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Richard Platt (1953–) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights

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Born 1953, in England; father a civil engineer, mother a pharmacist. Education: Studied engineering at University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1972–73; Newcastle College of Art and Design, diploma in art, 1974; Leeds Polytechnic University, B.A. (first-class honors), 1977; attended Central School of Art.

Addresses

Agent—Patricia White, Rogers, Coleridge & White, 20 Powis Mews, London W11, 1JN, England.

Career

Worked as a photographer and teacher of photography, 1978–80; Camerawork Gallery, London, England, photographer, 1979–80; Marshall Cavendish, London, subeditor, 1980–82; Mitchell Beazley International, technical editor, 1982–83; affiliated with Applied Holographics PLC, 1984–85; freelance writer, 1985–.

Member

British Society of Authors.

Honors Awards

Outsanding Science Trade Book designation, National Science Teachers Association and Children's Book Council, 2004, for Eureka!; Utah Children's Informational Book Award, 1994, for Incredible Cross Sections; Smarties Silver Medal, 2004, for Pirate Diary.

Writings

NONFICTION FOR CHILDREN

Stephen Biesty's Incredible Cross-Sections Book, illustrated by Biesty, Knopf (New York, NY), 1992.

Stephen Biesty's Cross-Sections Man-of-War, illustrated by Biesty, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 1993.

Stephen Biesty's Cross-Sections Castle, illustrated by Biesty, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 1994.

The Smithsonian Visual Timeline of Inventions, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 1994.

In the Beginning: The Nearly Complete History of Almost Everything, illustrated by Brian Delf, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 1995.

The Apartment Book: A Day in Five Stories, illustrated by Leo Hartas, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 1995.

Richard Platt

Stephen Biesty's Incredible Explosions, illustrated by Biesty, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 1996.

Stephen Biesty's Incredible Everything, illustrated by Biesty, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 1997.

Disaster!, illustrated by Richard Bonson, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 1997.

Great Events That Changed the World, illustrated by Brian Delf, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 1997, published as History: The Really Interesting Bits!, 1998.

Inventions Explained: A Beginner's Guide to Technological Breakthroughs, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1997.

Stephen Biesty's Incredible Body, illustrated by Biesty, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 1998.

The Amazing Pop-up 3-D Time Scape, illustrated by Stephen Biesty, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 1999.

Aztecs: The Fall of the Aztec Capital, illustrated by Peter Dennis, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 1999.

DK Illustrated Book of Great Adventures, illustrated by George Sharp and others, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 1999, published as Illustrated Book of Great Adventures: Real-Life Tales of Danger and Daring, Dorling Kindersley (London, England), 1999.

Plants Bite Back!, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 1999.

Space Explorer Atlas, illustrated by Leo Hartas, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 1999.

Everest: Reaching the World's Highest Peak, illustrated by Russell Barnet and John James, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 2000.

Spies!, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 2000.

Media and Communications, Marshall Cavendish (London, England), 2000.

Spiders' Secrets, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 2001.

Technology and Communications, Silver Dolphin (San Diego, CA), 2001.

Stephen Biesty's Coolest Cross-Sections Ever, illustrated by Biesty, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 2001.

Apes and Other Hairy Primates, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 2001.

Explorers: Pioneers Who Broke New Boundaries, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 2001.

Extreme Sports, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 2001.

Julius Caesar: Great Dictator of Rome, illustrated by John James and Jim Robins, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 2001.

Villains: Traitors, Tyrants, and Thieves, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 2002.

Discovering Pirates, Red Kite (London, England), 2002.

Crime Scene: The Ultimate Guide to Forensic Science, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 2003.

Eureka!: Great Inventions and How They Happened, Kingfisher (Boston, MA), 2003, published as Eureka!: Great Inventors and Their Brilliant Brainwaves, Kingfisher (London, England), 2003.

Fidel Castro, Raintree (Austin, TX), 2003, published as Fidel Castro: From Guerrilla to World Statesman, Watts (London, England), 2003.

The Vanishing Rainforest, illustrated by Rupert van Wyk, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 2003.

