Zia Award Recognizes Four Outstanding Children’s Book Authors

Four outstanding New Mexico women writers were honored for their work in children’s books on Saturday, April 26, at the Hotel Encanto, in Las Cruces. The 2014 Zia Book Award winners were Paige Grant for the picture book Kitten Caboodle, illustrated by Lisa Williams, and Laura Sanchez for the young adult novel Freaking Green. Honorable Mentions were awarded to picture book author Ana Baca for Tia’s Tamales, illustrated by Noël Chilton, and Anne Weaver for the youth book Children of Time: Evolution and the Human Story, illustrated by Matt Celeskey.

The award is presented by New Mexico Press Women. The awards were presented during the organization’s annual conference, “From Grassroots to the Final Frontier.”


Kitten Caboodle by Paige Grant (illustrated by Lisa Williams; Azro Press)

“Cute story, well told. The message is strong and important, and the illustrations are wonderful!” wrote one of the judges.

After retiring as a hydrologist, Paige Grant, along with her husband, became an active volunteer with the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, serving as foster caregivers to adult animals that needed some loving kindness to get over their fear of people, and puppies and kittens that needed a safe, happy place to grow until they got big enough to be spayed or neutered and adopted into a forever home.

Freaking Green by Laura Sanchez

“Good story in many regards, with a likeable main character,” wrote one of the judges.

After running a design and drafting business specializing in energy efficient houses, Laura Sanchez began writing nonfiction books about computer graphics and architecture. Then for several years, she wrote about politics, books, and environmental issues for the Weekly Alibi and about housing for Su Casa magazine. Freaking Green is her first novel. Her second novel, Killer Miracle, was released this past January.

Tia’s Tamales by Ana Baca (illustrated by Noël Chilton; UNM Press)

“An engagint bilingual tale with magical connections between several generations of a family,” wrote one of the judges.

Ana Baca lives in Albuquerque and has also written a novel, Mama Fela’s Girls, about life in northeastern New Mexico during the Great Depression.

Children of Time: Evolution and the Human Story by Anne Weaver (illustrated by Matt Celeskey; UNM Press)

“Excellent book on human evolution. The science comes to life with its fictional characterizations,” wrote on judge.

Anne Weaver holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of New Mexico. She taught evolutionary anthropology at Santa Fe Community College for many years. She is now a full-time writer living in Santa Fe.


Each entry was read by two of the following judges:

Betsy James is the author and illustrator of sixteen books for adults and children. Among other honors, her books have been named: New York Public Library Best Book for Teens; Voices of Youth Advocates Best Book; Junior Library Guild Selection; Canadian Children’s Book Center Best Book; International Reading Association Children’s Choice; and Tiptree Award Honor Book.

Carol Kreis’s career includes working as an educator in pre-school through college settings, serving as the public relations coordinator at the Rio Grande Zoo, and as a writer and researcher of educational materials for the Newsweek Education Program. She managed the Newspapers-in-Education program for the Albuquerque Journal and the Tribune and was a founding co-director of the Rio Grande Writing Project at the University of New Mexico.

Shelley Olson holds a Master’s degree in Special Education and an endorsement in English as a Second Language. She earned the New Mexico Quality of Education award in 1993 for the best middle school program of the state later won other awards for teaching many middle school students with diverse needs.

Robert Spiegel’s poetry and fiction have been published widely over three decades. His first published piece was children’s fiction in 1975. For ten years he owned a publishing company that published Chile Pepper magazine as well as books, including children’s books. He also writes drama, writes a blog on spirituality, and reviews plays for Talkin’ Broadway. He is the author of six books.


The Zia Award was started in 1953 to honor an outstanding woman in New Mexico media. Each year the award rotates to one of three categories: nonfiction, fiction, and children’s literature.

The 2015 Zia Book Award will be given to the author of an outstanding nonfiction book published in 2012, 2013 or 2014. Details will be posted on NMPW’s Web site in the fall.

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New Mexico Press Women (NMPW), organized in 1950, is an affiliate of the National Federation of Press Women. It is an organization of professional journalists and communicators that promotes the highest ethical standards while looking to the future in professional development, networking and protecting First Amendment rights.

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