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.
By Marlene Carvell ▪ Dutton Children’s Books
Grades 5 – 8
Upon the death of their mother, two Mohawk sisters, Mattie and Sarah, are sent to the Carlisle Industrial School for Indians. Set at the turn of the 20th century, what follows is the poignant, haunting story of the sisters’ experience. Founded by Richard Henry Pratt in 1879, the purpose of the Carlisle School, as well as the other Indian schools, was to civilize the Indian by stripping the children of their language, culture, and religion. Mattie, who is willful, determined, and bossy, and Sarah, who is sensitive and more complacent, react differently to the demands placed upon them. While the girls do encounter sympathetic characters at the school, notably a teacher and custodian, these individuals are helpless to change a system that is intent on destroying the Indian in the children.
Based on the experiences of her husband’s family, Marlene Carvell has crafted a gripping novel that explores one of the chapters of American history that has not been told in history textbooks. In alternating chapters of free verse, Mattie and Sarah tell their stories. The voices are similar, which serves to heighten the reader’s understanding of the bond that connects the sisters, yet we see and feel their individual responses to their mutual experiences. It is these authentic voices that make Carvell’s novel so powerful. Initially, Mattie seems to be adjusting to her new surroundings, encouraged by a kindly teacher and her friend Gracie. Sarah, who is desperately homesick, feels even more alone because Mattie is so hardnosed about the need to adjust. A small sweetgrass basket helps the sisters reconnect. When Mattie is accused of theft, she makes a decision that has tragic consequences neither sister anticipates. This compelling and sensitive portrayal of forced assimilation and intolerance has much to say to us today as we continue to navigate the waters of immigration and what it means to be an American.
Our Eleanor: A Scrapbook Look at Eleanor Roosevelt’s Remarkable Life
By Candace Fleming ▪ Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Grades 6 -12
When Eleanor Roosevelt spoke with reporters in 1932 after her husband was elected president, she said, “There isn’t going to be any First Lady. There is just going to be plain, ordinary Mrs. Roosevelt.” In this engaging “scrapbook” biography, Eleanor is depicted as anything but plain and ordinary. Through photographs, quotes, letters, diary entries, magazine and newspaper clippings, and other personal accounts, Candace Fleming captures the true essence of Eleanor Roosevelt. From her unhappy childhood and her bouts with depression, Fleming showcases Eleanor’s personal growth and her unique character by detailing her family life, marriage to Franklin Roosevelt, and relationships with her children, friends, and other social connections. The biography highlights Eleanor’s interest in social issues and human rights, which help define Eleanor as one of the most influential first ladies of all time. This is not your typical biography – Fleming does not shy away from controversial topics such as adultery and lesbianism, but the author treats these issues with care for young readers. The author also shares Eleanor’s family tree, and the biography is well documented through source notes, picture credits, and an extensive index. Books, videos, and web sites are given for further study on Eleanor. Fleming’s account captures the heart of Eleanor Roosevelt – what she believed in, stood for, and strived to achieve.
Children of the Great Depression
By Russell Freedman ▪ Clarion
Grades 4- 8
Once again, Russell Freedman has created a superb book in “Children of the Great Depression.” Although intended for middle-school students, this historical overview of the years of the depression will be appreciated by all who read it. The black and white photos lend themselves to the authenticity of the time. The intertwining of the photos and written passages has created another classic Freedman work, worthy of honor.
Told thru the eyes of children, it makes great use of letters, diaries and memoirs. On one occasion, although passed out from hunger herself, a small child tells her teacher the reason she is at school that day, “It was my sister’s turn to eat.” This is just one example of how powerful and memorable the book is. Freedman’s book gives clear description of the era—it tells of the dust storms, soup kitchens, kids at work and kids on the train, just to mention a few. Documented in a chart for generations to come, are the prices of items such as a quart of milk—10 cents, a used 1929 Ford–$57.50 and the average salary of a school teacher–$1227. Even though cheap by our standards, many of this generation were too poor to purchase basic staples. But all is not hopeless. During the years of the depression, 79% of the population had radios in their homes. This was the main source of entertainment—relying on the many programs of the day. Programs included soap operas, talent shows, dramas, comedy shows, quiz shows, sports (especially baseball) along with many others. Listening to these programs gave the children optimism. The realism and the sadness of this work will be engrained in the reader’s mind but the reader will also be left with the promise, as were the children depicted in the book, that there is always hope in the coming of tomorrow.
