Wood, Richard 1949–

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Wood, Richard 1949–

PERSONAL: Born May 6, 1949, in Cleethorpes, England; son of Frederick Walter (a radio dealer) and Eileen Mary (Adams) Wood; married Sara Barton Rust (a journalist), September 12, 1987; children: Oliver James Barton-Wood. Ethnicity: "White European." Education: Magdalene College, Cambridge, B.A., 1971, M.A., 1975, University of East Anglia, B.Ed., 1982. Religion: Communicant Anglican. Hobbies and other interests: Coastal sailing, foreign travel, choral singing.

ADDRESSES: Home—Abbey Garth, 15 Church St., Wymondham, Norfolk NR18 OPH, England. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: King's School, Ely, Cambridgeshire, English and history teacher, 1971–77; Riverside Middle School, Mildenhall, Suffolk, England, head of English department, 1977–82; Castle Museum, Norwich, Norfolk, England, education officer, 1983–97; Norfolk Rural Life Museum, Gressenhall, Norfolk, education officer, 1997–2002; freelance writer and museum consultant, 2002–. Richard Wood Writers Partnership (educational resource for adults and children), founder; Village Museum, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, education consultant.

WRITINGS:

JUVENILES

A Victorian School, Wayland Publications (Hove, East Sussex, England), 1992.

A Victorian Street, Wayland Publications (Hove, East Sussex, England), 1992, Raintree Steck-Vaughn (Austin, TX), 1994.

The Builder through History, Wayland Publications (Hove, East Sussex, England), 1992.

Legacies-Architecture, Thomson Learning, 1993.

Legacies-Politics and Government, Thomson Learning, 1993.

Tudor and Stuart Homes, Wayland Publications (Hove, East Sussex, England), 1994.

Family Life in Victorian Britain, Wayland Publications (Hove, East Sussex, England), 1994.

Queen Victoria, Wayland Publications (Hove, East Sussex, England), 1995.

William I, Wayland Publications (Hove, East Sussex, England), 1995.

History of Food and Cooking, Wayland Publications (Hove, East Sussex, England), 1996.

History of Fairs and Markets, Wayland Publications (Hove, East Sussex, England), 1996.

Kitchens through the Ages, Wayland Publications (Hove, East Sussex, England), 1997.

Loos through the Ages, Wayland Publications (Hove, East Sussex, England), 1997.

Diana, the People's Princess, Raintree Steck-Vaughn (Austin, TX), 1998.

Look inside a Victorian House, Wayland Publications (Hove, East Sussex, England), 1998.

A Day in the Life of a Victorian Street Seller, Wayland Publications (Hove, East Sussex, England), 1998.

On the Trail of the Romans, Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1999.

On the Trail of the Tudors, Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1999.

Bedrooms through the Ages, Wayland Publications (Hove, East Sussex, England), 1999.

Bathrooms through the Ages, Wayland Publications (Hove, East Sussex, England), 1999.

(With Sara Wood) Dian Fossey, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2001.

(With Sara Wood) The Queen Mother: Grandmother of a Nation, Raintree Steck-Vaughn (Austin, TX), 2001.

History Detective: Victorian Schools, Hodder Wayland (London, England), 2002.

Contributor to Museums and the Education of Adults, edited by A. Chadwick and A. Stannett, Leicester University (Leicester, England), 1995. Contributor to periodicals, including Journal of Education in Museums and Heritage Interpretation Journal.

SIDELIGHTS: Richard Wood is the author of several works of history for the middle grades featuring an anecdotal style that some reviewers think his audience will find entertaining as well as interesting and informative. For example, in Kitchens through the Ages and Loos through the Ages, Wood's text was praised for being both a pleasure to read and for its emphasis on the details of everyday life. In each book, the main text, which is divided into brief, titled sections, is augmented by interesting, related facts printed within a drawing of a pot or pan in the Kitchen book and within a drawing of a chamber pot or on a roll of toilet paper in the Loo book. Critics emphasized the humor Wood pulls out of his topics, particularly in Loos through the Ages, which is replete with puns. But, "beyond the fun, there is a thoughtful presentation," remarked a reviewer for Books for Keeps, including "excellent photographs …; quotations from historical documents; and reproductions of paintings, cartoons and advertisements for sanitary ware."

Wood took on the topic of buildings through history in Legacies-Architecture, in which he surveys buildings of ancient civilizations and compares them in style and materials used to those found in the modern world. Subsequent chapters deal in more detail with the evolution of architectural styles in various civilizations, explaining why certain types of buildings predominated at a particular time in a particular place. John Holden in the School Librarian called this "an excellent primary school reference book," and singled out "the quality and clarity of discussion" for particular praise.

Wood is also the author of a biography of Princess Diana, the young woman whose marriage to Prince Charles of England transformed her from an ordinary preschool teacher to a glamorous figurehead known worldwide. In Diana, the People's Princess, Wood focuses on Diana's childhood and school years, which were marked by the divorce of her parents, and the challenges she faced when she joined Britain's royal family. The author also emphasizes Diana's contributions to social causes such as leprosy, AIDS, and homelessness, in which she put her fame to work in drawing attention to the needs of the world's unfortunate. Shelle Rosenfeld commented in Booklist: "Wood explains in simple terms Diana's struggles and shows how her fairy-tale life went hand in hand with a very different reality."

Wood once told CA: "Writing history for children is a strange craft. It calls for a sense of the bizarre, a recognition that, as a certain Count Zindendorf once observed, 'the destiny of nations has often hung on the workings of the digestive system.' I was lucky to be taught my own school history by a bunch of eccentrics. If their fascination for the byways of history sometimes got the better of the syllabus, at least it was fun! So that's my first ingredient in the curious potpourri of facts and ideas which make up my history books.

"But so much school history is still written in complex, wordy, and rather graceless language. Teaching, years ago, in an English public school, I found that many students simply couldn't understand their textbooks. I had to hone up my precis and paraphrase skills pretty quick, and the experience has stood me in good stead ever since. Yet it still amazes me how the language level of factual books for children is often years beyond their interest level. It seems that some authors, or their editors, have yet to hear of readability scales.

"I've had about twenty books published so far in the United Kingdom, some of them co-published in the United States. They're mostly social history, family life, and biography, with some ancient history and a few pot-boilers (full of grotesque puns) like the history of toilets, bathrooms, and bedrooms. Whatever the subject, I start from what I imagine the typical ten-year-old will enjoy. I then try to express my ideas in clear, simple language, but with variety of expression and the occasional surprise in the word choice, too.

"Diana, the People's Princess, was a one-off. Like many people round the world, I found the death of Princess Diana strangely moving. I was at first skepti-cal—some people spoke of mass hysteria—but the more I delved, the more I discovered how genuinely Diana had touched countless people's lives. I tried to represent the facts of her unique life story simply and memorably but truthfully. I hope that, through my book, children will be inspired by her life long after they have forgotten the tragic events of her death."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, July, 1998, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Dianba, the People's Princess, p. 1880.

Books for Keeps, November, 1997, review of Loos through the Ages, p. 27.

School Librarian, August, 1993, John Holden, review of Legacies-Architecture, p. 114.