The FOCAL Award is presented annually to an author or illustrator for a creative work which enriches a child's appreciation for and understanding of California.

2016

Angel Island : gateway to Gold Mountain

by Freedman, Russell.
Call Number: x 979.4 F853
2015

Separate is never equal : Sylvia Mendez & her family's fight for desegregation

by Tonatiuh, Duncan.
Call Number: x 370 T663

Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.

2014

The tree lady : the true story of how one tree-loving woman changed a city forever

by Hopkins, H. Joseph.
Call Number: x 92 S493Ho

A charming picture book biography about the life and times of Katherine Olivia Sessions, the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in science and who became known as the "Mother of Balboa Park" for her dedication to gardening and planting trees in San Diego. Colorful and encouraging. Grades K-3.

2013

One crazy summer

by Williams-Garcia, Rita.
Call Number: x

Grades 4-8. During the summer of 1968, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters travel to Oakland, California to visit their mother, who abandoned them as babies. While there, they reluctantly spend time at a summer camp run by the Black Panthers.

2012

One day and one amazing morning on Orange Street

by Rocklin, Joanne.
Call Number: x

The last remaining orange tree on a Southern California street brings together neighbors of all ages as they face their problems and anxieties, including the possibility that a mysterious stranger is a threat to their tree.

2011

Me, Frida

by Novesky, Amy.
Call Number: x 92 K12No

Artist Frida Kahlo finds her own voice and style when her famous husband, Diego Rivera, is commissioned to paint a mural in San Francisco, California, in the 1930s and she finds herself exploring the city on her own.

2010

Redwoods

by Chin, Jason, 1978-
Call Number: x 582 C539

A young city boy, riding the subway, finds an abandoned book about redwoods and finds himself in the very forest described in the book.

2009

Landed

by Lee, Milly.
Call Number: xz

After leaving his village in southeastern China, twelve-year-old Sun is held at Angel Island, San Francisco, before being released to join his father, a merchant living in the area.

2008

Esperanza rising

by Ryan, Pam Muñoz.
Call Number: x

Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their life of wealth and privilege in Mexico to go work in the labor camps of Southern California, where they must adapt to the harsh circumstances facing Mexican farm workers on the eve of the Great Depression. 

2007

The higher power of Lucky

by Patron, Susan.
Call Number: x

Fearing that her legal guardian plans to abandon her to return to France, ten-year-old aspiring scientist Lucky Trimble determines to run away while also continuing to seek the Higher Power that will bring stability to her life.

2006

Al Capone does my shirts

by Choldenko, Gennifer, 1957-
Call Number: x

A twelve-year-old boy named Moose moves to Alcatraz Island in 1935 when guards' families were housed there, and has to contend with his extraordinary new environment in addition to life with his autistic sister.

2005

The red rose box

by Woods, Brenda
Call Number: x

After a hurricane kills Leah and Ruth's parents in 1954, the sisters move to Los Angeles to start a new life with their aunt and uncle.

2004

Daughter of Madrugada

by Wood, Frances M.
Call Number: x

After the United States wins the war with Mexico in 1848, life on her Mexican family's ranch in California is greatly changed for thirteen-year-old Cesa.

2003

Iguanas in the snow and other winter poems/ Iguanas en la nieve y otros poemas de invierno

by Alarcón, Francisco X., 1954-
Call Number: S x 811 A321-3

A family celebrates winter--by the seashore, in the magical city of San Francisco, and in the ancient redwood forests of the Sierras.

2002

Bandit's moon

by Fleischman, Sid, 1920-2010.
Call Number: x

Twelve-year-old Annyrose relates her adventures with Joaquín Murieta and his band of outlaws in the California gold-mining region during the mid-1800s.

2001

Hurry freedom : African Americans in Gold Rush California

by Stanley, Jerry, 1941-
Call Number: x 979 S788

Recounts the history of African Americans in California during the Gold Rush while focusing on the life and work of Mifflin Gibbs.

2000

The circuit : stories from the life of a migrant child

by Jimenez, Francisco, 1943-
Call Number: x

Independent but intertwined stories follow a migrant family through their circuit over a number of years, from picking cotton and strawberries to topping carrots--and back again.

1999

So far from the sea

by Bunting, Eve, 1928-
Call Number: xz

When seven-year-old Laura and her family visit Grandfather's grave at the Manzanar War Relocation Center, the Japanese American child leaves behind a special symbol.

1998

The ballad of Lucy Whipple

by Cushman, Karen.
Call Number: x

In 1849, twelve-year-old California Morning Whipple, who renames herself Lucy, is distraught when her mother moves the family from Massachusetts to a rough California mining town.

