Celebrating Youthful Curiosity and Discovery Through Books and Reading

Best Illustrators

Our Best Illustrator medalists are a wonderful showcase of the breadth and creativity of children's book illustrators. Browse the books below for the best illustrators by year. 

2015 Medalists

Lisa Evans, for The Man Made of Stars

Illustrator: Lisa Evans
Author: M.H. Clark
Publisher: Compendium, Inc
ISBN: 978-1938298615

Every evening, when the sky is painted pink and blue and gold, the man made of stars sets off to work. But what is his secret, and where does he go when he walks out past town with his lantern twinkling? This is the story of one curious child who, determined to answer this mystery, discovers that there is always room for more light in the world. 


Joel Nakamura, for Go West!

Author and Illustrator: Joel Nakamura
Publisher: Leaf Storm Press
ISBN: 978-0-9914105-6-9

The American West has always been a place of adventure and natural beauty. With its wide-open spaces and sense of freedom, it’s a place of enduring dreams and new ideas. Open the cover of this beautiful book and accept award-winning artist Joel Nakamura’s invitation to Go West! Come along and join his colorful cast of characters to explore the magic that abounds in the lands west of the Mississippi. Come along and explore the frontier of the imagination! Come along and dream big! Come along and roam free…GO WEST!

A perfect bedtime read, and a delight to the eye, this colorful picture book will enthrall your little ones with its unique vision of life in the West!


Edu Flores, for La Madre de Jack

Illustrator: Edu Flores
Author: Daniel Nesquens
Publisher: Apila Ediciones

La madre de Jack estaba más cerca de la muerte que de la vida. El médico nada podía hacer. Tampoco Jack con sus lamentos. Sin embargo Jack es un chico valiente, fuerte, que no dudará en enfrentarse con su ingenio a un rival difícil de batir.


2014 Medalists

Catherine Dawgert, for A, B, C, Disgusting

Author and Illustrator: Catherine Dawgert
Publisher: Woodland Way

A zany, hilarious alphabet adventure like no other. From Ape Armpits to Zebra Zits, enjoy colorful creations and uproarious wordplay that will leave you laughing with every letter.

Toilets for Turtles, anyone? How about Queasy Quails?

Learning the ABCs has never been more, well, disgusting.


Jason Doll, for Would Someone Please Answer the Parrot!

Illustrator: Jason Doll
Author: Beryl Young
Publisher: Peanut Butter Press
ISBN: 978-1927735008

A rollicking tale about an outrageous parrot named Guapo who comes to stay with a family and how he eventually wins a permanent place in their home and in their hearts. Young and old alike will enjoy Guapo"s entertaining antics and the comical situations that arise from his ability to imitate sounds and speech.


Erwin Madrid, for My Yellow Balloon

Illustrator: Erwin Madrid
Author: Tiffany Papageorge
Publisher: Minoan Moon Publishing
ISBN: 978-0990337003

It all started at the carnival...That’s where Joey makes a new friend: a bright yellow balloon. Joey and his beloved balloon do everything together, until the balloon accidentally slips off Joey’s wrist and flies far, far away. What will Joey do without his special friend?

Tiffany Papageorge has crafted a poignant tale of love, loss, and letting go that will serve as a comforting guide to children who are navigating the complicated emotions of grief. Rich, luminous illustrations by Erwin Madrid perfectly capture these timeless themes, making them accessible to even the youngest reader.

Honest, unflinching, and ultimately reassuring, My Yellow Balloon ™ will resonate with anyone who has endured the darkness of grief, while offering hope for brighter days ahead.


2013 Medalists

Zuzanna Celej, for Inside My Imagination

Illustrator: Zuzanna Celej
Author: Marta Arteaga
Publisher: Cuento de Luz
ISBN: 8415503598

Characterizing the imagination as something living and palpable, this fun and whimsical picture book will inspire young readers to let their own imaginations fly. The freedom and individuality that comes through imagination permeates this story as a child discovers she can be whoever she wants to be, change what she wants to change, and create what she wants to create. Exalting the value of nurturing imagination, fostering creativity, and putting pen to paper in order to develop ideas, this story will enthrall readers of all ages.


Nívola Uyá, for A Very, Very Noisy Tractor

Illustrator: Nívola Uyá
Author: Mar Pavón 
Publisher: Cuento de Luz
ISBN: 8415619650

A woman drives a tractor through town and, thanks to the tractor’s noisy engine, can’t hear all the things people say about her as she drives by. They comment on her clothes and her hair, but mostly they seem confused as to why a woman is driving a tractor in the first place. A fun, original tale about turning a deaf ear to negativity and prejudice, this story will inspire children to embrace who they are and to believe they can grow up to be anything they want to be.


