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 Kristine L. Franklin ▪ Candlewick Press
What does a twelve-year-old-boy in the small coal-mining town of Roslyn, Washington do for fun? Tussle with friends, steal grapes, and ponder the future. At least that’s what Slava Petrovich, nicknamed “Cuss” since he can curse in 14 different languages, does to pass the time in this novel of growing up in hard times in 1925. Slava’s older brothers, whose incomes as miners help support their widowed mother and the rest of the family, are accused of a crime and forced to leave town for their safety. Suddenly Slava, who is now the oldest at home, must grow up and make a tough choice between staying in school or dropping out to support the family. Slava is an avid student, and yearns for the education he so desperately needs to escape his destiny of becoming a miner.
The characterization of Slava’s friends, family, and mentors, are rich and varied, and Slava’s own voice rings true with the uncertainty and temptations of a boy his age. The priest who inspires a love of Latin in Slava, and the doctor who recognizes Slava’s intellectual gifts offer hope for the world outside the mines. Slava’s best friend, African-American “Perks,” struggles with accepting the prejudice around him and the knowledge that life could be different elsewhere. Slava’s mother, who knows only work, religious faith, and love for her boys, is full of mettle and of frailty.
Kristine Franklin draws on her Croatian father’s stories of growing up in Roslyn, the grape train that arrived once a year, and the nighttime escapades of young teenage boys to create a memorable tale that illustrates the hardships and hopes of many multiethnic communities of the 1920’s.
A Northern Light
by Jennifer Donnelly ▪ Harcourt
Grades 8 and up
Mattie Gokey is working at the local Glenmore hotel when a guest, Grace Brown, is found drowned. Mattie is thrown unwillingly into an affinity to the young guest because she has a bundle of letters that Grace, on the previous night, told her to burn. The death and investigation of the drowning serves as a backdrop to Mattie’s personal struggle to reconcile conflicting decisions between her passion to pursue a writing career or to honor her mother’s death-bed promise to care for her younger siblings. With an unrelentingly dour and visionless father, she sees opportunities slipping away. It is through the experiences of a variety of relationships that includes a supportive teacher, a boyfriend, a schoolmate who marries and gives birth to twins, a friend who engages her in word duels, and the tragedy of Grace Brown that she finds the motivation to obey her desire for additional schooling at Barnard College in New York City. Through flashbacks and time shifts, the author builds suspense as tangible burdens develop around the mysterious death of Grace Brown, Mattie’s secret possession of the letters, and the decision of Mattie to pursue life outside of the North Woods and Big Moose Lake. Mattie deals with many conflicting emotions in this coming-of-age story set in the Adirondacks in 1906. The author cleverly addresses the complexity of relationships and the power of words. Each chapter of Mattie’s life opens with a word of the day. The author then uses the word to further the story. The reader is engaged in this story based on a true event that was explored in Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy and the classic film, A Place in the Sun, starring Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters.
Ben Franklin’s Almanac: Being a True Account of the Good Gentleman’s Life
by Candace Fleming ▪ Atheneum
Grades 4 and up
The author of the famous words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” comes to life in this fascinating work penned by Candace Fleming. Composed in the appealing scrapbook format ofPoor Richard’s Almanack, readers delight in the accomplishments, both great and small, of the renowned gentleman, Benjamin Franklin. Due to the complexity of his individuality, each chapter is organized topically rather than in traditional chronological order. From “Boyhood Memories” to “Final Rembrances,” visual sketches, cartoons, and quotations give a glimpse into the soul, wit, and personality of the great statesman and inventor. Through the use of primary source material, Fleming provides insight, not only into the well-known facts about this American legend, but also into his humorous, yet somewhat controversial, family and political life. The indexed work includes extensive picture source credits, a complete bibliography, timeline, recommended websites, and further reading sections. Either read cover-to-cover or enjoyed anecdotally, this fitting tribute will inspire young readers to ask themselves the same question as did Mr. Franklin, “What good shall I do today?”
In Defense of Liberty : The Story of America ’s Bill of Rights
by Russell Freedman ▪ Holiday House
Grades 4 and up
Just what was the amendment that James Madison felt was “the most important?” Why is the Ninth Amendment considered mysterious? What does the term “cruel and unusual punishment” mean? How does America protect the rights of the individual?
It begins with “A Knock on the Door in the Middle of the Night.” It ends with “A Right to Differ.” On the pages in between, Russell Freedman illuminates and elucidates the freedoms granted each of us by ten simple rules, America’s Bill of Rights.
Supported by pertinent black-and-white photographs and illustrations, the book contains stories that explain the principles of our freedoms. Presenting actual examples of how our liberties are protected through the Bill of Rights, Freedman provides the reader with an in-depth analysis of each amendment, yet it is written in language simple enough for upper elementary students. What could become dry rhetoric stays alive and interesting through the historical and contemporary cases that challenge our understanding of the Bill of Rights. This wonderfully informative book provides new insight for the reader into the rights and responsibilities of being Americans.
For information about the award or to submit
a nomination, please contact:
Handley Regional Library
P.O. Box 1300
Stephens City, VA 22655
▪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.
2004 Jefferson Cup Committee
Martha Walker Baden, Chair
Michele DeBell Puleo, Outgoing Chair
Julie Elliott Short, Region I
Sandra Shell, Region II
Nikki Steckroth, Region III
Patrice A. Armbrust, Region IV
Connie Moore, Region V
Donna Hughes, Region VI
Maureen Harrill, YSF Ex-Officio
Three honor books were also named: In Defense of Liberty by Russell Freedman (Holiday House), Ben Franklin’s Almanac: Being a True Account of the Good Gentleman’s Life by Candace Fleming (Atheneum), and A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly (Harcourt Children’s Books).Start Slide Show with PicLens Lite