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A Cheat Sheet to the ALA Awards

If I talk about a book, often I’ll mention if it’s won any ALA awards.

Of course, if you don’t know about the ALA awards, this is kind of meaningless, so I thought it’d be fun to do a quick guide to the ALA awards given out for youth media each year.

These are all the awards given out during the ALA Youth Media announcements each January or February at the annual Midwinter ALA Conference (the only one I left off the list was the Excellence in Early Learning Digital Media Award because it’s not for a book or audiobook).

Consider this your cheat sheet to finding great new books (and feeling like a genius when you know what all those million different stickers on your library books mean).

ala awards

A Cheat Sheet to the ALA Awards

This is probably the most famous children’s book award given in the United States. It’s been awarded every year since 1922 to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. This is usually going to be a chapter book (although every now and again a picture book snags it). It slants HEAVILY toward fiction titles. You can see all the winners here.

This one is given to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book (if the text is not by the illustrator, the author does NOT win the Caldecott – it’s only for the illustrator). Usually these will be standard picture books that win, but occasionally something long – like The Invention of Hugo Cabret – snags it. You can see all the winners and honor books here

Think Newbery, but for young adult books since 2000. Like the Newbery, there are way more fiction books that win than non-fiction. You can see all the winners and honor books here.

These ALA awards are a little different because they are actually a SET of awards. They are awarded to the African American authors and illustrators that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. There is the Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award, the Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award, and the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award, plus the Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement Award (this is awarded in even years to an author or illustrator and in the odd years, it’s given to someone who has made substantial contributions to children and youth using African American children’s literature via reading programs or activities). And, like most ALA awards, there is a winner for the author and illustrator awards AND Honor picks in both categories. You can see all the winners and honors here

If you look carefully at the criteria for the Newbery and Caldecott awards, you’ll see that a book has to be originally published in the US to win (so if a book is published in Japan, then translated and published later in the US, it’s not eligible). The Mildred L. Batchelder award is for the most outstanding children’s book originally published in another language in another country and then translated into English and published in the United States. You can see all the winners and honor books here

Named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library, this award is given to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work celebrates the Latino cultural experience. Like the Coretta Scott King awards, there are Winners and Honors given to authors and illustrators separately AND the Pura Belpré awards also separate children’s authors from young adult authors, so you have three winners and three sets of honor books each year. You can see the winners and honors here.

If you have a non-fiction lover, this one is for you! It’s given to the author and illustrator and the winning titles can range from simple picture books to several hundred page juvenile non-fiction. This one has only been around since 2001 so it’s not the massive backlist that some of the other awards have. You can see all the winners and honor books here

This is an award for books aimed at beginning readers, and the criteria mentions books that “demonstrate creativity and imagination to engage children in reading.” This award has only been given out since 2006, so the backlist isn’t very long, but the winners are wonderful for those early readers! You can see all the winners and honor books here. 

This award is given to an author or illustrator for a book that features the disability experience (whether it’s a main character or a secondary character). There is a winner and honor books chosen for each of the following three age groups: young adults, middle school readers, and young children. You can see the winners and honor titles here

The Stonewall Book Award has categories unrelated to children’s and young adult books, but the Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Award is the Stonewall award is specifically for children and young adult literature that relates to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience. The Stonewall Awards have been around since the 1970s, but the children’s and young adult category wasn’t added until 2010. You can see all the winners and honor titles here

The Odyssey Award is given each year to the best audiobook (well, it’s actually given to the PUBLISHER) for children or young adults. It has to be in English and you’ll be surprised by how many picture books win! You can see all the winners and honors here

This one is fun because it’s awarded to a debut young adult author (they are allowed to have written other books, as long as this is their first TEEN book). Another thing that makes this one special is that it’s one of the only awards that has a shortlist – the committee chooses up to five titles that they release in December and then in January/February, the winner is named during the ALA Youth Media awards. You can see all the winners and shortlist titles here.

No catchy name here, but this award is pretty self-explanatory and they also do a short list of up to five titles released in December ahead of the winner being named. You can see all the winners and shortlist titles here.

This award is given to ten books each year that are written for an adult audience but that will be appealing to young adults. (To be honest, this is not an award I follow closely at all). You can see the full list of winners here.

This award honors an author or illustrator whose books (which have to have been published in the US) have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature and their books need to demonstrated a respect for the lives and experiences of all children. It used to be given every five years, then every three years, then two years, and now it’s awarded annually. You can win this one after you’ve died! It used to be called the Laura Ingalls Wilder medal and was renamed a few years ago. You can see all the winners here.

The Margaret A. Edwards Award is similar to the CHildren’s Literature Legacy Award except for young adult authors instead of children’s authors. Fun fact: her nickname was Alex and the Alex Awards are named in her honor too! You can see all the winners here. 


There are also other book awards given out by American Library Association affiliate groups (so they aren’t announced at the Youth Media Awards each year) but these lists and awards are a great place to find even more book recommendations. These include awards like the Tomas Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award for children’s literature that depicts the Mexican American experience or the Sydney Taylor Book Award for children’s books that authentically portray the Jewish experience. You can see all those other awards and their associated winners and honor titles here


Any questions about the ALA awards? This is one of my favorite topics, so I’m happy to help!


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  1. Many of the links give us the message: “The page is here, but access is controlled. (403)” One link was entirely blank. HELP! Do you have other sources for these lists? This is otherwise a great resource. My favorite one that I just recently discovered is the Schneider (that’s the blank link, sadly)- so far those have been wonderful books. Well- they’re all wonderful, hence- awards! 🙂 Thanks again for this wonderful breakdown!

    1. It looks like ALA is messing around with their site, because all of those links worked last week when I put together this post. I’ve updated the links to go to the Wikipedia pages that list all the winners and honors, so you’ll have access to them all now. I’ll keep an eye on them – thanks for the heads up!

      And if those break, you can always just google the name of the award and many many libraries have the lists hosted themselves!

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