Scott O'dell Award for Historical Fiction
2000 - 2011

2011

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia J WIL
It is 1968, and three black sisters from Brooklyn have been put on a California-bound plane by their father to spend a month with their mother, a poet who ran off years before and is living in Oakland. It's the summer after Black Panther founder Huey Newton was jailed and member Bobby Hutton was gunned down trying to surrender to the Oakland police, and there are men in berets shouting "Black Power" on the news. Delphine, 11, remembers her mother, but after years of separation she's more apt to believe what her grandmother has said about her, that Cecile is a selfish, crazy woman who sleeps on the street. At least Cecile lives in a real house, but she reacts to her daughters' arrival without warmth or even curiosity. Instead, she sends the girls to eat breakfast at a center run by the Black Panther Party and tells them to stay out as long as they can so that she can work on her poetry. Over the course of the next four weeks, Delphine and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, spend a lot of time learning about revolution and staying out of their mother's way. Emotionally challenging and beautifully written, this book immerses readers in a time and place and raises difficult questions of cultural and ethnic identity and personal responsibility. With memorable characters (all three girls have engaging, strong voices) and a powerful story, this is a book well worth reading and rereading.

 

2010

The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan, Illustrator Matt Phelan  YA GRAPHIC NOVEL PHE STO
In Kansas in the year 1937, eleven-year-old Jack Clark faces his share of ordinary challenges: local bullies, his father's failed expectations, a little sister with an eye for trouble. But he also has to deal with the effects of the Dust Bowl, including rising tensions in his small town and the spread of a shadowy illness. Certainly a case of "dust dementia" would explain who (or what) Jack has glimpsed in the Talbot's abandoned barn -- a sinister figure with a face like rain. In a land where it never rains, it's hard to trust what you see with your own eyes -- and harder still to take heart and be a hero when the time comes. With phenomenal pacing, sensitivity, and a sure command of suspense, Matt Phelan ushers us into a world where desperation is transformed by unexpected courage.

2009

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson YA AND
At the start of the Revolutionary War, Isabel is sold to a cruel loyalist family, even though she has been promised freedom by her former owner. Soon faced with the choice of working for or against the British, Isabel chooses to work with anyone who can help her.  In Chains, Anderson describes the overlooked people who were sold into slavery and brought to New England by masters who, even as they worked to win freedom for a new nation, did not grant it to those forced to serve them. Chains is a suspenseful, sad and engrossing tale made all the more vivid by Anderson's devoted attention to detail, from the smells of the city to the characters' clothing.

2008

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis  YA CUR
Eleven-year-old Elijah is the first child born into freedom in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves just over the border from Detroit. He’s best known in his hometown as the boy who made a memorable impression on Frederick Douglass. But things change when a former slave steals money from Elijah’s friend, who has been saving to buy his family out of captivity in the South. Elijah embarks on a dangerous journey to America in pursuit of the thief, and he discovers firsthand the unimaginable horrors of the life his parents fled—a life from which he’ll always be free, if he can find the courage to get back home.

2007

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages YA KLA
Two girls spend a year in Los Alamos as their parents work on the secret gadget that will end World War II. Dewey is a mechanically minded 10-year-old who gets along fine with the scientists at the site, but is teased by girls her own age. When her mathematician father is called away, she moves in with Suze, who initially detests her new roommate. The two draw closer, though, and their growing friendship is neatly set against the tenseness of the Los Alamos compound as the project nears completion. Clear prose brings readers right into the unusual atmosphere of the secretive scientific community, seen through the eyes of the kids and their families. Dewey is an especially engaging character, plunging on with her mechanical projects and ignoring any questions about gender roles. Occasional shifts into first person highlight the protagonist's most emotional moments, including her journey to the site and her reaction to her father's unexpected death. After the atomic bomb test succeeds, ethical concerns of both youngsters and adults intensify as the characters learn how it is ultimately used. Many readers will know as little about the true nature of the project as the girls do, so the gradual revelation of facts is especially effective, while those who already know about Los Alamos's historical significance will experience the story in a different, but equally powerful, way.

2006

The Game of Silence by Louise Erdrich j ERD
Her name is Omakayas, or Little Frog, because her first step was a hop, and she lives on an island in Lake Superior.  It is 1850, and the lives of the Ojibwe have returned to a familiar rhythm: they build their birchbark houses in the summer, go to the ricing camps in the fall to harvest and feast, and move to their cozy cedar log cabins near the town of LaPointe before the first snows.

