Jonah Winter has been chosen as the 2024 Horace Mann Upstander Award recipient for his book Banned Book (2023), published by Creative Editions with illustrations by Gary Kelley. The Horace Mann Upstanders Award honors children’s literature that best exemplifies the ideals of social action and encourages young readers to become agents of change themselves by standing up to injustice.
When asked if he thought his book deserving of the Upstander Award, Winter replied, “I see that this book award is ‘designed to encourage young readers to be activists and to engage their rights.’ Well merciful God, I should certainly hope that my book does this! That was certainly the motivation for writing it! My book does not have a happy ending, because generally there are no happy endings when it comes to censorship—so this is by design. I want young readers to experience the ‘gift of outrage,’ as Ralph Nader has called his special talent, which hopefully will motivate them to action or at least to initiate ‘difficult’ conversations with their teachers, librarians, and parents.”
An Upstander is a person or a group who chooses to take a positive stand and act on behalf of themselves and others. This award honors literature that encourages readers to take that risk and stand up for something they believe in. The author, publisher, and illustrator are also the Upstanders this year, along with the book’s brave fictional librarian who states, “that children had a right to decide for themselves whether or not to read [the banned book].” The selection committee applauds Winter and Kelley for standing up against the oppression of book banning.
“Children are surrounded by censorship,” Winter continued,” some that they don’t even know about, and the most successful fights against book bans have been led by children. I’m thinking of one in particular in York County, PA (where my Sonia Sotomayor book was among many books being banned), in which the students banded together to fight it…, and they won!”
The publishing company, Creative Editions, wrote: “Book-banning in the United States is growing, affecting communities of all sizes, in all states, leaving millions of students corralled by flaring sides. When faced with this type of can’t, what can we do? We at The Creative Company will continue to embrace books and readers. We will continue to create and provide access to content that nurtures the idea of limitless possibility. Banned Book, new this season from award-winning author Jonah Winter, offers a satirical take on censorship, one designed to encourage discussion of rights and choices and what becomes of a book that’s banned.”
Winter is the award-winning author of more than 40 children’s books that promote social justice, facts, artistic expression, nonconformity, and baseball. His books include three New York Times Best Illustrated Books Diego, Here Comes The Garbage Barge!, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case Of RBG Vs. Inequality, along with Jane Addams Children’s Book Award recipient and Kirkus Prize finalist, Lillian’s Right to Vote, New York Times Notable Children’s Book, My Name is James Madison Hemings, New York Times Editors’ Choice, You Never Heard of Willie Mays?!, and New York Times Best Seller, Barack, along with the story of the atomic bomb, The Secret Project. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, raised in Dallas, and a former resident of New York City, San Francisco, Idaho, Maine, New Hampshire, and Virginia, Winter currently resides in a small town somewhere in Pennsylvania.
Gary Kelley is an award-winning illustrator. His books include Next Year, The Navajo Code Talkers, Harlem Hellfighters, and Virginia Was a Spy, all published by Creative Editions. He lives in Cedar Falls, Iowa.