March 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Bank Street CCL Announces Irma Black Award, Cook Prize Finalists

New York’s Bank Street Center for Children’s Literature (CCL) has announced the finalists for its Irma Black Award for the best read-aloud picture book for first and second grade, and the finalists for its Cook Prize for the best picture book that teaches science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) principles. Both winners will be determined by students from around the world.

To encourage participation in the process, CCL is offering suggested discussion guidelines for use in hosting your own picture-book talks, plus an easy online registration form to sign up to be part of the voting. The deadline for all ballots is April 15.

CCL is also inviting children to create their own clever campaigns in order to lobby for their favorite Irma Black Award and Cook Prize candidates, according to Jennifer M. Brown, CCL’s interim director. “Please feel free to send us photos of your students’ posters, murals, bookmarks, and campaign speeches,” she says. She can be contacted via

The 2013 Irma Black Award
The four picture book finalists chosen for the Irma Simonton Black and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature are:

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. Mo Willems. HarperCollins.

This Is Not My Hat. Jon Klassen. Candlewick.

Big Mean Mike. Michelle Knudsen. Illus. by Scott Magoon. Candlewick.

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? Mo Willems. Hyperion (Disney).

The finalists were chosen by third- and fourth-graders at the Bank Street School for Children from a pool of 16 read-aloud books chosen by a jury of teachers, librarians, reviewers, graduate faculty, Bank Street College alumni, and members of the Bank Street Children’s Book Committee.

The students spent a month—one week each with rotating sets of four books—working together with their teacher to vote for their favorite book each week, then met with interim children’s librarian Allie Bruce to discuss the 8 books with the most votes and choose the finalists.

Through these discussions, the students helped each other become sophisticated picture book evaluators, as evidenced by a talk about Jon Klassen’s This Is Not My Hat, Bruce tells SLJ. As she notes, one student observed, “The words are the fish telling you a story, but if you look at the pictures, everything he’s telling you is wrong,” while another student added, “That’s how the words and pictures work together!”

Irma Black Award suggested discussion guidelines for first- and second-grade students can be found here, and schools can be registered to vote on the finalists here.

The Irma Black Award was established in 1972 to honor Irma Simonton Black, author, educator and long-time faculty member at Bank Street College of Education.

The 2013 Cook Prize
The five finalists chosen for the Cook Prize for the best picture book that teaches STEM principles for third- and fourth-graders are:

How Many Jelly Beans? Andrea Menotti. Illus. by Yancey Labat. Chronicle.

Timeless Thomas: How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives. Gene Barretta. Macmillan.

Infinity and Me. Kate Hosford. Illus. by Gabi Swiatkowska. Carolrhoda

Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas. Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm. Illus. by Molly Bang. Scholastic.

Busy Builders. Roxie Munro. Marshall Cavendish.

The finalists were chosen by a jury composed of two graduate faculty at Bank Street College of Education, two teachers in the Bank Street School for Children, and two distinguished alumni from the Bank Street College of Education.

Cook Prize suggested discussion guidelines for third- and fourth-grade students can be found here, and schools can be registered to vote on the finalists here.

The Cook Prize was established in 2012, in honor of two ground-breaking Bank Street educators—Don Cook of the Graduate School of Education, and Michael Cook (no relation) of the School for Children.

In naming this award “The Cook Prize,” Bank Street not only honors Michael and Don for their intangible contributions to the world of education, but encourages excellence in publishing informational books on STEM topics for elementary-aged children, Brown says.

Karyn M. Peterson About Karyn M. Peterson

Karyn M. Peterson ( is a former News Editor ofSLJ.



  1. Thanks for this list . So many incredible reads and worthy of the awards.