Catholic bishops' anti-racism book wins prize for children's literature

unnamed 2 1 Everyone Belongs, Loyola Press, 2019. / United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' recently-released children's book "Everyone Belongs" has won a gold medal in the Religion/Spirituality category of the 2020 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards, the conference announced Oct.15. 

The Moonbeam Children's Book Awards, according to its website, are "100% dedicated to identifying the best children's books published each year for the North American market." 

The book, published by Loyola Press in December 2019, was authored by the USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, and illustrated by Kristin Sorra. 

"Intended for children ages 5-12, Everyone Belongs helps young readers explore potential solutions, reconciliation, and healing," said the USCCB in a statement released on Thursday. The book tells the story of Ray Ikanga, a young boy who moves to the United States with his family as refugees fleeing violence. 

"The family's excitement as they move into a new neighborhood is interrupted when someone sprays a hurtful message on their garage," said the USCCB.

"Everyone Belongs will allow conversations with readers about what our faith calls us to do, especially now, as our country grapples with the realities of racial justice."

The book was inspired by the November 2018 publication of "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, A Pastoral Letter Against Racism," which won a nearly unanimous vote at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' general assembly that month, following several years of racial tensions in the U.S., sparked by incidents including police shootings of African-American men that prompted major protests in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, among other parts of the country.

Racial tenions have continued to rise since then, including months of protests and civil unrest following the death of George Floyd earlier this year.

"Everyone Belongs" won a gold medal in the 2020 Living Now Book Awards in the category "Children's Picture Books," and placed second in the 2020 Catholic Press Association's children's books category. 

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