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.
Across America on an Emigrant Train
by Jim Murphy
Clarion Publishers, 1993. Grades 5-8.
Tracing the 1879 journey of Robert Louis Stevenson from Edinburgh, Scotland, to Monterey, California, to meet the desperately ill woman he loved, Across America on an Emigrant Train draws extensively on Stevenson’s own account of his trip. Traveling by the cheapest way possible on accommodations provided for emigrants, Stevenson’s sharp observations include descriptions of his companions, the passing countryside, the interior of the railroad cars, and daily life aboard a train. Rough manners, hardships, discomforts as well as friendships and beautiful scenery were all part of the experience.
Amid Stevenson’s commentaries, Jim Murphy skillfully intersperses a general history of the growth of the transcontinental railroad and the emigrant experience. Descriptions of the impact of the railroad on Native Americans, the rapid growth of rowdy railroad towns, the slaughter of herds of bison, and the development of the Pullman car are a few of the topics Murphy covers.
Abundant use of carefully selected period photographs, engravings, and lithographs greatly enhance the readable and absorbing text.
Giants in the Land
by Diana Appelbaum. Illustrated by Michael McCurdy.
Houghton Mifflin, 1993. Grades 1-5.
For thousands of years the forests of New England were filled with giant pine trees bigger than any found in England or Europe. The process by which the trees were cut down and hauled overland hundreds of miles to the sea to become masts on English warships is brought to life through Appelbaum’s text. McCurdy’s black and white scratchboard drawings generously spread over appropriately tall pages complement this fascinating account.
Ticket to the Twenties
by Mary Blocksma. Illustrated by Susan Dennen.
Little, Brown, 1993. Grades 3-6.
Written as a time traveler’s guide, Ticket to the Twenties takes children back to an intriguing time in American history. Beginning with directions on what to pack (long scratchy underwear, black stockings, and high-top leather boots), Blocksma recommends sneaking in such modern conveniences as deodorant, ballpoint pens, and jeans. With cartoon-style art, short informational sidebars, and lists of amazing “firsts”, the history and popular culture of 1920’s is presented in an innovative and entertaining manner.
Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery
by Russell Freedman.
Clarion, 1993. Grades 5 up.
Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the most influential people of the twentieth century, but her life was never easy. Her wealthy background could not erase her feelings of being unattractive and disappointing to her glamorous parents. Being orphaned before the age of ten further contributed to her sense of alienation. Although taught from childhood that a woman’s primary duty was to care for her husband and family, Eleanor wanted to “find a way to live widely and fully.” As First Lady, she promoted her husband’s programs, but also expressed her own views. Eleanor traveled all over the world championing human rights as one of the first delegates to the United Nations. Extensively researched and with numerous photographs, Freedman’s account honestly and sensitively captures Eleanor’s indomitable spirit.
by Carolyn Meyer.
Harcourt Brace, 1993. Grades 5-9.
A poignant novel based on an actual event that took place in Denton, Texas, in 1921. Looking back on her childhood, twelve-year-old Rose Lee recalls the surprise and sadness felt by her black family and community when they are uprooted from their homes to make way for a segregated park. The black residents are forced to relocate to the Flats, an undesirable and desolate slum. Meyer skillfully evokes time and place in this touching tale of a less enlightened era.
Worthy of Special Note
by Chris L. Demarest.
Crown, 1993. Grades K-3.
Demarest skillfully captures the plucky, practical, and active spirit of the pilot of The Spirit of St. Louis. Light, airy watercolors interplay with the succinct text to present Lindbergh’s early life accessibly to young readers.
by Paul Fleischman. Woodcuts by David Frampton.
HarperCollins, 1993. Grades 5 up.
The glory and thrill as well as the horror and disillusionment of this first major battle of the Civil War are portrayed through a series of “snapshots” of sixteen varied characters who reveal their thoughts, actions, hopes, and dreams. Fleischman’s powerful writing brings these characters to life and shows us history through the eyes of, among others, a war-fevered boy, a disillusioned doctor, a slave woman, a sketch artist, and a black man determined to fight for freedom.
Many Thousand Gone: African Americans from Slavery to Freedom
by Virginia Hamilton. Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon.
Knopf, 1993. Grades 4 up.
In brief vignettes Hamilton tells the stories of Africans who were forced into slavery, transported to foreign countries, and robbed of their heritage but not their will to live. She relates brave episodes of escape, of court battles to protect fugitives, of protests from religious groups and abolitionists. Using primary sources, including many autobiographical accounts, Hamilton brings her subjects to vibrant life. Expressive illustrations by the Dillons add a haunting beauty to the book.
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt
by Deborah Hopkinson. Paintings by James Ransome.
Knopf, 1993. Grades K-3.
Clara is a twelve-year old seamstress who works in the Big House. She uses her skills to make a patchwork quilt that is also a map to help other slaves find the way north to freedom. Lovely endpapers show the colorful quilt and its important landmarks.