Phoenix Award

Phoenix Award Logo

The Children's Literature Association Phoenix Award recognizes books of exceptional literary merit. First presented in 1985, it is given to the author, or the estate of the author, of a book for children first published twenty years earlier that did not win a major award at the time of its publication but which, from the perspective of time, is deemed worthy of special attention. Since 1989, honor books have also been named.

Submission Period and Key Notes:

  • Anyone may nominate a book by the deadline of October 1 of each year.
  • The committee meets during the ChLA Annual Conference to prepare the shortlist and begin its final deliberations for the award.
  • Be aware, the committee reads two years in advance. So, for example, all nominations for the 2024 award must be received in 2022.
  • The award honors a book published twenty years prior. See more detail in the Selection Criteria below.
Nomination Form

Selection Criteria:

  • The award goes to a book published in the year twenty years before the annual conference at which it is awarded. The 2024 award, for example, is for a book published in 2004.

  • The book must have been originally published in English. Books do not need to have a minimum page count to be considered.

  • The book must not have won a major award although it may have been a finalist, honor book, runner-up, or commended, whatever term is used. A book is ineligible for consideration if it has won any one of the following awards or prizes:
    • Australian Children’s Book of the Year Award
    • Boston Globe-Horn Book Award
    • Governor General's Literary Awards
    • Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award
    • Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Young Adults
    • Carnegie Medal
    • Coretta Scott King Award
    • Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize
    • Michael L. Printz Award
    • National Book Award for Young People’s Literature
    • New Zealand Library Association Esther Glen Medal
    • Newbery Medal
    • Newbery Honor Medal
    • Pura Belpré Award
    • Whitbread Children’s Book Award (Renamed the Costa Book Award, 2006)
    • The Nebula Award (added in 2008)
    • The Hugo Award (added in 2008)
    • Other major awards may be added in future years.
  • The book may be a retelling or an edited work, such as an anthology, not simply a reprinting or new edition.

  • The book is to be judged on its literary merit.

  • The book does not have to be in print.

  • The author does not have to be alive.

  • If the Phoenix Award Committee finds no book suitable for the award, it need not be given in that year.

  • A maximum of two honor books may be, but are not necessarily, designated.

  • The award winner is selected two years prior to the conference at which the award is given. For example, the award announced and presented at the 2014 ChLA annual conference was chosen in 2012.

The Children's Literature Association Proudly Announces

The 2022 Phoenix Award Recipient:

When the Emperor Was Divine book cover graphicWhen the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka, Knopf, 2002

Julie Otsuka’s spare, stunning novel When the Emperor Was Divine begins with a series of goodbyes: to a family home, to a neighborhood, to a beloved pet, to security and freedom. In the aftermath of Executive Order 9066, Otsuka's story follows a family whose members are intentionally left nameless as they are uprooted and traumatized by the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans. Through each character’s perspective, Otsuka underscores the physical and psychological damage not only of their time in the camp but also pre- and post-incarceration. Equally important, she illuminates the strength, resolve, and tenacity of survivors. When the woman says of a lost earring, “Or maybe, it’s just gone. Sometimes things disappear and there’s no getting them back. That’s just how it is,” she is preparing her children for larger losses to come even as she teaches them how to mourn them. As relevant now as when it was first published, When the Emperor Was Divine asks readers to bear witness to the devastating effects of racism and xenophobia.

 The 2022 Phoenix Honor Book Recipient

When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park, Clarion Books, 2002Book image for When My Name Was Keoko

