Weitzman, David L. 1936–

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Weitzman, David L. 1936–


Born November 24, 1936, in Chicago, IL; son of Louis (a pharmacist) and Louise (Ottenheimer) Weitzman; children: Arin, Brooks, Peter. Education: Attended Art Institute of Chicago; Purdue University, B.S. (English), 1958; Northwestern University, M.A. (history), 1959. Politics: "Liberal." Religion: Jewish.


Home—P.O. Box 456, Covelo, CA 95428. Office—Nancy Ellis Literary Services, P.O. Box 1564, Willits, CA 95490. E-mail[email protected]


Freelance writer and illustrator. Former school teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Round Valley, CA; instructor at University of California, Berkeley, Merritt College, and University of California Education Extension. Member of curriculum delegation to People's Republic of China, 1978; participant in museum education programs, film documentaries, and workshops. Exhibitions: Bedford Gallery, Walnut Creek, CA; Gallery 10, Sutter Creek, CA; Elizabeth Stone Gallery, Birmingham, MI; Janice Charach Epstein Museum, West Bloomfield, MI; Columbus Public Library, Columbus, OH; American Institute of Graphic Arts, New York, NY; Art Center of Battle Creek, Battle Creek, MI; College of Dupage, Glenn Ellen, IL; Slater Mill Historic Site, Pawtucket, RI; and Allen County Museum, Lima, OH. Military service: U.S. Air Force, 1959–63; became first lieutenant.


Society for Industrial Archeology.

Awards, Honors

Distinguished Book designation, Association of Children's Librarians, and PEN Book Award, both 1982, both for Windmills, Bridges, and Old Machines; Bronze Medal, Leipzig International Book Design Exhibition, 1989, for Superpower; Books for the Teen Age designations, New York Public Library, 1994, for Great Lives: Human Culture, and 1996, for Great Lives: Theatre; Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People designation, Children's Book Council/National Council for the Social Studies, 1999, for Locomotive; Antique Automobile Club of America Book of the Year Award, 2002, for Model T; Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year inclusion, 2002, for Jenny; Parents' Choice Recommended designation, 2004, for The John Bull.



Chinese Studies in Paperback (bibliography), McCutchan (Berkeley, CA), 1967.

(Coauthor) Asia (textbook), Addison-Wesley, 1969.

Asian Studies Curriculum Project, Field/Addison-Wesley,1969.

(With Richard E. Gross) The Human Experience (text book), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1974.

Eggs and Peanut Butter: A Teacher's Scrapbook, Word Wheel (Menlo Park, CA), 1975.

The Brown Paper School Presents My Backyard History Book, illustrated by James Robertson, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1975.

Underfoot: An Everyday Guide to Exploring the American Past, Scribner's (New York, NY), 1976.

Traces of the Past: A Field Guide to Industrial Archaeology, Scribner's (New York, NY), 1980.

A Day in Peking (textbook), Houghton, Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1981.

Windmills, Bridges, and Old Machines: Discovering Our Industrial Past, Scribner's (New York, NY), 1982.

(With David King and Mariah Marvin) United States History (textbook), Addison-Wesley, 1984.

Industrial Eye, photographs by Jet Lowe, J. Wiley, 1987.

The Mountain Man and the President, illustrated by Charles Shaw, Raintree/Steck-Vaughn (Austin, TX), 1992.

Great Lives: Theatre, Scribner's (New York, NY), 1994.

Great Lives: Human Culture, Scribner's (New York, NY), 1994.

(And illustrator) Locomotive: Building an Eight-Wheeler, Houghton, Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1999.

Model T: How Henry Ford Built a Legend, Crown (New York, NY), 2002.

Rider in the Sky: How an American Cowboy Built England's First Airplane, Crown (New York, NY), 2003.

The John Bull: A British Locomotive Comes to America, Farrar, Strauss (New York, NY), 2004.

A Subway for New York, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2005.


Superpower: The Making of a Steam Locomotive, David Godine, 1987.

Thrashin' Time: Harvest Days in the Dakotas, David Godine, 1991.

Old Ironsides: Americans Build a Fighting Ship, Houghton, Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1997.

Pouring Iron: An Old Foundry Ghost Story, Houghton, Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1998.

Rama and Sita: A Tale of Ancient Java, David Godine, 2001.

Jenny: The Airplane That Taught America to Fly, Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2002.


(Illustrator) Catherine Salton, Rafael and the Noble Task (fiction), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.

Writer for video documentaries, including (with Terry Moyemont) USS Constitution: Living the Legend and (with Andy Fahrenwald) Pouring Iron.


An inspiring educator and talented artist, David L. Weitzman has found an outlet for his curiosity regarding early American technology through writing and illustrating a succession of highly praised books for children. Within the pages of such works as Windmills, Bridges, and Old Machines: Discovering Our Industrial Past, Pouring Iron: An Old Foundry Ghost Story, and A Subway for New York, readers can learn about the development of crafts and their role in the development of modern industry as well as the infrastructure that industrialization demanded. Highly praised for his illustrations as well as for his writing, Weitzman has exhibited his highly detailed drawings around the United States, and he has been involved in several film documentaries.

