At this morning’s Children’s Book and Author Breakfast, two bookstores will receive the WNBA Pannell Award, given annually since 1983 by the Women’s National Book Association to two bookstores—one general and one children’s specialty store—that excel in bringing books and young people together. This year’s winners are both Michigan stores: Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor won in the general bookstore category, and Bookbug in Kalamazoo clinched the award for a children’s specialty store.

A jury of five book industry professionals deliberated for four weeks before selecting the winners based on creativity, responsiveness to community needs, and an understanding of young readers. Each recipient of the award, which is underwritten by a gift from Penguin Young Readers Group, receives a check for $1,000 and a piece of framed original children’s book art, this year donated by James Dean of Pete the Cat fame and Susan Stockdale, author and illustrator of Stripes of All Types.

The jurors cited Nicola’s Books for the store’s “over and above commitment and partnering skills to benefit children, families, and the community at large.” Nicola Rooney, who has owned Nicola’s Books since 1995, said that her store’s children’s department has doubled in size since 2001, when Linda Goodman, the children’s buyer and “our children’s empire builder,” came on board.

The store works closely with local schools, libraries, and authors to create programming that motivates children to read. Programs have included science-themed camps, events with a local nature center whose staffers bring animals into the store, and summer reading programs with various incentives for young customers.

“This is the first award we’ve won, and I’m totally thrilled that it is a children’s award,” Rooney says. “Our customer base is entirely sympathetic to the importance of children’s books and encouraging reading at a young age. Ann Arbor does have a reputation for being academic and literary, but I think it is very important to get children reading by exposing them to books that they enjoy.”

Since Rooney is unable to attend BEA, Nicola’s Books adult buyer Bill Cusumano and events coordinator Lynn Pellerito Riehl will accept the award this morning.

The Pannell Award jurors praised Bookbug for having a “terrific history of civic engagement, actively engaging in all aspects of the local community to stay relevant and of service to children and their families.” Joanna Parzakonis, who has owned Bookbug with her husband, Derek, for five years, notes that winning the award is “amazing and humbling and surprising, because of the youth of our store compared to other booksellers with so much more experience than we have.”

Bookbug’s outreach has included partnering with local schools and libraries, as well as “smaller organizations that connect with youth in a grassroots way, like Open Roads, a bike program for kids, and Peace House, a safe haven and learning center in a tough area of town. We work with them to provide books for kids attending their programs.”

Parzakonis says that she and her husband “share this award with our town in every way” and are directing the cash component of their Pannell award to RAWK: Reading and Writing Kalamazoo, a newly launched nonprofit literacy initiative that will include creative writing workshops, author-led events, and reading support for children ages 6–18.

Attending BEA for the first time, Joanna and Derek Parzakonis are on hand to accept the award at this morning’s breakfast. “We are thrilled to be here among so many of our colleagues and to have the chance to recognize Kalamazoo in New York City,” she says.