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.
Mississippi Trial, 1955
by Chris Crowe – Penguin Putnam Publishers
In the summer of 1955, sixteen-year-old Hiram is living with his beloved grandfather in Greenwood, Mississippi when a horrific crime is committed. Despite a long and mysterious estrangement between Hiram’s father and grandfather, Hiram reveres his aging grandfather, a white farmer in a racially divided town. That summer, Hiram strikes up an uneasy acquaintance with Emmett Till, a black teenager from Chicago who is visiting relatives in Greenwood. Hiram watches one of his white friends viciously force Emmett to eat a raw fish at knifepoint, and does not intervene, foreshadowing Emmett’s fate and Hiram’s. After Emmett is rumored to have whistled at a white woman, he is dragged from his bed in the middle of the night and brutally murdered. The grandfather’s racism becomes clear as the controversy surrounding Emmett unfolds, and Hiram’s world is rocked. As an investigation into Emmett’s murder begins, Hiram is called as a witness and begins to realize that he is witness to much more than the police know.
Unflinching in his depiction of one of the ugliest events in American history, Crowe uses actual excerpts from the Greenwood newspaper to make the injustices of the period painfully real in this historical fiction. The Central story, however, is not Emmett Till’s but Hiram’s and through his sensitive perspective, the reader meets complex and conflicted characters, and the truth that hatred and racism come in many guises.
Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam
by Walter Dean Myers – HarperCollins
Grades 4 and Up
A young American soldier faces fear and uncertainty as he and his squad go out on patrol during the Vietnam War. This story-poem serves to answer the question, “What was it like” without slipping into sensational descriptions of the horrors inherent in any war. Speaking from experience, Myers’ carefully crafted inner dialogue, pared down to the very essence of observation and emotion, reaches into our psyche to make the personal connection. Placed in the moment, we feel what the soldier feels. What is said begs for deeper thought. What is unsaid speaks volumes. Ann Grifalconi’s collages illuminate the text with a strong interplay of the hauntingly familiar and unfamiliar. A marvelous starting point for those wishing to venture into a discussion of the Vietnam War, Patrol elevates the Vietnam Veteran’s experience to a tangible level of understanding.
Trouble Don’t Last
by Shelley Pearsall and Alfred A. Knopf
Trouble seems to follow eleven-year-old slave, Samuel, everywhere he goes. Trouble follows him on a dark night in 1859 when old slave Harrison quietly wakes him and leads him into an adventure of escape. Now Samuel and Harrison are runaway slaves, running away from the only home Samuel has ever known and running for their lives. As their master pursues them, Samuel and Harrison desperately make their way along the dangerous, sometimes fragmented world of the Underground Railroad, hoping to make it to
Canada and freedom. Ultimately, both Harrison and Samuel discover that freedom is worth any price.
Shelley Pearsall spins a riveting, catch your breath story of the perils and promise of the Underground Railroad. Samuel’s story is a must read for all children who can only imagine the terrifying, heart-wrenching experience of being a runaway slave hoping that “Trouble Don’t Last” and that freedom does.
Worthy Of Special Note
by Kristi Collier – Henry Holt.
South Carolina, 1957. Eleven-year old Jo Clawson has just moved with her family to the small town of Jericho. Not fitting in with her peer group, who think only of make-up, clothes, and Elvis, she makes friends with an African American boy who shares her love of books. Jo struggles to understand the racial divisions of the southern Christian community as she drinks from the “colored” fountain, is mocked by the girls in her class, and watches her father be molded by the church deacons into a preacher who shrinks into a self-righteous coward. This powerful story illustrates the obstacles of innocent children trying to fit in to a community of racism and hypocrisy.
Minuk: Ashes in the Pathway
by Kirkpatrick Hill – Pleasant Company
It is 1890 in Alaska and Minuk is a 12-year-old Yup’ik girl who wants very much to be a good woman in the Yup’ik tradition. Then white missionaries come to live in her village bringing a different way of life, Minuk becomes conflicted about the plight of women in her culture. When faced with the prospect of abandoning her way of life, she makes a surprising choice. With rich descriptions of the Yup’ik ways, the reader is at once immersed into a world that is tragic and triumphant. The text will inspire thoughtful discussion of a world unlike any that modern readers have ever known.
The afterward will help readers learn more, including what life may be like for contemporaryYup’ik girls.
Six Days in October: The Stock Market Crash of 1929
by Karen Blumenthal -Atheneum
Grades 6 – Up
Karen Blumenthal, Dallas bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal brings to life the six terrifying and life altering days of the 1929 stock market crash. The reader experiences the events and meets the people connected with this dark period in
United States history. Period photographs, political cartoons, and a ticker tape running along the bottom of each page work together to enhance the text. Stock market novices of any age will benefit from the author’s easily understood explanations of market terminology.
When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson
by Pam Munoz Ryan Scholastic Press
Grades Preschool – 7
From her childhood to achieving her dream, When Marian Sang is a beautifully illustrated picture book biography of one of the greatest vocalists of all time. For older readers, the author has included notable dates and a history of Marian Anderson’s life. Resources for further reading and a discography of Marian’s recordings are also included.