From the heroism of front line workers during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic to stories of black patriots during the American Revolution and a “General Hospital” star’s struggles with mental illness, the 22 films, TV programs, and books for adults and young people being honored with Christopher Awards highlight the life-changing power of facing hardships with hope, courage, determination and faith.
The Christopher Awards, created in 1949, 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.”
This year’s winners are:
TV, Cable and Streaming
On the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, seven survivors return to the site with their families to honor the dead and keep their stories alive for future generations in “ABC News World News Tonight with David Muir and Nightline: The Children of Auschwitz.” NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar helms “Black Patriots: Heroes of the American Revolution” (History/A&E Networks), which explores the little-known role African Americans played in fighting for this country's independence. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, a team of CBS News journalists documented the physical, emotional and spiritual struggles of medical personnel, patients and their families in one Bronx neighborhood in “Bravery and Hope: 7 Days on the Front Line” (CBS).
“Broken Places” (PBS/WNET) takes us into the lives of young people who have experienced sexual abuse, parental rejection or poverty and reveals why some children are damaged by early adversity, while others are able to thrive and move beyond generational trauma. In the uplifting musical “Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square” (Netflix), a Scrooge-like woman confronts a painful choice from her past with the help of a couple of angels, allowing her to forgive herself and re-embrace the people she used to call friends. “extraORDINARY: The Bill Atkinson Story” (PBS) chronicles one man's tireless efforts to become the first quadriplegic priest in the Catholic Church's 2,000-year history and the positive influence he had on the lives of many.
Based on a true story, “Clouds” (Disney Plus) dramatizes the final six months of 17-year-old Zach Sobiech’s life as his faith inspires him to pursue his musical dreams despite his cancer, living all his days to their fullest with the people he loves most. “Pray: The Story of Patrick Peyton” (Family Theater Productions) profiles the priest whose gratitude for a miraculous healing led him to create a prayer-centered media ministry. “Sky Blossom: Diaries of the Next Greatest Generation” (Sky Blossom Films) introduces viewers to selfless young people, ages 11 to 26, who juggle school and work while lovingly caring for family members who are sick or injured in war. Mired in the depths of alcoholism because of a family tragedy, Jack Cunningham pursues redemption when he takes a job coaching the basketball team at the Catholic high school where he thrived as a player in “The Way Back” (Warner Bros. Pictures).
Books for Adults
In “After the Last Border” (Viking/Penguin Random House), Jessica Goudeau chronicles the lives of two refugees—one from Myanmar, the other from Syria—who escape violence and persecution in their homelands to resettle in the United States in the hopes of building a better life with their families. Mercy and forgiveness lie at the heart of Jeanne Bishop's “Grace From the Rubble” (Zondervan/Harper Collins), which explores the unlikely friendship between two fathers: Bud Welch, whose daughter Julie was killed in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and Bill McVeigh, whose son Timothy perpetrated the terrorist act. In “A Knock at Midnight” (Crown Publishing/Penguin Random House), Brittany K. Barnett recalls the reasons she became a lawyer who fights for clemencies, second chances and humane treatment of prisoners sentenced to life without parole due to racism and unfair drug laws.
“General Hospital” star Maurice Benard documents his lifelong battles with bipolar disorder and anxiety, the love and medications that helped him thrive, and his commitment to erasing the stigma around mental illness in “Nothing General About It” (William Morrow/Harper Collins), written with Susan Black. Historian Stephen Puleo shares the story of the U.S. government and private citizens from all economic backgrounds leading America’s first humanitarian mission in response to Ireland’s 1846-1847 potato famine in “Voyage of Mercy” (St. Martin's Press). At a time when paraplegics injured in World War II were considered lost causes, doctors and determined veterans invented innovative wheelchair sports, created medical advances and fought for disability rights, recounts David Davis in “Wheels of Courage” (Center Street/Hachette Book Group).
Books for Young People
“Trying” by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Elise Hurst (Preschool and up, Compendium), delivers an empowering tale about what failure can teach children when faced with courage, love and the determination to try new things. A spirited African American girl marches forward with her creative plan to reignite her mother’s passion for hat-making after the family hat shop closes down due to financial troubles in “Tiara’s Hat Parade” by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell (Kindergarten and Up, Albert Whitman and Company). With a message about appreciating people who look different from us, author Simran Jeet Singh and illustrator Baljinder Kaur share “Fauja Singh Keeps Going” (ages 6 and up, Kokila/Penguin Random House), the true story of a Sikh man who, despite being disabled as a child, became the first person over age 100 to complete a marathon.
The origin story of one of the world’s favorite snacks is told in author Sandra Nickel’s and illustrator Oliver Dominguez’s “Nacho's Nachos” (ages 8 and up, Lee and Low Books), about Mexican cook Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, whose impromptu culinary creation grew popular in his home country and beyond. A shy, anxious 11-year-old with a heart condition moves beyond her awkwardness to become a social activist after signing up for improv classes in “Five Things About Ava Andrews” by Margaret Dilloway (ages 10 and up, Balzer + Bray/Harper Collins). Inspired by Persian folk tales and author Daniel Nayeri’s own family history, “Everything Sad Is Untrue” (young adult, Levine Querido) highlights a middle school student who tries to win over his classmates by telling them about his family’s escape from Iran after his mother converted to Christianity, a capital offense in that country.
The Christophers, a nonprofit organization founded in 1945 by Maryknoll Father James Keller, is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to God and humanity. Information: www.christophers.org