In When My Name Was Keoko, Linda Sue Park weaves together the stories of siblings Sun-hee and Tae-yul Kim as they navigate the dangers of Japanese-occupied Korea during World War II. Over and over again, they are required to give up the things that make them Korean--their language, their culture, and even their names. Sun-hee's chapters provide an inside perspective on the Kim family and on the people in their neighborhood and school, while Tae-yul narrates the growing conflict of the war and the danger it presents to his family and country. The recurring themes of resilience and courage are underscored by the ongoing resistance of both adult and child characters: Mr. Kim chooses a new Japanese surname that ties them back to their Korean identity, Uncle publishes an underground newspaper, and Mrs. Kim hides a rose of Sharon tree that is outlawed under occupation. As Sun-hee practices subterfuge through her writing, Tae-yul enlists in the Japanese army as a kamikaze pilot to protect his family. Ultimately Sun-hee realizes her Korean identity, that her thoughts are Korean regardless of what language she’s forced to speak. As Sun-hee’s elderly neighbor declares, “They cannot have my thoughts. I will not allow it.” When My Name Was Keoko brings to life a crucial and underrepresented historical event that illuminates both the realities of living under occupation and the possibilities of resistance.


Past Phoenix Award Winners:

(please click on the year for more details about the winning books)

2021 Winner: Finding Grace by Alyssa Brugman (Allen & Unwin, 2001)
Honor Book: Any Small Goodness by Tony Johnston (Blue Sky Press, 2001)
Honor Book: Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher (HarperCollins, 2001)

Winner: Many Stones by Carolyn Coman (Namelos, 2000)
Honor: 145th Street: Short Stories by Walter Dean Myers (Ember, 2000)

