Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Kate Samworth Earns the First Kirkus Prize for Young Readers Literature by Pat Miller

In January 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, Virginia Kirkus began the Virginia Kirkus Bookshop Service. For a subscription, booksellers and librarians received her reviews of galleys submitted to Kirkus by 20 publishers. Today, Kirkus Reviews, published twice a month, reviews more than 7,000 traditionally published books and 3,000 self-published books annually.

On the evening of October 23, 2014, at a ceremony in Austin, Texas, the first winners of The Kirkus Prize were announced. The award was “created to celebrate the 81 years of discerning, thoughtful criticism Kirkus Reviews has contributed to both the publishing industry and readers at large.” (   
The thousand books that received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews during the previous twelve months  were eligible for the first Kirkus Prize. Six finalists in each of three categories, Fiction, Nonfiction, and Young Readers’ Literature, were named. Each winner will receive $50,000, making the Kirkus Prize the richest literary prize in the world.
Each of the categories has three "highly regarded judges: a writer, a bookseller or librarian, and a Kirkus critic.” The 2014 Young Readers’ Literature judges were Dr. Claudette S. McLinn, Executive Director at the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature and life member of the American Library Association. Linda Sue Park is a Newbery Award-winning author. John Edward Peters is a former career librarian and a Kirkus reviewer.

                                     2014 WINNER: YOUNG READERS' Literature

Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual: Renewing the World’s Bird Supply Since 2031 written and illustrated by Kate Samworth. Clarion, 2014.

Fantasy, 32 pages, Picture Book

Entrepreneur Alfred Wallis capitalizes on the extinction of birds with a catalog of do-it-yourself bird parts and accessories to create one’s own artful automaton.


El Deafo written and illustrated by Cece Bell. Amulet Books, 2014.

Graphic memoir, 248 pages, Middle-Grade

The author was four when she became deaf after recovering from meningitis. Told with humor, Bell relates her adventures with a hearing aid at a school without deaf classes. 


The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jennifer Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014.

Biography, 40 pages, Picture Book
Peter Mark Roget had a passion for words from childhood. His many lists eventually grew into the thesaurus we still use today in an updated version.

The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos. Farrar, Straus Giroux, 2014.
Realistic Fiction, 154 ages, Middle-Grade
The fifth and final book in the Joey Pigza series has him in charge of his baby brother, his hospitalized mother, and the search for his missing father.

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by K. K. Johnston. Carolrhoda Lab, 2014.
Science Fiction and Fantasy, 305 pages, Teen
Sixteen year old Owen Thorskard comes from a long line of dragon slayers. Trondheim is threatened by dragons that compete with humans for fossil fuels. His grades are slipping, he’s too small for football, and the town looks to him to save them.
Read Kirkus review

The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell. Scholastic Press, 2014.
Nonfiction, 250 pages, Teen
Fifty years ago, in June 1964, three civil rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan, masterminded by Edgar Ray Killen.


  1. Thanks Pat! It was fun to see the book reviews after each summary. Great judges for the prize too!

  2. Great to know the background of Kirkus, as well as the prize -- and $50K is quite a prize! Must've been really tough to narrow 1000 starred reviews down to a few winners. I'm looking forward to reading them all. Thanks, Pat.

  3. I didn't know the background either, Pat. Thanks for sharing more books that I've gotta add to the long, long list! :0)

  4. Hip, hip, hooray for Kate Samworth! What an honor for one to receive this distinguished award. Thank you, Pat for sharing this post about the Kirkus Prize. ~Suzy

  5. Thanks for this post, Pat. I learned a lot! What an interesting and creative premise of the winning aviary book!

  6. Yes! Love these titles! Thank you for this fantastic post Pat! So many new books to read and perfect time to buy holiday gifts!


  7. Dear Pat,
    Brava to Kirkus (where any good review is a coup, but a starred review is stellar) for creating this way to celebrate young readers & those who create their books. Some of the titles I already luv & others are added to my list. Your background on the award is so appreciated. I'm with Pat, ready to cheer the judges' for sifting through 1,000 books- wowza. I'm personally drawn to Jen Bryant & Melissa Sweet's Roget book because I'm a writer, but all of them are important & the illustrated winner is stunning, I've read it & thought it outstanding.
    Happy Holidays to you & yours, Pat!

    ~ j a n