Close, but no cigar.
When the phone rang at 6:20 a.m. on Jan. 18, coincidentally the national holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Pinkney became the first individual African American to win the Randolph Caldecott Medal.
"It's pretty powerful," the delighted artist said.
Established in 1938 by the American Library Association, the Caldecott Medal - given to the best-illustrated children's book of the year - has been won twice by an interracial couple, illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon.
Pinkney, who works in watercolors, won for The Lion and the Mouse (Little, Brown), a wordless retelling of the Aesop fable. The story emphasizes courage in the face of intimidation and recognizes that positive contributions can be made by even the smallest among us - themes central to his African American heritage, said Pinkney, 70.
He enhanced the story by setting it in the African Serengeti and giving the mouse a family.
"I had not worked for that age level, 3- to 6-year-olds, until The Lion and the Mouse. And once I started on it, I loved it, especially now that I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
"So, for my next project, I'm working on The Three Little Kittens."
The Caldecott will be presented June 27 at the American Library Association's annual conference in Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, drawings by Pinkney and other Caldecott Medal winners will be displayed at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford March 19 to May 23.
And he is in conversation with the Free Library of Philadelphia to arrange a show and book signing here.
Pinkney's wife, Gloria Jean, also writes children's books and all four of their children are creative.
Their oldest son, Brian, is an illustrator who collaborates with his wife, Andrea Davis Pinkney, on books for young adults. Their middle son, Myles, is a photographer who produced a series of multicultural picture books with his wife, Sandra.
The couple's only daughter, Troy, is an art therapist, and their youngest son, Scott, is a painter and creative director of a Toronto ad agency.
"All together, we've put out about 175 books written and illustrated by the Pinkneys," Jerry Pinkney says. "We've covered a lot in terms of subject and age levels. So as a family, we've had quite an impact.
"That makes me proud and very pleased. In so many ways, its an extension of what I wanted to do - to affect children's lives. So my mission is even stronger and broader because of my family."
Contact staff writer Dianna Marder at 215-854-4211 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her recent work at http://go.philly.com/diannamarder.
See Pinkney's work at www.jerrypinkneystudio.com