History of the Kentucky Bluegrass Award ( PPT )

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
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
In 1983, the first winner of the KBA was chosen. Third through
eighth grade students voted for Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg.
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
First Year of Two Awards
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.
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
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.”
The lady with the alligator purse,
Nadine Westcott, was featured at the
1991 conference.
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
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
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
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
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
Paul Brett
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.
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
In 2001 the
Kentucky Bluegrass Award expanded to four divisions:
K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12
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
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
Planning and preparing for the annual Kentucky Bluegrass Award
Luncheon held during the Kentucky Reading Association
Conference each year continued. . .
KBA Luncheons at KRA
Donna Jo Napoli
3-5 Winner
Ann Martin
6-8 Winner
Stephanie Tolan
6-8 Winner
Mo Willems
K-2 Winner for 2005 and 2006
Andrew Clements
3-5 Winner in 2006
Brian Selznick
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
 The annual KBA Luncheons continued. . .
KBA Luncheons
Gretchen Olson
6-8 Winner for Call Me Hope
Jackie French Koller
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.