Meg Medina wins Newbery medal, Sophie Blackall the Caldecott

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NEW YORK (AP) — Meg Medina, the latest recipient of the John Newbery Medal, wrote her prize-winning children’s book with a special intensity.

“There are so many negative characterizations these days of Latino families and what it is to be an immigrant,” said Medina, a Cuban-American author whose “Merci Suarez Changes Gears” tells of an 11-year-old’s struggles as she navigates between the worlds of her elite private school and her extended Latino family.

“This toxic conversation about immigration and who’s dangerous and who’s American absorbs us all. I feel this enormous pressure to provide a counternarrative.”

The Newbery medal is given for “outstanding contribution to children’s literature.” Sophie Blackall’s “Hello Lighthouse,” in which the natural world is seen through the eyes of a lighthouse keeper, received the Randolph Caldecott Medal for best picture book.

The awards, the year’s most anticipated in the children’s books community, were announced Monday by the American Library Association.

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Claire Hartfield’s “A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919” won the Coretta Scott King author award for African-American literature, while Ekua Holmes was given the King illustrator award. Elizabeth Acevedo’s “The Poet X,” winner last fall of the National Book Award for young people’s literature, received the Michael L. Printz Award for best young adult novel and the Pura Belpre author award for Latino literature. The Belpre award for illustration went to Yuyi Morales for “Dreamers.” Tara Westover’s best-selling memoir “Educated” was among 10 winners of the Alex Award for adult works appealing to teen readers.

Medina, author of young adult, middle-grade and picture books, has received numerous previous awards. She won the Belpre author prize in 2014 for “Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass” and an Ezra Jack Keats medal in 2012 for best new writer.

“All of my work centers on girls, Latina girls, and Latino families — what it is to be a girl, and to be a girl in a Latino family,” Medina said.

Blackall is an Australian-born artist and illustrator whose other works include “Are You Awake?”, an adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s “The Crows of Pearblossom” and a collaboration with author Jacqueline Woodson, “Pecan Pie Baby.”

Neil Gaiman received an honorary “Lecture Award” and M.T. Anderson the Margaret A. Edwards award for lifetime achievement. The late Walter Dean Myers won a legacy award.

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