A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- In 1864 slavery is abolished in Maryland. Read Frederick Douglas: The Last Day of Slavery by William Miller, illustrated by Cedric Lucas, and Stealing Freedom by Elise Carbone.
- If you can prove youâ€™re a descendant of someone who helped achieve United States Independence and you happen to be female, you can apply to become a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) formed on this day in 1890. Read Independent Dames by Laurie Halse Anderson.
- In 1922, Alaska Davidson becomes the first woman appointed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a â€śspecial investigator.â€ť Read The History of the FBI by Sabrina Crewe.
- Well, itâ€™s about time! In 1984, Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan becomes the first woman to take a space walk. Read Almost Astronauts by Tanya Lee Stone.
- National School Lunch Week begins. Read the Lunch Lady series by Jarrett Krosoczka, especially Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians and Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute.
- Itâ€™s Take Your Teddy Bear to Work Day. Read Corduory by Don Freeman and Paddington at Work by Michael Bond, illustrated by Peggy Fortnum.
Today marks the birthday of both Russell Freedman and Eleanor Roosevelt. Originally a West Coaster, Russell was born in San Francisco and studied at the University of California at Berkeley. Russellâ€™s long-time editor Dorothy Briley once said that he made the most perfect dinner guest she had ever encountered. He could make intelligent conversation about any topic with anyone she brought to the table. Indeed, he has often been called a Renaissance man, because of the range and depth of his knowledge in a variety of topics.
Russell began writing books for young readers in the science and social studies areaâ€”books like How Animals Learn and Sharks. But when his editor Ann Troy asked him to write a biography, something he had never done, he turned to his childhood hero Abraham Lincoln and wrote Lincoln: A Photobiography. He won the Newbery Award for this book and found a new direction and purpose: writing quality, narrative nonfiction for young readers.
As Russell wrote in The Essential Guide to Childrenâ€™s Books and Their Creators: â€śNonfiction is supposed to be utilitarian. Itâ€™s expected to do its dutyâ€”to inform, instruct, enlighten. And yet a hard-working, nose-to-the grindstone nonfiction book should be just as absorbing as any imaginary story, because it is, in fact, a story, too.â€ť
Of all of Russellâ€™s biographies, I have always loved his Eleanor Roosevelt the best. Perfect for ten- to fourteen-year-oldsâ€”I needed this book as a child myself. I once made a fool of myself in class because I thought that â€śFDRâ€ť was a swear wordâ€”so vehemently was it used at home. Imagine my surprise to find out these initials acknowledged a president of the United States. Russell has always admitted that he loved FDRâ€™s wife a bit more than he loved the president, and the resulting tribute to her certainly shows his enthusiasm.
A shy child, with absent parents, Eleanor only began to bloom when she was sent away to London for schooling. She married her distant cousin and was given away as a bride by her uncle Theodore, the president of the United States. â€śWell, Franklin, thereâ€™s nothing like keeping the name in the family,â€ť the president quipped.
But as Eleanor Roosevelt began to find the causes of her lifeâ€”the plight of minorities, the poverty of the disadvantagedâ€”she turned from a shy person into a firebrand, the conscience of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Russell captures this complex marriageâ€”its betrayals and its strength. He shows the final years of Eleanor Roosevelt as she worked in the United Nations and became, as President Harry Truman called her, â€śthe First Lady of the World.â€ť
Happy birthday, Russell. You have been just as much a crusader as Eleanor Roosevelt. You have believed in the intelligence of young readers, their ability to handle complex issues, and, like Eleanor, you have not shied away from controversy. Wherever you are going to celebrate, you will be the best conversationalist at the tableâ€”just as Dorothy always said.
Hereâ€™s a page from Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery:
Originally posted October 11, 2011. Updated for .