Children’s Literature and Children’s Book Illustration Faculty and Alumni Authors Celebrate Banner Year for Publishing

Hollins University’s graduate programs in children’s literature and children’s book illustration are applauding what director Lisa Rowe Fraustino called “a true bounty of books published this year by our faculty and program graduates.”

Thirteen faculty and/or alumni authors enjoyed book launches or the issuing of new versions of their books. “It’s inspiring,” Fraustino noted. “There are close to 30 books to celebrate from Hollins folks in 2022.”

Here’s a list of the books published this year by the authors who have taught and/or graduated from the children’s literature and children’s book illustration programs at Hollins, as researched and compiled by  Visiting Associate Professor Hillary Homzie:

Brian AtteberyBrian Attebery Book Cover

The author of four books and numerous articles on fantasy and science fiction, Attebery has penned what has been described as “an exciting and accessible study of the genre of fantasy.” Fantasy: How It Works “addresses two central questions about fantastic storytelling: first, how can it be meaningful if it doesn’t claim to represent things as they are, and second, what kind of change can it make in the world?” The author explores facets of fantastic world-building and story creation in classic and contemporary fantasy, and looks at how prominent fantasy writers test new ways of understanding and interaction to reexamine political institutions, social practices, and models of reality.

 

Dhonielle Clayton Book CoverDhonielle Clayton

Clayton, the New York Times bestselling author of The Belles series and co-author of the Tiny Pretty Things duology, a Netflix original series, has written her middle grade fantasy debut, The Marvellers. Eleven-year-old conjuror Ella Durand enrolls at the Arcanum Training Institute, a magic school in the clouds where Marvellers from around the world practice their cultural arts, like brewing Indian spice elixirs and bartering with Irish pixies. “The Marvellers deserves the highest compliment I can give a book: I want to live in this world,” said Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson series, while Angie Thomas, whose books include The Hate U Give and Concrete Rose, called The Marvellers “a marvelous gift of a novel.”

 

Michelle Jabes CorporaMichelle Jabes Corpora Book Cover

The new book by Corpora is The Fog of War: Martha Gellhorn at the D-Day Landings, an installment in the True Adventures series that publishes in the U.S. in September. She also wrote The Dust Bowl (2021), the first book in the American Horse Tales series, and is the ghostwriter of five novels in the Nancy Drew Diaries and Hardy Boys Adventures series. She is currently writing the first book in a new series with Penguin Workshop, Holly Horror, which is scheduled for publication in the fall of 2023. After five years as an assistant editor with Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins), she became an editor with book packager Working Partners, Ltd., where she has been producing concepts for middle grade series fiction for more than a decade.

 

Christopher Denise Book CoverChristopher Denise

The illustrator of many critically acclaimed books for young readers, including Alison McGhee’s Firefly Hollow, Rosemary Wells’ Following Grandfather, and Brian Jacques’ Redwall series, Denise has been recognized by the Bank Street College of Education, Parents’ Choice Foundation, and the Society of Illustrators. This year, he produced the medieval picture book Knight Owl, in which a determined owl builds strength and confidence. It’s the story about the real mettle of a hero: wits, humor, and heart. Full of wordplay and optimism, Knight Owl, a New York Times bestseller, shows that cleverness and friendship can rule over brawn.

 

Laurie J. EdwardsLaurie Edwards Book Cover

Edwards, a former teacher and librarian, is a USA Today bestselling author of more than 60 books in print or forthcoming under several pen names. Under her own name, her 2022 releases include four books in the middle grade Unicorns of the Secret Stable series, including Unicorns to the Rescue, Lucky and the Dragon, Magical Unicorn Horns, and Mermaid Magic. As Rachel J. Good, she writes Amish novels of faith, hope, and forgiveness. This year she has produced two novels (An Amish Marriage of Convenience: Surprised by Love and the forthcoming Amish Christmas Treasure), two anthology stories (for the Amish Spring Romance Collection), and will have four novel reprints in the Amish Sisters and Friends series (Change of Heart, Buried Secrets, Gift from Above, and Big-City Amish).

