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2021 Youth Media Award Winners

We are thrilled to announce that 59 JLG Gold Standard Selections are among the 2021 Youth Media Awards winning and honored titles! At JLG, our goal is to help librarians around the nation put ultra-readable, future classics in the hands of their readers.

JLG members—add these acclaimed YMA titles to you collection today!

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      Fighting Words

      by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

      Dec 2020

      Realistic Fiction Middle Plus

      Ten-year-old Della has always had her older sister, Suki: When their mom went to prison, Della had Suki. When their mom’s boyfriend took them in, Della had Suki. When that same boyfriend did something so awful they had to run fast, Della had Suki. Suki is Della’s own wolf—her protector. But who has been protecting Suki? Della might get told off for swearing at school, but she has always known how to keep quiet where it counts. Then Suki tries to kill herself, and Della’s world turns so far upside down, it feels like it’s shaking her by the ankles. Maybe she’s been quiet about the wrong things. Maybe it’s time to be loud.

      In this powerful novel that explodes the stigma around child sexual abuse and leavens an intense tale with compassion and humor, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley tells a story about two sisters, linked by love and trauma, who must find their own voices before they can find their way back to each other.

      Every Body Looking

      by Candice Iloh

      Dec 2020

      City High School

      Every Body Looking is a novel of a young woman’s struggle to carve a place for herself—for her black female body—in a world of deeply conflicting messages.

      Told entirely in verse, Ada’s story encompasses her earliest memories as a child, including her abuse at the hands of a young cousin, her mother’s rejection and descent into addiction, and her father’s attempts to create a home for his American daughter more like the one he knew in Nigeria.

      The present-tense of the book is Ada’s first year at Howard University in Washington DC, where she must finally confront the fundamental conflict between who her family says she should be and what her body tells her she must be.

      How We Got to the Moon: The People, Technology, and Daring Feats of Science Behind Humanity's Greatest Adventure

      by John Rocco

      Dec 2020

      Nonfiction Middle

      Everyone knows of Neil Armstrong’s famous first steps on the moon. But what did it really take to get us there?

      The Moon landing is one of the most ambitious, thrilling, and dangerous ventures in human history. This exquisitely researched and illustrated book tells the stories of the 400,000 unsung heroes—the engineers, mathematicians, seamstresses, welders, and factory workers—and their innovations and life-changing technological leaps forward that allowed NASA to achieve this unparalleled accomplishment.

      From the shocking launch of the Russian satellite Sputnik to the triumphant splashdown of Apollo 11, Caldecott Honor winner John Rocco answers every possible question about this world-altering mission. Each challenging step in the space race is revealed, examined, and displayed through stunning diagrams, experiments, moments of crisis, and unforgettable human stories

      Explorers of all ages will want to pore over every page in this comprehensive chronicle detailing the grandest human adventure of all time!

      Legendborn

      by Tracy Deonn

      Nov 2020

      Current Trends High Plus

      After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

      A flying demon feeding on human energies.

      A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

      And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

      The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.

      She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.

      The Black Kids

      by Christina Hammonds Reed

      Nov 2020

      City High School

      “Infused with honesty, heart, and humor, The Black Kids is a true love letter to Los Angeles, highlighting the beauty and flaws of the city, and the people who call it home.” —Brandy Colbert, award-winning author of Little & Lion

      Los Angeles, 1992
      Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

      Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

      As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

      With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?

      Never Look Back

      by Lilliam Rivera

      Nov 2020

      Young Adults

      Pheus is a golden-voiced, bachata-singing charmer, ready to spend the summer on the beach with his friends, serenading a girl or two. When he meets Eury, all he wants is to put a smile on her face and fight off her demons. But some dangers are too powerful for even the strongest love, and as the world threatens to tear them apart, Eury and Pheus must fight for each other and their lives.

      Featuring contemporary Afro-Latinx characters, this Own Voices retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice is perfect for fans of Ibi Zoboi's Pride.

