NEW YORK, NY.-
The Last Cuentista, Donna Barba Higueras dystopian yet hopeful middle-grade novel, received this years John Newbery Medal on Monday, winning one of the most prestigious prizes in childrens literature.
In the book, published by Levine Querido, 12-year-old Petra Peña and her family are among those chosen to escape Earth before Halleys comet collides with the planet. Put to sleep for nearly 400 years, they wake up with everyones memories erased but Petras.
In The New York Times Book Review, Tae Keller, who won the Newbery last year for When You Trap a Tiger, said The Last Cuentista certainly veers into the dark end of middle-grade fiction, with brainwashing, purging (murder, although always off-page) and, yes, the destruction of our entire planet. But it doesnt dwell in the darkness, preferring to give its readers healthy doses of hope, wonder and page-turning action.
The Randolph Caldecott Medal, the top award for an American picture book, went to Watercress, illustrated by Jason Chin and written by Andrea Wang. The book, published by Neal Porter Books, follows a young Chinese American girl living in a mostly white town in rural Ohio in the 1970s.
Reviewing the book for The Times, Jennifer Krauss wrote that the watercolor illustrations, which draw on both Chinese and Western techniques, combine meticulous, gut-wrenching realism with dreamlike panoramas.
The Newbery and Caldecott awards were among the childrens literature prizes and honors presented by the American Library Association on Monday at a virtual ceremony.
The most honored book was Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Published by Carolrhoda Books, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group, the book won both the Coretta Scott King illustrator and author awards, which are presented to African American writers and illustrators.
Unspeakable was a finalist for the Caldecott as well as the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, which went to The Peoples Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought for Justice With Art, written by Cynthia Levinson and illustrated by Evan Turk.
The Michael L. Printz Award for young adult literature went to Firekeepers Daughter, a debut novel written by Angeline Boulley and published by Henry Holt and Co. The book is being adapted for television at Netflix by Higher Ground, former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obamas production company.
The Stonewall Book Awards, which recognize books with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender themes, went to Last Night at the Telegraph Club and Too Bright to See.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club, by Malinda Lo, won in the young adult literature category. Her book, which also won the National Book Award for childrens literature in 2021, takes place in San Franciscos Chinatown during the Red Scare and follows a queer 17-year-old.
Too Bright to See, by Kyle Lukoff, won in the childrens literature category. A finalist for last years National Book Award, it is about an 11-year-old named Bug who is transgender.
A complete list of the winners and honorees can be found at ALA.org/YMA.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times