The Walter Award 2022 Winners and Honorees
Congratulations to this year’s Walter Award winners and honorees.
THE WALTER AWARD, YOUNGER READERS CATEGORY
Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca (Quill Tree Books)
THE WALTER HONOR BOOKS, YOUNGER READERS CATEGORY
Borders by Thomas King and illustrated by Natasha Donovan (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Root Magic by Eden Royce (Walden Pond Press)
An Integral Part of the Mosaic
The We Need Diverse Books Walter Award, also sometimes referred to as The Walter, is named after prolific author Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014), who was a prominent and early voice in the push for more diverse children’s publishing. According to We Need Diverse Books, the award’s founding organization, “The Walter Awards commemorate Myers’ memory and his literary legacy, as well as celebrate diversity in children’s literature.”
In 2014 before he passed away, Myers wrote in an op ed in the New York Times, ” I didn’t want to become the ‘black’ representative, or some shining example of diversity. What I wanted, needed really, was to become an integral and valued part of the mosaic that I saw around me.” (New York Times, Opinion Section, “Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?”, by Walter Dean Myers, March 15, 2014)
Red, White, and Whole
Today, because of Myers and We Need Diverse Books, and other committed voices pushing for better representation, that mosaic is more vibrant and visible than ever. This is evidenced by the fact that this year’s winners include middle-grade and picture book writer Rajani LaRocca, who is also a 2022 Newbery honoree. It’s an exciting intersection; she appears to be the first to receive both Walter and Newbery distinction in the same year.
Dr. LaRocca told MUF: “RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE is a story of my heart into which I poured so many emotions from my own childhood, and I’m thrilled and humbled to see it recognised in this way. When I was a kid, I never saw myself in the pages of a book — not in the U.S., and not in India — but I loved the characters I read about, and learned more about the world through them. I hope my book allows readers to see themselves in its pages, whether or not they share the characters’ experience or background. I hope that by reading about my characters’ lives, they learn something about their own.”
But even as more established literary awards (Newbery turns 100 this year!) do better at amplifying and honoring diverse voices, vaulting them into the canon of prized literature, awards like the Walter will still be important because of their singular focus on diversity. Myers himself would probably look forward to a time when that becomes an outdated need, but we’re not there yet.