      Turtle Boy

      by M. Evan Wolkenstein

      Oct 2020

      Advanced Readers

      Seventh grade is not going well for Will Levine. Kids at school bully him because of his funny-looking chin. His science teacher finds out about the turtles he spent his summer collecting from the marsh behind school and orders him to release them back into the wild. And for his bar mitzvah community service project, he has to go to the hospital to visit RJ, an older boy struggling with an incurable disease. Unfortunately, Will hates hospitals.

      At first, the boys don’t get along, but then RJ shares his bucket list with Will. Among the things he wants to do: ride a roller coaster, go to a concert and a school dance, and swim in the ocean. To Will, happiness is hanging out in his room, alone, preferably with his turtles. But as RJ’s disease worsens, Will realizes he needs to tackle the bucket list on his new friend’s behalf before it’s too late. It seems like an impossible mission, way outside Will’s comfort zone. But as he completes each task with RJ’s guidance, Will learns that life is too short to live in a shell.

      The Only Good Indians

      by Stephen Graham Jones

      Oct 2020

      Adult Crossover Thrillers Plus

      A tale of revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, Stephen Graham Jones.

      Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.

      What About Worms!?

      by Ryan T. Higgins

      Oct 2020

      Emergent Readers Plus

      Tiger is big. Tiger is tough. And Tiger has an important note for you.

      Dear Reader,
      WATCH OUT FOR WORMS! They are everywhere! They might even be in this book!

      Your friend,
      Tiger


      P. S. Tiger is afraid of worms.

      See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog

      by David LaRochelle

      Oct 2020

      Easy Reading

      See Max. Max is not a cat—Max is a dog. But much to Max’s dismay, the book keeps instructing readers to "see the cat." How can Max get through to the book that he is a DOG?

      In a trio of stories for beginning readers, author David LaRochelle introduces the excitable Max, who lets the book know in irresistibly emphatic dialogue that the text is not to his liking. Illustrator Mike Wohnoutka hilariously depicts the pup’s reactions to the narrator and to the wacky cast of characters who upend Max’s—and readers’—expectations as the three stories build to an immensely satisfying conclusion. Hooray, Max, hooray!

      We Dream of Space

      by Erin Entrada Kelly

      Sep 2020

      Realistic Fiction Middle Plus

      Cash, Fitch, and Bird Nelson Thomas are three siblings in seventh grade together in Park, Delaware. In 1986, as the nation waits expectantly for the launch of the space shuttle Challenger, they each struggle with their own personal anxieties. Cash, who loves basketball but has a newly broken wrist, is in danger of failing seventh grade for the second time. Fitch spends every afternoon playing Major Havoc at the arcade on Main and wrestles with an explosive temper that he doesn’t understand. And Bird, his twelve-year-old twin, dreams of being NASA’s first female shuttle commander, but feels like she’s disappearing.

      The Nelson Thomas children exist in their own orbits, circling a tense and unpredictable household, with little in common except an enthusiastic science teacher named Ms. Salonga. As the launch of the Challenger approaches, Ms. Salonga gives her students a project—they are separated into crews and assigned a position on a spacecraft, and they must create and complete a mission. As life at home gets more complicated for the siblings, this project prompts each of them to reflect on their places in the universe. And when the fated day arrives, it changes all of their lives and brings them together in unexpected ways.

      Dancing at the Pity Party

      by Tyler Feder

      Sep 2020

      Graphic Novels High Plus

      From before her mother’s first oncology appointment through the stages of her cancer to the funeral, sitting shiva, and afterward, when she must try to make sense of her life as a motherless daughter, Tyler Feder tells her story in this graphic novel that is full of piercing—but also often funny—details. She shares the important post-death firsts, such as celebrating holidays without her mom, the utter despair of cleaning out her mom’s closet, ending old traditions and starting new ones, and the sting of having the “I’ve got to tell Mom about this” instinct and not being able to act on it. This memoir, bracingly candid and sweetly humorous, is for anyone struggling with loss who just wants someone to get it.
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