The Northland College Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute has announced the winning 2021 books for the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award (SONWA).
Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest (Alfred A. Knopf) by Suzanne Simard has been selected for the top prize in nature writing.
“Rooted firmly in British Columbia,” Institute director Alan Brew observes, “Finding the Mother Tree effectively weaves a deeply personal memoir into a fascinating account of how Simard’s persistent questions about how to promote regeneration after a clear cut ultimately led to Mother Trees and a radically new understanding of forests as social, communicative, and cooperative communities of interdependent beings.”
Reader Theron O’Connor describes Finding the Mother Tree as “Superb and right on the mark for SONWA! Fascinating topic, sophisticated but comprehensible science, appealing point of view, nicely integrated and appropriate memoir material, excellent writing.”
The top prize in children’s literature was awarded to Ocean Soup: A Recipe for You, Me, and a Cleaner Sea (Sleeping Bear Press), written by Meeg Pincus and Illustrated by Lucy Semple. “A lyrical commentary,” reader Hilary Pollack explains, “Ocean Soup offers a retrospective look at the introduction of plastic to the environment and the damage that follows.”
Saylor Donnelly, who is completing her education degree at Northland College, was particularly taken by Ocean Soup’s vibrant illustrations, which are relatable to diverse readers, even those who do not live near an ocean. Donnelly notes that Ocean Soup “not only educates young readers and activists about the detrimental effects of one-use plastics, it also inspires hope for the future and ways YOU can make a change.”
In addition to the winning books, the reading committees also recognized books in the following categories.
Lookout: Love Solitude, and Searching for Wildfire in the Boreal Forest, Trina Moyles (Random House Canada, 2021).
Planet Palm: How Palm Oil Ended Up in Everything—and Endangered the World, Jocelyn C. Zuckerman (The New Press, 2021).
Seed to Dust: Life, Nature, and A Country Garden, Marc Hamer (Greystone Books, 2021).
The Porch: Meditations on the Edge of Nature, Charlie Hailey (University of Chicago Press, 2021).
Children’s Honorable Mention
The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest, Heather Lang, Illustrated by Jana Christy (Calkins Creek, 2021).
Since 1991, the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award has honored the literary legacy of Sigurd Olson by recognizing and encouraging contemporary writers who seek to carry on his tradition of nature writing.
Born April 4, 1899, Olson is recognized as one of the most influential conservationists of the twentieth century, and his books have inspired an appreciation for nature among many generations of readers.