NEW YORK, August 25, 2020 — Mister Rogers’ life-changing influence on a cynical journalist in the film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Gymnast Rachael Denhollander’s quest for justice for sexual assault survivors like herself in the book What Is a Girl Worth? Comedy writer Jeannie Gaffigan’s humorous and faith-filled reflections on her battle with a brain tumor in When Life Gives You Pears. These are some of the stories featured in the 20 winning feature films, TV programs, and books for adults and young people being honored with Christopher Awards in the program’s 71st year.
The Christopher Awards were created in 1949 to celebrate writers, producers, directors, authors, and illustrators whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit” and reflects the Christopher motto, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”
“Our motto of bringing light to the world is ever so relevant during this pandemic, and these Christopher Award winners add that much-needed light and understanding through the stories they tell,” said Tony Rossi, The Christophers’ Director of Communications. “Mark Twain once observed that travel is fatal to prejudice and narrow-mindedness. The projects we’re honoring allow us to travel without leaving home, taking us behind prison walls, into battle during World War II, and into the minds and hearts of people struggling to forgive grave wrongs. In so doing, they remind us of our common humanity, the power of faith and God’s grace, and each individual’s ability to make a difference.”
Winners in the various categories are:
TV & Cable
On the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion that turned the tide of World War II, American soldiers who took part in the battle travel to France and recall the heroism and horrors they experienced in Return to Normandy from ABC News World News Tonight with David Muir and Nightline. Young people with physical disabilities take part in a special dance program that demonstrates their can-do spirit, as well as the powers of inclusion and a loving community, in America ReFramed: Perfectly Normal For Me (World Channel and American Documentary, Inc.). The four-part documentary College Behind Bars (PBS) profiles a small group of incarcerated men and women transforming their lives as they pursue college degrees in one of the most rigorous and effective prison education programs in the United States.
In Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings: These Old Bones (Netflix), family, faith, and forgiveness come into play when a young lawyer struggles to maintain her principles while suing a clairvoyant old woman with whom she feels a mysterious connection. I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story (Lifetime) dramatizes the true story of an African American foster child who is separated from the loving white case worker who wants to adopt her because of the state’s racial policies. In the romantic drama Two Turtle Doves (Hallmark Movies and Mysteries), three people grieving the loss of loved ones during the Christmas season find healing and joy through talking about their grief with each other instead of keeping it bottled up.
In A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (TriStar Pictures), an assignment to interview children’s television host Mister Rogers inspires a cynical journalist to face his demons and transform his family relationships for the better. Just Mercy (Warner Bros. Pictures) chronicles crusading lawyer Bryan Stevenson’s real-life battle to exonerate an innocent African American man condemned to death row in Alabama, following a trial marked by racism and lies. Tired of living in a nursing home for senior citizens, a young man with Down syndrome escapes and embarks on an exciting and dangerous road trip with two lost souls who become like family in The Peanut Butter Falcon (Roadside Attractions).
Books for Adults
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jennifer Berry Hawes explores the difficult road to healing and forgiveness faced by family members and the community at large after the racist murders of nine members of Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel AME Church in Grace Will Lead Us Home (St. Martin’s Press). Chris Edmonds reveals his father Roddie’s untold story of courage, which saved the lives of hundreds of American soldiers being held in a Nazi POW camp during World War II, in No Surrender (HarperOne/Harper Collins), written with Douglas Century. After discovering that professional and personal success leave many feeling unfulfilled, best-selling author David Brooks turns his attention to the quest for moral joy found in living a selfless life of purpose in The Second Mountain (Random House/Penguin Random House).
Attorney and former gymnast Rachael Denhollander documents her relentless pursuit of justice for herself and hundreds of her fellow athletes, who were sexually assaulted by USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, in What Is a Girl Worth? (Tyndale Momentum/Tyndale House Publishers). Jeannie Gaffigan, mother of five and comedy writing partner of husband Jim Gaffigan, revisits her 2017 diagnosis with a life-threatening brain tumor, her arduous surgery and recovery, and her renewed gratitude for God, family, and friends in When Life Gives You Pears (Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group).
Books for Young People
One More Hug by Megan Alexander, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata (Preschool and up, Aladdin/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing), follows a young boy from infancy through his departure for college, reminding readers about the difference that unconditional love can make in a child’s life. Sergeant Billy by Mireille Messier, illustrated by Kass Reich (Kindergarten and Up, Tundra Books/Penguin Random House), shares the true story of a goat who joined a Canadian battalion during World War I, saved the lives of his comrades, and returned home a hero. The promise of liberty for a Jewish mother and daughter fleeing persecution in their homeland comes to life in the early-twentieth century tale Gittel’s Journey by Lesléa Newman, illustrated in period style by Amy June Bates (ages 6 and up, Abrams Books for Young Readers).
A girl’s rift with her best friend over their town’s annual pumpkin race leads her to learn lessons about forgiveness, character, and her unhealthy obsession with winning in The Pumpkin War by Cathleen Young (ages 8 and up, Wendy Lamb Books, Penguin Random House). In Nazi Germany, two boys—one Christian, one Jewish—try to make sense of the growing violence and anti-Semitism around them as they’re faced with life-and-death moral choices in Crushing the Red Flowers by Jennifer Voigt Kaplan (ages 10 and up, IG Publishing). With the help of a seemingly-magical wishing well, three sixth graders discover that acts of kindness can have positive ripple effects and that storytelling can bring people together in A Drop of Hope by Keith Calabrese (young adult, Scholastic Press).
If you plan to use social media to share news of the Christopher Awards, please use #ChristopherAwards. Our social media handles are The Christophers on Facebook and @ChristophersInc on Twitter.
The Christophers, a nonprofit founded in 1945 by Maryknoll Father James Keller, is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to God and humanity. The ancient Chinese proverb—“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”— guides its publishing, radio, and awards programs.