Scholastic Writing Awards 2023

This year’s Scholastic Writing Awards received 944 submissions!

There were 49 students who received Gold Key Awards.

There were 94 students who received Silver Key Awards.

There were 130 students who received Honorable Mention.

Below, we are honoring 7 students, all of whom are the only students to receive 10’s from both judges. We can only nominate 5 for American Voices, and Portfolios are judged separately. So below are our five American Voices nominees and two additional students who received 10s, including one for her Portfolio. We also added our National Silver Key honoree.

We are held an awards ceremony on March 27 at RHAM High School Auditorium in Hebron, CT, from 5:30 to 7. All 273 award-winning students were invited and the 8 below were invited to read their pieces at that ceremony. All students who won Keys were able to pick up their Key!

The keynote speaker for the Scholastic Writing Awards Ceremony was Wade Hudson, author of Defiant, which won the 2022 Malka Penn Award for Human Rights in Children’s Literature, and founder along with his wife Cheryl of Just Us Books, which is dedicated to Black-interest books.

Wade Hudson

Wade Hudson

Wade Hudson’s Bio

Wade Hudson’s career in publishing spans four decades. He has written more than thirty-five books for young people including, AFRO-BETS Book of Black Heroes; Poetry from the Masters: The Pioneers; Jamal’s Busy Day, and Powerful Words: More than Two Hundred Years of Extraordinary Writing by African Americans. He is co-editor with Cheryl of three anthologies published in partnership with Crown Books for Young Readers, including: The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love & Truth and Recognize! An Anthology Honoring and Amplifying Black Life. His most recent book is the coming-of-age memoir, Defiant: Growing up in the Jim Crow South, which Kirkus Reviews called a “powerful testimony from a children’s literature legend.” Defiant is a 2022 Malka Penn Award winner, a Junior Library Guild selection, and a New York Historical Society Children’s History Book Award finalist.

In 1988, keenly aware of the need for more books for young people that celebrate and center Black people, history, and experiences, Wade and his wife Cheryl Willis Hudson founded Just Us Books. Grounded in the belief that “good books make a difference” – Just Us Books set out to publish the kind of positive, affirming titles that the couple wanted for their own two children. Under the Hudsons’ leadership, Just Us Books has become an institution in the publishing industry and Black community and remains one of the nation’s few Black-owned presses. In 2008, the Hudsons launched Marimba Books, an imprint that focuses on multicultural literature children. As publishers, authors and editors, the Hudsons have helped bring to market hundreds of diverse children’s books that inspire, educate, entertain and allow children to see themselves reflected in stories.

Wade, and Cheryl, have received many awards for their contributions to children’s literature, including induction into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent; the Harlem Book Fair Phillis Wheatley Award; the Ida B. Wells Institutional Leadership Award presented by the Center for Black Literature; the Madame C. J. Walker Legacy Award given by the Zora Neale Hurston-Richard Wright Foundation, Children’s Book Council’s Diversity Achievement Award, and a 2022 Eric Carle Honor.

American Voices Nominees







A-na was the first word I learned. A-na, two
syllables, forming into one call, my guardian

angel. A-na used to pick me up late at night,
from the tutoring centers, after lights had shut down

in the mall. When the bus drifted into nightfall,
street lights blurring in my eyes, she would

stroke my head, promising me hot red bean soup
at home. Clock ticked into midnight—A-na was

still there, on the edge of my bed with
dim lights on. I fell asleep on her lap, waiting

for my parents to come home. I was afraid.
I held on to her, tight, every night, my safety net.

I watched the shadow of her, walking out, back arched, legs unsteady.

I was so scared of her dying—what would become of me?


Motherland: Return to Me


Motherland: Return to Me

In the waning vestiges of your Szechuan dialect, you tell me of a blazing

chromatic city in the last breaths of dawn,

and I listen because

my home has always lived inside a human body.


Something Domestic

Something Domestic

Something Domestic

Three yellow walls. Green, linoleum floors. Screams and whispers and sighs. A million sighs, I must have heard that night. Sighs of grief, sighs of frustration, sighs of pain, sighs of relief, sighs followed by anger, sighs at the clock, sighs in the waiting room, sighs of laughter, final sighs at departure, sighs of family members making tough decisions, sighs of the wind against the building, sighs of hope, sighs of the curtain in front of my bed as it slid open and closed, tired sighs, happy sighs, sighs of mothers seeing their child’s eyes blink open for the first time, his long sighs as he sat in the chair, my sighs as I slowly drifted off again…







Her wide array of feelings over the past month condensed into a single world.


It was all, always so very complicated.





Pygmalion created Galatea to be perfect
Nothing less could satisfy him
He melded curves out of ivory
Beauty where there was only potential
Love out of inanimate hands
And a lineless face
He would kiss his own creation everyday
Treasuring the flawless
Until she came to life beneath him
And he achieved beauty
By making the perfect body


Kalo for the Soul

Kalo for The Soul

The wash basin ran full again
And the evening was over.
Stories had been told,
Hands that cooked, blessed.
Hands. Not people.
Favorite nights.

My mother yelled
To get the mingled kalo ready for her husband.
Husband. Not father.

Portfolio honoree


Blur the Edges


The Sapling

A sapling was growing from a crack in the cement sidewalk, but all of the pedestrians were too focused on their screens to notice it. Decades upon decades of living in a cold, blank world had taught them that the screens, with their flashing colors and engaging games, were infinitely more interesting than the monotony of their drab surroundings. And it was true, there wasn’t much around them to look at– the city was grey, grey, grey, from the pavement streets to the apartment buildings. Most days, even the sky was overcast and brooding.

National Silver Key Recipient

National Silver Key Recipient

killed in america

killed in america

children wake up and wonder if they will be safe at school / a safe haven destroyed by the threat of a shooting / drills each month where we are instructed to hide / shut the doors and sit / but we all know that no lock will ever be a match for bullets / and that if those drills were real – only a miracle would protect us / for there is nowhere safe for us / we live in constant fear / our homes     our schools     our stores     our parks / no aspect of our lives has been untouched / not even 18 / but this is my world / i have grown up with shooting after shooting / and night after night / seeing face after face / of kids who look just like me / and each time a child is killed / we all descend with our righteous outrage / but after a couple of days / the yells become muted / and the world becomes complacent / yet those children never have a tomorrow / they never have a future / their families are ripped apart / they cannot simply move on / they cannot simply live another day
so how can we simply stand by and watch as generation after generation becomes prey?