Neumann University presented its 2022 Bock Book Award for Children’s Literature to I Can Help, the tale of a young girl who rediscovers her innate kindness after peer pressure stifles her desire to help others.
Author Reem Faruqi and illustrator Mikela Prevost accepted the prize online Oct. 26 from their homes in Georgia and Arizona.
Neumann First Lady Mary Domes read the book aloud to youngsters from the university’s Child Development Center and second-grade students from Drexel Neumann Academy.
I Can Help tells the story of Zahra, a little girl who enjoys helping others but who starts making choices she regrets when classmates start teasing her for helping a boy with special needs.
Kirkus Reviews calls the book “an illuminating glimpse into how a young child learns to trust her instinct and be kind to others.”
School Library Journal says of the book that “Lessons about kindness, regret, and making amends are all here without being the least bit didactic. An excellent conversation starter for any adults who work with groups of children.”
Faruqi is also the author of Lailah’s Lunchbox, Amira’s Picture Day, Golden Girl, and Unsettled, which is loosely based on Faruqi’s own story.
Of Pakistani descent, she immigrated to Peachtree City, Georgia, from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates when she was 13 years old. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Atlanta.
Prevost is an author and illustrator who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband and their three children. Writing and illustrating for children has been her lifelong pursuit. She explains that her work is driven “by the desire to capture the whimsical innocence and unique perspective from which a child sees the world.”
The award is named in honor of Frances and Wesley Bock, co-owners of a store in Philadelphia that provided equipment, clothing, and supplies to religious institutions. As a sales representative to the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, they grew to know the congregation well and began making contributions to the order.
When the Bocks passed away, their estate went to their nephew, William Gagliardi, who was then a Neumann University staff member. In consultation with the university library, Gagliardi established the Bock Book Award for Children’s Literature in their memory.
The award has been presented every year since 2000 with the exception of 2020 during the global COVID-19 pandemic.