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Children’s book ‘The Undefeated’ wins Caldecott and two other awards

Poem by Kwame Alexander originally appeared on The Undefeated website

The Undefeated, a book based on a poem originally published on The Undefeated website, won three awards from the American Library Association Monday, including the Caldecott Medal as the top picture book for children.

The book, written by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, was also named a Newbery Honor Book for outstanding contributions to children’s literature. Nelson won the Coretta Scott King Award, which recognizes African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults.

Alexander originally wrote and performed the poem, a wide-ranging love letter to black life in America, in a video for The Undefeated, a division of ESPN devoted to the intersection of sports, race and culture. It was redone as a book for 6- to 9-year-olds and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April 2019 on its Versify imprint.

“THE UNDEFEATED is a gorgeously crafted, necessary tribute to the struggles and triumphs of black Americans past and present, and we are so proud to have it on our inaugural Versify list,” Cat Onder, senior vice president and publisher, HMH Books for Young Readers, said in a statement. “It’s thrilling to see Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson’s exceptional work recognized by the Caldecott, Newbery, and Coretta Scott King Book Award committees.”

The American Library Association awards are presented annually and are a respected guide for parents, teachers and librarians in selecting material for young readers.

The Undefeated is the first of two children’s books based on material that originally appeared on The Undefeated website. The second book, The Fierce 44, also from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, was published in December.