Danny Popovici, for World on a String

Illustrator: Danny Popovici
Author: Larry Phifer
Publisher: Storytime Works
ISBN: 0988698404

When his best friend, a big red balloon, comes untied in a thunderstorm, Charlie is overcome with sadness. However, inspired by the happy memories of his best friend, Charlie is able to shift his perspective and, ultimately, he imagines his balloon on an amazing journey into the starry night.


Jo Empson, for Rabbityness

Illustrator: Jo Empson
Author: Jo Empson
Publisher: Child's Play
ISBN: 978-1846434921

Rabbit enjoys doing rabbity things, but he also loves un-rabbity things! When Rabbit suddenly disappears, no one knows where he has gone. His friends are desolate. But, as it turns out, Rabbit has left behind some very special gifts for them, to help them discover their own unrabbity talents! Rabbityness celebrates individuality, encourages the creativity in everyone and positively introduces children to dealing with loss of any kind.


2012 Medalists

Enrique Quevedo, for The Great Magician of the World

Illustrator: Enrique Quevedo
Author: Fran Nuño
Publisher: Cuento de Luz
ISBN: 978-8415241119

Whether it be creating a rainbow out of different colored handkerchiefs or filling up the sky with flying doves carrying playing cards, the feats carried out by a would-be magician fill the pages of this book about everyday magic. Although not really a magician, the main character imagines himself to be one, accomplishing impressive tricks such as changing night into day and back again. This amusing and colorful story helps children discover the magic of the everyday and to perceive the world as a spectacular magic show in its own right.


Rebecca Harrison Reed, for Only Cows Allowed!

Illustrator: Rebecca Harrison Reed
Author: Lynn Plourde
Publisher: Down East Books
ISBN: 978-0892727902

Once uPUN a new New England farm, the cows refuse to let the other farm animals mooooove into the barn. ONLY COWS ALLOWED! But the hens, horses, pigs, sheep, goats, and geese aren't about to let those bossy cows get their way. The first-time farmer doesn't side with the cows either. Animal after animal after animal moves into the barn. But when the farmer throws an all-night barn party to celebrate his new farm, the cows leave without uddering a word. Where will they finally find some peace and quiet?


S.D. Nelson, for Greet the Dawn: The Lakota Way

Illustrator: S.D. Nelson
Author: S.D. Nelson
Publisher: South Dakota State Historical Society Press
ISBN: 978-0984504169

Pickup trucks and eagles, yellow school buses and painted horses, Mother Earth and Sister Meadowlark all join together to greet the dawn. They marvel at the colours and sounds, smells and memories that dawn creates. Animals and humans alike turn their faces upwards and gaze as the sun makes its daily journey from horizon to horizon. Dawn is a time to celebrate with a smiling heart, to start a new day in the right way, excited for what might come. Birds sing and dance, children rush to learn, dewdrops glisten from leaves, and gradually the sun warms us. Each time the sun starts a new circle, we can start again as well. All these things are part of the Lakota way, a means of living in balance. S. D. Nelson offers young readers wonder and happiness as a better way of appreciating their culture and surroundings. He draws inspiration from traditional stories to create Greet the Dawn . His artwork fuses elements of modern with traditional. Above all, he urges each of us to seize the opportunity that dawn offers each day.


Yuko Green, for Tales of Tūtū Nēnē and Nele

Illustrator: Yuko Green
Author: Gale Bates
Publisher: Island Heritage Publishing
ISBN: 978-0896101937

Eager for adventure, the young nēnē goose Nele sneaks out of her protective pen. Will Tutu's (Grandmother's) lessons keep Nele alive in the danger-filled world? Part of the proceeds from book sales go to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for the protection of these endangered native geese.


2011 Medalists

Sonja Wimmer, for La Coleccionista de Palabras (The Word Collector)

Illustrator: Sonja Wimmer
Author: Sonja Wimmer
Publisher: Cuento de Luz
ISBN: 978-8493824068

Luna is passionate about words. She loves their light and becomes tickled with laughter from them. But one day she realizes that, little by little, the beautiful, gorgeous, and fun words are disappearing from the world—so she decides it's time to act. A poetic tale about the magic of words, this delightful story invites readers of all ages to enjoy the power that positive words can have.


