Goade becomes first Native American to win Caldecott Medal

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This combination of cover images shows, from left, "When You Trap a Tiger," winner of the John Newbery Medal for the outstanding children's book overall of 2020, "We Are Water Protectors," written by Carol Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade, winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal for best children's picture story and "Before the Ever After" by Jacqueline Woodson, who won her third Coretta Scott King Award for best work by a Black author. (Random House Books for Young Readers/Roaring Brook Press/Nancy Paulsen Books via AP)

NEW YORK – Illustrator Michaela Goade became the first Native American to win the prestigious Randolph Caldecott Medal for best children's picture story, cited for “We Are Water Protectors," a celebration of nature and condemnation of the “black snake” Dakota Access Pipeline.

"I am really honored and proud," the 30-year-old Goade told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “I think it's really important for young people and aspiring book makers and other creative people to see this.”

Tae Keller's chapter book “When You Trap a Tiger,” in which a young Korean-American explores her identity and her heritage through her grandmother's stories, won the John Newbery Medal for the outstanding children's work overall of 2020. Keller, who was raised in Hawaii and now lives in New York, drew upon Korean folklore and family history for “When You Trap a Tiger,” also named the year’s best Asian/Pacific American literature.

“The book really did grow from the recognition of my grandmother as this full person with so much life and so many stories to tell,” Keller, 27, told the AP. “I also did a great deal of research into Korean folklore and Korean history. There was a lot I heard growing up, but I had never had a fuller, deeper understanding of it all. I think that was the most rewarding part of writing this book.”

Jacqueline Woodson, whose previous honors include a National Book Award, won her third Coretta Scott King Award for best work by a Black author for “Before the Ever After.” And a tribute to Aretha Franklin, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T," received the King award for best illustration. The book was written by Carole Boston Weatherford, with images by Frank Morrison.

The awards were announced Monday by the American Library Association.

“We Are Water Protectors,” written by Carole Lindstrom, was conceived in response to the planned construction of the Dakota pipeline through Standing Rock Sioux territory. Goade, a member of the Tlingit and Haida Indian tribes in Southeast Alaska, was sent a copy of the manuscript through her agent in 2018 and responded immediately to its political message and message of water as a universal force.

“I love how it balanced lyricism and poetry with a powerful message,” says Goade, who used everything from watercolors to Gouache paint as she conjured moods ranging from the water's sensual blue waves to the harsh black of the snake/pipeline and the burning red of the snake's tongue.