Editorial: Behold the Gold!

Welcome to The Horn Book’s celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. As you may know, we publish a special themed issue annually, and when Andrea Davis Pinkney called to ask what The Horn Book might be able to do to commemorate the CSK’s fiftieth — well, here we are. (To quote Dorothy Parker, who — did you know? — bequeathed her entire estate to Martin Luther King Jr.)

I’d like to thank our guest editors, Andrea Davis Pinkney and Rudine Sims Bishop, whose editorial begins below. Bustling with ideas for articles and suggestions about contributors, the two of them and the Magazine editorial staff met on the phone weekly to plan this issue and hold one another to our deadlines. Thank you, Andrea and Rudine, and thank you, my talented and hardworking Horn Book colleagues.

Horn Book readers will know that our special issues always feature what we call in the office “short pieces” — brief contributions from authors and illustrators and other children’s book people answering a question I have posed to them, the same question for everyone. For this issue, I invited many CSK honorees to respond to the following prompt: “Search your memories from childhood and youth for one inspiring experience that you think set you on the road to your CSK Award. Was it a book, a piece of music or art, a person? What or whom can you look back to and say, ‘aha yes, this helped to turn me into an artist’?” You will see their answers throughout the issue under the “Lift Every Voice” rubric. Thank you to all of them and to all of the contributors to this issue. We have not published an issue of which I have been prouder. Andrea and Rudine, take it away. —Roger Sutton

A fiftieth anniversary is a celebration that glistens with good memories and the promise of what’s to come. That’s why this golden anniversary issue honoring the Coretta Scott King Book Awards is so special.

When we were invited to serve as guest editors for this commemorative volume, we were honored. Along with the Horn Book team, we started brainstorming immediately and enthusiastically, planning the ultimate fiftieth-anniversary party — on the page! It was exhilarating and daunting. Thankfully, the wisdom of Coretta Scott King served as a guidepost. We held on to one of Coretta’s most inspiring quotes, which shone a light on our path as we got to work: “The greatness of the community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

Indeed, we were creating a special keepsake that was to be built by a compassionate community who cares deeply about children’s books that reflect the highest ideals.

Over the course of more than a year, we gathered with Horn Book editor in chief Roger Sutton and his phenomenal staff, weighing countless considerations. As a group, we discussed, debated, agreed, agreed to disagree, laughed, lunched, jotted, and shaped. Our conversations encouraged us to think carefully about the award’s significance for half a century, and to reflect on its influence for future generations.

We felt it was important to create a commemorative issue that, like the citation itself, would have staying power. Coretta Scott King Book Award–winning titles define reading memories for countless numbers of people. There’s a shared consciousness that exists around the award. The award and honors have engendered a sense of pride, a literary legacy, an ever-growing tradition of excellence that has stood the test of time and continues to shine its light throughout the children’s book awards landscape.

Alongside this rich history, new generations of readers are encountering Coretta Scott King Book Award–winning titles and their creators for the first time. These folks are just beginning to embark upon the literary canon created by the works of authors and illustrators whose books bear the awards seal.

In putting together what we lovingly came to think of as “the gold issue,” we asked ourselves several vital questions:

How can the magazine best reflect the awards’ incredible history and far-reaching impact in 176 pages?

What is the best way to balance the mix of articles by authors, illustrators, elder statesmen (and women), scholars, and debut talent, as well as the perspectives of young people?

And, perhaps most important: What is the story we’re telling about the Coretta Scott King Book Awards’ past and future?

These questions were, in themselves, like nuggets of gold that underscored how valuable the award itself has become. And so we all worked hard to refine this issue’s purpose. Soon, in the spirit of Coretta’s belief in the power of community — in which each member brings his or her unique gifts to the gathering — “the gold issue” started to take shape. Our initial roles as guest editors turned into ones whose “job” it was to witness a committed community of editors and designers at work. As visiting editors, we became members of a family, blessed with the opportunity to create a relevant, timeless, beautiful magazine. None of this would have been possible without the generosity and hard work of everyone at The Horn Book, who devoted so much time and energy to bringing this singular issue to fruition.

And now, we invite you to behold — and hold — this treasure. In these dazzling pages you will find a welcoming letter from the current Chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee, Dr. Claudette S. McLinn; followed by feature articles, interviews and conversations, CSK facts and figures, and, included among the twenty short pieces in which CSK winners reflect on the path that got them there, the artistic expressions of two award-winning artists. The voices represented in this issue stretch back into the past — including George Ford, winner of the first CSK Illustrator Award for Ray Charles and Sharon Bell Mathis, who won the Author Award for that book — and into the future, as represented by young voices such as Toshi Widoff-Woodson (daughter of the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Jacqueline Woodson) and authors Kekla Magoon, Renée Watson, Jason Reynolds, and others.

As a crowning glory, this issue features a first for The Horn Book — a spectacular foldout cover by Kadir Nelson, whose exquisite painting of Coretta Scott King is a powerful reminder of all that endures.

Please enjoy this keepsake “gold issue.” It’s our special gift to you. To savor. To cherish. And to share with future generations for the next fifty years — and beyond!

Cover © 2019 by Kadir Nelson. Page 2 art: The Coretta Scott King Book Awards seal images and award names are solely and exclusively owned by the American Library Association.

Single copies of this special issue are available for $15.00 including postage and may be ordered from:

Kristy South
Administrative Coordinator, The Horn Book
Phone 888-282-5852 | Fax 614-733-7269

Rudine Sims Bishop and Andrea Davis Pinkney
Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, professor emerita at The Ohio State University, is the author of the seminal Shadow and Substance, among other works, and winner of the 2017 Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. Andrea Davis Pinkney is the author of numerous books for young people, including the Coretta Scott King Book Award–winning Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America (Jump at the Sun/Disney), illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

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