Center for Children’s Literature

The Cook Prize

Cook Prize SealPresented for the first time in 2012, the Cook Prize is named in memory of two ground breaking Bank Street educators – Don Cook of the Graduate School of Education, and Michael Cook (no relation) of the School for Children. In naming this award, Bank Street not only honors Michael and Don for their intangible contributions to the world of education, but encourages excellence in publishing informational books on STEM topics for elementary-aged children.

Our Mission

The Cook Prize honors the best science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) picture book for children aged eight to ten. It is the only national children’s choice award honoring a STEM book. The Cook Prize is administered with support from School Library Journal. The award is presented in May.

Design of the Cook Prize Seal

The Cook Prize Ceremony

Thousands of children in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and the United Arab Emirates participated in the voting process. Sadly, this year, the award ceremony scheduled for Thursday, May 14th with keynoter, Sophie Blackall, two time Caldecott winner, was canceled. However, we are delighted to share with you acceptance speeches and videos from the gold medalists and honorees.


Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet
Mario y el agujero en el cielo: Cómo un químico salvó nuestro planeta

(Charlesbridge)
Author: Elizabeth Rusch, Cook Prize 2020. Acceptance Speech (Winner). | May 14, 2020
Elizabeth Rusch, Cook Prize 2020

Mario y el agujero en el cielo: Cómo un químico salvó nuestro planeta
Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet
(Charlesbridge)
Illustrator: Teresa Martínez, Cook Prize 2020. Acceptance Speech (Spanish). | May 14, 2020
Teresa Martínez, Cook Prize 2020

  • 3rd Graders: Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet

    Zachary
    Mario saved the world with chemistry which I think is cool.

    Alex
    Writing: I like how she was talking a lot about science!
    Illustration: I noticed that the pictures were very detailed. I like the picture of Mario doing experiments in the bathroom,

    William
    I think Mario and the Hole in the Sky not only was informing, but it also made me want to know more. There was just enough description for me to understand, and just enough to make me understand the problem at hand.

    3rd Grader
    I selected Mario and the hole in the sky because to me it was engaging and the illustrations matched the text. and I really got inspired by Mario.

    3rd Grader
    I liked this book because of the pictures and I thought it was crazy that nobody believed Mario about the ozone layer disappearing.

Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life
(Sterling Children’s Books)
Author: Laurie Wallmark. Cook Prize 2020. Acceptance Speech (Honor Book). | May 14, 2020
Laurie Wallmark. Cook Prize 2020.

  • 3rd Graders: Hedy Lamarr's Double Life

    Lola
    Writing: I liked how she put a lot of interesting details.
    Illustration: I liked that she really showed how Hedy was beautiful and also a scientist.

    3rd Grader
    It got my vote because: Laurie Wallmark told a very important story about how everybody thought she was this famous celebrity bla bla bla but actually the world would never be the same without her wonderful invention.

    3rd Grader
    Without Hedy, we couldn’t know where we were but because of the GPS that Hedy invented we could find our way when we are lost. So now you know, Hedy was an exceptional and important scientist who invented helpful things.

    3rd Grader
    Can you believe Hedy Lamarr made electronics private and sometimes public! And she even helped the U.S. win in world war 2! Obviously, Hedy Lamarr is an AWESOME inventor!” 3rd grader

    Valis S.
    Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life is absorbing and interesting!

    Cook Prize illustration for Hedy Lamarr's Double Life

  • 4th Graders: Hedy Lamarr's Double Life

    Marlie
    I chose the Hedy Lamarr book because I think she is a really inspiring woman. The author made the book not too boring and I think she explained the hard equations very well so I was able to understand it.

    Ava
    I find it interesting that a movie star was able to do all that scientific stuff and It is still used today.

    Walsh
    It got my vote because: I think It’s very meaningful and descriptive. It’s cool how it tells the story in two perspectives on the same person. Also the illustrations were the best.

Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate
(Millbrook Press: A Division of Lerner Publishing Group.)
Author: Sara Levine, Cook Prize 2020. Acceptance Speech (Honor Book). | May 14, 2020
Sara Levine, Cook Prize 2020

  • Illustrator: Masha D'Yans, Cook Prize 2020. Acceptance Speech (Honor Book) Text

    Masha D’Yans: Acceptance Speech Text

    I’m honored and grateful that Flower Talk is a Cook Prize silver medalist.

    To me, there is no higher compliment than being recognized for a picture book by children. As natural born scientists and artists, kids are in touch with their sense of wonder and are receptive to the magic of nature. While playing, interacting and exploring, they sure notice way more than us grown-ups. I love that this book speaks to them!

    I was attracted to Sara’s manuscript like a bee to a flower. As a child of a physicist who paints and an artist who’s always digging in the dirt, I’ve had a lifelong fascination with both art and science.

    The narrator’s humorously cranky tone immediately evoked the image of a prickly pear in my head. Ever since moving to California, that plant stops me on my walks. Its cartoonish appearance and gorgeous coloring demand to be enjoyed! The bubbly forms covered by expressive needles, each segment having a personality of its own – who better to call our attention to the inter-connectivity of nature and to foster a badly-needed understanding of our environment? Still, it took many tries, eye positions and mouth dashes to get our prickly narrator just right.