1997

Calling the doves/El Canto de las palomas

by Herrera, Juan Felipe.
Call Number: S xz

The author recalls his childhood in the mountains and valleys of California with his farmworker parents who inspired him with poetry and song.

1996

California Blue

by Klass, David.
Call Number: x

When seventeen-year-old John Rodgers discovers a new sub-species of butterfly that may necessitate closing the mill where his dying father works, he and his father find themselves on opposite sides of the environmental conflict.

1995

Earthshine : a novel

by Nelson, Theresa, 1948-
Call Number: x

Both Slim and Isaiah have parents who are dying of AIDS – Isaiah looks for miracles in the "Hungry Valley" north of Los Angeles, but Slim is less optimistic.

1994

Frida Maria : a story of the Old Southwest

by Lattimore, Deborah Nourse.
Call Number: xz

Because she does not sew, cook, or dance like a "proper señorita," Frida cannot please her mother until she saves the day at the fiesta with her special talent.

1993

Children of the Dust Bowl : the true story of the school at Weedpatch Camp

by Stanley, Jerry, 1941-
Call Number: x 370 S788

There was no school at the Weedpatch Federal Labor Camp for the children of migrant workers from the Dust Bowl -- until Superintendent Leo Hart and fifty kids built their own in a nearby field.

1992

Child of the owl

by Yep, Laurence, 1948-
Call Number: x

A twelve-year-old girl who knows little about her Chinese heritage is sent to live with her grandmother in San Francisco's Chinatown.

1991

The great American gold rush

by Blumberg, Rhoda.
Call Number: x 979 B658

People came from all over the world to pursue the dream of discovering gold in California in the mid 19 th -century, and this book tells the story using primary sources such as letters, diaries, newspapers, posters, cartoons and advertisements.

1990

Come the morning

by Harris, Mark Jonathan, 1941-
Call Number: x

Ben and his family find themselves living among the poor and homeless when they leave El Paso for Los Angeles to look for Ben's father.

1989

A room made of windows. Illus. by Trina Schart Hyman.

by Cameron, Eleanor, 1912-1996.
Call Number: x

12-year-old Julia observes the people around her in Berkeley, California, as she makes lists of words in her "Book of Strangenesses" and dreams of becoming a writer.

1988

Farewell to Manzanar; a true story of Japanese American experience during and after the World War II internment [by] Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston & James D. Houston.

by Houston, Jeanne Wakatsuki.
Call Number: x 92 H8425

During World War II, seven-year-old Jeanne Wakatsuki and her family are forced to move into the Manzanar War Relocation Center, where their lives are completely changed.

1987

Dear Mr. Henshaw

by Cleary, Beverly.
Call Number: x

In his letters to his favorite author, ten-year-old Leigh reveals his problems in coping with his parents' divorce, being the new boy in school, and generally finding his own place in the world.

1986

A jar of dreams

by Uchida, Yoshiko.
Call Number: x

Times are hard for everyone in 1935 in Berkeley, California, but for eleven-year-old Rinko being Japanese is an added burden…

1985

Julia and the hand of God

by Cameron, Eleanor, 1912-1996.
Call Number: x

A series of crises lead 11-year-old Julia to see her family in a different light and help her reaffirm her ambition to be a writer.

1984

Dragonwings

by Yep, Laurence, 1948-
Call Number: x

In the early twentieth century a young Chinese boy joins his father in San Francisco and helps him realize his dream of making a flying machine.

1983

By the great horn spoon! Illustrated by Eric von Schmidt.

by Fleischman, Sid, 1920-2010.
Call Number: x

The California gold rush is on and Jack Flagg and his butler, Praiseworthy set out to save pretty Aunt Arabella's fortune.

1982

Blue willow. Illustrated by Paul Lantz.

by Gates, Doris, 1901-1987.
Call Number: x

Ten-year-old Janey, whose family is migrating around California to find work in the 1930s, treasures a single blue willow plate that belonged to her mother, until she discovers something she would trade it for.

1981

Island of the Blue Dolphins

by O'Dell, Scott, 1898-1989.
Call Number: x Ed.c

Left alone on a beautiful but isolated island off the coast of California, a young Indian girl spends eighteen years, not only merely surviving through her enormous courage and self-reliance, but also finding a measure of happiness in her solitary life.

1980

Pedro, the angel of Olvera Street.

by Politi, Leo, 1908-1996.
Call Number: xz

Pedro joins in the Christmas celebrations by leading the Posada procession through his Los Angeles community.