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YALSA announces 2020 Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award finalists

CHICAGO — The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), selected five books as finalists for the 2020 Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award, which honors the best nonfiction books written for young adults between Nov. 1, 2018, and Oct. 31, 2019. YALSA will name the 2020 award winner at the Youth Media Awards on January 27, 2020, in Philadelphia during the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting.

The 2020 finalists are:

  • “Free Lunch,” written by Rex Ogle and published by Norton Young Readers, an imprint of W.W. Norton & Company
  • “The Great Nijinsky: God of Dance,” written and illustrated by Lynn Curlee and published by Charlesbridge Teen
  • “A Light in the Darkness: Janusz Korczak, His Orphans, and the Holocaust,” written by Albert Marrin and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House
  • “A Thousand Sisters: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II,” written by Elizabeth Wein and published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
  • “Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of  The Children’s Ship,'” written by Deborah Heiligman and published by Henry Holt, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

“This was a wonderful year for young-adult nonfiction, and our committee was faced with making some tough choices when selecting our finalists,” shared Chair Rachel Adams. “After many discussions, we’ve selected books that stood out for their compelling narrative writing, extensive research, and innovative design. These books also shed light on historic and personal moments of bravery in the face of oppression, poverty, and bigotry. Our finalists include a rebel dancer, a forgiving son, a compassionate doctor, a revolutionary flight team, and a group of courageous ship passengers, yet all of these books share a message of endurance and make valuable references to issues facing young adults today.”

Annotations and more information on the finalists and the award can be found on the Nonfiction Award page. Publishers and library staff can purchase finalist seals to place on the finalist titles at Those that are unable to attend Midwinter can watch the Youth Media Awards live on January 27, at 8:00 a.m. ET, online at For more information on the Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award and other ALA Youth Media Awards, please visit

YALSA will host a reception honoring the finalists and the winner, as well as YALSA’s Morris Award finalists and winner, at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting on January 27, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown in the Grand Ballroom EF. See a full list of YALSA’s events and programs at the Midwinter Meeting on YALSA’s Midwinter wiki page.

Learn more about YALSA’s portfolio of book and media awards, which helps strengthen library services for and with teens by identifying quality, age-appropriate resources for librarians and library workers to share with the teens in their communities, at

Members of the 2020 Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award committee are: Chair Rachel Adams, King County Library, Issaquah, Wash.; Alicia Blowers, St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School, Alexandria, Va.; Jennifer Cooper, Potomac Senior High School, Dumfries, Va.; Heather Dickerson, Lewis & Clark Library, Helena, Mont.; Elizabeth E. Nelson, St. Luke’s School, New Canaan, Conn.; Joe Prince, Jerome Library, Bowling Green, Ohio; Erica Ruscio, Ventress Memorial Library, Marshfield, Mass.; Carolyn Vidmar, New Orleans Public Library, New Orleans; Steve Zampino, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, Conn.; Ronny Khuri, Booklist Consultant, Chicago.

The mission of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is to support library staff in alleviating the challenges teens face and in putting all teens—especially those with the greatest needs—on the path to successful and fulfilling lives. For more information about YALSA or to access national guidelines and other resources, go to or contact the YALSA office by phone, 800-545-2433, ext. 4390; or e-mail, [email protected].

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