2020-2021 SC Picture Book Award Nominees

Girl named Alma dressed in pink

If you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has way too many names: six! How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? Alma turns to Daddy for an answer and learns of Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; and other namesakes, too. As she hears the story of her name, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all — and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell. In her author-illustrator debut, Juana Martinez-Neal opens a treasure box of discovery for children who may be curious about their own origin stories or names.

Image of a giraffe with long neck, circulating his head around his neck to look at how long it its.

Can you guess what's making this giraffe self-conscious? Could it be . . . HIS ENORMOUS NECK?? Yes, it's exactly that--how on earth did you figure it out? Edward the giraffe can't understand why his neck is as long and bendy and, well, ridiculous as it is. No other animal has a neck this absurd. He's tried disguising it, dressing it up, strategically hiding it behind bushes--honestly, anything you can think of, he's tried. Just when he has exhausted his neck-hiding options and is about to throw in the towel, a turtle swoops in (well, ambles in, very slowly) and helps him understand that his neck has a purpose, and looks excellent in a bow tie. Jory John and Lane Smith have truly outdone themselves in this companion book to Penguin Problems.

 

Girl on bicycle riding over green hill with houses in the background

Louise Belinda Bellflower lives in Rochester, New York, in 1896. She spends her days playing with her brother, Joe. But Joe gets to ride a bicycle, and Louise Belinda doesn’t. In fact, Joe issues a solemn warning: If girls ride bikes, their faces will get so scrunched up, eyes bulging from the effort of balancing, that they’ll get stuck that way FOREVER! Louise Belinda is appalled by this nonsense, so she strikes out to discover the truth about this so-called “bicycle face.” Set against the backdrop of the women’s suffrage movement, Born to Ride is the story of one girl’s courageous quest to prove that she can do everything the boys can do, while capturing the universal freedom and accomplishment children experience when riding a bike.

Image of young girl in ballerina clothes, in background, older woman in ballerina clothes

Janet Collins wanted to be a ballerina in the 1930s and 40s, a time when racial segregation was widespread in the United States. Janet pursued dance with a passion, despite being rejected from discriminatory dance schools. When she was accepted into the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as a teenager on the condition that she paint her skin white for performances, Janet refused. She continued to go after her dreams, never compromising her values along the way. From her early childhood lessons to the height of her success as the first African American prima ballerina in the Metropolitan Opera, Brave Ballerina is the story of a remarkable pioneer as told by Michelle Meadows, with fantastic illustrations from Ebony Glenn.

Brown dog with black ears holding a letter in mouth with the words "can I be your dog?"

This picture book shares the tale of Arfy, a homeless mutt who lives in a box in an alley. Arfy writes to every person on Butternut Street about what a great pet he’d make. His letters to prospective owners share that he’s house broken! He has his own squeaky bone! He can learn to live with cats! But, no one wants him. Won’t anyone open their heart—and home—to a lonesome dog? Readers will be happily surprised to learn just who steps up to adopt Arfy.

Image of a grey pig with clothes on reading a book

Rupert is a rhinoceros of refined sensibilities. Levi, the new tickbird in class, is not. He burps the alphabet, tells corny jokes, and does really embarrassing air guitar solos. Worse, he lands right on Rupert and is determined to be Rupert's symbiotic best pal! Rupert wants him gone. But when Levi finally does bug off, Rupert finds the peace and quiet a little boring. It turns out, Rupert could really use a friend like Levi. This sweet and moving friendship story shares an important message of acceptance for every reader--whether they're a Rupert or a Levi. A touching and timeless story about finding friendship in unlikely places from the award-winning creator of Extraordinary Jane.

Four African American female mathematicians at NASA,  known as “human computers” to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. 

Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math…really good. They participated in some of NASA's greatest successes, like providing the calculations for America's first journeys into space. And they did so during a time when being black and a woman limited what they could do. But they worked hard. They persisted. And they used their genius minds to change the world.

