Kevin Henkes wins 2020 Children’s Literature Legacy Award

For Immediate Release
Mon, 01/27/2020


Communications and Marketing Office

ALA Media Relations


PHILADELPHIA – 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).

The award was announced today, during the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Philadelphia. The award is administered annually by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the ALA.

“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 (C.O.) Public Library.

ALSC is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children. With a network of more than 4,000 children’s and youth librarians, literature experts, publishers, and educational faculty, ALSC members are committed to engaging communities to build healthy, successful futures for all children. To learn more about ALSC, visit their website at

For more information on the Children’s Literature Legacy Award and other ALA literary awards, please visit