White, Anne Terry

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WHITE, Anne Terry

Born 19 February 1896, Ukraine, U.S.S.R.; died July 1980

Daughter of Aaron and Sarah Terry, married Harry D. White, 1918; children: two daughters

Anne Terry White's family came to the U.S. when she was eight years old. She grew up and attended school in New England, graduated from Brown University, and received an M.A. from Stanford University. She held positions as a teacher and social worker, but is best known as the author of nonfiction books for children.

White's wish to present great literature to her own two daughters in a way they would find entertaining and easy to understand resulted in her first book, Heroes of the Five Books (1937), about Old Testament figures. Three Children and Shakespeare (1938) grew out of questions her daughters asked when she read Shakespeare to them; it adapts and discusses four plays in a fictitious family setting.

White's books span a wide range of subjects. Many of them, such as The First Men in the World (1953) and Rocks All Around Us (1959), are aimed for third-to fifth-grade readers and are intended to serve as introductions to particular fields of study. Her "All About" books on natural science, geography, and geology are considered among the best of their kind for very young readers. Other books, such as Lost Worlds (1941) and Men Before Adam (1942), both on archeology, have great appeal to older youths and adults. Lost Worlds, a history of the discovery of Troy, the palace of Minos on Crete, the tomb of Tutankhamen, and other sites, was reprinted more than two dozen times by the 1980s and is regarded as one of her finest books.

White has translated a myriad of Russian stories, including works by Pushkin and old stories from oral tradition. All are highly readable. In addition, the subjects of her biographies range from scientist George Washington Carver to William Shakespeare, King David of ancient Israel, and socialist labor-leader Eugene Debs. All are greatly fictionalized. To known facts, White judiciously adds dialogue and details to produce entertaining as well as informative pictures of the people concerned.

White has skillfully adapted for young children many books by other authors. Some of these, such as Treasure Island (1956), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1956), and Heidi (1956) were originally intended for a young audience; while others were written for adults. Among the most notable of the latter are Rachel Carson's The Sea Around Us (1958) and the American Heritage books Indians and the Old West (1958) and The American Indian (1963). The last appears on lists of books regarded as essential for elementary and junior high school libraries. White has also successfully retold the stories of King Arthur and Odysseus, Aesop's fables, and European and Asian myths and legends.

Regardless of the literary form, White's books are distinguished by fluid and rhythmical prose and thorough research. Analogies drawn from everyday life clarify obscure points, and skillfully framed questions and anecdotes and an informal, conversational tone create a storylike atmosphere. Because of her remarkable ability to put difficult concepts into terms many (but not all) children can understand easily without finding her condescending, sentimental, or overly melodramatic, White is ranked among the foremost writers of nonfiction for young people.

Other Works:

Prehistoric America (1951). George Washington Carver: The Story of a Great American (1953). All About the Stars (1954). All About Our Changing Rocks (1955; reissued as All About Rocks and Minerals, 1963). Will Shakespeare and the Globe Theater (1955). All About Great Rivers of the World (1957). The Golden Book of Animals (1958). All About Archaeology (1959). Natural Wonders (1960). The Solar System (1960). The St. Lawrence, Seaway of North America (1961). Birds of the World (1962). All About Mountains and Mountaineering (1962). Windows on the World (with G. S. Lietz, 1965). Secrets of the Heart and Blood (with G. S. Lietz, 1965). Built to Survive (with G. S. Lietz, 1966). When Hunger Calls (with G. S. Lietz, 1966). Man, the Thinker (with G. S. Lietz, 1967). The False Treaty (1970). Human Cargo: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade (1972). North to Liberty: The Story of the Underground Railroad (1972). Eugene Debs (1974).


Reference works:

Authors of Books for Young People (1971). CA (1974). More Junior Authors (1963). SAA (1971).