Children's Authors/Russell Freedman

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Biographical Information[edit | edit source]

In the Beginning...

Russell Freedman was born in San Francisco on October 11, 1929 (Book Rags, 2010). He is one of three children born to a bookseller father and a book sales clerk mother (Book Rags). His father, the West Coast manager of the Macmillan publishing company, often hosted dinners with authors like Steinbeck and Mitchell (Scheuerman, 2008). The shelves of Freedman’s childhood home were packed with books creating a literacy rich environment (Scheuerman, 2008). Freedman also admitted in his Newbury Award Speech that his father was a great storyteller, and he never knew if the stories being told were fiction or nonfiction (Book Rags, 2010).
Russell Freedman did not necessarily intend on being a children’s author although he did know he wanted to be a writer of nonfiction writing or “factual writing” as he refers to it (Houghton Mifflin Reading, 2010). Freedman got his start when working for the Associated Press on a story about the invention of the Braille typewriter by a 15-year-old boy (Scheueman, 2008). Since the publication of his first book in 1961, Freedman has written over forty-seven books.

A Good Writer...

Freedman is known for his ability to integrate photographs with words (Scheueman, 2008). Freedman complains that history books are bland and says history should be on the “cutting edge” (Scheueman, 2008). He is careful to make sure each photograph tells something the text does not while the text may say something the photographs do not say, making each equally important (Scheueman, 2008).
Although Freedman has received numerous awards ranging from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, to the Newbury Honor, to the Orbis Pictus Award, Freedman explains that when he writes, he does not write with the intention of receiving an award. He writes about those things that he has a compelling interest in sharing (Jacobs, Mitchell, & Livingston, 2006). Freedman is married and has two sons all of whom he has surely influenced with his nonfiction stories (Jacobs, Mitchell, & Livingston, 2006).
For a picture of Freedman, refer to the following link: Russell Freedman

Books of Interest[edit | edit source]

Children of the Wild West

Freedman combines history of the pioneer immigration out west with photographs taken by some of the first cameras. He reaches out to children with chapters featuring frontier schools as well as activities of the western communities of the 1800’s. Freedman also tells the history of Native Americans being forced to leave behind their traditional ways of life. Each photograph contains a simple caption. Although there are fewer quotations
This wagon train in led past rock formations on the Oregon Trail.
in this book than his later books, Freedman tells the history of western settlements with simple description: “Dust floated in the air. It clogged the boy’s nose, parched his throat, and coated his face. His cheeks were smeared where he had brushed away the big mosquitoes that buzzed about everywhere” (p. 13). This book, with its photographs, captions, and plenty of white space, are inviting to any youngster looking to travel back in western time.

Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery

Freedman writes great books because he chooses to write about great people in history. Through Eleanor, Freedman inspires others. He quotes her as saying, “About the only value the story of my life may have is to show that one can, even without any particular gifts, overcome obstacles that seem insurmountable if one is willing to face the fact that they must be overcome; that, in spite of timidity and fear, in spite of a lack of special talents, one can find a way to live widely and fully” (p. 3). Others are quoted in this book: “Hoover sent the Army. Roosevelt sent his wife” (p. 100). Again, with his tasteful addition of photographs, Freedman shares the life of one worthy of emulation. This particular book was chosen as an outstanding book for older boys and girls—and indeed it is outstanding! Note: This book was awarded the Bank Street College of Education Flora Stielglitz Straus Award.

Dorothea Lane’s Migrant Mother depicts the struggle of the 1930’s.

Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor

Freedman has again chosen an inspiring man to write about. He uniquely combines a moment in history with the life of the man who helped change it. Freedman combines his own study with quotations of Lewis Hine, the man behind the photographs. Hine coined the term “photo stories” with his work in the early twentieth century. Perhaps Hine’s work with “photo stories” inspired Freedman in his books of history and historical figures. This moving story of Hine’s crusade for children inspires those who read it. I echo the words of Freedman in saying these, “photos [must have been] a powerful weapon in the crusade against child labor” (p. 72)

Children of the Great Depression

Freedman reaches out to his young audience in this book with pictures borrowed from the Farm Administration Department, quotations from children of the Great Depression, and his own research into this particular time in history. Freedman addresses the stark reality of children in schools, on farms, without homes, and at work in various parts of the country during the depression era. Emotion is felt through the quotations he has gathered and comparisons made. Each chapter ends with the lessons that were learned and the strength that was gained from being a child of the Great Depression. This book is a must have for reinforcing gratitude and empowering children who struggle with different crisis of our day. Note: This book was awarded the Orbis Pictus Award as well as the Golden Kite Award.
Rosa Parks is one of many who influenced the civil rights movement.

Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Freedman introduces the lesser-known but critical moments in history that both build up to and follow the famous boycott. This in turn gives readers a broader understanding of this poignant moment in the history of civil rights. Of course Freedman uses simple chapters, spacing, and photographs that set the stage for the reader. Quotes from participants set the records strait. One such quote from Rosa Parks explains that she didn’t refuse to give up her seat because she was physically tired: “I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day….No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in” (p. 27). This book for young readers causes them to discuss and critically think about the world they live in and what it is they value through topics of oppression, hardened hearts, courage, unity, and perseverance. This read is sure to cause thinking!

Washington at Valley Forge

This beautifully illustrated history book offers maps, an introduction, journal entries, and timelines that depict the importance of those who endured the winter at Valley Forge. For young students studying the Revolutionary War, this text offers a fresh look at history. Freedman has carefully summarized important events, people, and emotions from the Revolutionary War, offering unexpected insight. The short, two paragraph introduction, “Against All Odds”, sets the stage for this historical fiction picture book.

Although incomplete, the following is a chronological listing of a little over half of Freedman's books (from Paper Back Swap Books):

2008- Washington at Valley Forge
2008- In the Days of the Vaqueros
2007- Who Was First?: Discovering the Americas
2006- Adventures of Marco Polo
2006- Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Award Book)
2005- Children of the Great Depression (Award Book)
2004- The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights (Award Book)
2003- In Defense of Liberty: The Story of America’s Bill of Rights (Award Book)
2002- Confucius: The Golden Rule
2001- In the Days of the Vaqueros: American’s First True Cowboys
2000- Give Me Liberty!: The Story of the Declaration of Independence
1999- Wright Brothers
1999- Babe Didrikson Zaharias
1998- Martha Graham: A Dancer’s Life
1998- Out of Darkness: The Story of Louis Braille
1997- Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery (Award Book)
1996- America’s Journal: Literacy Source Book: 5th Grade Considering Different Points of View
1996- The Life and Death of Crazy Horse
1995- Kids at Work Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor
1995- Immigrant Kids
1994- The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane (Award Book)
1992- Franklin Delano Roosevelt
1992- Buffalo Hunt
1991- Indian Chiefs
1990- Children of the Wild West
1990- Cowboys of the Wild West
1987- Lincoln: A Photobiography (Award Book)
1984- Animal Superstars: Biggest, Strongest, Fastest, Smartest
1981- Farm Babies
1981- When Winter Comes: 2
1980- Tooth and Claw: A Look at Animal Weapons
1978- Getting Born
1976- Animal Games
1972- The Brains of Animals and Man
1963- 2000 Years of Space Travel
1961- Teenagers Who Made History

References[edit | edit source]

Book Rags. (n.d.). Authors and Artists for Young Adults on Russell Freedman. Retrieved April 10, 2010 from <>
Freedman, R. (1983). Children of the Wild West. New York: Clarion Books.
Freedman, R. (1993). Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery. New York: Clarion Books.
Freedman, R. (1994). Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor. New York: Clarion Books.
Freedman, R. (2005). Children of the Great Depression. New York: Clarion Books
Freedman, R. (2006). Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. New York: Holiday House.
Freedman, R. (2008). Washington at Valley Forge. New York: Holiday House.
Houghton Mifflin Reading. (n.d.). Meet the Author Russell Freedman. Retrieved April 10, 2010 from <>
Jacobs, J., Mitchell, J., & Livingston, N. 2006. 2006 U.S. Children’s Literature Award Winners. The Reading Teacher, 60, (4), 386-396.
Paper Back Swap Book Club. List of Books By Author: Russell Freedman, Retrieved March 20, 2010 from <>
Scheuerman, D. 2008. Russell Freedman. Humanities, 29, (2), 20.