Are you looking for a great book to share with a middle reader in your life? (Psst! You will love these, too!) Dig into the four finalists for this year’s New-York Historical Society Children’s History Book Prize and visit us here on the blog to meet each of the authors and hear more about their writing process. Most importantly, vote in our online reader poll (live in April) to help us choose a winner!
What do winning books of our Children’s History Book Prize have in common?
When we choose our finalists and winners, we are looking for complex and relatable characters, well-researched and historically accurate content, and literary stories. We also love it when readers learn something new about American history, or are surprised in some way by the story. As you get ready to vote in our online reader poll in April, read thoughtfully and think deeply about what makes each finalist great.
How is the winning book 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 four finalists include fiction and nonfiction books featuring protagonists male and female, old and young, from diverse backgrounds—with stories set in communities all throughout the United States that span two centuries of American history. In alphabetical order, this year’s finalists are:
Facing Frederick by Tonya Bolden
Frederick Douglass wanted to be viewed as more than an escaped slave, and this narrative about a well-known figure feels fresh thanks to Tonya Bolden’s skilled storytelling. It fully captures his outsized personality and provides clarity for nuanced episodes such as his disagreements with William Lloyd Garrison, his refusal to support the colonization movement for African Americans to relocate outside of the United States, and his reservations about John Brown’s raid. It is a spirited biography that fully honors its redoubtable subject. – starred Kirkus Review, December 2017
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
A small room behind the office of the Calivista Motel is home for fifth grader Mia Tang and her parents. The Chinese American family works bone-numbing hours cleaning rooms, fixing problems, and managing the front desk. Troubles check in from every direction: at home, where Mia’s mom belittles her love of writing; at school, where bullies and lies surround her; and at the motel, where the family battles financial ruin. Yet along the seemingly endless roller coaster of poverty, hope appears in small places. Many readers will recognize themselves or their neighbors in these pages. – starred Kirkus Review, March 2018
The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis
A few weeks after Little Charlie Bobo’s father passes away, Cap’n Buck—the overseer of the plantation on which they farm—tells the 12-year-old and his ma that the elder Charlie Bobo had taken a down payment on a job to recover lost property. As a result, Charlie unwittingly partners with a man known for his cruelty on a mission to track enslaved people. Newbery winner Christopher Paul Curtis once again successfully draws on the stories about enslaved people who found freedom in Canada. By seeing the story through the eyes of a poor white boy and a white overseer, readers confront how so many were connected by slavery. Curtis demonstrates in dramatic fashion how much the formerly enslaved valued their freedom and what they were willing to do to help one of their own remain free. – Kirkus Review, December 2017
Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages
Katy calls herself Casey and tries out for Little League as a boy. She makes the team, but her ruse is discovered, and she is ruled ineligible. Katy doesn’t give up and in a reply to her letter to Little League headquarters, she is informed that the game had always been solely for males. Determined to find proof that girls played baseball, Katy meticulously begins her research, enlarging her parameters to dovetail it with an assigned fifth-grade project. Ellen Klages seamlessly interweaves Katy’s research with the world-changing events of 1957, from Sputnik to Little Rock, allowing readers to access the information with Katy. – starred Kirkus Review, March 2018
Written by Alice Stevenson
Director, DiMenna Children’s History Museum