'New Kid' Makes History as First Graphic Novel To Win Newbery; Caldecott Goes To 'The Undefeated'

Jerry Craft's title named Newbery winner on a huge day for graphic novels at the 2020 Youth Media Awards. Kadir Nelson's illustrations earn the Caldecott for 'The Undefeated' by Kwame Alexander.

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History was made at the 2020 Youth Media Awards in Philadelphia. A graphic novel has won the John Newbery Medal for the first time in its nearly 100-year history as Jerry Craft earned the honor for New Kid

The Caldecott Medal went to The Undefeated with illustrations by Kadir Nelson. 

"With every page turn, Kadir Nelson's art in The Undefeated challenges emotional capacity with its masterful use of color and compositionwhat a great privilege it has been for us to be able to consider it this year and to honor it in this way," said Julie Roach, chair of the 2020 Caldecott committee. "I have worked with a truly outstanding committee this year and we are overjoyed with all our winners."

The Undefeated was also named a Newbery Honor title. The Printz Medal was awarded to A.S. King for Dig. But it was Craft and graphic novels' big day.

“A graphic novel **WINS** THE NEWBERY FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER!!!!! @JerryCraft, my hat is off to you!!!!! #alama #graphicnovelsFTW,” fellow graphic novel author Raina Telgemeier tweeted.

"New Kid is a distinct and timely story," said Newbery committee chair Krishna Grady. "Respectful of its child audience, it explores friendship, race, class and bullying in a fresh and oftentimes humorous manner. We let the criteria leads us in all of our discussions and it lead us to New Kid. It is individually distinct. It is simply put a 'distinguished contribution to American literature.'"

Craft also earned the Coretta Scott King Author Award for New Kid, which was one of many graphic novels honored. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, was named a Printz Honor book. The Asian/Pacific American Awards honored two graphic novels: Stargazing by Jen Wang won for Children’s Literature and They Called Us Enemy, written by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott, and illustrated by Harmony Becker, won in the Young Adult Literature category.R.J. Palacio's White Bird won the Sydney Taylor Award in the middle grade category. In Waves by AJ Dungo and Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe won Alex Awards. Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka won the Odyssey Award for best audiobook.

Graphic novels had been named Newbery Honor titles in the past with Cece Bell's El Deafo in 2015 and Victoria Jamieson's Roller Girl in 2016, but this is the first win for a graphic novel. Mariko and Jillian Tamaki's This One Summer was a Caldecott Honor title in 2015.

The John Newbery Medal is given to "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children" by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC).

The Newbery Honors books were: The UndefeatedScary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidicker; Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga; and Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams.

The Caldecott is awarded to the most distinguished American picture book for children by ALSC. The Caldecott Honor titles were: Bear Came Along, illustrated by LeUyen Pham; Double Bass Blues, illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez; and Going Down Home with Daddyillustrated by Daniel Minter.


The Michael L. Printz Award is given by YALSA to the book that "exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature." The Printz Honor books were: The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi, translated by Cathy Hirano; Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell; Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir by Nikki Grimes; and Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean.

Author Alicia D. Williams had a big day. Genesis Begins Again was named a Newbery Honor title and Williams won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award.

Read: Graphic Novels Break Through at the 2020 Youth Media Awards


Read ALA's press release with the complete list of honorees below.


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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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