The Winners are...

The Winners are...

The Lower School fifth grade class announced the following books as the winners of the 2023 Zena Sutherland Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature:

  • Knight Owl, written and illustrated by Christopher Denise
    Best Overall Picture Book

  • The World Belonged to Us, written by Jacqueline Woodson. Illustrated by Leo Espinosa Best Text

  • Berry Song, written and illustrated by Michaela Goade
    Best Illustration

In addition to the winners, the 2023 Sutherland Award nominees included:

  • The Circles in the Sky, written by Karl James Mountford. Illustrated by Karl James Mountford

  • If You're A Kid Like Gavin, written by Gavin Grimm and Kyle Lukoff. Illustrated by J. Yang

Having been awarded annually since 1995, this ceremony marks the twenty-eighth Sutherland Award ceremony. It was founded when Lab art teacher Philip Matsikas, former librarians Donna Schatt and Mary Ogilvie, and former computer science teacher Karen Putman responded to student dissatisfaction with other picture-book awards judged by adults. These awards engage Lower School and Middle School students in analyzing text, critiquing illustrations, and the process of selection by committee. Led by a committee of Laboratory School students, the selection process is designed to honor the spirit and legacy of Zena Sutherland.

After 40 years of dedicated service to our schools, Mr. Matsikas will retire at the end of the 2022–2023 academic year. During the ceremony students presented Mr. Matsikas with flowers for his many dedicated years of work toward the Sutherland Awards." It has been both a personal and professional joy to contribute to the creation and development of the Zena Sutherland Award for Excellence in Children's Literature, offering a truly special educational experience for our Laboratory Schools' students", said Mr. Philip Matsikas. "Nearly 30 years ago I had the privilege to collaborate with a number of extraordinarily creative people who cared deeply about Lab's' mission and John Dewey's legacy, including Zena Sutherland, the former Lower School Librarian Donna Scatt, who spearheaded the project, and  then Lower School Principal Revira Singer, and so many other librarians and other colleagues over the years who have contributed to the ongoing development of this nationally unique program."

The Zena Sutherland Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature (the Sutherland Awards) is an annual literature award presented by the fifth-grade class of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. First awarded in 1995,  the Sutherland Award recognizes three books of distinction and excellence in the categories of “Best Text,” “Best Illustration,” and “Best Overall Picture Book.” The award is named in honor of Zena Sutherland, a former University of Chicago faculty member who is considered amongst the world's most influential scholars of young people's literature. The Zena Sutherland Award for Excellence in Children's Literature is one of the only children-selected book awards in the United States and has grown an international reputation.

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