Announcing the 2022 Winners of the Annual Blueberry Literary Award!
Is it not strange, that in an era of climate change and environmental extremes there is not quite yet a nationally recognized children’s book award for titles celebrating the natural world and what we humans can do to support and appreciate it? Well, here in Evanston, Illinois we aim to change all of that. Announcing the 2022 Blueberry Award winners, honors, and changemakers! Granted yearly to those books “published in America that inspire a love of nature & action for planet Earth” for children between the ages of 3-10, this year’s list (our second so far) was difficult to pare down. That’s actually a good thing! When you have such a plethora of amazing books about nature, science, and a love of the environment, that bodes well for the future.
Last night the Ladd Memorial Arboretum & Evanston Ecology Center hosted the very first award ceremony for the Blueberry Awards. Packed to the gills with parents, kids, librarians, ecologists, and any number of interested citizens, members of the jury booktalked some of their favorite titles while founder, leader, organizer, MC, and general grand poobah herself Martha Meyer stood in as master of ceremonies.
For me, the highlight of the evening was seeing the authors and artists’ videos in which they thanked the committee and the importance of the award. Mika Song blew everyone away with her very own angler fish costume in conjunction with her book Agatha May and the Angler Fish. Anna Humphrey, author of Bee & Flea and the Compost Caper, meanwhile, gave an intense accounting of how many creatures are currently living on your face right now!
And as a treat, here are two of the authors’ written responses to learning they’d received a Blueberry that I particularly enjoyed:
Frank Morrison (Uncle John’s City Garden)
“Hip hip hooray!!
Thanks so much John this means a lot to me. I grew up with a garden. My grandmother, brother and I would tend to it during the summer months. I’d get in trouble sometimes for making the rows zigzag. I guess that was the artist in me. Well that is the clean version, my grandma wasn’t poetic…
We get up early to beat the heat as grandma would say. Then we gather the tools and baskets. I had a plastic laundry basket, it was perfect. That light blue basket would glide across the back yard with ease no matter what was in it.
What amazed me was Grandma would not be scared of the bugs. Pardon me, the big ole bugs. I was, then one day I wasn’t. Life is funny that way.
Just like clock work at the end of the morning just before the heat kicked in, we finish.
There was nothing more refreshing and rewarding than snacking on the fresh pick tomatoes after the job was done and the tools where put back with grandma.
I could go on and on.
Thanks again for sharing this wonderful news and bringing back memories.
Katherine Applegate (Odder)
“What incredible news! I’m truly honored. When I first heard about the Blueberry list on Betsy’s blog, I was delighted to hear that some wise folks had finally noticed the need to highlight nature and climate lit for children. And now, to be a part of that list? Well, I couldn’t be more pleased.
I actually lived in Evanston for several years (corner of Hinman and Dempster, just a stone’s throw from Blind Faith Café!), and my sister still lives there, so I wish I could use this as an excuse for a visit. At very least, I’ll definitely be there in spirit.
Finally, I serve as a Climate Lit Ambassador for a wonderful, cutting-edge program at the University of Minnesota headed by Marek Oziewicz, Director of the Center for Climate Literacy https://www.cehd.umn.edu/ci/people/mco/. He’s created an online resource hub for building universal climate literacy with children’s literature and media: https://www.climatelit.org/, and I’d love to connect the two of you, if that would be ok. I’m sure he’d be excited to hear about your work. I was honored to contribute to his recent book, along with creators like Shaun Tan and Jane Yolen: https://bookshop.org/p/books/fantasy-and-myth-in-the-anthropocene-imagining-futures-and-dreaming-hope-in-literature-and-media-brian-attebery/17358507?ean=9781350204164
Thank you again for all your hard work on this. So exciting!”
Now every year, one book is selected as the top of the pops. The best of the best. The ultimate Blueberry Award Winner. Who won it all this year? None other than . . .
That’s right! Listen to the Language of the Trees: A Story of How Forests Communicate Underground by Tera Kelley, ill. Marie Hermansson.
Now you can see the entire list of winners here but there was also a lovely PDF created of the list as well. Be sure to check it out here. And in the meantime I’d like to thank the remarkable crew of judges consisting not simply of librarians but also conservationists and sustainability experts that helped us to come up with the best possible list.
And yes. Mika Song really did wear that anglerfish outfit I alluded to:
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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