The Northland College Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute has announced the winning 2020 books for the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award (SONWA).
Author Kendra Atleework has been selected for the top prize in nature writing for Miracle Country: A Memoir of a Family and a Landscape (Algonquin Books), an extraordinary account of a young woman’s personal story growing up on the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada—and the reasons she returned to live there.
“Atleework creates vivid pictures of her personal experiences and the historical misappropriation of land, water, and culture in the region,” said Susan Hedman, who serves on the SONWA committee. “After reading this book, we should all ‘file a flight plan’ and ‘maintain three points of contact’ so we can safely move forward with our lives in a way that heals ourselves, our communities, and the Earth.”
The SONWA children’s committee awarded author Deborah Hopkinson and illustrator Meilo So the top prize in children’s literature for Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies (Chronicle Books), a book that parallels the journeys of a young migrant girl and a monarch butterfly.
“In centering the story of an immigrant girl who inspires her class to take collective action and build a monarch station, young readers will be encouraged to take action and create change,” said SONWA committee reader and assistant professor of education Dani O’Brien. “I also love that this story takes place in a city as few nature-focused children’s books do.”
In an effort to enhance and broaden the reach of the children’s books, the Institute has created an online video collection of children’s SONWA-awarded authors reading their books with nature-based activities accompanying each story.
Since 1991, SONWA has honored the literary legacy of Sigurd Olson, who attended Northland College and is the namesake of the College’s environmental institute, by recognizing and encouraging contemporary writers who seek to carry on his tradition of nature writing.
The SONWAs are announced in time for the birthday of Sigurd F. Olson. Born April 4, 1899, Olson is considered one of the most influential conservationists and prominent writers in American history. His books have inspired an appreciation for nature among many generations of readers.
In addition, the committee awarded the following.
Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World (Ecco Press), Patrik Svensson, translated from Swedish by Agnes Broome.
Tree Story: A History of the World Written in Rings (Johns Hopkins University Press), Valerie Trouet.
World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments (Milkweed Press), Aimee Nezhukumatathil.
Children’s Honorable Mention
Let’s Save Our Planet: Forests (Ivy Kids), Jess French, illustrated by Alexander Mostov.
ABC Earth-Friendly Me (Walter Foster Jr.), Christiane Engel.