In a livestreamed ceremony on Aug. 17, Clavis Publishing brought the Key Colours Competition, an international biennial contest for picture book creators, to the United States, naming one winner and two runners-up.

The Key Colours Competition was created in Belgium in 1996 by Clavis to encourage young authors and illustrators to create picture books. In 2017, Key Colours went international for the first time with the cooperation with UTOP Publishing in Beijing. The third Beijing Key Colours competition will be held in 2021. Many bestselling authors/illustrators have been discovered through the competition, including Guido van Genechten, Anita Bijsterbosch, and Francesca Pirrone.

The basic rules for the U.S. Key Colors Competition are as follows: Entrants must be based in the United States and create a picture book for the readers between the age of two to seven with a very child-supportive storyline. Each entry must consist of the story in English, the full storyboard in sketches, and three finished pictures in any appropriate art style. The winner receives $8000 and a publishing contract from Clavis. The runners-up also receive publishing contracts from Clavis.

A jury of five industry professionals judged the U.S. competition, assessing the artistic, literary, and child-oriented qualities of the works. The jury included: Clavis CEO and Publisher Philippe Werck; Emma Kantor, deputy children’s book editor at Publishers Weekly; Meghan Goel, children's book buyer and programming director at BookPeople; and international bestselling illustrator and author van Genechten, who won the 1998 Belgian Key Colours Competition for his picture book Rikki and whose Little White Fish has sold more than 600,000 copies in 20 countries.

The first U.S. Key Colors Competition received 156 entries, 12 of which were named finalists and five of which were shortlisted. The shortlist included, Soomi’s Sweater by Susie Oh, Whose Dress Is This by Dora Wang , My Key by Amal Karzai, Doris’s Dear Delinquents by Emma Ward, and The Shadow by Lara Vallance.

Founded in 1979 by Werck in his hometown of Hasselt, Belgium, Clavis Publishing opened offices in Amsterdam in 2001 and New York in 2008, and currently publishes approximately 250 children’s books annually. For more information about the Key Colors Competition, visit