Empire State Award Winners

The Empire State Award is given annually and was first presented in 1990. It is a one-time award presented to a living author or illustrator currently residing in New York State. The award honors a body of work that represents excellence in children’s or young adult literature and that has made a significant contribution to literature for young people. Youth Services librarians throughout the state submit nominations to an awards committee. The committee makes a decision that is then approved by the YSS Executive Board.

Submit an author suggestion today! Submission deadline is December 1st annually.
ESA medal
2022: Kate Messner
2021: Brian Selznick

2020: Rita Williams-Garcia
2019: Bryan Collier
2018: Ann M. Martin
2017: James Howe
2016: Steve Sheinkin
2015: Vivian Vande Velde
2014: Jacqueline Woodson
2013: Laurie Halse Anderson
2012: Bruce Coville
2011: Laura Vaccaro Seeger
2010: Cynthia DeFelice
2009: Linda Sue Park
2008: Rafe Martin
2007: Joseph Bruchac
2006: Donald Crews
2005: ME Kerr
2004: Alice Provensen
2003: Seymour Simon
2002: Jerry Pinkney
2001: Jean Fritz
2000: Peter Spier
1999: Vera B. Williams
1998: Jean Craighead George
1997: Richard Peck
1996: Nancy Willard
1995: Ed Young
1994: Paula Fox
1993: Russell Freedman
1992: Leo and Diane Dillon
1991: Madeleine L'Engle
1990: Maurice Sendak

2022: Kate Messner

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The winner of the 2022 Empire State Award for Excellence in Literature for Young People is Kate Messner.

Kate Messner is passionately curious and writes books that encourage kids to wonder, too. Her titles include award-winning picture books like Over and Under the Pond, The Brilliant Deep, and Rolling Thunder; novels that tackle real-world issues like Chirp, Breakout, and The Seventh Wish; mysteries and thillers like Capture the Flag, Eye ofthe Storm, and Waking Up Missing; the Fergus and Zeke asy reader series; and the popular chapter book series Ranger in Time about a time-traveling search and rescue dog and History Smashers, books with fun, well-researched fast history for kids who wants the truh in an engaging and entertaining way.

Kate Messner is an award-winning author whose books ae often selected for community-wide reads like the One School, One Book Program. Her books are often included on prestigious notable and best lists such as the new York Times Notable, Junior Library Guild, IndieBound, and Bank Street College of Education Best Books. Her novel The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. won the E.B. White Read Aloud Medal abd her science picture books been finalists for the American Academy for the Advancement of Sciences/Subaru SB&F prize for excellence in science writing.

2021: Brian Selznick

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Brian Selznick is an award-winning author and illustrator of countless titles for young people. He’s perhaps best known for his books including The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Wonderstruck, and The Marvels.

Selznick is also known for illustrating the 20th anniversary edition of the Harry Potter series, and won the 2008 Caldecott Medal for picture book illustration recognizing The Invention of Hugo Cabret: this is groundbreaking, because it marks the first Caldecott for a long book (and Hugo comes in at 533 pages, 284 pictures).

Other awards include a 2002 Caldecott Honor, as well as the Texas Bluebonnet Award, Rhode Island Children’s Book Award, and the Christopher Award. 


2020: Rita Williams-Garcia

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When Rita Williams-Garcia was a child, most of her kindergarten classmates wanted crayons, coloring in pictures on their papers. But Rita wanted a pencil, so she could shape stories. By the age of 12 she was sending stories to magazines, only to be rejected. At 14, she sold her first story to Highlights. And that was just the start.

Rita Williams-Garcia is the best-selling author of 9 books for middle grade and young adult readers. Her books have won numerous awards, including the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor, Junior Library Guild, National Book Award Finalists, and the Scott O'Dell Prize for Historical Fiction.

Her website states that she likes to be excited by the story she's dying to write, and we're excited to hear the stories she'll tell.

Rita Williams-Garcia will be honored at the Empire State Award luncheon during the Annual Conference in November in Saratoga Springs, NY. We hope you'll plan to join us at the Empire State Award Luncheon to celebrate Ms. Williams-Garcia and her significant contribution to the kidlit world.

Additional information about Ms. Williams-Garcia:


2019: Bryan Collier

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The 2019 Empire State Award for Excellence in Literature for Young People is Bryan Collier, multi-award-winning illustrator. Art was a huge part of his life growing up; he won a national talent competition that earned him a scholarship to Pratt Institute, where he graduated with honors, and he spent many years working at Harlem Horizon Art Studio, helping provide young artists with workspace and materials. He was driven to illustrate books after realizing, while flipping through titles in a bookstore, that the people in the pictures didn't reflect him or his family.

Mr. Collier's first book, Uptown, which he wrote and illustrated, won the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award, and his long career that followed earned several prestigious awards. He is the four-time recipient of a Caldecott Honor, for Martin's Big Words, Rosa, Dave the Potter, and Trombone Shorty, and the six-time recipient of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, for Uptown, Rosa, Dave the Potter, I, Too, Am America, Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me, and Trombone Shorty; he is also a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor recipient for Martin's Big Words, Freedom River, and Visiting Langston. He is famous for his unique style, effortlessly blending collage with watercolor.

Mr. Collier lives in Marlboro, New York.

Additional information about Mr. Collier:


2018: Ann M. Martin

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Ann M. Martin grew up surrounded by pets and always enjoyed creating stories. Even before she could write, she would dictate stories to her mother to write down. Her favorite authors at that time were Lewis Carroll, P.L. Travers, Hugh Lofting, Astrid Lindgren and Roald Dahl. She graduated from Smith College, became a teacher and editor of children’s books, and is now a full-time writer.

Ms. Martin has written hundreds of books for young readers. She is perhaps best known for the Baby Sitter’s Club series. She has also written several other popular series, such as Main Street and the Missy Piggle Wiggle books and 29 novels, including How to Look for A Lost Dog, Rain Reign, and A Corner of the Universe.

