The Scott O'Dell Award

The Award for Historical Fiction

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 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. To submit a nomination, scoll to the next section below.

The 2020 Award Winner

Butterfly Yellow (HarperCollins), by Thanhhà Lại, 2020.  In the final days of the Việt Nam War, Hằng takes her little brother, Linh, to the airport, determined to find a way to safety in America. In a split second, Linh is ripped from her arms—and Hằng is left behind in the war-torn country. Six years later, Hằng has made the brutal journey from Việt Nam and is now in Texas as a refugee. She doesn’t know how she will find the little brother who was taken from her until she meets LeeRoy, a city boy with big rodeo dreams, who decides to help her. Hằng is overjoyed when she reunites with Linh. But when she realizes he doesn’t remember her, their family, or Việt Nam, her heart is crushed. Though the distance between them feels greater than ever, Hằng has come so far that she will do anything to bridge the gap. Deborah Stevenson, Chair for the Scott O'Dell Award Committee, says Butterfly Yellow is a "new angle on refugee stories where the focus is more often simply the wrenching departure or the establishment of a new life; Hằng has survived that departure and a savage pirate attack that left her mother dead and herself covered with scars, and her main goal now is the reconnection to the one piece remaining of her old existence. "

Past Award Winners, 2006-2019

Finding Langston (Holiday House), by Lesa Cline-Ransome, 2019. 

Beyond the Bright Sea (Dutton Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers), by Lauren Wolk, 2018. 

Full of Beans (Random House Books for Young Readers), by Jennifer L. Holm, 2017. 

The Hired Girl (Candlewick Press), by Laura Amy Schlitz, 2016.  

Dash (Scholastic Press), by Kirby Larson, 2015.

Bo at Ballard Creek (Henry Holt and Co.), by Kirkpatrick Hill, 2014.

Chickadee (HarperCollins), by Louise Erdrich, 2013. 

Dead End in Norvelt (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), by Jack Gantos, 2012.

One Crazy Summer (Amistad), by Rita Williams Garcia, 2011.

The Storm in the Barn (Candlewick), by Matt Phelan, 2010. 

Chains (Simon & Schuster), by Laurie Halse Anderson, 2009.

Elijah of Buxton (Scholastic), by Christopher Paul Curtis, 2008.

The Green Glass Sea (Viking Children's Books), by Ellen Klages, 2007.

The Game of Silence (HarperCollins Children's Books), by Louise Erdrich, 2006.

To view winners from 1984-2005, scroll to the section below the nomination form.

Submit An Award Nomination

The Award


Established by Scott O’Dell and Zena Sutherland in 1982, the Scott O’Dell Award is given for a distinguished work of historical fiction for young readers. To be eligible, a book must be published by a U.S. publisher; the setting must be South, Central or North America; and the author must be a U.S. citizen. Books published during each calendar year are eligible for the following year’s award. Awards are normally given during the annual ALA Conference. However, due to author schedules, awards may be given during the Winter meeting. The Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction's Awards Committee may consider any eligible book, but publishers’ submissions are valuable in bringing books to the attention of the Committee. To be eligible for the award, a book must have been published as a book intended for children or young people, it must be set in the New World (Canada, Central or South America, or the United States), it must be published by a publisher in the United States, and it must be written in English by a citizen of the United States. Each year the selection is made by the Award Committee, which was headed from its inception in 1982 until her death in 2002 by Zena Sutherland, Professor Emeritus of Children's Literature at the University of Chicago.

The Award Committee


The Scott O'Dell Estate is eternally grateful for the following members of the Award Committee: Deborah Stevenson, Editor of The Bulletin and Director of the Center for Children's Books is the Committee Chair. She is assisted by Elizabeth (Betty) Bush, former St. Damian School Librarian and adjunct faculty for the University of Illinois’ iSchool; and Roger Sutton, Editor in Chief of the Horn Book, Inc. (The Scott O'Dell Estate is extremely grateful to Ann Carlson, Librarian at Oak Park and River Forest High School, who in October 2019 after twenty years of service, stepped down from the Award Committee.) If you have inquiries regarding the submission process or timeline that the information provided in the column to the right doesn't address, please email the Award Committee Chair, Ms. Deborah Stevenson, at and put “O’Dell Award” in the subject line.

Submission Instructions


Books may be submitted throughout the year to the Award Committee. An Awards Nomination Form with all of the following information may be downloaded below. For each title you wish to bring to the attention of the Award Committee, send the following information directly to Ms. Deborah Stevenson, Committee Chair: Indicate O’Dell Award Nomination Candidate; Submit Book Title (include subtitle if there is one), Author, Publisher, Month and Year of Publication; Include Name, telephone number, and e-mail address of the publishing house contact. One copy of each book you wish to bring to the Committee’s attention should be sent to the following Committee members: Ms. Deborah Stevenson, Scott O’Dell Award, 1115 W. Union Street, Champaign, IL 61821. Ms. Ann Carlson, Scott O’Dell Award, 835 Keystone Avenue, River Forest, IL 60305. Ms. Elizabeth Bush, 17242 Henry Street, Lansing, IL 60438. Mr. Roger Sutton, Scott O’Dell Award, Horn Book, 300 The Fenway, Palace Road Bldg., Suite P-311, Boston, MA 02115.

Award Nomination Form

Click on the file to download the form and information.

Awards, 1984-2005

Past Recipients

Worth (Simon & Schuster), A LaFaye, 2005.

The River Between Us (Dial Press), Richard Peck, 2004.

Trouble Don't Last (Alfred A. Knopf), Shelley Pearsall, 2003. 

The Land (Phyllis Fogelman Books), Mildred D. Taylor, 2002. 

The Art of Keeping Cool (A Richard Jackson Book/Antheneum), Janet Taylor Lisle, 2001. 

Two Suns in the Sky (Front Street/Cricket Books), Miriam Bat-Ami, 2000. 

Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule (Jean Fritz/Antheneum), Harriette Robinette, 1999. 

Out of the Dust (Scholastic), Karen Hesse, 1998. 

Jip, His Story (Lodestar/Dutton), Katherine Patterson, 1997. 

The Bomb (Harcourt, Brace), Theodore Taylor, 1996. 

Under the Blood Red Sun (Delacorte), Graham Salisbury, 1995.

Bull Run (Laura Geringer/Harper-Collins), Paul Fleischmann, 1994.

Morning Girl (Hyperion), Michael Dorris, 1993.

Stepping on Cracks (Clarion), Mary Downing Hahn, 1992.

A Time of Troubles (Charles Scribner's Sons), Pieter Van Raven, 1991.

Shades of Gray (Macmillan), Carolyn Reeder, 1990.

The Honorable Prison (Lodestar/Dutton), Lyll Becca de Jenkins, 1989.

Charley Skedaddle (Morrow), Patricia Beatty, 1988. 

Streams to the River, River to the Sea (Houghton Mifflin--Award money donated to Children's Book Council), Scott O'Dell, 1987.

Sarah, Plain and Tall (Harper & Row), Patricia MacLachlan, 1986.

The Fighting Ground (Lippincott), Avi, 1985. 

The Sign of the Beaver (Houghton Mifflin), Elizabeth George Speare, 1984.

Additional Information: In 1981 and 1982, no books of sufficient merit were published, so no award was given in 1982 or 1983.  Since 1984, the award has been presented each year.