More BIG news

No, this isn't the Robin Smith Picture Book Prize announcement that we promised on Monday (that's coming on Friday). We wanted to follow up on our YMA announcement post to scream from the rooftops the fact that Vashti Harrison, illustrator of Caldecott Medal winner Big, is the first Black woman to win the Caldecott. It is a BIG deal, as it were, and here we record with great joy this remarkable milestone.

Recent years have seen a good number of Black male illustrators winning the Caldecott: Jerry Pinkney (The Lion & the Mouse, 2010), Javaka Steptoe (Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, 2017), and Kadir Nelson (The Undefeated, 2020). And, of course, Leo Dillon was the first, sharing the award with his wife, Diane Dillon, for Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions in 1977.

Women of color are slowly gaining more Caldecott recognition. In 2021 with We Are Water Protectors, Michaela Goade became the first-ever non-white woman AND the first Indigenous woman to win the Caldecott. To our memory (please correct us if we've overlooked anything!), only half a dozen or so Black women have received Caldecott Honors: Janelle Washington for Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement, 2023; Cozbi Cabrera (Me & Mama, 2021); Noa Denmon (A Place Inside Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart, 2021); Oge Mora for Thank You, Omu!, 2019; Ekua Holmes for Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, 2016; and Faith Ringgold for Tar Beach, 1992). And now with Vashti's win, another barrier is broken. This is not the only first for Big; as we noted in a previous post, it was also the first picture book to be a finalist for the National Book Award's Young People's Literature Award, no small feat for an award that tends to skew more toward young adult and middle grade books. 

Congratulations again, Vashti! We are thrilled to see these barriers fall.


For more from Vashti herself, here's our Five questions for Vashti Harrison interview about Big.

Julie Hakim Azzam, Kitty Flynn, and Martha V. Parravano

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