In this beautifully illustrated picture book edition, we explore the story of four female African American mathematicians at NASA, known as "colored computers," and how they overcame gender and racial barriers to succeed in a highly challenging STEM-based career.

Group of older robots circled around younger robot, Z.

A young robot learns what love is. Out playing, Z finds a message in a bottle, but all that’s legible is “Love, Beatrice.” Z asks the older robots what “love” is as they help the young one through the bedtime routine, but: “DOES NOT COMPUTE.” So Z sets off to find both Beatrice and the meaning of love. Journeying in a boat that’s captained by a cat, Z asks everyone they meet. But the crow’s, baker’s, and school children’s ideas of love don’t help Z understand. As night falls, the duo sail to an island. Who should live there but Beatrice, an old woman who thinks about her answer as she and Z bake cookies, play chess, and dance: “It’s warm. And cozy. And safe. You’ll know it when you feel it.” Just as Z is ready to power down, the worried older robots arrive. And as they read a story, leave a light, and give a good-night kiss, Z finally has a word to go with the feeling that’s been there all along.

A large shark with sharp teeth right behind Bob, the jellyfish

Bob, host of Underwater World with Bob, is furious with Shark, not only because Shark ate him (admittedly bad manners), but because Shark will not even admit what he did; the ocean may not be big enough for both of them--unless Shark faces up to his bad behavior, stops sulking (and eating the animals on the program, and maybe barfing up his stomach) and apologizes. Bob, a jellyfish, interviews and films a "misunderstood shark" to understand the creature better. But shark keeps veering from the script when his instincts take over. Humor comes at shark's explanations. He's not, for example, trying to eat a fish, just "showing him my new teeth."

A red, a yellow, and a blue colored "colors" compete for who is the best color

In the beginning, there were three colors . . . Reds, Yellows, and Blues. All special in their own ways, all living in harmony―until one day, a Red says "Reds are the best!" and starts a color kerfuffle. When the colors decide to separate, is there anything that can change their minds?

A Yellow, a Blue, and a never-before-seen color might just save the day in this inspiring book about color, tolerance, and embracing differences.

Variety of animals called the "underdogs" and how they survive.

Puny? Poky? Clumsy? Shy? A lighthearted look at the surprising traits that help some animals survive. Written with a lively, playful voice, Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers introduces young readers to a variety of “animal underdogs” and explains how characteristics that might seem like weaknesses are critical for finding food and staying safe in an eat-or-be-eaten world.

Woman sitting on library steps, reading to children. Flowers cover the image.

Pura Belpré moves from Puerto Rico to New York City, and while she is working at the New York Public Library, she realizes that the library has no stories from her homeland. Through storytelling, puppetry, and writing, Pura is able to share the folktales she grew up with, bringing the joy, language, and heritage of her beloved Puerto Rico to children everywhere. 

An inspiring picture book biography of storyteller, puppeteer, and New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian, who championed bilingual literature. When she came to America in 1921, Pura Belpré carried the cuentos folklóricos of her Puerto Rican homeland.

Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular retellings into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have grown into a lush landscape as generations of children and storytellers continue to share her tales and celebrate Pura’s legacy.

Three children dancing as if in a parade

Heartfelt and timeless, Remarkably You is an inspirational manifesto about all of the things—little or small, loud or quiet—that make us who we are. With encouraging text by Pat Zietlow Miller and exuberant illustrations by Patrice Barton, readers will delight in all the ways they can be their remarkable selves.

You might go unnoticed, or shine like a star,
but wherever you go and whoever you are…
don’t change how you act to be just like the rest.
Believe in yourself and the things you do best

Teenage girl walking with service dog

Rescue thought he’d grow up to be a Seeing Eye dog — it’s the family business, after all. When he gets the news that he’s better suited to being a service dog, he’s worried that he’s not up to the task. Then he meets Jessica, a girl whose life is turning out differently than the way she'd imagined it, too. Now Jessica needs Rescue by her side to help her accomplish everyday tasks. And it turns out that Rescue can help Jessica see after all: a way forward, together, one step at a time. An endnote from the authors tells more about the training and extraordinary abilities of service dogs, particularly their real-life best friend and black lab, Rescue.

