Michelle Markel, The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau (Eerdmans)

The PEN/Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing was established in memory of Steven Kroll to acknowledge the distinct literary contributions of picture book writers. Kroll, a former PEN Trustee and long-time Chair of PEN’s Children’s/Young Adult Book Authors Committee, was also a prolific author of books for children. His 100th and final book was published in March 2012.

The annual award was conferred for the first time in 2012 and awards a prize of $5,000. It acknowledges an American or U.S.-based writer for exceptional writing in an illustrated children’s book. The winner will be chosen by a panel of three judges, who will be selected by the PEN’s Children’s/Young Adult Book Authors Committee, as well as the donor for the award, Kathleen Beckett, Kroll’s widow.

2013 Judges

Barbara Shook Hazen, David Wiesner, and Cheryl Willis Hudson

From The Judges’ Citation

Henri Rousseau wants to be an artist. Not a single person has ever told him he is talented. He is a toll collector. He is forty years old. But he buys some canvas, paint and brushes and starts painting anyway. Why? Because he loves nature. Because when he strolls through the parks of Paris, it’s like the flowers open their hearts, the trees spread their arms, and the sun is a blushing ruby, all for him.

In rich, lyrical languageMichelle Markel creates a narrative, uniquely and skillfully crafted in the present tense, to describe the world and remarkable work of a self-taught artist born over 168 years ago. Markel’s spare prose perfectly recreates Rousseau’s calling to paint, affinity for nature,  creative process and determination even in the face of complete public rejection.

His paintings now hang in museums all over the world. And do you think experts call them “foolish,” “clumsy,” or “monstrous”? Mais non! They call them works of art.


Snakes (Scholastic), Nic Bishop

Oh, No! (Schwartz & Wade Books), Candace Fleming and illustrator Eric Rohmann

I Lay My Stitches Down (Eerdmans), Cynthia Grady and illustrator Michele Wood

Those Rebels, John & Tom (Scholastic), Barbara Kerley and illustrator Edwin Fotheringham

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau (Eerdmans), Michelle Markel and illustrator Amanda Hall

Previous Winners

Paticia C. McKissack