Phoenix Picture Book Award


The Children's Literature Association Phoenix Picture Book Award recognizes an exemplary picture book that conveys its story (whether fact or fiction) through the synergy between pictures and text, or through pictures alone if there is no text.  First presented in 2013, the Phoenix Picture Book Award will be given to the author and/or illustrator, or the estate of the author and/or illustrator 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. 


Submission Period:

Anyone may nominate a book, with the practical deadline being the conference at which the committee begins its final deliberations for the award. For example, all nominations for the 2013 award must be received by the 2012 conference.  The committee reads one year in advance.

Selection Criteria:

  • The award goes to a book published twenty years before the annual conference at which it is awarded. The 2013 award, for example, will be for a book published in 1993.
  • The book must have been originally published in English.
  • 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
    • Carnegie Medal
    • Kate Greenaway Medal
    • Coretta Scott King Award
    • New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children & Young Adults
    • Caldecott Medal or Caldecott Honor
    • 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 the effectiveness of the interaction (synergy) of pictures and text (if there is text) to tell a story (whether fact or fiction).  Excellence of illustrations and text will be considered secondarily. A picture book is defined as a work that is primarily a visual experience that shows respect for the understanding of a child audience.
  • The book does not have to be in print.
  • The author or illustrator does not have to be alive.
  • Anyone may nominate a book, with the practical deadline being the conference at which the committee begins its final deliberations for the award. For example, all nominations for the 2013 award must be received by the 2012 conference.
  • If the Phoenix Award Committee finds no book suitable for the award, it need not be given in that year.
  • Honor books may be but are not necessarily designated.
  • The Award winner must be selected at the annual conference of the year before that in which the award is given. For example, the award that is announced and presented at the 2013 ChLA annual conference will be chosen at the 2012 conference.

The Children's Literature Association Proudly Announces the 2021 Phoenix Picture Book Award Recipient:

Image of Dim Sum for Everyone book coverDim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin, Alfred A. Knopf, 2001 

From front endpapers that set the table to closing endpapers presenting dozens of delicacies, Grace Lin's Dim Sum for Everyone! invites young readers into the bustle and brightness of a Chinese family's culinary experience. Her book is an engaging introduction to dim sum and the wonders of sharing a family meal. The word count is small, just like the little dishes, but the short sentences and their careful placement within the action of the illustrations advance the story. This forward momentum continues with the movement of food carts, waitstaff, and dish selections. Lin’s vivid, flat colors make the perfect backdrop for the intricate textures and details that distinguish each tart or egg bun or dumpling as a unique, individual treat. Similarly, the family members distinguish their individual tastes through their selection of different dishes, and Lin makes superb use of perspective as the characters move around the table and restaurant, uniting in a shared appreciation of their dining experience. The book concludes with a brief history of dim sum that leads readers from an intimate meal into a larger culinary culture. Throughout, Lin delivers a seemingly simple book that whets one’s appetite for more.

2021 Phoenix Picture Book Honor Book

Book cover image for Iguanas in the snow and other winter poemsIguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems/Iguanas en la nieve y otros poemas de inviero, written by Francisco X. Alarcón and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez, Children's Book Press, 2001

Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems/Iguanas en la nieve y otros poemas de invierno offers a poetic exploration of northern California with words and pictures uniting to convey a rich sense of place, culture, and history. Maya Christina Gonzalez's buoyant, expressive art complements the bilingual presentation of winter poems by Francisco X. Alarcón through vibrant double-page spreads that depict brown children at play in winter landscapes. Each child-focused poem appears in Spanish and English and speaks to sensual experiences of sight, sound, touch, and taste as the children dance, go sledding, write poetry, ride cable cars, and explore their surroundings. The paired Spanish and English poems are thoughtfully, equally centered in each spread, enabling the reading of each and both, a technique that further accents the children’s bicultural and bilingual experiences and entwines the words, images, and community, past, present, and future.

Book cover image for The Red Tree

The Red Tree by Shaun Tan, Thomas C. Lothian, 2001

The Red Tree masterfully combines illustrative complexity and textual simplicity to explore the overwhelming nature and uncanniness of depression while remaining committed to hope and never giving way to sentimentality. The minimal text, chiefly composed of declarative statements, and delivered in an intimate second-person address, speaks volumes through its varied font sizes and colors and its placement on the pages. Tan’s surrealistic images express his protagonist’s feelings of sadness, loneliness, and isolation as imagined scenes within an inhospitable and inattentive world. Yet, no matter the circumstances, a bright red leaf, representing hope, appears in each spread, whether or not it is noticed by the protagonist. The generous amounts of negative space that frame the images join with the text and illustrations to hold readers close, while also giving them the space to recognize and experience negative emotions fully.

 Previous Winners:


Winner: Shaun Tan for The Lost Thing (Sydney: Hachette, 2000)
Honor: Christopher Myers for Wings (New York: Scholastic, 2000)


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)