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.

2017- James Howe

"Photo by 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.

More information about James Howe can be found on his website:



2016- Steve Sheinkin

 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. 









2015- Vivian Vande Velde

2014- Jacqueline Woodson





2013- Laurie Halse Andersen

photo of Laurie Halse AndersenLaurie is the New York Times-bestselling author known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity.  Her work has earned numerous national and state awards, as well as international recognition.  Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists.  Laurie was honored with the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award given by YALSA division of the American Library Association for her "significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature."  Mother of four and wife of one, Laurie lives in Northern New York.



2012 - Bruce Coville

Bruce was born in Syracuse, New York. As a young reader he loved Mary Poppins and Dr. Dolittle. He also read lots of Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and zillions of comic books. His only regret is the time he spent watching television, when he could have been reading.

His first book, The Foolish Giant, was published in 1978. It was illustrated by his wife Katherine. Before being published, Bruce worked as a toymaker, gravedigger, cookware salesman and an elementary school teacher. He leftteaching in 1981 to devote himself to full-time writing.

Bruce’s ninety-nine books have been published in over a dozen countries and have sold more than sixteen million copies. His newest book, Always October, will be published in August 2012 by HarperCollins. Bruce founded Full Cast Audio, an audiobook company dedicated to creating unabridged, full cast recordings of the best in children’s and young adult literature in 2001. He lives with his wife in Syracuse, New York.


2011 - Laura Vaccaro Seeger

2010 - Cynthia DeFelice

2009 - Linda Sue Park

2008 - Rafe Martin

2007 - Joseph Bruchac

2006 - Donald Crews

2005 - M. E. 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