Scott O’Dell was born in Los Angeles, CA, on May 23, 1898. His father was a railroad worker, and the family moved around a lot in the Southern California area when Scott was a boy. He loved the outdoors, the water, and sea life, all of which played a role in much of his children’s writing. He attended several colleges from 1919 through 1925, though he never graduated, since he only took classes which interested him and which might help him achieve a writing career. He was a cameraman for the movie “Ben-Hur,” served in the Air Force in WWII, and even spent some time as a rancher.
In 1934, he began writing fiction and nonfiction for adults, and in the 1940s and 1950s, he was a book columnist for the Los Angeles Mirror and a book editor for the Los Angeles Daily News.
In the late 1950s, O’Dell began writing children’s books. Perhaps his best-known work is Island of the Blue Dolphins (1960), which won the Newbery Medal in 1961, as well as many other awards. Three other works of O’Dell’s historical fiction were Newbery Honor books: The King’s Fifth (1966), The Black Pearl (1967), and Sing Down the Moon (1970). In 1981, he established the Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Award, for books published in English by a U.S. publisher and set in the New World. O’Dell himself won this award in 1987 for Streams to the River, River to the Sea. He died on October 15, 1989.