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.
Soldier’s Heart: Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charlie Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers
by Gary Paulsen
Delacorte Press, 1998. Grades 7 and up.
Soldier’s Heart, an incredibly powerful contribution to children’s literature, tells the story of young farmer Charlie Goddard’s experience as a soldier in the Civil War. Desiring to be a part of the anticipated short shooting war against Johnny Reb, Charlie lies about his age and enlistes. His naïve excitement, heightened by parades, patriotic slogans, pretty girls and a plush first train ride, vanishes after he experiences the physical horrors and mental anguish of his first Civil War combat at Bull’s Run. Although he does not know how, Charlie physically survives that and other battles until he is wounded, though not fatally, at Gettysburg. At age twenty-one when he should have been thinking about marriage, Charlie walks with a cane and is old not in years but “old from too much life, old from seeing too much, old from knowing too much.” The price of war leaves Charlie with a “soldier’s heart,” today known as post traumatic stress disorder. Charlie dies at age twenty-three. Because of Paulsen’s extensive research and attention to details, Soldier’s Heart captures the horrific history of Civil War battles with realism rarely experienced in books for young adults.
Boss of the Plains: The Hat that Won the West
by Laurie Carlson
DK Publishing, Inc., 1998. Grades K-4.
The Stetson family made hats, but young John Batterson Stetson dreamed of the adventures he could have in the Wild West. As John grew, he learned the secret of creating hats using strong, sturdy felt; however, he never forgot his dreams of going west. Years passed before John finally arrived in the Colorado territory. One there, he wanted to do something special, something to say, “John Stetson was here!” So he made a hat, a very special hat that kept the rain off the cowpoke’s neck, shielded the sun from his face and impressed the ladies at the Saturday night dance. Stetson called his sturdy creation “The Boss of the Plains.” This hat cost a month’s wages but it was worth it. This colorful, fun picture book is a simple introduction to the life of John Stetson, whose hat became the symbol of the American West. Laurie Carlson’s engaging text and Holly Meade’s vibrant pictures will surely entertain readers of all ages.
Worthy of Special Note
What’s the Deal? Jefferson, Napoleon, and the Louisiana Purchase
by Rhonda Blumberg
National Geographic Society, 1998. Grades 7 and up.
A cast of characters, major and minor, including an explorer, spies, dictators, kings, presidents, and a host of others, sets the stage for an exciting telling of the Louisiana Purchase negotiated by President Thomas Jefferson. The recounting of diplomacy, the intrigue, and the hand of fate through other world events gives the book a true sense of suspense. Blumberg brings to life the lives and events that surrounded this acquisition, which was even challenged by some as unconstitutional. The author’s usual thorough research helps us to understand the controversy concerning this important land deal, which Jefferson hailed as the greatest triumph of his political career. The newspaper, National Intelligencer, praised Jefferson’s leadership for bringing about “so vast and important an accession of empire by means so pacific and just.” Reproductions of art from the period and an excellent bibliography listing primary and secondary sources add to the value of this book.
by Elisa Carbone
Alfred A. Knopf, 1998. Grades 6-10.
Slavery’s harsh realities are graphically revealed in Carbone’s story of the life of Ann Marie Weems. Born into slavery in Maryland in the 1840’s, Ann Marie’s family suffered a wrenching blow when her three brothers were taken away under false pretenses by their master and sold into the deep South. Shortly afterwards, Ann Marie’s father, a free Black, contacted an abolitionist group, which arranged to purchase freedom for Ann Marie and her mother and sister. However, the owner refused to sell Ann Marie, saying that his wife needed her help, thus forcing her to separate from the remaining members of her beloved family. Later the same abolitionist group arranged to kidnap Ann Marie, setting in motion her harrowing journey to safety on the Underground Railroad. Meticulously adapted from historical records, Carbone’s story blends authentic details of the era with an exciting plot, and it is especially compelling because it is based on a true story.
Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange
by Elizabeth Partridge
Viking, 1998. Grades 6-12.
