On September 29, supporters of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and members of the children’s book community gathered in New York City to celebrate the 16th Annual Carle Honors Awards in person for the first time since 2019. The museum in Amherst, Mass., was presented by the renowned illustrator Eric Carle and his wife Barbara to promote picture books internationally. Carle died in 2021 at the age of 91 and Barbara, known as Bobbie, died in 2015.
This year’s Carle Honors was co-chaired by author Suzanne Collins and her husband Charles Pryor, who were unable to attend in person. The awards fall into four categories, including Artists for Impactful Illustrators; mentor, honoring librarians, editors and others who work behind the scenes; Angel, for those who inspire readers, artists and writers; and Bridge for translators, organizations, critics, scholars and media professionals, bringing readers and books together and promoting understanding of the picture book medium.
Museum Trustee and children’s book historian Leonard S. Marcus chaired the honors portion of the event. “The children’s book world is not short of prizes and awards,” he said. “But the Carle Honors are, in my opinion, the only ones designed to recognize the far-flung community of gifted and generous people and organizations who collectively do the vital work of creating the best children’s books and making them available to the children in need She.”
The 2022 award winners were introduced by the Carle Museum’s Chief Curator, Ellen Keiter. Honored mentors were Wade and Cheryl Hudson, authors and founders of Just Us Books. The Hudsons founded Just Us in 1988 to address a lack of children’s books that reflected the history, culture, and life experiences of black children. Cheryl wrote the first book of the press and provided opportunities for other black creators who went on to have distinguished careers, including Sharon M. Draper and Kelly Starling Lyons. Accepting the award, Cheryl Hudson said, “Good books make a difference. We hope that by working as a mentor to writers and illustrators and others in the industry, we have accomplished just that.” Wade Hudson emphasized the importance of black creators being able to tell their own stories.
Translator, author and children’s book advocate Ajia (阿甲) was honored in the Bridge category. The translator of more than 200 picture books from English into Chinese (incl good night moon, Where the wild things are, and the Peter Rabbit books) Ajia swapped his legal career for translating and writing picture books. He said after his daughter was born, his quest for the best books to read to her changed his life. Picture books give children “a kind of power” to learn about the world before they can read themselves, he said, adding that children’s books have “extraordinary value” not only for children but also for adults. “Children’s books can help change the world,” he added. At the ceremony, he said: “When translating more than 200 titles, what impresses me is not how different we are, but how similar we are. That’s a nice secret. I feel blessed to be able to share this secret with children and adults. I love being a bridge.”
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library was honored in the Angel category. Founded in 1995, the organization gives away more than 1.8 million books internationally each month by mailing books directly to children, and has given away more than 180 million books since its inception. Executive Director Jeff Conyers said the organization is reaching one in 10 children under the age of five in the United States and aims to increase that number. The library was inspired by Parton’s father, who had no opportunity for an education. Conyers cited Parton’s “appreciation” contained in the 50th-Anniversary edition of the very Hungry Caterpillar. “Every child should hear, see and touch such books the very Hungry Caterpillar. That’s when children’s dreams are born.” Speaking of the children’s book community, Conyers said, “What we all do is special. To everyone involved in the creation and delivery of children’s picture books, you matter and we are grateful.”
Finally, the artist honoree was 91-year-old Faith Ringgold, a painter, mixed-media sculptor, teacher, lecturer, and activist. Ringgold first book for children, tar beach, won more than 20 awards including the 1991 Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award. She then created another 17 children’s books. Introducing the award, Coretta Scott King Award-winning author and illustrator Bryan Collier gave a stirring tribute to Ringgold and her career, calling her “a world changer.” Ringgold was unable to attend, but her agent Marie Brown accepted on her behalf, calling Ringgold “a beacon of peace”. Brown delivered a message from Ringgold: “Children have always been an inspiration to me. You have such freedom of speech. They’re the main reason I made my books.” She added, “Remember, anyone can fly.”
In addition to the awards, the event featured an auction of works donated by renowned children’s illustrators including Jon Agee, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Ekua Holmes, Ying-Hwa Hu and Cornelius van Wright, Thao Lam, David McPhail, Faith Ringgold, Susan L Roth, Maurice Sendak, Mo Willems, and Eric Carle himself.
Carle has written and illustrated more than 70 children’s books in his lifetime. In 2002 he and his wife Barbara opened the museum to collect, preserve and exhibit children’s book illustrations and to encourage guests of all ages to read and create art. Since then, the museum has developed a collection of more than 11,000 objects, including 7,300 works in its permanent collection. The museum includes three art galleries, an art studio, a theater, a picture book, and academic libraries. Nearly a million guests have visited the Carle Museum since it opened, and its traveling exhibitions have been hosted by museums around the world. “Eric and Bobbie loved the Carle Honors and felt it was a great privilege to earn children’s books to make a living,” said Alex Kennedy, the museum’s executive director. Through the honors, the museum is continuing its legacy, she added.