Last Thursday, the PEN American Center announced the shortlists for its 2013 Literary Awards. We were pleased and excited to learn that not one but two picture books from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers have been included among the five titles on this year’s shortlist for the PEN/Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing. This award was established in 2011 and is given annually “to a writer for an exceptional story illustrated in a picture book.”

Each of our two shortlisted books now has a chance of winning the $5,000 prize — and, with it, the honor and prestige attached to one of the most respected literary prizes in America — when the final awards are announced in August.

Our congratulations and best wishes go out to the authors of the following two books:

I Lay My Stitches Down
I Lay My Stitches Down

I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery 
Written by Cynthia Grady
Illustrated by Michele Wood

This rich and intricate collection of poems chronicles the various experiences of American slaves. Drawn together through imagery drawn from quilting and fiber arts, each poem is spoken from a different perspective: a house slave, a mother losing her daughter to the auction block, a blacksmith, a slave fleeing on the Underground Railroad.

This moving and eloquent set of poems, brought to life by vivid and colorful artwork from Michele Wood, offers a timeless witness to the hardship endured by America’s slaves. Each poem is supplemented by a historical note.

Read an EerdWord guest post by author Cynthia Grady

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau
The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau
Written by Michelle Markel
Illustrated by Amanda Hall

Henri Rousseau wanted to be an artist. But he had no formal training. Instead, he taught himself to paint. He painted until the jungles and animals and distant lands in his head came alive on the space of his canvases.

Henri Rousseau endured the harsh critics of his day and created the brilliant paintings that now hang in museums around the world. Michelle Markel’s vivid text, complemented by the vibrant illustrations of Amanda Hall, artfully introduces young readers to the beloved painter and encourages all readers to persevere despite all odds.

Watch the book trailer

Click to learn more about the PEN Literary Awards or to see which other books made the PEN shortlists for 2013.