We are all familiar with the big time national and international book awards like the National Book Awards, the Nobel Prize in Literature, and the Man Booker International Prize. What about the book awards in our own backyard? Have you ever wanted to have a hand in choosing the books that bring home the prizes? Well, you may have your chance if you live in the States, because almost all of them host their book awards! In fact, every state hosts at least one book award for children’s literature in the effort to increase literacy and encourage a love for reading among their young population. Kentucky hosts the Kentucky Bluegrass Award. New Mexico and Arizona share the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, and Hawaii has the Nene Award. Below, we have highlighted a few more of the various state book awards.
Alabama Camellia Children’s Choice Book Award
The purpose of the Alabama Camellia Children’s Choice Book Award is to encourage Alabama’s young readers to engage with quality literature, to let students honor their favorite books and authors, and to help young readers become better acquainted with recently published books.
Public and private K–12 schools as well as public library patrons are eligible to vote for submitted books. Awards are given to the book with the highest number of votes in 4 categories: Grades K–1, Grades 2–3, Grades 4–5, and Grades 6–8. Books receiving the second highest number of votes are named Honorable Mention for each division. Winners of the Alabama Camellia Children’s Choice Book Award are announced at the Alabama School Library Association Summer Conference. Notable winner of the Alabama Camellia Children’s Choice Book Award is #KidLit Classic Bunnicula.
Beehive Book Award
Founded in 1980, the Beehive Book Award is the only children’s choice book award in the state of Utah. Each year, the Children’s Literature Association of Utah (CLAU) sponsors the Beehive Book Awards to encourage young people to read. Children vote from the short list of nominees for the best books in Children’s Fiction, Picture Books, Informational Books, Poetry, Graphic Novels, and Young Adult Fiction.
California Young Reader Medal
Since its inception in 1974, the California Young Reader Medal (CRYM) program has encouraged recreational reading of popular books among California’s youth. Supported by the California Reading Association, the California Association of Teachers of English, California Library Association, and the California School Library Association, CRYM winners are chosen from a list of nominated books submitted by California’s school children.
The California Library Association also awards the John and Patricia Beatty Award to the author of a distinguished book for children or young adults that best promotes the state and the people of California. Patricia Beatty donated the Award’s initial endowment, which now honors both John, a professor of English History and Humanities at the University of California at Riverside, and Patricia, who wrote numerous books for young people that are set in California.
Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy Bell Picture Book Award
The Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLEL) Bell Picture Book Awards are given in recognition of five picture books that best support early literacy development in young children. Not only do the Bell Awards recognize authors, illustrators, and publishers, Bell Award–winning books serve as a resourceful collection of books for librarians, educators, and caregivers.
Elizabeth Burr/Worzalla Award
Presented by the Wisconsin Library Association for distinguished achievement in children’s literature, the Elizabeth Burr/Worzalla Award is given for a single body of work written or illustrated by a person born, currently living, or who has lived for a significant length of time in Wisconsin. The Award’s name comes from the 100% employee-owned Wisconsin book manufacturing facility Worzalla and Elizabeth Burr, who won the first Librarian of the Year Award from the Wisconsin Library Association in 1956. Burr was a champion of library services for children and recipients of the Burr/Worzalla Award continue the legacy of inspiring libraries and young readers.
Indian Paintbrush Book Award
Sponsored by the Wyoming Library Association and the Wyoming State Literacy Association, the Indian Paintbrush Book Award is given annually to books nominated and voted on by Wyoming children in the 4th through 6th grades. The purpose of the Award is to help these students become acquainted with quality contemporary stories, to honor an author enjoyed by Wyoming students, and to help students set a goal of reading at least three good books in a year.
The first award was given in 1986 to Naya Nuki: Shoshoni Girl Who Ran by Kenneth Thomasma. Additional Wyoming Book Awards are the Buckaroo Book Award, established in 1997, for Wyoming children in kindergarten through third grade and the Soaring Eagle Award for Wyoming students in Grades 7–12.
Kansas Notable Book Award
Established in 2006 by the Kansas Center for the Book (KCFB), the State of Kansas presents the annual Kansas Notable Book Award to 15 notable books created by writers or illustrators who are from Kansas or have written about Kansas. A committee of KCFB affiliates and fellows and previous award winners identify a list of notable books published in the previous year. Then the State Librarian selects the final 15 from that list and they are honored during a medal ceremony.
Knickerbocker Award for Juvenile Literature
The New York Library Association established the Knickerbocker Award for Juvenile Literature in 1991 to honor a New York State writer who has demonstrated quality and excellence through a body of work that supports the curriculum and education goals for New York State Schools. The award was named after a group of 19th century New York State writers who were pioneers in American literature and wanted to nurture a love of literature across the nation. The Knickerbocker Award, which is designed by Tiffany and Company, is presented annual to a living author or illustrator currently residing in New York State.
