Kyle Lukoff

Click here to watch the 2022 ALA Youth Media Awards press conference.

I asked Donna Barba Higuera, Rajani LaRocca, Darice Little Badger, Kyle Lukoff, and Andrea Wang to answer two questions and finish two sentence starters. 

Hello, Kyle Lukoff! Congratulations on winning a 2022 Newbery Honor and a Stonewall Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s Literature Medal for Too Bright to See! I love hearing about the CALLS. What was running through your heart when the committees were clapping and cheering for you?

Kyle Lukoff: Omg John Schu! Okay, so the Stonewall call was the result of subterfuge from my editor. My agent sent her a new project last week, and she emailed asking, “I’d love to chat about it, are you free Sunday at 2:40?” I thought it was a bit odd but figured, well, maybe she’s excited but has a busy week, we’re all working from home now anyway, time is fake, why not?” Then I clicked on the link at the appointed time, and when I saw that the link address was, like, ala-mw.zoom I was like “Huh, that’s weird, but I guess she’s working at an ALA thing and is recycling the link? Okay.” And THEN when I saw all the people my first thought was “Oh oops Ellen gave me the wrong link, this is embarrassing!!” and THEN when I saw that she was there I was like “Weird, okay, maybe this is all Penguin people who…are interested in my next middle grade?” Because, you see, I am a human being entirely without guile, and can never believe that someone would lie to me, but then I saw the Stonewall emblem on everyone’s Zoom window and finally lost it, squeaking “What? No! Ellen, you tricked me! I thought!” and then they went through the spiel while I spluttered helplessly. Afterward both Ellen and my agent were like “Did you really not suspect anything? Seriously” and I just kept telling them that I am incapable of lying and so can never believe that anyone would lie to me.

Part of it is that on Saturday a friend of mine who was on Caldecott let slip that they had finished their deliberations on Tuesday, and were calling people later that day, so I knew that Newbery might not be calling on Monday morning, and in fact might have called already, or might not, and there was no way to know. So I was a mess (“I can’t meet up today, there’s a Tasmanian devil currently careening abouit in my brain,” I texted a librarian friend, who served on Newbery ’19), but after the Stonewall call I felt a lot better. I was also coming to a place of acceptance—I assumed that Newbery had already done their calls, I wasn’t one of them, and that was really okay. But then my boyfriend and I were getting ready to leave my place, to drive down to his house in Philly, when my phone started to buzz with a Chicago number. I froze, stared at it, started shaking, said, “I think this is Newbery,” and picked up. I’ve never been on such an emotional roller coaster in my life.

What do these awards for Too Bright to See mean to you?

Kyle Lukoff: My whole life has been books, for as long as I can remember. Reading was my primary interest as a kid, I got hired at Barnes & Noble when I was 16, and only left for good when I started library school. Then I was an elementary school librarian for eight years, served on the Stonewall Awards committee for two years, reviewed for different sources, stood in line at ALA signings, got up early to go to the YMAs with my librarian friends and cheer for our favorites. To know that a book that I wrote is suddenly more than just (“just”) a book I wrote is hard to wrap my head around. I think it will take months, if not years, for the knowledge to fully sink in and develop into something I can comprehend.

While I’m tempted to spell out the various firsts this win represents, doing so might imply that I see this book, and my position as a trans writer, as a novelty or a gimmick—and give permission for others to do the same. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Story is creative apophenia.

School librarians will always be my people.

Thank you, Kyle! 

Kyle Lukoff is the author of many books for young readers. His debut middle-grade novel, Too Bright To See, received a Newbery honor, the Stonewall award, and was a National Book Award finalist. His picture book When Aidan Became A Brother also won the Stonewall. He has forthcoming books about mermaids, babies, apologies, and lots of other topics. While becoming a writer he worked as a bookseller for ten years, and then nine more years as a school librarian.


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