THE highest award for a children's book illustrator is the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book. This year, the medal was given to Emily Arnold McCully at the annual convention of American Library Association, which this year was held in Denver. Ms. McCully's book, "Mirette on the High Wire" (G. P. Putnam's Sons) tells the story of a courageous young girl in 19th-century Paris who comes to the aid of a high-wire artist who fears his career is over (See illustration, l eft).
McCully's artwork has been included in the International Biennale at Bratislava, and she has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Also honored by the Caldecott committee as runners-up were: "Seven Blind Mice," written and illustrated by Ed Young (Philomel Books); "The Stinky Cheese Man & Other Fairly Stupid Tales," illustrated by Lane Smith, written by Jon Scieszka and edited by Regina Hayes (Viking); and "Working Cotton," illustrated by Carole Byard, written by Sherley Anne Williams (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich).
The second prestigious award is the John Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. It went to Cynthia Rylant for "Missing May" (Orchard Books), a story about a pre-teenage girl dealing with the death of her Aunt May, who brought her up when she was orphaned.
The Newbery committee also honored: "The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural," by Patricia McKissack (Alfred A. Knopf); "Somewhere in the Darkness," by Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic Hardcover); and "What Hearts," by Bruce Brooks (A Laura Geringer Book, an imprint of HarperCollins).
The Coretta Scott King Author Award went to Patricia McKissack for "The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural." The Coretta Scott King illustrator award went to Kathleen Atkins Wilson for "The Origin of Life on Earth: An African Creation Myth" retold by David A. Anderson (SANKOFA Sight Productions).