Javaka Steptoe Wins 2017 Caldecott Medal for Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

Posted on February 2, 2017

Javaka Steptoe author photo

Javaka Steptoe has won the 2017 Caldecott Medal for Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (Little, Brown). The picture book, which he wrote and illustrated, is a vibrant biography of street artist Basquiat. The book also is the winner of the 2017 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award

Caldecott Medal Committee Chair Rhonda K. Gould said of the book, "Steptoe's engaging art makes Basquiat approachable for children without his complexities." The committee explained why the book won this year's prize: "Like Jean-Michel Basquiat's work, Steptoe’s illustrations radiate energy and immediacy. A patch-worked canvas of scavenged wood, painted and collaged with photos, and images of human anatomy, evokes the improvisatory nature of Basquiat’s art. Radiant Child resonates with emotion that connects Steptoe with Basquiat and Basquiat with young readers.

In a fascinating interview with Publisher's Weekly Mr. Steptoe spoke about how thrilled he was to get the call that he won the prestigious award. He said, "I was surprised, really surprised. I was looking at a lot of mock Caldecotts and stuff, and I saw books like They All Saw a Cat, and they were always listed before me...I was just happy to be considered and I thought, 'Maybe I'll get an Honor and that would be great.'"

He also said that he can't even remember who called him to tell him he won the Medal. He said he was literally speechless when she told him he won (he was actually in the shower when the call came and he raced to take the call.) We're thinking he should get used to getting those types of calls.

Image: Hachette

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