2016 Book Award Winners

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2016 Oklahoma Book Award Winners

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Awards were given in the categories of children/young adult; design, illustration, and photography; fiction; non-fiction; and poetry. Oklahoma author and historian Dr. H. Wayne Morgan was posthumously honored for his outstanding contributions to Oklahoma’s literary heritage with the Ralph Ellison Award. Poet, author, and playwright Diane Glancy received the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award. Friends of the Center for the Book board member and Past President Gini Moore Campbell received the Glenda Carlile Distinguished Service Award.

The evening would not have been possible without the generous support of the Friends of the Oklahoma Center for the Book. Moreover, this year’s Shakespearean sponsors were Dunlap Codding and the Chickasaw Press. The Hemingway sponsors were Bob Burke (for Oklahoma Heritage Association Publishing) and the Pioneer Library System.

The event is sponsored each year by the Oklahoma Center for the Book in the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, a state affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, and the Friends of the Oklahoma Center for the Book. The awards recognize books written the previous year by Oklahomans or about Oklahoma.

Children/Young Adult

Young Adult Winner

The Boy Who Carried Bricks book cover- young man carrying bricksThe Boy Who Carried Bricks  |
 Alton Carter  | The RoadRunner Press

Abandoned by his father, neglected by his mother, shuttled between foster homes and a boys ranch for most of his formative years, a young man refuses to succumb to the fate that the world says should be his. This is the true story of Carter, who does not mince words as he describes a childhood full of violence, hunger, and isolation. A former police officer, he now serves as the director of youth ministries for the First United Methodist Church of Stillwater. He lives with his wife and two sons.

Children Winner

Bike on, Bear!  | Cynthea Liu  | Simon & SchusterBike On, Bear!

Bear is no ordinary cub. He can do practically anything! But Bear has a very hairy problem. He can’t ride a bike. Not even with training wheels. Not even with his daddy pushing him along. Not even with the help of his ten best friends. Follow Bear as he employs a library book, science, and the art of self-confidence to try to master the bike. And watch him fail each time. Could Bear be over thinking this whole bike riding thing? Liu spent her formative years in Oklahoma and Texas. Today, she is a writer, writing coach, and public speaker in Chicago


Places I Was Dreaming  | Loren Graham  | CavanKerry PressPlaces I was Dreaming

Different voices speak, often side by side, in the poems of Graham’s third collection. The poetry reads like an Oklahoma autobiography, without sentimentality, as it follows a young boy and his family living in rural poverty. Graham was raised in and around Broken Arrow and studied at Oklahoma Baptist University before receiving advanced degrees at Baylor University and the University of Virginia. He received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 2009 for poems that became part of this collection. He lives in Montana with his wife.


Making Friends Was My FriendDesign Winner 

Making Friends Was My Business  | book design by Laura Hyde  | Müllerhaus Legacy

Hyde’s design for this celebratory book effectively illustrates the story of Oklahoma’s Bud Man, Denny Cresap, and his family. Beginning with a cover that features a simulation of carved leather, insets, and burnished copper, and carrying through to pages that resemble both a high-quality scrapbook and glossy advertisements, nearly every detail seems fully considered. Hyde has over twelve years of experience working as a graphic artist. She lives in Tulsa.

Illustration/Photography Winner

Ilittibaaimpa’: Let’s Eat Together! A Chickasaw Cookbook  | photography by Sanford Mauldin, book and cover design by Corey Fetters  | Chickasaw Press


IlittibaaimpaStunning photographs of food are the centerpiece of this book, the second cookbook published by Chickasaw Press. The design, featuring earthy colors and generous use of printers’ ornaments, is warm and welcoming with the feel of a comfortable kitchen. Mauldin picked up an Oklahoma Book Award for his photography for the Chickasaw Press’ first cookbook back in 2012. He is a commercial photographer in Norman. Designer Fetters has two books that are finalists in this category. He lives in Roff.



Long Faraway GoneThe Long and Faraway Gone  |

Lou Berney  | HarperCollins

In this suspenseful thriller, Berney introduces the reader to two unsolved criminal cases—inspired by actual cases—that shook Oklahoma City to its core. During the summer of 1986, six movie theater employees were killed during an armed robbery attempt, and a teenage girl disappeared from the state fair. Now twenty-five years later, two individuals closely associated to the crimes attempt to unravel the dark secrets of the past. Berney is the author of two previous novels, Whiplash River and Gunshot Straight. He is also a television and film screenwriter, and teaches writing at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City University.


The Mercy of the Sky  | Holly Bailey  |  Viking/Penguin Random HouseMercy of the Sky

Bailey takes the reader back to May 20, 2013, a day when one of the most devastating tornadoes ever recorded tore through Moore, Oklahoma, killing twenty-five people, including seven third graders, and injuring hundreds more. In this harrowing account regarding that day’s events, Bailey tells the story from several points of view, including the principal and teachers at Plaza Elementary School, a meteorologist, and scientists at the National Weather Service in Norman. Bailey, a native of Oklahoma City, is a professional journalist. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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See the complete list of 2016 finalists.

Also view the 2015 winners and finalists.

See eligibility requirements.

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