She received an American Library Association (ALA) Newbery Honor; and The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA) Award, Children’s; both 2003, for A Corner of the Universe.

Included in her many other awards are: The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children; Bank Street College of Education Children’s Book Committee Josette Frank Award, Younger Readers; and ALA Schneider Family Book Award; all 2015, for Rain Reign.

After living in New York City for many years, she now calls the Hudson Valley her home. She lives there with her cats, Gussie, Pippin and Simon. Her hobbies are reading, sewing and needlework. Her favorite thing to do is to make clothes for children.

Ms. Martin shares her message with the words: "I hope that everyone learns to become comfortable in their own skin – to understand what makes you happy and to embrace it. If you can do that, you can find peace."

Additional information about Ann M. Martin:



2017: James Howe

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Photo Credit: Mark Davis

The 2017 winner of the Empire State Award for Excellence in Literature for Young People is the multi-award-winning author of over ninety books for children and young adults, James Howe. Mr. Howe is most known for Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery published in 1979. He received more than ten Children’s Choice Awards for Bunnicula and went on to write six sequels and several spinoff series. The Misfits, published by Howe in 2001, inspired the creation in 2004 of the anti-bullying initiative No Name-Calling Week by GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network). In 2006, Howe was honored with GLSEN’s Respect Award. In 2007, he was awarded the E.B. White Read Aloud Award for his book Houndsley and Catina, which was illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay.

Howe shares that the underlying theme of the majority of his books, is celebrating individuality and accepting difference. He feels strongly that his responsibility to young readers who feel they do not fit in, is to educate their minds and hearts, provide them with hope, and help them find their voices. 

His most recent works include the crossover juvenile and young adult fiction book, Also Known as Elvis published in 2014 and picture book, Big Bob, Little Bob, illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson and published in 2016. Upcoming in Fall 2017 is a personal essay entitled "How Miracles Begin" in Behind the Song, a young adult anthology about music.  Two more Houndsley and Catina books are due out in 2018 and 2019. Mr. Howe is currently working on a memoir and a graphic novel version of Bunnicula.

Aside from four years in Boston during college, he has lived in New York State all his life. Mr. Howe currently resides in Yonkers, NY with his husband, their dog, and two cats.

Additional information about James Howe:


2016: Steve Sheinkin

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The 2016 winner of the Empire State Award for Excellence in Literature for Young People is Steve Sheinkin. Mr. Sheinkin is a resident of Saratoga Springs and an award-winning author of nonfiction for children and young adults.  He began his career writing textbooks, including one-page biographies, skills lessons, and entire chapters.   In 2009 he wrote his last textbook and walked away never to return.  Following his departure from the world of textbook publishing, he released the graphic novel series, The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey, and eventually his first nonfiction work, King George: What Was His Problem?, which is a look at the stories of the American Revolution that would not be published in the textbooks he used to write.

Two of his books, Bomb: The Race to Build —and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon and The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights were both National Book Award finalists.  In 2013, Bomb was a Newbery Honor book and won the Sibert Medal from the Association for Library Service to Children.  His 2015 work, Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War won the 2016  YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults and was also selected as a 2015 National Book Award finalist.

Additional information about Steve Sheinkin:


2015: Vivian Vande Velde

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The 2015 winner of the Empire State Award for Excellence in Literature for Young People is Vivian Vande Velde. Ms. Vande Velde is the author of three dozen books for readers ranging in age from picture book readers to adult, but primarily for 8 – 12 year-olds and younger teens. The vast majority of her stories are fantasy—including fairy tales, ghost stories, and not-yet-invented-technologies science fiction.

Her books have won national recognition, including the Edgar for best young adult mystery for the year 2000 (Never Trust a Dead Man), the 2001/2002 Anne Spencer Lindbergh Prize in Children's Literature (Heir Apparent), and several state reading awards, as well as being named on recommended lists by the New York Public Library, the American Library Association, and the International Reading Association. Fans of fractured fairy tales are sure to enjoy her 2015 published book, Frogged, which is about a princess, a frog, and a troupe of very bad actors.

Although her books have been translated into Spanish, French, Italian, German, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Indonesian, she has spent most of her life in Rochester, New York.

Additional information about Vivian Vande Velde:


2014: Jacqueline Woodson

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Born in Columbus, Ohio and raised in Brooklyn, New York, where she currently resides, Jacqueline Woodson is a prolific and accomplished author. She has won several lifetime achievement awards including the 2006 Margaret A. Edwards Award in writing for young adults, the 2010 St. Katherine Drexel Award, and the 2012 Anne V. Zarrow Award for Young Reader’s Literature, as well as being shortlisted for the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award.  She has received three Newbery Honors for the books After Tupac & D Foster, Feathers, and Show Way. She won the Coretta Scott King award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Miracle’s Boys and had three CSK author honors for From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun, I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This, and Locomotion.  She won a Caldecott Honor for Coming on Home Soon, the Jane Addams Peace Award for Each Kindness and has been a National Book Award finalist twice for Hush and Locomotion in addition to a long list of notable books recognized nationwide. 

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2013: Laurie Halse Anderson

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Laurie Halse Anderson has authored books for kids of all ages, from picture books to young adult novels. Some of her picture books include The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School as well as picture books about American history like Independent Dames and Sarah, the Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving. For young chapter book readers, she writes the Vet Volunteers series.

She is best known for her young adult novels. Two of her young adult novels, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists. In 2009, Ms. Anderson was honored with the Margaret A. Edwards Award given by the Young Adult Library Services Association division of the American Library Association for her significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.

Ms. Anderson resides in Mexico, NY.

