For the last three or so years, I've been updating an Excel spreadsheet about the past winners. Why? As a self-published children's book author, I've wondered if the CSK judging committee will ever be open to self-published authors or illustrators. I've not noticed any among the CSK winners list. I've also noticed that many CSK winners and honor recipients are in fact ... repeat winners. It's actually become fun to predict who the current year's winners may be based on which past winner has a new book out. Fifty percent (3 out of 6) of this year's recipients, including the Lifetime Achievement award, went to past CSK winners.
Are there so few talented and marketable African American authors and illustrators of children's and young adult literature that one award committee must dip into the well repeatedly? The Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) at the University of Wisconsin, Madison has tracked U.S. children's books by and about people of color since 1994. In 2008, the CCBC said there were 83 African American authors or illustrators published (or at least in the books they tracked). This was an increase of 7.8% over 2007. There are a host of African American children's book authors and illustrators - many not counted in traditional studies or reviewed in traditional kid's lit literature.
So - who wins a Coretta Scott King Book Award? I've categorized each winner since 1970: what year won, male/female/couple, author or illustrator, which award, publisher, birth year, age when prize won. Variables that I do not have: who was on the judging committee, genre of the winners, retail or wholesale sales, whether Publishers Weekly reviewed the book, or Accelerated Reader points for the various books. I also don't have an indicator if the winner of a picture book was paired with a past CSK winner. An example of this includes when an author of a picture book wins for the first time with a book that was illustrated by a previous CSK winner.
Here's what I've learned about the CSK Book Awards 1970 - 2010
- Black women are slightly more likely to win ... 122 or 49.6% of all CSK award recipients have been female.
- 43% of all CSK award recipients have been African American female authors
- 66% of the Black male winners/honorees have been Illustrators
- 7% of all CSK award recipients have been teams or couples
- 52% of the 246 total Coretta Scott King awards given since 1970 have gone to recipients who have receive four or more awards!
- 23 folks have won more than four Coretta Scott King awards: 12 authors and 11 illustrators
- 71 out of the 152 author awards have gone to the same 12 African American authors. This is no disrespect to these fine folks or their body of literature - but put another way - nearly 1 in 2 Coretta Scott King author awards (46.7%) have gone to the same twelve folks. Does the United States of America really publish such few potential award-winning Black kid's lit authors?!
- On the illustrator front, 57 out of 94 illustrator awards have gone to the same 11 Black illustrators. Put another way... 60.6% of all Coretta Scott King awards for illustration have gone to the same 11 folks.
- Painting a more detailed picture.... 23 illustration awards have gone to the same talented four illustrators: Jerry Pinkney, Ashley Bryan, and the team of Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon. That's 1 in 4 CSK illustrator awards!
I doubt the CSK Book Awards will innovate the children's book category by embracing new publishing technologies .... who are the award-winning African American kid's lit authors and illustrators of eBooks or graphic novels or series. To be honest, I look to sources like the Brown Bookshelf for innovations and variety - can't wait to see what the 2010 28 Days Later campaign will bring to the world of African American children's and young adult literature.
I am grateful for the Coretta Scott King Book awards for its forty plus years of showcasing Black authors and illustrators. I just wish there were more!