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.
The Great Fire
by Jim Murphy
Scholastic, 1995. Grades 4 and up
The Great Fire tells the story of one of America’s greatest disasters. Daniel “Peg Leg” Sullivan was first to put up the call “Fire Fire!” late Sunday night on October 8, 1871. Chicago was slow to react, allowing a small fire to catch, spread, devastates, and destroy. When the Great Fire was finished, half of Chicago would be burned down and 10,000 people would be left homeless.
Jim Murphy’s descriptive prose allows readers to follow the fire’s path. He also uses the personal accounts of several survivors to help him describe the tragic events of that night. Detailed illustrations, maps and photographs allow readers to visualize the fire’s path. This excellent integration of text and illustrations sweeps readers into the chaos Chicago battled until dawn.
by Eve Bunting
Harcourt Brace & Company, 1995. Grades 3 and up.
Bunting’s simple powerful words and Shed’s richly muted illustrations tell the story of Zoe and her family as they travel West from Illinois to the Nebraska territory. The vast unchanging landscape of prairie grass which stretched for miles and miles was enough to discourage the bravest pioneers. Zoe’s childish perceptions of events like finding her family’s claim stake, wondering where water would come from, and living in a sod house allow readers to experience the strain and excitement of braving this bold new frontier. The story is brought full circle when Zoe and her family conquer some of their fears and plant their hopes and dreams on their part of this vast land.
Kate Shelley: Bound for Legend
by Robert D. San Souci
Dial, 1995. Grades 3 and up.
On July 6, 1881, in Iowa, a terrible storm suddenly came up and the water in the nearby creek rose swiftly. Fifteen-year-old Kate knew the midnight express would not be able to safely cross the bridge, especially since one train had already wrecked trying to cross the bridge. She bravely went out into the storm to warn the train station master. Her journey was not easy. After losing her light, she had to crawl across the bridge in the dark with her hands and knees bleeding and the river raging below. Exhausted and triumphant, she did reach the station. The train had already been stopped but Kate’s courageous act saved the lives of two men. She became a national hero. San Souci’s descriptive text and Ginsburg’s realistic illustrations breathe new life into Kate’s heroic efforts.
Worthy of Special Note
Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution
by Natalie S. Bober
Atheneum, 1995. Grades 9 and up.
Unique in her distinction as wife of the second president of the United States, John Adams, and mother of the sixth president, John Quincy Adams, Abigail Adams was independent, intellectual, spirited, and noteworthy in her own right. With little formal education, she ran a large household successfully during her husband’s frequent absences. Displaying good business sense, she increased the family’s fortune in good years and managed to keep the farm functioning during bad times. She also read widely and wrote prolifically. Drawing from more than two thousand letters penned by the First Lady, Natalie Bober paints a lively and endearing portrait of an international celebrity who lovingly encouraged her family even when they were separated by great distances.
by Alan Schroeder
Dial, 1995. Grades 2 and up.
Travel down the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, with Delia. Experience the melodic music of the everyday sounds of those streets with her. From raindrops, laughter, the squeak of a gate, the creak of a wheel, to the throaty calls of the workers beginning their day, and the carpenters singing to the sounds of their own hammering, the streets were alive with music. Similarly, vendors like the Waffle Man, the Chimney Man and the Charcoal Man called out the benefits of their wares. Schroeder’s text and Fuch’s illustrations capture the melodic magic of those streets and a bygone time when simple pleasures meant everything. Share the magic by singing the book’s poetic words to a whole new generation.
Keeping the Good Light
by Katherine Kirkpatrick Delacorte Press, 1995.
Grades 6 and up.
It’s 1903, the turn of a new century, which brings new attitudes and changes to the life of 16-year-old Eliza Brown. As the only daughter of a lighthouse keeper living off the coast of New York City, Eliza is extremely bored with her daily lifestyle and her family. Her only excitement comes as she travels from their island to attend school in the city. Eventually, tragedy strikes her family and in its aftermath, Eliza discovers that she has more freedom. She becomes a temporary substitute teacher. Maintaining a good reputation is the only way to make this position permanent. Yet, she seems unable to stop herself as she finds her own wings on a flight of adventure, romance, and danger. Kirkpatrick has brought us an independent, stubborn, and lovable character in Eliza. Her life and environment at the dawn of the twentieth century come to life.
