2017 Book Award Winners

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2017 Oklahoma Book Awards

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Michael Wallis, award-winning journalist, author, historian—and the voice of Sheriff in Disney Pixar’s Cars and Cars 2, was the master of ceremonies. Oklahoma author, writer and newspaperman Ralph Marsh was posthumously honored for his outstanding contributions to Oklahoma’s literary heritage with the Ralph Ellison Award. Professor, author, and activist Dr. George Henderson received the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award. Anne Masters, retired director of the Pioneer Library System, received the Glenda Carlile Distinguished Service Award for her support of the Center’s missions and programs.

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 sponsor was Dunlap Codding. The Hemingway sponsors were Bob Burke for Oklahoma Hall of Fame 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.

Alphabet image The 2017 Oklahoma Book Award WinnersAlphabet image



Children’s Award:

Dust Storm
by Jane McKellips
Oklahoma Hall of Fame Publishing
Dust Storm bookcoverEleven-year-old Clara lives on a farm in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. She loves living on the farm and taking care of the farm animals. Clara can deal with the farm chores, but what she struggles with the most is her overprotective father. Clara has polio, and her father wants to shield her from being injured on the farm or by the townspeople who may hurt her feelings. When the family is away in town and Clara is left at home to watch her younger brother, a dangerous dust storm arrives. Clara is faced with the task of saving her brother, the farm animals, and herself. A native Oklahoman, McKellips is the author of Bill Wallace: Author of Adventure and Animal Stories. She lives in Oklahoma City.

Young Adult Award:

Seeking Cassandra
by Lutricia Clifton
Holiday House
Seeking Cassandra bookcoverIn this sweet coming-of-age story, Clifton introduces the reader to young Cassie, who is struggling after her parent’s divorce. Cassie’s mother sends her to live with her dad for the summer in Palo Duro Canyon, Texas. She has no idea how she will co-exist with her father, who now lives in a camper and works as a carpenter. Moreover, he has signed her up for a Junior Naturalist Program with a group of kids who seem so different they might as well be from Mars. As Cassie attempts to adjust to her new surroundings, she learns artifacts disappeared from a nearby archaeological dig. As she tries to discover the culprit, Cassie discovers the true meaning of friendship and realizes she is a very capable individual. A native Oklahoman, Clifton now resides in Illinois.



Book Design Award:

4th and Boston: Heart of the Magic Empire          

design by Douglas Miller

Müllerhaus Legacy4th & Boston: Heart of the Magic Empire bookcover

This is the story of growth and development in downtown Tulsa, the oil business, and architecture. The book reflects the richness of various eras, from the city’s beginnings to the modern day. Dense with photographs, illustrations, and text, thoughtful design effectively invites the reader to explore the history of one very busy corner of the world, once the heart of an industry. Tulsan Douglas Miller has designed and published books for thirteen years; this is his first as lead author as well as designer.

Illustration Award:

My Name is James Madison Hemings
illustration by Terry Widener
Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House
My Name is James Madison Hemings bookcoverA sensitive subject treated with great respect, the book asks the question, “What if you were born into slavery in 1805?” The protagonist, James Madison Hemings, the son of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, also asks a question: “How could I be both his slave and his son?” The paintings used for this book are almost impressionistic, with visible brushstrokes and contiguous colors designed to mix in the eye. The subdued and somewhat somber color palate seems to fit the serious subject matter, lending dignity to the illustrations. Widener, a prolific and award-winning artist and illustrator, grew up in Oklahoma and earned a BFA from the University of Tulsa.



Three Weeks in Washington
by Luana Ehrlich
Potter’s Word PublishingThree Weeks in Washington bookcover
In this suspense thriller, CIA intelligence operative Titus Ray arrives in Washington, D.C. on the day a terrorist kills five people in the Washington Naval Yard. Ray’s interrogation of the killer reveals the identity of a deep cover operative living in Washington. This sends him on a perilous journey across two continents to uncover a plot to destroy the United States. Time is running out, as he engages in a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the terrorists. Will Ray’s personal faith sustain him as he faces his greatest challenge? This is Ehrlich’s third book in the Titus Ray series. She is a pastor’s wife, and former missionary with a passion for spy thrillers. Erhlich lives in Norman, with her husband, James.



The Red River Bridge War: A Texas-Oklahoma Border Battle
by Rusty Williams
Texas A&M University Press
The Red River Bridge War bookcoverWilliams’s book is a breathtaking account of the two-week skirmishes that took place in the summer of 1931 on an old toll bridge that stretched across the Red River connecting Oklahoma and Texas. Although many Americans were entertained by the newspaper reports highlighting the colorful characters and battles that took place, the author notes it was a serious matter for locals and it had national consequences as well. The battle marked the end to public acceptance of the privately owned ferries, toll bridges, and turnpikes that threatened to impede transportation in America’s automobile age. Williams is a former journalist and author of My Old Confederate Home: A Respectable Place for Civil War Veterans and Historic Photographs of Dallas, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. He resides in Dallas, Texas.



Strong Medicine
by Sly Alley Strong Medicine bookcover
Village Books Press
A sick world needs healing, and the first step to getting better is seeing the truth. Alley understands that art and poetry are essential ingredients to unmask the illusions. Poems of universal power are woven into a narrative and presented to a racist, violent, ailing culture. Alley writes both poetry and short fiction, and his works have appeared in The Muse and Dragon Post Review. He has presented at the Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, the Woody Guthrie Festival, and Poetry at The Paramount. He writes on a Royal typewriter in his fortified shack in Tecumseh.




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See the full list of 2017 finalists.

 If you missed last year’s awards, go to the 2016 winners and finalists.

View the list of all previous Oklahoma Book Award winners and special recognitions.

See eligibility requirements.

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