2019 National Book Awards Longlist for Young People’s Literature

September 2019



The ten contenders for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature

The National Book Foundation announced the Longlist for the 2019 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (YPL). Finalists will be revealed on October 8.

Six of the authors on the YPL Longlist have been recognized by the National Book Foundation in the past, including Cynthia Kadohata, Winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. In the same category, Jason Reynolds was Longlisted in 2017 and a Finalist in 2016. Kwame Alexander was Longlisted in 2016. Laura Ruby was a Finalist in 2015. Laurie Halse Anderson has previously been recognized by the National Book Award for YPL three times; she appeared on the Longlist in 2014 and was a Finalist in both 2008 and 1999. Additionally, last year, author Akwaeke Emezi was selected as a 5 Under 35 Honoree, the National Book Foundation’s prize for young debut fiction writers. Between them, these authors and illustrators have also been recognized by a variety of other prizes and honors, including the Coretta Scott King Book Award, the Newbery Medal, the Caldecott Honor, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the Walter Dean Myers Award, the NAACP Image Award, the Michael L. Printz Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the Eisner Award, and the Emmy Awards.

The 2019 YPL Longlist is a mosaic of ideas, styles, and backgrounds. The authors come from locations across the globe, from California to Pennsylvania, Nigeria to Washington, DC. Through verse, illustration, and prose, these books address gender and sexual identity, race and politics, personal history and global events, and the different worlds we can encounter even on a short walk home from school.

Look Both Ways, a novel in stories by Jason Reynolds conjures entire worlds out of ten city blocks by sharing the adventures and mishaps that befall children on their ways home from school and is punctuated by illustrations from Alex Nabaum. Randy Ribay takes a more global perspective with his novel Patron Saints of Nothing, in which a Filipino-American student’s life is upended when his cousin is murdered in connection with President Duterte’s war on drugs—and no one will talk about it. Justice and denial also factor into Akwaeke Emezi’s genre-bending first novel for young readers, Pet, in which a transgender teenager lives in a world where adults refuse to admit that the monsters surrounding them actually exist.

Among this year’s illustrated works is Kiss Number 8, a graphic novel written by Colleen AF Venable and illustrated by Ellen T. Crenshaw that explores how a friendship and a family can be disrupted when new sexual and gender identities are unexpectedly revealed. National Book Award Winner Cynthia Kadohata’s A Place to Belong follows a family that is sent back to Japan after the Pearl Harbor bombing only to encounter even more destruction when they arrive, and is interspersed with several illustrations by Julia Kuo.

Also set during World War II is Laura Ruby’s Thirteen Doors, Wolves Behind Them All, a novel that chronicles the struggles of siblings abandoned at an orphanage during one of America’s most difficult times. Martin W. Sandler looks farther back in history with 1919 The Year that Changed America, which uses archival images to explore a year that brought about prohibition, suffrage, and a flood of molasses.

Hal Schrieve veers into a more fantastical realm with Out of Salem, hir novel about a genderqueer zombie teenager who bonds with an “unregistered” werewolf in order to endure life in a town that won’t accept them.

Both Kwame Alexander and Laurie Halse Anderson bring verse into this year’s Longlist. Alexander’s poem The Undefeated is a tribute to black heroes in civil rights, sports, and arts, and is accompanied by vibrant illustrations by Kadir Nelson. In a reprise of her empowering novel Speak, Anderson’s SHOUT bears untold personal stories and is as much a memoir in verse as it is a call-to-action against sexual violence.

Publishers submitted a total of 325 books for the 2019 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. The judges for YPL are An Na (Chair), Elana K. Arnold, Kristen Gilligan, Varian Johnson, and Deborah Taylor. These distinguished judges were given the charge of selecting what they deem to be the best books of the year. Their decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors; deliberations are strictly confidential.

The National Book Award Finalists will be announced on October 8, and the Winners announced at the invitation-only National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner on November 20 in New York City.

2019 Longlist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature:

    • Kwame Alexander; illustrations by Kadir Nelson, The Undefeated
      Versify / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
    • Laurie Halse Anderson, SHOUT
      Viking Books for Young Readers / Penguin Random House
    • Akwaeke Emezi, Pet
      Make Me a World / Penguin Random House
    • Cynthia Kadohata, A Place to Belong
      With illustrations by Julia Kuo
      Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books / Simon & Schuster
    • Hal Schrieve, Out of Salem
      Triangle Square / Seven Stories Press
    • Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw, Kiss Number 8
      First Second Books / Macmillan Publishers