2019 Winner: The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich (Hyperion, 1999)
Honor: Imani All Mine by Connie Porter (Houghton Mifflin/Mariner, 1999)
2018 Winner: Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange by Elizabeth Partridge (Viking, 1998)
2017 Winner: Wish Me Luck by James Henneghan (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1997)
Honor Book: Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman (HarperCollins, 1997)
Honor Book: Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye (Simon & Schuster, 1997)
2016       Winner: Frindle by Andrew Clements (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1996) - 2016 ChLA Conference Speech
2015     Winner: One Bird by Kyoko Mori (Henry Holt & Company, 1995)
2014     Winner: Jesse by Gary Soto (Scholastic, 1994)     
Honor Book: Under the Blood Red Sun by Graham Salisbury (Yearling, 1994)
2013     Winner: The Frozen Waterfall by Gaye Hiçyilmaz (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1993)
Honor Book: Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary by Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic, 1993)
2012     Winner: Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse (Henry Holt and Company, 1992) - Karen Hesse (2012) video
Honor Book: Morning Girl by Michael Dorris (Hyperion Books, 1992)
Honor Book: Taste of Salt: A Story of Modern Haiti by Frances Temple (Orchard, 1992)
2011     Winner: The Mozart Season by Virginia Euwer Wolff (Henry Holt and Company, 1991) - Virginia Euwer Wolff (2011) video
Honor Book: Stepping on the Cracks by Mary Downing Hahn (Clarion/Houghton, 1991)
Honor Book: The Striped Ships by Eloise McGraw (McElderderry, 1991)
2010   Winner: The Shining Company by Rosemary Sutcliff (Farrar/Straus/Giroux and Bodley Head, 1990)
2009     Winner: Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block (HarperCollins, 1989)
Honor Book: Lucie Babbidge’s House by Sylvia Cassedy (Crowell, 1989)
2008  Winner: Eva by Peter Dickinson (Delacorte, 1988) - Peter Dickinson (2008) video
Honor Book: The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen (Viking, 1998)
2007 Winner: Memory by Margaret Mahy (Dent, 1987; McElderry, 1988)
Honor Book:Waiting for the Rain by Sheila Gordon (Orchard, 1987)
2006      Winner: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (Greenwillow, 1986)
Honor Book: The Shadow in the Plate/The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman (Oxford, 1986; Knopf, 1988)
2005  Winner: The Catalogue of the Universe by Margaret Mahy (Dent, 1985; Atheneum, 1986)
Honor Book: Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones (Greenwillow, 1985)
2004  Winner: White Peak Farm by Berlie Doherty (Methuen, 1984; Orchard, 1984) - Berlie Doherty (2004) video
Honor Book: Angel Square by Brian Doyle (Douglas & McIntyre, 1984)
2003   Winner: The Long Night Watch by Ivan Southall (Methuen, 1983)                            
Honor Book: A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt (Atheneum, 1983)
2002  Winner: A Formal Feeling by Zibby Oneal (Viking, 1982) - Zibby Oneal (2002) Video
Honor Book: Story for a Black Night by Clayton Bess (Parnassus, 1982; Houghton Mifflin, 1982)
2001  Winner: The Seventh Raven by Peter Dickinson (Gollancz, 1981; Dutton, 1981) - Peter Dickinson (2001) video
Honor Book: The Night Journey by Kathryn Lasky (Frederick Warne, 1981)
2000  Winner: Keeper of the Isis Light by Monica Hughes (Atheneum, 1980; Aladdin, 2000) - Monica Hughes (2000) video
Honor Book: The Fledgling by Jane Langton (HarperCollins, 1980)
1999   Winner: Throwing Shadows by E. L. Konigsburg (Atheneum, 1979)
Honor Book: The Disappearance by Rosa Guy (Delacorte, 1979)
Honor Book: Words by Heart by Ouida Sebestyen (Little, Brown, 1979)
1998    Winner: A Chance Child by Jill Paton Walsh (Macmillan, 1978; Farrar, 1978)
Honor Book: The Devil in Vienna by Doris Orgel (Dial, 1978)
Honor Book: Beauty by Robin McKinley (HarperCollins, 1978)
1997    Winner: I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier (Pantheon, 1977; Dell, 1978)
1996    Winner: The Stone Book by Alan Garner (Collins, 1976, 1978, 1983; Dell, 1988)
Honor Book: Abel’s Island by William Steig (Farrar, 1976)
1995 Winner: Dragonwings by Laurence Yep (HarperCollins, 1975; Harper Trophy, 1975; Scholastic, 1990)
Honor Book: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (Farrar, 1975; Bantam, 1975)
1994   Winner: Of Nightingales That Weep by Katherine Paterson (Crowell, 1974; Kestrel, 1976; Avon, 1980; Harper Collins, 1989)
Honor Book: Listen for the Fig Tree by Sharon Bell Mathis (Viking, 1974)
Honor Book: My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier (Four Winds, 1974)
1993 Winner: Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden (Gollancz, 1973; Lippincott, 1973; Puffin, 1974; Dell, 1989)
Honor Book: A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by E. L. Konigsburg (Atheneum, 1973; Dell, 1985)
1992   Winner: A Sound of Chariots by Mollie Hunter (H. Hamiton, 1972; Harper, 1972, 1988)
1991   Winner: A Long Way from Verona by Jane Gardam (H. Hamilton, 1971; Macmillan, 1971, 1988)
Honor Book: A Game of Dark by William Mayne (H. Hamilton, 1971; Dutton, 1971)
Honor Book: The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula LeGuin (Atheneum, 1971)
1990 Winner: Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl (Atheneum, 1970; Aladdin, 1989; Walker, 2001; Firebird, 2003)
Honor Book: Ravensgill by William Mayne (H. Hamilton, 1970; Dutton, 1970)
Honor Book: Sing Down the Moon by Scott O’Dell (Houghton Mifflin, 1970)
1989   Winner: The Night Watchmen by Helen Cresswell (Faber, 1969; Macmillan, 1969; Aladdin, 1989)
Honor Book: Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? by Milton Meltzer (Knopf, 1969)
Honor Book: Pistol by Adrienne Richard (Little, Brown, 1969, 1989)
1988     Winner: The Rider and His Horse by Erik Christian Haugaard (Houghton Mifflin, 1968)
1987 Winner: Smith by Leon Garfield (Constable, 1967; Pantheonm 1967; Penguin, 1968; Dell Yearling, 1987)
1986  Winner: Queenie Peavy by Robert Burch (Viking, 1966; Dell Yearling, 1975; Puffin, 1987)
1985       Winner: The Mark of the Horse Lord by Rosemary Sutcliff (Oxford, 1965; Walck, 1965; Penguin, 1983)