Milton Meltzer, Prolific Author, Dies at 94

Historians in the News

Milton Meltzer, a historian and prolific author of nonfiction books for young people who helped start a movement away from the arid textbook style of the past, died Saturday at his home in Manhattan. He was 94.

The cause was esophageal cancer, his daughter Jane Assimacopoulos said.

“Meltzer was one of the first in a new wave of nonfiction writers who brought lively and passionate writing, grounded in original source material, to middle-grade students and young adults, without talking down to them,” Lisa Von Drasek, the children’s librarian at the Bank Street College of Education in New York and an expert in the field, said in an interview on Wednesday.

“In the old days, it was those dry volumes with their buckram covers, crowded gray type and no reproductions that kids had to use for school assignments,” Ms. Drasek added.

In 2001, Mr. Meltzer, who wrote nearly 100 books for children, received the American Library Association’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for his contribution to children’s literature. Five of his works were National Book Award finalists.

Mr. Meltzer was a self-trained historian. The fact that he never graduated from college (he quit school during the Depression to help support his family) proved no barrier to his vast and varied writing. In fact, it was an impetus. Much of his work is infused with a call for social justice....

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