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Children’s History Book Prize

Through the Children’s History Book Prize, the New-York Historical Society honors the best children’s historical literature in the United States and encourages authors to continue to create engaging and challenging narratives that provide a window into the past for middle readers and their families. The winning author is awarded $10,000. The jury comprises librarians, educators, historians, and families with middle grade readers.

The New-York Historical Society is dedicated to exploring history through characters and narrative. To support this endeavor, the Barbara K. Lipman Children’s History Library in the DiMenna Children’s History Museum has a wide selection of children’s books about American and New York history, and hosts a variety of book-focused family programs, including the Reading into History Family Book Club, Sunday Story Time, and Little New-Yorkers.

Winner of the 6th annual Children’s History Book Prize

Winning author Ellen Klages (l) and honored guest Maria Pepe (r)

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. 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, Mar. 2018

A real-life sports pioneer, Maria Pepe helped break the gender barrier in Little League baseball in 1973. Pepe joined Klages to celebrate Out of Left Field at the New-York Historical Society’s Book Prize ceremony.

Finalists for the 6th annual Children’s History Book Prize

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 due to Tonya Bolden’s skilled storytelling. It fully captures his outsized personality and provides clarity for nuanced episodes such as his disagreements with Garrison, his refusal to support efforts to colonize blacks 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, and 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 the death of Little Charlie Bobo’s father, 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. In this way, Charlie becomes a partner with a man known for his cruelty on a mission to track enslaved people. Newbery winner 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

Winner of the 5th annual Children’s History Book Prize

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up by Laura Atkins and‎ Stan Yogi (Authors),‎ Yutaka Houlette (Illustrator)

When Fred Korematsu, a young Japanese-American man, defied U.S. governmental orders by refusing to report to prison camps during World War II, he and his allies set in motion a landmark civil liberties case. Written in free verse, Fred’s story engages in powerful bursts and shows how speaking out brings complex consequences. Enhanced with pictures and archival materials, well-researched and approachable historical essays interspersed throughout. A must-read for all civics classrooms. – starred Kirkus Review, November 16, 2016


Finalists for the 5th annual Children’s History Book Prize

Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar

In the 1960s, Ruthie Mizrahi, a young Jewish Cuban immigrant to New York City, spends nearly a year observing her family and friends from her bed after severely breaking her leg. Bedridden and lonely, she begins collecting stories from her Jewban grandparents and her fellow young immigrant friends. A cultural anthropologist and poet, the author based the book on her own childhood experiences. The language is lyrical and rich, the intersectionality—ethnicity, religion, class, gender—insightful, and the story remarkably engaging. A poignant and relevant retelling of a child immigrant’s struggle to recover from an accident and feel at home in America. – starred Kirkus Review,
February 4, 2017

This Is Just a Test by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
and‎ Madelyn Rosenberg

It’s autumn 1983 in northern Virginia, and David Da-Wei Horowitz, who is Chinese and Jewish, is busy preparing for his bar mitzvah—but that’s only if he lives that long, considering that after watching The Day After, he’s worried about what will happen if there’s a nuclear holocaust. In the months leading up to his bar mitzvah, David deals with a host of middle school crises, including bickering grandmas, trouble talking to his crush, and his continued fear of nuclear fallout. David is a lovable, intersectional protagonist, and the authors imbue his story with period-appropriate details, such as the novelty of divorced parents and Cold War fear.  – Kirkus Review, March 29, 2017

Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School
Football Team 
by Steve Sheinkin 

Jim Thorpe, an athlete young readers may never have heard of, was once considered “the best athlete on the planet.” Sheinkin weaves complicated threads of history—the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the story of the Carlisle Indian School, the early days of football, and the dual biographies of Thorpe and his coach Pop Warner—with the narrative skills of a gifted storyteller. He is unflinchingly honest in pointing out the racism in white American culture at large and in football culture. Superb nonfiction that will entertain as it informs.  – starred Kirkus Review, October 26, 2016

Winner of the 4th annual Children’s History Book Prize:

Unbound: A Novel in Verse by Ann E. Burg

When Grace turns nine, she is forced to leave the daily work of helping Aunt Sara tend her baby brothers and the daily joy of seeing Mama come home each night from the fields—she must now work in the plantation kitchen. Faced with the horror of being permanently separated from her family, she urges them all to flee to the swamps. Told through Grace's eyes, the story unfolds with a combination of historical precision, honesty, and adventure. Burg’s research is based in part on narratives of the formerly enslaved, collected by the Federal Writers Project. – Kirkus Review, June 22, 2016

Winner of the New Americans Prize:

It Ain’t So Awful Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas

After a rocky start, Cindy (Zomorod to her parents) finds a comfortable niche in her California middle school until political upheaval and revolution in Iran reach the United States, threatening her future and her family’s safety. Her engineer dad, who loves to talk about the oil industry, and her unhappy mom, who won’t learn English, pose bigger obstacles to fitting in. On her own journey to maturity, Cindy deftly guides young readers through Iran’s complicated realities in this fresh take on the immigrant experience—authentic, funny, and moving from beginning to end. – Kirkus Review, February 17, 2016


Finalists for the 4th annual Children’s History Book Prize:

Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original “Girl” Reporter, Nellie Bly by Deborah Noyes
Young Nellie Bly had ambitious goals, especially for a woman at the end of the 19th century, when the few female journalists were relegated to writing about cleaning or fashion. But fresh off a train from Pittsburgh, Nellie knew she was destined for more and pulled a major journalistic stunt that skyrocketed her to fame: feigning insanity, being committed to the notorious asylum on Blackwell's Island, and writing a shocking exposé of the clinic’s horrific treatment of its patients. Plentiful black-and-white photographs, cartoons, newspaper pages, and artifacts expand the sense of time and place in this lively biography that reflects the spirit of the intrepid reporter. – Kirkus Review, November 3, 2015

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
World War II is raging and families in ­Annabelle’s rural Pennsylvania community have lost sons, but the conflict is a distant one. Painting rural life with an even hand, [Wolk] shows its beauty and its hardship, the strong ties that bind people who live in the country and the intolerance that sometimes finds root there. With a precociously perceptive girl as a main character; a damaged, misunderstood recluse; and themes of prejudice and bigotry, comparisons to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird will abound. But Wolk gives us her own story—one full of grace and stark, ­brutal beauty. – New York Times, May 5, 2016

Winner of the 3rd annual Children’s History Book Prize:

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Muñoz Ryan’s Echo beautifully weaves together the individual stories of a boy in Germany during the early 1930s, two orphans in Pennsylvania during the mid-1930s, and a Mexican girl in California in the early 1940s as the same harmonica lands in their lives, binding them by an invisible thread of destiny. All the children face daunting challenges—rescuing a father from the Nazis, keeping a brother out of an orphanage, and protecting the farm of a Japanese family during internment—until their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo.

Finalists for the 3rd Annual Children’s History Book Prize:

Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip through the Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney




I Don't Know How the Story Ends by J.B. Cheaney





My Near-Death Adventures by Alison DeCamp






Winner of the 2nd annual Children’s History Book Prize:

Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War by Helen Frost

Helen Frost brings us a rare story, written completely in verse, of two boys growing up in the Indiana Territory in 1812. Anikwa and James’ worlds are the same and totally different. Both are 12-year-olds who love to hunt and explore the natural world. But when war between the United States and Great Britain breaks out in their own backyards in Fort Wayne, Indiana, precious commodities like salt become scarce. This conflict threatening the lives of Anikwa’s Miami tribe and white settlers like James. Frost shows us how the War of 1812 divided native and settler communities who had enjoyed a brief period of peace and mutual dependence, and gives readers a peek at a conflict rarely explored in schools.

Finalists for the 2nd Annual Children’s History Book Prize:

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
In vivid poems, Woodson shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s. Each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged. Each line offers a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. (National Book Foundation)


Courage Has No Color, The True Story of the Triple Nickles: America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone
During World War II, African American soldiers were often relegated to service and security jobs and denied training, as well as active-combat positions available to their fellow white soldiers. Expertly woven together are two narratives: the large, overarching history of rampant racism in the U.S. Military and the smaller, tightly focused account of a group of black soldiers determined to serve their country and demonstrate their value as soldiers. They faced multiple setbacks as they encountered racism, sometimes justified as “policy.” (School Library Journal)

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
Set in Placid, Wisconsin, in 1871, One Came Home tells the story of 13-year-old Georgie Burkhardt’s quest to track down the truth about her missing sister. The story unfolds during the largest passenger pigeon nesting season ever seen in North American, and Timberlake captures the life of this Midwestern town, Georgie’s shop-keeping family, and how the pigeon nesting could transform the landscape and economy of a small town. 


Winner of the 1st annual Children’s History Book Prize: 

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
In 1958 Little Rock, Arkansas, painfully shy 12-year-old Marlee sees her city and family divided over school integration, but her friendship with Liz, a new student, helps her find her voice and fight against racism.




Finalists for the 1st Annual Children’s History Book Prize:  
(book descriptions from the Library of Congress)

Crow by Barbara Wright 
In 1898, Moses Thomas’s summer vacation does not go exactly as planned as he contends with family problems and the ever-changing alliances among his friends at the same time as he is exposed to the escalating tension between the African-American and white communities of Wilmington, North Carolina.



Diamond in the Desert by Kathryn Fitzmaurice 
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, thirteen-year-old Tetsu and his family are sent to the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona where a fellow prisoner starts a baseball team, but when Tetsu’s sister becomes ill and he feels responsible, he stops playing.




No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson 
Told by a banker that he should sell fried chicken rather than books, since "Negroes don’t read", Lewis Michaux defies the odds to build Harlem’s National Memorial African Bookstore, an intellectual center and gathering place from 1939 to 1975.

Read these books and more like them in the New-York Historical Society's monthly family book club, Reading into History.


The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
In 1958 Little Rock, Arkansas, painfully shy 12-year-old Marlee sees her city and family divided over school integration, but her friendship with Liz, a new student, helps her find her voice and fight against racism.


To submit books for consideration for the 7th Annual New-York Historical Society Children’s History Book Prize, please send six reader copies to:


Alice Stevenson
Director, DiMenna Children’s History Museum
The New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024


Only books published in 2019 are eligible. Submissions must be received no later than October 1, 2019.


The New-York Historical Society Children’s History Book Prize is supported by an anonymous donor.


Creative: Tronvig Group