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 2020 Phoenix Picture Book Award Recipient:

The Lost ThingThe Lost Thing by Shaun Tan
Sydney: Hachette, 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)