Seattle's Child

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WA Book Award winners in picture book and young-reader categories

Here are Washington Book Award winners in categories of interest to kids and families.

Two Seattle authors and one from Kirkland were honored this month in youth categories of the 2023 Washington State Book Awards.

The awards, announced Sept. 26, recognize outstanding books published by Washington authors in 2022.

The winning picture book is “How to Hug a Pufferfish,” by Ellie Peterson of Kirkland. Roaring Brook Press describes it as “a picture book about a group of underwater friends who learn to ask for permission before showing their prickly, pufferfish pal some love.”

“Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone,” by Tae Keller of Seattle, was honored in the Books for Young Readers category for “a gripping and emotional story about friendship, bullying, and the possiblity that there’s more in the universe than just us.”

And “The Language of Seabirds,” by Will Taylor of Seattle was named the top in Books for Young Adult Readers. It’s the tale of a seaside summer that turns into more than main character Jeremy had anticipated.

Read on for our full, original post in which we highlighted all of the finalists in young reader categories. You can find the full list here.

(Book descriptions from the publishers.)


Picture books

“The Birders: An Unexpected Encounter in the Northwest Woods,” by Rob Albanese of Seattle (Sasquatch Books).

“How to Hug a Pufferfish,” by Ellie Peterson of Kirkland (Roaring Brook Press).

“Old Wood Boat,” by Nikki McClure of Olympia and the Salish Sea (Candlewick Press).

“Working Boats: An Inside Look at Ten Amazing Watercraft,” by Tom Crestodina of Bellingham (Sasquatch Books).


Books for young readers

“Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone,” by Tae Keller of Seattle (Random House). Jennifer doesn’t care about the laws of middle school, or the laws of the universe. She believes in aliens — and she thinks she can find them.

“Narwhalicorn and Jelly,” by Ben Clanton of Seattle (Tundra Books). Narwhal wishes to see a unicorn — and actually becomes one!

“Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence,” by Sonja Thomas of Vancouver (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster). A determined young girl must rely on her ingenuity and scientific know-how to save her beloved cat.


Books for young adult readers

Howl,” by Shaun David Hutchinson of Seattle (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers).  Virgil Knox is sure he was attacked by a monster. But being the new kid in a town where everybody knows everybody is hard enough as it is without being the kid who’s afraid of monsters, so he tries to keep a low profile.

“The Language of Seabirds,” by Will Taylor of Seattle (Scholastic Press). Jeremy is not excited about the prospect of spending the summer with his dad and his uncle in a seaside cabin in Oregon. It ends up exceeding his expectations.

“The Turning Pointe,” by Vanessa L. Torres of Olympia (Knopf/Random House Children’s Books). A bold and emotionally gripping novel about a teenage Latinx girl finding freedom through dance and breaking expectations in 1980s Minnesota.

The Washington State Book Awards are presented by the Washington Center for the Book. Criteria are the strength of the publication’s literary merit, lasting importance and overall quality to an author who is a current resident of Washington state. For the 2023 book awards, judges read and evaluated 242 books. The judges for youth titles were Lauren Kessel, teacher-librarian, Kent Elementary School; Jane López-Santillana, librarian, Sno-Isle Libraries; Avery Mead, teacher-librarian, East Valley High School.


Find news about books, authors and more on our Book Corner page in our monthly Book Corner newsletter.

Originally published Sept. 13, 2023; updated with winners on Sept. 26

About the Author

Julie Hanson

Julie Hanson is a longtime journalist, South King County resident and mom to a 15-year-old girl.