Additional information about Laurie Halse Anderson:


2012: Bruce Coville

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Bruce Coville has authored more than 100 books for children which have appeared in over a dozen countries around the world. Some of his most popular works include the My Teacher is an Alien series, the Magic Shop series and the Unicorn Chronicles series. His book, Always October, was published in August 2012 by HarperCollins. In addition, he collaborated with Elizabeth Levy to write Amber Brown is Tickled Pink

Coville is also the founder of Full Cast Audio, an audio book company dedicated to creating unabridged, full cast recordings of the best in children’s and young adult literature. This includes recordings of his own books as well as books by Sid Fleischman, Tamora Pierce, James Howe, Paula Danziger, Shannon Hale, and a host of other authors.

Mr. Coville resides in Syracuse, NY.

Additional information about Bruce Coville:


2011: Laura Vaccaro Seeger

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The 2011 winner of the Empire State Award for Excellence in Literature for Young People is Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Ms. Seeger is a New York Times best-selling author and illustrator.

She is the winner of a Caldecott Honor in 2008 for her picture book First The Egg. Ms. Seeger has also received the New York Times Best Illustrated Book Award, the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award in 2007 for Best Picture Book in 2007, Dog and Bear: Two Friends, Three Stories, the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award (two times) and the Massachusetts Reading Association award for “Body of Work and Contribution to Children’s Literature.”

Seeger’s paintings have been exhibited at many museums and galleries including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, the Mazza Museum of Picture Book Art, the New York Public Library, and the New York Nassau County Museum of Art.

Ms. Seeger lives in Rockville Centre, New York.

Additional information about Laura Vaccaro Seeger:


2010: Cynthia DeFelice

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Cynthia DeFelice has written seventeen novels and twelve picture books for children and young adults.  

Many of DeFelice’s books have appeared on the ALA Notables list, including her picture book, Cold Feet (published 1990), and novels, Weasel (published 1990), and The Apprenticeship of Lukas Whitaker (published 1996). In addition, Cold Feet  was selected for the 2001 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Best Picture Book.  The Apprenticeship of Lukas Whitaker was also selected for the 1996 School Library Journal Best Book of The Year. 

Parent’s Choice Awards were given to two of her books,  Apprenticeship of Lukas Whitaker and One Potato, Two Potato (picture book published 2006), in 1997 and 2006, respectively.

Her 2003 picture book, Old Granny and the Bean Thief, was winner of the 2006 Charlotte Award of the New York State Reading Association. Her novel, Signal, published in 2009, was a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Although she employs different genres in her books, her sure hand with historical fiction has made her a favorite of children and social studies teachers alike. 

Ms. DeFelice lives in Geneva, New York. 

Additional information about Cynthia DeFelice:


2009: Linda Sue Park

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Linda Sue Park has written fourteen books for young adults and children.

She is the winner of the Newbery Award for her 2001 book A Single Shard. She also received an American Library Association Notable Books for Children Award for this book and two later books, When My Name was Keoko (published 2002) and Ten Dancing on the Roof (published 2008). In addition, she received the American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults Award and the School Library Journal Best Books of the Year Award for both A Single Shard and When My Name was Keoko and the Booklist Editor’s Choice Award for A Single Shard.

Her books are known for introducing young readers to different cultures and periods of history. She has recently finished writing A Long Walk to Water, which is based on the true story of Salva, a young Sudanese boy airlifted to the U.S. along with some 3,800 Sudanese boys in the mid 1990s.

Ms. Park lives in Rochester, New York.

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2008: Rafe Martin

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Rafe Martin has authored more than 20 books for young adults and children.

Among his many awards of distinction, he is the recipient of three American Library Association Notable Book Awards for his books, Foolish Rabbit’s Big Mistake (1985), Will’s Mammoth (1989), and Mysterious Tales of Japan (1996). He also received three Parents’ Choice Gold Awards for one of his books, The Boy Who Loved Mammoths (1996), and two of his compact disc recordings, Ghostly Tales of Japan (1999) and Rafe Martin Tells His Children’s Books (1999). As author of the books, Mysterious Tales of Japan (1996) and The Hungry Tigress (1999), Martin was selected twice for the Anne Izard Storytellers Choice Award. In addition, he was the recipient of the American Folklore Society Aesop’s Accolade Award for Mysterious Tales of Japan and the American Bookseller “Pick of the Lists” Award for two of his books, Foolish Rabbit’s Big Mistake and Rough Face Girl (1993) and IRA Teacher’s Choice Award for Rough-Face Girl.

His work has been cited in Time Magazine, Newsweek, U.S News and World Report and USA TODAY. The Women's National Book Association has honored him with their Lucille Micheels Pannell Award for his creativity in bringing children and books together. He has spoken passionately about imagination, our deep need for vision, and the role of story in helping us face the challenges of our time to create a meaningful present and future.

Mr. Martin lives near Rochester, New York.  

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2007: Joseph Bruchac

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Photo Credit: Eric Jenks

Joseph Bruchac is a poet, author, editor, professional storyteller and scholar of Native American culture.

Included among his many works of children’s fiction and nonfiction are The First Strawberries, Keepers of the Earth (co-authored with Michael Caduto), When the Chenoo Howls (co-authored with his son, James), Bowman’s Store (his autobiography), Dawnland, The Waters Between, Arrow Over the Door, and The Heart of a Chief. The two collections of poetry for children that he has written have included Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back: a Native American Year of Moons, and The Circle of Thanks.

His honors include a Rockefeller Humanities fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellowship for Poetry, The Cherokee Nation Prose Award, The Knickerbocker Award, The Hope S. Dean Award for Notable Achievement in Children’s Literature and both the 1998 Writer of the Year Award and the 1998 Storyteller of the Year Award from the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. In 1999 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas. As an educator, he directed a college program for Skidmore College inside a maximum security prison for eight years. Along with his wife, Carol Bruchac, he founded the Greenfield Review Literary Center and the Greenfield Review Press.

He continues in the effort to preserve Native American Abenaki culture, language, and traditional skills.

Mr. Bruchac lives in Greenfield Center, New York.

