Barnes & Noble announces shortlist for Children’s and YA Book Awards

Barnes & Noble announced the nominees for their Children’s and YA Book Awards Monday. The awards honor titles that have been published during the past year (March 2020 to March 2021).

This is the first year for the awards, in which Barnes & Noble book buyers and sellers single out titles by new authors, and authors early in their careers, that they consider exceptional. The categories include children, young reader and young adult novels.

“We are very proud as a bookseller to support the careers of authors,” said James Daunt, CEO of Barnes & Noble. “It is especially exciting to bring truly outstanding talent to everyone’s attention. Our booksellers have assembled a shortlist of stunning quality and these Awards will launch hitherto lesser-known authors on long and glittering careers.”  

The winners will be announced on May 3. Here are the finalists:

"All Because You Matter," by Tami Charles; art by Bryan Collier (Photo: Orchard Books)

Children

“Our Picture Book finalists are sure to spark the imaginations of our very youngest readers by combining exciting visual storytelling with fun ways to learn and develop, as pictures are key to bringing stories to life,” said Scott Berkowitz, manager of children’s books and Barnes & Noble. “These six titles range from the silly and sweet to the poignant and emotional. They truly offer something for everyone.”

“All Because You Matter,” by Tami Charles; art by Bryan Collier. About: A reminder to young readers that whatever happens, good or bad, they matter and always will. According to Barnes & Noble: “A beautiful love letter to Black and brown children with a nurturing message to be appreciated by all. This is sure to start conversations and have a long-lasting impact.”

Every Night Is Pizza Night,” by J. Kenji López-Alt; art by Gianna Ruggiero. About: Pipo knows that pizza is the best. But when Pipo goes on a quest to prove it, she realizes “best” is not what she thinks it means. According to Barnes & Noble: “Whether you’re a finicky eater or cuisinally-curious, ‘Every Night Is Pizza Night’ is a treat for all ages.”

“Fern and Otto,” by Stephanie Graegin. About: The exciting adventures of two best friends, Fern the bear and Otto the cat, as they go in search of an exciting story. According to Barnes & Noble: “The perfect read-aloud for the perfect storytime. Stephanie Graegin manages to weave her own wholesome, engaging adventure seamlessly into some of the most well-known and appreciated fairy tales we all love.”

Mel Fell,” by Corey R. Tabor. About: Readers follow a bird named Mel on her journey from falling down to triumphant flight. According to Barnes & Noble: “A special book (no matter which way you hold it) and one that’s sure to leave a lasting impression on all those who read it.”  

The Whatifs,” by Emily Kilgore; art by Zoe Persico. About: Cora constantly worries about ‘what if?’ According to Barnes & Noble: “A refreshing, script-flipping take on the anxieties that creep into all of our lives. Emily Kilgore’s debut is approachable for all ages, and beyond being useful for discussing anxiety.”

What the Road Said,” by Cleo Wade; art by Lucie de Moyencourt (available March 23). About: Sometimes we mistakenly walk down the wrong path, but when that happens we should lead with kindness and curiosity. According to Barnes & Noble: “Beaming with inspiration … ‘What the Road Said’ is the perfect vehicle to spotlight the virtues of taking chances, believing in yourself and, ultimately, creating your path for happiness in life.”

"Amari and the Night Brothers," by B.B. Alston (Photo: Balzer + Bray)

Young Readers

“With so much great publishing in the last year our Young Reader finalist selection was nearly impossible to narrow down,” said Stephanie Pinheiro, manager of young reader and young adult books for Barnes & Noble. “These six fantastic books feature diverse characters and engaging storylines with magic, myth, adventure and real-life choices that appeal to Young Readers.”

Amari and the Night Brothers,” by B.B. Alston. About: Amari Peters just knows her missing brother, Quinton, is alive, and she will do what it takes to find him. According to Barnes & Noble: “Amari and the Night Brothers” is the “courageous and clever middle-grade heroine we have been missing. … This ‘Artemis Fowl’ meets ‘Men in Black’ debut will fill readers with glee.” 

