It's an honor to be nominated by a league of librarians for a book you wrote, author Royce Buckingham said.
But it's even cooler when kids vote that book their favorite from a competitive market of good reading material, he said.
That's what happened last week when Buckingham's book, "The Dead Boys," was named the winner of the annual Sasquatch Award. School children around the state voted it the best of 12 nominated books by authors from across the country.
"I am so pleased to have won," Buckingham told the Herald in a phone interview. "It is extremely gratifying that children selected this book. The story is set in Washington and includes local history. I drew from the memories of my own childhood growing up in the Tri-Cities."
Never miss a local story.
Buckingham, who now lives in Bellingham, graduated from Hanford High in 1985. He based "The Dead Boys" in his hometown of Richland, where his parents, William and Verna Buckingham, still live.
The fantasy follows a kid named Teddy Mathews who is new to Richland and anxious to make new friends. But Teddy soon discovers there's something not quite right about this quirky desert town, especially when all the boys he meets start disappearing in creepy ways.
And if that wasn't bad enough, there's an even spookier sycamore tree in his front yard that keeps trying to snatch Teddy into its clutches, turning his once calm and normal life into a nightmare of scary and crazy happenings.
And what's worse, no one believes his claims. So Teddy embarks on a quest to escape the tree's terrifying grasp and solve the mystery of the missing boys before it's his turn to disappear.
"I always wanted to write a book based in the town I grew up in," Buckingham said. "Then to have that book voted No. 1 by kids makes the joy of winning even sweeter."
Buckingham was bit by the writing bug while attending Hanford Junior High. His English teacher at the time, Ginny Quinley, remembers his vivid imagination well, along with his computer skills.
"Royce was very bright," said Quinley, now a drama instructor at Columbia Basin College. "He was also one of the first people I knew, child or adult, who knew his way around a computer."
But it was his creative mind that stood out, she added.
"Royce always had a good imagination, which naturally bodes well for someone who is a writer," she said. "He was a bundle of energy and sometimes the kids picked on him because he was physically small. But his sharp mind seemed to always put him on equal footing with everyone."
The Sasquatch Award, which began in 1999, is presented through the Washington Library Media Association. Titles are selected by a committee of school and public librarians across the state and presented to students in grades four through six. Students who read at least two of the books on the list during the school year are eligible to vote for their favorite.
Hollywood showed interest in one of his books, Demon Keeper, and bought the rights to a possible film, but it never got made, Buckingham said.
"I may not have ever made The New York Times best-seller list, but my medieval fantasy books have been on the best-seller list in Germany," he said. "And believe me, it feels good to be on a best-seller list."