Prolific author Jean Fritz turns 100 today! During her long life, she has written numerous books–mostly biographies–for children. Before picture book biographies were so prevalent, elementary school children had few solid sources for biographies…except for Fritz’s works. Even with the advent of such young reader-friendly series as the “Who Was…?” series by Scholastic, Fritz’s works stand out as child-friendly, interesting, and well written. All literature is a product of its time, and Fritz’s works are no exception. Her presentation of history has shifted over the years to reflect more politically correct thought, but the titles are worth seeking out nonetheless. Here are some of her notable works and collections.
The striking format of this book with its rounded top hints at the equally striking story Fritz tells of DaVinci and his famous horse. Rather than filling this biography with details of DaVinci’s entire life, Fritz leans in to give the audience a closer view. DaVinci is humanized, the Renaissance shines forth, and the illustrations are lovely.
This autobiographical novel recounts Fritz’s own experience as a third culture kid; her family lived in China during the explosive 1920s. Fritz looks back on her memories and experiences frankly and poignantly. This title is a good fit for older elementary students/middle grade students.
Many of Fritz’s biographies are about early Americans. Their catchy titles allude to the lens through which Fritz peers closely as she describes these famous men in light of a particular event or experience: George Washington’s Breakfast, And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?, Where Do You Think You’re Going, Christopher Columbus?, and many others. On many pages, illustrations accompany the cheerful and exciting text. These titles are excellent biography choices for children just transitioning from easy reader to longer chapter books.