Under the Radar

by Tracy Barrett

Recently I sent a birthday card to an old friend. Usually, when you refer to someone as an “old friend” you hastily correct yourself with something like, “I mean someone I’ve known for a long time—not really old” (as though age was something to be ashamed of), but this time I mean both. I’ve known her since I was in kindergarten, and she’s old.

Jean Fritz turned 100 a few months ago. She and my mother were friends, and her daughter was occasionally our babysitter. When Mrs. Fritz dropped by for coffee, she would always ask what I had been reading and writing. I lived in a literary town outside New York City, and some grownups I knew were writers the way other grownups were dentists or teachers or business owners. It was just one more way that they spent their time.

On my seventh birthday Mrs. Fritz gave me an original illustration from my favorite of her books, The Cabin Faced West. It still hangs where I can see it when I sit down to write.

The edition I had and loved
Jean Fritz is better known for her nonfiction than her novels. Her memoir, Homesick, was awarded a Newbery Honor (rare for nonfiction) and won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Don’t forget those who came before us when looking for great books!


  1. Awesome! I do worry that we forget all these writers-- particularly women writing quietly and steadily and beautifully over the years. We get so caught up in the hype that we lost track, so thank you for this !

  2. Oh my gosh, Tracy! Jean Fritz is a legend! I ran into her work all the time both in my MLIS in Youth Services and in my MA in Children's Lit. I am speechless that you grew up with her.

    1. It seemed normal at the time to know a writer, but as I started my career I realized what an extraordinary privilege it was to know *such* a writer!


Post a Comment