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2022 Bill Martin Jr. Picture Book Award Winner Announced

illustration of letters

Characters separated by walls, learning what’s on the other side of the walls is the premise of this year’s Bill Martin Jr. Picture Book Award, "Every Little Letter."

“The selection of this book reflects the influence of our youth’s curiosity and wonder,” said Dr. Heather Caswell, chair of the Bill Martin Jr. Picture Book Award Committee. “It highlights the impact of valuing our differences and unique contributions.”

The Bill Martin Jr. Picture Book Award aims to promote an appreciation of quality literature in young children across Kansas.

Deborah Underwood, author of “Every Little Letter,” has written more than 20 children's books, including the Caldecott Honor book “Outside In” and the New York Times bestsellers “The Quiet Book,” “The Loud Book” and “Here Comes the Easter Cat,” and the Sugar Plumb Ballerinas Series.

“Every Little Letter” is the first picture book illustrated by artist Joy Hwang Ruiz. She started @momisdrawing on Instagram to document her role as a new parent and the small moments families share, as well as celebrate diversity.

“Every Little Letter” was published by Dial Books.

Nominees for the 2023 award, along with previous years’ winners and nominated works can be found at

Each year, books are suggested by teachers, parents, communities and librarians. A committee chooses nominations from the list of suggested books. The annual nominations are announced in the spring and, during the following winter, Kansans vote for the winning title. This provides time for children and adult interaction before voting for a winner.

The Bill Martin Jr. Picture Book Award was established in 1996 by the Kansas Reading Association. Since March 2018, the award has been a statewide award presented by Emporia State University. The purpose of the award is to promote an appreciation of quality literature in young children across Kansas. The award is named for Kansas native Bill Martin Jr., American educator and author of more than 300 children's books.

Martin graduated with a teaching certificate from Emporia State University. He worked as a teacher and principal before starting his career as a children’s book author. Through the years he gave children some of their favorite books, including “Brown Bear, Brown Bear,” “What Do you See?” (illustrated by Eric Carle), “The Ghost-Eye Tree,” “Barn Dance,” “Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom” and many more.