Pennsylvania Center for the Book


The Pennsylvania Center for the Book and the University Libraries are pleased to announce the winner of the 2015 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and an honor award winner.

2015 Winner:

2015 Honoree:

Lee Bennett Hopkins Award Criteria


History of the Award

Past Winners

2015 Press Release (html)

2015 Press Release (PDF)

Lee Bennett Hopkins Website

Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Teaching Toolbox

This year's winner is Kwame Alexander for The Crossover (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

The award and a $1000 prize, courtesy of Lee Bennett Hopkins, will be presented at Penn State University in the fall.

crossover cover

Judges' Comments:

Crossover is the first great hip hop novel.  Kwame Alexander singlehandedly justifies the form of the novel in verse with a story that could not be told any other way.  And it is the compelling story that carries the reader through this book told in urban verse that, while truly poetry, does not call attention to itself.  

Kwame Alexander’s Crossover is light on its feet—fast, smart, and gripping. 

Reading Alexander's description of Josh and JB's teamwork as they moved up and down the court made me feel like I was running alongside as they passed and crossed right before the game winning shot. Kwame Alexander's words created the rhythm of the basketball as it pounds against the hardwood court and the speed of a player who steals the ball and takes it down for a slam dunk on the other end. His writing set a perfect pace to tell the complicated relationship of twin boys who share a love for basketball along with their devoted yet stubborn father. Alexander has given us a book that even the most reluctant reader can't resist. We learn some things about basketball, but a lot more about life.


Additionally, judges gave an honor award to:

Paul B. Janeczko for Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Candlewick)

firefly july cover

Judges' Comments:

Firefly July is everything a good poetry anthology should be.  Janeczko has selected poems that flow like a light breeze taking young readers through a year.  The transitions are subtle and enhanced by the visual cues in Melissa Sweet's illustrations.  A beautiful example of bookmaking.

Firefly July is a winning combination of short poems that speak to all ages and illustrations that take us beyond the words. 

Paul Janeczko has brilliantly compiled a variety of poetry to celebrate the seasons, and his work is perfectly complimented by Melissa Sweet’s vibrant illustrations. I loved this anthology and believe that not only will this collection be loved in homes but in classrooms, too.


Penn State Libraries Center for the Book - Library of Congress