History was made during the announcement of the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards on January 25, 2021. One award, in particular, presented several historic firsts. That award? The Randolph Caldecott Medal, which is awarded for the most distinguished American picture book for children. The winning book was We Are Water Protectors, illustrated by Michaela Goade, who is the first BIPOC woman and the first Native illustrator to win—Goade is of Tlingit descent and is tribally enrolled with the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. Four honor books were named. Three of those illustrators are also BIPOC. All five of the illustrators are first-time winners, and all five of them are women: Noa Denmon for A Place Inside of Me, Yuko Shimizu for The Cat Man of Aleppo, Cozbi A. Cabrera for Me & Mama, and Cindy Derby for Outside In.
Women illustrators have been among the winners and honorees of the Caldecott Medal since the beginning. In fact, a woman was awarded the very first Medal: Dorothy Lathrop for Animals of the Bible in 1938. And the most honored Caldecott illustrator is (you guessed it) a woman—Marcia Brown, with 3 Medals and 6 Honors! However, women artists have not always been well represented at awards time. Out of 83 Medals and 272 Honors awarded in the past 83 years, women won 140 times (29 Medals and 111 Honors), either alone or as part of a team. Some illustrators who have been deservedly honored for their work in the last several years include Juana Martinez-Neal, LeUyen Pham, Grace Lin, Thi Bui, Sophie Blackall, Vera Brosgol, Yuyi Morales, and Ekua Holmes, among many others.
Celebrate Women’s History Month by checking out some of the best children’s books ever illustrated by artists who just happen to be women.