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 Katherine Patterson
Clarion Books. Grades 5-9.
Beginning on Decoration Day in May 1899, this historical fiction novel gives a glimpse of Vermont small town life as related by Robbie Hewitt, a spirited lad who does not measure up to the town’s expectations of a preacher’s son. Robbie decides to make the most of his life before the end of the world, an event predicted by a former minister of his father’s church. He decides to become an “apiest” and forget about pleasing his father and God. Robbie does not really mean to get into trouble; things just turn out that way. He puts his mentally retarded brother in danger, almost kills another boy by letting his temper get the best of him, and then creates a harebrained kidnapping hoax that almost costs another man his life. The story closes with a reconciliation of father and son just in time to ring the church bell, welcoming the Twentieth Century. With her signature warmth, humor and memorable characters, Paterson has created another multilayered coming-of-age historical fiction masterpiece that never preaches but radiates enduring family values.
by Ruby Bridges
Scholastic Press. Grades 1-6.
On November 14, 1960, Ruby Bridges made history when she entered the front doors of the William Frantz Public School escorted by four U.S. Marshals. As a mob of angry white adults and children jeered and threw objects at her, the little six-year-old bravely helped begin the integration of the New Orleans Public Schools. Ruby tells her own story as if she were still that six-year-old child. Using simple, but compelling language and images, she describes the events and feelings she will always have of that year as Mrs. Henry’s sole first grade pupil. Large sepia-toned photographs, eyewitness accounts, and periodical excerpts give readers of all ages information and an emotional understanding of this pivotal time in our country’s history.
The Perilous Journey of the Donner Party
by Marian Calabro
Clarion Books. Grades 6 and up.
Told from the viewpoint of thirteen-year-old Virginia Reed, a member of the ill-fated Donner Party, this page-turner describes the overland trek of the Donner and Reed families who left Springfield, Illinois and headed for California in the spring of 1846. Based on a letter written by Virginia to a cousin in the East after the survivors settled in California, the author details the hardships, poor decisions, and the conflicts among the members of the party that plagued the journey. The story does not end with the harrowing events when the party was stranded in the Truckee Lake region and resorted to cannibalism to survive but follows the members to the end of the journey. This well researched book is a story of determination and survival. It is enhanced with information about the survivors in later years and includes a complete script of Virginia’s letter.
by Louise Erdrich
Hyperion Books for Children. Grades 4-6.
One year. Four seasons. Small details of everyday life. For an Ojibwa family in 1847, much of each day’s activities center on obtaining food, clothing, and shelter. Through the eyes of seven-year-old Omakayas, we see the work involved in finding, preparing, and storing food. We see how skins are scraped and sewn for clothing. We see the family build a birchbark house for the summer, camp out for special events, and move to a log home for the winter. Beyond the surface of a simple family story, Louise Erdrich addresses the arrival of white settlers and traders in the area, the changes that are coming with them, and the secrets within Omakayas’ family that will affect how she can handle all of these events. Written in simple evocative style, The Birchbark House becomes an inviting home, welcoming its readers and giving them an unforgettable glimpse of another time and place.
Worthy of Special Note
by David A. Adler
Harcourt Brace & Company. Grades 1-4.
The Babe and I is a heartwarming picture book which immerses the reader in The Great Depression. With loving attention to detail, author David Adler and illustrator Terry Widener mesh story and illustration. The young boy telling the story shares the shock of learning that invincible dad is hiding his job loss from the family. By calling out news of his hero Babe Ruth, the boy learns to hawk newspapers in front of Yankee Stadium and earn money to help his family. A satisfying and believable ending captures the boy’s relationship with his father, the Babe’s relationship with his fans, and the emotional reality of The Great Depression.
Kids on Strike
by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Houghton Mifflin Company. Grade 5-9.
In factories operating dangerous machinery that could injure or kill, in coal mines sorting through bins of coal for eleven hours a day, and in factories full of dangerous lint with no ventilation, children worked for extremely low wages during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Kids on Strike describes the children who stood up to mill, factory, and mine owners and demanded better conditions, pay, and hours. Bartoletti provides detailed descriptions of horrible working conditions and chronicles the lives of strike leaders such as eleven-year-old mill worker Agnes Nestor and Kid Blink, a young one-eyed newsie who dared to buck authority. Major strikes and incidents are related, such as the 125-mile march made by striking children and led by Mother Jones to confront President Theodore Roosevelt. Over one hundred photographs are included in the well-researched account that describes the history of child labor.
Angels of Mercy
by Betsy Kuhn
Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Grades 6 and up.
Kuhn has brought a fresh and engaging perspective to books on World War II by presenting the relatively unknown experiences of American Army nurses who served in the European and Pacific theaters. Interweaving compelling first person accounts of events, archival photos and historical background, the book chronicles both the grimmest experiences – nurses in POW camps and caught behind enemy lines- and the more lighthearted anecdotes—making fudge in foxholes and washing undies in helmets. The nurses bravely faced the harshest realities of war, working and living close to the front lines. Their stories dramatically and poignantly illustrate how these women supported and extended the American military effort.
by Susan Goldman Rubin
Harry N. Abrams. Grades 7 and up.
Margaret Bourke-White photographed and attended many historic moments worldwide from the 1920s to the 1950s. Over fifty of Bourke-White’s stunning photos are included and fill many pages of this over-sized book. Rubin relates personal details elegantly, including Bourke-White’s disastrous first marriage, her varied college career, her discovery of photography as a serious vocation, her growing skill and fame, and lastly her descent into illness and death. The combination of Bourke-White’s photos, Rubin’s excellent writing, and Abram’s high publishing standard has resulted in a fascinating book for young adults.
Series Worthy of Note
The Worlds of the American Girls
This nonfiction companion series to the American Girls books gives an in-depth look at daily life and historical events during the time each girl lived. These books are lavishly illustrated and contain many fascinating facts. The titles are: Welcome to Addy’s World, 1864 by Susan Sinnott; Welcome to Felicity’s World, 1774 by Catherine Gourley; Welcome to Josefina’s World, 1824 by Yvette La Pierre; Welcome to Kirsten’s World, 1854 by Susan Sinnott;Welcome to Molly’s World, 1944 by Catherine Gourley; and Welcome to Samantha’s World, 1904 by Catherine Gourley.
My Name is America
This fiction series presents the diaries of young boys, recording in detail the daily events of their particular historical period. Epilogues bring the books to satisfying conclusions. Historical information placed at the end of each book adds to the realism of the diaries. The titles are: The Journal of Ben Uchida, Citizen 13559, Mirror Lake Internment Camp, California, 1943 by Barry Denenberg; The Journal of Sean Sullivan, A Transcontinental Railroad Worker, Nebraska and Points West, 1867 by William Durbin; The Story of Joshua Loper, A Black Cowboy, The Chisholm Trail, 1871 by Walter Dean Myers; and The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins, A World War II Soldier, Normandy, France, 1944by Walter Dean Myers.Start Slide Show with PicLens Lite