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For information about the Palms Library, see the Library page.


FOCAL (Friends of Children and Literature) is a support group for the Children's Literature Department of the Central Los Angeles Public Library.

This year's FOCAL book selection is Todos Iguales: Un Corrido de Lemon Grove = All Equal: A Ballad of Lemon Grove by Christy Hale. Students are invited to enter the annual FOCAL (Friends of Children and Literature) Essay Contest by writing an essay about this book, with a deadline of Monday, August 3, 2020. They can enter on their own or ask their English or History teacher about it. The three essay winners will meet the author and receive an autographed copy of the book at the awards luncheon on September 5, 2020.Book Cover

Watch a conversation about Todos Iguales - All Equal with the author/illustrator Christy Hale here.

Annual Book Award

The annual FOCAL Award is given to a children's book, grades 3-8, with California content.

  • 2021 winner: Biddy Mason Speaks Up by Arisa White
  • 2020 winner: Todos Iguales: Un Corrido de Lemon Grove (All Equal: A Ballad of Lemon Grove) by Christy Hale
  • 2019 winner: Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee
  • 2018 winner: Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh by Uma Krishaswami
  • 2017 winner: Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko
  • 2016 winner: Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain by Russell Freedman
  • 2015 winner: Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh
  • 2014 winner: The Tree Lady: the True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins
  • 2013 winner: One Crazy Day by Rita Williams-Garcia
  • 2012 winner: One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street by Joanne Rocklin

See full list with descriptions.

We encourage families to seek out these books. You can find them at the L.A. Central Library and other libraries, and you can buy them from commercial book sellers as well.

Focal Award Ceremony

An award ceremony is held for the essay contest winners. They each receive an autographed copy of the award-winning book and have an opportunity to read their essays aloud.

From 2007 to 2013, students from Palms were invited to prepare the centerpieces for the luncheon.

Photos: the Award Ceremony program, centerpieces on the table, how they were prepared, and a closeup of one amazing orange tree.

FOCAL 2012 Award Ceremony


English and History teachers

Mr. Frankel, teacher/librarian

Annual Essay Contest

Fall 2021 FOCAL Essay Contest

No contest this year.

Normal schedule:

Submission Deadline: August 2021

Winners notified: August 2021

Awards Luncheon: September 2021


The FOCAL Essay Contest, held annually in the Spring semester, is a writing contest for students. Three winners get to join the FOCAL Award author at the award luncheon, held in the fall. They will each receive a signed copy of the award-winning book as well.

Participating students read the winning book, then write essays, no longer than 300 words, to tell the judges their reaction to the book, something about a character or scene that stuck with them, and what it would mean to them to meet the author.

Contest rules

Entries must use the official entry form, which you can download below. Your English or History teacher may have copies too, and there may be copies in the Library.

You can submit the contest entry yourself, or teachers may submit a limited number on behalf of students. See the Contest Form for details.

Contest Rules

Among the contest rules:

  • Entries must be postmarked by the deadline shown above, with the completed entry form.
  • Entries must be typed or computer printed on clean, white, 8.5" x 11" paper, in 12-point font.
  • Type the word count on a separate line at the end.
  • No more than 3 essays may be submitted by a teacher from any one classroom, but students can mail in their own application.
  • You can't win if your entry has spelling, punctuation, or grammar mistakes.

See the Contest Form and the FOCAL website for the full rules.

online Contest entry form 
Printable Contest Entry Form