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Originally published Friday, September 10, 2010 at 7:03 PM

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Lit Life

'Border Song' and 'The Big Burn' among 2010 Washington State Book Awards

The 2010 Washington State Book Awards have been announced, awarded to seven outstanding books published by Washington authors in the year 2009, including "Border Songs" by Jim Lynch and "The Big Burn" by Timothy Egan.

Seattle Times book editor

Lit Life |

The 2010 Washington State Book Awards have been announced, awarded to seven outstanding books published by Washington authors in the year 2009. It's always a pleasure to highlight regional authors' accomplishments — without further ado, here's a list of the winners:


"Border Songs" by Jim Lynch (Knopf). Olympia author Lynch creates a tender, hilarious portrait of a dyslexic, Whatcom County-based U.S. Border Patrol agent whose keen knowledge of the natural world makes him a natural at hunting down drug dealers.


"Inseminating the Elephant" by Lucia Perillo (Copper Canyon Press). Olympia poet Perillo's poetry collection was also a finalist for this year's Pulitzer Prize in poetry.


"The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America" by Timothy Egan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Seattle's Egan, who won the National Book Award for his 2005 book "The Worst Hard Time," recounts the story of a 1910 wildfire that destroyed millions of acres in Washington, Montana and Idaho, and examines how the catastrophe strengthened the case for preserving public lands through the U.S. Forest Service.

General nonfiction

"Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science" by Carol Kaesuk Yoon (Norton). Bellingham author Yoon explores the tension between evolutionary biology and taxonomy, the classification system first proposed by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus. This book won a "best book of 2009" designation by New Scientist and Library Journal, and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

The Scandiuzzi Children's Book Award

For a picture book: "Before You Were Here, Mi Amor" by Samantha Vamos, illustrated by Santiago Cohen (Viking Children's Books). A picture book that mixes in Spanish words in its story of how a pregnant mother, her unborn baby's older brother and an extended family of grandparents, aunts and uncles get prepared for life with a new baby. Vamos is a Bellevue resident; illustrator Cohen is from New Jersey.


For early readers: "The Magical Ms. Plum" by Bonny Becker (Knopf). For 6- to 9-year-olds: Seattle author Becker, author of the award-winning "A Visitor for Bear," scores again with a story about a teacher who mixes magic with common sense to help her students learn.

For middle grades and young adults: "Brutal" by Michael Harmon (Knopf). For 10- to 18-year-old readers: the story of Poe, a 16-year-old who is sent to live with her estranged father for a year and attend a suburban high school. She finds herself defending a friend and misfit from some very malicious pranks. Harmon is a Spokane resident.

The Washington State Book Awards are sponsored by the Washington Center for the Book at the Seattle Public Library. Winners will receive a $500 honorarium and will be honored at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Seattle Public Library. For more information, and a list of the finalists, go to

Mary Ann Gwinn: 206-464-2357 or Mary Ann Gwinn appears on Classical KING-FM's Arts Channel at

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