Award-winning children’s author Rhoda Blumberg, who translated her passion for history into more than 25 nonfiction books, died at home on June 6. She was 98.
Blumberg was born and raised in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. She received her B.A. degree from Adelphi University in New York, and following graduation became what was then known as a “career girl.” She worked as a freelance writer, researcher, and producer for both CBS Radio and NBC Radio, a talent scout for Simon & Schuster, and wrote features for several national publications.
In 1945 she married attorney Gerald Blumberg, six months after their first meeting. The couple moved to a farm in Westchester County in 1951 and Rhoda then spent more than 20 years raising their four children. She was said to take great joy in introducing the children to the wonders of nature, the arts, and travel, among other pursuits.
By the 1970s, the Blumbergs had an empty nest when their youngest child entered college. At that time, Rhoda rekindled her interest in writing and reconnected with her fondness for history and research. In 1973, she worked as executive editor of Simon & Schuster’s travel guides, , and soon after tried her hand at writing children’s nonfiction. Her first title for young readers, Firefighters, was published by Franklin Watts in 1975. She wrote prolifically for the next 30 years, producing more than 25 books. Though she explored many nonfiction topics, it was her historical books that received the highest accolades and warmest praise in various journal reviews for being “meticulously documented,” “beautifully written” and “entertaining.” Her 1985 title Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard) was awarded a 1986 Newbery Honor and the Boston-Globe-Horn Book Award, among other commendations. Her most recent books include Shipwrecked! The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy (HarperCollins, 2001), and York’s Adventures with Lewis and Clark: An African-American’s Part in the Great Expedition (2004).
Her longtime editor, Barbara Lalicki, who retired as senior v-p and editorial director for HarperCollins Children’s Books in 2013 and now teaches at Pratt Institute in Manhattan, offered this remembrance: “Sparkling, brilliant, alert to the telling detail, and fun to be with – words that describe Rhoda, and her vibrant, meticulously researched nonfiction as well.”
Blumberg is survived by her four children and their spouses, as well as nine grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, and her sister. Jerry Blumberg passed away in 2009 shortly after their 64th wedding anniversary.
A funeral will be held on Friday, June 10 at 11 a.m. at Temple Israel of Northern Westchester.