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.
Nominate an author today! Nomination deadline is December 1 annually.
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: www.jameshowe.com
Photo credit: Mark Davis
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.
Updated information about Steve Sheinkin can be found on his website: www.stevesheinkin.com
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.
Updated information about Vivian Vande Velde can be found on her website: www.vivianvandevelde.com
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.
Updated information about Jacqueline Woodson can be found on her website: www.jacquelinewoodson.com
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.
Updated information about Laurie Halse Anderson can be found on her website: madwomanintheforest.com
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.
Updated information about Bruce Coville can be found on his website: www.brucecoville.com
Laura Vaccaro 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.
Updated information about Laura Vaccaro Seeger can be found on her website: www.studiolvs.com
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.
Updated information about Cynthia DeFelice can be found on her website: http://cynthiadefelice.com
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.
Updated information about Linda Sue Park can be found on her website: http://www.lindasuepark.com/
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.
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.
Photo credit: Eric Jenks
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.”
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.
Updated information about M. E. Kerr can be found on her website: www.mekerr.com
Photo by M. E. Kerr.
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 Newberry 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.
Updated information about Alice Provensen can be found on The Central Rappahannock Regional Library website: http://www.librarypoint.org/alice_provensen
Photo Credit: Simon & Schuster
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.
Updated information about Seymour Simon can be found on his website: www.seymoursimon.com
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.
Updated information about Jerry Pinkney can be found on his website: www.jerrypinkneystudio.com
Photo credit: Thomas Kristich
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.
Updated information about Jean Fritz can be found at these websites:
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.
Updated information about Peter Spier can be found at these websites:
Photo credit: David Osika
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.
Updated information about Vera Williams can be found at these websites:
Photo credit: Carl Zoch
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
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