Michigan Children'S Books
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Award-Winning Children’s Books by Michigan Authors and Artists

When you think of talented Michiganders it’s easy to think BIG names like actor Tim Allen, singer-songwriter Madonna, athlete Justin Verlander – wait, the face of the Detroit Tigers for over a decade is not from Michigan?!

Well, between him being a team player for so long AND his marrying a Michigan girl, Kate Upton, I say we can claim him. This is all beside the point…

Yes, we’ve got it all; comedy, vocals, athleticism (I mean, Kate Upton was on the cover of Sports Illustrated). Best of all and lesser thought of for some reason, we have GENIUS! Yes, we have Michiganders out there creating award-winning books.

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A Sick Day for Amos McGee, 2010

This article will be focusing on award-winning children’s books, no less, because we are skilled AND care about the minds of little ones. Talk about heart!

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By the way, Kristen Bell is from MI!

First, A Brief Lesson

Let’s go over the awards that honored these talented Michigan authors and/or artists.

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The Caldecott Medal

Named for nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

The Newbery Medal

Named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the ALSC, a division of the ALA, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

The Christopher Award

Presented by a Christian organization to the producers, directors, and writers of books, films, and television specials that proclaim elevated values of the human essence.

Golden Kite Award

The only children’s literary award judged by a jury of peers (the only group that matters, am I right?). More than 1,000 books are entered each year.

These awards recognize excellence in children’s literature in seven categories and the Michigan author/artist featured next received TWO Golden Kite Awards in TWO different categories!

Robert Sabuda from Pinckney, MI

I won’t be including a picture of all the award winners, but c’mon, look how cute he is!

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The Paper Dragon, 1997; Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Illustration
The Christmas Alphabet, 1994; Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Text

Sabuda is a children’s pop-up book artist and paper engineer whose work is INCREDIBLE. While the two books listed above are exemplary, I personally treasure his more recent book that retells the story of Alice in Wonderland.

A word of warning, Sabuda’s work is so beautiful and ingenious that you may not want to allow your kid(s) unbridled access to these books! I choose to keep them on a high shelf safe from my toddler’s wild, and sometimes sticky, hands. Call it what you will, but I consider this to be art preservation.

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The Christmas Alphabet, 1994

Chris Van Allsburg from Grand Rapids, MI

Jumanji, 1981; Caldecott Medal
The Polar Express, 1985; Caldecott Medal

Many have seen these works as successful motion pictures but I wonder how many have read the books? Admittedly, I saw the movies first (Love them! Also, Jumanji star, Robin Williams, had some ties to Michigan! Check it!) and only recently discovered their origins were from children’s literature.

On top of that, to find these storybooks were created by a Michigan man was, honestly, almost too much for me!

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Jumanji, 1981

I was excited to physically hold the books in my hands and be able to share these stories with my kiddos who are too young yet to see their more intense counterparts. It was fascinating to see how the books inspired the films.

Allsburg was awarded for the remarkable illustrations in Jumanji and The Polar Express, but he also penned the words and they truly are a joy to read.

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The Polar Express, 1985: Fun fact, the train in the animated film is based on Michigan’s Pere Marquette 1225 located in Owosso, MI!

David Small from Detroit, MI

The Gardener, 1997; Caldecott Honor, Christopher Award

Which is Small’s greater accomplishment; a Caldecott Medal, two Caldecott Honors, and a Christopher Award, or converting a Texan to a Michiganian? That’s a tough one!

Small is a writer and illustrator who married Sarah Stewart, a Texas-grown author of children’s books, one of those books being The Gardener – pause for another AWW moment!

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Bell is married to a Michigan man, too! Dax Shepard!

Don’t you just love a husband and wife team? They celebrated 41 years of marriage last fall and currently reside in Mendon, MI. For those of you who might doubt a Texas gal becoming a Michigan girl, I’ll have you know Stewart is a recipient of the Michigan Author’s Award for overall literary merit! Her conversion is legit.

Now, back to The Gardener. Set in the depression era, a young girl must leave her rural home to stay with a relative in the city while her parents find their financial footing. The girl is an avid gardener thanks to her grandmother’s mentorship. During her stay in the bleak city, she gradually brings joy to many through the plants that she grows.

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The Gardener, 1997

In summary, this is a lovely story that is beautifully illustrated and created by a charming Michigan couple. What more could you ask for?

What’s that? ANOTHER Michigan-based husband and wife literary dream team? Coming right up…

Erin Stead from Farmington Hills, MI

A Sick Day for Amos McGee, 2010; Caldecott Medal

Erin Stead is an illustrator who married Philip Stead (also a true Michigan native, mind you), a fellow illustrator but an author as well.

Excuse me while I geek out, but they live in a 100-year-old renovated barn in Ann Arbor, MI! Man, I wish my Kristen Bell GIF wasn’t played out right now cause’… AWW! Very jelly.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee was Erin’s first publication, so to be honored with a Caldecott from the start is surely both astounding and unnerving. Nevertheless, this book is another I keep high on a shelf. It simply feels too special to live with our everyday reads.

When my kids are feeling under the weather I love to pull this one down and cuddle close with them, germs be damned.

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A Sick Day for Amos McGee, 2010

So there you have it, a plethora of Michigan-born talent. I am so very proud of our state, from its people to its unique and beautiful experiences. Yes, we’ve got it all in the mitten state.

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