Award-winning children’s book author Nancy Churnin named winner of the 2021 National Jewish Book Award

2021 National Jewish Book Award Winner – Children’s Picture Book Category

A fascinating bit of history and a great addition to the libraries.

Today the Jewish Book Council is pleased to announce that Nancy Churnin, former theater critic for the Dallas Morning News and award-winning author of children’s books, has been named the winner of the 2021 National Jewish Book Award in the Children’s category. Picture Book for Dear Mr. Dickens, illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe (Albert Whitman & Co).

Nancy is the author of numerous books written to teach and educate young readers about historical figures, including Martin & Anne: The Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank, Beautiful Shades of Brown: The Art of Laura Wheeler, The William Hoy History: How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game and Irving Berlin: The Immigrant Boy Who Blackmailed America. Teaching guides and school projects are available for all of his books.

With Dear Mr. Dickens, Churnin teaches young readers about the prejudices that were common against Jews. She explains that in the time of Eliza Davis, Charles Dickens was England’s most famous living writer. But some of his books reflected a prejudice that was all too prevalent at the time: prejudice against the Jewish people. Eliza was Jewish and her heart ached to see a Jewish character from Oliver Twist portrayed as ugly and selfish. She wanted to say how unfair it was, even if it meant exposing the great man himself. So she wrote a letter to Charles Dickens. What happened next is history.

What people say….

STARRED REVIEW! “Not only is this historical account well-written, but Stancliffe’s illustrations powerfully take readers back to the times. An important addition to libraries that fills a gap on anti-Semitism and the fight against prejudice.” ― Featured journal of School Library Journal

“Churnin presents this well-researched and little-known episode to young readers in simple, straightforward language that conveys both Eliza’s pain and her determination to right a wrong and provides them with a thoughtful comparison to their own time. A compelling piece history and lots to think about.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Stancliffe’s engaging illustrations with a lush palette are interspersed with black-and-white drawings that evoke the Dickens era. Churnin’s language also echoes the period and includes direct quotes from the pair’s seven letters.” ―The Horn Book, Book Bundles

Chicago Public Library Best Information Books for Young Readers 2021

The Best Jewish Children’s Books of 2021, Tablet Magazine

The books are available online and in bookstores.

To learn more about Nancy Churnin, visit:


Born in New York, Nancy is a graduate of Harvard University, with a master’s degree from Columbia University. She lives in Dallas with her husband, a dog named Dog, and two cantankerous cats.

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Grover Z. Barnes