The inaugural Walter Dean Myers Award for outstanding children’s literature in the YA category has been given to All American Boys (S&S/Atheneum/ Dhouly), written by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. All American Boys is the story of two teens, one white, the other black, and the aftermath of an act of police brutality upon one that is witnessed by the other, who flees the scene. We Need Diverse Books’ Walter Award committee announced the winners on Wednesday morning.
The novel, which is co-written in alternating voices by Reynolds, who is African-American and the author of two other novels, and Kiely, who is white and the author of one other novel, received a starred review from PW, which called it “both welcome and necessary” with its “all-too-timely” message.
Dhonielle Clayton, WNDB’s COO and co-chair of the award committee, who is herself a YA author, said that All American Boys impressed the committee’s 11 members, who saw it as a metaphor for “how we all interact with the same people in society, but have different experiences, with “assumptions and expectations on both sides,” based upon such factors as skin color.
The award will be officially bestowed upon Reynolds and Kiely at a ceremony at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. on March 18. The official Walter Award logo, designed by Phyllis Sa, will be unveiled during the ceremony.
The Walter Dean Myers Award, also known as “The Walter,” is named for prolific children’s and young adult author Walter Dean Myers, who was the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature from 2012-2014, as well as a champion of diversity in children’s and YA books. Myers died in 2014.
Christopher Myers, his son, will serve as master of ceremonies at the award ceremony. Jon Scieszka, who was the first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, will speak about Myers and his legacy.
The Walter Award committee reviewed approximately 50 titles published in 2015 that were submitted by their publishers. Entries had to have been written by multicultural authors and were required to feature a diverse main character or to address diversity in a meaningful way.
The Walter judges also selected two Walter Honor books: Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Edel Rodriguez (S&S/Atheneum,), about an American girl’s visits to Cuba before the travel ban enacted in the early 1960s; and X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon (Candlewick), about the young Malcolm X.
The mission of We Need Diverse Books, a 501(c)(3) organization established in 2014 during a controversy over BookCon’s featured author lineup, is to address the lack of diverse representation in children’s publishing with various initiatives like the Walter Award.
Correction: Authors do not have to be multicultural to be eligible for the Walter Award.The author (or one of the authors in the case of a multi-authored or illustrated book) must be a member of an underrepresented community to be eligible for a Walter Award.