Any living American author or author-illustrator. Illustrators are eligible if they have written, as well as illustrated, their books.
Guild members suggest authors for consideration by June of the year preceding the award announcement; the committee meets to choose a number of possibilities for extensive summer reading. The list of possible candidates is narrowed in the fall, followed by additional reading and a meeting to choose the award recipient from these nominees. The Committee does not encourage specific submissions for this award.
The Award Committee accepts any suggestions from the Guild membership but functions independently in determining each year's honoree. The Committee includes four active Guild members, who are designated as chair, immediate past chair, and two at-large, including at least one author or author-illustrator and at least one member who has had extensive experience working with children. A fifth member may be appointed by the Washington Post. The chair of the Committee will have served on the Committee for one year before assuming leadership and will be willing to remain as advisor following the term, in the capacity of immediate past president. The chair is appointed by the Guild president in collaboration with the current chair. Members-at-large are selected by the president.
Until 2007, the award was presented at the Children's Book Guild Luncheon which was held annually to coincide as nearly as possible with Children's Book Week in November. The award is jointly presented by the Award Committee chair and a representative of the Washington Post. The Award winner is asked to give a 30-40 minute presentation on a topic of his or her own choosing. In 2008, the Guild inaugurated a new tradition with an Award Celebration and reception in April.
- Distinguished writing and illustration.
- Clarity and accuracy, as well as literary distinction in writing, and in the case of author-illustrators, excellence in artistic presentation in illustration that enhances or augments the total presentation
- Stimulating presentation of ideas and facts that is likely to stimulate and challenge young readers
- Reader appeal is defined as lively writing and illustration leading to pleasure, curiosity, a sense of wonder, and further pursuit of knowledge by all readers
- Quantity is defined as a substantial body of published work of consistently high quality. The award may be given after a period of ten years for a second time to someone whose work continues to lead in the field.
- In addition to these specific criteria, the Committee endeavors to honor many fields of knowledge. The Committee also seeks a balance in honoring writers of books for different age levels. The award may honor authors whose work has not received extensive critical attention. In rare instances, the award may be given after a period of ten years for a second time to someone whose work continues to lead the field.
- The Award Committee is wholly responsible for the selection of the winner.