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National children’s author speaks to Gulf Middle students; Rappaport talks about writing process

By Staff | Mar 28, 2008

Young student writers at Gulf Middle School were visited Thursday by a nationally acclaimed children’s author who showed the students how she creates her historical-based children’s books on famous figures from days gone by.

Doreen Rappaport, a New York native, said she travels the country talking to students about her writing process. She has published a series of historical books geared at children such as “John’s Secret Dreams: The Life of John Lennon,” “Victory or Death! Stories of the American Revolution” and “Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

She talked with various Gulf Middle classes in the media center from early in the morning until the end of the school day. She detailed to the students how she has to go through months of research for one book, especially books that are fictionalized.

“When you fictionalize a historical story, it doesn’t mean you can make up everything,” Rappaport told the students.

In fact, all of the descriptive details of the story, such as the clothing or hairstyles, have to fit in with the historical period, she said.

For her biography on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rappaport talked about how she worked closely with her editor and illustrator in ensuring that the story was concise and that the illustrations fit with the words.

“I initially didn’t want to do it because there were over 30 books written on him,” she said. “But I thought of the power of his wonderful words and came up with my hook.”

After months of researching King’s speeches and biographies, Rappaport decided she would focus on what King had said. In the story, she writes the historical facts and below she includes an excerpt from one of King’s speeches.

“Once I had the hook, it only took me a couple of months to write,” she said. “But, there is one rule in writing — less is more.”

She explained to the students that it is more difficult to write shorter children’s books than it is to write a book with more words.

Rappaport said she started writing when she was 6 years old, and now she has written many historical books including her new book on the Statue of Liberty entitled, “Lady Liberty: A Biography.”

Kathy Adams, media specialist at Gulf Middle, said she received an e-mail informing her that Rappaport was going to be in Fort Myers for a teacher in-service at the Lee Education Center.

“I said that I was interested in having her speak,” said Adams.

Rappaport talks to students from over the United States, and she tries to speak in areas that are included in one of her books.

“If I write a story about the history of Utah, then I try to talk to students in Utah,” she said. “I visit a lot of kids all over the country.”

Rappaport said this was the first time she had spoken to a school in Florida. According to Adams, the children were very excited about her arrival.

For more information about Rappaport, visit: www.doreenrappaport.com.