Themes of healing, justice, service, building bridges and overcoming steep odds are reflected in the 22 films, TV programs, and books for adults and young people being honored with Christopher Awards in the program’s 73rd year.
Winners include beloved chef and PBS host Lidia Bastianich, Olympic gold medalist and advocate for sexual abuse victims Aly Raisman, and broadcaster and executive producer Robin Roberts. The PBS series “Masterpiece: All Creatures Great and Small” has earned the 2022 Christopher Spirit Award.
Christopher Awards celebrate writers, producers, directors, authors and illustrators whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” This year’s winners are:
TV, Cable and Streaming
“Aly Raisman: Darkness to Light” (Lifetime) follows the Olympic gold medalist as she meets fellow sexual abuse survivors and learns about their trauma, pursuit of justice and journey toward healing. “Amen-Amen-Amen” (PBS) reveals the story behind the first Jewish community formed in a Muslim country (Dubai) in centuries, and the historic gift of a Torah scroll dedicated to the memory of an Arab-Muslim ruler. “The House That Rob Built” (Tubi) explores the legacy of Rob Selvig, the University of Montana’s pioneering women’s basketball coach, who turned his team into a model of inclusion and empowerment.
In “Lidia Celebrates America: Overcoming the Odds” (PBS), chef Lidia Bastianich meets resilient Americans who have faced extraordinary challenges and found purpose in serving their communities. The biopic “Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia” (Lifetime) profiles gospel legend Mahalia Jackson, who became an international success and sang at civil rights rallies in hopes her music would inspire racial equality. Faith, family and Christmas spirit permeate “The Waltons: Homecoming” (The CW), which revisits Depression-era Virginia as 17-year-old John Boy feels torn between supporting his large family or pursuing his dream of being a writer.
In “CODA” (Apple TV+), the only hearing member of a deaf family must choose between helping her parents and brother run their fishing business or pursuing her dream of becoming a singer. “Encanto” (Disney Plus) presents an enchanting, animated tale about the Madrigal family, their unique gifts and the reminder that we each have inherent value. The documentary “Francesco” (Discovery Plus) profiles Pope Francis and his efforts to bring the world a message of human dignity by shining a light where injustices are occurring.
Books for Adults
In Dorothy Wickenden’s “The Agitators” (Scribner/Simon & Schuster), Harriet Tubman, Martha Coffin Wright and Frances A. Seward cross racial and class divides to become friends who fight to abolish slavery and establish women’s rights and true equality for all. “Every Deep-Drawn Breath” (Scribner/Simon & Schuster) shares Dr. Wes Ely’s quest to return “humanity to doctoring” by tending to patients’ emotional and spiritual needs, and his effort to end a practice in hospital ICUs that left patients suffering from long-term brain problems. Daniel James Brown’s “Facing the Mountain” (Viking/Penguin Random House) revisits the heroism of Japanese Americans who fought for the U.S. during World War II, while their families at home faced unjust persecution and government internment camps following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Amanda Ripley’s “High Conflict” (Simon & Schuster) offers practical solutions and real-life examples on de-escalating tensions and engaging in healthy discussions. In “Learning to Pray” (HarperOne/Harper Collins), Father James Martin, S.J., invites spiritual seekers and longtime believers to engage in “conscious conversation with God” by exploring prayer practices and answering questions on prayer’s effectiveness. Retired New York City Fire Department Chief Joseph Pfeifer’s “Ordinary Heroes” (Portfolio/Penguin Random House) recalls the heroism he witnessed at the World Trade Center on 9/11, the importance of working together and the spiritual foundation of his selfless career.
Books for Young People
In “The Boy Who Loved Everyone” by Jane Porter, illustrated by Maisie Paradise Shearring (Preschool and up, Candlewick Press), a child who verbally expresses his love to classmates, animals and nature learns that affection and caring can also be conveyed in unspoken ways. The seek-and-find book “10 Hidden Heroes” by Mark K. Shriver, illustrated by Laura Watson, (Kindergarten and up, Loyola Press) invites children to identify the everyday heroes around them and recognize the importance of helping others. Despite the genetic disorder that leaves her non-verbal and requiring a wheelchair, Elsie is excited about attending her first father-daughter dance in “Dancing With Daddy” by Anitra Rowe Schulte, illustrated by Ziyue Chen (ages 6 and up, Two Lions).
Writer and illustrator Don Tate scores with “Pigskins to Paintbrushes” (ages 8 and up, Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS), the true story of Ernie Barnes, an art-loving African American child who faced racism and bullying on his road to becoming a professional football player and a painter. “The Elephant in the Room” by Holly Goldberg Sloan (ages 10 and up, Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House) presents an endearing story about family separation and the relationship between humans and animals. In “The Happiest Man on Earth” (young adult, Harper Collins), Eddie Jaku, who recently passed away at 101, recalls his teenage years in the Auschwitz concentration camp, his remarkable survival and his commitment to living with gratitude and kindness to honor those who died in the Holocaust.
2022 Christopher Spirit Award
When James Herriot moves from Glasgow, Scotland, to Darrowby, England, to begin his first job as a veterinarian during the 1930s, he is enchanted by the area’s lush countryside and eccentric-yet-kind residents. Viewers of “Masterpiece: All Creatures Great and Small” (PBS) are left with the same impression in this reimagining of the classic TV series, inspired by the semi-autobiographical books by James Alfred Wight, who adopted James Herriot as his pen name. The show’s stories remind us of life’s most important lessons: the bonds of community, the power of humor, the hope and resilience required to overcome struggles and the love allowing us to see the best in those around us.
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