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Spur Awards
2017
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C.J. Box
2016
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Keith McCafferty
2015
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C.B. McKenzie
 
2012 (Western Short Novel)
 
2012 (Western Long Novel)
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Larry D Sweazy
2012 (Original Mass Market Paperback)
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Thomas Cobb

Publishers Weekly In this gripping 20th-century western, Cobb (Crazy Heart) presents a fictionalized account of the bloodiest shootout in Arizona history, and the desperate manhunt that ensued in the rugged mountains and arid deserts of Arizona in 1918. Cobb masterfully creates a tale of crooked lawmen, whiskey smugglers, cowboys, and gold miners, while also illuminating the very real tension between Mormons and gentiles in a lawless region where "a man who had caught the desire for blood and had blended it with righteousness was a man to fear." When lawmen come after brothers Tom and John Power for draft evasion, the resulting gun battle leaves three lawmen dead, the Power boys' father dying, and the brothers on the run to Mexico. Cobb tells the story in two alternating parts, the gunfight and the fugitives trying to outsmart and outrun those determined to kill them, and flashbacks that reveal just how tough, ornery, and crooked folks can get when faced with temptation, opportunity, and easy money. The Powers were no angels, but then neither were the lawmen nor the local cowboys. Cobb's vivid descriptions of these wounded outlaws and expert, visceral suspense make this one of the best westerns of the year. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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2012 (Western Short Novel)
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Johnny D. Boggs

Book list Boggs, one of the more interesting and exciting of today's western writers, nails another one with this story, based on true events, of a deputy marshal who offers to go round up a particularly dangerous fugitive, his own son. Bass Reeves is the marshal. He captures his son, Bennie, who killed his own wife, but before Bass can bring his boy to justice, Bennie is sprung free by Cherokee Bob Dozier, a train robber, murderer, and all-around bad guy. In what appears to Bass' friend, Dave, who serves as the book's narrator, to be bloody-minded stubbornness, Bass lights out after Cherokee Bob, apparently willing to risk his own life to capture his flesh and blood. Boggs, as usual, writes crisp, clean prose, using visually evocative turns of phrase at opportune moments ( His gut looked like a balloon, his hair thinning on top but with a salt-and-pepper beard thicker than the canebrakes that once dominated the banks of the Arkansas ). The story is compelling, with plenty of surprises and some adroit social commentary. A guaranteed winner for genre readers.--Pitt, David Copyright 2010 Booklist

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2012 (Western Long Novel)
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Stephen Harrigan

Book list *Starred Review* Like the statue at its center, Harrigan's novel is a stunning work of art resting on a solid base of heartbreak. The action ranges from the Texas plains to the devastated northern French landscape, with the presence of the violent Wild West strongly lingering. Wealthy rancher Lamar Clayton had raised his son alone after his much younger wife's death. Now Ben is dead, killed in WWI, and his taciturn father wants to memorialize him in bronze. Gi. Gilheaney, a brilliant, ambitious sculptor, accepts the commission. Gil's daughter Maureen, a talented artist herself, assists him while quietly pursuing her own dreams. To shape Ben's character into clay, they trace the dusty paths he once walked, but only his friend Arthur, a disfigured veteran, knows why Ben was so careless with his life. The story builds with determined momentum, providing a grimly vivid sense of place and deep insight into the creative process and family relationships. Harrigan's The Gates of the Alamo (2000) has become a modern classic, and his latest historical deserves similar acclaim.--Johnson, Sara. Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal Lamar Clayton, a hard-nosed rancher in west Texas with a violent past, hires a sculptor from San Antonio to create a bronze monument to Clayton's son Ben, who died fighting in World War I. Sculptor -Gilheany, sensing the opportunity to create a final masterpiece, uncovers a tragic family history of Comanche kidnappings, secrets, and guilt. Harrigan (The Gates of the Alamo) is adept at describing his territory, from a ruined mission in 1920s San Antonio to the plains of west Texas. He's also clearly at home with the process of bronze sculpture, and we closely follow the journey of Gilheany's piece from his Texas studio to a casting foundry in New York City. While ably exploring themes of artistic struggle, aging, and family conflict, the book is most riveting in the sometimes horrific chapters on war, from the Indian Wars of the late 1800s to World War I. VERDICT An engaging novel on family conflict and the artistic process; also a book that would do well with readers of Southwest history and fiction.-John R. Cecil, Austin, TX (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Harrigan's austere latest (after Challenger Park) explores, with a dry swagger, art, secrets, and family in post-WWI America. After accomplished sculptor Gil Gilheaney is commissioned by Texas rancher Lamar Clayton to sculpt a statue of his son, Ben, who died in a battle on French soil, Gil and his daughter/assistant Maureen-an artist in her own right, though with blunted ambitions-travel from New York to the Clayton ranch to research Ben's life and work on the piece. Gil picks up quickly that there's plenty Lamar isn't telling him and becomes intrigued by Lamar's past: Lamar and his sister were kidnapped and raised by Indians, and the family of Lamar's housekeeper was massacred by Indians. Maureen, meanwhile, battles her own needs for artistic expression and independence, and a young man who was with Ben when he was killed and suffered a disfiguring injury gets pulled into the ranch's orbit. Harrigan doesn't shy from the gristle-the harshness of death on the battlefield, a lynch mob's mindless lust for destruction, screwworm flies festering in a calf's castration wound-and the secrets each character holds are grim and heartbreaking. The narrative's crushing sense of despair would be impossible to endure in the hands of a lesser writer. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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2012 (Original Mass Market Paperback)
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Johnny D. Boggs
2011 (Western Short Novel)
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Richard S. Wheeler