Massachusetts Children’s Book Award
The purpose of the Massachusetts Children’s Book Award is to help middle grade readers maintain an interest in reading. It is awarded annually to one book voted on by Massachusetts schoolchildren from a committee-prepared list. Books are nominated by teachers, librarians, and publishers. Students who have read at least five books on the list of nominees are eligible to vote for their favorite book. The book with the most votes wins the Award and the four runners-up are named honor books.
The Massachusetts Children’s Book Award was established in 1975 by Dr. Helen Constant, an Associate Professor of Education at Salem State College. The award was inaugurated during the 1975–1976 school year with the award’s first winner, How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell. The School of Education at Salem State University continues to sponsor the book award.
Michigan Author Award
Established in 1992 by the Michigan Library association, the Michigan Author Award is awarded annually in recognition of the outstanding published body of work in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or play script from an author who has substantial ties to the state. The winning author is selected by a panel of Michigan librarians and the Michigan Center for the Book.
The first recipient of the Michigan Author Award was poet Dan Gerber (yes, of those Gerbers), who was born in Michigan and received a BA in English from Michigan State University.
Minnesota Book Award
Established in 1988, the Minnesota Book Awards are presented annually to celebrate writers and illustrators who are Minnesotans by The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library. Beginning in 2007, the general Minnesotan population chose the recipient of the Readers’ Choice Award from the list of Minnesota Book Award nominees.
Additional awards include the Minnesota Book Artist Award that recognizes excellence and contributions to the Minnesota book arts community. The Minnesota Fantasy Award is a key presentation at the annual Arcana that honors a person or persons with ties to Minnesota for their contributions to fantasy, science fiction, and horror writings. The Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards that honors books that represent northeastern Minnesota history, culture, heritage, and lifestyle.
Montana Book Award
In 2001, the Friends of Missoula Public Library decided to create a book award to recognize literary and artistic excellence in Montana. Since then, a committee representing various geographic regions of Montana, presents the annual Montana Book Award to books in any genre and for any age group that are either set in Montana, deal with Montana themes and issues, or written, illustrated, or edited by a Montana resident. Authors, publishers, and members of the public are invited to submit nominations for The Montana Book Award to the committee.
Oklahoma Book Awards
Sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for the Book, the annual Oklahoma Book Awards honor books with an Ohlahoman theme along with books written, illustrated, and designed by people who have lived or are currently living in Oklahoma. Medalists are chosen in five categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, children/young adult, and design/illustration. Oklahoma will celebrate the 32nd Annual Oklahoma Book Awards in April 2021.
Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader’s Choice Award
The Young Reader’s Choice Award (YRCA) was established in 1940 by Seattle bookseller Harry Hartman, who believed every student should have an opportunity to select a book they would thoroughly enjoy. Yearly nominations are collected from students, librarians, teachers, and parents, but books must already be popular among Pacific Northwest readers to be seriously considered. In addition to enjoyment, the nominated books are judged on various factors including reading level, gender representation, and racial diversity.
Currently sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Library Association, the YRCA is considered the longest-running children’s choice book award. It is also the only award program where both American and Canadian young readers are able to participate. Participating American states include Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Washington, while the Canadian provincial representatives are Alberta and British Columbia.
Vermont Middle-Grade Book Award
Co-sponsored by the Vermont State PTA and the Vermont Department of Libraries, the Vermont Middle-Grade Book Award recognizes one new American children’s book selected by Vermont’s school children. Each spring, a committee selects a list of 30 books at the annual Dorothy Canfield Fisher Conference. The following spring, students who have read at least five books from the list are eligible to vote. The book receiving the most votes wins the Award.
Started in 1957, the Vermont Middle-Grade Book Award was originally named the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award after Vermont writer Dorothy Canfield Fisher. In 2020, the Award was temporarily renamed to the Vermont Middle-Grade Book Award in response to critics citing the author’s ties to the state’s 1920s and 1930s eugenics movement as well as Fisher reinforcing negative stereotypes about French Canadians and America’s Indigenous People in her writing. Students will vote on a new name for the Award in Fall 2020.
Additionally, Vermont has the Red Clover Book Award, which was established during the 1997 school year to recognize the best recently published picture book, as voted on by K–4 students who have read or heard read aloud the 10 books from the list of nominees. The Green Mountain Book Award was established in 2005 as a reader’s choice award for Vermont high school students. The most recent 2019–2020 winner of the Green Mountain Book Award is The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo.
Washington State Book Award
The Washington State Book Award is presented annually to recognize up to ten outstanding and notable books in any genre from the previous year written by Washington authors. Awards are given based on literary merit, lasting importance, and overall quality. The Award was established in 1967 as the Governor’s Writers Awards and was sponsored by the Washington State Library in the state’s capital of Olympia. In 2001, the Washington Center for the Book, based at the Seattle Public Library, took over the program and renamed the Governor’s Writers Awards to the Washington State Book Awards.
The program was again updated in 2005 with an additional category to represent children’s books. Since then, a picture book and a middle grade or young adult book has been honored with the Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Awards. In 2006, the program was divided into categories to significantly reduce the number of awards. As of 2013, the categories for the Washington State Book Award are General Nonfiction, Biography and Memoir, Fiction, Poetry, and Children’s.