Milton Meltzer died September 19th at 94, after a long and wonderful career. One hundred books, the American Library Association's Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for his contribution to children's literature, five books designated as National Book Award finalists. Not too shabby for any writer, but especially noteworthy for a nonfiction author at a time when this field was a true stepchild.
In fact, Meltzer was one of the pioneer of the "new" nonfiction for kids. His research into original materials was impeccable, his style lively. He never talked down to his audience. He wrote about things that mattered.
Edward T. Sullivan is writing a biography of Meltzer. In a note of memoriam, he included a wonderul quotation of Meltzer's from an article originally published in Wilson Library Bulletin in 1969. Something for all us to remember.
"You may ask, what is the relevance of all this history to the
young? It has the meaning of all true history, the meaning of
what it is to be American. We cannot endure as a people, as a
nation, unless we can distinguish between that which is true
and that which is false about this country. Ours is not a past
of sweetness and light, no matter what the textbook tells us.
Textbooks avoid conflicts and the disorders that have taken
place in our past. No wonder they bore students. In the
recounting of our past we have been the victims of censorship,
a censorship more disastrous by far than any brought about
by the hunters of the obscene and the pornographic. For when
we have not learned the truth about our past, we cannot find
the truth in the present."