The 2023 Newbery Medal Winner Was Just Announced

Updated: Feb. 07, 2023

This historical fiction children's book won the prestigious award.

Lots of us remember our favorite books from childhood. Children’s stories have a way of sticking with us and are often some of the best books we’ve ever read. Every year, the American Library Association recognizes some of the children’s books of today that have made a similarly powerful impact. Authors and illustrators alike are honored for their extraordinary work by the ALA’s Youth Media Awards with honors like the Newbery Medal.

What is the Newbery Medal?

For more than a century, the John Newbery Medal has been given to authors “of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”

Proposed by the bookseller, and later publisher, Frederic G. Melcher to the ALA in 1921, the medal—named after an 18th-century bookseller, John Newbery—began to honor children’s books in 1922. Way back then, The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon was the first of many to win the honor.

Since its origins, the award has been granted to some of the most memorable children’s tales of our time. Treasured stories like The Giver, Bud, Not Buddy, The Tale of Desepereaux, Dear Mr. Henshaw, Bridge to Terabithia, and dozens of others have all received the Medal.

Who won the Newbery Medal in 2023?

This year, Amina Luqman-Dawson’s Freewater has received the outstanding prize!

Luqman-Dawson’s debut fiction story follows two enslaved siblings—Homer and Ada—and their journey to freedom. The pair flee from a plantation and discover a hidden swamp community known as Freewater.

The Freewater community is based on a Swamp community that was active throughout the Civil War. Known as the Great Dismal Swamp, the community helped those who were formerly enslaved find safety and community, which is reflected in the setting of Freewater.

Upon finding out about the success of the story, Luqman-Dawson said she started to cry. “The whole world is now going to know about Freewater and experience this story,” she stated.

Did the story win any other awards?

Not only did the story win the Newbery Medal, but Freewater also won the Coretta Scott King Award. According to ALA, the Coretta Scott King Award is “given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.”

Of the award-winning story, Luqman-Dawson has hopes it can spark conversation about history.

She goes on to say: “It’s all the more needed that we have ways of celebrating, understanding, and connecting with it [history]. I’m so pleased and so grateful that Freewater arrives at this moment.”

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  • ALA: “Coretta Scott King Book Awards Round Table”
  • ALA: “John Newbery Medal”
  • ALSC: “Newbery 100th Anniversary Celebration”
  • Publishers Weekly: “Amina Luqman-Dawson’s Newbery Win: A Dual Celebration”
  • The Washington Post: “Freewater,’ a tale of escaped enslaved people, wins Newbery Medal”