I get an enormous amount of junk email. Seems like everyone and his brother, sister, cat, dog, and ant has me on their mailing lists. But from time to time, something good pops up. And occasionally, even a gem!
So, I was delighted and quite surprised to get an invitation to attend the award ceremony for The Bank Street College of Education’s Irma S. and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature and The Cook Prize for Excellence in Presenting STEM Principles.
The Irma S. and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature goes to an outstanding book for young children – a book in which text and illustrations are inseparable, each enhancing the other to produce a singular whole.
The Cook Prize honors the best science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) picture book published for children aged eight to ten.
What makes these awards extremely special is that children are actively involved in the process of evaluating the text and illustrations, both in the library and the classroom, over a five-week period before ultimately judging the finalists.
Fourteen schools originally participated in the voting for the Irma S. and James H. Black Award. Today voting has extended to such far off places as Hawaii, Pakistan, and Sicily, with 7500 votes for That Is Not a Good Idea! written and illustrated by Mo Willems (Balzar + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books). And 3700 children in third and fourth grade voted for The Cook Prize.
This year’s keynote address was given by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett, co-authors of Battle Bunny, both previously honored by the Irma Black Award.
Mac Barnett and Jon Scieszka
And wow! Let me tell you, they did not disappoint! They were hysterical.
Mac Barnett and Jon Scieszka shared a photo of themselves dressed as bunnies for some Texas librarians. (Wish the lighting had been better.)
I especially enjoyed their acceptance speech for Mo Willems. Mo is currently in Paris for the year and he sent back his “supposed” acceptance note in French. Well, Jon gave his version of it in French, and Mac gave the English translation which obviously strayed significantly from the French. It was one of those things where you just had to be there. The audience was in stitches!
If you haven’t read Battle Bunny, illustrated by Matthew Myers, it’s the story of a boy who’s grandma has given him a sugary sweet book called Birthday Bunny. Well, the boy has his own ideas and he starts marking up and doodling on the book so the story morphs into Battle Bunny. The book is wonderfully empowering for children because it unleashes their creativity and conveys a message that their ideas are important and their stories are worth telling.
During the keynote address, Jon and Mac happened to mention that the illustrator got 6 versions of Battle Bunny.
And now, without further ado, the winners are . . .
The three Irma S. Black Award Honor Books published in 2013 are:
Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad? by Julie Middleton, illustrated by Russell Ayto; published by Peachtree
Chick-O-Saurus Rex by Lenore Jennewein, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein; published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
The King of Little Things by Bil Lepp, illustrated by David T. Wenzel; published by Peachtree
The 2014 Irma S. and James H. Black Award Winner is:
That Is Not a Good Idea! written and illustrated by Mo Willems; published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books
The three Cook Prize Honor Books published in 2013 are:
Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons by Sara Levine, illustrated by T.S. Spookytooth; published by Millbrook, an imprint of Lerner Publishing
No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young, illustrated by Nicole Wong; published by Charlesbridge
Toilet: How It Works by David Macaulay with Sheila Keenan; published by David Macaulay Studio, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
The 2014 Cook Prize Winner is:
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdös by Deborah Heiligman, illustrated by LeUyen Pham; published by Roaring Brook, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
Today’s event was sponsored by The Bank Street Center for Children’s Literature. For more information, go to bankstreet.edu/irmablack
And for more information about any of the Bank Street College of Education children’s literature initiatives, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Congratulations to the winners! What a wonderful morning!