“Grounded” Earns Walter Awards Honor From We Need Diverse Books

“Grounded,” a middle grade novel, tells the story of four kids who find themselves stuck at an airport due to a thunderstorm following a Muslim convention.

“Grounded” Earns Walter Awards Honor From We Need Diverse Books
The awards, which were announced Jan. 17, will be celebrated at an event this March.

As a way of championing diversity in children's literature, We Need Diverse Books has revealed the winners of the ninth annual Walter Dean Myers Awards. These prestigious awards honor outstanding works for children and young adults, celebrating diverse authors who weave compelling stories with richly diverse characters. The awards are named after the prolific author Walter Dean Myers, a tireless advocate for diversity in children's literature.

The Walter Dean Myers Awards consist of two categories: Teen (ages 13 to 18) and Younger Readers (ages 9 to 13). In each category, one winner and one honor book have been carefully selected by the We Need Diverse Books Walter Awards Judging Committee.

In the Younger​ ​Readers​ ​category, the book that received the 2024 Walter Honors Award was “Grounded,” a collaboration between the award-winning Muslim children’s authors Aisha Saeed, Huda Al-Marashi, Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and S.K. Ali.

“Grounded,” a middle grade novel, tells the story of four kids who find themselves stuck at an airport due to a thunderstorm following a Muslim convention. Despite their apparent differences, Feek, Hanna, Sami and Nora share a night that completely changes their lives. With each character facing unique challenges, from family dynamics to personal aspirations, the story unfolds through alternating points of view, capturing the transformative impact of this unexpected night on the young protagonists.

The four authors immediately took to social media to celebrate their win. “What a surprise!” Ali wrote on Instagram. “Thank you [We Need Diverse Books] for this immense honor … [and] for seeing our book.”

Saeed complimented the other winners, saying she was grateful to see “Grounded” among other amazing, incredible books.

Al-Marashi wrote in her post on X (formerly Twitter), “Thank you [We Need Diverse Books] committee and judges for seeing our vision and [publisher Abrams kids] and [editor Erica Finkel] for bringing us together.”

Thompkins-Bigelow summed up her co-authors’ sentiments about feeling seen and understood in her post on X (formerly Twitter). “Thank you for recognizing ‘Grounded,’ where Muslim kids run amok in an airport, a typically fraught space, to explore personal issues, make new friends and find a cat,” Thompkins-Bigelow said in her post. “We rejected writing our pain there. We reclaim that space and the right of Muslim kids to just be.”

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The 2024 Walter Awards ceremony is tentatively scheduled for March 13, 2024, in Washington, D.C. The event will feature a panel discussion with the winners and honorees, moderated by the National Book Award-winning author and Young People’s Poet Laureate, Elizabeth Acevedo. Attendees can look forward to engaging conversations about the importance of diversity in children's literature, followed by a Q&A session. It is anticipated at this time that all four co-authors of “Grounded” will attend the event.

The Walter Dean Myers Award, affectionately known as "The Walter," pays tribute to Walter Dean Myers (1937–2014), the third National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Myers was a passionate advocate for diversity in children's books, leaving behind a remarkable literary legacy. The awards not only commemorate Myers' memory but also serve as a beacon for celebrating diversity in the world of children's literature.

The selection of the winners and honorees is the result of the meticulous work of the 2024 Walter Awards Judging Committee. Chaired by Jeremiah Henderson, the committee includes dedicated individuals such as Sarah DeMicheli, Jamila Felton, Siân Gaetano, Jamie Kurumaji, Hanna Lee, Sara Martinez, Jenell Penn and Hadeal Salamah.

Kathie Weinberg and Yukari Matsuyama, the Walter Award co-directors, have been instrumental in ensuring the continued success and impact of the Walter Dean Myers Awards. Their dedication to fostering diversity in children's literature is evident in the selection process and execution of the awards ceremony.

As We Need Diverse Books enters its ninth year, the Walter Dean Myers Awards stand as a testament to the organization's unwavering commitment to inclusivity and representation in children's literature. By recognizing and celebrating outstanding works that reflect the richness of our diverse world, the awards inspire authors and readers alike to embrace and appreciate the power of storytelling in shaping a more inclusive future.

You can find your copy of the Walter Honors Award–winning “Grounded” at the link below.

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