Since 1967 when the legacy began, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards have honored the most impressive titles in children’s books, middle grade and young adult novels. Categories include picture books, nonfiction, and fiction and poetry. The options are carefully reviewed by a panel of three judges who this year were Luann Toth, Shoshana Flax and Nicholl Denice Montgomery. On Wednesday, June 23, 2021 at 12 pm EDT, Roger Sutton, editor-in-chief of Horn Book, announced the award-winning titles and honor recipients in each category. If you want to tune in belatedly, check out the video here. 

Now let’s get acquainted with the 2021 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Winners!


I Talk Like a River (Neal Porter Books/Holiday House)

Written by Jordan Scott and illustrated by Sydney Smith 

This “lyrical and empowering picture book” is the story of the author’s real struggles and experiences with his stutter. The crushing blows of insecurity land heavily and with heartrending vulnerability. Then the boy’s father imparts some wisdom that stays with his son, and the reader, for long after the book ends. Smith’s illustrations only deepen the flow and smooth fluidity of this new offering. 

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And The Honor Books Are …

I Am Every Good Thing written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House)

Watercress written by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Jason Chin (Neal Porter Books/Holiday House)


From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial That Galvanized the Asian American Movement (Norton Young Readers)

Written by Paula Yoo 

In 1982, a young Chinese-American man named Vincent Chin was murdered in Detroit by two white men. The event became the catalyst for turmoil that created some much-needed noise and led to transformational change in the landscape of racial politics. Yoo painstakingly pieces together the puzzle from a factual historical standpoint, and doesn’t shy away from the trauma of the situation; in the end, though, she documents the hope and fervor of an Asian-American community that will rise up and take action.

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And The Honor Books Are …

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team written by Christina Soontornvat (Candlewick Press)

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Carolrhoda Books/Lerner)


A Sitting in St. James

Written by Rita Williams-Garcia (Quill Tree Books)

Williams-Garcia is already an accomplished and lauded author, with work that goes back to the 1995 classic Like Sisters on the Homefront. Here she takes on the horrors of slavery by depicting life on a down-and-out sugar plantation in a tense Louisiana on the brink of the Civil War. The Guilbert family is white, their “property” is black, and their story spans days, years, and generations to reveal difficult and dramatic truths. 

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And The Honor Books Are …

Fighting Words written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Dial Books)

Punching the Air written by Ibi Zoboi (Balazar + Bray)


2020 Horn Book Awards: Notable Titles in Children’s Literature