2020-2021 SC Children's Book Award Nominees

Girl with black cat, leaning against a street light at night, in front of building.

A superstitious 12-year-old living above her family's diner searches for signs to guide her life before taking in a runaway whom she protects in the hope that the girl will safeguard her family from tragedy.

Two hands with open palms, colorful flowery drawings on arms and hands

The compelling story of a girl's fight to regain her life and dreams after being forced into indentured servitude. Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal's Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she's busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when--as the eldest daughter--she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn't lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens--after an accidental run-in with the son of her village's corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family's servant to pay off her own family's debt. Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal--especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal's growing awareness of the Khans' nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

Boy running towards a fire

Some trails lead to magic. Some lead to danger…As Arlo looked around; the walls of his room began to vanish, revealing a moonlit forest. Only his bed remained, and the frame of his window, through which he saw the girl. The world on her side of the glass was sparkling with silver and gold, like a palace made of autumn leaves. She looked off to her right. Someone was coming. Her words came in an urgent whisper: "If I can see you, they can see you . . . Be careful, Arlo Finch.”

Arlo Finch thought becoming a Ranger meant learning wilderness skills, like camping and knots. But upon arriving in the tiny town of Pine Mountain, Colorado, Arlo soon learns there's so much more. His new friends Indra and Wu teach him how to harness the wild magic seeping in from the mysterious Long Woods―a parallel realm of wonder and danger. First he must master the basics, including snaplights, thunderclaps and identifying supernatural creatures. But Arlo Finch is no ordinary Ranger, and this is no ordinary time. A dark and ancient force is sending threats into the real world . . . our world. Through perilous adventures and close calls, Arlo is awakened to his unique destiny―but the obstacles he faces will test the foundations of the Ranger's Vow: loyalty, bravery, kindness, and truth.

Young African American girl looking up at the blue sky

In Detroit, 1945, eleven-year-old Betty’s house doesn’t quite feel like home. She believes her mother loves her, but she can’t shake the feeling that her mother doesn’t want her. Church helps those worries fade, if only for a little while. The singing, the preaching, the speeches from guest activists like Paul Robeson and Thurgood Marshall stir African Americans in her community to stand up for their rights. Betty quickly finds confidence and purpose in volunteering for the Housewives League, an organization that supports black-owned businesses. Soon, the American civil rights icon we now know as Dr. Betty Shabazz is born.

African American girl in white dress, pink background

Eleven-year-old Isabella’s parents are divorced, so she has to switch lives every week: One week she’s Isabella with her dad, his girlfriend Anastasia, and her son Darren living in a fancy house where they are one of the only black families in the neighborhood. The next week she’s Izzy with her mom and her boyfriend John-Mark in a small, not-so-fancy house that she loves. Because of this, Isabella has always felt pulled between two worlds. And now that her parents are divorced, it seems their fights are even worse, and they’re always about HER. Isabella feels even more stuck in the middle, split and divided between them than ever. And she’s is beginning to realize that being split between Mom and Dad is more than switching houses, switching nicknames, switching backpacks: it’s also about switching identities.

Her dad is black, her mom is white, and strangers are always commenting: “You’re so exotic!” “You look so unusual.” “But what are you really?” She knows what they’re really saying: “You don’t look like your parents.” “You’re different.” “What race are you really?” And when her parents, who both get engaged at the same time, get in their biggest fight ever, Isabella doesn’t just feel divided, she feels ripped in two. What does it mean to be half white or half black? To belong to half mom and half dad? And if you’re only seen as half of this and half of that, how can you ever feel whole? It seems like nothing can bring Isabella’s family together again—until the worst happens. Isabella and Darren are stopped by the police. A cell phone is mistaken for a gun. And shots are fired.

Girl and boy holding fishing pole with lake behind them

Cat and her brother Chicken have always had a very special bond--Cat is one of the few people who can keep Chicken happy. When he has a "meltdown" she’s the one who scratches his back and reads his favorite story. She’s the one who knows what Chicken needs. Since their mom has had to work double-hard to keep their family afloat after their father passed away, Cat has been the glue holding her family together. But even the strongest glue sometimes struggles to hold. When a summer trip doesn’t go according to plan, Cat and Chicken end up spending three weeks with grandparents they never knew. For the first time in years, Cat has the opportunity to be a kid again, and the journey she takes shows that even the most broken or strained relationships can be healed if people take the time to walk in one another’s shoes.

Astronaut looking out into space

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong took one small step and made history. Over the course of the next three-and-a-half years, twelve lunar explorers, including Alan Shepard and Gene Cernan, touched down on the moon's surface. Author and engineer Suzanne Slade reveals how the Apollo missions (1969-1972) built upon one another and led to important discoveries about our nearest neighbor in space. Back matter includes an afterword by Alan Bean (1932-2018), the fourth person to walk on the moon.

Girl relaxing on grass as she watches another girl wave as she skips away.

Twelve-year-old El has planned on making her first week at a new school fantastic. She won’t go by her given name, Laughter. She’ll sit in the back of the classroom where she can make new friends. She won’t even have time to think about all the fun her old friends are having without her. Everything will be great. But when her dad picks her up after school and tells her that her younger sister, Echo, has a life-threatening illness, her world is suddenly turned upside down. And with her parents now pressed for time and money, El feels lost and powerless. Then she befriends Octavius, the only other kid in school who gets what she’s going through. As El begins to adjust to her new life, she soon finds that maybe a little hope and a lot of love can overcome any obstacle.

Blue background of city buildings, highlighting a African American boy on a rooftop looking out at the city.

When eleven-year-old Langston's father moves them from their home in Alabama to Chicago's Bronzeville district, it feels like he's giving up everything he loves. It's 1946. Langston's mother has just died, and now they're leaving the rest of his family and friends. He misses everything-- Grandma's Sunday suppers, the red dirt roads, and the magnolia trees his mother loved.