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2006: Donald Crews

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Donald Crews is an author and illustrator of many children’s picture books. HIs first book, We Read: A to Z, published in 1967, was applauded for bringing an innovative perspective to the basic ABC book. Rather than relying upon tired clichés for illustrating the alphabet, he used concepts such as location to depict words that begin with each letter. He followed this with Ten Black Dots (1968), employing an innovative approach to the basic counting book.

His 1978 book, Freight Train, written and illustrated based on memories of the trains that passed by his grandmother’s house in Florida, was awarded a Caldecott Honor. His 1980 book, Truck, was also awarded a Caldecott Honor. He continued his exploration of the subjects of transportation in later books including, School Bus (1984), Flying (1986), and Sail Away (1995). 

He also lovingly depicted those childhood summers spent in rural Florida in his books Big Mama’s (1991) and Shortcut (1992). In an early interview with publishing company executive Jim Roginski, Crews noted that through all his books, he has attempted to “take a piece of something and see if it’s special and make it important through a visual medium that can excite you and the children you’re working for.”

Mr. Crews lives near the Hudson River in New York.

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2005: M.E. Kerr

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Photo Credit: M. E. Kerr

M. E. Kerr is one of the pen names used by Marijane Meaker. Her career as a writer of young adult fiction began in 1972 with her book, Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack. In 1990, under the pen name of Mary James, she wrote the first in a series of books geared at a younger audience. The series includes Shoebag, The Shuteyes, Frankenlouse, and Shoebag Returns. It wasn’t until 1994, after her third book in this series, that she let readers know on the cover that she was also known as M. E. Kerr. As M. E. Kerr, she has written numerous works of fictions for adolescents.

Her books reach out to teens with language and feeling they understand. In a 2003 interview with teenreader.com, she said: "I was very fond of books when I was young. I was a bookworm and a poetry lover. When I think of myself and what I would have liked to have found in books those many years ago, I remember being depressed by all the neatly tied-up, happy ending stories, the abundance of winners, the themes of winning, solving, finding--when around me it didn’t seem that easy. So I write with a different feeling when I write for young adults. I guess I write for myself at that age."

Among the many other awards received by M. E. Kerr as listed at the M. E. Kerr and Mary James website, two are particularly noteworthy -- the 1999 Knickerbocker (Lifetime Achievement Award) given by the The New York State Library Association and the 2000 ALAN (Lifetime Achievement Award) given by the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents, National Council of Teachers of English.

Additional information about M. E. Kerr:


2004: Alice Provensen

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Photo Credit: Simon & Schuster

Alice Provensen is a master storyteller and consummate artist whose illustrious career spans over fifty years. Her body of work has focused on such subjects as nursery rhymes, poems of D. H. Lawrence, Presidents of the United States, fairy tales, ballet, Greek myths, as well as famous Americans.

A celebration of our Empire State has also been a recurrent theme in her works. The Maple Hill Farm books (The Year at Maple Hill Farm; Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm) are a celebration of life in rural New York. These books serve as a reminder that there is more to our great state than the city and sprawling suburbs. The essence of New York City is sophisticatedly captured in her book Punch in New York.

Alice Provensen’s collaborations with her husband, Martin, received many awards. In 1984, The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot, July 25, 1909, was awarded the Caldecott Medal. In 1982, A Visit to William Blake’s Inn (which is a Newbery Medal Award book by Empire State Award Winner Nancy Willard) was awarded a Caldecott Honor. The Provensens have also been recognized by receiving the Art Books for Children Citation of the Brooklyn Museum, the Gold Medal for illustration of the Society of Illustrators, and have been included on The New York Times Best Illustrated Books of the Year list nine times.

Ms. Provensen lives on Maple Hill farm in northern Dutchess County, New York.

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2003: Seymour Simon

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Seymour Simon has made science accessible and enjoyable for young readers. With over 200 published  books to his credit, he has helped children explore their natural universe from optical illusions to the distant planets. Gorillas, Destination: Mars, Seymour Simon’s Book of Trucks, and They Walk the Earth: The Extraordinary Travels of Animals on Land are just some of the many titles by Seymour Simon. Also an accomplished writer of fiction, Seymour Simon is the creator of Einstein Anderson, Science Detective. Einstein Anderson and the On-Line Spaceman is the eighth book in this series of mystery stories.

Seymour Simon has been honored by many awards for his work including the New York State Knickerbocker Award for Juvenile Literature; The Hope S. Dean Memorial Award from the Boston Public Library; the Eva L. Gordon Award, presented by the American Nature Society, for his contribution to children’s science literature; and the Washington Post/Children’s Book Guild Award for non-fiction for the body of his work. He does research for his books all over the world (“But not on Mars,” he says). He writes and photographs from a house high atop a hill in the Hudson Valley of New York State.      

Additional information about Seymour Simon:


2002: Jerry Pinkney

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Photo Credit: Thomas Kristich

Jerry Pinkney has been illustrating books since 1964. He received his first gold award that year from the Boston Art Directors Club which greatly encouraged him. He continued in his career as an illustrator and since then has received many more varied and prestigious awards and recognitions.

These have included several from the American Library Association: one Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor -- 1981 for Count on Your Fingers African Style written by Claudia Zaslavsky and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney; five Coretta Scott King Awards -- 1986 for A Patchwork Quilt written by Valerie Flournoy and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, 1987 for Half a Moon and One Whole Star written by Crescent Dragonwagon and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, 1989 for Mirandy and Brother Wind written by Patricia McKissack and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, 1997 for Minty: A Story of a Young Harriet Tubman written by Alan Schroeder and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, 2002 for Goin’ Someplace Special written by Patricia McKissack and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney; and four Randolph Caldecott Honors -- 1988 for Mirandy and Brother Wind written by Patricia McKissack and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, 1989 for The Talking Eggs retold by Robert San Souci and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, 1995 for John Henry by Julius Lester and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, and 2000 for the Ugly Duckling adapted and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney based on the original story by Hans Christian Andersen.

