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Frazee wins 2019 Charlotte Zolotow Award for ‘Little Brown’

January 17, 2019

“Little Brown,” written and illustrated by Marla Frazee, is the winner of the 22nd annual Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a picture book.

The award is given by the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC), a library housed within UW-Madison’s School of Education.

“Little Brown” was edited by Allyn Johnston and published in the United States in 2018 by Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.

Do the other dogs not play with Little Brown because he’s cranky, or is he cranky because the other dogs don’t play with him? It’s a question examined with both humor and pathos in this marvelous picture book.

Little Brown book coverIn Frazee’s superb text, supported by equally fine, soft-hued pencil and gouache illustrations, a dramatic narrative crafted with wonderful language and artful pacing is full of hilariously spot-on dog behavior. But Little Brown’s isolation is heartbreaking, while the puzzlement of the other dogs and the “dilemma” they all face when Little Brown steals their toys and refuses to give them back makes for a complex look at social dynamics.

All the dogs wonder whether, and how, things might be different, leading to a brilliant open ending. “Maybe tomorrow … they would know what to do.” A story that entertains, it also respects young readers and listeners, asking them to rise to the challenge of thinking about what might happen next, and to reflect on”Little Brown’s” connection to their own lives in a picture book that is the antithesis of didactic.

The 2019 Zolotow Award committee named two Honor Books: “Honey” and “Saturday is Swimming Day.”

“Honey” is written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein, edited by Nancy Paulsen, and published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an  imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. It is about a young bear in his second year who remembers honey, but must wait for it to be ready, in a narrative where every carefully chosen word impacts the rhythm and flow of a story in which timing (and appreciating each moment) is everything.

“Saturday is Swimming Day” is written and illustrated by Hyewon Yum, edited by Kate Fletcher, and published by Candlewick Press. It’s about a small girl’s anxiety over learning how to swim, her experience stated in simple, declarative sentences providing evocative descriptions of her feelings and actions as she gradually overcomes her fear with the help of a patient teacher.

The 2019 Zolotow Award committee also cited nine titles as Highly Commended: “A BIG Mooncake for Little Star,” written and illustrated by Grace Lin (Little, Brown); “Carmela Full of Wishes,” written by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson (G. P. Putnam Son’s / Penguin Random House); “The Day You Begin,” written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López (Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin Random House); “Dreamers,” written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Neal Porter Books / Holiday House); “The Patchwork Bike,” written by Maxine Beneba Clarke, illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd (U.S. edition: Candlewick Press); “The Rough Patch,” written and illustrated by Brian Lies (Greenwillow Books / HarperCollins); “Thank You, Omu!” written and illustrated by Oge Mora (Little Brown); “We Don’t Eat Our Classmates,” written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins (Disney / Hyperion); and “Winter Is Here,” written by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek (Greenwillow Books / HarperCollins).

Established in 1998, the Charlotte Zolotow Award honors the work of Charlotte Zolotow, a distinguished children's book editor for 38 years with Harper Junior Books, and author of more  than 70 picture books, including such classic works as “Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present” (Harper, 1962) and “William's Doll” (Harper, 1972). Zolotow attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison on a writing scholarship from 1933 to 1936, where she studied with Professor Helen C. White. Zolotow died in November 2013 at the age of 98.

The award is given annually for outstanding writing in a picture book for children in the birth-through-seven age range published in the United States in the preceding year. The 2019 award will be given at an award ceremony in Madison at a date to be determined.

Members of the 2019 Zolotow Award committee were: Megan Schliesman, chair (Librarian, Cooperative Children’s Book Center); Crystal Brunelle (Teacher Librarian, Northern Hills Elementary School, Onalaska, Wisconsin); Jennifer Greenwald (Teacher, Muir Elementary School, Madison); Kelsey Johnson-Kaiser (Youth Services Manager, St. Paul Public Library, St. Paul, Minnesota); and Tessa Michaelson Schmidt (Public Library Youth and Inclusive Services Consultant, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Madison).

The Cooperative Children's Book Center is a non-circulating library for adults with a professional, career or academic interest in children's and young adult literature. The Friends of the CCBC, Inc., cosponsors of the award event, is a nonprofit organization offering lectures, book sales and other benefits for members, in addition to supporting the work of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center. 

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