Center for Children’s Literature

Irma Black Award

The Irma Simonton Black and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature (Irma Black Award) goes to an outstanding book for young children—a book in which text and illustrations are inseparable, each enhancing and enlarging on the other to produce a singular whole. The Irma Black Award is unusual in that children are the final judges of the winning book.

Irma Black Award Ceremony

Thousands of children in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and the United Arab Emirates will participate in the voting process in 2021. Because of the ongoing pandemic, the award ceremony scheduled for Thursday, May 13, 2021 with keynoter, Sophie Blackall, two time Caldecott winner, has been canceled. However, we will be sharing videos from the gold medalists and honorees on this page later in May.

To learn more about the 2021 Irma Black Award read this School Library Journal article “Cat Dog Dog” Wins Irma Black Award.

A Comment About All of the Books From a First Grader

Upon announcement, of the award, our room erupted in cheers and applause! One child saying…”It took a long time to figure that out, but I guess it was because there were TOO many good books to choose from. If there was only one good one it would have been easy!


2021 Irma Black Award Contenders


Honor Book

Winner

Honor Book

Honor Book
  • Bread for Words: A Frederick Douglass Story by Shana Keller, illustrated by Kayla Stark (Sleeping Bear Press)
  • Cat Dog Dog: The Story of a Blended Family  by Nelly Buchet, illustrated by Andrea Zuill  (Schwartz & Wade)
  • Nana Akua Goes to School  by Tricia Elam Walker, illustrated by April Harrison (Schwartz & Wade)
  • Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Luisa Uribe (Innovation Press)

Cat Dog Dog: The Story of a Blended Family
Author Nelly Buchet; illustrator Andrea Zuill, Irma Black Award 2021. | June, 2021

  • 1st & 2nd Graders: Cat Dog Dog: The Story of a Blended Family

    Cade
    Because it was silly and fun. I liked how they all made friends.

    Charlotte
    It taught me that change can sometimes be annoying and sometimes fun.

    Hailey
    I think the book is very funny, like at the end after the dog, cat, and other dog finally get along, the baby emerges from its evil den.

    Bella
    I am voting for Cat Dog Dog because when they hurt themselves they are there for each other and are friends.

Nana Akua Goes to School
Author Tricia Elam Walker; illustrator April Harrison, Irma Black Award 2021. | June, 2021

  • 2nd Graders: Nana Akua Goes to School

    I liked the story generally because it combined confidence and no fear.

    I liked the story a lot because before the girl was listening to what other people were saying, but at the end of the story she learned that it was okay not to.

    I liked the book because it showed a lot of about religion (culture) and it showed that it doesn’t matter if your culture does things a different way and that’s OK.

    I think the author’s message is don’t judge people from the way they look.

    I loved it because it had a good lesson – even if your tradition is a bit weird it’s still a good tradition.

    I can relate to the story because I have a loved one from another country and who speaks another language.

    I loved the illustrations; it showed all the symbols and their meanings and that was cool.

    I liked the illustrations a lot because I love collage.

Your Name Is a Song
Author Jamilah Thompson-Bigelow; illustrator Luisa Uribe, Irma Black Award 2021. | June, 2021

  • 1st & 2nd Graders: Your Name Is a Song

    Mason
    I like this story because the names are musical and the pictures go perfect with the book.

    Malana
    I liked Your Name Is A Song because of the illustrations.  The pictures were so good because they matched the words perfectly and they were good expressions. I also liked the book because it tells me everyone’s name is a song which means to me that your name is beautiful even if someone can’t pronounce your name.  It’s still beautiful no matter what.

    Andrew
    I like the book because when the people couldn’t say the girl’s name then she sang her name and other people asked for her to sing their name and so she did. What I loved about the picture is when the girl is walking home and the mom is talking about the names.  I like the words in cursive words behind them.

    Mithaai
    I am voting for Your Name is a Song because the story sounds like love in the air and every one learns the girl’s name.

    Mason
    I am voting for Your Name is a Song because it teaches us that even though a name might sound made up you can still make it a song.

    Naina
    I am voting for Your Name is a Song.  When I read this story I noticed that it taught me to never give up on telling people something important like your name.

Bread for Words: A Frederick Douglass Story
Author Shana Keller; illustrator Kayla Stark, Irma Black Award 2021. | June, 2021

  • 1st & 2nd Graders: Bread for Words: A Frederick Douglass Story

    Zach
    The words go so good together. If I tried to separate them it is like separating peanut butter from jelly in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

    Madison
    I love Bread For Words because it tells me he never gave up trying to learn.  He had passion, courage, and confidence.  In the illustrations you can tell what the characters are doing.  From

    Avery
    I chose this book because of his curiosity. I like that he helps others who don’t have food.

    Deniz, Sophia, & Aaradha
    I voted for Bread for Words because I felt emotional about what happened to Freddy. I learned that slavery is bad but Freddy was desperate to learn to read and write no matter what.

2021 Irma Black Award Winner

Cat Dog Dog: The Story of a Blended Family
by Nelly Buchet, illustrated by Andrea Zuill (Schwartz & Wade)

Honor Books

  • Bread for Words: A Frederick Douglass Story by Shana Keller, illustrated by Kayla Stark (Sleeping Bear Press)
  • Nana Akua Goes to School  by Tricia Elam Walker, illustrated by April Harrison (Schwartz & Wade)
  • Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Luisa Uribe (Innovation Press)