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The Children's Literature Legacy Award honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a significant and lasting contribution to children's literature through books that demonstrate integrity and respect for all children's lives and experiences.

Kevin Henkes wins 2020 Children's Literature Legacy Award

Kevin Henkes is the winner of the 2020 Children’s Literature Legacy Award honoring an author or illustrator, published in the United States, whose books have made a significant and lasting contribution to literature for children. His numerous works include “Julius, the Baby of the World” (Greenwillow Books, 1990), “Olive’s Ocean” (Greenwillow Books, 2003), and “Waiting” (Greenwillow Books, 2015).

“An artist and author at the top of his craft, Henkes gives us a legacy of work full of honest emotion and insight, warm and gentle humor, and playful, nuanced illustrations,” said Children’s Literature Legacy Award Committee Chair Dr. Sylvia Vardell.

Growing up in Racine, Wisconsin, in a family of five children, Henkes wanted to be an artist from a very young age. At 19, he traveled to New York City to get his first book published. Fast forward forty years, he has now written and illustrated more than 50 books for children, including collaborations with other artists and authors.

Kevin Henkes’s award-winning works include “Kitten’s First Full Moon” which won the Caldecott Award in 2005 and “The Year of Billy Miller,” recipient of a Newbery Honor in 2014. In addition, Henkes has received two Geisel honors, two Caldecott honors, and a second Newbery honor.

Inspired by his family and the neighborhood where he grew up, Henkes approaches challenging subjects with grace, sensitivity, and hopefulness. From joyful picture books, to engaging early chapter books, to thought-provoking novels, his work spans many formats and demonstrates a distinct and evolving style. His illustrations are fresh and imaginative and reflect a care for book design and respect for the child reader.

Amongst his notable works is “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” (Greenwillow Books, 1996) which has been beloved by children for more than twenty years. Henkes captures the emotional highs and lows of young readers from the joys of sharing a prized colorful accessory to the frustrations of disappointing a favorite teacher.

Members of the 2020 Children’s Literature Legacy Award Committee are Chair Dr. Sylvia M. Vardell, Texas Woman's University, Denton; Lucía Acosta, Princeton, N.J.; Dr. Rob Bittner, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.; Louise Lareau, New York Public Library; and Jessica Hilbun Schwartz, Louisville (CO) Public Library.