Worthy of Note
By Kathleen Benner Duble ▪ Margaret McElderry/ Simon and Schuster
In 1692 there are rumors of witches in service to the devil in Salem, Massachusetts.
Widespread witchcraft hysteria soon reaches ten-year-old Abigail Faulkner and her family in the nearby town of Andover. Soon the girls from Salem Village are summoned to determine if the devil lives amongst the villagers of Andover. Everyone in town is ordered to present themselves to the girls. At first only gentle Mistress Osgood is named as a witch. Shortly Abigail’s Aunt Elizabeth is also accused and imprisoned in Salem Town. Then Abigail and her sister stand accused. The only way to freedom is by naming their mother as their recruiter into witchcraft. Based in part on the author’s family history, this novel captures the sweeping effects of community fear in an era when neighbor turned against neighbor in order to avoid punishment.
Built To Last: Building America’s Amazing Bridges, Dams, Tunnels, and Skyscrapers
By George Sullivan ▪ Scholastic Nonfiction
Grades 3 and up
In the study of U.S. history, the technology and engineering feats that have made us a superior nation are often overlooked. George Sullivan has given us a study in the prowess that has allowed this nation to expand and become a world leader in engineering and technology.
“Built to Last” tells the story of our nation’s engineering prizes, from the United States Capitol in 1793 to the Central Artery/Tunnel Project in 2005. Mr. Sullivan starts his book with the Erie Canal in 1817 and the Hoosac Tunnel in 1851, when the United States was looking for quicker and easier ways to move products and people across our vast new nation. New inventions, such as steel, led to the Brooklyn Bridge, the Flatiron Building and the Transcontinental Railroad. Hard times from 1920-1940 gave us government projects that again stretched our imagination and produced the Empire State Building, Fort Peck Dam, Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge, and the Cascade Tunnel. The aftermath of the World Wars brought us to the Golden Age, 1950- 1965, that produced the U.S. Interstate Highway System, Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Arch and the Sears Tower. This book is well documented, has a bibliography of books and magazines for further reading, as well as a list of web sites for each building project.
Series Worthy of Note
TIME FOR KIDS Biographies
Published by HarperCollins Publishers
Colorful and enticing, this new TIME FOR KIDS Biography series targeting young readers takes a close-up look at the lives of such famous Americans as Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Through historical and contemporary photographs, timelines, interviews with experts, and “lively writing,” the editors of TIME FOR KIDS Biographies enable readers to “make a connection between the lives of past heroes and the events of today.”
For information about the award or to submit
a nomination, please contact:
Lorry Risinger, 2007 Chair
Lynchburg Public Library
2315 Memorial Avenue
Lynchburg, VA 24501
▪The book must be an original work published in the year prior to the
▪The book must be about U.S. history or an American person, or fiction
that highlights the United States past, 1492 to the present.
▪The author must reside in the United States.
▪The book must be published for young people.
▪The book must be accurate, informative, well researched, unbiased, literate, and give a clear and interesting picture of America’s past.
The Jefferson Cup Committee selects the winning book. The committee has eight members: a chairperson selected by the previous year’s committee, six individuals representing the six regions in the state, the outgoing chairperson of Youth Services Forum, and the outgoing Jefferson Cup chairperson.
2006 Jefferson Cup Committee
Deborah Wright, Chair
Donna Hughes, Outgoing Chair
Carlene Poole, Region I
Lorry Risinger, Region II
Anne Patterson, Region III
Heather Brandenburg, Region IV
Jeanette Shonk, Region V
Margarete Gillette, Region VI
Dena Smith, YSF Ex-OfficioStart Slide Show with PicLens Lite