The Judy Lopez Memorial Award for Children’s Literature: Over The Years

The Judy Lopez Award for Children’s Literature is a national award, given every year, to call attention to fine literature for children ages nine through twelve. The awards honor Judy Lopez, a founding member of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA/LA).

Judy demonstrated a love of books in every aspect of her life. Professionally, she was a publishers’ representative, book retailer, and then buyer for the California State University Bookstore. A promoter of literacy among pre-teens, including her daughter, Coquille (Coco) Lopez, Judy recognized the need to develop a child’s love of books early in life, when so many other distractions exist. She and other founding WNBA/LA members believed that a love of reading, established early, stays with a person for the rest of his or her life.

When Judy Lopez died of leukemia in 1985, her family wanted to honor her memory by encouraging reading in children. Judy’s parents, Desda and Ralph Slottow established the awards with Ami Kirby, who was then the head of Children’s Services for the Santa Monica Public Library System. They also created the Judy Lopez Foundation, which included Judy’s brother, Jeffrey Slottow, and volunteer, Hadassa K. Gilbert. The first award presentation occurred on June 14, 1986, and the medalist was Pam Conrad, for Prairie Songs. 

Judy Lopez and daughter, Coco

On June 12, 1999, the Young Adult (YA) literary community celebrated the fourteenth year of the Judy Lopez Memorial Award for Children’s Literature. That evening at the University of California Los Angeles Faculty Club, author Anita Lobel was given a medal for her memoir, No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War, which recounts her childhood in Nazi-occupied Poland. Ms. Lobel’s heartfelt speech thanked those who granted her the award, and then she spoke of how her book came into being, almost without her trying, as an assignment for a writing class.

The Judy Lopez Selection Committee continues to honor quality children’s literature. Each spring, after several intense and lively discussion sessions, four books published in the United States during the previous year are selected. The medalist receives a handsome bronze medallion, created by the well-known sculptor, Alex Shagrin, showing a young girl reading. The model was Judy Lopez’s daughter, Coco, then nine years old. The other three books receive honor certificates. The awards have gone to works of fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels and are formally presented, festive occasions open to the public, and include featured appearances by many distinguished authors.

Each year since 1986, the Judy Lopez Award for Children’s Literature has brought four new outstanding books to the attention of librarians, teachers, booksellers, reviewers, and parents, and through them, to the attention of children.

(Content contributed by Michelle Brook, Margaret Byron Flanders, Gail Kim, and Ruth Light)


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