Book list John Charles Fremont (1813-90), the mathematics teacher, military man, presidential candidate, and explorer, lived a storied life. In this novel, Wheeler focuses on Fremont's fourth expedition to forge a railway route along the thirty-eighth parallel, connecting St. Louis with San Francisco. Wheeler, who notes that accounts of Fremont's life vary greatly, portrays the explorer as a deeply contradictory man: courageous but self-centered; remote but highly respected; reckless but methodical. Fremont's fourth expedition was his most disastrous (several members of his team died), and Wheeler's decision to concentrate on it, rather than an episode from Fremont's military or political career, makes perfect sense: it allows the author to show us the man in all his mercurial glory, the famed explorer who will risk everything, including his own life, to break new ground. Good reading both for western-genre fans and readers of historical fiction.--Pitt, David Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Six-time Spur Award-winner Wheeler takes on the charismatic, unpredictable, and enigmatic 19th-century explorer John Fremont in this rich if overstuffed survival tale. The story begins in 1847 with Fremont losing a court-martial for mutiny and disobedience, but Fremont isn't down for long: his senator father-in-law gets Fremont set up to conduct a survey for a proposed railroad line connecting St. Louis and San Francisco. A revolving cast of narrators-Fremont, other historical figures, and fictional characters-chronicle the expedition into the Colorado mountains as winter begins, and it becomes apparent that they are falling behind schedule and are ever closer to starvation or freezing to death. Wheeler skillfully depicts the extreme conditions ("King was gaunt and drawn, the flesh gone from his face, his eyes sunk in pits.... Williams had crawled inside himself. There were great icicles hanging from his beard"), though the attentions of many narrators can tend toward the redundant and slow down what is otherwise a dramatic and colorful epic that should hook even those who already know how everything turns out. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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2011 (Western Long Novel)
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Lucia St. Clair Robson
2011 (Original Mass Market Paperback)
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Max McCoy
2010 (Western Short Novel)
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Robert Olmstead
 
2010 (Western Long Novel)
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Robert Flynn
2010 (Original Mass Market Paperback)
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John D. Nesbitt.
2009 (Western Short Novel)
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Craig Johnson.

