Drum roll, please! Every year the Kansas Center for the Book selects outstanding titles by Kansas authors or about Kansas. You might want to especially note Frontier Manhattan by Manhattan native Kevin Olson.
The Adventures of Beanboy by Lisa Harkrader – Tucker MacBean would love to be a superhero. Unfortunately, he wasn’t born with anything resembling a superpower. What he has instead is a talent for drawing comic book heroes. This middle-grade novel is about looking past conventional ideas of strength and finding your own superpower.
Beyond Cold Blood: The KBI from Ma Barker to BTK by Larry Welch – Ma Barker and Pretty Boy Floyd once shot their way across the state, and Bonnie and Clyde were known to travel within its borders. From bank robbers to cattle rustlers to serial killers, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation has played a key role in the pursuit of some Kansas’ most infamous criminals.
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty – A captivating novel about the woman who chaperoned irreverent Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922. Only a few years before becoming a famous actress and icon of her generation, fifteen-year-old Louise and her thirty-six year old chaperone, Cora, spend five weeks together that will change their lives forever.
The Dust Bowl: An Illustrated History by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns – In this riveting chronicle, which accompanies the documentary, the authors capture the profound drama of the American Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Terrifying photographs, along with firsthand accounts, bring to life this heart-wrenching catastrophe of the Great Plains.
Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith – Drawing on a wealth of untapped primary resources, author Jean Edward Smith begins in Abilene with Eisenhower as a young man and proceeds to his appointment to West Point, World War II, and provides the inside story of the 1952 Republican convention, ending with Ike’s years in the Whitehouse.
Frontier Manhattan: Yankee Settlement to Kansas Town, 1854-1894 by Kevin G.W. Olson – When six New Englanders arrived at the junction of the Kansas and Big Blue rivers in March of 1855, they pitched a tent and launched a town. Kevin Olson’s lively history of Manhattan’s founding draws on town records and personal papers to illuminate the challenges settlers faced and the drama of building a town from scratch on the Great Plains Frontier.
May B. by Caroline Starr Rose – May is helping out on a neighbor’s homestead-just until Christmas. But when a terrible turn of events leaves her all alone, she must try to find food and fuel-and courage-to make it through the approaching winter. This Young Adult novel in verse will transport you to the endless Kansas prairie, and to the suffocating closeness of the sod house where May is stranded.
The Ecstasy They Call Damnation by Israel Wasserstein – In this wide-ranging collection, Israel Wasserstein tells and retells the stories of myths, legends, the Bible, and his own personal journey down Highway 54. Both the physiological and psychological effects of the prairie are in evidence here. This book of poetry asks for reading after reading to uncover what is there.
Time’s Shadow: Remembering a Family Farm in Kansas by Arnold J. Bauer – Arnold Bauer grew up on his family’s farm in Clay County. This coming-of-age memoir set in the 1930s and ’50s, blends local history with personal reflection to paint a realistic picture of farm life from a now-lost world. He shares the trials of the Depression and drought, experiences the coming of electricity, and finds wonder in the commonplace of going to town on a Saturday night for a walnut ice cream cone.
To the Stars Through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg – A “renga” is a collaborative poem based on the Japanese haiku form. In this book of poetry, each poet begins with the seed of an idea from the poem before, writes, and leads the way for the next poet, resulting in a poetic conversation. The words of each poet, gathered from the center and edges of Kansas, show us not just the parts, but an expansive skyscape of language.
The Yard by Alex Grecian – Victorian London is a cesspool of crime and Scotland Yard has only twelve detectives, known as the Murder Squad, to investigate countless murders every month. No one can anticipate the brutal murder of one of their own … one of the twelve. With masterful storytelling and meticulous attention to period detail, Grecian weaves multiple narratives that converge in a heart stopping climax.
A Kansas Bestiary by Jake Vail, Doug Hitt, and Illustrated by Lisa Grossman – In the Middle Ages, a bestiary (pronounced bes-Chee-airy) was a guide to the animals that populated the land. Published in collaboration with the Kansas Land Trust, this charming book presents 15 portraits of animals native to Kansas. Each entry, accompanied by exquisite watercolor illustrations, is equally informative and amusing.
Wide Open by Larry Bjornson – Based on actual events, Wide Open is a novel of family and coming of age set in 1871 Abilene, a place where good and evil are so evenly matched that no one knows which will triumph. Will Merritt finds himself torn between the Texas cowboys he and his friends idolize and the migrant settlers whose farms threaten to crowd out the cattle. Recently hired marshal, Wild Bill Hickok, struggles to control the streets of Abilene.
For more award winners, check out our Awards page, with all the latest and best.