2019 Florida Book Awards Winners Are Here!

The Florida Book Awards, presented by the Florida State University Libraries, has announced its winners for the 14th annual competition!

The Florida Book Awards, established in 2006, is the nation's most comprehensive state book awards program dedicated to recognizing and celebrating Florida literature and authors.

Listed below are winners and their books by category:


GOLD: Sophia Gholz (Jacksonville), “The Boy Who Grew a Forest” (Sleeping Bear Press)

Jadav Payeng in his childhood has seen countless events of destruction, deforestation, and erosion on his island home in India's Brahmaputra River. Committed to putting a stop to it, he decides to plant trees. The Boy Who Grew a Forest tells the inspiring true story of Payeng--and reminds us all of the difference a single person with a big idea can make.

SILVER: Rob Sanders (Brandon), “ STONEWALL: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution” (Random House Books for Young Readers)

In the early-morning hours of June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn was raided by police in New York City. Though the inn had been raided before, that night would be different. It would be the night when empowered members of the LGBTQ+ community–in and around the Stonewall Inn–began to protest and demand their equal rights as citizens of the United States.

BRONZE: Marsha Diane Arnold (Alva), “Badger’s Perfect Garden”(Sleeping Bear Press)

It's springtime and Badger is ready to plant the perfect garden. He has spent months gathering and sorting seeds. His friends Red Squirrel, Dormouse, and Weasel come to help. Badger can already imagine the perfect rows of flowers and vegetables. But then a rainstorm comes and washes away the beautiful seeds. This gentle story will encourage young readers to think beyond plans and expectations and imagine the wonderful possibilities that may occur when life and nature have other ideas.


GOLD: Ryan Calejo (Miami), “Charlie Hernandez and the Castle of Bones” (Simon & Schuster)

Charlie Hernandez still likes to think of himself as a normal kid. But what’s normal about being a demon-slaying preteen with an encyclopedic knowledge of Latino mythology who can partially manifest nearly any animal trait found in nature? Charlie and his friend Violet Rey embark on a perilous journey full of visions of ancient evil, necromancy, demons, and dead men walking.

SILVER: Eileen Meyer (Amelia Island), “The Superlative A. Lincoln” (Charlesbridge Publishing)

Get to know the personal side of Honest Abe (his LEAST FAVORITE nickname) through fresh and funny poems expressing his superlative nature. Dave Szalay’s charming illustrations are the best, most expressive illustrations of all, championing the tallest, skinniest, smartest, and nicest United States president ever.

BRONZE: Marta Magellan (Miami) “Amazing, Misunderstood” (Eifrig Publishing)

You wouldn’t want to live in a world without bats. They pollinate plants, help forests grow, eat millions of bugs, and more. Yet, bats are so misunderstood. When people think of bats, they often think of Halloween or vampires. Marta Magellan tells the truth about this truly amazing animal.


GOLD: Victor Andres Triay “The Mariel Boatlift: A Cuban-American Journey” (University Press of Florida)

Victor Triay portrays the repressive climate in Cuba as the democratic promises of Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution gave way to a communist dictatorship under which the people of the island became virtually cut off from the outside world. Triay presents testimonies from former Mariel refugees who recall their lives in Cuba before the boatlift and how they longed to reunite with family members who lived in exile in the United States. Their captivating stories detail the physical and psychological abuse they endured in Cuba, treacherous journeys to Key West, and their experiences settling in Miami and beyond.

SILVER: David J. Nelson (Gainesville), “How the New Deal Built Florida Tourism: The Civilian Conservation Corps and State Parks” (University Press of Florida)

Countering the conventional narrative that Florida’s tourism industry suffered during the Great Depression, this book shows that the 1930s were, in reality, the starting point for much that characterizes modern Florida’s tourism. David Nelson argues that state and federal government programs designed to reboot the economy during this decade are crucial to understanding the state today.

BRONZE: John M. Dunn (Ocala), “Drying Up: The Fresh Water Crisis in Florida” (University Press of Florida)

As millions of new residents are expected to arrive in Florida in the coming decades, this book is a timely introduction to a problem that will escalate dramatically—and not just in Florida. Dunn cautions that freshwater scarcity is a worldwide trend that can only be tackled effectively with cooperation and single-minded focus by all stakeholders involved—local and federal government, private enterprise, and citizens. He challenges readers to rethink their relationship with water and adopt a new philosophy that compels them to protect the planet’s most precious resource.


GOLD: Paul Wilborn,(St. Petersburg), “Cigar City” (St. Petersburg Press)

Cigar City is a collection of linked short stories about the young artists, writers, poets, musicians and actors who inhabited Tampa’s Ybor City in the 1980s. Drawn by urban authenticity and cheap rents, they created a surreal, chaotic arts scene set against the backdrop of the empty cigar factories and shotgun shacks of Tampa’s immigrant past.


GOLD: Jaquira Díaz (Miami Beach), “Ordinary Girls” (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill)

Reminiscent of Tara Westover’s Educated, Kiese Laymon’s Heavy, Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club, and Terese Marie Mailhot’s Heart Berries, Jaquira Díaz’s memoir provides a vivid portrait of a life lived in (and beyond) the borders of Puerto Rico and its complicated history—and reads as electrically as a novel.

