Salamander Sky Wins a Riverby Award from the John Burroughs Association

Photo by Tania Barricklo

What a day. We attended an award luncheon hosted by the John Burroughs Association, who’s mission is to enrich lives through nature by celebrating the legacy, writing, and natural world of one of the great American nature writers.

Not only did I finally meet the incredible illustrator of Salamander Sky Meg Sodano, in person, but we had a lovely lunch with Green Writers Press founder Dede Cummings, and a room full of nature advocates, writers, and their families.

Once I saw and hugged Meg, well, I could have gone home then. I cried great big happy tears. We worked for years together, but only met virtually, and sometimes across oceans.

Then, we saw our little salamander book with a great big silver medal on it, and we squealed like little kids.  In the Yale Club. It seems like a place where people don’t really squeal.

via GIPHY. But seriously, the room had hand painted nature and park scenes on the walls, and we sat at a SALAMANDER TABLE. With moss. I was home there.

Then I got to hear about so many incredible books and stories and places. Fellow Riverby award winners (gasp!) included:

The Brilliant Deep by Kate Messner and Matthew Forsythe.

This delightful book chronicles the work of Ken Nedimeyer to re-grow coral reefs. It beautifully illustrates how one person’s efforts can have a dramatic positive impact. The illustrations are stunning, colorful, and inspiring. We need to inspire students to help focus our oceans which are in crisis. 

Counting Birds by Heidi Stemple and Clover Robin:

The speech by Heidi had me in tears. Again the work of one person changed the course of history for generations. This time, it was Frank Chapman, who loved birds, and disliked how there was a contest every Christmas in 1899 to see how many hunters could kill. Fred disliked this and proposed a change– that people should count the birds instead of shooting them, and make his case in his magazine, Bird Notes. That began the very first Christmas bird count, and now there are thousands of them across the globe, documenting bird species  and inviting citizen scientists in an accessible field experience for all. Most of all, this book was for her father, who also loved birds, and took Heidi birding from a small age.

Laura Knowles also had two books earn Riverby Awards this year! The Coral Kingdom and We Build Our Homes. Natural History Collector, by Michael Sanchez also won a Riverby.  I didn’t get to read these gems, but look forward to doing so!

photo by Tania Barricklo

When Salamander Sky was awarded the Riverby, after a kind and thoughtful introduction form Jenny Lando, both Meg and I spoke of the wonder and power of connecting with fascinating creatures through art, writing and citizen science.

Then it was time for the award about for adult nature writing.  I heard about an essay about the daily beauty and experience of watching a male Elk decompose and return to the soil by an avid and detailed observer of nature from Montana, Robin Patten called The Carcass Chronicle. Lastly, the winner of the John Burroughs went to William Glassley for A Wilder Time: Notes from a Geologist at the Edge of the Greenland Ice. He invited us into the silence and the beauty of this land and how we need wild places for our humanity and our collective future.

I can’t wait to dig into these books (I need AT LEAST two weeks of reading time, with no other obligations, thank you very much).

Lastly, we signed books for everyone who attended the event. Clearly, we were having too much fun.

A great big thanks to the John Burroughs association for all you do to celebrate, promote, and share a deep love and respect for nature and its importance to our health, humanity, and future. It was truly a delight and honor to attend this event and to receive the Riverby Award for Salamander Sky



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