Other notable achievements include the Society of Children’s Book Writers 1991 Golden Kite Award for Home Place written by Crescent Dragonwagon and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney and the Parent’s Choice Gold Award in 1994 and the Boston Globe-Horn Picture Book Award in 1995, both awards for John Henry written by Julius Lester and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.

In addition to writing and illustrating books, Jerry Pinkney has illustrated for the U. S. Postal Service, the National Park Service and the National Geographic Society. In 2001 he was invited by First Lady Laura Bush to illustrate and design the White House Christmas Program for the Visitors Center.

Mr. Pinkney lives in Westchester County, NY.

Additional information about Jerry Pinkney:


2001: Jean Fritz

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Beginning with her book about George Washington, The Cabin Faced West published in 1958, Jean Fritz wrote about many characters in history. As a child of missionary parents, Ms. Fritz spent her early years in China. Her interest about American history stemmed from a subconscious desire to find her roots.

The refreshingly informal historical biographies for children written by Jean Fritz have been widely acclaimed as “unconventional,” “good humored,” “witty,” “irrepressible” and “extraordinary.” In her role as a biographer, Ms. Fritz has attempted to uncover the adventures and personalities behind each character. Her penchant for making distant historical figures seem real has brought her characters to life and made their biographies entertaining, informative and filled with natural child appeal.

Ms. Fritz was awarded an American Library Association Newbery Honor Award, National Book Award, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, all 1983, for Homesick: My Own Story. In addition, she was awarded the Catholic Library Association Regina Medal in 1985, the American Library Association Laura Ingalls Wilder Award in 1986, the National Council of Teachers of English Orbis Pictus Award in 1990, and the New York Library Association Section of School Librarians Knickerbocker Award for Juvenile Literature in 1992.

Jean Fritz passed away in Westchester County, NY in May 2017.

Additional information about Jean Fritz:




2000: Peter Spier

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Photo Credit: David Osika

Born in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Peter Spier came to the United States in 1952 and lived in the metropolitan New York area. His impact on the field of children’s literature was felt shortly after. The Cow Fell Into the Canal, published in 1957, was the first book he illustrated (written by Phyllis Krasilovsky).

Mr. Spier went on to win a Caldecott Honor for Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night in 1962 and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Illustration for London Bridge is Falling Down in 1967. In 1978, he won the Caldecott Medal for Noah’s Ark. The first paperback edition of Noah’s Ark won a National Book Award in the picture book category in 1982.

His picture books cover a wide range of subjects, from everyday exploits to Bible stories, folk songs and United States history. Two of his books focus on New York: The Erie Canal and The Legend of New Amsterdam. His style is recognized for its descriptive black line drawings with color wash. He is noted for combining humor and integrity in his books.

Peter Spier passed away in Port Jefferson, NY in April 2017.

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1999: Vera B. Williams

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Photo Credit: Carl Zoch

As a child, Vera B. Williams was encouraged to make pictures, tell stories, act and dance in her New York City neighborhood called the Bronx House. Throughout her life, she followed her vision of the connection between art and community. As both author and illustrator, she has made a graceful, profound contribution to the field of children’s literature.

As Ms. Williams described it, she “found children’s books a wonderfully accommodating medium where any of [her] various activities might pop up.” She wrote and illustrated her first book, It’s a Gingerbread House: Bake It, Build It, Eat It! (published 1978), about the gingerbread house she made at the school where she taught in the Black Mountain area of North Carolina. Another of her early picture books, Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe (published 1981), included adventures from her 500-mile trip on the Yukon River in Canada.

Among her many awards are the Parent’s Choice Award for Illustration, Parents’ Choice Foundation, for Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe in 1981; the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, Picture Book category and a Caldecott Honor, American Library Association, both in 1983, for A Chair For My Mother; a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Honor, Jane Addams Peace Association, for Music, Music For Everyone in 1985; a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, Picture Book category, for Cherries and Cherry Pits in 1987 and for Stringbean’s Trip to the Shining Sea in 1988; a Caldecott Honor for More, More, More, Said the Baby: Three Love Stories in 1991; the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, Fiction category, for Scooter in 1994; and the Cooperative Children’s Book Center Charlotte Zolotow Award for Lucky Song in 1998.

Vera Williams passed away in October 2015 in Narrowsburg, NY.

Additional information about Vera Williams:





1998: Jean Craighead George

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Photo Credit: Wendell Minor

Jean Craighead George knew she wanted to be a writer in third grade and went on to publish more than 130 books in her lifetime. A number of them were set in New York State.

She graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Literature. In the early 1940’s she was a reporter and artist for the International News Service, Washington Post and Times-Herald. In the later 1940’s she was an artist for the Pageant magazine. She was a staff writer for the Reader’s Digest in the early 1970’s and became a roving editor in the mid to late 1970’s.

One of Ms. George’s best-known books, Julie of The Wolves, published in 1972, won the Newbery Medal, American Library Association (ALA), in 1973. In addition, it won the German Youth Literature Prize from the West German Section of International Board of Books for Young People (IBBY), as well as other awards.

Her book, My Side of the Mountain, published in 1959, won a Newbery Honor, ALA, in 1960. This title also won the International Hans Christian Andersen Award honor listee, International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), in 1962; Lewis Carroll Shelf citation in 1965; and, George G. Stone Center for Children’s Books Award in 1969.

Other awards include, the Aurianne Award, ALA, for Dippers of Copper Creek in 1956 and World Book First Prize for All Upon a Stone in 1971. She was the first winner of the Knickerbocker Award for Juvenile Literature from the School Library Media Section of the New York Library Association, which was presented to her in 1991 for the “consistent superior quality” of her literary works.

