Arts and Entertainment

Lowry's 'On the Horizon' named 2021 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award winner

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State University Libraries and the Pennsylvania Center for the Book have announced the 2021 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, presented annually to an American poet or anthologist for the most outstanding new book of poetry for children published in the previous calendar year. This year’s winner is “On the Horizon” written by Lois Lowry, illustrated by Kenard Pak, and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers.                      

Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young ReadersAll Rights Reserved.

“Deceptively simple language evokes great emotion throughout this masterwork. Lowry deftly depicts a childlike sense of experiencing the war and provides a tender treatment of the postwar time period in Tokyo, as well as its transition into our contemporary world,” said one judge.

From another, “World War II provides the background for this book of poems, inspired by the author’s own childhood on Hawaii beaches and later, in Japan. Told in spare, compact verses, the horrors of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the atomic bomb in Hiroshima are explored side by side through a lens of people, names, and day-to-day objects like bicycles, watches and dolls. War is a tangled business, and this book succeeds in helping the reader grapple with those complexities.”

Lowry will accept the award and the $1,000 prize, courtesy of Lee Bennett Hopkins' estate, at a fall event.

Additionally, judges gave honor awards to “Ice! Poems About Polar Life,” written and illustrated by Douglas Florian, published by Holiday House, and to “Punching the Airby Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam, published by Balzer + Bray HarperCollins. About “Ice! Poems About Polar Life,” one judge said, “Climate change warnings and information about the poles and the animals that live there are delivered in both short pun-filled rhyming poems and in informational text blocks that provide more detail. Florian's illustrations on paper bags are delightful and will appeal to children who may be inspired to create their own poems and art.”

About “Punching the Air,” another judge said, “Talented YA author Zoboi teams up with a member of the Exonerated Five to author this verse novel that features a wrongly convicted teen who uses poetry and art to retain his humanity while the justice system and prison environment work to strip him of it. The powerful poems and the timely subject will engage the older youth in the 12- to 14-year-old range.”

The Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award was named for the internationally renowned educator, poet, anthologist and passionate advocate of poetry for young people. Established in 1993, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award was the first award of its kind in the United States. The Pennsylvania Center for the Book and the Penn State University Libraries share joint administration of this annual award, and its winning titles are selected by a panel of authors, librarians, teachers and scholars. 

The 2021 judges for the Lee Bennett Hopkins Award are chair, Cindy Dobrez, Bookends Blog co-author (Grand Haven, Michigan); Tony Medina, professor of creative writing at Howard University (Hyattsville, Maryland); Marilyn Nelson, poet, translator, children's book author (East Haven, Connecticut); Karen O’Connell, coordinator of the Arkansas Center for the Book (Little Rock, Arkansas); Suzanne Walker, Indiana Young Readers Center librarian (Indianapolis, Indiana).

The Pennsylvania Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Center for the Book established in 1977 at the Library of Congress, encourages Pennsylvania’s citizens and residents to study, honor, celebrate and promote books, reading, libraries and literacy. In addition to the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, it also administers the Public Poetry Project, the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, Poems from Life, A Baker’s Dozen: The Best Children’s Books for Family Literacy, the Wordstruck: Micro Essay contest, and the interactive Literary & Cultural Heritage Map of Pennsylvania.

For more information about the Hopkins Award, contact Caroline Wermuth at or 814-863-5472, or visit the Pennsylvania Center for the Book website.

Last Updated March 15, 2021