Born in 1936 in Chicago, Illinois, Weitzman attended Purdue University, where he earned a degree in English before moving on to Northwestern for an advanced history degree. After a three-year stint with the U.S. Air Force, he turned to teaching, spending over two decades moving between elementary, secondary, and college classrooms in California. His first books for a general audience, 1975's The Brown Paper School Presents My Backyard History Book and 1976's Underfoot: An Everyday Guide to Exploring the American Past, were the result of his work with young people in the classroom, where a project on discovering one's roots taught students to collect oral histories, search cemeteries and historic archives, and chart their lineage. As Weitzman explained to Herbert Mitgang in the New York Times, his interest in uncovering personal history began at home: "I began getting involved in my own family and then applied the techniques in the classroom. When I taught in the Bay area, many of my students were Blacks and Asians. Searching for their own pasts, the youngsters discovered much about themselves—and restored pride and understanding at home."

My Backyard History Book contains directions for collecting and preserving family history, as well as for such creative projects as making gravestone rubbings and learning to identify historic architecture. Calling the underlying concept "fresh," Booklist contributor Denise M. Wilms maintained that the book will inspire readers to "take interest in their own and their community's roots." Underfoot takes a more personal approach, as Weitzman walks readers through a search for local history, traveling from attics to cemeteries to the library stacks. "Although Weitzman appears to be self-taught, his amateur approach … has an engaging quality that might well keep many readers reading," noted a contributor to Wilson Library Bulletin.

Weitzman indulges in his love affair with industrial technology in several books, including 1982's Windmills, Bridges, and Old Machines. Dubbed "a kind of ode to the old machine, a sonnet to the sawmill or steam locomotive" by New York Times Book Review contributor Holcomb B. Noble, Weitzman's book follows the growth of technology from the paddle wheel to the wind mill to the saw mill to building the Erie Canal. Praising Windmills, Bridges, and Old Machines for its inclusion of photographs, easy-to-read diagrams, and numerous interesting facts, Booklist contributor Barbara

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Elleman cited the author's "chatty style and personal, enthusiastic approach" in increasing the book's readability. School Library Journal reviewer Jeffrey A. French commented that the volume's "description of old industries and machinery is notable for its breadth."

In A Subway for New York Weitzman presents what School Library Journal contributor Gloria Koster described as "a glorious celebration and an accurate account of the birth of the New York City subway." Opening in 1904, the extensive transit system broke ground in 1900 and required that the sewer, utilities, and other city infrastructure be rerouted in the process. In what a Kirkus Reviews writer dubbed "a treat for budding students of engineering, urban studies" and other disciplines, Weitzman provides an easy-to-understand text with "intricate, precisely drawn side views and cutaways," following the entire project from the signing of the first construction contract through the opening celebration. Weitzman's "text and captivating images convey the awe-inspiring scope of the project," concluded Gillian Engberg in Booklist, while Koster praised the book for providing "intricate explanations" of the fascinating and many-faceted construction process.

Weitzman mixes a pinch of fiction with several handfuls of fact in such books as Thrashin' Time: Harvest Days in the Dakotas and Pouring Iron. In Pouring Iron readers are introduced to young Howard as he takes a tour of a nineteenth-century foundry near Sacramento, California. Through the people—and ghosts of former foundry workers—Howard meets, readers learn everything from the area's history to the building of the foundry to the manner in which iron was shaped. While School Library Journal contributor Shirley Wilton found Weitzman's effort to mix "fact and fiction, past and present" in Pouring Iron rather confusing, the critic deemed the mix a success in a similar work, 1997's Old Ironsides: Americans Build a Fighting Ship.

In Old Ironsides Weitzman returns readers to the late eighteenth century, as the fledgling United States looks for a way to remove the threat to its merchant ships from pirates. John Aylwin, the son of a Boston ship-builder, is at the center of the effort to construct a ship that would be able to withstand the effects of both piracy and warfare. That ship—the 1,500-ton frigate USS Constitution, "Old Ironsides"—became the first U.S. man-of-war. The story's text is "buoyed by precise pen-and-ink drawings that help readers grasp the scope of the project and understand how a ship is constructed," noted Elizabeth S. Watson in Horn Book. A Kirkus Reviews contributor also praised Weitzman's "captivating black-and-white" renderings, adding that the author/illustrator "has a draftsman's eye for detail." In School Library Journal, contributor Shirley Wilton commented favorably on the inclusion of an epilogue describing the USS Constitution's decisive role in the War of 1812, adding that Old Ironsides "should find readers among young people interested in ships, in how things are made, or in American history."