She was the recipient of the School Library Media Specialties of Southeastern New York Award, 1981; Irvin Kerlan Award, University of Minnesota, 1982; University of Southern Mississippi Award, 1986: Grumman Award, 1986; Washington Irving Award, Westchester Library Association, 1991; Reading is Fundamental Award, 1995; and Children’s Book Guild Award for Nonfiction, Children’s Book Guild/Washington Post, 1998, for body of work.

Coming from a family of naturalists, scientists and artists, she was a lover of nature. Together with her children, she climbed mountains, canoed rivers and hiked deserts. She wrote about many of the at least 172 animals that she rescued from the wild. Aside from writing, she was a talented artist and illustrated all her early books. Her children also pursued careers in children’s book writing or wildlife biology/conservation.

Jean Craighead George passed away on May 15, 2012 in Mt. Kisco, NY.

Additional information about Jean Craighead George:


1997: Richard Peck

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Photo credit: Sonya Sones

Richard Peck was born in Decatur, Illinois in 1934. Shortly after college graduation, he was drafted into military service in Germany. As a soldier in Germany, he began his first job as a writer, ghost-writing sermons for chaplains. Following his military service, he began teaching at Hunter College High School in New York in 1965. His career writing for young people dates from about 1970. He published his first book, Don’t Look and It Won’t Hurt in 1972.

Mr. Peck has won many awards and honors, including the 1977 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Juvenile Mystery Novel, Mystery Writers of America, and the 1990 Margaret A. Edwards Award, American Library Association, both for Are You in the House Alone?, which was published 1976. Many of his books have appeared on the American Library Association Best Books of the Year listings, including Representing Super Doll, published in 1974; Are You In the House Alone?, published in 1976; and Ghost I Have Been, published in 1977.

Reflecting on his view of the world, Mr. Peck noted that "Your view of the world goes on -- for the rest of your life -- as the world you saw -- as you emerged into it as an adult." He caught his "First glimpses of the world and the future in books" and hoped that "young readers still do."

Richard Peck passed away on May 23, 2018 in New York City, NY.

Additional information about Richard Peck:

Penguin Random House website

Booklist Reader website

Scholastic website

New York Times Obituary

1996: Nancy Willard

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Photo Credit: Eric Lindbloom

Nancy Willard has written over 43 books, including poetry collections, novels, essays and plays. She is the recipient of the 1982 American Library Association (ALA) Newbery Medal for A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems For Innocent and Experienced Travellers published in 1981.

In her view, books create a place where images and words belong together. When she was growing up, she loved to look at illuminated manuscripts in the library, especially those in which the letters contained animals in the words.

When asked how she came up with ideas for her stories, she responded, "I suppose in a way it’s finding the story. That is to say, by making things with my hands it sets the day-dreaming process in motion and I begin to find the story."

She went on to note that "It’s the way children play. When you watch a child play, they’ll often talk while they’re drawing or making something and find the story."

Nancy Willard passed away on February 19, 2017 in Poughkeepsie, NY.

Additional information about Nancy Willard:

Simon and Schuster website

The Horn Book website

Poetry Foundation website

New York Times Obituary

1995: Ed Young

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Photo Credit: Sean Kernan

Ed Young grew up in Shanghai, China and came to the United States as a student. He studied architecture and went to art school and began working in advertising. After realizing that he did not look forward to advertising for the rest of his life, he decided to take a few of his drawings to Harper and Row. An editor there looked at his drawings and gave him a manuscript to illustrate. The completed work won an award and from that point forward, agents began seeking him out.

Mr. Young is the 1990 winner of the Caldecott Medal, American Library Association (ALA), for Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story From China, which he translated and illustrated. He also received a 1968 Caldecott Honor for The Emperor and the Kite, which Jane Yolen wrote and Ed Young illustrated; and a 1993 Caldecott Honor for Seven Blind Mice, which Ed Young retold and illustrated. Other awards include the 1990 Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Lon Po Po; the 1992 Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Seven Blind Mice; and a 1983 Boston Globe Horn Book Honor for Yeh Shen: A Cinderella Story From China, which was retold by Ai-Ling Louie and illustrated by Ed Young.

Illustrations for the book, Sadako, a book about peace written by Eleanor Coerr and published in 1993, were created by Mr. Young. Reflecting on peace, he has noted that "If you have something that you like to share with the world, then that’s a piece of peace. It’s connected to the peace that you feel. And if you have that, people will get it."

Additional information about Ed Young:

Ed Young Art website

Ed Young In-Depth Interview by TeachingBooks.net

Simon and Schuster website

Scholastic website

1994: Paula Fox

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Paula Fox described her childhood as "very difficult, complicated," in the 1990 Publishers Weekly article written by Sybil Steinberg, Paula Fox: Writing for Two Genres, She has Earned a Reputation For High Quality Novels and Books For Young People. In the same article, Fox is reported to have said that "One of the benefits of having a disruptive and painful childhood, if you’re lucky, is that you see there are other possibilities."

In an entry by Alice Bell Salo in American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide From Colonial Times to the Present in Four Volumes, Ms. Fox is reported to have seldom lived in any place longer that one or two years and seldom saw either of her parents. She attended Columbia University and taught elementary school for several years.

Salo went on to note that Paula Fox wrote television scripts, short stories and novels, but is primarily known for her children’s books. Her books for readers under ten years of age include Maurice’s Room (1966) and A Likely Place (1967) and for older readers include How Many Miles to Babylon (1967), The Stone Faced Boy (1968), Portrait of Ivan (1969), Blowfish Live in the Sea (1970), and The Slave Dancer (1973).

In 1974, The Slave Dancer won the American Library Association’s Newbery Medal. Other awards include an award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1972 and the Hans Christian Andersen Award in recognition of her entire body of writing in 1978.

In an interview quoted in Contemporary Authors Paula Fox shared her feelings about her writing when she said, "Children know about pain and fear and unhappiness and betrayal, and we do them a disservice by trying to sugar coat dark truths."

Paula Fox passed away on March 1, 2017 in New York, NY.

