The Coretta Scott King Book Awards: Honoring the Legacy of Dr. King

Coretta Scott King Awards bronze seal

As we celebrate and honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it’s a great time to recognize the value of authors and illustrators who continue to carry his message into the world. This is the goal of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. According to the American Library Association (ALA), these awards are presented annually to African American authors and illustrators whose books for children and young adults “demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.” 

About the Award

The Coretta Scott King Book Award was established in 1969 by Mabel McKissick and Glyndon Greer at the annual conference of the ALA. The first award was presented to Lillie Patterson for her middle-grade biography titled Martin Luther King, Jr.: Man of Peace (Garrard, 1969). During the 50+ years since its inception, the award has grown and evolved.  

In 1982, ALA’s  Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table joined with the Coretta Scott King Task Force to form the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee. Since that time, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards have been recognized as an official ALA award.

Currently, two separate awards are given, one to an author and one to an illustrator, and three books in each category are named as honor books. Additionally, the Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe New Talent Author Award honors new African American authors and illustrators, and the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes an author in even-numbered years and an illustrator in odd-numbered years.


Past Winners of the Illustrator Award

In 2023, the illustrator award was given to Frank Morrison for Standing in the Need of Prayer: A Modern Retelling of the Classic Spiritual (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2022).

Standing in the Need of Prayer book cover

Other past winners of the illustrator award include Kadir Nelson in 2020 for The Undefeated (Versify, 2019), which was also awarded the 2020 Caldecott Medal; Christopher Myers in 2015 for Firebird (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2019), Misty Copeland’s tribute to young dancers with a dream; and photographer Charles R. Smith Jr. in 2010 for My People (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2009), in which sepia-tone photos beautifully enhance the text.  


Past Winners of the Author Award

In 2023, the  author award was given to Amina Luqman-Dawson for Freewater (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2022), a middle-grade historical fiction novel about the harrowing journey to freedom of two children who escape from the plantation where they are enslaved. Widely praised for its lyrical writing and gripping storyline, Freewater was also the winner of the 2023 Newbery Award.

Freewater book cover


Past winners of the author award include Jerry Craft in 2020 for his groundbreaking graphic novel New Kid (Quill Tree Books, 2019), which also received the 2020 Newbery Award and the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature; Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin for March Book: Three (Top Shelf Productions, 2016), which was the winner of several prestigious awards, including the 2016 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature; and Jacqueline Woodson in 2015 for Brown Girl Dreaming (Penguin, 2014), an autobiographical novel-in-verse that received multiple honors, including the National Book Award.


Coretta Scott King Awards bronze seal


The Seal

Books that have received the Coretta Scott King Book Awards can be identified by the award’s iconic seal. Winners receive a bronze seal, and honorees receive a silver seal. Designed in 1974 by artist Lev Mills, the seal reflects both the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the ideals of the Coretta Scott King Awards. 

The circle represents continuity, the dove is symbolic of peace, rays of sunshine reach for peace and brotherhood, and the pyramid is representative of both strength and the Atlanta University, where the seal was designed. At the center, an African American child reads a book.

Mills also included five non-sectarian symbols as a sign of world unity. The Star of David, the Latin Cross, Om, Tao, and the Star and Crescent appear beneath the child.


Looking Ahead

The 2024 Coretta Scott King Book Awards will be announced soon, at ALA’s winter meeting. To be eligible for the awards, authors and illustrators must live in the United States or maintain dual residency or citizenship, and books must have been published in 2023. All applications had to be submitted by December 31, 2023. Stay tuned and watch for the announcement!

In the words of Coretta Scott King, “It doesn’t matter how strong your opinions are. If you don’t use your power for positive change, you are, indeed, part of the problem.” As we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., let us also celebrate the authors and illustrators who carry his legacy forward and provide young readers with books that have the power to bring about positive change.

Pairing Middle Grade Fiction with a Nonfiction Text

January. The time of year when things slow down. The holidays are over. School is back in session. Sometimes all you want to do is snuggle up with a cup of cocoa and watch television.

As a school librarian, I sometimes noticed a lull in book enthusiasm at this time of year. So to pep things up, I would pair a fiction reading with a nonfiction reading. For example, I paired Turtle in Paradise with an informational book on Key West (the setting) and followed through with a mapping activity of Conch Town.

Below are some fun pairings you can try at home or in the classroom. The nonfiction selections include books with fun information as well as cooking, creating, and art activities.

Clear Skies by Jessica Scott Kerrin (2019)  – 144 Pages

clear skiesIn the summer of 1961, eleven-year-old Arno Creelman wants nothing more than to be an astronomer. His claustrophobia rules out flying in a cramped space capsule. Instead, Arno dreams of exploring the galaxies with powerful telescopes on Earth.

