The 2014 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction goes to Kirkpatrick Hill for Bo at Ballard Creek, illustrated by LeUyen Pham; published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, a division of the Macmillan Children’s Book Group.
Like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods, Bo at Ballard Creek takes its young heroine (and readers) through a year of frontier living, eventful with the dramas of child life. But what a different frontier: Bo lives in 1920s bush Alaska with her two papas, miners drawn to the wilderness for the Gold Rush and now trying to hang on as the gold becomes depleted and their world begins to change. Staying absolutely true to what a young child would find important, the story is nonchalant about such adult concerns as moonshine and sporting girls; exciting when it counts (there’s a bear and an airplane); and downright cheerful in its depiction of Papa Jack (African American) and Papa Arvid (Swedish) and their multicultural community of miners and Natives. “People you love are always pretty,” observes Jack, a sentiment borne out in the affectionate, gently humorous story.
The Scott O’Dell award, created by Scott O’Dell and Zena Sutherland in 1982 and now administered by Elizabeth Hall, carries with it a prize of $5000, and goes annually to the author of a distinguished work of historical fiction for young people published by a U. S. publisher and set in the Americas. The winner is chosen by a committee appointed by Elizabeth Hall; its members are Ann Carlson, librarian at the Oak Park-River Forest High School; Deborah Stevenson, editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books; and, as chair, Roger Sutton, editor in chief of The Horn Book. For more information about Scott O’Dell and the Scott O’Dell Award please visit scottodell.com.