The Scott O’Dell Award

odell award“In 1982, Scott O’Dell established The Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. The annual award of $5,000 goes to an author for a meritorious book published in the previous year for children or young adults.  Scott O’Dell established this award to encourage other writers–particularly new authors–to focus on historical fiction. He hoped in this way to increase the interest of young readers in the historical background that has helped to shape their country and their world.” From the website’DellAwardforHistoricalFiction.aspx


the land

Taylor, Mildred D. The Land. Speak, 2001, 2003. 375 pages. $17.60 ISBN-13: 978-0756915308

Paul-Edward, son of a white plantation owner and a slave, pursues his life-long dream to own land in the South during Reconstruction.

Historical Fiction

Age Range 13 and up

Rating: 4 out of 5 for quality, 3 out of 5 for popularity.

Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, 2002

Coretta Scott King Award for Author, 2002

ALA Notable Children’s Books, 2002

Paul-Edward Logan is in the unique position of being the child of a slave and a white plantation owner who acknowledges him and has him educated along with his white brothers. Although this is set just after the Civil War and Paul is free, he still suffers from being a mixed-race black man. After a rough start with Mitchell, a young black man who’s family lives and works on the same plantation, they become inseparable friends. Together they run away after Mitchell hits a white man and they travel the South working in lumber camps. Mitchell wants to travel and be free, but Paul wants to own and work some land. Using his carpentry skills he eventually saves enough money and he and Mitchell together work to clear some land in exchange for its title at the end of the work. This is an interesting book, the characters are vibrant and Taylor excels at giving their internal feelings and impulses voice without letting the novel drag. There is some concern about this book and its use of the N-word, but the author says she needed to use the language to give it the proper historical context. While I hate that language, I agree with her that to take it out would take away the teeth of the racism experienced by her characters. This title has won a number of awards, and it is clear to see why; it is well written with a good story and complex, endearing characters.


Copper Sun by Sharon M Draper

The Glory Field by Walter Dean Myers

Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule by Harriette Gillem  Robinet

Book Discussion Questions

  1. Why does Paul avoid his family for so long?
  2. Why is land ownership so important to Paul?

Book Talking

Living in the South after the Civil War was dangerous for a mixed race man with an education. Pursuing ones dreams could lead to danger and death, with little legal recourse.


Interview with author at the ALA

Interview with the author on The Brown Bookshelf


green glass sea

Klages, Ellen. The Green Glass Sea. Viking Juvenile, 2006. 336 pages . $17.99 ISBN-13: 978-0670061341

Dewey and Suze, 11, must make friends against the backdrop of the Trinity project that developed the atomic bomb.

Historical Fiction

Age range: 10-14

Rating: 3 out of 5 for quality, 2 out of 5 for popularity.

Scott O’Dell Award, 2007

In 1943 the race for building the atomic bomb was in full swing, but the scientists and military involved had to live in a secret community in New Mexico, so their families did too. Dewy is 11 and has come to Los Almos to live with her father. When he has to travel on government business, she stays with the family of Suze. Both girls are social outcasts, but where Dewy involves herself in building radios and machines and doesn’t care what the other girls in class think about her, Suze wants to fit in. As they learn to be friends, bonding over comic books and dump runs, Suze learns to accept herself and Dewey learns to open up to someone else. This is such a sweet story of overcoming differences and finding friendship and similarities is the crux, but the mystery surrounding the building of the atomic bomb and living in a community surrounded by secrecy gives this book a unique flavor. This was a nice, although somewhat forgettable book. The characters were a little too typical: one an overweight outcast, the other a math minded nerd, but endearing. The author did a nice job of placing the story in historical context, full of comic books and military furniture. The unique historical setting was the drawing power of this book, and although I should not judge a book by its cover, the cover design did take away from the overall force of the book, looking more like something self-published than a professionally published novel.

Because of the historical context it contains an interesting discussion of the moral problems of the bomb development. The parents, both of whom were scientists working on the project are torn about whether the bomb should be used, or if they should sign the petition that hopes to influence the government to not use the technology they built. While these discussions were not central to the story, they were subtly added in to the conversations in a way to introduce the issues without being awkward.


The Art of Keeping Cool by Janet Taylor Lisle

Bomb: The Race to Build-and Steal-the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

The Loud Silence of Francine Green by Karen Cushman

Book Discussion Questions

  1. Why does it take Suze such a long time to accept Dewey? What is it that finally brings the girls together?
  2. How does living in a secret science community affect the lives of the girls?


Book Talking

What would it be like to live in a secret government community? What if all the adults around you were working on a secret gadget that could change the course of the war?



 Author website

Author interview with Publisher’s Weekly


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