Additional information about Paula Fox:

“Paula Fox” by Alice Bell Salo
Found in American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to The Present in Four Volumes, Volume 2: F to LE Edited by Lina Mainiero, 1979, p. 75-77.

“Paula Fox; Writing For Two Genres, She Has Earned a Reputation For High Quality Novels and Books For Young People” by Sybil Steinberg
Publishers Weekly, April 6, 1990, p. 99
Found in Literature Resource Center Database.

“The Life and Death and Life of Paula Fox” by Melanie Rehak
The New York Times Magazine, March 4, 2001, p. 28
Found in Literature Resource Center Database.

“Paula Fox, Novelist Who Chronicled Dislocation, Dies at 93” by Margalit Fox
New York Times, March 4, 2017, p. 15
Found in Academic OneFile Database.

1993: Russell Freedman

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Photo Credit: Evans Chan

Russell Freedman has made a significant contribution to both scientific and historical non-fiction. His research has resulted in well-documented literary presentations of non-fiction topics.

According to Shannon Maughan of Publishers Weekly, who wrote the obituary for Freedman that was published on March 20, 2018, he was born in 1929 in San Francisco to parents steeped in the book business. Maughan went on to report that Freedman completed his college education at the University of CA, Berkley and served in the U.S. Counter Intelligence Corps during the Korean War before he began his writing career. In 1956, he moved to the east coast where he did public writing for television through an advertising agency in New York. His first book, Teenagers Who Made History was published by Holiday House in 1961. During the 60’s and 70’s he went on to publish non-fiction books on animal behavior, then in the 80’s shifted his focus to human and historical subjects.

Freedman’s book, Lincoln: a Photobiography, published in 1988, won the American Library Association’s (ALA) Newbery Medal in 1993. In his Newbery Acceptance Speech, Freedman shared, "I hadn’t expected to become a writer of non-fiction books for children, but there I was. I had wandered into the field by chance and I felt right at home. I couldn’t wait to get started on my next book."

Among the many works that he published in the 80’s and 90’s are, Children of the Wild West (1983), Cowboys of the Wild West (1985), Indian Chiefs (1987), Buffalo Hunt (1988), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1990), and An Indian Winter (1993). All of these were named ALA Notable Children’s Books.

Young adults as well as children are fascinated by Freedman’s subjects, but it is his captivating style which holds the reader’s attention. James Cross Giblin of Horn Book Magazine noted in his article about Russell Freedman published in the July/August 1998 issue of the magazine, Freedman’s "switch to a more visual approach in the 1980s couldn’t have been better timed. His books, with a striking photograph or work of art on almost every other page, appealed greatly to a generation that was accustomed to getting much of its information from television."

Freedman reinforced the importance of growing up with reading with the comment in his Newbery acceptance speech: "I had the good fortune of growing up in a house filled with books and book talk."

Russell Freedman passed away on March 16, 2018 in New York, NY.

Additional information about Russell Freedman:

Listen to Russell Freedman’s Newbery Medal Acceptance Speech
Past Newbery, Caldecott, and Legacy Banquet Speeches: Recorded by Weston Woods

“Russell Freedman” by James Cross Giblin
Horn Book Magazine, Jul/Aug, 1998, p. 455-458

“The Booklist Interview: Russell Freedman” interview conducted by Ilene Cooper
Booklist, January 1 & 15, 2014, p. 86

Obituary: Russell Freedman by Shannon Maughan
Publishers Weekly, March 20, 2018

Russell Freedman, 88, Writer of History for Young Readers, Dies by Neil Genzlinger
New York Times, March 29, 2018

1992: Leo and Diane Dillon

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Photo Credit: Beth Gwinn

Husband and wife, Leo and Diane Dillon, have illustrated many picture and chapter books. They received two American Library Association (ALA) Caldecott Medals. The first in 1976 for Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears, an African folktale by Verna Aardema (published 1975) and the second was in 1977 for Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions, an alphabet book based on African ethnic groups, by Margaret Musgrove (published 1976). This made them the only illustrators to win the Caldecott medal two years in a row. Mr. Dillon was the first African-American to win the Caldecott medal.

In addition, Leo and Diane Dillon received the Society of Illustrators Hamilton King Award in 1977 and two ALA Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honors -- the first in 1986 for The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales by Virginia Hamilton (published 1985) and the second in 1991 for Aida by soprano Leontyne Price (published 1990).

Among the many other books the Dillons illustrated are works written by such well-known children’s authors as, Eloise Greenfield, Virginia Hamilton, Erik Christian Haugaard, Madeleine L’Engle, Katherine Paterson, P. L. Travers and Nancy Willard.

In the Dillons’ 1976 Caldecott Acceptance Speech, they spoke about how they worked together as a team when illustrating a manuscript. Leo Dillon shared what they felt about their work:

We believe that the role of the illustrator is not simply to duplicate the text, but to enlarge on it, to restate the words in our own graphic terms. That’s why we enjoy working on children’s books so much.

In her article in the August 1976 issue of The Horn Book Magazine, Phyliss J. Fogelman described the remarkable things we know about Leo and Diane Dillon:

I marvel--at their talent as artists who collaborate so completely; at their amazing ability to capture so sensitively such warmth, humor, and feeling in art as stylized as that for Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears; but mainly I marvel at these remarkable human beings who make seemingly impossible things work because of their particular wonderful qualities.

Leo Dillon passed away on May 26, 2012 in Brooklyn, NY. He is survived by his wife, Diane Dillon.

