From the Desk of Phil and Erin Stead
Yesterday we kicked off the Stead family awards season with our list of 2010 Steadbery winners. Today we're pleased to announce the winners of our Second Annual Phildecott Awards. You can link to last year's winners and review our criteria for selection at yesterday's post.
Man, oh man. This was an unbelievable year for children's book illustration. In a year where authors, illustrators, publishers, librarians, booksellers, and the general reading public are all wondering what the heck the e-reader is going to do to the children's book future, picture book authors and illustrators of the world made a bold case for paper book. These books are too rich, too beautiful to be appreciated in pixels. The Phildecotts this year are not just a celebration of the books that inspired Erin and I this year. They're a celebration of books—real books—as objects. Objects to be carried around in your backpack. Objects you wait your turn for at the library. Objects that take 4–6 weeks to arrive at your local bookstore. E-books just can't provide that kind of suspense. Let's remember, books are technology too—an old technology, sure, but the best technology there is sharing a story that you love. These are the stories that we loved this year. And now...
The Second Annual Phildecott Award, going to the finest work of illustration for a children's picture book is...
Bunny Days, by Tao Nyeu
This book floored us. We don't know if we've ever read a book that so perfectly inhabits the mind space of a little kid. This book is so perfect it makes Erin and I wonder why we even try. Tao Nyeu is a genius. Consider these illustrators humbled.
Speaking of books that humbled us, the first of our many Phildecott Honors goes to...
Here Comes the Garbage Barge, by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Red Nose Studio (a.k.a. Chris Sickels)
This is another one that can make an illustrator think: Why go on? Will I ever be as good as this guy? It's just amazing, incredible work. We were more excited for the release of this book than probably any other book this year. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away Erin worked for a major publishing house in New York City. Sample art would come in from around the globe. It came in such volumes that it was rare for a any one thing to stand out. But Red Nose Studio stood out. Erin and I were instant fans. So, many years later when we heard about the upcoming release of Here Comes the Garbage Barge, we ran over to our local indie store and put in our pre-order. We were not disappointed.
Now to France for:
The Chicken Thief, by Béatrice Rodriguez
A very fun book, and a surprising love story—told in pictures only. A picture book in the truest sense. The American edition of Chicken Thief was brought to us by Enchanted Lion Press, a plucky little publishing house that's making a name for itself (at least in the Stead house) by bringing great imports stateside while also reissuing out-of-print almost-classics (i.e. Fly Away Peter, by Ralph Steadman).
Next up we have:
The Boys, by Jeff Newman
Because what's not to like about a kid's book where the vast majority of the characters are over the age of 65? Not to mention the first-rate artwork and masterful visual storytelling. Nicely done Mr. Newman!
And now back to Europe for:
The Tree House, by Marije Tolman and Ronald Tolman
This title comes from a father-daughter team working in the Netherlands (We hope that's right. Research is not our strong suit.). The Dutch publishing scene is very exciting. So many great books seem to flow from that little country. We would fail if we tried to describe the art in The Tree House, it's just too good. Instead, try this: Step 1. Go to your local independent bookseller and find The Tree House. Step 2. Be impressed.
We certainly were.
And now to one of our perennially favorite illustrators:
Hey, Rabbit!, by Sergio Ruzzier
Hey, Rabbit! seems to be flying under the radar a little bit this year. This is the kind of book that will make an illustrator kick him or herself and say: Dang! Why didn't I think of that! That's exactly what we did anyway. Sergio has written a simple text that allows his artistic imagination to explode every time Rabbit opens that little suitcase. Some books are fantastic but would be no fun at all to make. Not so with Hey, Rabbit! Mr. Ruzzier, I'm sorry, but we're jealous that you made this book before we had the chance to do it ourselves.
Full disclosure: Hey, Rabbit! was published by Roaring Brook Press/Neal Porter Books, the same publisher/editor that we work with. Go team!
Next up we have a book from a former short-term Ann Arbor resident (Go Blue!):
Little Black Crow, by Chris Raschka
Chris Raschka is of course a giant in the world of children's books. So why the heck haven't we heard more about this book? Well, you're hearing about it here folks. Not only is Little Black Crow among Raschka's best illustration work ever, it's maybe his greatest text yet too. We love this book. Love, love, love it.
Little Owl Lost, by Chris Haugton
Little Owl Lost is a case study in why indie book stores need to exist. Little Owl Lost is an assuming little import from a London based Irish illustrator. It's not exactly the kind of book you stumble on in the American midwest unless you happen to have a great bookstore like we do in Ann Arbor (Hooray for Nicola's Books!). Check out a nice little interview with Chris Haughton at the blog of the illustrious Craig Frazier here.
Now, another UK import:
Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn't Fit, by Catherine RaynerIf we had a prize for "favorite new illustrator who isn't actually a new illustrator" then Catherine Rayner would likely be the winner. Somehow we've missed her past work. Trust us, it's all great. Look her up on the interweb. By the way, Ernest here ends (spoiler alert!) with a neat little pop-up. How exactly are e-readers going to capture a moment like that in the future?
Back to the United States for our final two books. Both, incidentally, are second time Phildecott recipients. First:
Children Make Terrible Pets, by Peter BrownPeter Brown simply doesn't make bad books. We're proud to say we've been Peter Brown fans since his Flight of the Dodo days. A lot of kid's books try to be funny. The results can be painful. Not so with Peter. Not only are Peter's books beautifully illustrated, they have an amazing and unique quality: They're actually funny.
Speaking of actually funny...
Interrupting Chicken, by David Ezra Stein
Interrupting Chicken reads like an Abbott and Costello routine for the lower elementary crowd. Very funny and wonderfully illustrated. We can't wait for David's next offering. Are three straight Phildecotts in his future? We'll have to wait and find out.
So that concludes this years Phildecott Awards. Thank you for reading and thanks most of all to the fantastic authors and illustrators that made it such an amazing year for kid's lit. Before we go we'd just like to say that unfortunately we're only two people. We do a lot of reading but inevitably there are great books that slip by us. A great example is last year's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin.
Last year at Steadbery time we were still on our library's waiting list for this title. It more than lived up to the reputation it'd been garnering and we immediately regretted not including it in our 2009 list. So surely there will again be some books that we stumble on too late. So apologies to Grace Lin, and to all the other great bookmakers we've missed and are going to miss. So many books, so little time.
Phil and Erin Stead