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 includes 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 is to stimulate, promote and encourage reading among young adults. Each year hundreds of participating teens read the nominated books in the thousands and then place hundreds of votes.

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, we had 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. 

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.


The Blue Spruce Award winner is 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 are announced then as well. Presentations, discussing the award and providing book talks for the nominees, are made at conferences throughout the year.