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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 and 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.


The 2023 FOCAL Award winner is...
Efrén Divided
Author: Ernesto Cisneros

Sponsored by FOCAL (Friends of Children and Literature) of the Children’s Literature Department, Central Library, Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL), the book is also the winner of the American Library Association’s prestigious 2021 Pura Belpre Award, given each year to an “outstanding work of literature for children and young adults that best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience.” (ALA website)

This delightful novel is about seventh-grader, Efrén Nava. Set in California, as are all FOCAL award-winners, this book tells the story of a boy whose mother is summarily deported and the consequences of this immigration nightmare. Told in English but laced with Spanish throughout. A glossary appears in the back.

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