Thursday, January 26, 2012

And the Scott O'Dell winner is...

I confess I was paying so much attention to the Newberys and other ALA book awards that the announcement of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction passed me by.  This is an annual prize for a meritorious book for children or young adults (see the sponsor's website), and it comes with an award of $5000.

As revealed on January 17th, the winner for 2012 is Jack Gantos' Dead End in Norvelt (FSG, 2011), which yes also took home the 2012 Newbery Medal.  Read more at School Library Journal

This morning, I opened up my issue of Shelf Awareness and found a fantastic, very funny interview with Gantos that you can find here (scroll 2/3 down the page).  The novel's set during the summer of 1962, in Gantos's home town of Norvelt, Pennsylvania, a federally planned New Deal town named after Eleanor Roosevelt.  The Q&A has some great discussion points on the nature of historical fiction, homestead communities, and using real people as characters.

A short quote from Jennifer M. Brown's interview:

JB:  When you won the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction last week, we had to pause before realizing--ah yes, the setting is the summer of 1962, and it is historical fiction!

JG:  That's, let's see, exactly 50 years ago. I think you can get antique license plates for a 1962 car. Somebody said, "How does it feel to be given an award for a historical novel where you're the main character?" When you put it that way, I'm feeling a little crusty.
Did you realize that if you go by the (somewhat arbitrary) definition that historical novels are set 50+ years in the past, that this now includes the early '60s?  When I first started getting interested in the field, I remember talking to some readers my grandmother's age who were taken aback that WWII-era fiction was considered "historical."  They lived through that era and remembered it well.  Now that date range has moved ahead by a couple of decades.

There are advantages to working in a library with a curriculum materials center.  After reading about both awards, I searched in our online catalog to see whether we had a copy of Dead End in Norvelt - and we did!  And it was available and on display with other award winners.  So I grabbed it.


  1. You know, I honestly can't bring myself to swallow the 50 years definition. There's no way that the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Berlin Wall, etc., are not historical, or don't belong in hist-fic. They were mind-changing events that will never occur in the same way again.

    Which make the arbitrary definition, to my thinking, somewhat--uh--outdated. :)

  2. It's interesting, isn't it?

    I'd put Vietnam and the Cold War in as "historical" enough for me to count as HF. If you mean the construction of the Berlin Wall, sure. The fall of it - 1989 is a year I remember very well. It's a major historical event, and I could maybe see a YA novel about it called HF, because kids wouldn't have been around then, but personally it seems too recent for me. My own mindset doesn't feel significantly different than it was then. That's why it's all arbitrary to some degree :)

  3. I remember the fall of the Wall too, very well--and I don't know why, but it felt ... shattering. One of the great last events of the Cold War, and I get a huge sense of history when I look at it.

    But I have an active imagination. :D