Fort Wayne author Helen Frost's 2020 book, “All He Knew” (reviewed on this page Jan. 3), has been named the Scott O'Dell Award winner.
O'Dell, a best-selling author, established the award in 1982 to encourage other writers to focus on historical fiction, hoping to “increase the interest of young readers in the historical background that has helped to shape their country and their world.”
Frost's book tells the story of Henry, a 6-year-old rendered deaf by illness. Henry is classified as “unteachable,” and his family is advised to send him to the Riverview Home for the Feeble-Minded. He learns to survive in the abusive facility.
“An established verse novelist, Frost brings her meticulous technical skill to bear in a narrative that mixes free verse and sonnets,” according to the award. “The historical period subtly infuses the story, as the wartime economy brings changes outside the institution as well as in, but Henry's circumstances and evocatively conveyed viewpoint will still quickly capture contemporary youngsters. It's a story that can work with readers of various ages, so it would make a compelling family read or readaloud as well as an individual exploration.”
The annual award of $5,000 goes to an author for a meritorious book published in the previous year for children or young adults.
O'Dell, who died in 1989, was author of “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” which won the 1961 Newberry Medal.