One Book One Valley picks Colorado author’s novel for annual read
“Tallgrass” by Sandra Dallas is a historical thriller based on a World War II-era Japanese relocation camp in southeastern Colorado
On a quiet Monday evening at the Riverwalk at Edwards, there was something buzzing at the Bookworm. The café area was packed with people of all ages, and at 5 p.m., many readers shuffled next door to the Bookworm’s new private programming space to hear the announcement of this year’s title for the One Book One Valley program.
A tradition since 2010, One Book One Valley is a collaborative effort between The Bookworm of Edwards, Colorado Mountain College Vail Valley, Vail Public Library, Vail Mountain School and Eagle County high schools to get the entire valley to read the same book. Think of it as a book club with far reach, expanding to all the small towns in our valley as well as its students and educators to bring people together over a “big read.”
The term has been coined over decades of larger efforts around the country to have general audiences participate in an activity that was once limited to smaller reading clubs. One participant noted that he had seen something similar in New York City in the past.
As people took their seats, Lori A. Barnes, the director of Library Services at the Vail Public Library, greeted everyone with an introduction of the program coordinators who have helped promote the program for the last 11 years.
“One Book One Valley is meant for the entire community. It’s certainly near and dear to my heart, and you have to know it’s not just me doing this program,” Barnes said as she introduced members of the organization, including Will Harris of Eagle County Schools, Amy Large of Eagle Valley High School, Patricia Casey from Battle Mountain High School, Katy Walker from Colorado Mountain College, Le Kang from Vail Mountain School, County Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney, Red Cliff Town Clerk Melissa Matthews, Vail’s Assistant Town Manager Patty McKenny, Cricket Pylman and Norma Broten of Vail Public Library and Ali Teague of The Bookworm, “Without all of these wonderful people, One Book One Valley would not be possible,” Barnes said.
Barnes then passed off speaking duties to the program coordinators, as Harris moved to the back of the room to unveil a table stacked with copies of this year’s book.
The book, “Tallgrass” by Sandra Dallas, is a historical thriller published in 2007 and based on the Camp Amache National Historic Landmark, which was a World War II-era Japanese relocation camp in the southeastern Colorado town of Granada, close to the Kansas border. The story is told through the eyes of a 13-year-old girl whose small town life is turned upside down as events that she could have never imagined start to rock her once-quiet community.
“Tallgrass” was a 2008 Spur Award winner for Best Western Short Novel, a finalist for the WILLA Literary Award for Historical Fiction in 2008 and a Missouri Gateway Readers Award nominee in 2010.
“This year we have a very special title,” Barnes said. “Every year is a special title, but this year is a little different because this is the first year that we’re going to have a juvenile title.”
“We’ve been wanting to bring a juvenile read to the community … ‘Tallgrass’ is for young adults through adults … it’s really going to engage men and women of all ages.”
Teague, who represents The Bookworm in facilitating the One Book One Valley program, shares the enthusiasm for a title that reaches a younger audience.
“I love how creative the program gets as far as connecting with people, and I’m excited for this book to reach the middle-school age crowd,” Teague said. “We are always trying to get more community members involved, because we are really the hub in Edwards as far as books are concerned, so we try to share our choices with the valley.”
Bringing authors to the valley
One Book One Valley strives to have authors come speak in person, but like most pandemic-era stories, the group has had to make adjustments over the past few years. Two authors opted for virtual meetings, and a third simply couldn’t make it. But with Davis being a Colorado-based author, Barnes is optimistic that the program can return to an in-person format with a visit from Davis in 2022.
“We’ve been successful in bringing our authors here, and that makes us really proud,” Barnes said. “From Red Cliff to Gypsum all the way up to Vail, all the towns are invited. We’ve been through all kinds of books together.”
Copies of “Tallgrass” are currently available at The Bookworm of Edwards. For more information, visit OneBookOneValley.com.