Samuel Minot Jones Awards for Literary Achievement

Press Release



Jones Library Announces 2019 Samuel Minot Jones Awards for Literary Achievement



The Jones Library proudly announces Richard Michelson and The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art as winners of the Sixth Annual Samuel Minot Jones Awards for Literary Achievement. In addition, as we honor the centennial year of the Jones Library, a special Centennial Sammy will be given to Bruce Watson. A gala event, the Sammys, will take place on April 25, 2019, at 6:00 p.m. at Converse Hall on the Amherst College campus to recognize and celebrate the award winners.

Now in its 6th year, the Sammys is Amherst's signature event honoring the community's remarkable and vibrant literary heritage. The evening will feature a lively awards presentation, food and drinks provided by local artisans, and live music. Past events have been remarkably successful, with more than 200 community members gathering each year to honor Madeleine Blais and the Amherst Regional High School Theater Program in 2018, Cammie McGovern and Arthur Kinney in 2017, Polly Longsworth and Aaron Lansky in 2016, Julius Lester and Pat & Peter Schneider in 2015, and Norton Juster and Amherst Books in 2014. Proceeds from the Sammys provide considerable support to the Jones Library and its branches.

This year, the Sammy for local literary achievement will be presented to Richard Michelson. His 19 children’s books have been listed among the Ten Best Books of the Year by The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and The New Yorker; and among the Best Dozen Books of the Decade by Amazon.com. He has been a three-time Massachusetts Book Award Finalist, a Harlem Book Fest Wheatley Award Finalist, and a three-time National Jewish Book Award Finalist, as well as receiving two Skipping Stones Multicultural Book Awards, a National Parenting Publication Gold Medal, an International Reading Association Teacher’s Choice Award, two Gold Medals from the Association of Jewish Libraries, and the 2018 National Jewish Book Award. Michelson’s poetry for adults has been published in many anthologies, including The Norton Introduction to Poetry. Recent poems have appeared in The Harvard Review, The Massachusetts Review, The Common and elsewhere. A resident of Amherst, Michelson has served two terms as Poet Laureate of Northampton, and hosts Northampton Poetry Radio. His work was chosen to represent the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at the 2018 Library of Congress National Book Festival.

The Sammy for significant contribution to Amherst’s literary culture will be presented to The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. This nationally acclaimed museum demonstrates a serious commitment to outreach for the Pioneer Valley. The mission of the non-profit organization is to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books. A leading advocate in its field, The Carle collects, preserves, presents, and celebrates picture books and picture book illustrations from around the world. In addition to underscoring the cultural, historical, and artistic significance of picture books and their art form, The Carle offers educational programs that provide a foundation for arts integration and literacy. Educational offerings include professional training for educators around the country and four onsite graduate programs in Children's Literature in collaboration with Simmons College.

In celebration of the centennial of the Jones Library, a special Centennial Sammy will be awarded to author Bruce Watson. As a frequent contributor to Smithsonian, Watson wrote more than 40 feature articles on subjects ranging from eels to Ferraris to the history of Coney Island. His articles have also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Yankee, and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2003. His book, Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream, was chosen by the New York Public Library as one of “25 Books to Remember in 2005.” Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, The Murders, and The Judgment of Mankind was a Book of the Month Club Selection and was nominated by the Mystery Writers of America for an Edgar Award; Freedom Summer: The Savage Summer of 1964 that Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy, has, like his earlier books, received outstanding reviews from the The New York Times and other reviewers. His most recent book is Light: A Radiant History from Creation to the Quantum Age. He is currently writing a history of the Jones Library to coincide with the library’s centennial. Watson has done much of his writing at the Jones Library.

In keeping with tradition, The Sammys is honored to feature the work of a local artist. Children’s author and illustrator Aaron Becker has donated his talents to this year’s Sammys. Becker is best known for his wordless children's book Journey, which received positive reviews in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, as well as a Caldecott Honor in 2014. His most recent book is A Stone for Sascha. The first 100 ticket orders of one or more tickets will receive a signed and numbered print of Becker’s work.

About the Jones Library


The Jones Library's mission is to serve and inspire people of all ages and from all walks of life by providing multicultural resources for lifelong learning. An Amherst treasure, the Jones Library contributes to the educational and cultural landscape of the area. The Library provides adult, family, and children’s programs to the public, as well as heavily used community meeting rooms. The availability of resources to all, partnerships with area organizations, and numerous community events ensure that the Library receives more than 300,000 visits every year.

About the Samuel Minot Jones Awards for Literary Achievement


The Sammys are named for Samuel Minot Jones, the Library's first benefactor and namesake. Jones contributed the initial funding for the endowment that continues to provide a portion of the Library budget annually. The Sammys are our way of honoring the legacy of Jones’s commitment to the community.

Over the past 5 years, the Sammys have brought in over $120,000 in support for the Jones, Munson, and North Amherst Libraries. All proceeds from the awards ceremony will be used to support Library collections, purchasing materials in all formats and for all ages. Budget constraints this year mean that philanthropic dollars are even more critical for buying the Library materials on which our community depends.

Sammys tickets will be available in January 2019 and can be purchased at the Jones Library or online. Tickets will be offered at $75, $125, and $200, allowing people to choose their level of support for the Library’s collections.

For information on sponsoring this event or to volunteer, please contact Sharon Sharry at sharrys@joneslibrary.org.

2019 Recipients


Rich Michelson


Award for Local Literary Achievement

Rich Michelson
Eric Carle Museum - Photo credit - Seth Kaye

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art


Award for Significant Contribution to Amherst's Literary Culture

Bruce Watson


Special Centennial Award

Bruce Watson - Photo credit - Greenfield Recorder

Photos from the 2018 Sammy Awards Gala


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2018 Recipients


View photos and video of the 2018 Sammy Awards Gala
Madeleine Blais - Photograph by Nancy Doherty

Madeleine Blais


Award for Local Literary Achievement

ARHS Theater Program

The Amherst Regional High School Theater Program


Award for Significant Contribution to Amherst's Literary Culture


2017 Recipients


View photos and video of the 2017 Sammy Awards Gala
Cammie McGovern - Photo by Ellen Auergarten
Arthur Kinney - Photograph by Don David

Cammie McGovern


Award for Local Literary Achievement

Arthur Kinney,

UMass Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies


Award for Significant Contribution to Amherst's Literary Culture


2016 Recipients


View photos and video of the 2016 Sammy Awards Gala
Polly Longsworth
Aaron Lanksy

Polly Longsworth


Award for Local Literary Achievement

Aaron Lansky, Yiddish Book Center


Award for Significant Contribution to Amherst's Literary Culture


2015 Recipients
View photos and video of the 2015 Sammy Awards Gala
Julius Lester
Julius Lester
Award for Local Literary Achievement

Pat and Peter Schneider

Pat and Peter Schneider, Amherst Writers & Artists


Award for Significant Contribution to Amherst's Literary Culture


2014 Recipients
View photos and video of the 2015 Sammy Awards Gala
Norton Juster
Norton Juster
Award for Local Literary Achievement

Amherst Books

Amherst Books


Award for Significant Contribution to Amherst's Literary Culture


About the Samuel Minot Jones Awards for Literary Achievement


The Sammys are named for Samuel Minot Jones, the Library's first benefactor and namesake, who contributed the initial funding for the endowment that continues to provide a portion of the Library budget annually. All proceeds from the awards ceremony will be used to support library collections, with materials for all ages and formats.

For information on sponsoring this event or to volunteer, please contact Sharon Sharry at sharrys@joneslibrary.org.