Johnny's Pheasant, written by Cheryl Minnema and illustrated by
Julie Flett, is the winner of the twenty-third annual Charlotte
Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a picture book. The award
is given by the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC), a library
of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Johnny's Pheasant was edited by Erik Anderson, and published in
the United States in 2019 by the University of Minnesota Press.
This gorgeous, graceful story about a Native family, written by
an Ojibwe author and illustrated by a Cree-Métis artist,
centers on small moments of surprise. When Johnny urges his grandma
to pull over for a "small feathery hump" near the ditch, they discover
it's a pheasant. Johnny's certain it's sleeping. Grandma guesses
it was hit by a car, but she can use the feathers in her craftwork.
With a "Hoot! Hoot!" from both boy and bird, this perfectly paced
narrative offers humor, wonder, warmth, and a child-centered sensibility.
The 2020 Zolotow Award committee named five Honor Books:
- Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story, written by Kevin
Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, edited by
Connie Hsu, and published by Roaring Brook Press, appeals to the
senses while celebrating complex cultural concepts centering on
a food of many Native American tribal nations;
- A Map into the World, written by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated
by Seo Kim, edited by Carol Hinz, and published by Carolrhoda
Books, quietly tracks a year in the life of a Hmong American girl
observing changes small and large at home and in her neighborhood;
- Pokko and the Drum, written and illustrated by Matthew Forsythe,
edited by Paula Wiseman, and published by Paula Wiseman Books,
an imprint of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, uses
sublime pacing to capture the mounting exuberance and rising volume
triggered when frog parents gift their daughter with a drum; Saturday,
written and illustrated by Oge Mora, edited by Andrea Spooner,
and published by Little, Brown and Company, celebrates the resilience
of a mother and daughter who support each other through disappointments
and confirm that time spent together ultimately defines the day's
- Truman, written by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins,
edited by Alexa Pastor, and published by Atheneum Books, an imprint
of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, which
chronicles the herculean efforts of a small tortoise determined
to be reunited with his beloved human.
The 2020 Zolotow Award committee also cited seven titles as Highly
- Beware of the Crocodile written by Martin Jenkins, illustrated
by Satoshi Kitamura (U.S. edition: Candlewick Press);
- Daniel's Good Day written and illustrated by Micha Archer (Nancy
Paulsen Books / Penguin Random House);
- Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! written and illustrated by Cori
Doerrfeld (Dial Books / Penguin Random House);
- My Papi Has a Motorcycle written by Isabel Quintero, illustrated
by Zeke Peña (Kokila / Penguin Random House);
- One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller written and illustrated by
Kate Read (Peachtree);
- Small in the City written and illustrated by Sydney Smith (Neal
Porter Books / Holiday House); and
- The Thing about Bees: A Love Letter written and illustrated
by Shabazz Larkin (Readers to Eaters).
Established in 1998, the Charlotte Zolotow Award honors the work
of Charlotte Zolotow, a distinguished children's book editor for
38 years with Harper Junior Books, and author of more than 70 picture
books, including such classic works as Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely
Present (Harper, 1962) and William's Doll (Harper, 1972). Ms. Zolotow
attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison on a writing scholarship
from 1933 to 1936, where she studied with Professor Helen C. White.
Ms. Zolotow died in November, 2013, at the age of 98.
The award is given annually for outstanding writing in a picture
book for children in the birth-through-seven age range published
in the United States in the preceding year. The 2020 award will
be given at an award ceremony in Madison at a date to be determined.
Members of the 2020 Zolotow Award committee were: Merri Lindgren,
chair (Librarian, Cooperative Children's Book Center, Madison, Wisconsin);
Shannon Furman (School Librarian, Lake View Elementary School, Madison,
Wisconsin); Kelsey Johnson-Kaiser (Youth Services Manager, St. Paul
Public Library, St. Paul, Minnesota); Bridget Nolan (Kindergarten
Teacher, Paul J. Olson Elementary School, Verona, Wisconsin); and
Jeni Schomber (Head of Library Services, Beloit Public Library,
The Cooperative Children's Book Center is a noncirculating library
for adults with a professional, career or academic interest in children's
and young adult literature. The Friends of the CCBC, Inc., cosponsors
of the award event, is a nonprofit organization offering lectures,
book sales and other benefits for members, in addition to supporting
the work of the Cooperative Children's Book Center.