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2018 Winner


Phillip Hoose

2018 Children’s Book Guild

Nonfiction Award Winner


The Children’s Book Guild of Washington, D.C., selected Phillip Hoose as its 2018 Nonfiction Award Winner. The award, given annually since 1977, honors authors or illustrators whose total work has contributed significantly to the quality of nonfiction for children. Hoose was honored at a Children’s Build Guild Award Luncheon on April 7, 2018, at Clyde's Restaurant of Gallery Place, 707 7th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 

Hoose’s books explore important topics through protagonists whose stories compel readers “to turn to the next page because they want to know what’s going to happen to someone or something they care about,” Hoose told Book Links. His protagonists range from teenagers like Claudette Colvin and Knud Pederson to the tiny red knot bird and the great ivory billed woodpecker. “I like to find stories that have not been told that I think will inspire young readers,” says Hoose.

Hoose has won numerous honors for individual books. Claudette Colvin: Twice toward Justice, the story of an impassioned teenager who refused to give her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, won the National Book Award as well as Newbery and Robert F. Sibert Honor Awards. Hoose won another Robert F. Sibert Honor Award for his most recent title, The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pederson and The Churchill Club, the story of teens who challenged the German occupation of Denmark.

Nonfiction Award Committee member Brenda Randolph was particularly moved by Hoose’s attention to the role of young people as social activists, the focus of We Were There, Too! Young People in U.S. History. The companion book, It’s Our World, Too, introduces readers to 14 children working for social causes and includes a handbook for modern-day young activists.

“One of the things I most admire in Phillip Hoose’s work is the extent to which he’ll go to leave no stone unturned when conducting the scholarly research that informs his writing,” said Nonfiction Award Committee member Lulu Delacre. Hoose spent six years researching and writing We Were There, Too! After several more years patiently waiting for Claudette Colvin and Knud Pederson to agree, Hoose conducted hours and days of interviews with each one.

“Hoose infuses his narrative nonfiction with the imagination and courage of young people making a difference,” says Nonfiction Award Committee chair Karen Leggett. “He transforms challenging issues like extinction and civil rights into stories that engage young readers.” He meets the highest standards in nonfiction literature for children.

2018 Nonfiction Award Celebration

(Photos by Rosalyn Schanzer)

“I am so awed by librarians…The smartest people in the world are teachers and librarians,” Phillip Hoose told the Children’s Book Guild audience gathered to honor him with the 2018 Nonfiction Award.  He praised his tenth grade English teacher Grace Hine, whose encouragement he remembers decades later.   He also remembers doing his extensive, scholarly research with card catalogs in the library and interviews on cassette tapes.

During the April 7 Award Celebration at Clyde’s Gallery Place in Washington, D.C., Hoose shared the backstory of his books, including the selection of young people who worked for positive change at different scales – from family to the world -  in It’s Our World Too. He often waited a long time to find just the right story.  He wanted to tell a civil rights story from a young person’s point of view, but had to wait four years for Claudette Colvin to agree to talk about her decision as a teenager to stay in her seat in a Montgomery, Alabama, bus.  Colvin and Hoose finally met in New York and talked for the whole day. Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice is the only nonfiction book that has ever won the National Book Award.  “She took an heroic stand and she was only fifteen-sixteen years old,” noted Hoose. “She still hears the clinking of the key in the jail cell.”

He also wanted a single bird to help tell the story of extinction and survival. He chose the ivory-billed woodpecker (The Race to Save the Lord God Bird) and the tiny red knot that has flown the distance to the moon and halfway back in its annual migration, including a critical feeding stop in Delaware Bay (Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95).  Joined by his wife Sandi on mandolin, Hoose roused the crowd into shouting the tiny bird’s refrain, “We Need Eggs!”

Hoose also shared an endearing musical rendition of Hey, Little Ant, the song he wrote with his young daughter Hannah about a conversation between a Kid about to squish an Ant, and the Ant. The song became his first book in 1998 and it has now sold 11 million copies worldwide!

Just as important as writing in Hoose’s life has been the Children’s Music Network, where Hey Little Ant is praised as a song that “blazed trails by raising issues of bullying and helping children develop compassion for the underdog and respect for all life.” The Children’s Music Network was born in the 1980s when folk singers like Hoose, Pete Seeger and others “took young people seriously yet had plenty of goofy humor.”

At a time when young people are in the forefront of the national discourse especially on gun violence, Hoose said, “I believe kids are powerful. They have made contributions to history that have been overlooked.”  His books work hard to correct that, including the newest one to be published in Fall 2018, ATTUCKS! Oscar Robertson and the Basketball Team that Awakened a City, about basketball in segregated Indianapolis in the 1950s – more examples of “young people who had sacrificed in various ways for racial justice.”

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