Rob Ryan, for The Gift

Illustrator: Rob Ryan
Author: Carol Ann Duffy
Publisher: Barefoot Books
ISBN: 978-1846863554

The exceptional talents of Carol Ann Duffy and papercut artist Rob Ryan combine to present the story of a girl's journey through life and the desires that shape it. With a kind of magic that is timeless, The Gift speaks to everyone who wonders about the mysteries that lie at the heart of the human experience. A unique gift book for all ages by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy This lyrical text about life, love and art is accompanied by stunning papercut illustrations. The Gift portrays the cycle of life in a subtle, accessible way while exploring themes of birth, death, love and the importance of family and friends.


Dennis Ochoa, for Why? Moon

Illustrator: Dennis Ochoa
Author: Cory J. Basso
Publisher: Brown Books Publishing Group
ISBN: 978-1934812914

Why does the moon shine? Why does the moon change shape? Why do we need the moon? Kids love to learn about their friends. Now they can learn about the earth's closest friend and neighbor, the moon! Full of interesting facts about the moon's relationship with the earth, Why? Moon opens wide a new frontier of exploration and wonder with objects beyond the earth. Written in a fun, rhyming verse, Why? Moon is both educational and entertaining . . . it's edutaining!


Lisa Greenleaf, for John Greenleaf Whittier’s The Barefoot Boy

Illustrator: Lisa Greenleaf
Author: Lisa Greenleaf
Publisher: Apprentice Shop Books
ISBN: 978-0984254941

Adapted and illustrated by Lisa Greenleaf, a descendent of the Greenleaf Whitttier family, Ms. Greenleaf has included details and imagery from John Greenleaf Whittier's childhood home in Haverhill, MA to recount his youthful observations. This children's book features 26 full-color illustrations that will enchant readers of all ages. This adaptation also includes a brief biography describing Whittier's achievements and accomplishments as a poet, an abolitionist, a mentor to Louisa May Alcott, and a contemporary of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the other Fireside Poets.


2010 Medalists

Wendy Edelson, for Bartholomew's Gift

Illustrator: Wendy Edelson
Author: Diane Dignan
Publisher: Ferne Press
ISBN: 978-1933916569

Little Bartholomew is bestowed with a unique gift at birth - an ability that his loved ones do not possess or understand. There is excitement and wonder when, as a child, he discovers the meaning of his gift and wishes to share the joy it brings with others. Misunderstood, he withdraws and denies his experiences until the gift disappears forever. Or does it? This story is for anyone who searches for wonder in everyday life.


Jenniffer Julich, for Hilda: A Very Loyal Goat

Illustrator: Jenniffer Julich
Author: Jennifer Liu Bryan
Publisher: Next Chapter Press
ISBN: 0981626513

Hilda is a very loyal goat and Ruble Cole's best friend. He doesn't even mind that she has bestowed upon him a girl's name. If she likes it, he likes it, too. After all, he's a very loyal goat. But even a loyal goat can get into trouble sometimes. Hilda starts off his day off on the wrong hoof when he tries to wake up Ruble and unwittingly creates chaos. Then when he decides to follow Ruble to school, things get even worse. All of Hilda's good intentions seem to go awry and nearly everyone in the Cole family calls him 'meddlesome'! All of this causes Hilda to wonder: Is he really a loyal goat? Or is he as meddlesome as they say? It's a day of adventure -- and ups and downs -- for Hilda, a very loyal goat. A picture book for young readers with over 60 colorful illustrations.


Aaron Kawai‛ae‛a, for Kohala Kuamo‛o: Nae‛ole's Race to Save a King

Illustrator: Aaron Kawai‛ae‛a
Author: Kakauleleanae‛ole Kawai‛ae‛a
Publisher: Kamehameha Publishing
ISBN: 978-0873362320

When a prophecy proclaims that the unborn Kamehameha would grow to overshadow the ruling chiefs, his life from birth is in danger. Nae‘ole, the trusted chiefly attendant of Kamehameha’s mother, races across Kohala to save the infant Kamehameha. The first printing of Kohala Kuamo‘o: Nae‘ole’s Race to Save a King commemorates the 200-year anniversary of Kamehameha’s unification of the Hawaiian Islands under one rule in 1810.

The title Kohala Kuamo‘o refers to the trails and paths in Kohala that are integral to the story of Nae‘ole and Kamehameha. The title also suggests the customs of the people of Kohala in caring for each other. Kohala Kuamo‘o also hints at Nae‘ole's role as the iwikuamo‘o, the most trusted personal attendant of Keku‘iapoiwa, the mother of Kamehameha.


