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Miami Professor Writes Book for Young Readers about Roosevelt’s Fight with Polio

Historians in the News
tags: books, teaching history, Franklin Roosevelt



It was not planned this way, but in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Miami University Professor James Tobin released a book for young readers about a man’s battle against another terrible viral scourge.

“Master of his Fate: Roosevelt’s Rise from Polio to the Presidency,” is a retelling of Tobin’s “The Man he Became: How FDR Defied Polio to win the Presidency,” which covers Franklin Roosevelt’s rise to power after contracting the often-deadly virus. This time, Tobin has written the story for readers ages 9 to 14.

Tobin said he recalls being a bookworm in his childhood, especially for children’s history books, so the idea of writing one had been in the back of his mind for a while. 

He was a bit burned out after writing the original Roosevelt book and intimidated by the idea of diving back into another historical book for adults. This is when it occurred to him that there were no children’s-level books on this topic.

“It was an interesting challenge as a writer to take this story that I knew backwards and forwards, but tell it in a new way,” Tobin said. “It looks easy to write children’s books, but it is really hard to do it well.”

Two major things worried him about portraying this story to a younger audience: making the science side understandable and, even more daunting, making the political side understandable.

“I think I went out of my way to use…not necessarily simpler analogies, but very clear analogies and simple straightforward language as I tried to explain, for instance, how the virus progresses through the body,” Tobin said.

Read entire article at Oxford (OH) Observer

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