The Jefferson Cup Award honors a distinguished American biography, historical fiction or history book for young people. The Youth Services Forum of the Virginia Library Association has presented this award annually since the 1982 publishing year. Through the award, the Youth Services Forum seeks to promote reading about America’s past, to encourage the quality writing of United States history, biography and historical fiction for young people, and to recognize authors in these disciplines.
Birmingham , 1963
Carole Boston Weatherford Wordsong Publishing Grades 6-9
In stark, understated free verse, a young girl narrates the story of the turbulent events surrounding the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s in one of America ’s most segregated cities. Black and white archival photographs illuminate the words that personalize this event. Birmingham , 1963 is a tribute not only to the young girls who were killed but also to the bravery and selflessness of the civil rights protesters throughout the South.
Carole Boston Weatherford’s haunting account of the violence and hate protesters faced in Birmingham gives the reader a greater understanding of the intensity of America ’s struggle for equality. The sparse verse shares the pages with images of childhood objects innocently sprinkled throughout the background. Original photographs fill the opposite page of each spread with images that overwhelm one with the gravity and reality of this horrific event.
The anonymous narrator begins her story with a protest in early May. Many times children were gathered to march because children would not lose their jobs if they were jailed. Within a few hours, over nine hundred children were arrested and taken to jail in vans and school buses. The next day over 2,500 children joined the protest to end segregation. Their determination was met with police using K-9 dogs and firefighters with high pressure hoses to break up the protesters. The nation was shocked at the violence used on children, but the segregationists become more determined and bolder in their resolve. As the summer passed, the intensity of the fight grew.
“The day I turned ten…” begins the verses depicting a family going to church, and buzzes with the excitement of the young narrator preparing to sing the Youth Day solo. That day would be marked by an unfathomable act of violence that would shake the nation. Members of the Ku Klux Klan planted dynamite under the steps of theSixteenth Street Baptist Church . The explosion destroyed the church and four young girls were killed.
In concise words, Ms. Weatherford packs an enormously powerful punch making this emotional story extremely personal as it is seen through the eyes of a young child. The author’s note provides additional background information and gives details of the photos that were used. Spare, stark, evocative. No one can read this book and remain unmoved. Birmingham , 1963 can spark dialogue about race, about our shared American history, about faith, and about humanity.
Fire From the Rock
By Sharon Draper Dutton Publishing Grades 6 – 9
Little Rock Arkansas was a confusing time for a teenager in 1957 Sylvia Patterson is eager about going to high school for all the typical reasons – new classes, joining clubs, making new friends, and a social life surrounded by sporting events and dances. But the school board has decided to comply with the federal law to integrate High School, whether Little Rock is ready or not.
Sylvia is shocked when her teacher, Miss Washington, asks her to consider being one of the first black students to attend Central. It is an honor reserved to very few, but it is also a heavy burden that Sylvia may not be able to carry. She would be separated from lifelong friends (including a new boyfriend), excluded from social activities at school, and worse, subjected to threats and, possibly, violence. Sylvia is torn between wanted to bring about change and wanting to remain safe and happy in the life she has always known.
Before Sylvia makes her final decision, smoldering racial tension in the town ignites into flame. When the smoke clears, she sees clearly that nothing is going to stop the change from coming. It is up to her generation to make it happen, in as many different ways as there are colors in the world. Sharon Draper skillfully portrays the attitude and climate of late 1950s Arkansas and of the United States in general. The mixed reactions of blacks, some for and some against integration, and the cruelty of the other citizens, including the governor will surprise many readers. The author’s note summarizes the experiences of the Little Rock Nine and suggests further reading. Draper fans will not be disappointed by this compelling novel.
Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller
by Sarah Miller Atheneum Books Grades 5-9.
Annie Sullivan was barely more than a girl when she boarded a train in Massachusettsbound for Alabama . This young woman was on her way to meet her first student – Helen Keller. Little did Annie know the challenge that awaited her in Alabama and how her life would be changed. She would have to fight not only the Keller family, but her own personal demons.
Inter-woven in her struggle with Helen are Annie’s difficulties of her own past. She recalls her time in Tewksbury State Almshouse where she and her brother lived after their mother died. She remembers are own vision problems and the challenges she faced. Annie drew strength in recalling all she accomplished to reach and teach Helen.
Miller does a masterful job of drawing readers into this emotional drama. The frustration Annie felt when Helen failed to understand, her despair that maybe Helen would never understand, the determination that this child would overcome her challenges, and her fear that the family would interfere – all these complex hardships shaped Annie’s determination that Helen would learn.
Excerpts from Annie’s letters to her housemother at the Perkins Institute for the Blind can be found at the beginning of each chapter. Miller used these letters as the basis for much of this story. Photos, a chronology, and sources for more information are items found at the end of this book. This first novel gives us a compelling look at a young woman who overcame a terrible childhood to become a great teacher.
The Ultimate Weapon: The Race to Develop the Atomic Bomb
By Edward Sullivan Holiday House · Grades 10-12
In 1938, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann discovered that they could split atoms by a process alled fission. Their discovery made it possible to build the atomic bomb. Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer was appointed to direct the Manhattan Project. Though many know about the outcomes of the Manhattan Project, most people are unaware of the depth of planning, the immense numbers of people involved, or the hazards encountered, or the dangers involved.
Sullivan provides information about the inception, production and dropping of the atomic bomb, while he tells about the people who developed the bomb, their families, the towns that grew up around the three sites, Los Alamos , New Mexico , Oak Ridge ,Tennessee , and Hanford , Washington , and the secrecy necessary during World War II. He provides much information about the project, including information about the aftermath of the dropping of the tomic bomb on Japan . While doing so, he shows the human side of those involved in all aspects of the planning, making, and dropping of the ultimate weapon.
The compelling black and white photographs of the people who worked on the Manhattan Project going about their everyday tasks portray the conditions through which men and women and their children lived and worked. The three government cities, located in remote areas of their respective states, were complete with the amenities expected in a small city of the early to mid 1940s.
The Ultimate Weapon contains a wealth of information that is easy to read, follow, and understand despite the number of people involved and the complexity of the topic, while photographs add impact to the telling of the story. The appendix, chronology, notes, bibliography, suggestions for further reading, including websites, and a glossary extend the information found in Sullivan’s exceptional work of nonfiction.
Series Worthy of Note
Published by Viking: A Division of Penguin Young Readers Group Grade 9-12
This series offers an Up Close look at twentieth-century life that speaks to people of all generations. Allowing the reader to take a closer look, these books portray heroes from all backgrounds. From media queen Oprah Winfrey to environmentalist Rachel Carson, these stories will invite you inside the world of fame and struggle.
The books unique size and inviting photographs will cause them to jump off the bookshelves and into the backpacks of eager and reluctant readers alike. Each author uses story-like rhythm that is easy to read and understand. Interesting facts are scattered throughout the series that capture the essence of each person being profiled. For example, UpClose: Elvis Presley mentions that during his tenth grade year at HumesHigh School Elvis served as a library assistant. Within these books stories are included to help close generations gap between readers. UpClose: Johnny Cash gives details on how Cash celebrated selling over to million copies of “I Walk the Line” by making snow cream from snow that had just fallen.
This series features role models that will spark an interest in any young reader, motivating them to work through their own struggles and inspire to be a person of greatness. Each book includes a personal forward from the author, detailed chapters, an insightful epilogue as well as thorough resources. Other biographies of this series include Robert F. Kennedy and Frank Lloyd Wright.Start Slide Show with PicLens Lite