Phoenix Picture Book Award


altEstablished by the ChLA Board in 2010, the Phoenix Picture Book Award is a companion to the original Phoenix Award and recognizes a picture book published twenty years previously that did not win a major award at that time, but that the committee has determined to be of lasting value.  The award is innovative, for unlike most picture book awards, it will honor not only the illustrator, but also the author (if they are two separate people).  Books are considered not only for the quality of their illustrations, but for the way pictures and text work together to tell a story (whether fact or fiction).  Wordless books are judged on the ability of the pictures alone to convey a story.

The Phoenix Picture Book Award is inspired by the Phoenix Award which was designed by Caldecott-winning illustrator Trina Schart Hyman. The magical Phoenix on the award statue was specifically drawn for ChLA. The design was sculpted by Diane Davis, who was trained at the Johnson Atelier and Technical Institute of Sculpture, Princeton. Each brass statue is individually cast and inscribed with the year's winner.

We are now taking nominations for books that were published in 2000 and after.

The Children's Literature Association Proudly Announces the 2019 Phoenix Picture Book Award Recipient:

Black CatBlack Cat by Christopher Myers
New York: Scholastic, 1999

A rough, gritty beauty permeates Myers’s celebration of the city and the cat that confidently roams its streets. Nothing in this book fits seamlessly together: not the mixture of photographs, collage, ink, and gouache that create the cityscapes nor the combination of jarring sounds and images interspersed with a rhythmic refrain in the description of the cat’s adventures. Nevertheless, this lack of complete harmony conveys a raw beauty and deep feelings, particularly through the independence of both the cat and the city.  The words and photographs highlight both the beauties and the haunting tensions.  The city is both.  Sometimes it is both at once, as in the beautiful silhouette of the black cat “slam-dunking” itself through a basketball hoop with no net.  The story operates on a metaphoric as well as a literal level.  The book is innovative and edgy, symbolic and provocative, its connotations lingering in the mind well after the story is over.

2019 Phoenix Picture Book Honor Book

Tree of HopeTree of Hope by Amy Littlesugar and Floyd Cooper
New York: Philomel, 1999

Individually strong and moving, Littlesugar’s narrative voice and Cooper’s oilwash paintings unite to deliver a powerful story of hard-won dreams, family, and community. The story’s comparisons between “the old days, the golden days” of the Harlem Renaissance and the present day in 1930s Harlem create compelling scenes about the effects of the Great Depression on the community and impact of Orson Welles’s, with its all-black cast.  But the narrative shines brightest when conveying the interactions among Florrie’s family. Similarly, while Cooper’s softened color palette and slightly hazy texture convey the historical nature of the story and provide the effects of stage lighting on each page, his portraits of Florrie and her parents create the strongest impressions. Told from young Florrie’s point of view, the story really is about her father who is able to renew his acting dreams when the Lafayette Theatre in Harlem opens back up, and her mother’s eventual embrace of this non-utilitarian career.  Based on true events, we learn about Orson Welles’s Caribbean version of in Harlem.  The Tree of Hope is only one image of this richly told and illustrated book showing urban poverty, colorful theatre stages, and a single rose: the gift from mother to father.  It tells a new story of African-American vitality, hope, and artistry in the midst of a bleak chapter in American history.  Previous Winners:


Winner: Robert D. San Souci & Brian Pinkney for Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella (Simon & Schuster, 1998)
Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman & Robin Preiss Glasser for You Can’t Take A Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum (Dial, 1998)


Winner: Mary McKenna Siddals & Petra Mathers for Tell Me a Season (Clarion Books, 1997)
Honor: Demi for One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Tale (Scholastic, 1997)

2016 Winner:  Molly Bang for Goose (Blue Sky Press, 1996) - 2016 ChLA Conference Speech by Molly Bang
Honor Winner: Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney for Sam and the Tigers (Dial Books, 1996)

Winner: Sara Fanelli for My Map Book (HarperCollins, 1995)
Honor Winner: Charlotte Zolotow and Stefano Vitale for When the Wind Stops (HarperCollins, 1995)
Honor Winner: Kady MacDonald Denton for Would They Love a Lion? (Kingfisher, 1995)


Winner: Raymond Briggs for The Bear (Julia Macrae Books, 1994)
Honor Winner: Peggy Rathmann for Good Night, Gorilla (Putnam Juvenile, 1996)
Honor Winner: Anne Isaacs and Paul Zelinksy forSwamp Angel (Putnam and Dutton, 1994)


Winner: Kevin Henkes for Owen (Greenwillow, 1993)
Honor Winner: Denise Fleming for In the Small, Small Pond (Henry Holt and Co., 1993)