 

Carrie Gustafson Book CoverCassie Gustafson

Gustafson’s work has earned honors such as the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award, the Shirley Henn Creative Writing Award, and the Ruth Landers Glass Scholarship. Publisher’s Weekly said of her debut novel, After the Ink Dries, “This all-too-believable book will open eyes and start conversations about sexual assault, toxic masculinity, and victim shaming. Her new young adult novel, The Secrets We Keep, follows a girl’s struggle to reconcile friendship, sexual abuse, and the secrets one buries deep inside to survive. The book explores the complex, powerful bonds of friendship and family.

 

Hillary HomzieHillary Homzie Book Cover

Homzie is the author of many books for children, including the Ellie May chapter books, an SLJ Webcast featured selection, and Queen of Likes, which was optioned by Priority Pictures and is a PJOur Way selection. In her new inspiring and educational picture book about princesses past and present, If You Were a Princess, three girls wonder what it would be like to be princesses themselves. Through the facts and profiles of real-life princesses woven throughout, they become empowered to try and make a difference within their own communities, and discover that anyone can be a princess after all.

 

EB Lewis Book CoverE.B. Lewis

An award-winning illustrator of over 75 books for children, including Coming on Home Soon (a 2005 Caldecott medal winner), Lewis’ has illustrated the new book Seeking Freedom: The Untold Story of Fortress Monroe and the Ending of Slavery in America by Selene Castrovilla. In this dramatic Civil War Story, a courageous enslaved fugitive teams with a cunning Union general to save a Union fort from the Confederates – and triggers the end of slavery in the United States. This is the first children’s nonfiction book about a Black unsung hero who remains relevant today and to the Black Lives Matter movement.

 

Rebekah LowellRebekah Lowell Book Cover

Lowell is an author, illustrator, and surface designer with a passion for the natural world. As a survivor of domestic abuse, she has found the outdoors to be healing grounds. Her artwork has been featured on the Maine Duck Stamp five times. Her debut young adult novel in verse, The Road to After, was published this year by Nancy Paulsen Books. This poignant book is a portrait of healing, as a young girl rediscovers life and the soothing power of nature after being freed from her abusive father. Lowell’s debut picture book, Catching Flight, will be published by Doubleday Books for Young Readers in spring 2023.

 

Candice Ransom Book CoverCandice Ransom

The author of 165 published books, Ransom’s award-winning works include Apple Picking Day!, Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten, and The Big Green Pocketbook. Her newest book, School Day!, is a Step 1 reader (big type and easy words) and features the family from Apple Picking Day! as well as Garden Day!, Snow Day!, and Beach Day! At the start of the new school year, a big sister on her first day of third grade takes time to show her little brother the ropes on his first day of kindergarten, proving it’s great to have a sibling to rely on when starting something new.

 

 

Amie Rose RotruckAmie Rose Rotruck Book Cover

Rotruck is featured in the new book, The Seeker’s Guide to Twisted Taverns, which is “A [Dungeons and Dragons] Fifth Edition supplement filled with fantastical premade taverns, inspiring story hooks, and lovable NPCs [Non-Player Characters].” Her contributions are the taverns “Spring of Peace” (a desert oasis), “The Drunken Treasure” (an underwater vessel), “Fungal Grotto” (a giant mushroom staff with sentient fungi), “The Dungeon of Darkness” (filled with all sorts of dark and scary creatures), and “By the Frost” (a Norse mythology inspired tavern).

 

Ali Standish Book CoverAli Standish

The critically acclaimed author of The Ethan I Was Before, August Isle, How to Disappear Completely, and The Mending Summer, Standish has now written Yonder, a historical fiction middle grade novel about a boy on the home front in World War II who must solve the mystery of the disappearance of his best friend, an adventure that explores what true heroism means. In its starred review, Kirkus Reviews described Yonder as “multilayered, moving, and tremendously powerful.” Booklist, also in a starred review, called the novel, “A heartfelt tale about what it means to be a hero and take a stand against injustice.”

 

Sharon Dennis WyethSharon Dennis Wyeth Book Cover

Wyeth has written over 50 books, including picture books, early readers, middle grade, and young adult novels, both contemporary and historical. Her new Step 3 Reader (engaging characters in easy-to-follow plots and popular topics for children who are ready to read on their own) is Juneteenth: Our Day of Freedom, which explores the important holiday that celebrates the end of chattel slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, a group of enslaved men, women, and children gathered. Juneteenth marks the day when freedom truly rang for all.

 

 

 


Hollins Announces Winner of the 2022 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature

Hollins University has honored Vietnamese author Muon Thi Van as the winner of the seventh annual Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature.

Muon will receive an engraved medal and a $1,000 cash prize for Wishes, illustrated by Victo Ngai and published by Orchard Books. Inspired by events in the author’s life, Wishes is the story of a Vietnamese family’s search for a new home on the other side of the world and how that impacts one of the family’s youngest members.

Muon Thi Van, winner of the 2022 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature.

“Muon Thi Van takes the reader on a heart-wrenching journey, from leaving the familiarity of home to navigating the perils of an ocean voyage to finally arriving at a place of hope and new beginnings,” stated the judges for this year’s prize, acclaimed children’s book authors Marla Frazee, David LaRochelle, and Meg Medina. “All of this is done with just 75 carefully chosen words. The originality of having inanimate objects voice the child’s feelings, and the depth of emotion captured in so few words, astounded [us] and made for an inventive, powerful book that has lingered in our hearts long after we read it.”

The Margaret Wise Brown Prize is just the latest honor for Wishes. It was named the Best Picture Book of 2021 by BookPage; received the 2022 ILA Notable Books for a Global Society award; and was co-winner of the Golden Poppy Award for children’s picture books. Wishes is also an NPR Best Book of the Year, a Horn Book 2021 Fanfare Pick, and a 2021 New York Public Library’s Best Books for Kids List Pick.

Judges for this year’s Margaret Wise Brown Prize also named one Honor Book: The Longest Letsgoboy, written by debut author Derick Wilder, illustrated by Cátia Chen, and published by Chronicle Books. “The story is told from a dog’s point of view,” the judges said. “As Letsgoboy takes the final walk of his earthly life with his little girl, the narration and dog language are perfectly attuned to how a child takes in the word as well. The Longest Letsgoboy transports the reader on a journey which is by turns joyous, heartbreaking, comforting and full of love.”

Wishes Book Cover
Margaret Wise Brown Prize judges praised “Wishes” as “an inventive, powerful book.”

The judges added that both Wishes and The Longest Letsgoboy “explore the difficult terrain of loss using a sophisticated sense of language for children. Whether spare to capture the very essence of longing and hope in leaving a homeland, or immersive in a rich, inventive vocabulary about companionship, these works represent the power of language to help children understand the deep changes they sometimes face.”

Each year, Hollins invites nominations for the prize from children’s book publishers located across the country and around the world. A three-judge panel, consisting of established picture book authors, reviews the nominations and chooses a winner.

Hollins established the Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature as a way to pay tribute to one of its best-known alumnae and one of America’s most beloved children’s authors. The cash prizes are made possible by an endowed fund created by James Rockefeller, Brown’s fiancé at the time of her death.

“The Margaret Wise Brown Prize is one of the few children’s book awards that has a cash prize attached,” said Lisa Rowe Fraustino, director of the graduate programs in children’s literature at Hollins.

The engraved medal presented to the winners was conceived by award-winning sculptor, painter, and Hollins alumna Betty Branch of Roanoke. Winners and Honor Book recipients are presented an original linocut certificate designed and donated by Ashley Wolff, author and/or illustrator of over 50 children’s books.

Margaret Wise Brown graduated from Hollins in 1932 and went on to write Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and other children’s classics before she died in 1952. Hollins celebrated her life and work with a year-long Margaret Wise Brown Festival in 2011 and 2012, which featured stage and musical adaptations of her work along with readings, workshops, guest lectures, and other activities for all ages.

The study of children’s literature as a scholarly experience was initiated at Hollins in 1973; in 1992, the graduate program in children’s literature was founded. Today, Hollins offers summer M.A. and M.F.A. programs exclusively in the study and writing of children’s literature, an M.F.A. in children’s book writing and illustrating, and a graduate-level certificate in children’s book illustration.

This fall, Hollins’ children’s literature program will release information on how to submit books for consideration for the 2023 Margaret Wise Brown Prize.


Children’s Literature M.F.A. Student Wins New Voices Award

Maleeha Malik, a student in Hollins University’s Master of Fine Arts program in children’s literature, is the winner of Lee & Low Books‘ 22nd annual New Voices Award.

Established in 2000, the award is given annually by the children’s book publisher for a picture book manuscript by a writer of color or Indigenous/Native writer.

Malik, a second-grade teacher from Baltimore, Maryland, was honored for At Home in My Skin. The manuscript features a child with vitiligo – a skin disorder that causes depigmentation – who embraces their individuality by drawing connections between their skin’s ever-changing patterns and the designs in nature. Malik was inspired by her experiences living with vitiligo and a solo camping trip she took where she found patterns in nature that mimicked those on her own skin. She wrote the manuscript last summer in her African American Children’s Literature class at Hollins taught by Michelle Martin, the Beverly Cleary Endowed Professor for Children and Youth Services in the Information School at the University of Washington. The renowned author, essayist, lecturer, book critic, and community literary activist helped Malik shape the manuscript for publication.

“Malik hopes young readers, especially those with noticeable skin conditions, will read At Home in My Skin and know they belong in this world – that there is space for everyone to love and thrive in their unique skin,” Lee & Low Books said in a statement.

Malik will receive a $2,000 cash prize and a publication contract.

 


Submission Deadline for 2022 Margaret Wise Brown Prize Is January 15

Publishers of picture books released in 2021 are invited to have their works considered for the 2022 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature. The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2022.

Presented annually, the Margaret Wise Brown Prize recognizes the author of the best text for a picture book published during the previous year. The award is a tribute to one of Hollins University’s best-known alumnae and one of America’s most beloved children’s authors. Winners are given a $1,000 cash prize, which comes from an endowed fund created by James Rockefeller, Brown’s fiancé at the time of her death. Each recipient will also receive an engraved bronze medal as well as an invitation to accept the award and present a reading on campus during the summer session of Hollins’ graduate programs in children’s literature.

Judges for the 2022 prize include:

  • Meg Medina, author of the 2021 Margaret Wise Brown Prize winner Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away and the Newbery Award winner Mercie Suárez Changes Gears.
  • Marla Frazee, author-illustrator, recipient of the Boston Globe Horn Book Award for The Farmer and the Clown and two Caldecott Honor medals.
  • David LaRochelle, recipient of multiple children’s choice awards for his many picture book titles, including Geisel Award-winner See the Cat.

The publisher should submit four copies of each book they wish to nominate for the Margaret Wise Brown Prize: one copy to Hollins University and one copy to each of the three judges. Books must have been first published in 2021; reprints and translations are not eligible. The winner will be announced in May 2022.

Please contact Lisa Rowe Fraustino at fraustinolr@hollins.edu for the judges’ addresses and further submission instructions.

The study of children’s literature as a scholarly experience was initiated at Hollins in 1973; in 1992, the graduate program in children’s literature was founded. Today, Hollins offers summer M.A. and M.F.A. programs exclusively in the study and writing of children’s literature, an M.F.A. in children’s book writing and illustrating, and a graduate-level certificate in children’s book illustration.

For more information about the Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature, visit www.hollins.edu/mwb.


Obamas to Produce New Netflix Project Based on Collection Co-Written by Dhonielle Clayton M.A. ’09

In 2020, Dhonielle Clayton M.A. ’09, an alumna of Hollins University’s graduate programs in children’s literature, joined with five other bestselling African American young adult authors to create Blackout, a collection of stories about Black teenagers navigating love during a power outage in New York City.

Now, Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions is partnering with fellow production company Temple Hill (Twilight, The Fault in Our Stars, Fatherhood) to develop Blackout as what The Hollywood Reporter (THR) describes as “a film and TV ‘event'” for Netflix. “The project,” THR explains, “is being developed concurrently as a TV series and film adaptation. That means that some of the six stories could wind up in the film, while others are in the TV show.”

Netflix says of the project, “From the perspective of 12 teens with six shots at love, Blackout takes place as a heatwave blankets New York City in darkness and causes an electric chaos. When the lights go out and people reveal hidden truths, love blossoms, friendships transform, and all possibilities take flight.”

In addition to Clayton, Blackout features stories by Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon. Since its publication in June, the collection has earned wide acclaim. NPR’s review states, “In Blackout, young Black love with all its insecurities, mistakes, emotion, honesty, and humanity makes for a lush read. Even amidst their fears, these characters are wonderfully respectful of each other’s choices. You will root for them all to find their own right love at their own right time. And though it was written for young adults, Blackout is a must-read for all generations.” Publishers Weekly calls it a “joyful collaboration” that “brings a necessary elation to stories of Black love, queer love, and alternative forms of affection, all of which are all tenderly highlighted in these narratives.” And, the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books remarks, “There’s plenty to smile, sigh, or swoon at here, and readers will happily keep the lights on to see these charming romances to the end.”

All six of Blackout‘s authors are on board as screenwriters for the Netflix adaptation. An air date has not been announced.

Blackout will be Clayton’s second association with Netflix. In 2019, the internet TV network ordered 10 episodes of Tiny Pretty Things, an hour-long series based on the novel co-written by Clayton and Sona Charaipotra. The first season of the series premiered in December 2020 and follows the triumphs and challenges of students at an elite dance academy where the competition to succeed is fierce.

Originally from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., Clayton holds a B.A. from Wake Forest University. After earning her M.A. in children’s literature at Hollins, she completed her M.F.A. in creative writing at The New School. A former secondary school teacher and elementary and middle school librarian, she is co-founder of CAKE Literary, which is described as “a creative kitchen whipping up decadent – and decidedly diverse – literary confections for middle grade, young adult, and women’s fiction readers,” and is also chief operating officer of the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books. Her other works include The Belles (her debut solo novel, released in 2018) and The Everlasting Rose (Book Two in The Belles series, published in 2019). She has also contributed to the story collections Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America; Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet; and Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens. Her middle grade fantasy series, The Marvellers, is forthcoming. She joined the faculty of Hollins’ graduate programs in children’s literature in 2020.

 

 

 

 


M.F.A. Student Wins Essay Award from the Children’s Literature Association

Amanda Becker, who is pursuing her Master of Fine Arts degree in children’s literature at Hollins, has been honored with a 2021 Graduate Essay Award by the Children’s Literature Association (ChLA).

A four-member committee of children’s literature scholars selected Becker’s essay, “A Story in Fragments: An Analysis of Poetry and Perspective in October Mourning,” as the winner of this year’s master’s level award.

The Graduate Student Essay Awards recognize outstanding papers written on the graduate level in the field of children’s literature. They are considered annually and awarded as warranted. In 2008, the ChLA Board approved giving two separate awards each year, one for an essay written at the master’s level and one for an essay written at the doctoral level.

“A Story in Fragments” focuses on Leslea Newman’s October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard, a novel in verse responding to the 1998 murder of Shepherd, a gay 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming. “Written with love, anger, regret, and other profound emotions, this is a truly important book that deserves the widest readership, not only among independent readers but among students in a classroom setting, as well,” noted Booklist in its review. “Most importantly, the book will introduce Matthew Shepard to a generation too young to remember the tragic circumstances of his death. Grades 8-12.”

Of Becker’s essay, a judge stated, “One thing good scholarship does is strengthen its readers’ commitment to the literature it discusses: it prompts some to return to works they thought they knew and others to pick up those works for the first time. I think this is good scholarship. The analysis of the poetic effects of diverse perspectives…is sharply focused, sensitive to textual detail, and above all resists the temptation of reductive readings.” Another judge called it “original and interesting – not just related to interpretation of the specific text but also to the larger genre of poetry.”

Becker will receive a $400 award, a one-year complimentary ChLA membership, and an invitation to present her paper at the ChLA’s annual conference, which will be held virtually this year, June 9 – 13.

ChLA is a nonprofit association of scholars, critics, professors, students, librarians, teachers, and institutions dedicated to the academic study of literature for children.


Hollins Announces Winner of the 2021 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature

Hollins University has honored Newbery Medalist and New York Times bestselling author Meg Medina as the winner of the sixth annual Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature.

Medina will receive an engraved medal and a $1,000 cash prize for Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away, a story of friendship and change illustrated by Sonia Sánchez and published by Candlewick Press.

Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away is all at once poignant and hopeful, poetic but utterly child-centered,” the judges for this year’s prize stated. “From the moment you meet the moving truck ‘with its mouth wide open’ you know you’re in their world – these nearly twin mejor amigas who are having to say goodbye. Thankfully, Medina and Sánchez make the experience – even the really sad parts – sing.”

Medina’s other books include Merci Suárez Changes Gears, the 2019 John Newbery Medal winner; Burn Baby Burn, long-listed for the 2016 National Book Award; and The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind, a 2012 Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year. She resides in Richmond, Virginia, and in addition to writing, she works on community projects that support girls, Latino youth, and/or literacy. She serves on the National Board of Advisors for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and is a faculty member of Hamline University’s Master of Fine Arts program in children’s literature.

Judges for this year’s Margaret Wise Brown Prize also named one Honor Book: You Matter by author/illustrator Christian Robinson and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers. “A quirky, whimsical, nearly circular text that can be read in more than one way, helping young readers understand that they might be both specks of stardust and the stars themselves,” commented the judges. “Lyrical and affirming but also funny and particular in such a Margaret Wise Brown way.”

Hollins established the Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature as a way to pay tribute to one of its best-known alumnae and one of America’s most beloved children’s authors. The cash prizes are made possible by an endowed fund created by James Rockefeller, Brown’s fiancé at the time of her death.

“The Margaret Wise Brown Prize is one of the few children’s book awards that has a cash prize attached,” said Lisa Rowe Fraustino, director of the graduate programs in children’s literature at Hollins.

The engraved medal presented to the winners was conceived by award-winning sculptor, painter, and Hollins alumna Betty Branch of Roanoke. Winners and Honor Book recipients are presented an original linocut certificate designed and donated by Ashley Wolff, author and/or illustrator of more than 50 children’s books.

Margaret Wise Brown graduated from Hollins in 1932 and went on to write Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and other children’s classics before she died in 1952.

The study of children’s literature as a scholarly experience was initiated at Hollins in 1973; in 1992, the graduate program in children’s literature was founded. Today, Hollins offers summer M.A. and M.F.A. programs exclusively in the study and writing of children’s literature, an M.F.A. in children’s book writing and illustrating, and a graduate-level certificate in children’s illustration.

This summer, Hollins’ children’s literature program will release information on how to submit books for consideration for the 2022 Margaret Wise Brown Prize.


Friendship, Empowerment Triumph Over Bad Dates in New Picture Book by Children’s Lit Alumna

When Rebekah Manley M.F.A. ’11 set out to create not only her first book but one designed to defy the standards of a whole genre, her chosen muse was none other than one of Hollins’ best-known graduates and one of America’s most distinguished children’s writers.

“I like to think I channeled the spunky spirit of Margaret Wise Brown (a member of Hollins’ class of 1932 and the author of Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and other timeless children’s classics) as I broke through the expectations of what a picture book ‘should be’ and wrote the one I wanted to read,” the Austin, Texas-based author explains. “One for adults that might break the mold a bit.”

The result is Alexandra and the Awful, Awkward, No Fun, Truly Bad Dates: A Picture Book Parody for Adults, published this fall by Ulysses Press. This hilarious take on dating horror stories, in which the title character embarks on 30 bad dates in 30 days, is also at its core a heartwarming tale.

“Ultimately, it’s a story about friendship and empowerment,” says Manley, who runs the Texas Center for the Book and works to encourage literacy, reading, and library use in the Lone Star State.

Alexandra’s story blends fiction with Manley’s own real-life misadventures. “Honestly, there were some dates I’ve experienced that seemed too ‘unbelievable’ for the book,” she explains. During one of Alexandra’s disastrous dinner dates, “Her date insisted she get prime rib – and that women should just accept the wage gap. ‘Your brains are just different,’ he mansplained. Alex grabbed her steak to go and let him enjoy the financial success of buying her meal.”

Manley praises Catalina Oliveira, the book’s illustrator, for “bringing this book to life with warmth. I’m grateful she was onboard to add a special character I created, Lottie the French bulldog. Lottie has her own unique role, even though she is never mentioned in the text.”

Authors and illustrators typically don’t communicate directly while a picture book is in progress, so Manley and Oliveira’s editor served as the go-between. “It’s always important to give the illustrator space to Alexandra and the Awful, Awkward, No Fun, Truly Bad Datescreate and I didn’t want anything I said to stifle her creativity. We were, however, on a tight deadline and my editor wanted me to give a lot more feedback and direction that might normally occur in creating picture books for children.” As a bonus for readers, Manley reveals there are a number of “Easter eggs,” or almost hidden illustrations, placed throughout Alexandra and the Awful, Awkward, No Fun, Truly Bad Dates: A Picture Book Parody for Adults. “It might take a few reads for people to discover them – they mostly center around friendships in the book.”

Manley also cites her time at Hollins, where she earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in children’s literature “and believed I would become an author. My professors were so knowledgeable and supportive. Hollins gave me that immersive creative experience I needed to dream, hone my craft, and get a solid portfolio of work together. The ‘magic’ felt almost palpable, and I’ll always be grateful for the green and gold foundation.”

Alexandra and the Awful, Awkward, No Fun, Truly Bad Dates: A Picture Book Parody for Adults has earned rave reviews.

“In this funny, clever, rueful, and ultimately uplifting picture book parody, debut author Rebekah Manley taps into universal anxieties about loneliness and singledom while addressing the special agony of dating apps for today’s single woman,” says Amy Gentry, bestselling author of Good as Gone and Last Woman Standing, while Bethany Hegedus, author of Rise! From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou, notes, “What we all need right now is a connection and a good laugh. With humor and heart, Rebekah Manley’s Alexandra and the Awful, Awkward, No Fun, Truly Bad Dates: A Picture Book Parody for Adults has both.”

Manley believes her book can be enjoyed and appreciated as a shared experience. “I hope people will buy and read this with their single friends and family members and be reminded: yes, the dating struggle is real, but there is a whole lot of humor and goodness along the way.

“I also think this is a book our Hollins sisters will enjoy – those central themes of friendship and empowerment are two pieces that rang loud and clear from my education there.”

She adds, laughing, “And maybe people will read this and get some info on what NOT to do on a date!”


Submission Guidelines Announced for 2021 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature

Publishers of picture books released in 2020 are invited to have their works considered for the 2021 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature. The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2021.

Presented annually, the Margaret Wise Brown Prize recognizes the author of the best text for a picture book published during the previous year. The award is a tribute to one of Hollins University’s best-known alumnae and one of America’s most beloved children’s authors. Winners are given a $1,000 cash prize, which comes from an endowed fund created by James Rockefeller, Brown’s fiancé at the time of her death. Each recipient will also receive an engraved bronze medal as well as an invitation to accept the award and present a reading on campus during the summer session of Hollins’ graduate programs in children’s literature.

Judges for the 2021 prize include:

  • Liz Garton Scanlon, author of the 2020 Margaret Wise Brown Honor book One Dark Bird and the Caldecott Honor book All the World.
  • Anika Aldamuy Denise, author of the 2020 Pura Belpré Honor book Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré.
  • Chris Van Dusen, illustrator of over two dozen children’s books authored by himself and others, including the popular “Mercy Watson” series by Kate DiCamillo.

The publisher should submit four copies of each book they wish to nominate for the Margaret Wise Brown Prize: one copy to Hollins University and one copy to each of the three judges. Books must have been first published in 2020; reprints and translations are not eligible. The winner will be announced in May 2021.

Please contact Lisa Rowe Fraustino at fraustinolr@hollins.edu for the judges’ addresses and further submission instructions.

The study of children’s literature as a scholarly experience was initiated at Hollins in 1973; in 1992, the graduate program in children’s literature was founded. Today, Hollins offers summer M.A. and M.F.A. programs exclusively in the study and writing of children’s literature, an M.F.A. in children’s book writing and illustrating, and a graduate-level certificate in children’s book illustration.

 


Hollins Announces Winner of the 2020 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature

Hollins University has honored a writer/illustrator/academic from the United Kingdom as the winner of the fifth annual Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature.

Wendy Meddour, an internationally best-selling children’s author whose books have been translated into 18 languages, will receive an engraved medal and a $1,000 cash prize for Lubna and Pebble, illustrated by Daniel Egnéus and published by Dial Books. In a story that subtly addresses the refugee crisis, a young girl must decide if friendship means giving up the one item that brings her comfort during a time of uncertainty.

Lubna and Pebble stands out as exemplary picture book writing,” the judges for this year’s prize stated. “Concise and poignant, its simple words dramatize a child’s resourcefulness and hope in the face of her difficulties as a refugee. That she ultimately transfers her fortitude to another child, in an act of self-denial, is her greatest triumph.”

Time magazine selected Lubna and Pebble as one of the “10 Best YA and Children’s Books of 2019,” while both the New York Public Library and Chicago Public Library placed it on their respective “Best Books” lists for the year. Horn Book noted that “Meddour’s short, simple sentences pack and emotional punch….This tender, understated story honors the emotional resilience of young people.”

Judges for this year’s Margaret Wise Brown Prize also named one Honor Book: One Dark Bird, written by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon, and published by Simon and Schuster.

Each year, Hollins invites nominations for the prize from children’s book publishers located across the country and around the world. A three-judge panel, consisting of established picture book authors, reviews the nominations and chooses a winner.

Hollins established the Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature as a way to pay tribute to one of its best-known alumnae and one of America’s most beloved children’s authors. The cash prizes are made possible by an endowed fund created by James Rockefeller, Brown’s fiancé at the time of her death.

“The Margaret Wise Brown Prize is one of the few children’s book awards that has a cash prize attached,” said Lisa Rowe Fraustino, director of the graduate programs in children’s literature at Hollins.

The engraved medal presented to the winners was conceived by award-winning sculptor, painter, and Hollins alumna Betty Branch of Roanoke. Winners and Honor Book recipients are presented an original linocut certificate designed and donated by Ashley Wolff, author and/or illustrator of over 50 children’s books.

Margaret Wise Brown graduated from Hollins in 1932 and went on to write Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and other children’s classics before she died in 1952. Hollins celebrated her life and work with a year-long Margaret Wise Brown Festival in 2011 and 2012, which featured stage and musical adaptations of her work along with readings, workshops, guest lectures, and other activities for all ages.

The study of children’s literature as a scholarly experience was initiated at Hollins in 1973; in 1992, the graduate program in children’s literature was founded. Today, Hollins offers summer M.A. and M.F.A. programs exclusively in the study and writing of children’s literature, an M.F.A. in children’s book writing and illustrating, and a graduate-level certificate in children’s book illustration.

This summer, Hollins’ children’s literature program will release information on how to submit books for consideration for the 2021 Margaret Wise Brown Prize.