Caldecott Medal goes to 'Hot Dog' and Newbery is awarded to 'Freewater' Hot Dog, by Doug Salati, is about an overheated pup who finds his calm on a trip to the beach. Freewater, by Amina Luqman-Dawson, is about two enslaved children finding freedom.

'Hot Dog' wins Caldecott, Newbery is awarded to 'Freewater'

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The Newbery and Caldecott medals have been called the Oscars of children's literature. Today, the American Library Association announced the winners. Amina Luqman-Dawson won the Newbery for her middle grade novel "Freewater." Doug Salati won the Caldecott Medal for his picture book, "Hot Dog." NPR's Elizabeth Blair has more.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: "Freewater" is Amina Luqman-Dawson's first children's book. She is elated to win the Newbery Medal.

AMINA LUQMAN-DAWSON: I'm still in shock. I'm feeling so blessed to have reached this place in my professional journey.

BLAIR: The seeds of that journey began some 20 years ago, when she first learned the history of a daunting area between Virginia and North Carolina.

LUQMAN-DAWSON: The Great Dismal Swamp was known to have been a refuge for African American, self-emancipating people who ran away from enslavement and managed to live free lives deep in the swamp for years.

BLAIR: Drawing inspiration from real life, Luqman-Dawson added some magical realism by creating a skybridge that would take people to this free community.


CARY HITE: (Reading) Now you get the chance to fly, like you did in that dream. We're going to fly right off this riverbank.

LUQMAN-DAWSON: I always felt that, especially in touching on African American history, that we have to have a space where we allow our feet to sort of lift off the ground and to fly.

BLAIR: The Caldecott Medal honors picture books. This year's winner is "Hot Dog" by Doug Salati. Salati has illustrated books before, but this is his first as both writer and illustrator. "Hot Dog" is about a dachshund who lives in New York City. With detailed drawings of crowds of towering humans, buildings, steamy sidewalks and cars, the dachshund has had enough.

DOUG SALATI: (Reading) Too close, too loud, too much - that's it.

BLAIR: The dog plops down in the middle of the road. His owner scoops him up, hails a taxi. They take a train and then a ferry to the beach, where the dachshund can whiff the salty breeze, run around and play in the sand. Salati says it's a book about friendship.

SALATI: I've had so many people in my life who saw me in the state that I was in, when I was in it, and they acknowledged me and what I needed and helped me to kind of keep moving forward.

BLAIR: Salati says there are so many amazing books that get made every year, winning a Caldecott Medal has left him almost speechless and very proud.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

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