April 2017 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Celebrating John Burroughs & Nature Writing

3c03954v.jpgOn Monday, April 3, the John Burroughs Association (JBA) held its 92nd Literary Awards Celebration at the Yale Club in New York City. This annual luncheon honors the legacy of literary naturalist John Burroughs by recognizing the best contemporary nature writing.

Joan Burroughs, the writer's great-granddaughter and president of the JBA, presented the day's first prize, the Nature Essay Award for outstanding natural history writing published in essay form, to Sean P. Smith for his "The Slow and Tender Death of Cockroaches," published in the Fall 2016 issue of the Georgia Review.

The Riverby Awards, so named after Burroughs' Hudson River estate, praise "exceptional non-fiction natural history books for young readers." This year's winners were: Circle, written and illustrated by Jeannie Baker; Crow Smarts by Pamela S. Turner with photographs by Andy Comins and illustrated by Guido de Filippo; Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd and illustrated by Abigail Halpin; The Great White Shark Scientists by Sy Montgomery and photographs by Keith Ellenbogen; ¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! written and illustrated by Lulu Delacre; One North Star by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Beckie Prange and Betsy Bowen; and Plants Can't Sit Still by Rebecca Hirsch and illustrated by Mia Posada.

21853663.jpgThis year's John Burroughs Medal for "Distinguished Natural History Writing in Book Form" went to Martin Marten by Brian Doyle, a coming-of-age novel about the relationship between a boy and a pine marten. It was only the second work of fiction to be awarded the medal in its ninety-year history. Finalists included Coyote Settles the South, John Lane; The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature, J. Drew Lanham; Coast Range: a Collection from the Pacific Edge, Nick Neely, and Mythical River: Chasing the Mirage of the New Water in the American Southwest, Melissa L. Sevigny.

A book signing followed the ceremony, and attendees received a "swag bag" containing many of the award winners. The JBA hosts this event on the first Monday in April every year.
Image at top: "The Last Photograph of John Burroughs," c. 1921, by Charles F. Lummis. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. At bottom: Via Goodreads.