Profile

Rhoda Blumberg (née Shapiro) ’38

Alumni, Arts and Media


 

Published:

April 5, 2012
Tagged: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English, Garden City
 

Rhoda Blumberg (née Shapiro) ’38

Alumni, Arts and Media


 

Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.

Children’s Author

Memorable faculty: “Owen Groves was a brilliant English professor.”

Involvement at Adelphi: Member of Alpha Epsilon Phi; Round Table, the Honorary English Society; and the Philosophy Club

Bringing History to Life

Rhoda Blumberg loves history. Throughout her career as a children’s author, she’s combined her gift for storytelling with her passion for bringing historical events to life. She writes about subjects she is curious about, and, inevitably, her detailed writing captures the young reader’s imagination. Her awards include a Newbery Honor, one of the most prestigious distinctions an author of children’s books can receive in the United States.

After graduating Magna cum Laude from Adelphi with her Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy, Rhoda began her career as a freelance writer. She contributed articles to popular magazines such as Parade and Collier’s. Originally, she published her work under the pseudonym “Rhoda Roder.”

At the same time, she also worked as a researcher and producer for various CBS network radio shows, such as “Hobby Lobby.” Working in this environment during the Second World War gave her the opportunity to meet pioneering broadcast journalists such as Edward R. Murrow, Eric Sevareid, and Charles Collingwood. Perhaps the most important person she met during this time was Gerald Blumberg, an attorney whom she married in 1945.

Rhoda continued to write until she had her second child in 1949, at which point she decided to put her work on hold to be home with her children. In 1951, the Blumberg family moved from Brooklyn to a small farm in Yorktown Heights, New York, 40 miles north of New York City. Always a learner, Rhoda spent each morning reading history and philosophy books while her children were in school.

By 1960 she returned to work, initially doing editing, ghostwriting, and fact-checking for a publisher. He encouraged her to return to writing, and she began by creating a series of professional travel guides. This experience led her to the subject matter she would cover in some of the earliest information books she published for children and young adults. After writing First Travel Guide to the Moon and First Travel Guide to the Bottom of the Sea, she shifted her focus to her true passion: history.

While her 20-plus books cover a wide array of topics — including the opening of Japan to the Western World by Commodore Perry, the California Gold Rush, the women’s rights movement, the building of the first transcontinental railroad, and the Lewis and Clark expedition — she had the same goal in writing each one: to share the stories of significant figures and events throughout American history in a way that would engage older children and adults.

Her exciting adventure stories are based on facts she has garnered through years of research. The colorful language and fascinating details she uses to tell her stories are complemented by illustrated historical materials, which Rhoda also researched and selected.

The themes and titles of her books reflect Rhoda’s own interests and experiences. Among her celebrated works of literature are Shipwrecked!The Incredible Journey of Lewis & Clark,The Great American Gold RushThe Remarkable Voyages of Captain Cook, and Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun, a Newbery Honor Book, which also won the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award and the Golden Kite Award. She is also the winner of the Washington Post/Children’s Book Guild Award for her overall contribution to nonfiction and the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Non-Fiction for Children.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Rhoda chose Adelphi College because her father wanted his youngest daughter to pursue her college degree close to home. Her sister, Cynthia Shapiro, also attended Adelphi five years ahead of her.

Rhoda was involved in a number of student organizations during her Adelphi years, including the Philosophy Club, an honors society; and Round Table, the honorary English society. She also joined the sorority Alpha Epsilon Phi, where she developed lifelong friendships with sorority sisters Gladys Greenberg, Mimi Siegmeister, Rosalie (“Mickey”) Brown, Betty Amerling, Norma Gorschen, and Estelle Fuchs. After graduating from Adelphi College, the “AE Phi families” remained the best of friends. They continue to reunite once or twice a year even now.

Rhoda still lives at Faraway Farm in Yorktown Heights, New York. Her husband, Gerald, died in 2009 after 65 years of marriage, and she is now surrounded by her son, three daughters, nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

 
Tagged: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English, Garden City
 
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