Communications: From Hieroglyphics to Hyperlink, Kingfisher (Boston, MA), 2004.

D-Day Landings: The Story of the Allied Invasion, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 2004.

Discovering Egyptians, Red Kite (London, England), 2004.

Forensics, Kingfisher (New York, NY), 2005.

Experience Flight, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 2006.

Pirates of the Caribbean Visual Guide, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 2006.

"EYEWITNESS" SERIES

Film, Knopf (New York, NY), 1992.

Pirate, photographs by Tina Chambers, Knopf (New York, NY), 1994.

Spy, photographs by Geoff Dann and Steve Gorton, Knopf (New York, NY), 1996.

Shipwreck, photographs by Alex Wilson and Tina Chambers, Knopf (New York, NY), 1997, revised edition, 2005.

"DIARY" SERIES

Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess, illustrated by Chris Riddell, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 1999.

Pirate Diary: The Journal of Jake Carpenter, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2001.

Egyptian Diary: The Journal of Nakht, illustrated by David Parkins, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2005.

FOR ADULTS

The Magic of Black and White, Time-Life (Alexandria, VA), 1985.

The Photographer's Idea Book: How to See and Take Better Pictures, Amphoto (New York, NY), 1985.

(With John Hedgecoe and Jack Tresidder) The Art of Color Photography, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1989.

The Professional Guide to Photo Data, Beazley (London, England), 1989.

The Ultimate Photo Data Guide, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1989.

The Ordnance Survey Guide to Smuggler's Britain, Cassell (London, England), 1991.

Also author of monthly column for SLRCamera, 1980–82; contributor to books and periodicals. Consulting editor, Michael Busselle, The Complete 35mm Source-book, Amphoto (New York, NY), 1988, revised edition, 1992.

Adaptations

Smugglers' Britain Web site, http://www.smuggling.co.uk, is based on Platt's book The Ordnance Survey Guide to Smugglers' Britain.

Sidelights

Richard Platt is the author of more than sixty informative books for young readers, and he also writes for innovative multimedia projects. Some of his most popular works have been collaborations with illustrator Stephen Biesty on the "Cross-Sections" series. After a failed attempt to forge a career as a photographer, Platt discovered that he had a knack for writing. "I started writing about photography: first magazine articles, then books," he explained on the Walker Books Web site. "I got a job editing children's books, then went on to write them."

In the 1990s, Platt teamed up with popular juvenile illustrator Biesty for several books, beginning with Stephen Biesty's Incredible Cross-Sections Book, published in 1992. The following year, a second volume in the series, Stephen Biesty's Cross-Sections Man-of-War, proved equally interesting for late-elementary-age readers, especially those enchanted by seventeenth-century battleships. Alongside Biesty's cutaway illustrations, Platt provides explanatory text that indicates the purpose and activities in each section of the ship. The hardships of life aboard such vessels for their often 800-member crews are not overlooked, either, and the drawings depict food rations crawling with maggots and a doctor's pail containing severed limbs. Ellen Mandel, writing for Booklist, asserted that Platt's "intriguing text" serves to make "this meticulously presented book a treasure of factual content and visual imagery."

For Stephen Biesty's Incredible Everything, Platt provides informative paragraphs to accompany the illustrations for many everyday products, such as athletic shoes and compact discs. Much of the text revolves around the manufacturing process. Stephen Biesty's Incredible Body is a lesson in human anatomy, with sections on each of the body's systems and several major organs; the digestive system alone takes up four pages. Platt has also worked with the illustrator on Stephen Biesty's Cross-Sections Castle and Stephen Biesty's Incredible Explosions.

