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2020-2021 Winner

The Children's Book Guild 2021 Nonfiction Award Winner

Catherine Reef

C Reef Books2.png
C Reef Books.png

The Children's Book Guild Nonfiction Award was held on May 22, 2021 at 1PM EST via Zoom, and featured a talk by awardee, Catherine Reef, as well as a dramatic monologue performed by Brooklyn-based classical actor Esther Williamson, who appeared as Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein and one of Reef’s biography subjects. The Guild also shared members’ most recent books and announced the recipients of the past year’s Children's Book Guild DC-Metro Youth Literacy Grants.


The event was free and open to the public. Donations were accepted to help support the 2021-2022 Children's Book Guild DC-Metro Youth Literacy Grants.

About Catherine Reef

Through dozens of nonfiction books for young adults and middle school students, Ms. Reef has produced a body of distinguished and award-winning work, notable for impeccable research, insightful interpretations, and writing that keeps readers engaged.

Catherine Reef’s biographies offer an in-depth study of legendary figures who represent different eras and fields of endeavor such as Queen Victoria, Frida and Diego, and Sigmund Freud. Ms. Reef’s carefully hewn character portrayals are evident in all her biographies.  Her ability to weave intricate research into a compelling narrative keeps youthful readers involved in the lives of authors such as E.E. Cummings and Ernest Hemingway.  Her historical studies mainly cover topics in African American history: Buffalo Soldiers, Black Explorers, Civil War Soldiers, Africans in America, and the resettlement of African Americans in Liberia.

Twenty-one of her books written from 1996 to 2018 have all received significant distinctions. For example, her 2018 publication Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator, received the Junior Library Guild Selection 2018; NOBLE Book Award for Young Adult Nonfiction, 2018; YALSA’s Excellence in Nonfiction, 2019; Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices, 2019; and Bank Street College’s Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2019.  The number of books honored show Catherine Reef to be a prolific writer who produces highly regarded works.  Her newest book is Sarah Bernhardt: The Divine and Dazzling Life of the World’s First Superstar which will become available in June of 2020.


Nonfiction Award Committee members Liane Rosenblatt, Winifred Conkling, and Rashin Kheiriyeh, and adviser Maria Salvadore marveled at Catherine Reef’s ability to hook readers early and place characters in complex emotional and political contexts. Many thanks to them for their spirited discussions about Ms. Reef’s books.

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