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‘For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World’ wins inaugural social justice book prize

Book published by Flyaway Books awarded Goddard Riverside Children’s Book Council Youth Book Prize for Social Justice

by Flyaway Books | Special to Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE ­— “For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World,” by author Michael W. Waters and illustrator Keisha Morris from Flyaway Books, has won the first-ever Goddard Riverside Children’s Book Council Youth Book Prize for Social Justice.

“For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World” is the story of Jeremiah, a young man with a lot of questions about the violent deaths of Black people he’s seeing in the news, and the actions people are taking in the street in response. His father doesn’t have easy answers, but that doesn’t mean he won’t talk about it — or that he won’t act. Inspired by real-life events, this beautiful picture book is an honest, intimate look at one family’s response to racism and gun violence. The book includes a discussion and activity guide for parents and teachers to use with children written by the Muhammad Ali Center.

The book was one of four titles chosen for the shortlist by judges Beth Puffer, a longtime bookseller at Eeyore’s Books for Children and Bank Street Bookstore, and Nicholas Rodriguez, a poet, indie coffee shop manager, CBC intern and aspiring public school teacher. The prize is a companion to the Stephan Russo Goddard Riverside Book Prize for Social Justice, launched in 2017, which recognizes nonfiction for adults. Both winners were announced online last week at Goddard Riverside’s annual gala.

Carl Lennertz, executive director of the Children’s Book Council, said: “These books symbolize all that’s good and vital about the work of all changemakers, notably the work every day of Goddard Riverside and of individuals who change history, in a local or global way. Books and storytelling are central to the cause of social justice, and the CBC and its member publishers are thankful to all the passionate authors and illustrators, to this group of outstanding book creators, and especially to Michael and Keisha for their very powerful book.”

The full shortlist, released in early October, includes the following titles:

  • “All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything,” by Annette Bay Pimentel; illustrated by Nabi H. Ali (Sourcebooks Explore/Sourcebooks Kids)
  • “For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World,” by Michael W. Waters; illustrated by Keisha Morris (Flyaway Books)
  • “Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood,” by Tony Hillery; illustrated by Jessie Hartland (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books)
  • “Lizzie Demands a Seat!: Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights,” by Beth Anderson; illustrated by E. B. Lewis (Boyds Mill & Kane/Calkins Creek)

About Goddard Riverside

Goddard Riverside strives for a fair and just society where all people can make choices that lead to better lives for themselves and their families. Goddard serves more than 20,000 New Yorkers each year with programs including Early Childhood Education, After School, employment support, college access, youth programs, homeless outreach, Senior Centers and legal assistance.  For more information, visit

About the Children’s Book Council

The Children’s Book Council (CBC) is the nonprofit trade association of children’s book publishers in North America, dedicated to supporting the industry and promoting children’s books and reading. The CBC also coordinates the national programs of Every Child a Reader, including Children’s Book Week, now in its 101st year; Get Caught Reading; and the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, currently Jason Reynolds. For more information, visit

About Flyaway Books

Flyaway Books, the imprint affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Westminster John Knox Press, is a picture book program dedicated to themes of diversity, inclusivity, compassion, and kindness. For more information, visit

About the Muhammad Ali Center

The Muhammad Ali Center, a 501(c)3 corporation, was cofounded by Muhammad Ali and his wife Lonnie in their hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. The international cultural center promotes the Six Core Principles of Muhammad Ali (Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Giving, Respect and Spirituality) in ways that inspire personal and global greatness and provides programming and events around the focus areas of education, gender equity, and global citizenship. In 2020, the Ali Center became one of the newest stops on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. The Center’s headquarters also contains an award-winning museum experience. For more information, please visit

About Michael W. Waters

Michael W. Waters is an award-winning author, activist, professor, and pastor. A sought-after speaker to national and international audiences, he is a frequent social commentator for major media outlets. He was named one of America’s emerging leaders by Ebony magazine and has received multiple honors for his work in peace and justice. Michael W. Waters lives in Dallas, Texas. For more information, visit

About Keisha Morris

Keisha Morris grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, studied illustration in New York City, and now tells stories through pictures and words in Reno, Nevada. For more information, visit

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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