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:

Anyone may nominate a book, with the practical deadline being the conference at which the committee prepares the shortlist and begins its final deliberations for the award. For example, all nominations for the 2015 award must be received by the 2013 conference.  The committee reads two years in advance.

Selection Criteria:

  • The award goes to a book published in the year twenty years before the annual conference at which it is awarded. The 2012 award, for example, is for a book published in 1992.

  • 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 2021 Phoenix Award Recipient:

Image for Finding GraceFinding Grace, Alyssa Brugman

As they say in Australia, this YA novel is “a goer.” Narrated by 18-year-old Rachel, Finding Grace raises the hardest questions: How do people manage tragedy? How do they continue after devastating loss?  When Mr. Preston, a rich school supporter and businessman, offers Rachel a generously compensated job as caretaker for Grace, who lives with  brain damage after an accident, Rachel accepts in the spirit of “what I know.” This ironic motif not only shapes her learning about her own ignorance; it also balances the discovery that Grace, who cannot speak or share thoughts, may become her best teacher. This detective tale skillfully pulls Rachel into Grace’s life even as Rachel begins her own independent adulthood. By finding the grace to realize she does not know as much about life as she thought she did, Rachel stole our hearts and made us laugh out loud. We especially loved the question Rachel gets asked: “What are you going to do?” and the spiritual wisdom that follows: “Sometimes I just want to scream, ‘I’m just trying to finish what I’m doing now!’”

2021 Phoenix Honor Books: 

Book image for Any Small GoodnessAny Small Goodness, Tony Johnston

In Any Small Goodness, a novella that begins and ends with a loving Mexican American family, Arturo’s father tells him “When no eyes are upon him, that is a person’s true test.”Tony Johnston crafts a world in which Arturo learns from his gentle parents and his lime-loving abuela that community is within our grasp to create. The small goodnesses that Arturo sees include the elderly neighbor who spends the night in a tree with the cat he tries to save; the NBA player who trusts the school to keep his fame quiet as he volunteers to coach basketball; and the school librarian who embraces not just her child patrons but their families too. Arturo and his family weather violence and loss with love, strength, and determination. Ultimately, Arturo’s friends resist the pull of gangs, family instability, and attempts to erase their heritage by learning to focus on the small goodness around them.


Book image for Whale Talk Whale Talk by Cris Crutcher

This YA novel cuts to the chase in a truth-telling voice that makes change believable: “Whales don’t edit. . . if they think it, they say it, and if you are a whale, in a short amount of time you know exactly what it is to be you.” Narrator T. J. Jones is a racially-mixed upperclassman and a talented athlete who eschews school sports because he despises jock culture. When T.J. witnesses fellow student Chris Coughlin being bullied by football players for wearing his deceased older brother’s letter jacket, T.J. takes Chris under his wing. But he doesn’t stop there; T.J. recruits an unlikely swim team, “The Mermen,” that enables Chris and the other misfits who make up the Mermen to win letter jackets of their own. Like “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner,” this heart-wrenching, humorous story celebrates what athletics can be even as it critiques their corruption by adults who use high school sports for their own gratification. At every Mermen practice, as the characters learn the power of relationships and develop self-confidence in their undersized pool, readers share the sadness and triumph of these sweet, deep, funny underdogs. T.J.’s anger at bullies and racists gradually matures, but does not dissipate. Not many adolescent males tell their stories of pain and patience, self-doubt and confidence so openly.

Past Phoenix Award Winners:

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

2021 Winner, When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
Honor, When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park 

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)