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Welcome to the Center for Children’s Books!

The Center for Children’s Books at the School of Information Sciences is a research center with additional interests in education and service.

Our mission is to facilitate the creation and dissemination of exemplary and progressive research and scholarship related to youth-focused resources, literature, and librarianship.


News & Updates

March 23, 2020


Dear Friends of the Center for Children’s Books:

We know that many in our community have been reading young adult dystopian fiction for the past decade. In too many ways, the current moment feels like we are living inside such a novel. But unlike many of the fictional worlds depicted, our own community, here at the CCB and in the iSchool more generally, is strong and connected. We aim to remain that way while we join people worldwide in combating the very real threat of COVID-19.

Because the University has moved to online instruction only through the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year, we have cancelled most previously advertised events, including the Gryphon lecture and CCB Brown Bags. They will be rescheduled for Fall 2020.

We have also cancelled Tuesday morning writing hours at the CCB. Please stay tuned for an alternate way to stay connected to colleagues around research productivity.
Now the good news: despite these cancellations and postponements, I’m pleased to announce that the Brown Bag scheduled for Friday, March 27 is moving forward online. CCB Visiting Scholar Aiping Nie, Ph.D. will present via Zoom a talk titled, “The Ecology of Family in Contemporary Chinese Children’s Fantasy.” We gather between Noon-1, Central; feel free to bring your lunch to your desk as you watch and participate.



Sending strength and warm wishes as you care of yourself, your loved ones, and our shared community.


Sara L. Schwebel

Director, The Center for Children’s Books



Digital Resources for At-Home Learning

Looking for resources for your child’s at-home education during the COVID-19 pandemic? The CCB is here to help. Visit our growing compilation of resources here. Have any suggestions for our list? Email them to ccb@illinois.edu.


2019 Blue Ribbons List

The covers of 2019 Blue Ribbon books

The Bulletin at the Center for Children’s Books has announced the 2019 Blue Ribbons List. In the words of editor Deborah Stevenson, “It was an especially glorious year for history, both fiction and nonfiction, while the picture books offered superb originality. You may not have known you needed a book about the Greek gods and World War I, the birth of food safety laws, or a wolf merchant’s trip to the marketplace, but 2019 proves that we all do.”

An annotated list of the 31 chosen books can be found on the BCCB website.


The 2020 Winner of the Gryphon Award for Children’s Literature.

This Is MY Fort! and What Is Inside THIS Box?, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Olivier Tallec, and published by Scholastic Press, are the winners of the 2020 Gryphon Award for Children’s Literature.

The Gryphon Award, which includes a $1,000 prize, is given annually by The Center for Children’s Books (CCB). This year’s committee was chaired by Clinical Assistant Professor Deborah Stevenson, editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and Kate Quealy-Gainer, assistant editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

The prize is awarded to the author of an outstanding English language work of fiction or nonfiction for which the primary audience is children in kindergarten through fourth grade, and which best exemplifies those qualities that successfully bridge the gap in difficulty between books for reading aloud to children and books for practiced readers. With a core of regular committee members, the award has become a way to contribute to an ongoing conversation about literature for inexperienced readers and to draw attention to the literature that offers, in many different ways, originality, accessibility, and high quality for that audience.

“Who knew you could make brilliant early readers from philosophy and quantum theory?” said Stevenson. “Drew Daywalt, that’s who. He and artist Olivier Tallec take the familiar beginning-reader oddcouple (in this case, a lively monkey and a—no lie—slice of cake) to new places such as Schrödinger’s cat and set theory. The books are witty and ingenious in cutting directly to the concepts via the controlled vocabulary in ways that kids will immediately grasp, making the titles entertaining brain teasers as well as satisfying novice reads. Tallec’s playful, elastic figures have a theatrical dash as they grapple with the question of fort possession and the visibility of cats in closed boxes.”


Three Gryphon Honors also were named:

The Very Impatient Caterpillar (Scholastic) written and illustrated by Ross Burach, is a highly readable (and slyly scientific) early reader; the charmingly goofy protagonist, a young caterpillar exasperated by metamorphosis, will keep kids laughing, while the speech-bubbles and controlled vocabulary will support their own reading transformation.




¡Vamos!: Let’s Go to the Market! (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) written and illustrated by Raúl the Third, follows Lobo and Bernabé as they make their deliveries through the hustle and bustle of the mercado; the stylized artwork, featuring plenty of opportunities for novice readers to flex their skills in both English and Spanish, make this an absolute gem.




Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons (Millbrook) written by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Mercè López, offers a unique take on the haiku format in Salas’ “riddle-ku” poems; coupled with López’s evocative illustrations, this offers readers a chance to hone their literacy skills and their riddle-solving chops.




The Gryphon Award was established in 2004 as a way to focus attention on transitional reading. “Each year, new books redefine and remake this important genre,” Stevenson said, “and we’re grateful for our opportunity to celebrate and identify books that reward youngsters when they’re in that crucial early stage of developing their relationship with reading.”

The award committee consists of members drawn from the youth services faculty of the iSchool, the editorial staff of The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, public and school librarians, and the library and education community at large.

The award is sponsored by the CCB and funded by the CCB’s Gryphon Fund. Income from the fund supports the annual Gryphon Lecture as well as the Gryphon Award for children’s literature.


The 2020 Winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction

Lại, Thanhhà. Butterfly Yellow. Harper, 2019. Gr. 8-12.

It’s 1981, and eighteen-year-old Hằng has arrived in Texas determined to find her younger brother, who’d been babylifted out of Vietnam years earlier. She browbeats kind young LeeRoy into helping her, and together they end up at the ranch where Linh, now known as David, lives happily with his American family and wants nothing to do with his long-lost sister. Hằng is hurt yet unwavering, and she and LeeRoy take jobs at the ranch, leading to a summer where she comes to a different understanding of her brother, lets go of her old dreams of family reconstruction, faces her terrible losses, and readies herself for a different kind of life in America.

The story is tenderly, compellingly personal as it plays out on a small human scale the consequences of America’s complicated relationship with Vietnam. At its heart, though, it’s about character: Hằng’s losses and tragedies are heartbreaking (“Her brother is the only person left from her youth. Grandmother gone, Father gone, Mother gone”) but she is still magnificent in her fierce determination and hugely sympathetic as she impatiently navigates a strange country. Lại is especially clever in her transcription of Hằng’s novice English, using corresponding Vietnamese for the English sounds as she searches for her “bờ-ró-đờ” (brother), vividly conveying the sophisticated poetry lover struggling to wrestle a recalcitrant foreign language into submission. Ultimately, Butterfly Yellow is the deep and rewarding story of a resilient girl who loses her dream yet manages to build a new life; it therefore speaks to refugee experiences present as well as past, and to the enduring human capacity to survive, thrive, and hope.