His high school teacher told Dennis to forget about becoming a writer. Luckily, he didn’t listen; since then, he has become an award-winning writer… of over 200 non-fiction books! Ironically, Dennis credits his own teaching for helping him become a successful author: he kept his second graders’ attention by spinning stories about crayons in distress, and birds with broken wings – and one such story resulted in an editor asking him to write his first book series.
Dennis has also written roughly three dozen books with his wife, Judy, who finds and obtains the photographs, while Dennis writes the preliminary draft. Dennis has devoted his meticulous research and accessible style both to series (“Witness to Disaster” and “Sea to Shining Sea”), as well as stand-alones such as Samuel Adams: The Father of American Independence, and The Boston Tea Party.
Let It Begin Here!: Lexington & Concord: First Battles of the American Revolution
Dennis Brindell Fradin
Paul Revere’s midnight ride on April 18, 1775, and the battles in Concord and Lexington the following day are summarized well in this nonfiction picture book by the author of The Signers: The 56 Stories behind the Declaration of Independence. Historical context is given in a brief introduction, but children will enjoy this book more if they already have a rough idea of what the American Revolution was fought for. Every page is a full-color illustration, with a few short paragraphs of text–it works for young children being read to or for older children doing research for history class. Distractingly, it is written in the narrative present, which is supposed to add immediacy but instead makes it sound like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story (“…two British officers suddenly bolt out from behind a huge tree and try to capture Paul…”). Larry Day’s detailed watercolor-and-ink illustrations do a beautiful job of depicting the nighttime ride, the battle scenes, and colonial Boston. Includes maps of the thirteen colonies, and the route from Boston to Lexington and Concord. 2005, Walker & Company, $16.95. Ages 6 to 11. Reviewer: Sara Lorimer (Children’s Literature).
Earthquakes: Witness to Disaster
Dennis Brindell Fradin and Judith Fradin
Examples of devastating earthquakes and explanations of their causes are presented in both text and pictures. The first chapter describing the Alaskan quake of 1964 is followed by a chapter discussing the possible causes of earthquakes, including the Plate Tectonic Theory and the science of seismology. The big killers in earthquakes are falling buildings, fires, landslides, avalanches, and tsunamis. The next chapter describes famous earthquakes of history: Lisbon in 1755; New Madrid, Missouri in 1811-1812; San Francisco in 1906; Japan in 1923; Peru in 1970; and China in 1976. Chapter 4 presents information about the technology that is being used to predict earthquakes. Full color photographs, maps, and insets containing quotes from survivors amplify the text. Includes a glossary, a bibliography, a list of websites, names of scientists and witnesses interviewed, and an index. A good reference source for young researchers. “Witness to Disaster” series. 2008, National Geographic, $16.95. Ages 8 to 14.Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).
Duel!: Burr and Hamilton’s Deadly War of Words
Dennis Brindell Fradin
This clear, succinct pictorial account of the Burr-Hamilton duel of 1804 ends with the words “both men were at fault for the most famous duel in American history.” Interesting and salient anecdotes about Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton carry the reader rapidly from parallel boyhoods and soldiering in the War of the Revolution to their rivalry as lawyers and politicians in the early years of the new nation. The fatal day and its aftermath are portrayed in more detail. The realistic, watercolor illustrations give a strong flavor of the action and the times. This account of a brief moment in history could launch a discussion on handling disputes and respecting other people and their points of view. Teachers of older students could also use this book for class discussions. Bibliography. Map. Recommended. 2008, Walker and Company, 32pp., $16.95 hc.. Ages 7 to 10. Reviewer: Joan Kimball (Library Media Connection).
Dennis Fradin does school visits together with his wife and fellow writer Judith Fradin. Their engaging visits take a variety of forms. Often they’ll showcase one of their books in particular with a slideshow. These days they usually focus on the Witness to Disaster books, or on their Lewis and Clark titles Who Was Sacagawea? and The Lewis and Clark Expidition. Judy also has two presentations for younger kids–one on an outsider artist called Mr. Imagination and another on a work-in-progress called How do You Say Grandma?.
In addition to these, they have dozens of books they can talk about. They will tell the kids about how they transform research into a finished product, spotlighting the editorial aspects and the rewriting and rewriting–and even more rewriting!–involved in each book.
If requested, the Fradins can read their books aloud to students, but usually they’ll let the teachers do that. Having written so many books and met so many experts along the way, they have zillions of stories describing how gathering information from primary sources–awesome scientists, disaster survivors, descendants and relatives of famous people–has enhanced their lives as well as their books. The Fradins will show the kids themselves how they can do similar primary text and photo research, emphasizing what an exciting treasure hunt it can become.
Their rates for schools visits often vary, and they are negotiable. A common honorarium for Dennis and Judy’s visits would be $1000 plus expenses per Fradin per day (with 3 presentations per day). They like working together, so $1500+ expenses (one hotel room) for both Fradins per day is fine, assuming they present the three daily presentations together rather than separately. For out-of-town visits, the Fradins prefer more than one day in an area.
To learn more about Dennis and his publications please visit www.scbwi-illinois.org/FradinD.html.