by Rocco Staino
On May 17 the Christopher Awards were presented high atop the Manhattan skyline to the creators of books, feature films and television/cable programs. The award recognizes writers, producers, directors, authors and illustrators whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” Tony Rossi, The Christophers’ Director of Communications, said, “In a world where there’s a lot of anger and division, people need stories like those we’re honoring with Christopher Awards this year. From heroism in war to ordinary acts of kindness, these stories can serve as instruments of grace, helping us to see beyond our differences and celebrate our common humanity.”
The list of winning titles in the children’s book category provides readers of various ages with several choices including BEFORE SHE WAS HARRIET (ages 6 and up, Holiday House Publishing), by KidLit.TV team members Lesa Cline-Ransome, and James E. Ransome. In the book Lese Cline-Ransome provides a poetic tribute to Harriet Tubman whose bravery extends far beyond her work leading slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad to include being a Union spy, nurse and suffragist. Lesa feels that to be the recipient of an award that honors, not just the craft of writing and illustrating, but celebrates how media can also be a force for good, is incredibly powerful. “It is a reminder that when we do work that matters, and work that honors our better selves, it’s impact can be felt socially, politically and spiritually.”
Tom Rinaldi’s THE RED BANDANNA (ages 10 and up, Viking/Penguin Young Readers Group) explores the life of 9/11 hero Welles Crowther, who worked on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower and helped lead 18 people to safety before being killed himself. Rinaldi was humbled and honored to be named a Christopher Award winner. “To know the book has struck a chord with young readers means more to me than I can explain”, said Rinaldi. “For a young generation, for whom 9/11 is not a living memory, understanding the day and its meaning to our nation’s history can be daunting.” He believes that telling the story of that day
through the lens of a single life–one lost in saving others–is one way to view the day, and gain insight into its challenges, and its heroes.
POCKET FULL OF COLORS (Kindergarten and up, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing) by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville, illustrated by Brigette Barrager tells the story of Mary Blair, a woman who remained committed to her artistic
vision despite the odds. Blair was a trailblazing illustrator, designer, and animator and was one of the first women ever hired by Walt Disney Studios.
Author Jacqueline Tourville feels that winning the Christopher wasn’t just for the books creative team but also for Mary Blair. “I think Mary would have been delighted to have her perseverance and visionary talent honored with such a meaningful award — and in such wonderful company.”
Bibi Belford’s CROSSING THE LINE (Young Adult, Sky Pony Press/Skyhorse Publishing) is set in In racially-charged post-World War I Chicago, the friendship between a white boy and an African American child sparks outrage in the community and challenges the youngsters to practice
courage and loyalty in the face of hatred. For Belford receiving The Christopher Award validates her life work. “Throughout my career as a teacher I labored to nurture the highest value of my students’ spirits. Leaving teaching to pursue writing was a difficult transition for me and is
sometimes a very lonely and isolated job,” said Belford. “You don’t always know if anyone is reading your books or getting their message. It can be discouraging. So being awarded a Christopher …means everything to me!”
In addition GENEVIEVE’S WAR (Ages 8 and up, Holiday House Publishing) by Patricia Reilly Giff, and THROUGH YOUR EYES by Ainsley Earhardt, illustrated by Ji-Hyuk Kim (Preschool and up, Aladdin Books/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing) were also honored.
The Christophers, a nonprofit organization founded in 1945 by Maryknoll Father James Keller, is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to God and humanity. The ancient Chinese proverb—“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”— guides its publishing,
radio, and awards programs. More information about The Christophers is available HERE