Hollins University honored author/illustrator Adam Rex with the second annual Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature during the 2017 Francelia Butler Conference on July 22.
The award showcases the most distinguished picture book manuscript as selected by a panel of judges. Rex received an engraved medal and a $1,000 cash prize for his book School’s First Day of School, illustrated by Christian Robinson and published by Roaring Book Press.
Hollins established the prize in tribute to one of its best-known alumnae and one of America’s most beloved children’s authors. 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.
In his remarks at the medal ceremony, Rex called School’s First Day of School “my favorite book of mine.” He recounted how the idea for it came to him during a gathering of children’s picture book authors and agents. “We were talking about picture book clichés, books that never needed to be written again. And somebody said, ‘A kid is nervous about his first of school.’ As we were talking about this, I guess the way my mind works I always flip things around, so I [jokingly suggested] ‘A school is nervous about his first day of children.’ The next day as I was having breakfast with my agent I told him my funny joke and he responded, ‘Oh, that’s your next book.'”
In its starred review, Booklist describes School’s First Day of School as a “charming reversal of first-day-of-school nerves [that] will delight little ones and help put their own anxieties at bay, while School Library Journal calls it “an essential purchase that is simultaneously funny, frank, and soothing. A perfect first day read-aloud.”
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.
Photo: Hollins President Pareena Lawrence with Adam Rex, winner of the 2017 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature