Prize Celebrates the Best American History Book for Middle Readers, Ages 9–12

The New-York Historical Society, New York’s first museum, has announced that this year’s Children’s History Book Prize has been awarded to author Veera Hiranandani for How to Find What You’re Not Looking For (Kokila, 2021). The prize of $10,000 is awarded annually to the best American history book for middle readers ages 9–12, fiction or nonfiction. A special online ceremony to celebrate the author will take place in the near future.

How to Find What You’re Not Looking For tells the story of middle schooler Ariel Goldberg and how her life changes when her big sister elopes with a young man from India following the 1967 Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia. As she defines her own beliefs, Ariel is forced to grapple with both her family’s prejudice and the antisemitism she experiences.

“Veera Hiranandani has written a deeply compelling book that beautifully illustrates how a national event, like a Supreme Court decision, can impact everyday Americans, especially young people,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical. “It’s our honor to present Veera with this year’s Children’s History Book Prize.”

“I’ve never thought of myself as a historian and I’m not, in the academic sense, but my winding and somewhat unexpected journey as a writer of historical fiction for young people has been deeply rewarding,” said Veera Hiranandani. “This book was inspired by the questions I’ve had about my own family history and how I came to be. Receiving this award is a great honor and personally validating knowing that more young people will read about the characters in this book who embody racial and religious identities which are not often centered in our experience of American history. It’s also a privilege to join the stellar list of finalists and previous winners.”

Veera Hiranandani is the award-winning author of several books for young people. Her most recent middle-grade novel, How to Find What You’re Not Looking For, received the 2022 Sydney Taylor Book Award, the 2022 Jane Addams Book Award, and was a finalist for the 2022 National Jewish Book Award. It was also named a Best Children’s Book of the Year by Amazon, Kirkus Reviews, Bank Street College, and Brightly. Her Newbery Honor-winning novel, The Night Diary, also received the 2019 Walter Dean Myers Honor Award, the 2018 Malka Penn Award for Human Rights in Children’s Literature, and several other honors and state reading list awards. Her first novel for young readers, The Whole Story of Half a Girl, was named a Sydney Taylor Notable Book and was a South Asia Book Award Highly Commended selection. She’s also the author of the chapter book series Phoebe G. Green. A former book editor at Simon & Schuster, she now teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College’s Writing Institute and is working on her next novel.

The book prize was selected by a jury comprising librarians, educators, historians, and families with middle schoolers. Finalists for this year’s Children’s History Book Prize were Defiant: Growing up in the Jim Crow South by Wade Hudson, Finding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh, and Race Against Time: The Untold Story of Scipio Jones and the Battle to Save Twelve Innocent Men by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace.

Past winners of the Children’s History Book Prize include NeverCaught, The Story of Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar and Kathleen Van Cleve, telling the true story of Ona Judge, an enslaved woman who dared to escape to freedom from George and Martha Washington; Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages about one girl’s discovery of the long history of women who played baseball; Fred Korematsu Speaks Up by Laura Atkins and‎ Stan Yogi (authors),‎ Yutaka Houlette (illustrator) about a young Japanese American man who defied U.S. governmental orders by refusing to report to prison camps during World War II; Unbound: A Novel in Verse by Ann E. Burg about a young enslaved girl who, forced with the horror of being permanently separated from her family, urges them all to flee to the swamps; Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan about children facing 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; Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War by Helen Frost about two boys whose friendship is tested when the War of 1812 divided native and settler communities in the Indiana Territory; and The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine about a young girl in Little Rock, Arkansas, who sees her city and family divided over school integration.

The Children’s History Book Prize is part of New-York Historical’s larger efforts on behalf of children and families. The DiMenna Children’s History Museum regularly presents programs where families explore history together. At its popular monthly family book clubReading into History, families discuss a historical fiction or nonfiction book they previously read at home, share their reactions, discover related artifacts and documents, and meet historians and authors. New-York Historical’s work with middle school readers and their families is grounded in the belief that offering creative opportunities to engage the entire family helps young readers grow and thrive.

About the New-York Historical Society
Experience 400 years of history through groundbreaking exhibitions, immersive films, and thought-provoking conversations among renowned historians and public figures at the New-York Historical Society, New York’s first museum. A great destination for history since 1804, the Museum and the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library convey the stories of the city and nation’s diverse populations, expanding our understanding of who we are as Americans and how we came to be. Ever-rising to the challenge of bringing little or unknown histories to light, New-York Historical will soon inaugurate a new annex housing its Academy for American Democracy as well as the American LGBTQ+ Museum. These latest efforts to help forge the future by documenting the past join New-York Historical’s DiMenna Children’s History Museum and Center for Women’s History. Digital exhibitions, apps, and our For the Ages podcast make it possible for visitors everywhere to dive more deeply into history. Connect with us at or at @nyhistory on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube, and Tumblr.