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ILA Honors New Voices in Children’s and Young Adult Literature

 | Jun 18, 2024

Themes across the winning books include friendship, identity, cultural heritage, environmental awareness, social justice and resilience. These books offer readers imaginative and complex narratives that explore the depths of human experience, providing opportunities for reflection, inquiry and engagement with both personal and global issues.

Selected from more than 300 submissions from around the globe, this year’s winners also represent a remarkable array of new voices, each contributing significantly to the richness of children’s and young adult literature.

The 2024 award winners are as follows:

Primary Fiction

  • Winner: Ruth Whiting for Lonely Bird (Candlewick)

    Ruth-Whiting_w269 LonelyBird_w450 Whiting crafts a unique narrative where two-dimensional and three-dimensional worlds interact seamlessly. The story follows Lonely Bird, a paper drawing navigating a three-dimensional world, who demonstrates bravery and friendship in rescuing a fellow paper character from a vacuum. This complex and imaginative tale invites readers to explore its depths repeatedly.
  • Honor: Kevin Johnson for Cape (Macmillan)

    KevinJohnson-author_w269 Cape_w450 Johnson tells the poignant story of a young boy who uses a red cape to shield himself from the memories of his deceased father. Through beautifully rendered illustrations and a narrative that captures shifting emotions, this book offers a touching exploration of grief and the healing power of remembering joyous times.

Primary Nonfiction

  • Winner: Jessica Lanan for Jumper: A Day in the Life of a Backyard Jumping Spider (Macmillan)

    JessicaLanan-author_w269 BackyardJumpingSpider Jumper provides an enthralling close-up look at the life of a jumping spider. Through detailed illustrations and a narrative that captures the spider’s dramatic daily activities, young readers are encouraged to explore their own natural surroundings.
  • Honor: Shannon Earle for The Penguin of Ilha Grande: From Animal Rescue to Extraordinary Friendship (Charlesbridge)

    shannon-earle-author_w269 ThePenguinofILHAGRANDE_w450 Earle recounts the true story of Seu João and Dindim the penguin. This heartwarming tale highlights the impacts of oil spills, the importance of conservation, and the extraordinary friendship between a man and a penguin.

Intermediate Fiction

  • Winner: Zach Weinersmith for Bea Wolf (Macmillan)

    ZachWeinersmith(au)_w269 BeaWolf_w450 Bea Wolf, a graphic novel, is a modern reimagining of the Old English epic Beowulf. This inventive and engaging tale follows the adventures of Bea Wolf, a warrior defending childhood freedom against the antagonist Grindle. The book's creative storytelling and striking illustrations make it a standout in middle-grade literature. 
  • Honor: Malia Maunakea for Lei and the Fire Goddess (Penguin)

    maunakea-malia_269w LeiFireGoddess_w450

    Lei and the Fire Goddess is an epic coming-of-age story set in Hawai'i. It follows Anna as she navigates her heritage and identity, ultimately embracing her cultural roots to rectify a mistake involving the fire goddess Pele. The novel skillfully blends Hawaiian cultural elements with themes of friendship and self-discovery.


Intermediate Nonfiction

  • Winner: Willie Mae Brown for My Selma: True Stories of a Southern Childhood at the Height of the Civil Rights Movement (Macmillan)

    WillieMaeBrown-author_w269 MySelma_w450 Willie Mae Brown’s memoir offers a poignant and personal perspective on the Civil Rights Movement. Brown’s childhood stories, set against the backdrop of significant social change, provide a compelling look at both the loving solidarity of her Black community and the stark realities of segregation and racism.
  • Honor: Katharina Weiss-Tuider for Mission: Arctic: A Scientific Adventure to a Changing North Pole (Greystone Kids)

    Katharina-Weiss-Tuider_w269 MissionArctic_w450
    • Weiss-Tuider chronicles a groundbreaking 13-month expedition to the Arctic. This richly illustrated book offers fascinating insights into the challenges and discoveries of polar research, encouraging readers to reflect on their environmental impact and the future of our planet.

Young Adult Fiction

  • Winner: Angeline Boulley for Warrior Girl Unearthed (Macmillan)

    AngelineBoulley-author_w269 WarriorGirlUnearthed_w450 Boulley delivers a gripping coming-of-age mystery. Protagonist Perry Firekeeper-Birch navigates her rich Anishinaabe heritage while investigating the disappearance of young women in her community. This compelling story highlights critical social justice issues, making it a thought-provoking and essential read for young adults.
  • Honor: Ari Tison for Saints of the Household (Macmillan)

    AriTison-author_w269 SaintsoftheHousehold_w450 Saints of the Household is a powerful narrative of survival told through the alternating perspectives of two brothers coping with an abusive father. This innovative and deeply moving story explores themes of resilience and brotherhood, offering a unique and impactful reading experience.

Young Adult Nonfiction

  • Winner: Sarah Myer for Monstrous: A Transracial Adoption Story (Macmillan)

    SarahMyer-author_w269 Monstrous_w450 Monstrous is a graphic memoir detailing Myer’s experiences as a South Korean adoptee in rural Maryland. Through vivid illustrations and a narrative that tackles themes of identity, racism and self-acceptance, their memoir empowers young readers to embrace their authentic selves.
  • Honor: Monica Edinger and Lesley Younge for Nearer My Freedom: The Interesting Life of Olaudah Equiano by Himself (Lerner)

    Monica Edinger-author_w269
    LonelyBird_w450 Nearer My Freedom is a retelling of Olaudah Equiano’s life story, using found verse to make this historical narrative accessible to young adults. This poignant and educational book highlights the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade and the resilience of those who endured it, making it a vital addition to any library.

“Selecting the winners from such a talented pool of authors was a challenging but incredibly rewarding process. The chosen books stood out for their originality, depth and the promise they show for future contributions to children’s and young adult literature,” said Sonja Ezell, chair of the ILA Children’s and Young Adult Book Awards Committee and a clinical assistant professor at The University of Texas at Arlington. “These stories are more than just books; they are powerful tools for fostering empathy, understanding and a sense of community among young readers.”

Now in its 49th year, the ILA Children’s and Young Adult Book Awards feature several notable names among previous winners including Lindsay Mattick (whose ILA-winning title Finding Winnie won the Caldecott Medal), Juana Martinez-Neal (whose ILA-winning title Alma and How She Got Her Name received a Caldecott Honor and was named a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book), and Jessica Love (whose ILA-winning title Julián Is a Mermaid won the Stonewall Book Award).

Additional information can be found on the ILA Children’s and Young Adults’ Book Awards page.

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