Russell Freedman, 88, Writer of History for Young Readers, Dies by Neil Genzlinger from The New York Times. Peek:
“Russell Freedman, who brought readable, relatable history to young readers in dozens of well-researched, generously illustrated books, died on March 16 in Manhattan.”
His children’s literature career spanned more than 50 years and he wrote about the evolution of nonfiction standards in a 2014 essay for the Horn Book, Changing Times. Peek:
“Back in the 1950s, the popular Landmark books had no illustrations. None. And while skillfully written by notable authors, those books had no bibliographies, and, heaven forbid, no chapter notes! Today’s nonfiction for kids, abundantly illustrated, meticulously documented, is, I believe, more inviting than ever before, and more authoritative.”
After earning an English degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1951, Freedman served in U.S. counter intelligence during the Korean War.
Afterward, he returned to San Francisco and became a reporter and editor for the Associated Press before moving to New York to work in advertising.
His first book, Teenagers Who Made History (Holiday House, 1961), was inspired by an article he read in The New York Times about a 16-year-old who invented a Braille typewriter, according to Shannon Maughan’s Obituary: Russell Freedman in Publishers Weekly.
“’What is more important than the Bill of Rights to America?’ he asks. ‘Nothing! And I got to try to convey this information to a new generation.’”
He also called the book one of his biggest challenges.
“’You’re dealing with legalisms, to some extent, and abstractions, and you have to put them into human terms.’”
In Russell Freedman Brought History to Life For Kids from School Library Journal, Kara Yorio said:
“Freedman’s books continue to be topical and are often found on recommended reading lists. We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Hitler (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004), and Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006) all discuss important people and movements that readers can connect to current events.”
A memorial service is planned for Oct. 11 in New York City on what would have been his 89th birthday.
During elementary school I read an old copy of Jules Verne: Portrait of a Prophet (Holiday House, 1965) and remember finding his descriptions of Verne’s adventure stories much more exciting (and accessible) than the actual Verne books.
Since then I’ve read many of his books and continue to be awed by his attention to detail and ability to transport the reader into historic events.