Announcing the 2019 Literary Award and Children’s Book Award Winners

The Wisconsin Library Association Announces the 2019 Literary Award and Children’s Book Award Winners

Chloe Benjamin Wins Literary Prize from the Wisconsin Library Association
For Her Novel: The Immortalists

The Literary Awards Committee of the Wisconsin Library Association is pleased to announce that Chloe Benjamin’s novel The Immortalists is the Literary Award winner for 2019. The award is for the highest literary achievement by a Wisconsin author for a work written in 2018.

The Immortalists follows the lives of four siblings living in New York’s Lower East Side in 1969. Drawn to a mystic woman who claims to divine the date of one’s death, the Gold children learn their futures. The prophecies hang over the Gold family for the next forty years as they grapple with choices over fate, science versus nurture and what they owe to themselves and each other. Author and retired professor of creative writing at the University of Wisconsin Judith Claire Mitchell called The Immortalists “a beautifully written page-turner…a thoughtful and tender look at how we live our lives in our fraught and perilous times.”

In addition to The Immortalists, Chloe Benjamin is the author of The Anatomy of Dreams, which won the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Prize. She has an MFA from the University of Wisconsin and lives in Madison with her husband.

The Literary Awards Committee also selected eight books by Wisconsin authors for Outstanding Achievement. These titles, all published in 2018, are:

  • The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century by  Deborah Blum
  • A Lucky Man: Stories by Jamel Brinkley
  • Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan
  • Florida by Lauren Groff
  • How Are You Going to Save Yourself by J. M. Holmes
  • The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller
  • Light It Up by Nick Petrie
  • What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan

The committee also recognized seven collections of Outstanding Poetry. They are: 

  • The Arrows That Choose Us by Marilyn Annucci
  • Caught Between Coasts:  Collected Poems, 1989-2018 by Jan Chronister
  • At the End of the War by DeWitt Clinton
  • Under the Tail of the Milky Way Galaxy by Ethel Mortenson Davis
  • Walking Backwards:  Poems, 1966-2016 by John Koethe
  • A Stone to Carry Home by Andrea Potos
  • Midwest Medley:  People and Places, Wild Things and Weather by Patricia Williams

The Literary Awards Committee designated three authors as Notable Wisconsin Authors this year. Designed to promote greater awareness of the state’s literary heritage, the award recognizes an author’s entire body of work. This year’s Notable Authors are:

  • Ellen Kort
  • Michael Perry
  • Michelle Wildgen

The 2019 Literary Awards Committee members are comprised of active and retired librarians from across the state. For more information about the Literary Awards, visit

The Wisconsin Library Association engages, inspires and advocates for library workers and supporters to improve and promote library services for the people of Wisconsin.

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell wins 2019 Burr/Worzalla Award 

Children’s graphic novel The Cardboard Kingdom, created by Chad Sell and published by Penguin Random House, has won the coveted Burr/Worzalla Award for 2019. The Children’s Book Award Committee of the Wisconsin Library Association’s Youth Services Section annually presents the Burr/Worzalla Award to the most distinguished work in literature written and/or illustrated by a Wisconsin book creator. The Cardboard Kingdom is an impressive debut from Sell, who grew up in Wisconsin and currently lives in Chicago.

In a society where the lines that divide people have only seemed to deepen, there’s one thing that can bring an entire neighborhood of kids together: cardboard. With enough cardboard, you can make anything. A noble knight’s sword. The headdress of an evil enchantress. A robot. A mad scientist’s lab. What starts as a game between brother and sister soon grows into a sprawling kingdom, where imagination is only limited by how much cardboard you can get your hands on.

A neighborhood of refreshingly diverse characters each has their own personal quest to fulfill. A young boy who is drawn to the glamor of dressing up as an evil sorceress. A girl who uses her big voice to transform into a gentle but powerful monster. A bully who makes fun of the game he desperately wants to be a part of. As more kids are invited to play in the cardboard kingdom, unique and genuine characters begin to emerge as kids find courage in their fantasy world to truly be themselves.

Through the refreshingly diverse cast of characters, this compassionate gem of a graphic novel rejects stereotypes and teaches lessons about acceptance, understanding and identity without being heavy-handed. Readers will love the bold, colorful illustrations and imaginative, character-driven story that will no doubt have kids asking adults for spare cardboard boxes this summer.

For her amazing body of work in children’s literature, former Wisconsin resident Peg Kehret was selected as this year’s Wisconsin Notable Children’s Author. Best known for her inspiring biography, Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio, Kehret is a prolific, respected author of children’s literature, with her books spanning multiple genres. Many of Kehret’s novels have been selected as “children’s choice” award winners by young readers across the country. The Children’s Book Award Committee is very pleased to bestow yet another award upon this master storyteller.

Five noteworthy honor titles have also been selected for Outstanding Achievement in children’s literature, written and/or illustrated by Wisconsin book creators:

  • The Button War by Avi
  • Lowriders Blast from the Past by Cathy Camper
  • Hooper by Geoff Herbach
  • Margot and Mateo Save the World by Darcy Miller
  • Capsized!: The Forgotten Story of the SS Eastland Disaster by Patricia Sutton

The Elizabeth Burr/Worzalla Award is made possible by the Worzalla Publishing Company, Stevens Point, through a grant to the WLA Foundation.

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