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William Allen White Children’s Book Winners Announced

Book covers, Wildfire by Rodman Philbrick and The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart

Two authors who live on opposite coasts of the United States will come to Kansas in October to accept the 2022 William Allen White Children’s Book Awards. Voters in Grades 3 through 5 selected “Wildfire” by Rodman Philbrick. Voters in Grades 6 through 8 selected “The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise” by Dan Gemeinhart.

The 70th annual celebration of the William Allen White Children’s Book Awards program, directed by Emporia State University and supported in part by the Trusler Foundation, will be Oct. 1, 2022. That day, schoolchildren from across the state of Kansas travel to Emporia for special events including lock-ins, author readings and book signings. The public is invited. Tickets to the awards ceremony cost $6; all other events are free.

“The William Allen White Children’s Book Awards celebration is a wonderful conclusion to a yearlong process,” said Dr. Wooseob Jeong, dean of Emporia State’s School of Library and Information Management + University Libraries and Archives. “During the 2021-22 academic year, schoolchildren across Kansas read the books nominated for their age. Then they vote for their favorites. In October, they come to our campus, meet the winning authors and hear them share their experiences.”

Philbrick’s “Wildfire” tells the story of 12-year-old Sam, who is at summer camp when a raging wildfire moves close. When the camp is evacuated, Sam runs back to get his phone. He is separated from his group by a wall of fire. Sam meets another lost survivor and, together, they work to beat all odds and outwit one of the deadliest fires ever.

The author Philbrick lives on the East Coast, dividing his time between Maine and Florida. He has been writing novels since he was 16.

In “The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise,” Coyote and her father, Rodeo, have been traveling the United States in an old school bus since Coyote’s mother and two sisters were killed in a car crash five years before. When Coyote discovers the park in their old neighborhood is going to be demolished, she wants to return home to save a treasured memory box she buried with her mother and sisters.

Coyote’s solution to get back to Washington state is to create an elaborate plan to get her dad to drive back without realizing it. Along the way, father and daughter pick up an assortment of travelers who become the friends Coyote needs to complete the difficult journey.

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, to a military family, author Gemeinhart moved around frequently until he landed in Kennewick, Washington, to finish high school. After college and adventures that included teaching in Cairo, Egypt, Gemeinhart and his wife settled in Wenatchee, Washington, where he landed his dream job as a librarian.

The William Allen White Children’s Book Award program began April 22, 1952, eight years after the famed journalist’s death on Jan. 29, 1944 — Kansas Day. Emporia State University launched the William Allen White Children’s Book Award, which was guided by Ruth Garver Gagliardo, who was hired by White to write for The Emporia Gazette.

Passionate about books, Gagliardo wrote a regular column that commented on books, music and art, and often concentrated on books for children. She was one of the first to review children’s books for a newspaper, which gave parents, teachers and librarians insights to quality books for children.

Gagliardo’s column led to “The Children’s Bookshelf,” a book review column in the Kansas Teacher magazine. She also started the Children’s Traveling Book Exhibit, which helped introduce children all over Kansas to good books for 23 years.

More information about the William Allen White Children’s Book Awards, including past recipients, can be found at Donations for the annual event can be made online here.

Additional resources:

Publishers — “Wildfire” is published by Blue Sky Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc. “The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise” is published by Henry Holt and Co.

Authors — Rodman Philbrick is online at Dan Gemeinhart is online at