Doreen Rappaport, recipient of the 2007 /Washington Post- Children’s Book Guild Award for Nonfiction, is a remarkable researcher and interpreter of history and biography for young people.  She has written over 30 books for young readers and they reflect her multiple interests in history, music and people who overcome odds.

The Washington Post-Children's Book Guild Nonfiction Award honors an author or author-illustrator whose total work has contributed significantly to the quality of nonfiction for children. Nonfiction is written or illustrated work which arranges and interprets documentable facts intended to illuminate, without imaginative invention, the following fields of knowledge: science, technology, social science, history, biography, and the arts.

The criteria for the Nonfiction Award include:

  • Distinguished writing and illustration
  • Clarity and accuracy, as well as literary distinction in writing, and in the case of author-illustrators, excellence in artistic presentation in illustration that enhances or augments the total presentation
  • Presentation of ideas and facts that is likely to stimulate and challenge young readers
  • Reader appeal that includes lively writing and illustration leading to pleasure, curiosity, a sense of wonder, and further pursuit of knowledge by all readers

Doreen Rappaport’s work deftly fulfills the criteria and provides an enriching reading experience for young readers and all those interested in children’s literature. Ms. Rappaport  majored in music at Brandeis University and taught music and reading in junior high schools in New York City and New Rochelle, New York.

Early in her adulthood, she had an experience that provided a unique alteration to the direction of her life.  She states on her Web site, “In 1965, I went to Mc Comb, Mississippi, to teach at a freedom school. The experience changed my life. I met ‘extraordinary ordinary’people — black Americans who had been deprived of rights that I took for granted, and who were threatened with death every day. Their courage inspired me. They were heroic. I knew there had to be many more ‘unknown heroes,’ people who helped change history. I set out to recover and write about this ‘lost’ history.”

Doreen Rappaport began to research and give life to many stories that had not been told before.  She wrote about slaves who risked everything to secure their freedom in Escape from Slavery. She wrote about female athletes in Dirt on Their Skirts: The Story Of The Young Women Who Won The World Championship, a book she co-authored with Lyndall Callan and which featured illustrations by E.B. Lewis. Her book about Native Americans, We Are the Many: A Picture Book of American Indians, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu, begins with Tisquantum teaching the Pilgrims how to survive and ends 370 years later with Sherman Alexie writing a poem.  She wrote about well known and obscure heroes of the American Revolution in Victory or Death! Stories of the American Revolution, co-authored with Joan Verniero.

In three books she published with Candlewick Press, Doreen Rappaport combines two areas of great importance to her: music and history.  NO MORE! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance, illustrated by Shane Evans, explores the efforts of slaves to resist bondage and the music they created to communicate their efforts.  Free at Last! Stories and Songs of Emancipation, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, dramatically documents the experience of black Americans from Emancipation to the l954 Supreme Court decision outlawing school segregation.  Nobody Gonna Turn Me ‘Round!  Stories and Songs of the Civil Rights Movement, also illustrated by Shane W. Evans, traces the modern Civil Rights struggle from the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Other titles worth highlighting include In the Promised Land: Lives of Jewish Americans, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu; John’s Secret Dreams: The Life of John Lennon, illustrated by Bryan Collier; and The School Is Not White! A True Story of the Civil Rights Movement, illustrated by Curtis James.  Ms. Rappaport’s book, Martin's Big Words, with illustrations by Bryan Collier, was named an ALA Children's Notable Book.

Many thanks to the members of the 2007 Nonfiction Award Committee for their hard work: Carolyn Reeder (emeritus), Mary Bowman-Kruhm and Abby Nolan.

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