Library Journal Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire (Kindness Goes Unpunished) flashes back to his Vietnam War experiences when a photograph of him is found in the purse of a murdered young Vietnamese woman. Johnson's engrossing tale offers a sympathetic view of young Americans in a foreign environment trying to do their jobs under difficult circumstances. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book list In Kindness Goes Unpunished (2007), Absaroka County, Wyoming, Sheriff Walt Longmire took a road trip to Philadelphia. In a sense, he's on the road this time, too, but his traveling takes place inside his head, after the discovery of the body of a young Vietnamese woman prompts memories of Walt's first homicide investigation as a marine in Vietnam. It isn't just the victim's origins that send Walt down a nightmare-cluttered memory lane; found with her belongings is a picture of another Vietnamese woman, who looks strikingly like someone Walt knew very well more than 40 years earlier. Juxtaposing the current investigation against flashbacks to Vietnam, Johnson is able to reveal several new layers to the fascinating character of the aging, kindly, homespun sheriff and his best friend, Henry Standing Bear, who served with him in Vietnam. This series has distinguished itself so far with its rich portrayal of human relationships and daily life in small-town Wyoming. Those characteristics are well in evidence here, but the addition of the vivid and powerful Vietnam scenes provides a welcome jolt of frisson.--Ott, Bill Copyright 2008 Booklist

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2009 (Western Long Novel)
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Thomas Cobb.

Library Journal A shavetail is a young mule paired with an older mule to learn its work. Brickner, who is as wise and as contrary as any old mule, dubs 17-year-old Ned Thorne a shavetail and does his best to educate him on how to survive in the U.S. Army in 1871 Arizona. Ned's brutal training includes fighting, drinking, rustling cattle, and mule driving, before concluding when his cavalry chases a band of renegade Apaches into Mexico. When things go wrong, Ned must choose between the commonsense villainy of Brickner or his own conscience. Ostensibly about Ned, Shavetail is actually a thoughtful character study of four redemption-seeking men-Captain Franklin, Lieutenant Austin, Brickner, and Ned-not to mention a fine western. Readers will also find in Cobb's second novel (after Crazy Heart) nicely wrought coming-of-age elements. Highly recommended for all collections.-Ken St. Andre, Phoenix P.L. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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Book list Cobb's darkly symbolic coming-of-age tale follows Ned Thorne, a young soldier who is assigned to a remote outpost in Arizona, 1871, pursued by his own personal demons straight into a hell where the simple act of erecting a bakery to provide the soldiers with basic nourishment becomes a fatal undertaking. The boy endures his interior torments along with brutal encounters with fellow soldiers, while trying to maintain a sense of wonder with the natural world that seems just as likely to kill him as the renegade band of Apaches his patrol is assigned to track down. For all the desperation and doom, though, Cobb manages to inject a good deal of humor (in the form of a hapless simpleton wrangling such confounding complexities as the written word) and compassion (in the form of a sympathetic but ineffectual lieutenant) into the telling, in which seemingly abstract battles between right and wrong explode into life-and-death decisions, with the hand heavily tipped toward the latter. Call this a Western, but only if you also call Cormac McCarthy a cowpoke.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2008 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Set in 1871 Arizona, the second novel from Cobb (Crazy Heart) is a thoughtful western that is more character-driven adventure tale than plot-driven novel. Connecticut runaway Ned Thorne, 17, joins the cavalry and lands at Camp Grant, a nascent outpost along the edge of Arizona's Chiricahua mountains. Capt. Robert Franklin thinks his command of Camp Grant punitive duty for an earlier disastrous campaign; the discovery of a pillaged farmhouse and the kidnapping of a woman by renegade Apaches provide an opportunity for Franklin to redeem his honor. Using the actual Camp Grant massacre as a frame for the story, Cobb produces some marvelous, richly described scenes, and he does a fair job with period detail (though punctilious western fans will find some anachronisms). Setting and plot, however, are of secondary importance to the deeper developing revelations of the three main characters-the third being Lt. Anthony Austin, who leads a harrowing chase through the mountains. Their introspective analyses go a long way, but there's a disjointed sense to the whole, which teeters between straight realism and Cormac McCarthy-style flights of mysticism. The real eventually wins, and the results are less than satisfying. (Feb.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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2009 (Original Mass Market Paperback)
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John D. Nesbitt.
2009 (First Novel)
 
2008 (Western Nonfiction Biography)
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Meredith Mason Brown

