Posted on February 24, 2021
The American Library Association announced its Youth Media Award Winners on January 25th and I’ll admit that I am enough of a book nerd that I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see who would win the Newbery Medal for most outstanding contribution to Children’s Literature and the Caldecott Medal for the artist of most distinguished American picture book for children. I am happy to report that my favorite for the Caldecott Medal, We Are Water Protectors, won! And, though it wasn’t my top pick, When You Trap a Tiger, was one of my favorites for the Newbery Medal.
Another pleasant surprise was that Mildred D. Taylor won the Children’s Literature Legacy Award that “honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children through books that demonstrate integrity and respect for all children’s lives and experiences.” I’ve been a fan of Taylor’s books since I read her Newbery Medal winner, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, in elementary school. It was one of those moving books that set me on the path of a life-long love of books.
When I moved to Toledo after college, I was intrigued to find out that Taylor grew up in Toledo. She graduated from Scott High School in 1961. Here are some photos from the Scott High School yearbook.
After high school, Taylor graduated with an Education degree from the University of Toledo and earned her master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Colorado. She also worked in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia for a couple of years!
Her first story, “Song of the Trees,” won a contest sponsored by the Council on Interracial Books for Children and as part of the prize, she won a trip to New York City and met with publishers there. She ended up with a book deal and rewrote the story into a book published in 1975.
Taylor’s award-winning stories portray the lives of the Logan Family. She draws on the experiences of her own family to weave together these potent tales which take place primarily in Mississippi and Toledo. I appreciate Taylor for the respect she shows children as she portrays the hard truths of racism in America. She doesn’t talk down to them but tells the truth as she sees it. Her characters are strong people who work hard to overcome adversity.
The last of the Logan series, All the Days Past, All the Days to Come came out last year and earned a Coretta Scott King Honor award. I especially appreciate its focus on what Toledo was like in the post-World War II 1940s. It is a reminder that our area wasn’t immune from racism.
In The Gold Cadillac, Taylor writes about a Black family who travel in their new car from Toledo to the South and are harassed by the police there. Toledo Lucas County Public library honored Taylor’s work with a Gold Cadillac interactive display in the Children’s Library as part of Main Library’s 2001 renovation. What a fitting tribute to this distinguished author.
For more information:
“My Life as a Writer” by Mildred D. Taylor. World Literature Today. May-August 2004. P. 7-10.