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 Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane
by Russell Freedman
Holiday House, 1991. Grades 4-8.
“No one had ever seen what Amos Root saw on that September afternoon in 1904.” From this first sentence, readers are caught up in one of the great American stories: how two brothers who loved to take things apart and put them together again ended up as the first people in history to make a machine that could really fly.
Wilbur and Orville Wright not only invented the airplane; they documented their work with photographs. Russell Freedman has made a judicious selection of these original photographs to illustrate the book. Particularly striking is an eight-page section of photographs from their 1902 glider flight; the images echo early motion pictures and give readers an almost tangible sensation of the flight itself. Paired with the photographs is a lucid text that clearly and engagingly explains the origins of the first airplane and how the brothers came to build, test, refine and ultimately pilot their flying machine.
Helpful appendices give young readers a list of places to visit associated with brothers; suggest further reading; and explain how and why the photographs were taken and preserved. The generous use of white space, creamy paper and elegant design make this a book that is beautiful to hold, read and own. It is truly an example of informational writing at its fines.
I Am Regina
by Sally M. Keehn
Philomel Books, 1992. Grades 5-9.
Captured by Allegheny Indians who have killed her father and brother in anger over white settler’s’ taking their ancestral land, 11-year-old Regina is forced to fit into an alien culture. As memories of her original home fade, she comes to respect her new family and their way of life and to realize that such qualities as love, friendship–and brutality–are common to all people. Still, she drams of her own mother’s arms someday enfolding her; mother and daughter are finally reunited, recognizing each other only after the mother sings a hymn from Regina’s childhood, “Alone, Yet Not Alone Am I.” Based on the actual abduction of a German girl I Pennsylvania in the 1750’s, this is a moving story about family and identity.
Worthy of Special Note
by Katherine Paterson
Dutton, 1991. Grades 5-8.
From her encounter with a bear on the first page, to her final decision to go on to college on the last, Lyddie is a character readers will remember for a long time. This is a deeply compelling story of a gritty and fiercely independent girl, who struggles for survival and financial independence as she endures and finally rises above a harsh life as a factory girl in New England milltown in the 1840’s.
written and illustrated by Glen Rounds
Holdiay House, 1991. Grades Preschool-1.
From sunup to sundown the cowboy deals with stray cattle, a runaway steer, and even a rattlesnake. Drawing what he knows with a distinctive, strong black line and colored pencil, Rounds conveys not just the work but also the camaraderie and humor of the cowboy’s life.
Love You, Soldier
by Amy Hest
Four Winds, 1991. Grades 3-5.
While her father is off fighting in World War II, seven-year-old Katie delights in such things as new shoes, a visit to the automat and a visit from Mom’s best friend Louise. But she also experiences the empty feeling of missing her father; and when she is nine, a telegram arrives, and Katie and her mother must face life alone. With the end of the war comes a chance to once again be a whole family. A short, simple book that celebrates family life and family love.
The Borning Room
by Paul Fleischman
HarperCollins, 1991. Grades 5-8.
The borning room is “set aside for both dying and giving birth,” and this book tells a family history that hinges on that happens there. While highlighting some memorable events and lasting elements of social history, the quiet and eloquently crafted text provides the framework for Georginia Lott’s deathbed retelling of life in her Ohio home.
A Separate Battle: Women And The Civil War
by Ina Chang
Lodestar, 1991. Grades 5-8.
Stories of nurses, slaves, soldiers and spies mix with the lesser-known stories of ordinary women who stayed home to raise money, protect their families, and hope for an end to war. Liberal use of contemporary diaries, letters and photos give the book an immediacy that will engage young readers and encourage them to read further in this chapter of America’s history.
by James Lincoln Collier
Macmillan, 1992. Grades 5-7.
A readable and entertaining biography of a self-taught musician who ignored the rules to develop a style all his own. Collier not only tells Ellington’s life story; more unusually, he is able to convey to readers what was special and unique about his musicianship.
Now Is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom
by Walter Dean Myers
The history of African-Americans in the United States from the 1600’s through the present day is told directly and powerfully by a well-known novelist for young people. Myers weaves the story of his own family into the narrative, making this both a personal and a national history.
by Robyn Montana Turner
Little Brown, 1991. Grades 4-6.
The work of this remarkable modern artist is made accessible to young people in a book from the new series, “Portraits of Women Artists for Children.” This slim volume is notable both for the excellent reproductions of O’Keeffe’s paintings and for the thoguthful discussion of her style.