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The FOCAL Award

The FOCAL Award was instituted by founding member Janet McOuat. The Award is presented annually to a work that enriches a child’s knowledge and understanding of California and its history. In order to receive the Award, a book must be of the highest literary and artistic quality, and must exhibit California content. It must also be interesting and appealing to children of the book’s target age level. Generally, the Awards Committee chooses from books published within the past five years, and the book must still be in print. The first FOCAL Award was given in 1980 to Pedro, the Angel of Olvera Street by author and illustrator Leo Politi, whose charming illustration of reading children was designed especially for FOCAL, and became the FOCAL logo.

The Award, which is a unique hand-crafted puppet representing a character from the winning book, is presented to the author of that book. The unique puppets, which are on display in the Children’s Literature Department of Central Library, were created by Carol Onofrio each year from 1980 – 2014. Since then the puppets have been created by Jesse Kingsley and Moira MacDonald.

The FOCAL Award committee is comprised of a Chair, five voting members, and two non-voting members, including the FOCAL president and former committee chairperson. Each member serves a two-year term.

History of the FOCAL Award

All of the past award winners are gathered HERE

The 2023 Essay Contest is closed. The announcement of the winners is pending.

cookies and milk.jpg

The 2024 FOCAL Award winner is...
Cookies & Milk
Author: Shawn Amos

Sponsored by FOCAL (Friends of Children and Literature) of the Children’s Literature Department, Central Library, Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL), Cookies & Milk was also the winner of the 2023 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work- Youth/Teens.

It's a summer of family, friendship, and fun fiascos in this semi-autobiographical novel that's as irresistible as a fresh-baked cookie.

Eleven-year-old Ellis Johnson has the summertime blues. He dreamed of spending the summer of 1976 hanging out with friends, listening to music, and playing his harmonica. Instead, he'll be sleeping on a lumpy pullout in Dad's sad little post-divorce bungalow and helping bring Dad's latest far-fetched, sure-to-fail idea to life: opening the world's first chocolate chip cookie store.

They have six weeks to perfect their recipe, get a ramshackle A-frame on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard into tip-top shape, and bring in customers.

But of course, nothing is as easy as Dad makes it sound, even with Grandma along for the ride. Like she says, they have to GIT--get it together--and make things work. Along the way, Ellis discovers a family mystery he is determined to solve, the power of community, and new faith in himself.

Cookies & Milk is partially based on Shawn Amos's own experiences growing up the son of Wally "Famous" Amos in a mostly white community in Souther California. Packed with humor, heart, and fun illustrations, this debut novel sings with the joy of self-discovery, unconditional love, and belonging.

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