled with symbolic illustrations moves beyond literal colors and delves into the thick richness of Black culture and pride. The text weaves in history, literary works, important Civil Rights activists, and the everyday people who have peacefully marched over the years from Selma, Alabama to the current worldwide Black Lives Matter movement. The bold, symbolic illustrations depict the strength, resilience, and diversity of Black culture while including a message of hope and joy. Readers are invited to disrupt the colorblind narrative to embrace, appreciate, and see color and culture in all of its beautifully diverse facets.

Older Children’s Honor Book

Finish the Fight! The Brave and Revolutionary Women who Fought for the Right to Vote, written by Veronica Chambers and the New York Times staff, illustrated by diverse artists, and published by Versify (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

This book opens with eight trading card images of widely known suffragists, all of whom are white. A page turn reveals a multitude of similar images featuring lesser known suffragists, who are primarily Black and brown women. This visual hook leads into well-documented content, with eleven biographies of fierce women, all introduced with vivid portraits, followed by text woven with symbolic flowers, plants, and primary source photos. The authors note that “Women staged one of the longest social reform movements in the history of the United States. This is not a boring history of nagging spinsters; it is a badass history of revolution staged by political geniuses.” This crucial makeover to the narrative of the suffrage movement, which disrupts the historical record to equalize the work of powerful Black, Latinx, Native American, Chinese, and Queer women, invites readers to reflect on a new and broader perspective.

Older Children’s Honor Book

Land of the Cranes, by Aida Salazar, published by Scholastic Press

This book is the emotionally compelling story in verse of Betita, a nine year old girl and her pregnant mother detained at the Mexican border after an attempt to visit Betiita’s father who has been recently deported by ICE.  In poignant verse, Betita reveals the inhumane conditions of the family detention center, hunger, cold, humiliation, and separation. Yet in spite of these conditions, Betita finds strength in the ancestral stories from her papa, the resilience and strength of her mother, her fellow asylum seekers, and her own writing. By sharing her own voice in writing, Betita teaches other detainees to express their own suffering through picture poems. Betita’s perspective will invite readers to consider compassionately the complex issues of mass deportations and racism. In addition, the power of Betita’s writing and the activism of Betita and her fellow asylum seekers will inspire readers to consider their own response to inhumane policies.

Books Help Children Put Change into Historical Context

It’s about time…

The Water Protectors is a visually stunning and poetic illustration that Indigenous Peoples are powerfully present today.

Caricatures have contributed to the mocking of Native Americans and to the idea that they are history. Connect the presents day changes about team names and mascots with an inventory and analysis of classroom, school and library books.

Check out these resources to help

Books Help Children to Find Courage and Make Change

A Wish in the Dark is full of magical light and provokes thought about who controls the light and how to take a stand and shine light in the darkness.

A fantasy book CAN encourage dialogue about structural inequality, privilege, protest, and justice inspiring deep discussions about who decides what’s right and what’s wrong, and when breaking the law is the just thing to do.  Fictional characters like Nok, Pong, and Somkit CAN encourage understanding of real-life actions of people like John Lewis and many many more and help children (and all people) work for justice.

AND teach about character development and transformation, metaphor and text to world connections.

Check out These Resources to Help

Inspire Young Change-makers with Information from the Jane Addams Peace Association Website!

Books! Social justice learning! Our mission & vision! History of the book award! How to get involved! Free resources! This newsletter! And more!

You can find resources associated with each of our winning and honor books from Teachingbooks.net. For resources for the recent Finalists, Winners, and Honor Books just click through on the book. For all other books go to Browse Books.

Black Lives Matter at School in February and Every Month of the Year


So many great resources amongst the award recipients, honor books and finalists!

Just when is the New Year and the time for Positive Change?

…looks like all year long!!

Jane Addams was a Change-maker

Addams worked to help young people widely in her world, grounded in compassionate, creative visions of human possibility. She and Hull House residents were responsible for nearly every major piece of legislation having to do with the well-being of children from 1890 until the New Deal.

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.

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Know of a good book published or to be published in 2021 that helps children engage in deep dialogue that leads to positive change? 

Take a look at the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award criteria and guidelines here and submit your book suggestion here! Thank you!

Jane Addams Peace Association