Working with publisher Dorling Kindersley, Platt has authored several titles in their "Eyewitness" series, some of which have appeared in the United States under the Knopf/Borzoi imprint. Pirate details the world of corsairs, privateers, and crime on the high seas throughout history. A reviewer for Science Books and Films, Richard B. Woodbury, praised the work as "a veritable miniencyclopedia or minimuseum" and "a pleasure to look at." Spy chronicles the history of espionage and the decisive role intelligence-gathering triumphs have played in history. Of particular emphasis are the code-breaking endeavors by Allied intelligence networks during World War II. Shipwreck, also part of the "Eyewitness" series, investigates famous sea disasters and rescues. Like the other books in the popular series, Shipwreck is lavishly illustrated. Chris Stephenson, writing in School Librarian, called it "an excellent source of historical evidence and nautical information."

Platt has also written several books about inventions. His The Smithsonian Visual Timeline of Inventions, which appeared in 1994, won praise from reviewers for its comprehensiveness. Platt divides the development of technology throughout the ages into five sections, including agriculture, conquest, and communication. The timeline begins at 600,000 BCE, around the time humans likely began using fire, and includes predictions for innovations that may occur in the near future. Cathryn A. Camper, reviewing The Smithsonian Visual Timeline of Inventions for School Library Journal, praised Platt's skilled use of illustration and text, which the critic felt "teaches a sophisticated form of literacy similar to" that provided with multimedia learning tools—an area in which Platt already had a great deal of writing experience. "Readers will delight in the colorful pictures and the text, which gives just enough information to satisfy curiosity," opined Voice of Youth Advocates writer Christine Miller.

Platt has also written another work on essential technology, the 1997 work Inventions Explained: A Beginner's Guide to Technological Breakthroughs. In this work he explains, for elementary-age readers, some notable achievements throughout human history, and how they positively affected life. Platt begins with the first tools developed in primitive cultures, then moves on through eons of technological advancement all the way to computerization and other space-age technology. "The strength of the book is the way it conveys the global nature of inventions," noted a Kirkus Reviews assessment.

For young readers, Platt has penned some books on general history topics. With illustrator Brian Delf, he wrote History: The Really Interesting Bits!, which describes thirteen significant events that changed the course of history, including the construction of Egypt's Great Pyramid, the fall of the Roman Empire, the Russian Revolution, and World War II. Each is given a double-page spread, and Delf provides the illustrations and maps. In Books for Keeps, reviewer Clive Barnes commended the writing as "accurate," and further noted that "the design is clear, colourful and enticing." Nansi Taylor, writing for School Librarian, termed it "a book to pore over and learn from."

In Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess Platt offers readers a glimpse into what life might have been like during the Middle Ages for an eleven-year-old boy who lives in a castle and works as a page, or a knight in training. Accompanied by illustrations by Chris Riddell, the 1999 title describes, in diary form, Tobias's daily life, his page friends, an illness in which he is "bled" as a cure, and a jousting tournament. Further information on medieval history is included at the back of the book. "Readers will enjoy the child's language and descriptions," stated Betsy Barnett in her School Library Journal review, and concluded by singling the
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Platt takes a break from historical fiction to share his interest in the history of technology in this 2003 work, and shows that the "Eureka!" moment often comes after many years of effort. (Cover illustration by Mike Buckley.)work out as a "fresh, appealing offering." Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan commented on the book's educational value, noting that "readers will learn about the social structure of feudalism as well as life in and around the castle."

Castle Diary was the first of the diary books written by Platt. Discussing the series with Nikki Gamble in an online interview for the Write Away Web site, Platt noted that "the diary books are really midway between the two forms of writing; they are more like historical novels than conventional nonfiction." With Pirate Diary: The Journal of Jake Carpenter, Platt describes the realistic life of pirates from the perspective of nine-year-old Jake who is captured and then forced to work as part of the pirate crew. "While he does not romanticize piracy, the author displays a keen eye for the sort of gorier details that young buccaneers will relish," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Shelle Rosenfeld, in Booklist, noted that Platt provides "a wealth of information in an entertaining, historical-fiction diary format." Anne Chapman Callaghan, writing for School Library Journal, commented that "kids looking for adventure will certainly find plenty of it here." Egyptian Diary: The Journal of Nakht, the third book of the series, reveals ancient Egypt from the perspective of a young scribe-in-training.