Back of tall girl, standing on a porch with a dog, the wind is blowing her hair.

In 1910, after losing their farm in Iowa, the Martin family moves to Mingo, Colorado, to start anew. The US government offers 320 acres of land free to homesteaders. All they have to do is live on the land for five years and farm it. So twelve-year-old Belle Martin, along with her mother and six siblings, moves west to join her father. But while the land is free, farming is difficult and it's a hardscrabble life. Natural disasters such as storms and locusts threaten their success. And heartbreaking losses challenge their faith. Do the Martins have what it takes to not only survive but thrive in their new prairie life? Told through the eyes of a twelve-year-old girl, this new middle-grade novel from New York Times-bestselling author Sandra Dallas explores one family's homesteading efforts in 1900s Colorado.

Grandmother hugging child in a loving embrace.

There will never be anyone like her grandmother, Patricia Polacco thinks, when her grandmother passes away. But when she and her family move to California—in the middle of a drought—she meets a new friend, the irrepressible Stewart, and his amazing grandmother, Miss Eula, who not only takes Trisha under her wing, but, with Trisha and Stewart, steps up to lead their entire extraordinarily diverse neighborhood to help a hurting neighbor—and her once lush garden—survive the drought. 

Man and girl walking in snowy woods with metal pails.

For as long as Robinson Hart can remember, it’s just been her and Grandpa. He taught her about cars, baseball, and everything else worth knowing. But Grandpa’s memory has been getting bad—so bad that he sometimes can’t even remember Robbie’s name. She’s sure that she’s making things worse by getting in trouble at school, but she can’t resist using her fists when bullies like Alex Carter make fun of her for not having a mom. Now she’s stuck in group guidance—and to make things even worse, Alex Carter is there too. There’s no way Robbie’s going to open up about her life to some therapy group, especially not with Alex in the room. Besides, if she told anyone how forgetful Grandpa’s been getting lately, they’d take her away from him. He’s the only family she has—and it’s up to her to keep them together, no matter what.

African American man on horse, as if in rodeo.

In 1911, three men were in the final round of the famed Pendleton Round-Up. One was white, one was Indian, and one was black. When the judges declared the white man the winner, the audience was outraged. They named black cowboy George Fletcher the "people's champion" and took up a collection, ultimately giving Fletcher far more than the value of the prize that went to the official winner. Award-winning author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson tells the story of Fletcher's unlikely triumph with a western flair that will delight kids―and adults―who love true stories, unlikely heroes, and cowboy tales.

Boy dressed as a knight, holding a violin as if it is a bow and arrow, surrounded by other children.

Max wants to be a knight! Too bad that dream is about as likely as finding a friendly dragon. But when Max's uncle Budrick is kidnapped by the cruel King Gastley, Max has to act...and fast! Joined by a band of brave adventurers--the Midknights--Max sets out on a thrilling quest: to save Uncle Budrick and restore the realm of Byjovia to its former high spirits!

Donkey on a leash, leaning towards baby bottle.

When his father brings home an ailing, newborn donkey, Louie names the animal Winslow and takes care of him, but everyone, including Louie's quirky friend Nora, thinks Winslow is not going to survive.

back of young person, looking out at sand towers with smoke coming from the chimneys

In nineteenth-century England, after her father's disappearance Nan Sparrow, ten, works as a "climbing boy," aiding chimney sweeps, but when her most treasured possessions end up in a fireplace, she unwittingly creates a golem.

Red book jacket with a raccoon eating a doughnut with icing and sprinkles on top.

Tristan isn't Gifted or Talented like his sister Jeanine, and he's always been okay with that because he can make a perfect chocolate chip cookie and he lives in the greatest city in the world. But his life takes a turn for the worse when his parents decide to move to middle-of-nowhere Petersville―a town with one street and no restaurants. It's like suddenly they're supposed to be this other family, one that can survive without bagels and movie theaters. His suspicions about his new town are confirmed when he's tricked into believing the local general store has life-changing chocolate cream doughnuts, when in fact the owner hasn't made them in years. And so begins the only thing that could make life in Petersville worth living: getting the recipe, making the doughnuts, and bringing them back to the town through his very own doughnut stand. But Tristan will soon discover that when starting a business, it helps to be both Gifted and Talented, and It's possible he's bitten off more than he can chew...

Vivid colors of yellow with a white hand and a brown hand holding a wheel

Gabriel, twelve, gains new perspective when he becomes friends with Meriwether, a Black World War II hero who has recently returned to the unwelcoming Jim Crow South.

Boy with mask on his face running up a hill.

Twelve-year-old Güero is Mexican American, at home with Spanish or English and on both sides of the river. He's starting 7th grade with a woke English teacher who knows how to make poetry cool. In Spanish, "Güero" is a nickname for guys with pale skin, Latino or Anglo. But make no mistake: our red-headed, freckled hero is puro mexicano, like Canelo Álvarez, the Mexican boxer. Güero is also a nerd--reader, gamer, musician--who runs with a squad of misfits like him, Los Bobbys. Sure, they get in trouble like anybody else, and like other middle-school boys, they discover girls. Watch out for Joanna! She's tough as nails. But trusting in his family's traditions, his accordion and his bookworm squad, he faces seventh grade with book smarts and a big heart. Life is tough for a border kid, but Güero has figured out how to cope. 

Vibrant colors and a girl sitting in the forest.

In the late 1800s, a twelve-year-old night spirit living in the Great Smoky Mountains despairs as homesteaders destroy her forest habitat, until a chance encounter with a "day-folk" man changes everything she thought she knew about her people--and their greatest enemy.