Virginia McCoy, for The Rabbits' Race

Illustrator: Virginia McCoy
Author: Deborah L. Delaronde
Publisher: Theytus Books
ISBN: 978-1894778763

When his grandfather is invited to participate in the school’s Grandparents Day celebrations, Joey does not know what to expect. His grandfather gently reassures him before going on stage and launching into a beguiling tale of two groups of rabbits that must co-exist in the forest and share their resources to survive. The wisdom of the elder rabbits plays a pivotal role in the story which provides a valuable lesson for Joey and his classmates.


2009 Medalists

Pamela Meacher, for Emily's Perils and Poisons

Illustrator: Pamela Meacher
Author: Pamela Meacher
Publisher: Self-Published
ISBN: 9780973995916

Emily thinks it is truly magical as Loriack, the Patroness of spinners, spins and weaves cobwebs, sunbeams and moonlight into cloth. On the darker side, there is malevolent Vilettie who lives in the weird world of poisonous mushrooms.


Mark Wayne Adams, for Nicholas, That's Ridiculous!

Illustrator: Mark Wayne Adams
Author: Christa Carpenter
Publisher: Caballo Books
ISBN: 978-1596160026

Nicholas Wallaby was always doing ridiculous things! And his mom was always letting him know. Nicholas, That's Ridiculous! she'd say - at least thirty times a day. Finally, Nicholas's mom realizes that Nicholas, isn't being ridiculous - he's just being a boy! With this lighthearted story, children can relate to Nicholas and the ridiculous things he does. Parents can learn to appreciate and enjoy the humor behind these happenings.


Cathy June, for We Eat Food That's Fresh

Illustrator: Cathy June
Author: Angela Russ-Ayon
Publisher: Our Rainbow Press
ISBN: 978-1934214060

A whimsical chef introduces young children to fun food experiences that stir up their interest in fruits and vegetables. Join them as they pick from the garden, prepare in the kitchen, and relax by the shore. The chef wants the children to try something new, and they just might, before he s through. Easy rhymes and repetitive verses are combined with deliciously colorful pastel illustrations. This picture book comes with a companion song, audio book, and instrumental on CD.


Maria Monescillo, for The Tallest of Smalls

Illustrator: Maria Monescillo
Author: Max Lucado
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 978-1400315147

A delightful rhyming story about the Too-Smalls who live in the Stiltsville. Every evening a six, the Too-Smalls meet in the square where they hope they’ll be picked to receive stilts to strut about above the stilt-less masses below. They come to see if they matter―if they’re awesome, if they’re pretty, if they’re clever, or funny. Ollie, the smallest of too-smalls, pleas to be picked. He wants to be like the high-ups of Stiltsville who are proud of their stilts, the ultimate status. But once he gets stilts, oh how it hurts when he stumbles and tumbles and loses his stilts.  That is . . .  until he meets Jesus who chose low over high telling him, "Keep your feet on the ground. You matter already.”  


Ellie Kirby, for The White Bear: A Tale from the Blue Ridge Mountains

Illustrator: Ellie Kirby
Author: Ellie Kirby
Publisher: Fox Creek Press
ISBN: 9780971134867

One cold, rainy night a mysterious white bear comes to a farmerʼs house and demands his youngest daughter. The girl goes home with the bear and learns that he is really a prince under a witchʼs spell. She comes to love the white bear, and when he disappears she must search far and wide to find him. The White Bear is an old tale from the Blue Ridge Mountains. Ellie Kirby visited many actual places in the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia to paint the scenery in the pictures.


2008 Medalists

Jeri Landers, for The Journey of Bushky Bushybottom

Illustrator: Jeri Landers
Author: Jeri Landers
Publisher: Ochre Moon Press
ISBN: 978-0976530312

Follow the adventures of Bushky Bushybottom, a young squirrel who is blown from his treehouse and carried far away by a wild, wild wind. In his search for home is is both helped and hindered by many different characters. But a twist of fate bring Bushky home in a most unexpected way.


Barry Moser, for Jack London's Dog

Illustrator: Barry Moser
Author: Dirk Wales
Publisher: Great Plains Press
ISBN: 978-0963245939

In 1897 Jack London went to the Gold Rush in the Yukon. This was to be a harsh time in the North Country with 100,000 men from all over America as well as other countries who came to strike it rich. However, Jack London landed just as the Fall "freeze up" came and no one could pan for gold until Spring. While waiting to strike it rich, London stayed with other men on Split Up Island. There he met the dog of another man. The dog's name was also Jack, and he and London became friends. When the thaw came in the Spring and it was time to pan for gold, London was ill and had to return to San Francisco. As a result of his experiences in the raw North Country, he would write Call Of The Wild. He used his friend Jack as a model for Buck, Dog of the North. Call Of The Wild immediately became a hit in American and London the most popular author. So, we know what happened to Jack London, Buck and Call Of The Wild, but, what happened to Jack, the dog who was left behind? This is his story. 