Platt's work in traditional nonfiction has continued alongside his production of further "Diary" books. Everest: Reaching the World's Highest Peak is "packed with information" about the quest to climb Mount Everest, according to Elizabeth Stumpf in School Library Journal, while his award-winning Eureka!: Great Inventions and How They Happened gives information on twenty-nine important inventions and is useful for both "report writers and browsers," according to Kathy Piehl, writing in School Library Journal.

In his Write Away online interview with Gamble, Platt discussed some of the recurring themes in his books, such as pirates and castles. "What engages me particularly about pirates is the mythology that has grown around them," he explained. "It's this clash between the reality of piracy and the myths that really interests me." About castles, he commented, "The medieval period is colourful and interesting, which is a reason that I've done more than one castle book. The other reason is that writers become stereotyped in publishing so that having written one castle book, there's a very good chance of being asked to write another." Platt confessed to Gamble that he is frightened of writing fiction, which made the "Diary" books particularly challenging for him. On the Walker Books Web site Platt explained some of what he loves about writing: "People pay me to find out all this fascinating stuff about strange, wacky and obscure subjects."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 1, 1993, Ellen Mandel, review of Stephen Biesty's Cross-Sections Man-of-War, p. 337; November 15, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess, Page, p. 627; October 15, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of Apes and Other Hairy Primates and Explorers: Pioneers Who Broke New Boundaries, p. 420; December 15, 2001, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Pirate Diary: The Journal of Jake Carpenter, p. 732; September 1, 2004, John Peters, review of Communication: From Hieroglyphs to Hyperlinks, p. 116.

Books for Keeps, November, 1996, review of Spy, p. 15; May, 1998, Clive Barnes, review of History, p. 25.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 2002, review of Pirate Diary, p. 216.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1995, review of In the Beginning, p. 1286; December 15, 1997, review of Inventions Explained, p. 1838.

Library Journal, June 15, 2003, review of Crime Scene: The Ultimate Guide to Forensic Science, p. 89.

Library Media Connection, February, 2004, review of Crime Scene, p. 60.

Magpies, March, 1998, Lynne Babbage, review of History, p. 42; March, 2002, review of Julius Caesar: Great Dictator of Rome, p. 45.

Publishers Weekly, December 20, 1999, "Special Effects," p. 82; October 22, 2001, review of Pirate Diary, p. 77; August 25, 2003, review of Castle Diary, p. 67.

Reading Teacher, October, 2002, Nancy J. Johnson and Cyndi Giorgis, review of Pirate Diary, p. 201.

School Librarian, February, 1996, Nansi Taylor, review of In the Beginning, p. 35; spring, 1998, Nansi Taylor, review of History, p. 51, and Chris Stephenson, review of Shipwreck, p. 41; spring, 2002, review of Pirate Diary, p. 38.

School Library Journal, February, 1993, Judie Porter, review of Film, p. 103; February, 1995, Cathryn A. Camper, review of Smithsonian Visual Timeline, p. 110; June, 1997, Eldon Younce, review of Spy, p. 142; January, 1998, Eldon Younce, review of Stephen Biesty's Incredible Everything, p. 128; February, 1998, Anne Chapman Callaghan, review of Inventions Explained, p. 115; January, 1999, Christine A. Moesch, review of Stephen Biesty's Incredible Body, p. 151; December, 1999, Betsy Barnett, review of Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess, p. 158; October, 2000, Elizabeth Stumpf, review of Everest: Reaching the World's Highest Peak, p. 180; December, 2001, Anne Chapman Callaghan, review of Pirate Diary, p. 142; March, 2004, Kathy Piehl, review of Eureka!, p. 241; November, 2004, Carol Wichman, review of Communication, p. 158.

Science Books and Films, November, 1995, Richard B. Woodbury, review of Pirate, p. 239; September, 2002, review of Apes and Other Hairy Primates, p. 520.

Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1995, Christine Miller, review of Smithsonian Visual Timeline, p. 187

ONLINE

Write Away Web site, http://improbability.ultralab.net/writeaway/ (December 2, 2005), Nikki Gamble, interview with Platt.

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