“You can’t deny what you must do, no matter what it costs.” These words of Dorothea Lange illustrate the theme of this intimate portrait of her life and work, written by the daughter of her photographic assistant who grew up as part of the diverse bunch of people making up Dorothea’s family. This powerful photo-essay tells of Lange’s difficult childhood but focuses on the camera-art that brought to the nation’s attention the plight of the poor during the Depression, the migrant workers and the Japanese-American families interned during World War II. Restless Spirit reflects Lange’s passion for her work which may be summed up in her statement, “I had to get my camera to register the things that were more important than how poor they were – their pride, their strength, their spirit.”
A Long Way from Chicago
by Richard Peck
Dial Books for Young Readers, 1998. Grades 5-8.
This “novel in stories” is a warm reflection of an older man’s memories of his childhood depression-years summers spent with his sister Mary Ann at Grandma Dowdel’s farm. In the humorous story telling tradition of Mark Twain, Peck tells of the feisty, never-to-be-outdone, larger-than-life Grandma Dowdel who seems different each summer. Joey and Mary Alice realize Grandma is not a good influence on them, which is why they like to visit there. She tells whoppers, gets even with the Cowgill boys who have blown up her mailbox with a cherry bomb and poaches fish to feed the Depression drifters. The story ends on a poignant note as Joey, now a World War II soldier passes in the night by her well-lit house and sees her waving. Peck vividly captures the Depression era, seen through a child’s eye.
by Ann Turner
Harper Collins Publishers, 1998. Grades 2-4.
A thirteen-year-old boy is so affected by hearing the charismatic Abraham Lincoln speak that he runs away from the farm and enlists in the Union Army as a drummer boy. His idealistic dream of battle glory and bravery are shattered when he becomes a participant in the true horror of war. Learning that the beat of his drum muffles the sound of gunfire and cries of the wounded and dying, the boy begins to believe that his job is important in helping the soldiers feel less fear. He worries that he is forgetting the faces of the “boys” who are killed in battle and visits the campfires at night, fixing faces in his mind. The illustrations add to the emotional appeal of the minimal, yet vivid, narrative, revealing a bright-eyed, expectant farm boy at the beginning of the book and then, at the end, a tattered, haunted young man who has seen “things no boy should ever see.”
Mary on Horseback: Three Mountain Stories
by Rosemary Wells
Dial Books for Young Readers, 1998. Grades 2-5.
Through the experiences of three distinct characters, readers are introduced to life during the 1920’s in the Kentucky Mountains. It is a place of great beauty, but a place without modern conveniences such as electricity, running water and roads. The stories serve as a compelling biography of Mary Breckinridge, who came to the Appalachian Mountains determined to bring medical care to these people in need, founding the Frontier Nursing Service. This well crafted book is filled with language and imagery highlighting not only the hardships of life in Appalachia, but also the hope that Mary Breckinridge and her nurses brought to the people of the mountains. The lyric text is accompanied by wonderful illustrations based on photographs taken for the Frontier Nursing Service.
Series Worthy of Note
Dear America/My Name is America
These companion series present the diary of a young boy or girl, 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 five Dear America titles published in 1998 are: A Line in the Sand: The Diary of Lucinda Lawrence by Sherry Garland, Dreams in Golden Country: The Diary of Zipporah Feldman, a Jewish Immigrant Girl by Kathryn Lasky, West to a Land of Plenty: The Diary of Teresa Anglino Viscardi by Jim Murphy, Standing in the Light: The Captive Diary of Catharine Carey Logan by Mary Pope Osborne and Voyage on the Great Titanic:Diary of Margaret Ann Brady by Ellen Emerson White. The two My Name is America titles published in 1998 are The Journal of William Thomas Emerson: A Revolutionary War Patriot by Barry Denenbert and The Journal of James Edmond Pease: A Civil War Soldierby Jim Murphy.
The Drama of American History
by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier
Benchmark Books, 1998. Grades 4-8.
As stated by the authors, the aim of this series is to “draw in bold strokes, providing enough information, but no more that is necessary, to bring out the basic themes of the American story, and what they mean to us now.” The Colliers have focused on political and institutional history but have also tied in our social and cultural history. The five series titles published in 1998 are, Clash of Cultures: Prehistory-1638, The Paradox of Jamestown: 1585-1700, Pilgrims and Puritans: 1620-1676, The French and Indian War: 1660-1763, The American Revolution: 1763-1783.Start Slide Show with PicLens Lite