Book list Long before his death in 1820 at the age of 85, the exploits, both real and exaggerated, of Daniel Boone were embedded in our national lore. As this well-researched biography reveals, the reality of Boone's achievements and the strength of his character still make him an important and admirable historical figure. Brown dispenses with much of the popular mythology surrounding Boone: he was no illiterate bumpkin, as his letters prove. Although several family members had been killed in Indian attacks, Boone himself usually interacted peacefully with Indians. Extolled as an American patriot and hero, Boone was rather comfortable as a British national prior to the Revolution. Boone was born into a Pennsylvania Quaker family. From an early age, he was an enthusiastic and skilled hunter. His wanderlust consistently placed him a step ahead of the mass of trans-Appalachian settlers, leading him from Kentucky to Missouri. Yet Boone was a devoted family man, rarely skirting family or communal responsibilities. This is an easily digestible account.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2008 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal Good biographies of Daniel Boone abound, the recent ones being Michael Lofaro's Daniel Boone: An American Life and Robert Morgan's Boone: A Biography, so Brown, a lawyer whose ancestors knew Boone quite well, sees no need to tread familiar biographical territory. Instead, he explores Boone's role in transforming the United States from a collection of English Colonies on the Atlantic seaboard to a young republic that stretched to the Rocky Mountains and how Boone illustrates the fluidity and conflicting loyalties of the frontier. As part of this exploration, Brown examines Boone's complex relationships with American Indians and looks at Boone's work as a surveyor, pronouncing him competent, and showing how conflicting land claims and surveys made it almost impossible for Boone to realize anything but trouble from the land he acquired in Kentucky. By taking a different approach to Boone and carefully basing his judgments on primary sources, Brown has produced a well-written book that nicely complements the earlier biographies. Thus it belongs in most academic and public libraries.--Stephen H. Peters, Northern Michigan Univ. Lib., Marquette Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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Choice It is no doubt Daniel Boone's iconic status that brings yet another biography of him, the third in the last 16 years. Brown's work joins John Faragher (Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer, CH, May'93, 30-5205) and Michael Lofaro's editions (e.g., Daniel Boone: An American Life, CH, Apr'04, 41-4861) in essaying the impact of Boone as nation builder and classic American protohero. None, unfortunately, can resist the seduction of Lyman Draper's vast collections, falling prey time and again to tales dependent on the fragile memories of aged frontier folk who claimed to have known the legendary frontiersman or to have known someone who knew him. Consequently, there are some stories that stretch one's credulity. Attorney Brown seems particularly tempted in that direction, especially if there is some gory scene to relate. The result is more often a Kentucky tall tale of Boone's exploits than the straightforward biography one would want. If authors could steer past the Scylla and Charybdis of Draper's The Life of Boone (1998) and the mountain of reminiscences in his various frontier incunabula, choosing instead the documented episodes of Boone's life in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Missouri, there would still be adventure aplenty within the parameters of his life. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers. J. H. O'Donnell III Marietta College

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2008 (Western Novel)
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Aryn Kyle
2009 (Western Nonfiction Historical)
 
2009 (Western Nonfiction Contemporary)
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Linda Peavy ; Ursula Smith.

Book list At the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, the girls' basketball team from the tiny Fort Shaw Indian School of Montana bested the field to win the designation of World Champions.   Peavy and Smith, two distinguished historians, began their research into this long-forgotten athletic milestone when they discovered a single photograph in the archives of the Montana Historical Society in 1997. This book is the product of 10 years of research, which included interviews with the descendants of the principles and study of newspaper accounts and public records. The authors recount the basketball side of Fort  Shaw's unlikely triumph and place it within the larger context of American and Native American history. They also explore the dynamics of tribal affiliation as it related to the team and the family pressures that came into play as these young women embarked on a decidedly nontraditional adventure. Along with the historical detail, the authors are able to re-create the personalities of the players, giving the book narrative appeal and turning what could have been the dry history of an obscure event into a vibrant human story of accomplishment.--Lukowsky, Wes Copyright 2008 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Choice In March 2009, St. Louis hosted arguably the most talked about women's sport event in the US, the NCAA Women's Final Four. Peay and Smith look at a gathering in St. Louis a century earlier: ten young women--representing seven Indian nations from the Fort Shaw Indian School--brought honor to themselves and their ancestors by becoming basketball "champions" of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Thanks to meticulous research (in Bureau of Indian Affairs reports, letters, newspapers, magazines, oral histories from the players' descendants, and photographs), the authors offer both a compelling narrative about these women's experience--as they left families on reservations and farms and adjusted to the forces of assimilation in a government-run boarding school--and insights into white-Indian relations, gendered expectations for men and women, and regional and national attitudes. Navigating racially charged social and political terrain with dignity and purpose, the women on the Fort Shaw team forged their own identity and became celebrities at a time when few women achieved public acclaim and notoriety. A fine book, complementing John Bloom's To Show What an Indian Can Do (2000), Sally Jenkins's The Real All Americans (2007), and Ian Frazier's On the Rez (2000). Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. E. J. Staurowsky Ithaca College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

