If you have spent any time as a child or browsed the children's section of a bookstore, you know that there are numerous awards for children's literature. The Newbery. The Caldecott. The Theodor Seuss Geisel. The Coretta Scott King. The Michael L. Printz. The Laura Ingalls Wilder. And on and on. Most are awarded each year during the American Library Association's midwinter conference. Over the years, awards have been created to honor African-American authors and illustrators, Latino/Latina creators, or to pay tribute to books that highlight the LGBT experience.
There has never been an award to specifically celebrate math-themed children's books.* Until now.
Last Friday, April 17, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) and the Children's Book Council (CBC) announced the first winners of their first annual Mathical Prize for math-themed children's literature. The orgs picked four winners for books published in 2014, and then picked a dozen other "Honor Books" as a way of paying tribute to books that were published in the years 2009-2013, before this new award was established.
My children's book, Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci, is one of those Honor Books. Blockhead is a fable about the real-life mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci. It was published by Henry Holt in the spring of 2010. Obviously, I was stunned to get the news. In this business, you don't expect to be singled out for attention five years after the fact. But it is gratifying nonetheless.
Why math book awards? It's no secret that children learn in different ways. Children's books that touch upon math themes can inspire a child in ways that a math textbook, worksheets, or even careful instruction by a devoted teacher will not. Adults forget this, so an award that calls attention to math-themed #kidlit is not a bad way to remind them.
My thanks to these two orgs and their selection committee. My congrats to all the authors and illustrators of the 2014 Mathical Award Winners and the Honor Books.
* To be strictly accurate, in 2012 Bank Street College established the Cook Prize, which annually honors children's picture books that make perfect additions to STEM curricula. (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.) The finalists for the Cook Prize are voted upon by actual kids, who choose the winner.