Arno enters a local radio contest in hopes of winning a visit to a new observatory that’s opening near his town. The ribbon will be cut by Arno’s idol, Jean Slayter-Appleton, a renowned astronomer whose weekly columns Arno clips for his own notebooks. When he finally manages to phone in and correctly answer the skill-testing astronomy question, Arno is thrilled.

Then Robert moves to the neighborhood. He seems to challenge Arno in every way. He even believes in astrology, which Arno argues is not a science at all. Before long, Arno is feeling left behind, on the outs with his friends, and even abandoned by his beloved dog, Comet. How did Arno’s astronomical dream become a cosmic nightmare?


Can’t Get Enough Space Stuff: Fun Facts, Awesome Info, Cool Games, Silly Jokes, and More! by Stephanie Warrenspace stuff Drimmer (2022)

This book has everything to captivate space enthusiasts: Tons of fun facts, exciting games, hands-on activities, hilarious space jokes, stories from experts, and tidbits about the latest info on black holes, the International Space Station, and what life on Mars could look like. Key features include a glossary game for learning key space terms, stunning illustrations and photographs, diagrams and infographics, hilarious space jokes, articles by experts on outer space research, hands-on activities to try at home or school, and quizzes and games to test your knowledge.

Love astronomy? Try a few of these books.

No Vacancy by Tziporah Cohen (2021) – 144 pages

no vacancyBuying and moving into the run-down Jewel Motor Inn in upstate New York wasn’t eleven-year-old Miriam Brockman’s dream, but at least it’s an adventure. Miriam befriends Kate, whose grandmother owns the diner next door, and finds comfort in the company of Maria, the motel’s housekeeper, and her Uncle Mordy, who helps out for the summer. She spends her free time helping Kate’s grandmother make her famous grape pies and begins to face her fears by taking swimming lessons in the motel’s pool.

But when it becomes clear that only a miracle is going to save the Jewel from bankruptcy, Jewish Miriam and Catholic Kate decide to create their own. Otherwise, the No Vacancy sign will come down for good, and Miriam will lose the life she’s worked so hard to build.


Bake It: More Than 150 Recipes for Kids from Simple Cookies to Creative Cakes! by DK Publishing (2019)bake it

If you are a pie aficionado like Miriam, try a recipe or two from this baking cookbook. It’s perfect for young bakers aged 9-12, whether you’re a baking novice or you can ice cupcakes in your sleep. It covers the basics as well as the latest cooking trends, from pinata cakes and edible flowers to drizzle icing and painted cake. Explore mouth-watering recipes including cookies, bread, pies, tarts, meringues and so much more. Accompanied by beautiful photographs of the baked items that are sure to engage and inspire budding young bakers.

Find more pie recipes here.

The Startup Squad by Brian Weisfeld (2019) – 176 Pages

start up squadAll the great leaders had to start somewhere. And Teresa (“Resa” for short) is starting with the lemonade stand competition her teacher assigned to the class―but making it a success is going to be a lot harder than Resa thinks.

The prize: line-skipping tickets to Adventure Central. The competition: Val, Resa’s middle school nemesis. And the biggest obstacle to success: Resa’s own teammates. Harriet is the class clown, Amelia is the new girl who thinks she knows best, and Didi is Resa’s steadfast friend―who doesn’t know the first thing about making or selling lemonade. The four of them quickly realize that the recipe for success is tough to perfect―but listening to each other is the first step. And making new friends might be the most important one.


Kid Start-Up: How YOU Can Become an Entrepreneur by Mark Cuban (2018)kid start up

Do you think it would be cool to run your own business? Do you want to help people with everyday problems? Do you want to make money?

Then you could be an entrepreneur like Resa and her friends. You don’t have to be a grownup to launch your start-up. This book shows you how to discover a great business idea and get it off the ground. You can try one of our ten kid-friendly businesses, including timeless ventures like starting a lemonade stand to more modern-day endeavors like launching an Etsy art store or creating your own. Because every billionaire was once a kid with great ideas―just like you!

Gossamer Summer by H.M. Bouwman (2023) – 192 pages

gossamer summerIt all started when Jojo saw a fairy but said she didn’t. After all, fairies aren’t real–and if they were, they wouldn’t look like that! No, Jojo did not see a small, green, muddy person. Her sisters have no problem believing, though. They beg Jojo to finish the story she started telling long ago, but since the death of their beloved grandmother, Jojo hasn’t felt like talking about magic, even if her sisters still believe.