School Library Journal Adult/High School-At the turn of the 20th century, an important aspect of the federal policy toward many American Indian tribes was assimilation through education. Boarding schools were established off reservation, as well as on, and government officials actively and aggressively recruited children to attend them. Among the students in the school established at Fort Shaw in Montana were a group of young women who would become famous in Montana, and a popular attraction at the 1904 World's Fair. Their story is told in this well-researched and well-documented book. Leaving their families and arriving at different ages for different reasons, they came together to play the new game of basketball and were quite successful. Peavy and Smith's book is a remarkably rosy picture of an Indian boarding school. While the authors mention that students ran away, that they were separated from their families for long periods of time, and that they were required to speak only English and leave behind traditional dress and culture, these factors seem not to have affected these talented athletes. It is not until the last few pages that the authors specifically, and briefly, address the cost of the success of the girls' team, and the federal Indian educational policy. Still, the book tells a story long forgotten about these "world champions."-Mary Ann Harlan, Arcata High School, CA Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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2009 (Juvenile Fiction)
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Tanya Landman.

Book list Landman uses the tale of the woman who fought at the side of Geronimo as the kernel for her characters, world making, and plot, all of which ring with authenticity. Siki, a nineteenth-century Apache girl, describes the events of her teen years, from her young brother's death during a Mexican raid, through her work to become a full-fledged warrior, and to the death of her mentor, Golahka. Interactions among Siki's own people including her rogue peer who leaves the tribe rather than submit to its code of honor, and Siki's own acceptance as a female warrior and those between the Apache, the Mexicans, and the White Eyes, who destroy the old ways of the native peoples, are woven skillfully into the action. With an eloquent voice and dignified pace, Landman creates a credible and artistic story with excellent characterization and engaging psychological and sociopolitical questions. Although this will appeal to historical fiction or western readers, this well-written novel has much to offer those who are not genre readers as well.--Goldsmith, Francisca Copyright 2008 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 7 Up-At the end of the 19th century, 14-year-old Siki is a member of Arizona's (fictional) Black Mountain Apache, and an orphan who lost both parents in battles with Mexicans. When she witnesses the brutal slaying of her four-year-old brother, Tazhi, by Mexican raiders, she vows to avenge his death and earns an unusual place, through her skills and relentless training, as a warrior among the men of her tribe. In an overwrought, floridly poetic first-person narrative (e.g., "the wind flowed in [Tazhi's] veins, and the sun itself seemed to shine through his eyes when he smiled"), Landman takes readers on a complex adventure full of jealousy, romance, visions, dark family secrets, bloody battles, daring rescues, and painful dealings with Mexicans and double-crossing "White Eyes." Historical accuracy is questionable, despite research evident not only in an extensive bibliography, but also in Siki's copious explanations of tribal ways and customs. Landman states in a historical note that every tribe and place name is fictional, and that she's "made no attempt to produce an accurate historical novel." Despite some efforts to create complex, "real" human characters and interactions, readers will certainly take away a notion of the Apache as wronged but brutal, doomed, vengeful warriors, and 19th-century Mexicans as heartless villains. Exciting, but problematic, to say the least.-Riva Pollard, Prospect Sierra Middle School, El Cerrito, CA Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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2009 (Juvenile Nonfiction)
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by Frank Keating, Paintings by Mike Wimmer.
 
2009 (Storyteller Award)
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Alison L. Randall ; illustrated by Bill Farnsworth.