SILVER: Larry Loftis (Altamonte Springs), “Code Name: Lise” (Gallery Books)

The year is 1942, and World War II is in full swing. Odette Sansom decides to follow in her war hero father’s footsteps by becoming an SOE agent to aid Britain and her beloved homeland, France. Larry Loftis paints a portrait of true courage, patriotism, and love—of two incredibly heroic people who endured unimaginable horrors and degradations.

BRONZE: Craig N. Huegel ( Holiday), “The Nature of Plants : An Introduction to How Plants Work” (University Press of Florida)

Plants play a critical role in how we experience our environment. They create calming green spaces, provide oxygen for us to breathe, and nourish our senses. In his book, ecologist and nursery owner Craig Huegel demystifies the complex lives of plants and provides readers with an elucidating journey into their inner and outer workings.


GOLD: Maureen Seaton (Coral Gables), “ Sweet World” (CavanKerry Press)

Sweet World reveals a 21st century life in the midst of an epidemic. It’s not about hating, battling, or even ultimately surviving the ravages of the epidemic as much as it is an homage to a life that continues even as the illness exists within the fabric of the body—the body, which is not victim, but vehicle for love, light, and growth. Simply put, it’s about the challenges and ultimate joys of one woman’s life as she recreates herself in a time of breast cancer.

SILVER: Campbell McGrath (Miami Beach), “Nouns & Verbs: New and Selected Poems” (Ecco/Harper Collins))

Nothing is too large or small to remain untouched by McGrath’s voracious intellect and deep empathy—everything from Japanese eggplant to a can of Schaefer beer to the smokestacks of Chicago comes in for a close and perceptive look even as McGrath crosses borders and boundaries, investigating the enduring human experiences of love and loss.

BRONZE: Tanya Grae (Tallahassee), “undoll” (YesYes Books)

Tanya Grae’s debut poetry collection explores the ways we can be confined—by image, society, tradition—how we often play roles for ourselves, for others. Experimenting through form and rhythm, Grae’s brave quartet examines how damage has an origin often lost along the way.


GOLD: Robert N. Macomber (Saint James City), “Honoring The Enemy: A Captain Peter Wake Novel” (USNI Naval Institute Press)

Honoring the Enemy is the story of how American sailors, Marines, and soldiers landed in eastern Cuba in 1898 and, against daunting odds, fought their way to victory. Wake’s account of the military campaign ashore is a window into the woeful incompetence, impressive innovations, energy-sapping frustration, and breathtaking bravery that is always at the heart of combat.

SILVER: Ward Larsen (Sarasota), “Assassin's Revenge” (TOR/Forge)

On a sunny dock in Gibraltar, Slaton returns to the sailboat he shares with his wife and young son to find them missing. The only clue to their whereabouts is a cryptic message: If he wants to see them again, he must eliminate an obscure scientist working for the International Atomic Energy Agency. Working against him are a band of suicidal terrorists, supported by a North Korean government that is about to implode. That slate of actors, however, face something even more lethal. A devoted father and husband—one who happens to be the perfect assassin.

BRONZE: Micah Dean Hicks (Oviedo), “Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Jane is haunted. Since she was a child, she has carried a ghost girl that feeds on the secrets and fears of everyone around her, whispering to Jane what they are thinking and feeling, even when she doesn’t want to know. Henry, Jane’s brother, is ridden by a genius ghost that forces him to build strange and dangerous machines. Their mother is possessed by a lonely spirit that burns anyone she touches. In Swine Hill, a place of defeat and depletion, there are more dead than living. When new arrivals begin scoring precious jobs at the last factory in town, both the living and the dead are furious. Buffeted by rage on all sides, Jane must find a way to save her haunted family and escape the town before it kills them.


GOLD: Daína Chaviano (Miami), “Los Hijos de la Diosa Huracán ” (Grijalbo)

Spanish: Una absorbente historia que recupera el valioso legado de los indígenas cubanos a través de una intriga protagonizada por dos mujeres que, en distintas épocas, se enfrentan a la peligrosa codicia de los hombres.

English: A gripping story that revives the rich legacy of indigenous Cubans through a mystery starring two women who face the dangerous desires of men during different eras.

SILVER: Lizette Espinosa (Coral Gables), “Humo” (Bookeh)


GOLD: Trish Doller (Fort Myers), “Start Here” (Simon & Schuster)

Willa and Taylor were supposed to spend the summer after high school sailing from Ohio to Key West with their best friend, Finley. But Finley died before graduation, leaving them with a twenty-five-foot sailboat, a list of clues leading them to destinations along the way, and a friendship that’s hanging by a thread. Now, Willa and Taylor have two months and two thousand miles to discover how life works without Finley—and to decide if their own friendship is worth saving.


GOLD: Joy Sheffield Harris (Tampa) “The Florida Cracker Cookbook” (The History Press)

From a simple one-story cabin in the piney woods of the Panhandle to a high-rise condo along the glistening waterways, Cracker cooking in Florida has evolved with our tastes and times. What's on the plate has changed, but our heritage infuses who we are. As we follow the path laid out by gastronomic pioneers, this culinary quest, guided by sixth-generation Cracker Joy Sheffield Harris, will whet your appetite with recipes and sumptuous reflections.