Instead, her sisters decide to make fairy gardens to entice Theo, the new kid across the street, to come play. Their plan works, but it also catches the attention of creatures that bear an uncanny resemblance to the bedraggled fairies Jojo invented. Stories can’t come to life, though–can they? Yet the danger is real enough. With the questionable help of a self-important cat, the sisters and Theo, set off on an adventure to save the fairies from a flock of terrifying birds made of bones.


Enchanted Gardening: Growing Miniature Gardens, Fairy Gardens, and More by Lisa Amstutz (2016)fairy gardens

Not only do fairy gardens spark the imagination, they are tons of fun to make. Perhaps you can build a fairy house/garden just like Jojo’s sisters did. Readers of all ages will enjoy creating these charming gardens. Includes various projects for miniature and fairy gardens as well as other magically inspired gardens.

Find more ideas here as well as books on gardening.

The Remarkable Rescue of Milkweed Meadow by Elaine Dimopoulos (2023) – 192 pages

milkweed meadowButternut lives in the burrows of Milkweed Meadow with her nine rabbit brothers and sisters. Together they practice survival skills and tell stories. With dangerous scenarios blooming in her mind, Butternut always follows the lesson of her family’s stories: stick to your own kind … rabbits. But after befriending an unruly robin and a wounded deer, Butternut begins to question the lesson she’s been taught.

When the three new friends discover other animals in trouble, Butternut must decide whether she can help, rally her friends and family, and be as brave as the heroes in the stories she tells.

Beautiful black-and-white illustrations bring the animals to life in this heartwarming story about friendship, community, and doing what is right.


Learn to Draw Forest Animals: Step-by-Step Instructions for More Than 25 Woodland Creatures by Robbin Cuddydraw forest animals (2015)

If you love the animals in Milkweed Meadow, why not try to recreate them. Learn to Draw Forest Animals offers a comprehensive drawing experience that includes step-by-step lessons, as well as full-color photographs, fun facts, trivia, quizzes, and much more. Sixty-four pages of drawing instruction include animals such as a grizzly bear, a wolf, a red fox, and an antelope. The book opens with brief information for getting started and the most popular breeds, the tools and materials needed, and some sample drawing exercises to warm up. Perfect for young artists-in-training.

Read some interesting facts about woodland animals in the United Kingdom.

Rosetown by Cynthia Rylant (2018) – 160 pages

rosetownFor nine-year-old Flora, the Indiana village of Rosetown is full of surprises, many of which happen at the Wing and a Chair Used Book Shop. She loves reading vintage children’s books after school in the faded purple chair by the shop window.

But lately, those surprises haven’t been so great. Her dear old dog, Laurence, recently passed away. And not long after, her parents decided to take a breather from their marriage. Now Flora has to move back and forth between their two houses. Plus, she’s just begun fourth grade, and it is so much different than third.

Luckily Flora has two wonderful friends—one old and one new. And with them around to share thoughts and laughs and adventures big and small, life in Rosetown still has happy surprises!


Indiana (A True Book) by Tamra B. Orr (2018)Indiana

How much do you know about Flora’s state of Indiana? For example, did you know its state bird is the cardinal? This book will give you so many facts, you’ll become an Indiana expert. Get to know its history, geography, wildlife, and future outlook. Tour this Midwestern state and see everything it has to offer.

Read more fun facts about Indiana.

Haru Zombie Dog Hero by Ellen Oh (2023) – 176 pages

haru zombie dogEleven-year-old Luke and his dog, Haru, are best friends. Totally inseparable. But when their nasty landlord falsely accuses Haru of biting her, Haru is kidnapped!

Luke and his friends go on a serious mission to find and bring Haru home again. They discover mysterious experiments happening at the old laboratory at Painted Lake, owned by an evil multibillionaire named Mr. Thomas Sinclair. Luke and his friends soon fear that Sinclair’s scientists could be doing illegal testing that may endanger Haru and their whole town. As more strange clues emerge, the boys realize their world is changing fast, and soon Painted Lake is plagued by zombie attacks. But the love between Luke and Haru endures, ultimately helping to save them all.

Other novels with dogs as main characters can be found here.


Should Animal Testing Be Banned? (Points of View) by Riley Lawrence (2018)animal testing

Animal testing is a controversial practice, and many people have strong feelings about it. How do you think Luke and Haru feel about it? The scientists?  Why not have a debate.

Understanding both sides of an issue is crucial for the development of an informed opinion about how you feel. Through unbiased main text and fact boxes, readers are presented with information and statistics used by those who support and oppose animal testing, and they are encouraged to use what they learn to decide where they stand.

