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History Makers
A Conversation with Jean Fritz

When it comes to children's history books, author Jean Fritz is known nationwide as one of the genre's best. The following interview of the Dobbs Ferry author was conducted by the Drake House Education Department.

DH (Drake House):  When did you first know you would become a writer?
JF (Jean Fritz):  As soon as I started to read, I knew I wanted to write too.

DH:  What qualities make a good writer?
JF:  Being alert to everything around you—seeing, hearing, smelling. Curiosity. You have to wonder about people—what makes them what they are. And you have to have perseverance. Invariably success comes only after some failure so a person should be open-minded, listen to criticism and go back to work.

DH:  What fascinates you most about history?
JF:  People. In all my history classes, I had dates and events but I never got to explore people.

DH: Of your own books about colonial life, which is your favorite?
JF:  Can't You Make Them Behave King George?  The research turned up such incredibly funny stories, and I can't resist humor.

DH:  What would you like children to remember most about George Washington?
JF:  That he was a likeable man—not nearly as stiff and stern as he is often represented. But most important, in all his popularity he was not interested in power, which is unusual.

DH:  Who is your all time favorite historical figure and why?
JF:  I have no one all time favorite but I certainly like Washington and Madison and now Lafayette (whom I am presently working on.)

DH:  Why is it important for children to study history?
JF: No one can understand himself or herself without knowing about what's happened before, without understanding their background.

DH:  What can educators do to make history alive for their students?
JF:  Keep in mind the narrative quality of history and don't forget the people. History is full of emotion; don't slide over it.

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