BCALA and SLJ Announce 2022 Youth Literary Award Winners

The Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc. (BCALA) and School Library Journal (SLJ) announce the 2022 Youth Literary Awards winners. The awards celebrate the diversity of the Black experience and recognize authors and books that provide windows, mirrors, and sliding doors for our children to feel and be seen in their schools, libraries, and broader communities. The recipients received their awards during the American Library Association Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. on June 26, 2022.

The First Novelist winner is When Langston Dances by Kaija Langley (published by Simon & Schuster). Black boy joy can be found in many places, and Langston finds it in basketball and dance. A trip to see the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, community support, discipline, and hard work will shape his passion. The theme of following your dreams without changing every part of yourself will last long after you finish this book. Langley is devoted to shining the light to keep the marginalized from being misrepresented. Illustrator Keith Mallet beautifully renders emotions and shining achievements in this literary gem.

The Honor Book for First Novelist winner is Wings of Ebony by J. Elle (Simon & Schuster). After Rue’s mother is killed, Rue is forced to leave her little sister behind as her father takes her to a hidden island of magic, Ghizon. In this half-human, half-god coming-of-age story, Rue is torn between saving what’s left of her family, the life she’s left behind, and the unknown future ahead of her.

The Fiction winner is The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris, (Simon & Schuster). The author portrays what one might do if one could see into the future just by touching someone. Would you want to know what would happen, or would you instead leave it to fate? The main character in The Cost of Knowing, Alex, doesn’t have this choice. Upon his parents’ death, he can see into the future, and it’s giving him major anxiety, especially now that he’s seen the death of his younger brother. With time running out, can Alex save his little brother?

The Honor Book for Fiction winner is Black Boy Joy by Kwame Mbalia (Delacorte Press). Black Boy Joy is a celebratory story that embraces the lives of boyhood through 17 short stories. The anthology exemplifies Black boys and their lived experiences, including challenges and glistening moments. The book’s composition features authors across multiple genres that captivate the reader to engage, connect, and wonder with ease. This page-turner has something for everyone, with special emphasis on the Black experience.

The Nonfiction winner is Nina: A Story of Nina Simone by Traci N. Todd and illustrated by Christian Robinson (Penguin Random House). This children’s biography chronicles how Eunice Waymon from North Carolina became Nina Simone, a pianist, singer, and civil rights activist. Nina and her songs gained popularity for supporting the betterment of African Americans. Her story outlines the hurtful scenarios she encountered from a young child to her attempt to attend Julliard. Simone’s story is one of using her talents to help support and make change for her community.

The Nonfiction Honor Book is Revolution in Our Time: Black Panther Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon, (Candlewick Press). Magoon accurately tells the story of the Black Panther Party and its role in the Civil Rights Movement and US history. Rich with anecdotes, primary documents, historical accounts, and more, Magoon highlights the Black Panthers’ positive contributions (their 10-point Platform, free breakfast, and education programs) and the government’s role in dismantling a party that was truly for the people.

The Graphic Novel winner is The Black Panther Party: A Graphic Novel by David F. Walker, illustrated by Marcus Kwame Anderson (Ten Speed Press). Research and clarity are poured onto the pages of this richly detailed account of the formation, service, and dissolution of the Black Panther Party. Similar organizations that developed around the same time, whether loosely or closely related, are mapped out in a clear framework. From single individuals to the U.S. government sabotage, Portland University adjunct professor David F. Walker expertly tells this incredible story. Jamaican-born artist Marcus Kwame Anderson delicately illustrates each moment.

Artie and the Wolf Moon by Olivia Stephens (Graphic Universe) is the honor winner in the Graphic Novel category. Novice photographer Artie struggles with bullies at school and her overprotective mother everywhere else. One evening she stumbles upon the startling revelation that her mother can transform into a werewolf. This sends Artie on a search for her own transformative powers. She finds her pack, her way, and much more than she believes she can handle. In this debut work, Stephens offers remarkable storytelling and artwork with instant classic written all over it.

Members of the BCALA Youth Literary Awards Committee are: Tamela Chambers, Chicago Public Library; Donna Gray, New York City School Library System; Karen Lemmons, Detroit Public Schools; Mariel Matthews, New York Public Library; Cherese McKnight, District of Columbia Public Schools; and Stacey Nunn, Baltimore County Public Schools.


The Black Caucus of the American Library Association serves as an advocate for the development, promotion, and improvement of library services and resources to the nation’s African American community; and provides leadership for the recruitment and professional development of African American librarians.

School Library Journal is the premiere publication for librarians and information specialists who work with children and teens. A source of quality journalism and reviews for more than 60 years, SLJ produces award-winning features and news coverage on literacy, best practices, technology, and other issues of interest to the school library and greater educator community.