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 2001 and after.

The Children's Literature Association Proudly Announces the 2020 Phoenix Picture Book Award Recipient:

The Lost ThingThe Lost Thing by Shaun Tan
Sydney: Hatchette, 2000

Strangeness and melancholy take center stage in this story about a lost, anthropomorphized thing and the narrator’s quest to find where it belongs. The story’s meanings are as open to interpretation as its characters’ identities, and Tan unites different styles and techniques to defy easy artistic and genre categorizations. The panel illustrations, embedded within a background of technical writing and charts, create a detached, other worldly feeling, and yet the characters and settings are disconcertingly recognizable. The simple text, also isolated from the background design and illustrations by text boxes, does very little to lessen the story’s mysteries. The short, direct narration and the deliberately cluttered, beautifully rendered pages only help to emphasize the rarity of true connection in a world (and book) so full of information, images, and questions that it can be hard to figure out where to direct one’s attention or to avoid disengaging. The interaction between the detailed images and the stark text also show the challenges of resisting conformity and remembering to see and support the seemingly invisible among us. 

2020 Phoenix Picture Book Honor Book


Wings by Christopher Myers
New York: Scholastic, 2000

With this book, Christopher Myers powerfully demonstrates that classic mythology can be used as a living, changing resource rather than as a dried and preserved artifact. Wings is based on the Greek myth of Icarus, the boy who foolishly flew too near the sun and died as a result. Myers’s Ikarus is brought down not by melting wax, but by society’s rejection of anyone who seems unusual. Other children laugh at him; teachers complain that his very presence is distracting; a police officer orders him to stop flying immediately. “Could the policeman put him in jail for flying, for being too different,” wonders the narrator. In the end, the narrator finds the courage to speak up and say what she really thinks: “Your flying is beautiful.” Myers therefore encourages readers to look at differences between people as interesting and exciting rather than threatening. Wings combines collage and paint to make colorful, vibrant illustrations that may appear simple at first glance but are rich in meaning and add nuance to the text. In one picture, an unhappy Ikarus sits hunched against a background that suggests fire while his laughing peers are silhouetted against what looks like a blizzard. By connecting Ikarus and a burning heat, Myers thus invokes the Greek myth, but he also emphasizes the power and destructiveness of social convention.

Previous Winners:


Winner: Christopher Myers for Black Cat (New York: Scholastic, 1999)
Honor: Amy Littlesugar and Floyd Cooper for Tree of Hope (New York: Philomel, 1999)


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)