Norman A. Sugarman Children’s Biography Award

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The Norman A. Sugarman Children’s Biography Award was established in 1998 to honor excellence in the field of biography for children. The Sugarman Award was established by Joan G. Sugarman in memory of her husband, Norman A. Sugarman, a prominent tax attorney who was born and raised in Cleveland and later served in Washington, D.C. The Sugarman Award is given biennially by Cleveland Public Library and presented to a writer and/or illustrator of a new biography for children’s grades Kindergarten through 8th grade. The Award is presented in April in alternate years in celebration of National Library Week. It is for a work published in the previous two calendar years.

In 1984, Joan G. Sugarman donated a Fantasy Carousel designed by renowned sculptor Star Liana York. York assembled in the Carousel a special place in which the images of a world where fantastic and mythological creatures appear in a variety of interpretations. Her monsters, mermaids and dragons belong to a realm of dark enchantments and Sugarman felt the Library was also special. It was a fitting place for this elegantly crafted piece, a place where young minds could reflect and learn about the natural world with humor, fear, mischief and, of course, joy.

Norman A. Sugarman
Norman A. Sugarman
Joan G. Sugarman
Joan G. Sugarman

Norman A. Sugarman Award Criteria

  • The award is presented to the writer of a new biography for children’s grades Kindergarten-8.
  • The award is limited to biographies based on original research and documentation. Awards shall be limited to biographies written by residents or citizens of the United States and first published in the United States.
  • Nominations for the award are solicited through publishers, libraries, and schools; from children and adults, as well as submitted by an Award Committee.
  • An Award Committee appointed by the Cleveland Public Library evaluates the nominations and selects a winner. The Committee of not more than nine (9) persons includes but is not limited to representatives of local educational institutions and libraries. The Committee may include two (2) Cleveland Public Library youth services librarians. The Cleveland Public Administrator serves in an ex-officio capacity.


2020 Winner

Infinite Hope : A Black Artist’s Journey From World War II To Peace by Ashley Bryan
From celebrated author and illustrator Ashley Bryan comes a deeply moving picture book memoir about serving in the segregated army during World War II, and how love and the pursuit of art sustained him. In May of 1942, at the age of eighteen, Ashley Bryan was drafted to fight in World War II. For the next three years, he would face the horrors of war as a black soldier in a segregated army. He endured the terrible lies white officers told about the black soldiers to isolate them from anyone who showed kindness–including each other. He received worse treatment than even Nazi POWs. He was assigned the grimmest, most horrific tasks, like burying fallen soldiers…but was told to remove the black soldiers first because the media didn’t want them in their newsreels. And he waited and wanted so desperately to go home, watching every white soldier get safe passage back to the United States before black soldiers were even a thought. For the next forty years, Ashley would keep his time in the war a secret. But now, he tells his story.

2020 Honor Books

Feed Your Mind: A Story Of August Wilson by Jennifer Bryant
Like many of August Wilson’s plays, this story is told in two acts, revealing how Wilson grew up to be one of the most influential American playwrights. August Wilson (1945–2005) was a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who had a particular talent for capturing the authentic, everyday voice of black Americans. As a child, he read off the soup cans and cereal boxes, and when his mother brought him to the library, his whole world opened up. After facing intense prejudice at school from both students and some teachers, August dropped out. However, he continued reading and educating himself independently. He felt that if he could read about it, then he could teach himself anything and accomplish anything. Like many of his plays, Feed Your Mind is told in two acts, revealing how Wilson grew up to be one of the most influential American playwrights. The book includes an author’s note, a timeline of August Wilson’s life, a list of Wilson’s plays, and a bibliography.

Grandma Gatewood : hikes the Appalachian trail
by Jennifer Thermes
Emma Gatewood’s life was far from easy. In rural Ohio, she managed a household of 11 kids alongside a less-than-supportive husband. One day, at age 67, she decided to go for a nice long walk . . . and ended up completing the Appalachian Trail. With just the clothes on her back and a pair of thin canvas sneakers on her feet, Grandma Gatewood hiked up ridges and down ravines. She braved angry storms and witnessed breathtaking sunrises. When things got particularly tough, she relied on the kindness of strangers or sheer luck to get her through the night. When the newspapers got wind of her amazing adventure, the whole country cheered her on to the end of her trek, which came just a few months after she set out. A story of true grit and girl power at any age, Grandma Gatewood proves that no peak is insurmountable.

Library on Wheels: Mary Lemist Titcomb and America’s First Bookmobile by Sharlee Glenn
As librarian at the Washington County Free Library in Maryland, Mary Lemist Titcomb was concerned that the library was not reaching all the people it could. She was determined that everyone should have access to the library–not just adults and those who lived in town. Realizing its limitations and inability to reach the county’s 25,000 rural residents, including farmers and their families, Titcomb set about to change the library system forever with the introduction of book-deposit stations throughout the country, a children’s room in the library, and her most revolutionary idea of all–a horse-drawn Book Wagon.

For more information about this award, please contact the Youth Services Department at 216-623-2834 or