Book list Based on events that took place in rural nineteenth-century Utah, this story should resonate with twenty-first-century children who have grown deeply attached to a doll or stuffed animal. In her picture-book debut, Randall tells of Mary Ann, a little girl whose prize companion is a cloth doll filled with wheat; she carries Betty in her apron pocket and talks to her as she goes about her chores. When the doll gets lost outside in a storm, Mary Ann is bereft, calling and hunting, the garden blurred by her tears. The melodrama of these pages may seem overcooked to an adult, but Randall soon rewards young readers with the recovery of the lost friend: during planting season, Mary Ann spots a patch of green shoots sprouting from the mud, harvests the kernels of grain, and restores Betty to her former self. Farnsworth's oil paintings and the overall book design possess an unhurried, old-fashioned quality; and they complement Randall's simple, heartfelt story.--Nolan, Abby Copyright 2008 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 1-4-Mary Ann is a pioneer girl who lives on a rustic Utah farm with her mother and father. Her best friend is her homemade wheat-filled doll. One day Mary Ann sets Betty on a stump while she pulls carrots in the garden. Suddenly a storm sweeps across the valley, and Mary Ann's parents hurry her into the safety of the cabin. After the storm, the girl searches everywhere but she cannot find her beloved doll. Mary Ann is lonely without it all winter, but in spring she discovers a doll-shaped patch of wheat sprouting from the mud near where the toy was lost. She tends the sprouts and makes a new doll from the grains. This is a sweet story of loss and renewal told with empathy and feeling that is never heavy-handed. There is just the right amount of detail to make the setting seem real without bogging down the narrative. Farnsworth's realistic oil paintings have a warm, soft quality that matches the tone of the text. Like the author, he adds just enough detail to establish the setting without distracting from the main subject. This picture book is a great addition to all collections, but has special appeal to libraries in areas with a pioneer heritage.-Donna Cardon, Provo City Library, UT Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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2008 (Nonfiction Contemporary)
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Robert M. Utley

Publishers Weekly In this follow-up to Lone Star Justice, Utley tells how the Texas Rangers entered the 20th century as an effective if idiosyncratic law enforcement outfit and entered the 21st century as the investigative arm of the Texas Department of Public Safety. In a dry style, Utley describes the Rangers' various commanders, troopers and exploits. Through the first third of the 20th century, the Rangers operated in an extralegal fashion-their existence was at the whim of whoever occupied the governor's mansion in Austin. It wasn't until 1935 that the Rangers were made official and brought into the newly formed DPS. Utley is far too enamored of the Rangers for his book's good. While his precise if plodding prose doesn't hype the Rangers' exploits, and he acknowledges a "dark period" early in the 20th century when weak leaders failed to control their men, he treads so lightly on so many issues-prisoner treatment (brutal), racial integration (belated) and especially gender equality (a glaring problem Utley chalks up to "the lack of female applicants")-that it is hard to see this as the definitive account it aspires to be. 30 b&w illus. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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2008 (Young Readers)
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Johnny D. Boggs
 
2007 (Western Novel)
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Elizabeth Crook
2007 (Nonfiction Contemporary)
2007 (Young Readers)
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Joseph Bruchac