Leo F. Monahan, for The Twelve Days of Christmas

Illustrator: Leo F. Monahan
Author: Olivia Price
Publisher: Intervisual Books
ISBN: 978-1581176247

The classic Christmas carol comes to life in this lushly illustrated keepsake title. Featuring handmade, original paper-cut collages. The Twelve Days of Christmas is a visually stunning book that will be cherished as a piece of art. Inside the pages is a treasury of Christmas traditions, poems, stories, and historical tidbits.


Bonnie Bews, for Zelda and Esmeralda

Illustrator: Bonnie Bews
Author: Susan Elizabeth Ross
Publisher: Yellow Toadstool Press
ISBN: 978-0981060903

This is a story about a tiny fairy named Zelda who lives in a beautiful evergreen forest with her best friend a dragonfly named Esmeralda, Zelda believes that above the tops of the tallest trees there's another world that she has never seen, called the sky.
This mysterious place is beyond the reach of her tiny wings, but with the help and guidance of Esmeralda and the inspiration of a magical bird named Benny Lee, Zelda will embark on a quest to make her dream come true and along the way she learns that if you can believe it you can achieve it!


S.D. Nelson, for Dance in a Buffalo Skull

Illustrator: S.D. Nelson
Author: Zitkala-Sa
Publisher: South Dakota State Historical Society Press
ISBN: 978-0977795529

A prowling wildcat finds a surprise in an old dried-up buffalo skull. A group of mice are dancing the night away and not paying attention to the dagers around them. Does the wildcat spell doom for the mice, or will they escape to safety? Dance in a Buffalo Skull is an American Indain tale of danger and survival on the Great Plains.


2007 Medalists

Becky Kelly for Heavenly Skies & Lullabies

Illustrator: Becky Kelly
Author: Kathy Reilly Fallon and Frank Pellegrino
Publisher: Llumina Press
ISBN: 978-1933626062

Open your mind and soothe your soul with these gentle bedtime melodies. These sweet and enchanting lullabies are heaven sent to help parents embrace their precious little ones and create a peaceful and relaxing home. We believe it is the right of all children to be safe, cared for and loved. With your help, we can bring lullabies to children in need everywhere. Sweet Dreams...


Nikki Johnson, for Agate: What Good Is a Moose?

Illustrator: Nikki Johnson
Author: Joy Morgan Dey
Publisher: Lake Superior Port Cities
ISBN: 978-0942235739

Agate is a moose with low self-esteem. He feels inadequate and plain, like an ugly brown rock, especially when he compares himself to his beautiful friends who are named after birthstones. These friend help Agate to see that just like his namesake, true beauty lies within. Stunning original watercolors, a witty, positive message about self image plus bonus pages with birthstone and agate facts. Perfect for reading aloud.


Pamela Meacher, for Emily's Enchanted Guardians

Illustrator: Pamela Meacher
Author: Pamela Meacher
Publisher: Self-Published

Emily learns how fragile the environment is with the help of her faeries and elves.

Sauntering through the garden one day, Emily stops to peer deep inside a delicate sweet pea flower. Here she meets Charity… a faerie so small that Emily almost missed meeting her.


Jennifer Woods Tierney, for Once Upon a Rainbow

Illustrator: Jennifer Woods Tierney
Author: Jennifer Woods Tierney
Publisher: Honeysuckle Press
ISBN: 9780978771607

One day, a young river otter named Mazie discovers a rainbow. She has never seen such a beautiful sight. Mazie wonders what treasure could possibly be hidden at the end of the rainbow. Her curiosity takes her on a wonderful adventure and leads her to the discovery that there can be many answers to the same question.Once Upon A Rainbow conveys a gentle message of individuality and tolerance through the understanding that everyone has their own definition of what brings them true happiness and contentment. An emphassis on the importance of community and teamwork, is conveyed in Once Upon A Rainbow, by the willingness and support of Mazie's family and friends to help her discover her truth. Mazie's perseverence is an honorable quality, but without her family and friends she may never have discovered her treasure waiting for her at the end of the rainbow.


Elena Caravela, for The Birds of the Harbor

Illustrator: Elena Caravela
Author: John Italia
Publisher: Shenanigan Books
ISBN: 978-0972661478

This enchanting tale of a boy s longing to speak the eloquent language of birds and to express his inner most secrets and thoughts, leads him to a forbidden visit to the harbor.