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Louisville artist donates illustration award prize money to local library

The 40,000 square foot Northeast Regional Library is one of the newer facilities in the Louisville Free Public Library system.
J. Tyler Franklin
The 40,000 square foot Northeast Regional Library is one of the newer facilities in the Louisville Free Public Library system.

Louisville artist Danica Novgorodoff has chosen the Louisville Free Public Library Western Branch to receive part of her prize for an international illustration award. 

The Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal is a U.K.-based award that celebrates illustration work in children’s literature. Novgorodoff won for her graphic novel adaptation of Jason Reynolds’ novel “Long Way Down.”

Reynolds chose Novgorodoff to tell the story of Will, a young Black boy attempting to seek revenge for his brother’s gang violence-related death. The book details how gun violence affected his life. 

Novgorodoff said the story attempts to get the reader to feel empathy for Will. Images, she said, can help.

“I think that graphic novels can express emotions and express a character’s interior feelings in a way that words alone can’t always express,” Novgorodoff said. “We live in a world of pictures.”

She said graphic novels can be a gateway for readers who don’t enjoy reading blocks of text.

“A lot of kids just love to read graphic novels, and anything that makes kids love reading is a wonderful thing,” Novgorodoff said.

Novgorodoff’s adaptation is the first graphic novel to win a Kate Greenaway Medal since 1973.

As a part of the prize, Novgorodoff got to choose a library to receive £500, approximately $610 USD. She chose the western branch of the Louisville Free Public Library. She said graphic novels give greater access to reading for many young people, the way libraries give greater access to information.

“We’re just really excited about the donation and give back to the community some more with those funds,” Paul Burns, communications director at LFPL.

Novgorodoff chose the western branch in part for its historical significance.

“It opened in 1905 as one of Louisville’s nine original Carnegie libraries. And it was the first library to serve and be fully operated by African-Americans,” she said.

Novgorodoff hopes the donation, while modest, can help the library continue to give the public access to books and information.

“They might not be able to go to a bookstore and spend $20 on a book, but you can easily access all kinds of literature in libraries,” Novgorodoff said. “That’s why it’s so important to have librarians who are professionals and experts on books to find that just right book for a certain kid.”

That access is a pillar of LFPL’s mission.

“It’s what our library system has been doing for more than a century, so it is definitely important to us to provide access to everyone,” Burns said. “Whether that’s books, audiobooks, magazines, computer technology, classes, story times, pretty much anything you can think of the library is offering it.”

Burns said the library has not yet made plans for the donation.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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