Saturday, April 28, 2012

History Comes Alive with Jean Fritz

"Known for her impeccable research, Fritz writes about subjects she really admires, and she unveils them with such wit...Turn an American historical figure over to her and sparks go off with such glare that there's a celebration worthy of a Fourth of July parade. 

"She is especially fond of the American Revolutionary War period and has written a number of books about the men responsible for the birth of this nation: And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?; What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?; The Great Little Madison; Where Was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May?; Why Don't You Get a Horse, Sam Adams?; Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?; and Shh! We're Writing the Constitution. Yet there was a slight ax to grind with those men. When they wrote the Constitution, they gave plenty of rights to themselves but few to women. Fritz dealt with the battle that took another century and a half to win when she wrote You Want Women to Vote, Lizzie Stanton?

"In a biography on one of her publisher's websites, Fritz says that she doesn't find her ideas. They find her...That's exactly what Pocahontas did, and Fritz wrote The Double Life of Pocahontas. When Harriet Beecher Stowe got her attention, she wrote Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers. Sam Houston demanded a story, and she wrote Make Way for Sam Houston. Teddy Roosevelt bullied his way right into her life, and she penned Bully for You, Teddy Roosevelt!

"[But] in 1982, Fritz wrote an entirely different kind of book. This time she turned to her own childhood. Born in 1915 to American missionaries in China, Jean often felt like an outsider and was homesick for the America she knew only through letters she received from her grandmother. Homesick: My Own Story was named a Newbery Honor Book in 1983.

"At the age of 95, Jean Fritz published Alexander Hamilton: The Outsider, her forty-fifth book, on January 6, 2011. From a girl in China who once felt like an outsider, Fritz has become a true insider in the world of children's books. In 1986, she was awarded the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award by the Association for Library Service to Children for her substantial and lasting contribution to children's literature...She has been the ultimate history teacher to generations of young readers. How do we say thank you, Jean Fritz?"

excerpted from an article by Pat Scales in Book Links, January 2011

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