2021 Youth Media Awards

As we gear up for ALA Midwinter and the 2021 Youth Media Awards (YMA), we thought it could be fun to highlight a few YMA-related stories. In the coming weeks, we’ll focus on those titles from the past and present award cycles that might inspire you and your readers!

But first, a reminder: you can follow along with the Youth Media Awards announcements starting at 8 am CT on Monday, January 25. You can watch with ALA’s streaming platform or through the various social media platforms using the hashtag #alayma.

To begin our dive into these special awards, let’s look at the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. Established in 2000, this award is granted each year to the “best book written for teens, based entirely on literary merit.” Mike Printz was a high school librarian for years, and he believed wholeheartedly in finding the right book for the right reader at the right time. In honor of 20 years of service to young adult readers, here are a few then and now connections:

The first Printz Award was given to Walter Dean Myers and Monster. The 2015 graphic adaptation of this tremendous work (from Guy A. Sims and Dawud Anyabwile, illustrator) continues to connect readers to Steve Harmon and his struggles with the American justice system.

Cover of Monster by Walter Dean Myers, adapted by  Guy A. Sims, Dawud Anyabwile (Illustrator)
Monster by Walter Dean Myers, adapted by Guy A. Sims, Dawud Anyabwile (Illustrator)

Awarded an honor designation in 2000 was Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson’s groundbreaking work on sexual assault and the trauma that follows. Almost 20 years passed before Anderson returned with Shout in 2019. This powerful work, a memoir in verse, emerged in the #MeToo era, a reminder of the persistence of these issues of power and violence and a beautiful call to action.

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

Another honor designee as Ellen Wittlinger’s Hard Love. Did you know that 2006 Printz Award winner John Green is cited as saying,

Ellen Wittlinger’s Hard Love was one of the books that inspired me to write young adult novels.

If you or your readers are fans of Looking for Alaska, it might be worth pulling this classic from the archives.

Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger

To round out the 2000 awards, take a look at this beautiful 20th anniversary reissue of honor designee Skellig by David Almond: