Hollins University has honored Chana Stiefel, an award-winning author of more than 30 books for children, as the recipient of the eighth annual Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature.
Stiefel will receive an engraved medal and a $1,000 cash prize for her nonfiction picture book The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs. Illustrated by Susan Gal and published by Scholastic Press, The Tower of Life is the true story behind the Tower of Life exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. As a young girl, Yaffa Eliach’s home in Poland was invaded by Nazi soldiers and nearly 3,500 family members, friends, and neighbors were erased. Eliach made it her life’s mission to recover thousands of the town’s photographs from around the world, and she used them to construct the Tower of Life exhibit.
“This book will leave a powerful impression on every reader,” stated the judges for this year’s prize, acclaimed children’s book authors Mượn Thị Văn , Don Tate, and Heidi E.Y. Stemple. “Its story reminds us that that horrific and destructive acts cannot and do not succeed as long as we remember and as long as we rebuild, sometimes ‘not brick by brick, but photograph by photograph, story by story.’ The Tower of Life reminds us to always seek the light, and to always share the light.”
The Margaret Wise Brown Prize is just the latest honor for The Tower of Life. It won the 2023 Sydney Taylor Book Award, a Robert F. Sibert Honor, and the SCBWI Russell Freedman Nonfiction Award for a Better World.
Judges for this year’s Margaret Wise Brown Prize also named one Honor Book: Too Early, written by Nora Ericson, illustrated by Elly MacKay, and published by Abrams Books. “This book makes the most of a small moment shared between an early-rising child and their father,” the judges said. “Ericson’s lyrical, imaginative text is infused with soothing sounds and quiet humor, perfect for a cozy morning read aloud that will happen, surely, on repeat, and, probably, way too early.”
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 2024 Margaret Wise Brown Prize.