The FDR Story Critical Context - Essay

Catherine Owens Peare

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Peare became a free-lance writer in 1952 and during her career wrote more than twenty-five youth biographies on figures from American and world history. Her subjects included scientist Albert Einstein, composer Stephen Foster, educator Mary McLeod Bethune, naturalist John James Audubon, poets John Keats and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, authors Mark Twain and Charles Dickens, Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Hoover, and many more. The sheer size of Peare’s selected bibliographies attests the depth of her research into her topics.

Critical response to The FDR Story when it appeared in 1962 was mixed. Booklist considered the book competent and factual, but Kirkus Reviews believed that Peare was attempting too much and that the result was an amalgamation of facts and details in a narrative that lacked necessary shading and variety. The New York Times Book Review criticized The FDR Story as being too focused on the effects and treatment of polio, saying that Peare failed to achieve an effective balance between what seemed to be two distinct aspects of her story.

Rose Mary Daly, in Library Journal, offered the most positive praise. Comparing Peare’s biography with Henry Thomas’ Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1961), which had recently been published, she found that they covered the same ground with very different emphases. While Thomas’ treatment was warmer and more personal, Daly thought that The FDR Story exhibited more maturity and greater depth. She recommended both volumes as complementary but suggested that Peare’s treatment was the better of the two.