Hollins University honored the winner of the inaugural Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature with a medal ceremony during the 2016 Francelia Butler Conference on July 23.
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.
Phil Bildner, a former New York City public school teacher who has written more than 20 children’s books, is the award’s first recipient. The author of Marvelous Cornelius received a $1,000 cash prize, which comes from an endowed fund created by James Rockefeller, Brown’s fiancé at the time of her death. Bildner was also presented an engraved medal conceived by award-winning sculptor, painter, and Hollins alumna Betty Branch of Roanoke.
“Margaret Wise Brown said, ‘A good picture book can almost be whistled….All have their own melodies behind the storytelling,’” said judges Elissa Haden Guest and Judy Schachner in a statement. “In that spirit, we award the Margaret Wise Brown Prize to Phil Bildner for Marvelous Cornelius, a book about a simple, musical man who inspired the cleanup of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.” Illustrated by John Parra and published by Chronicle Books, Marvelous Cornelius is geared toward children ages 4 – 7.
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: Phil Bildner receives the Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature medal from Hollins President Nancy Gray.