Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jean Fritz 95th Birthday

Jean Fritz was born on November 16, 1915 in Hankow, China. The only child of missionary parents, Jean often felt lonely and misplaced in the country where she was born. In her book Homesick: My Own Story, she describes feeling homesick for the America she knew only through her father's stories about life there. She also tells us a great deal about the culture of China of the 1920s. Her life there was very international since she lived in a French compound, attended a British school, had two German best friends, and spoke fluent Chinese. She came to the United States when she was thirteen where again she felt misplaced.

She began writing stories in her childhood because, "As an only child, I spent more time with story characters than with real people and I learned early that words could get me where I wanted to go which was simply some place else." She returned to China a few years ago and wrote about that experience of rediscovering her roots in China Homecoming.

She is considered one of best writers of historical books for young people and has won numerous awards including the Newbery Honor for Homesick. About her method of writing historical books, she says: "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 these on." The American Revolutionary War period is one of her favorite subjects.

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