Jean Little: Winner of the 2012 Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life ($20,000)

Congratulations to children's author Jean Little, the winner of The Word Guild's 2010 Leslie K. Tarr Award, and a plenary speaker at Write! Canada, who was recently presented with the Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life ($20,000).

The Writers’ Trust of Canada awarded $114,000 to Canadian writers at the 12th annual Writers’ Trust Awards. Comprising five awards for literary merit and a sixth for long-standing service to the country’s literary community, the Awards provide the occasion for one of the richest literary prize-giving events in Canada. Jean Little, who, nearly blind since birth, has overcome tremendous challenges to write dozens of beloved books for young readers, received the $20,000 prize. The event, held in the fall was hosted by CBC Radio One broadcast journalist Shelagh Rogers.

Citation: "Jean was a pioneer Canadian writer, standing almost alone as a major, internationally recognized Canadian children’s author. She was an outstanding leader when it came to fearless book promotion. Her school appearances were legendary… let’s just say they could send shivers of fear and joy through children’s spines."

About the Author

Jean Little is recognized throughout North America for her candid and unsentimental portrayals of adolescent life. Once a teacher of handicapped children, Little herself is only partially sighted, and she uses much of her real-life experience as the basis for her books. Her characters often deal with physical disabilities or confront psychological difficulties; however, none of her characters find magical cures for their problems. Instead, they learn to cope with and survive the challenges they face, and thus they are led to greater self-understanding.

Little’s parents read to her frequently, and as she gained limited vision, they taught her to read on her own. "Reading became my greatest joy," she wrote in her autobiography Little by Little: A Writer's Education. In 1955, Little graduated with her bachelor's degree in English from the Victoria College's English language and literature program and, for the next six years, she worked with handicapped children. These years helped inspire her to write for kids. "I decided to search for books about children with motor handicaps… I did not think they needed a book to help them adjust. I did believe, however, that crippled children had a right to find themselves represented in fiction."

About the Prize

Established by a group of anonymous donors, the Matt Cohen Award recognizes a lifetime of distinguished work by a Canadian writer, working in either poetry or prose in either French or English. A founding member of the Writers’ Union of Canada, Mr. Cohen was a celebrated and prolific writer who died in 1999 at the age of 56.

Selected Publications by Jean Little
Take Wing (1968)
Mama's Going to Buy You a Mockingbird (1984)
Lost and Found (1986)
Different Dragons (1989)
Little by Little: A Writer's Education (1989)
From Anna (1990)
Look Through My Window (1995)
Kate (1995)
Mine for Keeps (1995)
Spring Begins in March (1996)
Willow and Twig (2003)
Brothers Far from Home (2003)
If I Die Before I Wake (2007)