A history of the Blue Spruce Award


The award was created in 1985 by a group of secondary school educators who saw the need for more emphasis on reading. The committee included representatives from Colorado Chapter of the International Reading Association, the Colorado Language Arts Society, the Colorado State Library, and the Colorado Association of Libraries. The stated mission of the Blue Spruce award was to stimulate, promote, and encourage reading among young adults. Each year hundreds of teens participated by reading the nominated books and then placing their votes.

In 2008, several guidelines were added for nominations for the Blue Spruce Award. For instance, a rule was added stating that once a book has won the Blue Spruce Award, other titles in the same series cannot be considered as nominations. This is unofficially known as the “Harry Potter rule,” as four books in that series had already won. Other rules include nominees must be contemporary authors, can be YA or adult fiction or nonfiction, and may not appear in consecutive years.


In 2012, the Blue Spruce award won an honorable mention for NCTE/SLATE Intellectual Freedom Award. Over the years many Blue Spruce Award nominees and winners have been on lists of banned or challenged titles. Blue Spruce Award winners that have been challenged include:

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2018)

  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Won 2016)

  • The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan (Won 2011)

  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Won 2010)

  • Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (Won 2009)

  • Books in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (Won 2001, 2004, 2006, 2008)

  • Holes by Louis Sachar (Won 2000)

  • The Face on the Milk Carton (Won 1996)

  • It by Stephen King (Won 1994)

  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (Won 1986)

  • Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume (Won 1985)

In fact, over half of the Blue Spruce Award winners have been challenged by one entity or another.

In 2016, the award year name was changed to better reflect the year teens are reading the nominated titles rather than the year the award is given. Therefore, in the 2015-16 year, there was a winner that would have previously been called the 2016 winner (the year the award was given) but was called instead the 2015-16 winner, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. And in 2016-17, there was a second 2016 (2) winner (the year the teens were actually reading the nominees), The Amazing Book Is Not on Fire by Daniel Howell and Phil Lester. In subsequent years, the award reflects the year in which teens are actually reading and voting on the nominees. 

The Blue Spruce Award winner was announced each year by Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award committee members at the Colorado County International Reading Association (CCIRA) annual conference in February. The nominees for the next year’s vote were announced then as well. Presentations, discussing the award and providing book talks for the nominees, were made at conferences throughout the year. 

The 2020 Award was the last year for the Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award. 

A complete list of winning titles


2020 Allies - Alan Gratz

2019 Scythe - Neal Shusterman

2018 The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas

2017  Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo

2016 (2) The Amazing Book Is Not on Fire - Dan Howell & Phil Lester

2015-2016 The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

2015  Cinder – Marissa Meyer
2014  Divergent – Veronica Roth
2013  The Lost Hero – Rick Riordan
2012  Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw – Jeff Kinney
2011  The Last Olympian – Rick Riordan
2010  The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
2009  Eclipse – Stephenie Meyer
2008  Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling
2007  Eldest – Christopher Paolini
2006  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling
2005  Eragon – Christopher Paolini
2004  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling
2003  A Walk to Remember – Nicholas Sparks
2002  The Lost Boy – Dave Pelzer
2001  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling
2000 Holes – Louis Sachar
1999  Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul – Jack Canfield
1997-98  Downriver – Will Hobbs
1996  The Face on the Milk Carton – Caroline Cooney
1995  The Client – John Grisham
1994  It – Stephen King
1993  Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton
1992  Changes in Latitudes – Will Hobbs
1991  Pet Sematary – Stephen King
1990  The Cradle Will Fall – Mary Higgins Clark
1989  Eyes of the Dragon – Stephen King
1988  The Other Side of Dark – Joan Lowery Nixon
1987  The Third Eye – Lois Duncan
1986  The Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Patterson

1985  Tiger Eyes - Judy Blume