Help us select the winner of our annual Children’s History Book Prize! Each week starting March 27, visit us here on our History Detectives blog to learn about one of our four nominated books, then dive into reading and carefully consider all its qualifications. Are the characters complex and relatable? What did you learn? Was the story historically accurate? Check out what we look for in a prize winner. Think hard about what makes this book great!
Our polls open April 24. Read all four books thoughtfully, and then vote for your favorite! Each year the Children’s History Book Prize is chosen by a jury of historians, librarians, educators, and families with middle readers (age 9 – 12). This year, we’re adding you to the jury! We’ll compile all of your votes and collectively count them as one jury member vote.
What is the Children’s History Book Prize? Each year we celebrate the best in American history literature for middle readers with this prize. The author of the winning book receives $10,000 and a medal, marking their achievement. Each year the final four books feature stories with complex, compelling narratives and characters, and integrate accurate and engaging historical research – just the kind of books we love. At the New-York Historical Society and the DiMenna Children’s History Museum we like to dig into our past through narrative, characters, challenging stories, and–always–great primary-source research!
This year our final four include fiction and nonfiction; stories set in the South, California, New York, and Pennsylvania; and time periods that span two centuries. This diverse crop of books was winnowed down from a list of almost 50 submissions!
Drum roll, please!
In alphabetical order, this year’s finalists are:
Unbound: A Novel in Verse by Ann E. Burg
When Grace turns nine, she is forced to leave the daily work of helping Aunt Sara tend her baby brothers and the daily joy of seeing Mama come home each night from the fields—she must now work in the plantation kitchen. Faced with the horror of being permanently separated from her family, she urges them all to flee to the swamps. Told through Grace’s eyes, the story unfolds with a combination of historical precision, honesty, and adventure. Burg’s research is based in part on narratives of the formerly enslaved, collected by the Federal Writers Project. – Kirkus Review, June 22, 2016
It Ain’t So Awful Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas
After a rocky start, Cindy (Zomorod to her parents) finds a comfortable niche in her California middle school until political upheaval and revolution in Iran reach the United States, threatening her future and her family’s safety. Her engineer dad, who loves to talk about the oil industry, and her unhappy mom, who won’t learn English, pose bigger obstacles to fitting in. On her own journey to maturity, Cindy deftly guides young readers through Iran’s complicated realities in this fresh take on the immigrant experience—authentic, funny, and moving from beginning to end. – Kirkus Review, February 17, 2016
Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original “Girl” Reporter, Nellie Bly by Deborah Noyes
Young Nellie Bly had ambitious goals, especially for a woman at the end of the 19th century, when the few female journalists were relegated to writing about cleaning or fashion. But fresh off a train from Pittsburgh, Nellie knew she was destined for more and pulled a major journalistic stunt that skyrocketed her to fame: feigning insanity, being committed to the notorious asylum on Blackwell’s Island, and writing a shocking exposé of the clinic’s horrific treatment of its patients. Plentiful black-and-white photographs, cartoons, newspaper pages, and artifacts expand the sense of time and place in this lively biography that reflects the spirit of the intrepid reporter. – Kirkus Review, November 3, 2015
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
World War II is raging and families in Annabelle’s rural Pennsylvania community have lost sons, but the conflict is a distant one. Painting rural life with an even hand, [Wolk] shows its beauty and its hardship, the strong ties that bind people who live in the country and the intolerance that sometimes finds root there. With a precociously perceptive girl as a main character; a damaged, misunderstood recluse; and themes of prejudice and bigotry, comparisons to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird will abound. But Wolk gives us her own story—one full of grace and stark, brutal beauty. – New York Times, May 5, 2016
Check back here starting March 27 for our first author interview, then keep reading throughout April to get ready for our online poll. Don’t forget to vote starting April 24!