Back on June 1, the New-York Historical Society (N-YHS) held an event to honor the winner of its fourth annual “Children’s History Book Prize”.

The award, which is $10,000, honors the best historical literature for middle readers (children between the ages of 9 – 12) and their families. Each year, the winner is selected by a jury comprised of librarians, educators, historians, and families with middle readers, and the award is part of N-YHS’ larger efforts to promote literacy and history education among City’s students.

Unbound Cover Photo

Unbound, winner of the N-YHS Children’s History Book Prize

This year, Chancellor Carmen Fariña presented N-YHS’ 2017 Children’s History Book Prize to Ann E. Burg, author of Unbound: A Novel in Verse.

Unbound: A Novel in Verse is a fictional story of an enslaved family’s harrowing escape from captivity and their inspiring search for freedom. The book centers on Grace, a nine-year old whose questions regarding the horrible nature of her and her family’s captivity set off a chain of events that force Grace and her family to flee deep into the woods and brave deadly animals, slave patrols, and swamps.

In addition to the Children’s History Book Prize, N-YHS and Chancellor Fariña also presented a second award for the first time: the inaugural “New Americans Children’s History Book Prize”, which awards $2,000 to the best American history book for middle readers that speaks to the stories of immigrants.

It Aint So Awful Falafel Cover Photo
It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel, winner of the New Americans Children’s History Book Prize

The winner of the first-ever New Americans Children’s History Book Prize is It Ain’t So Awful, Falafelby Firoozeh Dumas.

Dumas’ moving yet upbeat book takes place in the late 1970’s and follows Zomorod Yousefzadeh, a young girl who recently moved with her family to the U.S. from Iran. Determined to fit in, Zomorod begins calling herself “Cindy,” but as time goes on, Zomorod finds it harder and harder to fit into her new home as events occurring in Iran begin to make headlines in the U.S. As the Iranian Revolution takes hold in her former home, Cindy begins to find it difficult to navigate the anti-Iranian sentiments that are making their way into her day-to-day life.

Both Unbound: A Novel in Verse and It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel would make great additions to any middle schooler’s summer reading list. On behalf of the DOE, we congratulate Ms. Burg and Ms. Dumas for their award-winning contributions to children’s historical literature!


Ann E. Burg (center) and Firoozeh Dumas (right) spoke with Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical Society (left) about their books following an award ceremony on June 1, 2017.

In addition to Unbound: A Novel in Verse and It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel, two other great books were finalists for this year’s Children’s History Book Prize:

Ten Days a Madwoman CoverTen Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original “Girl” Reporter, Nellie Bly by Deborah Noyes.

This biography of Nellie Bly, one of the most renown reporters of the 19th Century, details the story behind Bly’s most famous report: her exposé of the notorious Blackwell’s Island Asylum (on what is now Roosevelt Island). To write her report, Bly pretended to be insane and had herself committed to the asylum so that she could witness and experience the horrific treatment that patients were being subjected to while in custody. Ultimately, Bly’s reporting led to the shutdown of the asylum.

Wolf Hollow CoverWolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Annabelle, an eleven-year old who lives in a rural Pennsylvania community in 1943, enjoys a mostly peaceful life until a cruel new student, Betty Glengarry, moves into town and begins to bully a local vagabond named Toby, a reclusive, yet kind, World War I veteran. As time goes on, Betty’s malice becomes more violent, until one day, she goes missing. Toby immediately becomes the prime suspect in Betty’s disappearance, but Annabelle, a perceptive and intelligent young girl, is absolutely sure of Toby’s innocence. Despite the odds, Annabelle is determined to prove everyone wrong.

We congratulate Ms. Noyes and Ms. Wolk on being named finalists for this year’s Children’s History Book Prize; their great works are worthy of recognition, and either author’s book would make a great addition to a child’s summer reading list.

For more information about the N-YHS Children’s History Book Prize, including past winners, please visit N-YHS’ webpage.





The Morning Bell

Official blog for the NYC Department of Education, home of over 1.1 million students across 1,800+ schools

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