The National Book Foundation announced the Longlist for the 2023 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (YPL). The Finalists in all five categories will be revealed on Tuesday, October 3.
This year’s Longlist is composed of 11 newcomers to the National Book Awards. The ten titles highlight three works of nonfiction—including a graphic memoir; and seven works of fiction—including a picture book and two graphic novels. Authors appearing on this list have been honored by the Caldecott Medal, the Middle East Book Award, and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Children, among others.
Through moving prose and captivating illustrations, the titles on the 2023 YPL Longlist center characters coming of age from a diversity of perspectives and identities. These books trace family histories, re-frame historical and scientific events, and are placed in settings from 1930s Ukraine to a small town in present-day Pennsylvania—and even in a fictional town called the National Quiet Zone.
Three titles—Huda F Cares?, A First Time for Everything, and Parachute Kids—are all written and illustrated by their authors and center vacations that take unexpected turns. During her family’s road trip from Dearborn, Michigan to Orlando, Florida, Huda can’t help but feel self-conscious when it seems like all eyes are on her visibly Muslim family during rest stops, prayer time, and at Disney World. Huda Fahmy’s graphic novel Huda F Cares? is a story about self-acceptance, proudly practicing your faith, and the joys and embarrassments of sisterhood. Dan Santat captures the awkward middle school experience in A First Time for Everything, a graphic memoir inspired by his travels through France, Germany, Switzerland, and England. In this graphic memoir, readers learn that Dan is a good kid who is used to being made fun of, which is why he’s not particularly eager to go on a class trip to Europe. Much to his surprise, in that same trip, Dan experiences a series of life-changing firsts—his first sip of Fanta, first time listening to French rap, first time getting lost in a foreign country, and first time falling in love. In Parachute Kids, Feng-Li and her two siblings are excited to visit the United States for the first time, but at the end of their monthlong vacation they find out that their parents plan to return to Taiwan, leaving the siblings in California with family friends. In this graphic novel by Betty C. Tang, the siblings learn to live with each other as they navigate racist bullies, grasp a new language, and are thrust headfirst into American culture.
Three titles on this year’s Longlist illuminate the complexity of historical and scientific events to help readers make sense of them. Hidden Systems: Water, Electricity, the Internet, and the Secrets Behind the Systems We Use Every Day, thoughtfully highlights how some of the most intricate structures that keep our society moving—like water, the electrical grid, and the internet—came to be. Complete with graphs, maps, and diagrams, this nonfiction graphic novel written and illustrated by Dan Nott explores hidden systems’ impacts on the environment, the structural inequities they magnify, and the changes we must all embrace now in order to improve our future. More Than a Dream: The Radical March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom takes readers on a journey that looks beyond Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech to explore the March on Washington’s often overlooked radical roots. Using photos and reports from Black newspapers, Yohuru Williams and Michael G. Long focus on the role of Black women activists who made the protest possible and connect the demands for jobs and freedom from six decades ago to today’s continued fight for economic and racial justice. The Lost Year interrogates a chapter of Ukrainian history, following 13-year-old Matthew as he uncovers a family secret tracing back to Holodomor, a government-imposed famine that led to the death of millions of Ukrainians. Katherine Marsh guides the reader through alternating timelines that link three cousins through 1930s Ukraine, 1930s Brooklyn, and present-day New Jersey to weave together a story about survivor’s guilt, sacrifice, and resistance.
Two Longlisted titles follow protagonists looking for hope and community amidst traumatic events. In Gather by Kenneth M. Cadow, Ian Gray fights to maintain his family’s home, find a job, and care for his mother as she recovers from her opioid addiction—all the while adopting Gather, a stray dog he isn’t supposed to have. Cadow’s debut novel is a coming-of-age story based in rural Vermont about the importance of resiliency, survival, and companionship. In Simon Sort of Says, when Simon O’Keeffe becomes the only survivor of a school shooting, he and his family move to a town in the United States where the internet, and all electronic devices, are banned: the National Quiet Zone. Erin Bow’s novel is a tribute to the power of friendship and the courage it takes to pursue joy in a world of violence.
In Alyson Derrick’s solo authorial debut, Stevie loses her memory after a devastating fall, erasing the past two years of her life: her plans to escape her conservative hometown, coming to terms with her queer identity, and even her girlfriend, Nora. Forget Me Not explores the inevitability of fate and the significance of having to choose the one you love all over again. Self-love is at the heart of Big, a picture book written and illustrated by Vashti Harrison. Big is the story of a little girl with a big heart and big dreams who—on the playground and in ballet class—learns that “big” doesn’t always have a positive connotation. Harrison deftly addresses the adultification of Black girls and anti-fatness, while offering readers an important reminder that words matter and that it’s okay for bodies to take up space.
Publishers submitted a total of 348 books for the 2023 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. The judges for Young People’s Literature are Sarah Park Dahlen, Kyle Lukoff, Claudette S. McLinn (Chair), justin a. reynolds, and Sabaa Tahir. Judges’ decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors, and deliberations are strictly confidential. Winners in all categories will be announced live at the National Book Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, November 15, 2023.
Erin Bow, Simon Sort of Says
Disney-Hyperion Books / Disney Publishing Worldwide
Kenneth M. Cadow, Gather
Alyson Derrick, Forget Me Not
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers / Simon & Schuster
Huda Fahmy, Huda F Cares?
Dial Books for Young Readers / Penguin Random House
Vashti Harrison, Big
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers / Hachette Book Group
Katherine Marsh, The Lost Year: A Survival Story of the Ukrainian Famine
Roaring Brook Press / Macmillan Publishers
Dan Nott, Hidden Systems: Water, Electricity, the Internet, and the Secrets Behind the Systems We Use Every Day
Random House Graphic / Penguin Random House
Dan Santat, A First Time for Everything
First Second / Macmillan Publishers
Betty C. Tang, Parachute Kids
Graphix / Scholastic, Inc.
Yohuru Williams and Michael G. Long, More Than a Dream: The Radical March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers / Macmillan Publishers