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Jean Fritz

  • American writer
  • Born November 16, 1915

Jean Guttery Fritz (November 16, 1915 – May 14, 2017) was an American children's writer best known for American biography and history. She won the Children's Legacy Literature Award for her career contribution to American children's literature in 1986. She turned 100 in November 2015.


The way they taught history in schools was not appealing. They stressed wars and dates. They left the people out. I was attracted to history by the need to know about the people. In China, I went to a British school, and we just learned about kings and queens. Back in America, I had the regular social studies curriculum.




As a biographer, I try to uncover the adventures and personalities behind each character I research. Once my character and I have reached an understanding, then I begin the detective work reading old books, old letters, old newspapers, and visiting the places where my subject lived. Often I turn up surprises, and of course, I pass them on.




One of the most important things in my childhood were the new books that came in. I feel sorry for kids today who have so many other options like television that they may not value books as much as they could enjoy them.




When I lived in China, there were no libraries. My mother bought books for me, and they were mostly the classics. I read 'Peter Pan,' 'The Secret Garden,' the 'Rosemary' books, and Kipling's 'Just So' Stories was one of my favorites. No, I didn't read historical fiction. It didn't exist where I was growing up in China.




The question I am most often asked is how do I find my ideas? The answer is I don't. Ideas find me. A character in history will suddenly step right out of the past and demand a book. Generally, people don't bother to speak to me unless there's a good chance that I'll take them on.




My mother had been a Latin teacher, and she was always very fascinated with words. She and I shared books and responded to them.




My interest in writing about American history stemmed originally, I think, from a subconscious desire to find roots - I felt like a girl without a country. I have put down roots quite firmly by now, but in the process, I have discovered the joys of research and am probably hooked.




The first 13 years of my life, I lived in China. My parents were missionaries there, and I was an only child. Often I felt lonely and out of place. Writing for me became my private place, where no one could come.



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