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James E. Ransome wins 2023 Children’s Literature Legacy Award

NEW ORLEANS – James E. Ransome, illustrator and author is the winner of the 2023 Children’s Literature Legacy Award honoring an author or illustrator, published in the United States, whose books have made a significant and lasting contribution to literature for children. His numerous works include “The Bell Rang” (Atheneum, 2019), “Before She Was Harriet” (Holiday House, 2017), and “Uncle Jeb’s Barbershop” (Simon & Schuster, 1993).

The award was announced today, during the ALA’s LibLearnX: The Library Learning Experience held January 27 – 30, in New Orleans. The award is administered annually by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association.

“Ransome makes visible the stories that have gone untold. His body of work as a multidisciplinary artist, who often combines several styles and techniques in one book bridges generations of young readers,” said Children’s Literature Legacy Award Committee Chair Maegen Rose.

Ransome was born in rural Rich Square, North Carolina. With no art classes offered at his school, he began borrowing the few how-to-draw books in his school library. After his freshman year in high school, Ransome moved to Bergenfield, New Jersey, where filmmaking and photography classes greatly influenced his style of illustration. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Recently, he earned an MFA in Painting from Lesley University. His traveling exhibit, Visual Stories, has been touring the United States since 2003. He lives with his wife and frequent collaborator, Lesa Cline-Ransome in the Hudson Valley of New York.

James Ransome’s award-winning works include “Uncle Jed’s Barbershop,” which won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award, 1994 and “The Creation” recipient of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, 1995. In addition, Ransome has received the IBBY Honor Award for “The Creation,” and the NAACP Image Award for “Let My People Go.”

Ransome’s body of work contributes to the knowledge base of Black American life both historical and present day. His art displays both the tragic parts of Black history while rendering Black humanity, perseverance, hope, and courage. Ransome sees his books as a natural bridge for young readers between the tangible and our history.

Ransome’s mastery of multiple artistic techniques elevates each book. In “Before She Was Harriet” powerful watercolor paintings illustrate the bold and brave life of Harriet Tubman. Ransome states, “I’m trying to find something in between the words, in between the sentence and the structures of the sentence. I’m trying to find a sort of something that the writer is not necessarily describing […] There’s a soul.”

Members of the 2023 Children’s Literature Legacy Award Committee are: Chair Maegen Rose, Brooklyn Friends School, New York; Sandra Farag, Kalamazoo Public Library, Michigan; Mary Fellows, Upper Hudson Library System, Albany, New York; Ayn Reyes Frazee, Franklin High School, Portland, Oregon; and Amy E. Sears, Teaneck Public Library, New Jersey.

ALSC is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children. With a network of more than 4,000 children’s and youth librarians, literature experts, publishers, and educational faculty, ALSC members are committed to engaging communities to build healthy, successful futures for all children. To learn more about ALSC, visit their website at

For more information on the Children’s Literature Legacy Award and other ALA literary awards, please visit



The American Library Association (ALA) is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, ALA has been the trusted voice for academic, public, school, government and special libraries, advocating for the profession and the library’s role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit




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