Here are more topics to debate.

If you enjoyed this post, try some Pairings of your own. What nonfiction book might you pair with one of these popular novels?

pairing bookshelf2

STEM Tuesday Special New Year’s Edition 2024

So this is the new year?

“People like us who believe in physics know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”  – Albert Einstein

So this is the new year?

Huh? I thought it would be more shiny. Maybe even have a few sparkles here and there.

It just looks like any other recent day. It’s eerily similar to any other recent year.

Truth be told, though, that’s not a bad thing at all. 

Time and dates are human constructs. They are our method of drawing lines in the universal sand to give our lives a sense of order. We need our constructs of time so we can work together, show up on time, hit our STEM Tuesday deadlines, etc.

But, as Einstein so famously touted, time is an illusion. 

However, we’ve demarcated this time illusion of ours to give us a new year, a new month, a new week, a new day, a new hour, and so on. These are times to reflect, reload, and plan where we are and where we want to be.

Time is the present moment.

We have this time. We have this moment. 

Now, what are we going to do with it?

It’s a question that strikes the core of being human. Its answers are as varied as individual humans are varied. There are almost infinite opportunities available to us.

What will we do with the moments we are given in 2024 and beyond? 

One Day or Day One?

I heard this snippet a few months back regarding procrastination and goals. I can’t exactly remember the source and it’s driving me bonkers. Nevertheless, it has become my new philosophy for trying new things or starting new projects. It has also become a central theme of my school and library presentations to young creators.

For decades, I lived in a “One Day” world. I wanted to be a writer but I didn’t do the one thing necessary to be one. I didn’t write. Then came my “Day One” when I started a thing. I wrote a word. I wrote another one. I wrote a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter until I wrote an entire story! It was an amazing feeling!

If you find yourself saying, “One day I want to do _____”, then start this new year by saying, “I’m going to start _____ on this day.” and then do it.

The STEM Tuesday New Year’s post theme for 2024 is:

One Day or Day One?

One Day vs Day One. Try it and see how it works!

Create. Inspire. Improve. Share.

The Day One philosophy expanded into four steps for getting to the brass tacks and making stuff.

  1. Create – It all starts with an idea, a word, or a mark on a piece of paper. Just do it and see what happens. Make the thing only you can make. Make the thing only your brain can construct. Make the thing and throw it away or take another stab to remake the thing. There is no perfect. The important thing is to get your ideas down. Download the words or images from your brain onto paper and they become real.
  2. Inspire – Investigate and discover what makes you excited. What are the stories or the information that ignites a desire to tell others? If you’re struggling for inspiration, pay attention to where your mind goes when it wanders. It might be trying to tell you something.
  3. Improve – One gets better at doing a thing by doing the thing over and over intentionally. Intentional practice works! As with the creation, once the words or images are downloaded from your brain, they exist. If something exists, it can be improved. Do the work and then do it again.
  4. Share – This step can be the most difficult. It tends to be the most uncomfortable for a creator. Putting creative work out into the world indeed opens one up to criticism and judgment but you can learn so much from showing your work. What works? What doesn’t? What feedback is offered to improve the work? There’s also the inherent reward of developing connections with like-minded creators through the sharing of work. We’re all riding this creativity train together so we might as well make the ride a joy and a celebration. Writing and illustrating help us understand our place in our space. This understanding of our place is enhanced through sharing. 

Technology = Tools 

Although there were amazing STEM advances this past year, like inching closer to a return to the moon or the first FDA-approved gene-editing therapy for sickle-cell anemia, an end-of-year wrapup on one of the news channels called 2023 the “Year of AI”. There has been much talk and even more justifiable concern from the creative community about the use and abuse of artificial intelligence. 

Technology doesn’t create. Creators create. As loyal STEM Tuesday readers, we realize the fact technology is a tool. We know one can use tools positively or negatively. The choice of how we use AI is in our creative hands. If a technology is directly used to create something, that’s stealing. AI is powerful but we must remember AI does what it does by training itself on human creations, often without attribution or compensation. It learns how to write or create by mashing up all the inputs in its database.

Bottom line, 2024 will see an explosion of AI implemented with both good and bad intentions. It’s up to us to decide how we’ll use it and how others use our work.

Happy New Year from the STEM Tuesday Team! Enjoy every “Day One” of your creative journey throughout your entire “stubbornly persistent illusion” that is 2024


Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky) via Wikimedia Commons


Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal-opportunity sports enthusiast, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about life/sports/training-related topics at: and writer stuff at:  www.mikehaysbooks.comTwo of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101, are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the X-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64 and on Instagram/Threads at @mikehays64.