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10th Annual Massachusetts Book Awards

Celebrating books published in 2009

Announced April 28, 2010, at the Massachusetts Library Association Annual Conference

Fiction  |   Nonfiction  |   Poetry  |   Children's/Young Adult  | MassBook Judges |

Fiction Award

Woodsburner by John Pipkin (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday)

This debut novel takes an actual incident in the life of Henry David Thoreau — he and a companion accidentally set a fire that consumed three hundred acres of the Concord Woods — and weaves it into a richly satisfying tale. Pipkin realizes fully the Boston and Concord of 1844, introducing a wonderfully diverse set of characters affected by the fire, and suggests that an inadvertent act of destruction was the spark that ignited the literary career of the future author of Walden. --The MassBook Judges

Winner of the 2009 First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction



A former instructor at Boston University, John Pipkin now lives and writes in Austin, Texas.


Reading Guide -- from Rusoff Agency

Download the "Must-Read" Books in Fiction HERE.

Nonfiction Award

American Passage: A History of Ellis Island by Vincent J. Cannato (Harper)

In his clarifying and enlightening account of Ellis Island, a port of disembarkation which has become, in the American mythos, symbolically akin to Plymouth Rock, Cannato marshals impressive research to demonstrate the conflicting priorities played out during a significant chapter of our immigration history, dispelling a great many of the myths surrounding the entry process for prospective Americans and helping us to understand the continual challenge to open borders that a nation of immigrants must confront. American Passage invites us to consider the history of the Ellis Island experience as well as the ongoing story of our national identity. --The MassBook Judges



Vincent J. Cannato is a Professor of History at U Mass Boston.


Reading Guide -- forthcoming


Download the "Must-Read" Books in Nonfiction HERE.

Poetry Award

This Is the Red Door by James R. Whitley (Ironweed Press)

This remarkable collection of lyrical poems about love, loss, and moving on, with sections aptly titled In, Under, Through, Over, and Out, brings the reader along the arc of a relationship, from breathless beginning to inevitable end. Whitley’s first lines draw one immediately into his experience, while the remainder of the poems invite further exploration. The poems, read aloud, roll off the tongue with an intelligence that avoids cleverness for its own sake. There is much to ponder and even more to discuss in this exceptional volume. --The MassBook Judges



James R. Whitley is Asst Dean/Director of Campus Services at Springfield College.


Reading Guide -- forthcoming

Download the "Must-Read" Books in Poetry HERE.

Children's / Young Adult Literature Award

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (Little, Brown)

In this richly textured novel about a young girl on a magical journey, Grace Lin weaves characters and stories from Chinese folklore with universal themes of independence and attachment.  The heroine finds her strengths in cleverness, friendship, and daring as she discovers essential truths for herself.  The delicately detailed illustrations complement and augment the narrative experience. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is as beautiful to hold and view as it is to read. -- The MassBook Judges

A Newbery Honor Book




Grace Lin lives in Somerville.


Reading Guide -- forthcoming

Download the "Must-Read" Books in Children's/Young Adult Lit HERE.

MassBook Judges for the 10th Annual Awards

Jen Cusack, Foundation for Children's Books
Jeremy Dibbell, Massachusetts Historical Society
Francis DiMenno, Emily Williston Memorial Library, Easthampton
Diane Giarrusso, Boxford Town Library
Jane Granatino, Uxbridge Free Public Library
Liz Gray, Dana Hall School Library
Faith Kaufman, Forbes Library, Northampton
Ann Keefe, Springfield Public Library
Stephen Nonack, Boston Athenaeum
Martha Reagan, Belmont High School Library
Ted Schelvan, Norwell High School Library
Enzo Surin, Bunker Hill Community College Library

Press Release Announcing Awards