On Friday, Hollins University, here in Virginia, announced that my picture book, Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away, has won the 2021 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature. The honor book this year is Christian Robinson’s You Matter (Atheneum 2020). I’m delighted to be honored with Christian whose work I so admire. And I am so grateful to the many friends and colleagues who sent sweet messages my way as soon as they saw the news on social media.
Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away has enjoyed success beyond what I could have ever predicted – which goes to prove that, in publishing, your career includes so many things that you can’t control. I wrote the book remembering my childhood friends, and I was sure it would be turn out to be a quiet book that would resonate with a core of readers. What I didn’t know, of course, was that Covid 19 would upend our lives and make us long for our loved ones in new ways. I didn’t know that kids might need an emotional roadmap on how to stay connected with friends. I didn’t know that Jumpstart’s “Read for the Record” would come along and bring the story to millions of kids.
The medal is a beautiful honor also because it’s named for Margaret Wise Brown, who graduated from Hollins in 1932, and went on to write Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and other children’s classics before she died suddenly, doing a can-can kick that caused an embolism, at age 42. By that time, she had already written over a hundred books, several of which would go on to sell millions of copies the world over. I’ll bet you own one of her books, gifted one, or had one read to you as a child.
Interestingly, her personal life was very different from the gentle voice we’ve come to associate with her books. She was a financially privileged woman, athletic and adventurous. Her background is as different from mine as you could possibly imagine. Let’s not even point to the fact that I’ve written a modest nine books, nothing compared to her prolific stack.
Yet, here we are, somehow intersecting over the heart of children and what we believe books should do for them.
You can read about children’s writing and illustration programs at Hollins University here. And you can read about Margaret Wise Brown in three books that I know of, including Leonard Marcus‘s pretty definitive biography. Thank you, Hollins, and congratulations, Christian. I look forward to the ceremony in July.