May 14, 2024 - News

Austin author's book a Texas Great Read

Elizabeth Crook

Author Elizabeth Crook. Photo: Courtesy of Texas Center for the Book

A novel by Austin writer Elizabeth Crook has been selected as the National Book Festival's 2024 Texas Great Read for adults.

Why it matters: The recognition is the latest sign of Austin's literary muscle.

Zoom in: "The Which Way Tree," a sweeping 2018 novel set in the 1860s Hill Country, follows the resolve of a young girl determined to hunt down a panther that mauled her and killed her mother.

What they're saying: "We liked how it was set here and had an iconic feel to it," Michele Chan Santos, coordinator of the Texas Center for the Book, tells Axios.

Between the lines: The novel is inspired by a moment Crook in 2018 told the American-Statesman was "the most traumatic night of my life."

  • Her family was in the Hill Country, near Bandera, celebrating her daughter's birthday. Her then-14-year-old son and a friend decided to go camping at a nearby cabin, but they never turned up.
  • The birthday party devolved into parents driving up and down rural roads for nine hours — and sheriff's deputies spotted a mountain lion in the area, per the Statesman.
  • Eventually, the kids were found in fine shape when a helicopter spotted their campfire.

After everyone was reunited, a deputy told Crook, "I don't mean to scare you, ma'am, but when I got there that cat had its eyes on your boys."

Zoom out: The Library of Congress asks each state Center for the Book to select titles that represent the state's literary landscape to highlight at the National Book Festival, an event showcasing the importance of books and reading.

  • This year's festival will be held on Aug. 24 in Washington, D.C.
  • The selection of the Texas Great Read for kids is "The Mystery of the Monarchs," based on the true story of a scientist who solves the mysteries of monarch butterfly migration, written by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Erika Meza.

What's next: This summer, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission will hold two video webinars, one for each book, including a video interview with each author and the opportunity for readers to ask questions.

  • Registration details have not yet been determined.
  • These events will be free and available on TSLAC's YouTube channel after airing.
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