The career of children’s book illustrator Melissa Sweet of Portland will be celebrated at this year’s Carle Honors gala in New York City in September.

Presented by the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Massachusetts, the Carle Honors recognize creative vision and dedication in the field of picture books and children’s literature.

The awards celebrate artists, mentors, funders and presenters who bring picture-book art to large audiences. Past recipients include Paul O. Zelinsky, Maurice Sendak and Ashley Bryan.

“It’s an august list,” Sweet said. “When I got a phone message, I was just speechless. I think the first thing I said was, ‘Oh my goodness, I am in really good company here.’ ”

Her second thought was, “I am just getting started. It’s an incredible acknowledgement for a body of work, but you always want to feel the best is yet to come. I am over the moon and grateful.”

She has collaborated with writers on numerous projects and illustrated many award-winning books, including Caldecott Honor winners “The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus” and “A River of Words: William Carlos Williams.” “A Splash of Red: The Art of Horace Pippin” and “Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade” – both won Sibert and Orbis Pictus awards. Her New York Times bestseller “Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White” also won an Orbis Pictus Award. In all, she has illustrated more than 100 books.

She is known for her colorful collages, her use of words and text in her art and a playful imagination that presents itself with fun, spirited illustrations that quickly convey emotions and experiences, as well as her willingness to tackle daunting biographical subjects in children’s books. Nicholas Clark, founding director of the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, called Sweet “the consummate draftsman” with “a wonderful ability to really bring these artists and these authors and these wordsmiths alive in two- and three-dimensional ways.”

Clark said there was “virtually no discussion among the committee” about whether Sweet deserved the award. “We always have a very long list of artists to choose from, and we’re always trying to figure out whose time is right. She has a portfolio that is incontestable. She is in good company and deserves to be in good company.”

Other winners this year are Reforma, a national association that promotes literacy among Latinos; the Chihiro Art Museum in Tokyo, which is dedicated to illustrations for children’s books; and David Saylor, an executive with Scholastic Trade Publishing Group and founder of graphic novel imprint, Graphix.

The Carle Honors will be held Sept. 26 in New York, and the event functions as a fundraiser for the museum. In addition to the recognition, recipients receive a high-quality digital print of a butterfly from Eric Carle’s book, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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