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By Marcelle Greene, SCBWI-L.A. Contest Coordinator

Our anonymous judges were unanimous in their opinion that awarding this year’s Sue Alexander Grant was one tough decision. But after three rounds of whittling more than one hundred entries, there emerged this clear winner:

I do my best thinking in my underwear. Mamma always understood that about me.

 “We Rockfort women are at our best when we’re wearing the least,” she’d say. But Lord in Heaven, I don’t think she had in mind that I’d be wearing a man’s jockey shorts, standard Army issue, second-hand no less. And I’ll say it plain, as much time as men have spent getting into my drawers, I can’t quite get right with walking around in theirs.

That’s how Andrea Custer opens her young adult novel Forgotten Angels and hooks us into her story of a feisty Vivian who joined the Army as a nurse. Vivian had an idea it would be a glamorous jaunt, but finds herself, in a makeshift Philippine jungle hospital without beds, medicine, and bandages. The fancy underwear she brought has been drafted into service – torn into strips to stop a patient’s bleeding.

Custer paints vivid scenes using all the senses. And what page-turning drama! The submission ends with a bombing that leaves us wondering if Vivian’s doctor-boyfriend is alive or dead.

Custer wins free tuition to the 2017 Working Writers Retreat where she can workshop her manuscript with industry professionals.

Julia Edwards headshotFirst runner-up is the darkly comedic and delightfully witty middle grade novel Anno Catti by Julia Edwards. When thirteen-year-old Salazar Silverstein finds himself in the middle of the Animal Uprising of 2039, he documents the war in a comic-zine journal:

Last night, I thought my sister was trying to get into my bed because she does that sometimes when she has bad dreams. One time she got in my bed to pee and then she went back to her bed to sleep. Gross, right? So I batted her away and told her to get back in her bed. Only it wasn’t my sister. And it wasn’t her nightmare. It was mine. Because this is what I saw when I opened my eyes.

DRAWING: A close-up of a vicious German Shepherd, snarling. 

Our second runner-up is the young adult novel Star Dust by Debbie Friedman. She opens with a breathtaking shocker on the first page, then adds another twist that has equal emotional punch as she wraps the chapter in only three pages! Her first-person narrator, Shira, engages us with deft, sensory prose – “What started as a blur of information snapped violently into focus, as sharply as if he’d held an ammonia-soaked rag to my face.” The author swiftly pulls us into a web of mystery, deception, and deadly family secrets as Shira is forced to confront the possibility that her mother’s murder may not have been solved after all. With a beginning like that, who could resist the urge to read on?

Our runners-up do not receive a prize, but can be proud of standing out in a talented field. Other standouts include The Future Time Traveler’s Guide to the Past by Karen Briner,  Isle of Demons by Cylin Busby, The Denver House by Lisze Bechtold, Timevaulters by Kendra Kurosawa, The Monster Next Door by Sue Schmitt, and Jenny’s Chair by Beth Spiegel.

For more fantastic content, community, events, and other professional development opportunities, become a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators today! Not sure if there is a chapter in your area? Check here.


Photo by Arek Olek.

Author photos provided by the authors.