Friday, December 15, 2017

Book Awards from the Mitten State by Kristin Bartley Lenz

Earlier this year, I was honored to learn that my YA novel, THE ART OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO, was selected for the 2017-2018 Great Lakes Great Books state-wide literature program. And I was delighted to see that several of our SCBWI-MI members have books for younger readers on this list. Looking at you, Lisa Wheeler (DINO-RACING), Laurie Keller (WE ARE GROWING), Alison DeCamp (MY NEAR-DEATH ADVENTURES), and many more from previous years!

I had assumed the Great Lakes Great Books (GLGB) program was only for Michigan authors, but I was surprised to see authors from all around the country on the lists. And I soon discovered that booksellers and librarians often confused the program with other similarly named awards, such as Great Lakes Great Reads and the Great Michigan Read. Curious to learn more, I reached out to the GLGB co-chairs from the Michigan Reading Association. They were happy to answer my questions. Introducing Trish Sippola and Lynette Suckow!

Tell us a little about yourself. What and where do you teach and how did you become co-chairs of the Great Lakes Great Books Program?

Trish Sippola - I'm a 3rd Grade Teacher at Birchview Elementary in Ishpeming, MI. This is my second year as co-chair on GLGB. I first came on the GLGB committee 4 years ago and was also involved in the Michigan Reading Association which is how I got involved in the committee.

Lynette Suckow - Even though I now work as a reference librarian at the Peter White Public Library in Marquette, MI, my background is in elementary education and children’s literature. I became the GLGB Award committee chair 10 years ago and have been a committee member even longer. Trish, who is also passionate about books, became a co-chair so we could move the committee in a new direction and make it more relevant to new teachers.

There are several award programs with similar names - Great Lakes Great Reads from the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association and Great Michigan Read from the Michigan Humanities Council. Tell us about MRA's Great Lakes Great Books program and how it differs.

Great Lakes Great Books has been around for the past 30 years. We are one of two Michigan Reading Association committees to directly involve students in the reading process. Our mission is to share current literature recommendations with classroom educators. The books on the GLGB list provide interesting stories for grades K-12 and have to be less than two years old. The second part of student participation is to allow them to vote on their favorite book from the list. This is where the “award” part comes in, as a winner is chosen in each age category based on popular vote.

The 2017 Michigan Reads title by SCBWI-MI member Lisa Wheeler 
We differ from the Great Michigan Read program from the Michigan Humanities Council, which features an array of programming around a single adult or YA title every other year, and from Michigan Reads! One Book One State Children’s Book Program from the State of Michigan, which chooses a single title annually to be used in schools, libraries, Head Start programs, and Great Start collaboratives.

The Great Lakes Great Reads list from the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association is an excellent, but short list of recommended titles for all ages of readers. Great Lakes Great Books suggests 40 titles in five age levels for reading with students. We hope the similarity of names doesn’t diminish the separate goals of each literacy committee.

SCBWI-MI member Jack Cheng's middle grade novel was chosen for the 2017 Great Lakes Great Reads list.

Do you read all of the nominated titles? How do you choose the final 8 titles in each age category?

We have a committee this year of 11 readers from schools and libraries from across the state who read throughout the year and add our favorites onto a list for each other to read. Some of us specialize in certain grade-levels so we may not all be reading all of the books K-12, but there are a few of us who do.  We hold a meeting in January to go over our list from the year, keeping in mind to choose fiction, non-fiction, illustrated, culturally diverse, well-written books. We bring our top 2 favorites from each grade-level category to the table to discuss, and from there we end up choosing the final 8 for each category.  Since we have members from far and near, some join in electronically.

How do students find out about the selected titles and award winners?

The MRA website has a downloadable packet of election information, along with grade level bookmarks, participation certificate, and a nomination form for suggesting future GLGB titles. We also have beautiful GLGB posters published by PermaBound Books for classrooms and libraries which are available at all MRA conferences and board meetings. We’re working to get an electronic version of that poster on our webpage. The winning book titles are announced in March at the annual MRA Conference. Additionally, when a classroom sends in their votes, we will email them back with the final award winners long before they are publicly announced.

Anything else you'd like us to know about GLGB?

Great Lakes Great Books Award committee work is a labor of love.  Members have a passion for books that blinds them to fact that they spend a whole year reading and evaluating new publications.  The effort pays off when Michigan students are treated to some of the best literature of the year.  It also keeps teachers aware of which books are currently available for enriching their classroom libraries. GLGB is definitely great!

Thanks for your time, Trish and Lynette! There's still time for students in all grades to vote for their favorite book. To see the list of 2016-2017 winners, the nominated titles for 2017-2018, and student ballot forms, go here. Students have until January 25th to submit their vote. And I just realized that today is the last day to nominate a title for the 2018-2019 award! That form is also included in this packet.

The 2017-2018 Great Lakes Great Books Award winners will be announced at the Michigan Reading Association Annual Conference, March 17-19, 2018 in Detroit. Will you be there?

And I'm sure there are even more Michigan book awards that I've overlooked in this post. Please let us know in the comments, so we can check them out.

Coming up on the Mitten blog: Vacation! Happy holidays from the SCBWI-MI blog team! We'll return in January to kick off the new year with Nina Goebel introducing our new Featured Illustrator. Followed by Patti Richards trumpeting your good news in our Hugs and Hurrahs. Please email Patti your writing/illustrating/publishing good news by Monday, January 8th, to be included. Finally, don't be surprised if you hear from Charlie Barshaw - he's planning our 2018 Writer Spotlights - it could be you!

Our SCBWI-MI chapter volunteers are busy planning 2018 events and more. Here's a sneak peek:

Attention Novelists!
SCBWI-MI is happy to help you with your New Year’s Resolutions

Resolution 1: Figure out your membership status. (This is easier than it sounds.)
If you are pre-published, you are an associate member.
If you are published, it depends on the publisher.
If your publisher is on this list of traditional publishers, you are a PAL member.
If your publisher is not on that list, you are a full member.
To check your official membership status, go to and click the Member Search box at the top right hand corner. Enter your name to look yourself up. If your listed membership status is not correct, contact SCBWI by email and explain the situation.

Resolution 2: Finish a draft of your novel. (This is as difficult as it sounds, but you can do it.)

Resolution 3: Apply for one of the SCBWI-MI Novel Mentorships (This is really easy.)
The submission window for the PAL mentorship with Leslie Connor is in April 2018.
The submission window for the non-PAL mentorship with Kelly Barson is June 2018.
The submission instructions will be posted on the SCBWI-MI website. You’ll need to submit 10 pages and a synopsis.
Make sure you apply for the correct mentorship! SCBWI-MI can do wondrous things, but we cannot yet turn back time – if you miss your submission window.

For questions, contact SCBWI-MI Mentorship Coordinator, Ann Finkelstein.

See you in the new year!
Kristin Lenz


  1. Kristin--don't forget the Michigan Notable Book Award via the Library of Michigan. My two most recent books -- Who's Jim Hines? and The Colored Car--were both recipients of this award, in 2009 and 2013 respectively.

    1. Yes, Jean Alicia! Another Michigan award and two of your books were winners! What an honor. I'm sure I'm missing others too!

  2. Sounds like you've got some awesome mentor opportunities next year. Hope I get to the point where I'm ready for it some day.