For over twenty years, the Kentucky Bluegrass Award program has encouraged the K-12 students of Kentucky to read quality children’s and young adult literature, vote on their favorite books, and annually celebrate their choices with the authors of these books. The Kentucky Bluegrass Award was begun in 1982 by Northern Kentucky University professors, Rosemary Oliphant Ingham and Rebecca Kelm. Shortly after establishing the award program, they both accepted other positions and Jennifer Smith became the KBA Coordinator, a position she held from 1983-2002. Rosemary Oliphant Ingham Rebecca Kelm Bill Worley The late Bill Worley, art professor at Northern Kentucky University, created the KBA logo. Through the years, this logo has appeared on stickers, stamps, posters, bookmarks, balloons, and a host of other materials used to publicize the award. 1982-1983 FIRST KBA WINNER In 1983, the first winner of the KBA was chosen. Third through eighth grade students voted for Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg. 1983-1984 Martha Alexander The first author to accept her award in person was Martha Alexander. She came all the way from Homer, Alaska, in order to accept her award for the 1984 KBA winner, Move Over Twerp. Martha’s visit was the inspiration for establishing an annual conference to celebrate the KBA and the most important ingredients of the award, Kids, Books, and Authors. Martha Alexander at the Kenton County Public Library in Covington 1988-1989 First Year of Two Awards K-3 In 1988, the award was split into two grade divisions, K-3 and 4-8. The winning books that year were Hey Al by Richard Egielski and Who Needs a Bratty Brother? by Linda Gondosch. 4-8 1988-1989 First KBA Conference In the spring of 1989, Richare Egielski and Linda Gondosch were acknowledged and their books celebrated at the very first Kentucky Bluegrass Award Conference held at Northern Kentucky University. Children Have Parallel Conference The 1989 conference featured a parallel conference for students. At the time, this was a unique element among the state children’s choice programs throughout the nation. In their sessions, the students were given opportunity to participate in a variety of literature related experiences including art, puppetry, drama, and of course, meeting the authors and illustrators of the books they had voted as their favorite. She provides the following anecdote about her KBA conference experience: “My Kentucky Bluegrass Award hangs over my desk where it has been since I received it in the spring of 1990. This is what it says: The schoolchildren of Kentucky have chosen Johanna Hurwitz by Class Clown Their favorite book of 1989 The mistake was just the sort of thing that a child in one of my books might do. So I look upon my award with pride, joy and a laugh every time I raise my eyes from the computer screen.” 1990-1991 The lady with the alligator purse, Nadine Westcott, was featured at the 1991 conference. 1991-1992 KBA Goes On the Road In 1992, Jeff Moss and Chris Demarest were welcomed to Louisville, Kentucky, to celebrate their book, The Butterfly Jar. This book of poetry along with its creators received high praise from Kentucky students. The 10th anniversary of the Kentucky Bluegrass Award was celebrated in 1993. The winning books celebrated during the conference were Basket by George Ella Lyon in the K-3 division and in the 4-8 division, Something Big Has Been Here by Jack Prelutsky. George Ella Lyon George Ella Lyon was the first Kentucky author to win the Kentucky Bluegrass Award. Jack Prelutsky is the only author, to date, to give his acceptance speech in the form of a song: I’m happy to be in Kentucky, A beautiful state to behold, Where cardinals fly In the clear summer sky, And the government stashes their gold. It’s grand to be here in Kentucky, Where goldenrods bloom in the sun, Where the caves go for miles, And the folks are all smiles, And horses know just how to run. There’s no other place like Kentucky, The country of Lincoln and Boone, Where the grasses grow blue, And the people are true, I hope I’ll be coming back soon. I’m thrilled that the kids of Kentucky Read poetry without getting bored, So friends, now I say I’m delighted today I’m winning your Bluegrass Award. Jack Prelutsky HAPPY ANNIVERSARY ?! The most vivid memory of the KBA’s 10th anniversary was Mother Nature’s participation. The conference was held in mid-April and there was a blizzard! Everyone had to be sent home early because the roads were being closed throughout the area. Jack Prelutsky spent two extra days in Kentucky because the airport closed. There was a lot of left over anniversary cake! Traveling Conference Prior to the 10th anniversary, participants farther south in Kentucky voiced the concern that their students never had opportunity to meet the authors of the winning KBA books because of the travel involved to get to the Northern Kentucky University campus. After experimenting with extending the conference to Elizabethtown in 1990 and actually holding the conference in Louisville in 1992. . . The KBA Conference went on the road in 1994. River Ridge Elementary was the host and David Wiesner the featured author. In celebration of his book, Tuesday, frogs, both real and otherwise appeared everywhere. TUESDAY David Wiesner 1993-1994 In 1995, a group of librarians and education faculty from Eastern Kentucky University hosted the KBA celebration on their campus in Richmond. The pizza loving pigs from Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore! were center stage as we recognized David McPhail and his book. David McPhail Paul Brett Johnson, the second Kentucky author to win the KBA, was recognized at the 1996 conference for his book, The Cow Who Wouldn’t Come Down. A herd of children and adults attended the 1996 conference at Eastern Kentucky University to pay tribute to Gertrude and her airborne escapades. In 1997, the KBA Conference traveled to Louisville where Mark Buehner, illustrator of Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm (K-3 winner) and J. Patrick Lewis, author of The Christmas of the Reddle Moon (4-8 winner) were the featured authors. Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm was an extremely popular story. Balloons exploded everywhere and on everyone during the 1997 conference. The Christmas of the Reddle Moon J. Patrick Lewis describes his excitement about the 1997 conference this way: “I was so overwhelmed by the Honor of receiving the Kentucky Bluegrass Award for The Christmas of the Reddle Moon that I couldn’t contain myself, as anyone in attendance that day will confirm. My acceptance speech involved my wearing a number of balloons on my head for the sheer antic purpose of having fun and celebrating the joy I felt upon receiving the award. Of course, all the hoopla brought the august ceremonies down a peg, but isn’t that what children’s picture books are all about? Having fun with words and pictures, authors and illustrators.” Shortly after the 1997 conference in April, KBA Coordinator, Jennifer Smith , took a leave of absence to continue her education. Joyce Creek and Janet Miller of the Kentucky Reading Association assumed responsibility for the award They were able to arrange for Margi Palitini, author of Piggie Pie! To speak at the 1997 KRA Conference in September. In 1998, Alan Schroeder, author of Minty, spoke at the KRA Conference. In 1999, Jennifer returned from her leave and arranged for Paul Brett Johnson to receive his second KBA for A Perfect Pork Stew at the fall KRA Conference. . . A Perfect Pork Stew by Paul Brett Johnson Piggie Pie! by Margie Palatini Minty by Alan Schroeder Between the 1999 and 2000 KRA conferences, the Kentucky Reading Association officially adopted the Kentucky Bluegrass Award as one of its literacy projects. Also, a web site was created for the Kentucky Bluegrass Award and became accessible via the KRA web site. KBA.NKU.EDU KYREADING.ORG The 2000 KBA celebration honored Helen Lester’s K-3 winning book, Hooway for Wodney Wat. Helen’s speech was so hot that the hotel fire alarm went off three times during her presentation. All in attendance dutifully got up and left the building each time the alarm rang. For Helen the most memorable part of this was the reaction of the hotel staff. In her words, “They were flabbergasted that we all got up and left. No such departure had ever occurred there before. We had to explain, ‘We’re teachers!’” In 2001 the Kentucky Bluegrass Award expanded to four divisions: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 THE KENTUCKY BLUEGRASS AWARD LUNCHEON, FEATURING TERRY WIDENER, ILLUSTRATOR OF THE 3-5 WINNING BOOK, THE BABE AND I , WAS SCHEDULED TO OCCUR AT THE 2001 KENTUCKY READING ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE. UNFORTUNATELY, THE CONFERENCE WAS HELD THE WEEK AFTER THE TRAGEDY OF 9/11. TERRY WIDENER WAS NOT ABLE TO ARRANGE A FLIGHT FROM TEXAS TO BE WITH US. Carolyn Crimi, author of the K-2 winning title that year, Don’t Need Friends, proved herself a real KBA hero. On very short notice, she stepped to the plate and pinched hit for Terry during the 2001 Luncheon. In 2002, the Kentucky Bluegrass Award celebrated its 20th anniversary at the Kentucky Reading Association Conference held in Bowling Green. Three KBA winning authors were in attendance for the special celebration. . . After the 2002 anniversary celebration, Jennifer Smith stepped down as KBA Coordinator and Carrie Cooper of Eastern Kentucky University became the leader of the Kentucky Bluegrass Award. Under Carrie’s leadership the Kentucky Bluegrass Award grew and flourished. Publicity for the KBA increased significantly throughout the state. The KBA web site was redesigned. A committee was established for each Master List. The number of titles on each list was trimmed to 10. A KBA executive committee was established. There was collaboration with KET to produce videos for each Master List. The KBA Book Grants were established and awarded on an annual basis. Planning and preparing for the annual Kentucky Bluegrass Award Luncheon held during the Kentucky Reading Association Conference each year continued. . . KBA Luncheons at KRA 2003-2008 Donna Jo Napoli (2003) 3-5 Winner Ann Martin (2004) 6-8 Winner Stephanie Tolan (2005) 6-8 Winner Mo Willems (2006) K-2 Winner for 2005 and 2006 Andrew Clements (2007) 3-5 Winner in 2006 Brian Selznick (2008) 3-5 Winner for The Invention of Hugo Cabret Carrie Cooper handed the leadership of the KBA to Kay Hensley, librarian at Lincoln County High School, in 2009. Kay worked very hard to establish relationships with the publishers who are the foundation of the KBA Book Grant program. Working closely with the publishers and the Kentucky Reading Association, Kay solidified and built this aspect of the KBA program. The KBA web site was redesigned and refreshed once again. The annual KBA Luncheons continued. . . KBA Luncheons 2009-2011 Gretchen Olson (2009) 6-8 Winner for Call Me Hope Jackie French Koller (2010) K-2 Winner for Peter Spit a Seed at Sue After the October 2011 Kentucky Bluegrass Award Luncheon featuring James Dashner, author of the 9-12 KBA winning book, Maze Runner, Kay Hensley handed the leadership of the KBA to Kathy Watson from Millcreek Elementary of Fayette County Public Schools. Kathy oversaw the transition of the award from one of the literacy projects of the Kentucky Reading Association back to an independent program supported by partners from around the state including: Kentucky Association of School Librarians Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives Kentucky Reading Association Northern Kentucky University Steely Library 2012-2013 marked the 30th anniversary of the Kentucky Bluegrass Award. For this special celebration, a luncheon was organized recognizing all the Kentucky authors who had a book included on a KBA Master List during the last 30 years. The Luncheon was held during the Kentucky Reading Association Annual Conference in Lexington, KY. Kentucky author, Heather Henson, was the featured speaker. After twelve years of caring attention from the Kentucky Reading Association, the Kentucky Bluegrass Award program has returned home and will be headquartered at Northern Kentucky University for the foreseeable future.