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Ruth (Freeman) Swain (1951–) Biography

Personal, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

Born 1951, in Bryn Mawr, PA; Ruth SwainEducation: Vassar College, A.B., 1973. Politics: Liberal. Religion: Episcopalian. Hobbies and other interests: Books, history, travel, baking, theater.


Writer and educator. Worked at book stores in New York, NY, and Philadelphia, PA, 1973–80; appraiser of antique jewelry, 1980–85; nursery school teacher, beginning 1989. Volunteer for schools, alumnae organizations, and church.


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Honors Awards

Platinum Award, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, and Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies designation, National Council for Social Studies/Children's Book Council, both 2000, both for Bedtime!


Bedtime!, illustrated by Cat Bowman Smith, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1999.

Hairdo: What We Do and Did to Our Hair, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2002.

How Sweet It Is (and Was): The History of Candy, illustrated by John O'Brien, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2003.


Maine-based author Ruth Freeman Swain brings to light interesting aspects of American culture in several books for young people, among them Hairdo: What We Do and Did to Our Hair, Bedtime!, and How Sweet It Is (and Was): The History of Candy.

Swain began her writing career with Bedtime!, "a quirky, informative look at beds through the ages" according to a Publishers Weekly critic. Using a picturebook format and an entertaining prose style, Swain takes a world view of her subject, informing readers as to how the design and construction of beds have progressed throughout history, her text on sleeping furniture from ancient Egypt to the space age accompanied by numerous illustrations by Cat Bowman Smith. Ellen Mandel, reviewing the book for Booklist, enjoyed the author's debut work, commenting that Swain's "fun focus on one aspect of world cultures should find a place in both schools and public libraries."

In Hairdo: What We Do and Did to Our Hair Swain once again provides readers with a cultural history, this time of hair. Discussing the evolution of hair styles and the way they have varied through the centuries as well as from culture to culture, she sets the course for "a romp through hairstyles from the ancient Egyptians to the Greeks to the Romans," according to Barbara Buckley in School Library Journal. Buckley went on to state that "youngsters can pick up this book for fun and learn a little about the subject."

Swain recounts the fascinating history of the staple ingredient in most kids' fantasy diet in How Sweet It Is (and Was): The History of Candy. (Illustration by John O'Brien.)

Tackling a subject close to most children's hearts, How Sweet It Is (and Was): The History of Candy follows a similar format, this time discussing the history of different types of candy and chewing gum. Children are educated as to the origins of the popular ingredients, such as chocolate and sugar, the word "candy," and the evolution of some of the most popular confections. According to School Library Journal reviewer Carolyn Janssen, How Sweet It Is (and Was) "is a nonfiction treat that youngsters will enjoy with their dentists's blessings."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, September 15, 1999, Ellen Mandel, review of Bedtime!, p. 264; December 15, 2002, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Hairdo!: What We Do and Did to Our Hair, p. 765; October 15, 2003, Karin Snelson, review of How Sweet It Is (and Was): The History of Candy, p. 414.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2002, review of Hairdo!, p. 1145; October 1, 2003, review of How Sweet It Is (and Was), p. 1231.

Publishers Weekly, September 13, 1999, review of Bedtime!, p. 83; November 24, 2003, review of How Sweet It Is (and Was), p. 64.

School Library Journal, October, 2002, Barbara Buckley, review of Hairdo!, p. 152; November, 2003, Carolyn Janssen, review of How Sweet It Is (and Was), p. 132.

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