2019 Finalists: young readers

THE UNDEFEATED by Kwame Alexander
Released: April 2, 2019

"An incredible connector text for young readers eager to graduate to weighty conversations about our yesterday, our now, and our tomorrow. (Picture book/poetry. 6-12)"
Past and present are quilted together in this innovative overview of black Americans' triumphs and challenges in the United States. Read full book review >
NEW KID by Jerry Craft
Released: Feb. 5, 2019

"An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in America. (Graphic fiction. 10-14)"
Jordan Banks takes readers down the rabbit hole and into his mostly white prep school in this heartbreakingly accurate middle-grade tale of race, class, microaggressions, and the quest for self-identity. Read full book review >
IMAGINE by Juan Felipe Herrera
Released: Oct. 2, 2018

"A lyrical coming-of-age story in picture-book form that begs to be shared. (Picture book/memoir. 4-8)"
Former Poet Laureate Herrera encourages his young readers to imagine all they might be in his new picture book. Read full book review >
ON THE COME UP by Angie Thomas
Released: Feb. 5, 2019

"A joyous experience awaits. Read it. Learn it. Love it. (Fiction. 13-adult)"
This honest and unflinching story of toil, tears, and triumph is a musical love letter that proves literary lightning does indeed strike twice. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 10, 2019

"At the center of every story lies credible fear; this essential volume is deserving of more than one read. (author's note, about the refugees, glossary, further reading) (Nonfiction. 12-18)"
A critical compilation of stories from unaccompanied Central American teen refugees who make tremendous sacrifices to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Read full book review >
GENESIS BEGINS AGAIN by Alicia D. Williams
Released: Jan. 15, 2019

"It's a story that may be all too familiar for too many and one that needed telling. (Fiction. 10-14)"
Thirteen-year-old Genesis Anderson is a black girl who has been dealt a heavy hand in life. Read full book review >


The Kirkus Prize is one of the richest literary awards in the world, with a prize of $50,000 bestowed annually to authors of fiction, nonfiction and young readers’ literature. It was created to celebrate the 86 years of discerning, thoughtful criticism Kirkus Reviews has contributed to both the publishing industry and readers at large. Books that earn the Kirkus Star with publication dates between Nov. 1, 2018 to Oct. 31, 2019 (see FAQ for exceptions), are automatically nominated for the 2019 Kirkus Prize. The Kirkus Prize judges will select three winners on Thursday, October 24, 2019.