2021 Walter Awards

The Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature

The Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature, also known as “The Walter,” celebrates the legacy of author Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014). Myers served as the third National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature (2012-2013), authored over a hundred titles, and won countless awards, including two Newbery Honors, five Coretta Scott King Awards, the first-ever Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, and was a three-time National Book Award finalist. Throughout his prolific, lauded career, Myers was a life-long champion of diversity in children’s and young adult books.

Inaugurated in 2016, the 2016 and 2017 Walter Awards and Honor Books represented young adult titles only. In 2018, the Walters expanded into two categories: Teen (ages 13-18) and Younger Readers (ages 9-13). One Walter Award is given in each category; one or two titles are also named Honor Books in each category.

For additional questions, please contact WalterAward@diversebooks.org.

THE WALTER AWARD, TEEN CATEGORY

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam, illustrated by Omar T. Pasha
The story that I thought was my life didn’t start on the day I was born. Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white. The story that I think will be my life starts today. Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it.

THE WALTER HONOR BOOKS, TEEN CATEGORY

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee
For fourteen-year-old budding artist Minoru Ito, her two brothers, her friends, and the other members of the Japanese-American community in southern California, the three months since Pearl Harbor was attacked have become a waking nightmare: attacked, spat on, and abused with no way to retaliate–and now things are about to get worse, their lives forever changed by the mass incarcerations in the relocation camps.

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha
For as long as she can remember, it’s been Robin and her mom against the world. Growing up as the only child of a single mother in Seoul, Korea, wasn’t always easy, but it has bonded them fiercely together. So when a vacation to visit friends in Huntsville, Alabama, unexpectedly becomes a permanent relocation–following her mother’s announcement that she’s getting married–Robin is devastated. Overnight, her life changes. She is dropped into a new school where she doesn’t understand the language and struggles to keep up. She is completely cut off from her friends in Seoul and has no access to her beloved comics. At home, she doesn’t fit in with her new stepfamily, and worst of all, she is furious with the one person she is closest to–her mother. Then one day Robin’s mother enrolls her in a local comic drawing class, which opens the window to a future Robin could never have imagined.

THE WALTER AWARD, YOUNGER READERS CATEGORY

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, with color by Iman Geddy
Omar and his younger brother Hassan live in a refugee camp, and when an opportunity for Omar to get an education comes along, he must decide between going to school every day or caring for his nonverbal brother in this intimate and touching portrayal of family and daily life in a refugee camp

THE WALTER HONOR BOOKS, YOUNGER READERS CATEGORY

King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender
In a small but turbulent Louisiana town, one boy’s grief takes him beyond the bayous of his backyard, to learn that there is no right way to be yourself.

Everything Sad Is Untrue (a true story) by Daniel Nayeri
At the front of a middle school classroom in Oklahoma, a boy named Khosrou (whom everyone calls “Daniel”) stands, trying to tell a story. His story. But no one believes a word he says. To them he is a dark-skinned, hairy-armed boy with a big butt whose lunch smells funny; who makes things up and talks about poop too much. But Khosrou’s stories, stretching back years, and decades, and centuries, are beautiful, and terrifying, from the moment his family fled Iran in the middle of the night with the secret police moments behind them, back to the sad, cement refugee camps of Italy.and further back to the fields near the river Aras, where rain-soaked flowers bled red like the yolk of sunset burst over everything, and further back still to the Jasmine-scented city of Isfahan.

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