Judson writes about Andrew Carnegie with a combination of factual information and fictionalized conversations, which results in a book that captures the attention and imagination of young readers. Yet the lack of such reference matter as notes, a bibliography, and an index, as well as the style of the author, limits the work to pleasure reading.
Despite the fact that there is no documentation, however, the research is evident in Judson’s writing. The foreword mentions the sources consulted by the author in preparation for writing the book, including writings by and about Carnegie. Several times the text mentions what Carnegie wrote about his life in letters to his beloved uncle, George Lauder, in Scotland and about his rules for achieving and spending wealth, which were enumerated in his several books, articles, and addresses. Details about Carnegie’s philanthropic projects explain an important donation stipulation: A town could receive money for the construction of a library only if the townspeople proved that they wanted the library by providing land and by promising to maintain the gift with taxes. Judson also studied subjects related to Carnegie so that she could give accurate descriptions of them. For example, a passage on how steel is made from iron informs young readers about the process.
In this biography, young readers find a world in which the railroad was the chief means of transportation and the telegraph was the fastest form of communication. In Carnegie’s time, using steel for buildings was a new idea. The lack of modern, lifesaving drugs meant that Carnegie’s younger brother Tom died of pneumonia; Carnegie himself nearly...
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Judson was an established author whose works included approximately seventeen juvenile biographies of famous Americans when she wrote Andrew Carnegie. The awards and honors bestowed on Judson’s work included the naming of three of her juvenile biographies as Newbery Honor Books, and she was given the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for her lasting contribution to children’s literature in 1960. Writing fictionalized biographies for juveniles after careful research of diaries, letters, records, localities, and personalities, Judson produced books that were popular at publication, reprinted several times, and cited as outstanding examples of the genre.
Judson’s purpose in writing these books was to show young readers American leaders of dedication and vision. Early in her career, Judson became interested in the contributions of American immigrants. Carnegie, an exemplary businessman and Scottish immigrant, easily fit her writing goals and won her admiration. His interesting and eventful life embodied virtues such as fairness and generosity that made Carnegie’s story an appealing choice for a juvenile biography. Other books had already been written about Carnegie, notably Katherine B. Shippen’s Andrew Carnegie and the Age of Steel (1958), but Judson believed that she could write about his life from a fresh perspective.
Biographies that employ fictionalized dialogue based on facts, such as Judson’s Andrew Carnegie, can enliven history for young readers. Reading such biographies for pleasure can lead to a discovery of the past and prepare young readers for more factual historical accounts.