2009 Morris Award

Winner | Honor Books | Back to Morris Homepage

The William C. Morris Award honors a book written for young adults by a first-time, previously unpublished author. The winner was named during the 2009 Youth Media Awards at the ALA Midwinter Meeting, with the finalists becoming honor books.


2009 Morris Winner

a curse dark as gold

A Curse Dark As Gold

Elizabeth C. Bunce

published by Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic


This supernatural novel retells the story of Rumpelstiltskin, setting it at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution and centering it around the life of Charlotte Miller. When the bank wants to repossess her mortgaged mill, Charlotte strikes a bargain with the mysterious Jack Spinner, (a creature who knows the art of turning straw into gold), but then discovers she must free her loved ones from a generations-old curse. 

At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, Charlotte Miller strikes a bargain with the malevolent Jack Spinner, who can transform straw into gold, to save her family’s mill.  With masterly writing and vivid characterization and setting, Bunce weaves a powerfully seductive tale of triumph over evil. 

“Bunce has crafted a story that superbly embodies the criteria for this award. Her work is compelling and has broad teen appeal,” said Chair Bonnie Kunzel. “Thoughtful reflection and spirited discussion characterized this outstanding committee’s work as its members selected a shortlist that honors the influence of William C. Morris on the field of young adult publishing.”

Read Bunce's speech (PDF) accepting the award.


Honor Books

In addition to A Curse Dark as Gold, the Morris Award finalists include: Graceling, written by Kristin Cashore, published by Harcourt, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Absolute Brightness, written by James Lecesne, published by HarperTeen/Laura Geringer Books; Madapple, written by Christina Meldrum, published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children's Books; and Me, The Missing, and the Dead, written by Jenny Valentine, published by HarperTeen.



by Kristin Cashore

published by Harcourt/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


In the Seven Kingdoms, those born with eyes of two different colors are Gracelings who develop intense and powerful skills. Katsa’s Grace is killing, and she serves as King Randa’s enforcer until she and Prince Po join forces to solve the riddle of his grandfather’s kidnapping. The closer they get to the answer and to each other, the more dangerous their quest becomes. 

absolute brightness

Absolute Brightness

by James Lecesne

published by HarperTeen/ Laura Geringer Books


When Phoebe’s flamboyant, effeminate cousin, Leonard, moves to her New Jersey town, he brings a confusing mix of beauty and irritation as he inserts himself into the day-to-day running of her mother’s beauty parlor business and Phoebe’s life at school. When Leonard disappears, seemingly without a trace, Phoebe embarks on a mission to uncover the truth, and confronts first-hand the price Leonard paid for being different. 



by Christina Meldrum

published by Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books


Fifteen-year-old Aslaug was raised in isolation by a mother who was both strange and ill. Her mother’s death brings an onslaught of new experiences as Aslaug must learn to cope with the unwanted attention of the police, relatives she never knew she had, and multiple charges of murder.

me, the missing & the dead

Me, the Missing, and the Dead

by Jenny Valentine

published by HarperTeen


Sixteen-year-old Londoner Lucas Swain, on a whim, decides to take a cab home and happens upon an urn with the ashes of Violet Park in the taxi office. He feels the spirit of Violet leading him through a maze of layered clues, as he bit by bit solves the puzzle of his father’s disappearance more than five years ago.