Everything Sad Is Untrue,” by Daniel Nayeri. About: An autobiographical novel about a young Iranian refugee who arrives in Oklahoma. According to Barnes & Noble: “It’s a mesmerizing and, at times, emotional read that will make readers of any age think in a new way, but with plenty of snarky writing and literary potty humor that middle schoolers will certainly appreciate.”

The List of Things That Will Not Change,” by Rebecca Stead. About: Bea’s life changes dramatically when her parents get divorced. According to Barnes & Noble: “Authentic and sweet, ‘The List of Things That Will Not Change’ should be essential reading for every young person.” 

Twins,” by Varian Johnson; art by Shannon Wright. About: Maureen and Francine Carter are twins and best friends, but soon Francine becomes Fran and sets herself apart. According to Barnes & Noble: “A beautiful graphic-novel exploring the theme of sisterhood with a coming-of-age storyline that readers will totally relate to.” 

When Stars Are Scattered,” by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed. About: Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, live in a refugee camp in Kenya, and Omar has a chance to make their lives better by getting an education. But that means leaving Hassan every day. According to Barnes & Noble: “A heartbreaking, hopeful, eye-opening must-read for all ages.”

Wink,” by Rob Harrell. About: Ross Maloy just wants to be a normal seventh grader, but his recent diagnosis of a rare eye cancer keeps him from doing that. According to Barnes & Noble: “‘Wink’ is the heartfelt and hilarious … perfect for fans of Wonder.”

"The Black Kids," by Christina Hammonds Reed (Photo: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

Young Adult

“The Young Adult genre continues to grow, and our finalists reflect the increasingly mature and intelligent publishing in this space,” said Stephanie Pinheiro. “From fantasy to thrillers to realistic fiction this list of titles boasts hard-hitting plotlines and complex characterization that Young Adult readers are

drawn to.”

The Black Kids,” by Christina Hammonds Reed. About: Ashley Bennett’s comfortable life changes when the 1992 Rodney King riots dramatically change her world and she goes from one of the girls to one of the Black kids. According to Barnes & Noble: “With poetic, scene-setting language, author Christina Hammonds Reed expertly explores issues like systemic racism, classism, and police brutality in an unflinching way … an eye-opening must read.”

Cemetery Boys,” by Aiden Thomas. About: When Yadriel performs a ritual to help his traditional Latinx family accept his true gender, things do not go as planned.  According to Barnes & Noble: “Part paranormal fantasy, part mystery, part slow-burn romance, Cemetery Boys is a must-read for lovers of all genres.

Felix Ever After,” by Kacen Callender. About: Felix Love, a Black, queer and transgender teen, grapples with his identity and finding love, for himself and from others. According to Barnes & Noble: “This contemporary coming-of-age story set in New York City is authentic, emotional, and ultimately hopeful. It is sure to spark thought-provoking conversations on gender identity and self-discovery for readers of any age.” 

Firekeeper’s Daughter,” by Angeline Boulley. About: Daunis Fontaine’s dreams of college are dashed when a family tragedy strikes. According to Barnes & Noble: “Boulley’s authentic depictions of the complexities of Native communities and the trauma and strength of Native women, specifically, make this book a complete standout for YA and adult readers alike.”

Punching the Air,” by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam.  About: The story of teen Amal Shahid, 16, who is wrongfully incarcerated. According to Barnes & Noble: “An unflinching look inside the American criminal justice system … Honest, raw and profoundly eye-opening, this is a must-read for teens and adults alike.”

These Violent Delights,” by Chloe Gong. About: Former loves Juliette Cai and Roma Montagove, who are heirs to respective Shanghai gangs, must work together  According to Barnes & Noble: “Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Serpent & Dove, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai.”

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