Book list Gr. 7-10. While Bruchac's unnamed narrator is fictional, this novel of Geronimo, the great Chiricahua Apache, is grounded in facts. It begins in September 1886, when Geronimo and many of his band--including his adopted adolescent grandson, who recounts these events as an adult looking back--were taken from Arizona to Florida on a crowded train. At each stop, the terrified prisoners wonder if they will be killed or merely humiliated, as curious White Eyes stop to gawk and to buy artifacts from the Indian passengers. Geronimo's patience and canny wisdom come through, even when his group ends up in a humid, insect-infested place and must struggle to find employment. For his part, the narrator keeps himself from being sent to the infamous Carlisle Indian School, where young Indians were stripped of their culture and often contracted tuberculosis. The pace is stately and the storytelling occasionally dense, but many readers will be fascinated by this close-up view of a valiant leader and the hardships endured by his people. Excerpts from primary source documents open each chapter and anchor the fiction in history. --GraceAnne DeCandido Copyright 2006 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 5-10-Starting in 1886 with Geronimo's final surrender, this novel is told from the perspective of his adopted grandson Little Foot, and follows the Chiricahua Apaches from their home in Arizona to Florida. At Fort Marion, the group dwindles, losing children to the Carlisle Indian School, where those who contract tuberculosis are sent home to die and spread the disease. Little Foot escapes this fate and eventually joins the U.S. Infantry. Bruchac's narrative meanders and shifts, but he sprinkles the trail with excitement and humor. Little Foot himself points out, "I know that most White Eyes readers are less patient than Indians and prefer short stories that are easy to understand," and some young people will find this one difficult. But fans of history, or of themes of survival and freedom, will find it fascinating-and certainly different from other fare about the man. The fictional Little Foot affords Bruchac the perfect point of view to observe and interpret Geronimo's life, explaining where the history books got it wrong, and offering insights that won't be found there. There is not enough explanation about how Bruchac constructed his story from his sources (listed at the end). Nonetheless, as the author develops a compelling picture of a people driven by universal and recognizable motives, readers may find this story more persuasive than the nonfiction sources available in most libraries.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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2006 (Western Novel - tie)
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Johnny D. Boggs

Book list In 1946 99-year-old Win McNaughton is an honored guest at a World Series game in St. Louis. He has spent a lifetime in and around baseball as a player, umpire, and manager. Asked by reporters to recount his baseball life, McNaughton focuses on his teenage years, when he joined the Union Army at 17 and became a prisoner of war at Camp Ford, the largest camp west of the Mississippi River. It was there that McNaughton helped organize a baseball game between the Union prisoners and their Confederate guards. The game, initially seen as an excuse to break the monotony of Camp Ford's dreary routine, soon becomes a mini-Civil War, as the Confederates, with their fortunes waning on the real battlefields, struggle to maintain dominance on the diamond. Boggs' carefully researched novel boasts meticulously drawn characters and captures in a striking way the amazing changes America underwent during the span of one man's life. An unusual, very rich western that should attract not only genre readers but also baseball fans and Civil War buffs. --Wes Lukowsky Copyright 2005 Booklist

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2006 (Western Novel - tie)
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Loren D. Estleman

Publishers Weekly As in The Master Executioner, his 2001 tour de force, Estleman picks an unpopular profession and draws from it two compelling characters, and a memorable love story as well. Circa 1900, retired undertaker Richard Connable is pressed back into service by a cabal of powerful men who want him to work his "invisible art" on the corpse of a major financier who has committed suicide (the men want to disguise the cause of death and thereby avert economic panic). In his absence, Richard's estimable wife, Lucy, sensing the approach of her own death, recalls their story: the adventures that took them to Michigan, San Francisco, Kansas, Montana and elsewhere; Richard's professional development and friendship with Wild Bill Hickock; and the death of Richard and Lucy's only child. Well researched and meticulously detailed, offering a vivid picture of Victorian America, the novel is also marked by moments of grace and wit. The last third of this bittersweet love story, though, is a truncated summary of the rest of the Connables' lives, and the last 30 pages are rushed, losing depth and quality. Even so, the novel offers a superlative love story and a fascinating look at a misunderstood vocation. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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2006 (Novel of the West)
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Willard Wyman

Library Journal Wyman's first novel tells the tale of Ty Hardin, a quiet young man who becomes a kind of legend in the Montana mountains. Readers are treated to the significant parts of Ty's life-how he learns to be a packer who can guide mule trains into any wilderness, his outdoor adventures, the people he knows and loves, how he flourishes, and how he dies. Having been a wrangler, guide, and packer, Wyman knows the West, the mountains and the high country, and their inhabitants so that readers come to know them, too. Solid, powerful, realistic writing makes for an exciting debut. Highly recommended for regional collections about the West and larger fiction collections.-Ken St. Andre, Phoenix P.L. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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2006 (Young Readers)
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Diane Lee Wilson

