Born May 23, 1898 in Los Angeles, Scott O'Dell was able to see many parts
of southern California and enjoy many experiences with nature as a child. His
father was a railroad worker, so the family moved often. As a boy O'Dell relished
his outdoor activities, which included paddling to sea on logs, prying abalones from
their hiding places, and searching for fish in caves.
As an adult, O'Dell worked as a cameraman, most notably on the movie Ben Hur. He
enlisted in the Air Force and served in Texas during World War II. Later, he worked as
a book editor for a Los Angeles newspaper. He became a full-time writer in 1934, first
writing both fiction and nonfiction for adults. In the late 1950s, he began to write
books for children.
O'Dell's contribution to children's literature has been significant.
He received the Newbery Medal for Island of the Blue Dolphins and Newbery Honor recognition
for three of his other books. His other honors include the Hans Christian Andersen Award for
lifetime achievement. In 1981, O'Dell established the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction,
awarded annually to a work for young people set in the New World and written by a U. S. citizen.