Malka Penn Award

Malka Penn Award

The Malka Penn Award is given annually to the author of an outstanding children’s book addressing human rights issues or themes, such as discrimination, equity, poverty, justice, war, peace, slavery or freedom.  Within these larger themes, the award committee is particularly eager to recognize stories about individuals – real or fictional, children or adults – who have been affected by social injustices, and who, by confronting them, have made a difference in their lives or the lives of others.

The winner of the 2017 Malka Penn Award for Human Rights in Children’s Literature is

My Beautiful Birds

by Suzanne Del Rizzo

published by Pajama Press

My Beautiful Birds Cover


“My Beautiful Birds” embodies the intention behind the Malka Penn Award: to present stories of individuals who have been affected by social injustices, and who, by confronting these injustices, have made a difference in their own lives and/or the lives of others.

Using simple, poetic language and stunning illustrations created from polymer clay and acrylic paints, the author/illustrator tells the story of a young Syrian boy fleeing war with his family.

As Sami struggles with the loss of his home and pet birds, he slowly adjusts to a new life in a refugee camp. Eventually he finds hope in a trio of wild birds, as well as by expressing his feelings through art, and by reaching out to help another refugee child.

The award was announced November 4, 2017 at the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair during a reception at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. The award will be presented this spring, at a date to be announced, at a special program at the Dodd Center.


The awards committee has also chosen three honor books:


by Alan Gratz

Refugee Cover a compelling middle-grade reader about refugee children from three different historical periods, who attempt to escape persecution, poverty and war
Somos como las nubes
We Are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta
Somos como las nubes cover powerful and beautiful bi-lingual poems about the migration of thousands of children from Central America
Us, in Progress:
Short Stories about Young Latinos by Lulu Delacre
Us in Progress Cover touching and evocative stories of immigration, deportation, prejudice and other issues facing Latinos in America





Any book for young children (birth through age 12) originally published in North America between Sept. 1, 2017 – Aug. 31, 2018 is eligible for consideration for the 2018 Malka Penn Award.  The book may be a work of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, or biography aimed at children below the age of thirteen.  Books must be published in a physical, print form—e-books are currently ineligible for consideration.


A committee of UConn faculty, staff, and community members selects one award winner each year.  In addition, up to ten additional books may be selected for special recognition.

To Submit

The deadline for submission for the 2018 Malka Penn Award is September 15, 2018.


To submit a book for consideration, send SIX or more copies to:

Glenn Mitoma
Malka Penn Award Selection Committee
Thomas J. Dodd Research Center
405 Babbidge Road, U-1205
Storrs, CT  06269-1205


Award winner and recognized books will be announced in early November.



Michele Palmer photoThe award is named in honor of author Michele Palmer, whose generous gift helped to establish the award.  Ms. Palmer has written over a dozen books for children and adults, including three children’s books under the pseudonym Malka Penn (The Miracle of the Potato Latkes, The Hanukkah Ghosts, and Ghosts and Golems).

As an oral historian at UConn’s Center for Oral History, her most exciting project was co-director of “Witnesses to Nuremberg: An Oral History of the War Crimes Trials,” in conjunction with the opening of the Dodd Center in 1995.

Ms. Palmer has also curated numerous art, book, and history exhibits at UConn and elsewhere. One of her exhibits at the Dodd Center – “After Anne Frank: Children’s Books About the Holocaust” – led to her establishing the Malka Penn Collection of Children’s Books on Human Rights in the Archives and Special Collections at the Dodd Center.