Norman A. Sugarman Children’s Biography Award

Sugarman LogoThe 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.

2018 Winner

 Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White
by Melissa Sweet  Summary
In an illustrated biography that invites slow perusing, two-time Caldecott Honor-recipient Sweet (The Right Word) unspools the life of author E.B. White (1899-1985) in meticulously crafted, scrapbook-style pages. Her carefully assembled, whimsical collages feature watercolor illustrations, homemade paper, wood scraps, and maps merged with cartoons, family photographs, handwritten rough drafts, and other archival material. Over 13 chapters, Sweet recounts White’s near-idyllic childhood in New York state, his post-college wanderlust, a writing career with the New Yorker and Harper’s magazine, and the acclaimed children’s books he created amid marriage and fatherhood. Aimed at elementary-school-age readers, this fond tribute will be best appreciated by those with some context for White’s classics, e.g., the title’s reference to Charlotte’s Web, though familiarity with his work isn’t required: Sweet gorgeously melds story and art to create a detailed portrait of White as an observant, humble, brilliant wordsmith with an affinity for nature. An author’s note, an afterword by White’s granddaughter, source notes, a selected bibliography, and a chronological list of his books conclude an excellent guide to the life of a celebrated writer.

2018 Honor Books

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library
by Carole Boston Weatherford, Eric Velásquez (Illustrator)
In luminous paintings and arresting poems, two of children’s literature’s top African-American scholars track Arturo Schomburg’s quest to correct history. Where is our historian to give us our side? Arturo asked. Amid the scholars, poets, authors, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance stood an Afro-Puerto Rican named Arturo Schomburg. This law clerk’s life’s passion was to collect books, letters, music, and art from Africa and the African diaspora and bring to light the achievements of people of African descent through the ages. When Schomburg’s collection became so big it began to overflow his house (and his wife threatened to mutiny), he turned to the New York Public Library, where he created and curated a collection that was the cornerstone of a new Negro Division. A century later, his groundbreaking collection, known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, has become a beacon to scholars all over the world. 


 Danza!: Amalia Hernández and Mexico Folkloric Ballet
by Duncan Tonatiuah
Award-winning author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh tells the story of Amalia Hernandez, dancer and founder of El Ballet Folkloric de Mexico. Published in time for the 100th anniversary of Hernandez’s birth, Danza! is the first picture book about the famous dancer and choreographer. Danza! is a celebration of Hernandez’s life and of the rich history of dance in Mexico. As a child, Amalia always thought she would grow up to be a teacher, until she saw a performance of dancers in her town square. She was fascinated by the way the dancers twirled and swayed, and she knew that someday she would be a dancer, too. She began to study many different types of dance, including ballet and modern, under some of the best teachers in the world. Hernandez traveled throughout Mexico studying and learning regional dances. Soon she founded her own dance company, El Ballet Folkloric de Mexico, where she integrated her knowledge of ballet and modern dance with folkloric dances. The group began to perform all over the country and soon all over the world, becoming an international sensation that still tours today.


View Past Sugarman Awards

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