Additional information about Leo and Diane Dillon:

Leo and Diane Dillon
The Horn Book Magazine, August 1976

Listen to Leo and Diane Dillon’s Caldecott Medal Acceptance Speech
Past Newbery, Caldecott, and Legacy Banquet Speeches: Recorded by Weston Woods

Leo & Diane Dillon: The Third Artist Rules
Excerpted from: Locus Magazine, April 2000

Leo Dillon, Celebrated Illustrator of Children’s Books, Is Dead at 79 by Margalit Fox
New York Times, May 30, 2012

Diane and Leo Dillon
AIGA, The Professional Association For Design
233 Broadway, 17th Floor
New York, NY 10279

Leo & Diane Dillon
The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature
102 Cedar Street
Abilene, TX 79601

1991: Madeleine L'Engle

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Photo Credit: Sandy Hudson

In the 1980 edition of American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present, Madeleine L’Engle was described as an only child who "led a lonely, isolated city life until she was age twelve, occupying her time with writing, drawing, and playing the piano. In an austere and strict English boarding school in Switzerland, she learned to withdraw into the world of imagination for solitude."

After college she published some magazine articles and went to work in the theater in New York City. She later married and gave up her stage career for writing. Her early works were intended for adults, but with time her focus moved to a younger audience with books about family life and adventure that included Meet the Austins (1960), The Moon by Night (1963), and The Twenty-Days Before Christmas (1964). During this time she also published A Wrinkle in Time (1962), though it was initially rejected by several publishers.

L’Engle was awarded the American Library Association’s (ALA) Newbery Medal for A Wrinkle in Time in 1963. Other awards for A Wrinkle in Time included: The Oklahoma Library Association Children’s Sequoah Award in 1965 and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education’s Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1980. In 1981 she was awarded a Newbery Honor for A Ring of Endless Light (1980).

Awards given to Madeleine L’Engle personally include the Catholic Libraries Regina in 1984 and the University of Minnesota Libraries Kerlan in 1990.

According to the 1980 edition of American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present, the recurring themes in L’Engle’s work are:

the conflict between good and evil and the problem of distinguishing one from the other, the nature of God, the dangers of conformity, and the necessity of giving love.

She shared her view of books in her 1963 Newbery acceptance speech:

A book, too, can be a star -- explosive material capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly, a living fire to lighten the darkness leading out into the expanding universe.

Madeleine L’Engle passed away on September 6, 2008 in Litchfield, CT.

Additional information about Madeleine L'Engle:

“Madeleine L’Engle Biographical Sketch” by Abigail Santamaria
Madeleine L’Engle Homepage (About)

“Madeleine L’Engle”
American Women Writers: A Critical Guide from Colonial Times to the Present In Four Volumes, Volume 2: F to LE
Editor: Lina Mainiero, 1980

Listen to Madeleine L'Engle's Newbery Medal Acceptance Speech
Past Newbery, Caldecott, and Legacy Banquet Speeches: Recorded by Weston Woods

Madeleine L’Engle, Author of the Classic ‘Wrinkle in Time,’ Is Dead at 88 by Douglas Martin
The New York Times, Sept. 8, 2007

“L’Engle, Madeleine”
Children’s Literature Awards and Winners: A Directory of Prizes, Authors, and Illustrators, Third Edition
By Dolores Blythe Jones, 1994, p. 420

1990: Maurice Sendak

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Maurice Sendak was the first recipient of the Empire State Award for Excellence in Literature for Young People. As the well-known author and illustrator of the fantasy picture book, Where the Wild Things Are (1963), Mr. Sendak was awarded the American Library Association’s (ALA) Caldecott Medal in 1964. He noted in his Caldecott acceptance speech that during his early teens he spent "hundreds of hours sitting at [his] window sketching neighborhood children at play. [He] sketched and listened and those notebooks became the fertile field of [his] work."

Several books illustrated by Sendak have received ALA Caldecott Honors, including: In the Night Kitchen written by Maurice Sendak (published 1970); Little Bear’s Visit written by Elsie Holmelund Minarik (published 1961); Mr. Bear and the Lovely Present written by Charlotte Zolotow (published 1962); The Moon Jumpers written by Janice May Udry (published 1960); Outside Over There written by Maurice Sendak (published 1981), A Very Special House written by Ruth Krauss Harper (published 1953); and What Do You Say, Dear? written by Sesyle Joslin (published 1958).

Works of fiction written by Meindert DeJong and illustrated by Maurice Sendak that received ALA Newbery Honors include: Along Came a Dog (published 1958); The House of Sixty Fathers (published 1956); Hurry Home, Candy written (published 1953); and Shadrach (published 1953). DeJong’s book, The Wheel on the School, also illustrated by Maurice Sendak, (published 1955), was awarded the Newbery medal.

Awards given personally to Mr. Sendak include, ALA’s Laura Ingalls Wilder in 1983 and The International Board on Books for Young People’s Hans Christian Andersen award for illustration in 1970.

He spoke of the truth of Where the Wild Things Are and some of his other books in his 1964 Caldecott speech:

The fact that from their earliest years, children live on very familiar terms with disrupting emotions, that fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, that they continually cope with frustration as best they can, and it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means that they have for taming wild things.

Maurice Sendak passed away on May 8, 2012 in Danbury, CT.

Additional information about Maurice Sendak:

Maurice Sendak Biography
The Maurice Sendak Foundation

Maurice Sendak Biography

Maurice Sendak
HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway, New York, NY 10007

Listen to Maurice Sendak Caldecott Medal Acceptance Speech
Found online: Past Newbery, Caldecott, and Legacy Banquet Speeches: 1963
Recorded by Weston Woods

Maurice Sendak, Author of Splendid Nightmares, Dies at 83
by Margalit Fox
The New York Times, May 8, 2012

Maurice Sendak Dies; Author and Illustrator of Children’s Books About Fear and Survival
By Becky Krystal
The Washington Post, May 8, 2012

“Sendak, Maurice Bernard”
Children’s Literature Awards and Winners: A Directory of Prizes, Authors, and Illustrators, Third Edition
By Dolores Blythe Jones, 1994, p. 510-511

“Sendak, Maurice”
Children’s Books and their Creators
Edited by Anita Silvey, 1995, p. 584-588