Cook Prize and Irma Black Award Announced

The Bank Street Center for Children's Literature announced its annual awards chosen by young readers.

The Bank Street Center for Children’s Literature announced this year’s winners of the annual Cook Prize and Irma Black Award.

The 2019 Cook Prize went to Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker; illustrated by Dow Phumiruk. The Cook Prize is awarded to the best STEM picture book for 8 to 10 year olds and selected by children. It is the only national children’s choice award honoring a STEM title.

“Counting on Katherine— the story of Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who worked for NASA during the space race—is beautifully illustrated with a compelling narrative,” said Robin Hummel, 2019 Cook Prize judge and professor of math education at Bank Street. “The book will encourage all children to see their future as mathematicians.”

Cook Prize honorees were:

Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones by Sara Levine, illustrated by T.S. Spookytooth

If Polar Bears Disappeared by Lily Williams

Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie German by Cheryl Bardoe; illustrated by Barbara McClintock

The Irma Simonton Black and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature (Irma Black Award) was given to We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins. The honor goes to “an outstanding book for young children—a book in which text and illustrations are inseparable, each enhancing and enlarging on the other to produce a singular whole.”

“Children related to the message of kindness—as well as the abundant humor—in We Don't Eat our Classmates,” said Jenny Brown, interim librarian at Bank Street.

"Think before you act," one child said, in praise of the book's theme.

Another said, "It teaches people good lessons. Just because Penelope is a dinosaur, doesn't mean you can't be friends."

The Irma S. Black honorees were:

Stumpkin by Lucy Ruth Cummins

Sun! One in a Billion by Stacy McAnulty, illus. by Stevie Lewis

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee

“It was a very strong year for contenders of the Irma Black Award with a mix of funny books, informational books, and weighty messages delivered with humor and levity,” Brown said.

BankStreetCenterChildren'sLiteratureMore than 11,000 school children across the United States, the Virgin Islands, Canada, Europe, Asia and the UAE participated in the voting for the two awards.

“We are so pleased to offer these two wonderful awards,” said Center for Children’s Literature director Cynthia Weill. “We are especially proud that children are the judges. Such a child centered approach is at the core of Bank Street philosophy. Participating helps children to acquire knowledge and learn life skills, become more adept observers and improve public speaking in a thoroughly enjoyable way.”

All winners and honorees will be celebrated in at the Thursday, May 16 10 a.m. awards ceremony at Bank Street College of Education in Manhattan where Brian Floca, author and illustrator of Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 will be the keynote speaker. The event is open to the public and will be livestreamed by KidLit TV.


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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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