Other books by Weitzman that focus on technology through a fictional lens include Superpower: The Making of a Steam Locomotive, Jenny: The Airplane That Taught America to Fly, and Locomotive: Building an Eight-Wheeler. In Superpower and Locomotive Weitzman creates highly detailed drawings of the locomotive's construction and development, setting them within a historical framework, while Jenny describes the early airplane and the way it changed history. In Superpower, eighteen-year-old Ben starts work at the Lima, Ohio, locomotive works in the mid-1920s and becomes in volved in the production of the new "Berkshire" steam locomotive. Along with Ben, readers learn every step of the manufacturing process, from drawings to foundry work to machine shop to assembly. Locomotive draws young train buffs further back in time, as its author reveals the development of an 1870s wood-burning locomotive, this time without the fictional framework some critics have argued detracts from the author's purpose. Praising Weitzman's discussion of the process in constructing the passenger locomotive, as well as his inclusion of sophisticated technical details, School Library Journal contributor Margaret Bush concluded that Locomotive "will be enjoyed most by readers with a strong mechanical bent." Bush's praise was echoed by a Kirkus Reviews writer who proclaimed Locomotive to be "a bull's-eye for meeting the desires of both railroad buffs and the mechanically inclined."

In a change of pace, Weitzman's Rama and Sita: A Tale from Ancient Java leaves modern technology behind as it explores the legends of the distant past. A retelling of portions of the Hindu epic The Ramayana, the book follows the exile of Rama and the kidnapping of Rama's wife Sita. Joining with Hanuman, king of the monkeys, Rama is able to defeat the evil Ravana and establish a legacy of peace that would last for 10,000 years. Most notable in Weitzman's retelling are his illustrations, which frame the story as a performance presented by Javanese shadow puppets. Colored in shadowy jewel tones with rich gilt and black accents, Weitzman's art was described by School Library Journal contributor Miriam Lang Budin as "arresting" and "breathtakingly beautiful," while in Booklist Engberg praised the author/illustrator's "elegant, well-paced language."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, October 15, 1975, Denise M. Wilms, review of The Brown Paper School Presents My Backyard History Book, pp. 306-307; February 1, 1983, Barbara Elleman, Windmills, Bridges, and Old Machines: Discovering Our Industrial Past, p. 728; April 15, 1991, Ann D. Carlson, review of Windmills, Bridges, and Old Machines, p. 1635; March 1, 1992, Deborah Abbott, review of Thrashin' Time: Harvest Days in the Dakotas, p. 1279; May 1, 1997, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Old Ironsides: Americans Build a Fighting Ship, p. 1498; December 15, 1998, John Peters, review of Pouring Iron: An Old Foundry Ghost Story, p. 75; December 1, 2002, Julie Cummins, review of Jenny: The Airplane That Taught America to Fly, p. 686; February 15, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of Rama and Sita: A Tale of Ancient Java, p. 1071; February 1, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of The John Bull: A British Locomotive Comes to America, p. 1058; December 1, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of A Subway for New York, p. 64.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 1983, Zena Sutherland, review of Windmills, Bridges, and Old Machines, p. 139; June, 1997, Elizabeth Bush, review of Old Ironsides, pp. 377-378.

Choice, October, 1975, review of Eggs and Peanut Butter, p. 1052.

Five Owls, September-October, 1994, review of Thrashin' Time, p. 5.

Horn Book, May, 1997, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of Old Ironsides, p. 312; November-December, 2005, Betty Carter, review of A Subway for New York, p. 742.

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 1997, review of Old Ironsides, p. 307; September, 1999, review of Locomotive, p. 1423; February 1, 2004, review of The John Bull, p. 139; November 1, 2005, review of A Subway for New York, p. 1188.

New York Times, February 11, 1977, Herbert Mitgang, review of Underfoot, p. C25.

New York Times Book Review, November 16, 1975, Barbara Karlin, review of The Brown Paper School Presents My Backyard History Book, p. 31; February 6, 1983, Holcomb B. Noble, review of Windmills, Bridges, and Old Machines, p. 33; July 26, 1992, Verlyn Klinkenborg, review of Thrashin' Time, p. 19.

Publishers Weekly, November 30, 1998, review of Pouring Iron, p. 73; September 6, 1999, review of Locomotive, p. 103; March 31, 2003, review of Rama and Sita, p. 63.

School Library Journal, January, 1976, Sandra Weir, review of The Brown Paper School Presents My Backyard History Book, pp. 42-43; August, 1983, Jeffrey A. French, review of Windmills, Bridges, and Old Machines, p. 72; January, 1988, French, review of Superpower: The Making of a Steam Locomotive, pp. 94-95; April, 1992, Lee Bock, review of Thrashin' Time, p. 144; April, 1995, Kristin Lott, review of Human Culture, p. 148; April, 1997, Shirley Wilton, review of Old Ironsides, p. 142; January, 1999, Wilton, review of Pouring Iron, p. 132; November, 1999, Margaret Bush, review of Locomotive, p. 178; December, 2002, Dona Ratterree, review of Model T, p. 131; February, 2003, John Peters, review of Jenny, p. 139; June, 2003, Miriam Lang Budin, review of Rama and Sita, p. 134; March, 2004, Grace Oliff, review of The John Bull, p. 248; February, 2006, Gloria Koster, review of A Subway for New York, p. 156.

Washington Post Book World, August 1, 2004, Elizabeth Ward, review of A Subway for New York, p. 11.

Wilson Library Bulletin, January, 1978, review of Under foot, p. 371.