Reviews of the 2023 CSK Illustrator Award Winners


Standing in the Need of Prayer: A Modern Retelling of the Classic Spiritual
by Carole Boston Weatherford; illus. by Frank Morrison
Primary, Intermediate     Crown    32 pp.     g
9/22     978-0-593-30634-5     $18.99
Library ed.  978-0-593-30635-2    $21.99
e-book ed.  978-0-593-30636-9    $10.99

This is a moving walk through African American history, via Weatherford’s expansion of the lyrics of a well-known Negro spiritual and Morrison’s powerful, imagistic art. In his distinctive illustrations, Morrison employs innovative perspectives and unusual visual compositions to encourage readers to make connections between historical events, while ­Weatherford’s poetry, per the author’s note, “integrat[es] historical and contemporary events that summoned courage and faith.” The book’s first, wordless double-page spread looks down on the bare back of an enslaved man emerging from the bowels of a slave ship, facing a white enslaver who holds a whip. From there, the book represents significant historical and contemporary Black heroes such as Nat Turner, Ruby Bridges, Florence Joyner, and Colin Kaepernick; it also portrays important eras such as the Harlem ­Renaissance, the civil rights movement, the Great Migration, and the Black Lives Matter movement. A richly illustrated, informative picture book that will leave readers humming and spark a desire to learn more. MICHELLE H. MARTIN

From the September/October 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Honor Books

Swim TeamSwim Team
by Johnnie Christmas
Intermediate, Middle School    HarperAlley/HarperCollins*    256 pp.   g
5/22    978-0-06-305677-0    $21.99
Paper ed.  978-0-06-305676-3    $12.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-305680-0    $11.99

In Christmas’s debut graphic novel, Bree and her dad are moving to Florida from Brooklyn for his new job. Bree is excited for the first day of school until she finds out swim class is the only available elective. Bree doesn’t know how to swim but is too embarrassed to tell the teacher. When her neighbor, Ms. Etta, finds out Bree’s secret, she offers to give her private lessons. The lessons pay off, and Bree joins the swim team to improve her grade. When arguments among team members threaten to break them up, Ms. Etta and her friends step in to help them pull together, and when Bree finds out her dad can’t swim, she teaches him. Like Johnson’s Twins (rev. 11/20) and Craft’s New Kid (rev. 1/19), this enjoyable graphic novel deals with familiar and ­middle-grade-appropriate themes of friendship, perseverance, and overcoming fears. The accessible illustrations add to the humorous (and sometimes serious) moments within the text. The book also introduces readers to the history of Black people being denied access to public pools, which limited their ability to learn to swim. NICHOLL DENICE MONTGOMERY

From the July/August 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

*HarperCollins Union members (UAW Local 2110) continue to be on strike.


Me and the Boss: A Story About Mending and Love
by Michelle Edwards; illus. by April Harrison
Preschool, Primary    Schwartz/Random    40 pp.    g
10/22    978-0-593-31067-0    $18.99
Library ed.  978-0-593-31068-7    $21.99
e-book ed.  978-0-593-31069-4    $10.99

Six-year-old Lee and his big sister Zora, a.k.a. “the boss,” take an embroidery class at the library. (Lee isn’t really old enough, but Zora fibs to get him in.) Lee learns to thread a needle, jabs his finger, and laboriously creates…a mess. When they get home, Zora shows their parents the fine flower she embroidered; Lee says his project is a surprise, knowing he has more to do. In the middle of the night he gets to work, slowly and patiently stitching until he makes a smiling moon. With newfound confidence, he repairs his pants pocket and, in the morning, Zora’s teddy bear. Edwards’s (A Hat for Mrs. Goldman, rev. 9/16) spare text is powerful in its simplicity, conveying the love between a brother and sister; the determination of a small child to learn a new skill; and the threads that hold embroidered flowers, smiling moons, a Black family, and their community together. Harrison’s (H Is for Harlem, rev. 7/22) folk-art style, which employs collage, acrylic, pens, and pencils and a lush, colorful palette, is the perfect complement to Lee’s first-person narration. Back matter includes step-by-step instructions for making Lee’s smiling moon. A wonderful read-aloud for home, the library, and the classroom. DEAN SCHNEIDER

From the September/October 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for JusticeVictory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice
by Tommie Smith and Derrick Barnes; illus. by Dawud Anyabwile
Middle School    Norton    208 pp.    g
9/22    978-1-324-00390-8    $22.95
Paper ed.  978-1-324-05215-9    $17.95

Smith’s graphic memoir (co-authored with multi-awardee Barnes) provides context for the iconic 1968 image of two Black Olympians, gold medalist Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos, standing on the medal podium, heads bowed and fists raised. Smith’s ­sharecropper parents had moved the family from Texas to California’s Central Valley as part of the Great Migration’s second wave when he was a child. It was here that sixth grader Tommie beat his nimble-footed older sister Sally (along with the fastest boy in the seventh grade) in a race that “changed everything.” His athletic talents earned him a scholarship to San Jose State, where he arrived “oblivious to the extent” of the civil rights movement. But as a Black student on an overwhelmingly white campus during the tumultuous 1960s, Smith’s growing awareness of — and involvement in — the fight for racial equality led him to speak out. At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Smith won gold in the 200 meters; along with Carlos, he staged a protest whose reverberations are still felt today. Anyabwile conveys great emotion in his fluid black-and-white art, which pairs well with the conversational first-person text. The climactic race acts as a narrative through line alongside Smith’s life story. The book closes by making direct connections between Smith’s actions and modern-day protests by athletes (such as Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick), with a final shot of a triumphant older Smith, standing under an illuminated set of Olympic rings, with fist defiantly raised. “I hold no regrets…if I could hoist that fist up to the heavens one more time…I’d do it again.” SAM BLOOM

From the November/December 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Read reviews of the 2023 CSK Author Awards here. For more, click on the tag ALA LibLearnX 2023.

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