Mark Twain: America’s Humorist, Dreamer, Prophet
by Clinton Cox
Scholastic, 1995. Grades 7 and up.
In this thoroughly researched and well-written biography, American humorist Mark Twain is presented as a “towering figure”; however, the faults and foibles of this paradoxical man are also candidly addressed. Extensive quotations from Twain’s journals, letters, and memoirs as well as excellent archival photographs and illustrations enhance this work. Cox has penned a readable, fast-paced, and stimulating biography.
My Fellow Americans: A Family Album
by Alice Provensen
Harcourt Brace & Company, 1995. Grades 2 and up.
Twice winner of the Caldecott Award (Medal, 1984 and Honor, 1982), Alice Provensen has created the equivalent of a family album. From front to back, using quip, quote, and painting, this author and artist hosts a pictorial parade of dozens of people who became famous in the United States. The traditional and the renegade, the hero and the villain pose for portraits and some share their famous words. Politicians, painters, sports figures, soldiers, explorers, and evangelists peer out at the reader from their places of honor. Provensen’s mini-biographies inform, illustrate, and spark interest while maintaining racial and gender balance in this tribute to Americans of the past.
by Mary Cobb
Millbrook Press, 1995. Grades 2 and up.
This is an interesting amalgam of history and craft projects. The text tells the reader what quilts are, describes how they came to America with the earliest settlers from Europe, and details their great social and practical value during our country’s westward movement. The reader learns that quilt-making was both a way to preserve a family’s history and an opportunity for women who seldom had a chance to socialize to get together at quilting bees. The history of various quilt patterns and types is clearly and simply tied to the underlying social events and circumstances that produced the patterns. In addition, each chapter gives an easy yet creative project which demonstrates the endless beauty and variety of quilts.
The Road Home
by Ellen Emerson White
Scholastic, 1995. Grades 9-12.
As a nurse in a Vietnam field hospital, Rebecca Phillips endures constant stress, fatigue, and danger. Amid all the horrors, she manages to forge a tentative friendship with her formidable commanding officer, Major Maggie Doyle, and begins a romance with Marine Mike Jennings. When her tour is over Rebecca heads home to the United States, but the war is still very much with her. She encounters unexpected hostility from old friends and is unable to discuss her experiences with her parents. Rebecca slowly sinks into despair. In a desperate attempt to save herself, she takes off on a cross-country odyssey. Along the way, she finds strength in her friendship with Maggie. She also visits Mike, now an embittered amputee, in Colorado. There in the warmth and concern of the Jennings family, Rebecca is able to face her troubling past and begin healing. White poignantly addresses the devastating effects of the Vietnam War on this brave young woman.
Sound the Jubilee
by Sandra Forrester
Lodestar, 1995. Grades 6 and up.
Travel with 11-year-old Maddie and her family as they leave their Master’s house and try to find freedom and land on Roanoke Island during the Civil War. Things do not go smoothly for Maddie’s family on this journey as they discover bigots on both sides of the war. Eventually, they are forced to leave the Island and the land that they believed to be their own. Ultimately, Maddie’s intelligence and dreams help her create her own sense of place. As an assistant to a teacher from the North, she helps other self-freed slaves learn to read. Forrester masterfully weaves history with fiction to create a story that gives us an accurate picture of a little known slice of local American history.
The Stowaway: A Tale of California Pirates
by Kristiana Gregory
Scholastic, 1995. Grades 5 and up.
Argentinean, Hippolyte de Bouchard and his band of pirates plundered up and down the California coast conquering and claiming whatever they chose to seize. In 1818, they sailed into the quite, beautiful village of Monterey, California, and destroyed Carlito’s peaceful life. After eleven-year-old Carlito witnesses his own father’s death, he quickly became a young man and sought revenge against these raiders. Gregory gives us an exciting account of a little known part of American history and introduces us to a brave hero that readers care about from beginning to the end. Excellent for Reluctant Readers.Start Slide Show with PicLens Lite