The satisfying routines of Omakayas's days are interrupted by a surprise visit from a group of desperate and mysterious people. From them, she learns that all their lives may drastically change. The Chimookomanag, or white people, want Omakayas and her people to leave their island in Lake Superior and move farther west. Omakayas realizes that something so valuable, so important that she never knew she had it in the first place, is in danger: Her home. Her way of life.

In this captivating sequel to National Book Award nominee The Birchbark House, Louise Erdrich continues the story of Omakayas and her family.

2005

Worth by A. LaFaye YA LAF

After Nathaniel's leg is crushed in an accident, his father brings home an orphan boy, John Worth, to help work the fields. Worth has come to Nebraska from New York City on the Orphan Train, which brings homeless children west to find new lives. 

Nathaniel feels increasingly jealous of the boy who has taken over not only his work but the attention of his father, who has barely spoken to him since his injury. In school for the first time he is far behind even his youngest classmates, and he feels as useless there as he does at home. 

Meanwhile, Worth is still grieving for his family and his old life. As the farm chores prevent him from going to school, he also resents losing his dream of an education and a good job. And for all the work he does, he knows he will never inherit the farm that he's helping to save.

2004

A River Between Us by Richard Peck YA PEC

Set during the first year of the Civil War. The whole country is changing in 1861-even the folks from a muddy little Illinois settlement on the banks of the Mississippi. Here, fifteen-year-old Tilly Pruitt frets over the fact that her brother is dreaming of being a soldier and that her sister is prone to supernatural visions. A boy named Curry could possibly become a distraction. 

Then a steamboat whistle splits the air. The Rob Roy from New Orleans docks at the landing, and off the boat step two remarkable figures: a vibrant, commanding young lady in a rustling hoop skirt and a darker, silent woman in a plain cloak, with a bandanna wrapped around her head. Who are these two fascinating strangers? And is the darker woman a slave, standing now on the free soil of Illinois? When Tilly's mother invites the women to board at her house, the whole world shifts for the Pruitts and for their visitors as well. 

2003

Trouble Don't Last by Shelley Pearsall YA PEA

Eleven-year-old Samuel was born as Master Hackler’s slave, and working the Kentucky farm is the only life he’s ever known—until one dark night in 1859, that is. With no warning, cranky old Harrison, a fellow slave, pulls Samuel from his bed and, together, they run. 

The journey north seems much more frightening than Master Hackler ever was, and Samuel’s not sure what freedom means aside from running, hiding, and starving. But as they move from one refuge to the next on the Underground Railroad, Samuel uncovers the secret of his own past—and future. And old Harrison begins to see past a whole lifetime of hurt to the promise of a new life—and a poignant reunion—
in Canada.

2002

The Land by Mildred D Taylor YA TAY

The story begins with Paul-Edward Logan, grandfather of Cassie Logan, the beloved protagonist of Newbery Medal-winning Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Born during the Civil War, Paul-Edward is the son of a white plantation owner and a former slave. Though not an unusual heritage, his upbringing is. Paul-Edward's white father sees to it that he and his sister have many of the privileges their white half-brothers enjoy. But at fourteen, Paul-Edward runs away to seek his fortune. His story is filled with exciting, sometimes heart-breaking adventures, and what is most amazing, his dream of land-ownership, almost impossible for a black person to accomplish in the post-Civil War South, becomes reality. 

The Land, like all the books in this award-winning series, is based on the experiences of the Taylor family, bringing historical truth and power to this awe-inspiring story.

2001

The Art of Keeping Cool by Janet Taylor Lisle YA LIS

In 1942, Robert and his cousin Elliot uncover long-hidden family secrets while staying in their grandparents' Rhode Island town, where they also become involved with a German artist who is suspected of being a spy.

 

 

2000

Two Suns in the Sky  by Miriam Bat-Ami YA BAT

Summer, 1944. World War II is raging in Europe. Fifteen-year-old Adam, a Yugoslavian Jew, has escaped, along with his mother and younger sister, to the safety of a refugee camp in Upstate New York. Christine, whose house is near the camp, sees in Adam's past all of the excitement and drama missing from her own life. The moment the two first see each other, they know they are meant to be together. Their parents refuse to even accept the possibility. Will their love prevail over the narrow-mindedness of the adults around them?