Newbery Medalist Tae Keller

Click here to watch the 2021 ALA Youth Media Awards press conference.

I asked Tae Keller, Christina Soontornvat, Carole Boston Weatherford, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, and Erin Entrada Kelly to answer two questions and finish two sentence starters.

Hello, Tae Keller! Congratulations on winning the 2021 Newbery Medal for When You Trap a Tiger!!! I love hearing about the CALL. What was running through your heart when the Newbery committee was clapping and cheering for you?

Tae Keller: I really, truly did not believe it. Winning the Newbery is the wildest dream. I didn’t think it could happen to this book--to me. When the committee told me I’d received the medal, I asked them to repeat it because I couldn’t process it. I don’t remember much of the call, to be honest. It was just so surreal.

But I do remember afterward. My husband, Josh, was standing in the doorway and I walked over to him. He’d heard some of the call and said, “Did it happen? Did you win?” And I burst into tears. Full on ugly cry.

Once I wrapped my head around reality, my overwhelming feeling was gratitude. I’m so grateful to the committee, of course, as well as the many, many people who made this book possible. While writing, I relied on so many people, both emotionally and creatively, and this book would not exist without them.

What does the Newbery Medal for When You Trap a Tiger mean to you?

Tae Keller: This book is so personal. I wasn’t sure if it would resonate with anyone else. But so many kids will read this book now, and I’m only just starting to internalize that. I’ve been hearing from readers across the world—from kids who feel seen, and from kids who are now better able to see others—and I hope this story reaches the readers who need it.

Also, this award means I get to keep writing! There are so many stories I want to tell—stories that will challenge me both as a writer and as a person. What an incredible thing it is, to get to do this work.

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Stories show us we are not alone.

School librarians hand-deliver hope.

Photo Credit: Saavedra Photography

Tae Keller was born and raised in Honolulu, where she grew up on purple rice, Spam musubi, and her halmoni’s tiger stories. She is the Newbery Medal-winning author of When You Trap a Tiger and The Science of Breakable Things. She lives in Seattle. 

Borrow When You Trap a Tiger from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


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