The 2017 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction goes to Full of Beans, by Jennifer L. Holm, published by Random House Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books.
Narrator Beans Curry immerses middle-grade readers in his kid world of Depression-era Key West, where he and his pals rub shoulders with rum runners and New Dealer tourism boosters, manage their own money-making schemes, and learn that adults and kids all do what they have to do to make it through hard times.
Ten-year-old Beans is a comradely wiseacre, leveling with the reader about such truths as “grownups are lying liars” as he and his friends freely roam the island in an anarchic existence that’s never curbed or controlled by their occasional encounters with adults. Yet Holm’s one-liners are deeply meaningful as well as funny and stylish, and under his cynicism Beans is a sweet and wide-eyed guy who loves his mother, marbles, and the movies, not necessarily in that order. The historical details will be eye-opening to youngsters who only know the prosperous Florida of the present day and who have only a hazy and distant notion of the Depression, and the book’s witty, economical writing makes it as delightful for group sharing as for independent reading.
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 Elizabeth Bush, former librarian at St. Damian School and adjunct faculty at the iSchool at the University of Illinois; Ann Carlson, librarian at the Oak Park-River Forest High School; Roger Sutton, editor in chief of The Horn Book; and, as chair, Deborah Stevenson, editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. For more information about Scott O’Dell and the Scott O’Dell Award please visit scottodell.com or contact Deborah Stevenson at firstname.lastname@example.org.