Young african American girl walking up steps as she looks ahead of her

Fresh, accessible, and inspiring, Shaking Things Up introduces fourteen revolutionary young women—each paired with a noteworthy female artist—to the next generation of activists, trail-blazers, and rabble-rousers.

In this book of poems, you will find Mary Anning, who was just thirteen when she unearthed a prehistoric fossil. You’ll meet Ruby Bridges, the brave six year old who helped end segregation in the South. And Maya Lin, who at twenty-one won a competition to create a war memorial, and then had to appear before Congress to defend her right to create.

And those are just a few of the young women included in this book. Readers will also hear about Molly Williams, Annette Kellerman, Nellie Bly, Pura Belpré, Frida Kahlo, Jacqueline and Eileen Nearne, Frances Moore Lappé, Mae Jemison, Angela Zhang, and Malala Yousafzai—all whose stories will enthrall and inspire. This poetry collection was written, illustrated, edited, and designed by women and includes an author’s note, a timeline, and additional resources.

Young boy trying to sleep in bed while his buddy, named Sleepy, is next to him.

Roderick hates going to bed, and the young boy has become quite resourceful in coming up with ways to delay the dreaded hour when the lights must go out. Roderick's loving parents--fed up with the distractions and demands that have become his anti-bedtime ritual--decide to get him a stuffed animal to cuddle with and help him wind down. However, Sleepy quickly proves to be a bit high-maintenance. Just when we fear the night may never end, Sleepy's antics become too exhausting for Roderick to bear.

Young girl peeking from behind a tree trunk

National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and two-time Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Rafael López have teamed up to create a poignant, yet heartening book about finding courage to connect, even when you feel scared and alone.

There will be times when you walk into a room
and no one there is quite like you.

There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it's how you look or talk, or where you're from; maybe it's what you eat, or something just as random. It's not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it. Jacqueline Woodson's lyrical text and Rafael López's dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.

Children surrounding a magician's hat, peering inside of the very large hat.

Super Bowl champion and literacy crusader Malcolm Mitchell presents the story of a magician who reveals an awe-inspiring treasure from his bag of tricks -- books that make every kid's dream come true! This is not your typical afternoon at the library -- a magician invites kids to reach into his hat to pull out whatever they find when they dig down deep. Soon -- poof! -- each child comes away with something better than they could've imagined -- a book that helps them become whatever they want to be, and makes their dreams come true through pages and words, and the adventures that follow. But each child can't help but wonder, What's really making the magic happen?

Young boy in black and white with colorful balloons above him.

What’s Happening to Grandpa meets Up in this tender, sensitive picture book that gently explains the memory loss associated with aging and diseases such as Alzheimer’s. 

James’s Grandpa has the best balloons because he has the best memories. He has balloons showing Dad when he was young and Grandma when they were married. Grandpa has balloons about camping and Aunt Nelle’s poor cow. Grandpa also has a silver balloon filled with the memory of a fishing trip he and James took together. But when Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James is heartbroken. No matter how hard he runs, James can’t catch them. One day, Grandpa lets go of the silver balloon—and he doesn’t even notice! Grandpa no longer has balloons of his own. But James has many more than before. It’s up to him to share those balloons, one by one.

Image of book character Penelope Rex on her first day of school, looking around for food.

It's the first day of school for Penelope Rex, and she can't wait to meet her classmates. But it's hard to make human friends when they're so darn delicious! That is, until Penelope gets a taste of her own medicine and finds she may not be at the top of the food chain after all…Readers will gobble up this hilarious new story from award-winning author-illustrator Ryan T. Higgins.