Spring is in the air, which means it’s that time of year again—get ready to dive into reading the finalists for our annual Children’s History Book Prize and help us select a winner! Visit us here on our History Detectives blog over the next four weeks to learn about each of our finalists through interviews with the author—then get to reading!
Read closely! And think hard.
As you read, carefully consider a few questions: Are the characters complex and relatable? Are the stories historically accurate? Did you learn something new? Read thoughtfully and think hard about what makes each finalist great, then vote for your favorite! Our polls open April 30.
How is the winner chosen?
Each year the Children’s History Book Prize Winner—a book that celebrates the best in American history literature for middle readers—is chosen by a jury of historians, librarians, educators, families with middle readers (ages 9–12), and all of you reading at home! We’ll compile your votes in our online poll and collectively count them as one jury member vote.
This year’s top picks
This year our finalists include fiction and nonfiction books featuring protagonists male and female, old and young, and of diverse backgrounds—with stories set in communities all throughout the United States that span more than a century of American history.
Without further ado, in alphabetical order, this year’s finalists are:
Fred Korematsu Speaks Up by Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi (authors), Yutaka Houlette (illustrator)
When Fred Korematsu, a young Japanese American man, defied U.S. governmental orders by refusing to report to prison camps during World War II, he and his allies set in motion a landmark civil liberties case. Written in free verse, Fred’s story engages in powerful bursts and shows how speaking out brings complex consequences. Enhanced with pictures and archival materials, well-researched and approachable historical essays are interspersed throughout. A must-read for all civics classrooms. – starred Kirkus Review, Nov. 16, 2016
Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar
In the 1960s, Ruthie Mizrahi, a young Jewish Cuban immigrant to New York City, spends nearly a year observing her family and friends from her bed after severely breaking her leg. Bedridden and lonely, she begins collecting stories from her Jewban grandparents and her fellow young immigrant friends. A cultural anthropologist and poet, the author based the book on her own childhood experiences. The language is lyrical and rich, the intersectionality—ethnicity, religion, class, gender—insightful, and the story remarkably engaging. A poignant and relevant retelling of a child immigrant’s struggle to recover from an accident and feel at home in America. – starred Kirkus Review, February 4, 2017
This Is Just a Test by Wendy Wan-Long Shang and Madelyn Rosenberg
It’s autumn 1983 in northern Virginia, and David Da-Wei Horowitz, who is Chinese and Jewish, is busy preparing for his bar mitzvah—but that’s only if he lives that long considering that, after watching The Day After, he’s worried about what will happen if there’s a nuclear holocaust! In the months leading up to his bar mitzvah, David deals with a host of middle school crises, including bickering grandmas, trouble talking to his crush, and his continued fear of nuclear fallout. David is a lovable, intersectional protagonist, and the authors imbue his story with period-appropriate details, such as the novelty of divorced parents and Cold War fear. – Kirkus Review, March 29, 2017
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin
Jim Thorpe, an athlete young readers may never have heard of, was once considered “the best athlete on the planet.” Sheinkin weaves complicated threads of history—the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the story of the Carlisle Indian School, the early days of football, and the dual biographies of Thorpe and his coach Pop Warner—with the narrative skills of a gifted storyteller. He is unflinchingly honest in pointing out the racism in white American culture at large and in football culture. Superb nonfiction that will entertain as it informs. – starred Kirkus Review, October 26, 2016