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>Maybe this is only funny if you’ve been reviewing books for twenty-five years, but

>What do Heath Ledger: Talented Actor, John Lennon: Legendary Musician & Beatle, and Michael Jackson: King of Pop have in common? They are all entries in the Lives Cut Short series from ABDO.

Aw, now I’m all nostalgic for Things to Know about Death and Dying, published in Silver Burdett’s Look Before You Leap series in 1985.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. >What, no love for Famous Court Cases Made Into Movies??

    Give series nonfiction a hug from me and Joshua 🙂

  2. masuntin says:

    >Interesting that John Lennon requires such a detailed descriptive subtitle. They must assume their audience has never heard of him.

  3. Wishes this were funnier says:

    >Do they have Jim Morrison: Where is his Grave?

  4. Ms. Yingling says:

    >The Michael Lennon book was actually very informative, but I could have done without the whole "Lives Cut Short" thing.

    Question, if you have time: I'm trying to put together a list of bloggers who concentrate on books for middle school boys. They are surprisingly hard to find? If you know of some useful ones, could you please comment on my blog? Thanks!

  5. >ABDO has a knack for churning out formulaic biographies, don't they? I enjoyed reviewing their Awesome Athletes series, which emphasizes the athlete's contributions to the community. They had all the best role models: Tom Brady, David Beckham … Michael Vick! Interesting that they're no longer selling the Michael Vick book on their website. But they are still selling Tiger Woods. It brings up the question all publishers face when creating biographies of living people – what do you do if that person turns out to be not so nice?

  6. >It's been done before. Chelsea House had the They Died Too Young series, which, I believe was short-lived itself.

  7. Anonymous says:


    Have you seen the Slate article about biographies of Presidents? Just how much are you supposed to tell the kiddies . . . ?

  8. >I haven't read the article, but I took a peek and it looks interesting.

    This idea makes me think about the D'Aulaire's beautifully illustrated book about Abraham Lincoln in which the final scene is Lincoln in a rocking chair reading to some children. There is no mention that Lincoln was assassinated. There's not even a mention that Lincoln died for his bravery in standing up for what he thought was right. It also makes me think of Milton Meltzer's fabulous biography of Willa Cather, in which he's very frank, but not sensationalist, about her relationships with other women.

    Obviously, one of these books is for very young children, and the other for young adults. However, there are some things you simply cannot leave out. I think authors have the obligation to be truthful. Of course, including juicy details just for the sake of being juicy is not appropriate. Children have the right to the whole story, and authors need to respect the rights of their readers. But this is where parents, teachers, and librarians are so important. Some children are ready for the sometimes unpleasant realities of the lives of those we look up to. Some children may not be. Adults can be helpful guides in leading children toward the quality books that they are emotionally ready for.

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