2021 Kirkus Prize Finalists

The finalists for the 2021 Kirkus Prize for Young Readers have been announced. The finalists are selected from books published between October 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021 that have received a Kirkus star. Two finalists are selected in each age group. Here are the selected titles:


Cover for Your Mama

Your Mama by NoNieqa Ramos, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara

Cover for Unspeakable

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper


Cover for Legacy

Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes

Cover for All Thirteen

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat


Cover for The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim

Cover for The Life I'm In

The Life I’m In by Sharon G. Flake

Kaleidoscope by Brian Selznick

Cover image for Kaleidoscope.

Kaleidoscope by Brian Selznick (9781338777246)

Two people meet and miss one another again and again in these short chapters that move through time. The stories are interconnected and yet also separate images and spaces. They are bound together by the characters themselves and also the themes that cross from one to another. There are butterflies, gardens, and gates among many other images that carry across the entire book. The characters must face their fears, reach across darkness, and grapple with grief and loss. Each chapter is a gem of a story, a short story that threads through to the others in ways that astonish, creating a true kaleidoscope of fractures and wholeness.

Few books are this impossible to summarize. Selznick, who already has written remarkable works, writes a complex book for young readers that is one where themes and metaphors are waiting to be explored. The relationship between the two characters is fascinating, one who is named James and the other who is the narrator, seeking and finding, losing and searching. The emotions in each of the stories change and wrap around one another, creating a pattern of grief, sorrow, love and joy.

It wouldn’t be a book by Selznick without his illustrations. Here he takes an illustration and turns it first into a kaleidoscope image, only revealing the actual image after the page turn. The skill here, done in charcoal gray and white, is dazzling. The images are filled with light, form and are recognizable in the kaleidoscope image. I found myself lingering between the two, flipping back and forth before reading each chapter.

Complex, fractured, and resoundingly gorgeous. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Scholastic.