Social Justice Book Prize Winners Announced

The covers of Pura's Cuentos and Children Under Fire displayed side by side on a tan background with a light green border

Children Under Fire: An American Crisis and Pura’s Cuentos: How Pura Belpré Reshaped Libraries with Her Stories have won Goddard Riverside’s 2021 social justice book prizes. 

Pura’s Cuentos, by Annette Bay Pimentel with illustrations by Magaly Morales [Harry N. Abrams], won the Goddard Riverside CBC Youth Book Prize for Social Justice. The book captures the exuberant spirit and passion of Pura Belpré: celebrated storyteller, author and folklorist, and the first Latina librarian in New York City. A pioneer of bilingual storytimes, Belpré welcomed countless new families to the library, formed cultural bridges in her community, and broke the rules by telling stories that weren’t printed in books—at least, not yet. 

Children Under Fire by John Woodrow Cox [Ecco/HarperCollins] is the Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice winner. The book is an intimate account of the devastating effects of gun violence on our nation’s children, and a call to action for a new way forward. Cox investigates the effectiveness of gun safety reforms as well as efforts to manage children’s trauma in the wake of neighborhood shootings and campus massacres, from Columbine to Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Through deep reporting, he addresses how we can effect change now. 

The Russo prize winner was chosen by a slate of judges chaired by Doug Bauer, Executive Director of the Clark Foundation and including Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winner; Marcia Cantarella, university administrator and author of I CAN Finish College: The Overcome Any Obstacle and Get Your Degree Guide; Annie Minguez Garcia, Director of Government and Community Relations at Good Shepherd Services; and Nancy Wackstein, who recently retired from her role as Director of Community Engagement and Partnerships at the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service. The prize is named for Stephan Russo, a social justice book lover who served as executive director of Goddard Riverside from 1998 to 2017.  

The judges for the Goddard Riverside CBC Youth Book Prize for Social Justice are Beth Puffer, a longtime bookseller at Eeyore’s Books for Children and Bank Street Bookstore, and CBC Marketing Assistant Nick Rodriguez, who is also a poet, indie coffee shop manager, and aspiring public school teacher. 

See the shortlists for both prizes here. 


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.    

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 102nd year; Get Caught Reading; the Kids’ Book Choice Award, and the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, currently Jason Reynolds.