For immediate release | January 23, 2017

'The Serpent King' wins 2017 William C. Morris Award

ATLANTA– “The Serpent King” written by Nashville writer Jeff Zentner and published by Crown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a Penguin Random House Company, has been named the 2017 winner of the William C. Morris Award, which honors a book written for young adults by a previously unpublished author. The award was presented by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) at the American Library Association’s (ALA) Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits held Jan. 20-24 in Atlanta, Georgia.

In a small southern town, senior year finds three misfit friends facing the prospect of their separate futures with both anticipation and dread. Dill fears he will never escape his snake-handling father’s poisonous legacy. However, Lydia, a fashion blogger, and Travis, a fantasy warrior, foresee hopeful futures.

“Out of the hundreds of titles by debut authors published in 2016, “The Serpent King” stood out with its evocative writing, compelling outsider characters, and themes of friendship and change. Teen readers will cherish this book and the three friends at its heart” said Morris Award Chair Meghan Cirrito.

The award is named for William C. Morris, an influential innovator in the publishing world and an advocate for marketing books for children and young adults. William “Bill” Morris left an impressive mark on the field of children’s and young adult literature. He was beloved in the publishing field and the library profession for his generosity and marvelous enthusiasm for promoting literature for children and teens. The Morris Award is awarded annually at ALA’s Midwinter and Exhibits Youth Media Awards and presented at a reception in Atlanta, Georgia on Monday, January 23, from 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. at the Georgia World Congress Center.

The 2017 Morris Award finalists, announced in December, included:

  • “Girl Mans Up,” written by M-E Girard, published by HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers;
  • “Rani Patel in Full Effect,” written by Sonia Patel, published by Cinco Puntos Press;
  • “The Smell of Other People’s Houses,” written by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock, published by Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a Penguin Random House Company;
  • “Tell Me Something Real,” written by Calla Devlin, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Members of the 2017 William C. Morris Award Committee are: Chair Meghan Cirrito, formerly Brooklyn (N.Y.) Public Library; Julia Casas, Santa Monica (Calif.) Public Library; Kate Denier, The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County; Abby Harrison, Greenhill School Montgomery Library, Addison, Texas; Leigh Hurwitz, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Public Library; Courtney Lewis, St. Catherine's School, Richmond, Va.; Carol Maples, Central High School Library, Pollok, Texas; Abby Moore, UNC Charlotte Atkins Library, Charlotte, N.C.; Cathy Rettberg, Menlo School Library, Atherton, Calif.; and Sarah Hunter, Booklist consultant, Chicago.

The mission of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is to support library staff in alleviating the challenges teens face, and in putting all teens ‒ especially those with the greatest needs ‒ on the path to successful and fulfilling lives. For more information about YALSA or to access national guidelines and other resources go to, or contact the YALSA office by phone, 800-545-2433, ext. 4390; or e-mail:

For more information on the William C. Morris Award and other ALA Youth Media Awards, please visit



Macey Morales

Deputy Director

American Library Association