Book list Gr. 7-10. On a wagon train headed to California, Colton is left to care for his family after his father accidentally shoots him and then runs off in horror. His mixed race family (Pa was white; Ma is black) is harassed, ignored, and finally abandoned by their fellow travelers, but Colton still manages to lead his mother and siblings to the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas before Ma's illness stops them. Ma entrusts Colton with her sister's freedom papers and begs him to deliver them to Sacramento, their ultimate destination. To meet her request, Colton joins the Pony Express--a job that brings further hardship and danger as Colton braves the coming winter to carry the mail on its final leg into California. Set in 1860, with the pending Civil War as its backdrop, Wilson's novel subtly exposes the dangers of being mixed race in a volatile society. Wilson masterfully creates a multidimensional character in Colton, who possesses both youthful impetuousness and the wisdom of a man who has seen too much sadness for his young years. Societal barriers, played out larger than life in Colton's heart and mind, are the ultimate strength of this story. Readers will absorb greater lessons as they become engrossed in the excitement, beauty, and terror of Colton's journey to California and manhood. --Frances Bradburn Copyright 2005 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 6-10-In 1860, Colton Wescott, 12, is determined to keep his Sacramento-bound family alive and heading west. His distraught white father abandons the family after accidentally shooting his son; the wagon master has ordered the mixed-race family to leave the wagon train; his freed-slave mother is sick from childbirth; and his two sisters cling to Colton in hopes of survival. When they finally arrive in Chinatown, 12 miles outside Carson City, NV, a sign for Pony Express riders captivates Colton, who lies about his age, passes for white, demonstrates his horse-handling skill, and is hired for the dangerous ride over the mountains. When he is injured in a fall, he loses his job but decides to take matters into his own hands. Eschewing the superintendent's orders and Pony Express protocol, he grabs the mail, rides his own temperamental horse, and heads for Sacramento, knowing he might be carrying news of two subversive plots "to blow up some forts and steal some ammunition" and to assassinate Presidential candidate Lincoln. Heroically, Colton delivers the mail, finds his mother's runaway sister, and gives her precious legal papers proving her freedom. Colton is determined, reflective, and courageous in his vivid, vernacular descriptions of moral dilemmas, treacherous trails, and exhaustion. Based on historical facts and footnotes, this fictional account offers an appealing, energetic, and provocative look at racial issues across America, the remarkable but short-lived scheme of Pony Express service, the fortitude of its riders, and the courage of one boy who stands up for family, himself, and his beliefs.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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2005 (Western Novel)
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Rick Steber

Publishers Weekly In 1954, the U.S. government, under the Indian Termination Act, "incorporated" a great deal of Indian land on the Pacific coast and revoked the status of a number of tribes. Compensation came in 1961, in the form of $43,000 payments per tribe member. Spur Award-winner Steber focuses, in his 27th novel, on how three Klamath brothers react to the loss and the money as they prepare to receive the latter. Rollin, called Chief, is the eldest brother; he's a violent alcoholic who puts the money straight into the bottle. Creek is a vulnerable college student who covets a red Corvette and can see little beyond that. Half-brother Pokey, who is half-white, doesn't want the money at all. As termination day nears, the liquor flows, and the local deputy sheriff gets nervous, especially after he discovers a hit list nailed to a bridge. The few whites who live on the reservation (including a vengeful storekeeper, a brutally opportunistic tavern owner and a redneck cattle rancher whose visiting daughter is writing a college paper about termination) don't help matters. There's no happy ending, just Steber's powerful, depressing portrayal of government duplicity and reservation poverty, alcoholism, anger and despair. (Jan. 10) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Library Journal This book, whose self-published edition has already won the 2005 Spur Award for Best Western Novel, isn't so much a novel as a re-creation of the days surrounding the most momentous event in the history of the Pacific Northwest's Klamath Indian tribe-the U.S. government's purchase of the Klamath reservation and termination of its people's tribal status in 1961. Steber's (No End in Sight) short character portraits lend insight into the hopeless, alcohol-drenched lives of many Klamath adults, and his back stories shed light on the realities of reservation life. Key characters include the three Pitsua brothers, Chief, Pokey, and Creek; at the narrative's focal point we see Chief almost kill one of his brothers in a drunken rage, then turn the gun on himself. Steber brutally depicts what white civilization has done to native American people while offering some hope in the character of Pokey, who simply refuses to sell out. Recommended for regional collections about the West and larger fiction collections.-Ken St. Andre, Phoenix P.L. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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