    I’m still pinching myself that I got to paint my favorite plants and pollinators in realistic but humorous colors while learning a scientific thing or two in the process. Engaging with a subject in a playful manner is the best way to learn after all!

  • 3rd Graders: Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate

    Ezra B.
    I think Flower Talk is good because it isn’t just funny. It also teaches us stuff. The plant acts as a human, and I like that!

    Josie
    It got my vote because: I think it deserves the Cook Prize because there are so many bright and wonderful colors and it teaches you a lot about plants in a funny way when you are reading it. I really liked how the cactus spoke directly to whoever was reading the book.

    3rd Grader
    It made me feel calm and relaxed because the watercolors are so gentle and the story is kinda funny.

    3rd Grader
    I like the book because me and my father plant tomatoes and other stuff.

    3rd Grader
    The reason I chose flower talk as my favorite book was because the illustrations really gave you a sense of what the book was about because the book was about how the colors of a plant affected the pollinators of the plant and the colors really gave you an example of how the plants actually look.

    3rd Grader
    I selected flower because I really like the point of view the story is told from and the funny language the author used. I also liked the different colors the illustrator used.

  • 4th Grader: Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate

    Leila
    It really explained everything very well, and I learned a lot of new things. The book also was written in a way that made it feel more like a story and less like a report.

Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge
(Roaring Brook Press)
Author: Rachel Dougherty, Cook Prize 2020. Acceptance Speech (Honor Book). | May 14, 2020

  • Author: Rachel Dougherty, Cook Prize 2020. Acceptance Speech (Honor Book) Text

    Rachel Dougherty: Acceptance Speech Text

    It’s such an honor to have Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge selected as a 2020 Cook Prize honor book! It’s been almost five years since I scratched out the first draft that would eventually become this book, and I can’t believe all that I’ve learned, all the places it’s taken me, and all the wonderful readers, teachers, librarians, and booksellers I’ve met along the way.

    I was drawn to this story for two main reasons. The first being that I felt a little cheated that I’d never heard it before. I know I’d learned the name Roebling at some point in school, and the Brooklyn Bridge is a famous enough landmark to be a household name even when you’re from Philadelphia. But I’d never even heard a whisper about Emily. The more I read about her, the more I wanted to tell everyone about her courage and contributions when a challenge as big as the Brooklyn Bridge was dropped in her lap.

    The other main reason I wanted to tell the world this story was to satisfy a sense of curiosity that I had as a kid. I think to some extent we all write and illustrate for the readers we once were, and I’m no exception. As an elementary schooler, I was so hungry to learn how things worked, and finding digestible, interesting books that met that need wasn’t always the easiest. I loved that Secret Engineer gave me the chance to dig in to how bridges work, and let the readers learn that along with Emily. As Emily’s knowledge grew, so did her confidence–which is exactly how I want my readers to feel.

    Thank you to Laurie Abkemeier and Emily Feinberg, who helped me build this book. Thank you to my wife Alyssa for all your support, always. Thank you to Bank Street College, the Cook award committee, and all the curious kids out there who loved Emily’s story–I couldn’t be more thrilled that Secret Engineer made a mark on you.

  • 3rd Graders: Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge

    Zahara
    It got my vote because: I think the book Secret Engineer deserves to win most because it was about a woman character and because the story of her working on a bridge was really interesting. I had learned about bridges in second grade and it was really cool to read a book about her and bridges.

    James B.
    I liked Secret Engineer because it taught me in a really good way and the story way.

    3rd Grader
    I liked it because it really explains about bridges and the Brooklyn Bridge, and even though I already knew about it, I learned more.

    3rd Grader
    I like this book because it shows the drawings from them and it is drawn really well. It made me feel that I could do something like her. 3rd grader

    3rd Grader
    I love to design and create things like Emily.

    Lottie O.

    The Secret Engineer.

2020 Cook Prize Contenders

Flower Talk
Honor Book
Hedy Lamarr's Double Life
Honor Book
Mario and the Hole in the Sky
Winner
Secret Engineer
Honor Book
  • Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate  by Sara Levine; illustrated by Masha D’Yans  (Millbrook Press: A Division of Lerner Publishing Group)
  • Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life by Laurie Wallmark; illustrated by Katy Wu (Sterling Children’s Books)
  • Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet by Elizabeth Rusch; illustrated by Teresa Martínez (Charlesbridge)
  • Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge, by Rachel Dougherty (Roaring Brook Press)

2020 Cook Prize Winner

Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet
by Elizabeth Rusch; illustrated by Teresa Martínez (Charlesbridge)
Spanish edition: Mario y el agujero en el cielo: Cómo un químico salvó nuestro planeta

Honor Books

  • Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate  by Sara Levine; illustrated by Masha D’Yans  (Millbrook Press: A Division of Lerner Publishing Group)
  • Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life by Laurie Wallmark; illustrated by Katy Wu (Sterling Children’s Books)
  • Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge, by Rachel Dougherty (Roaring Brook Press)