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Wallkill teacher, historian releases children’s book on FDR

Adam J. Schenkman’s passion for writing has always been deeply rooted in history. A teacher, author and historian, he has written on a variety of subjects, from notorious murders in Ulster County and the involvement of women in the Civil War to the legacy of Wallkill schools.

For his latest work, Schenkman, 55, of New Paltz, drew on history as well as his own fond memories of a family tradition in the Hudson Valley to create his first children’s book, “Franklin’s Trees.”

The book, centered around Franklin D. Roosevelt’s life, introduces children to his love for trees, and is complemented by illustrations done by Lauren Reese which capture his home in Hyde Park and the nature surrounding it.

Roosevelt, who Schenkman said always referred to himself as a tree farmer, even as president, wrote in 1944, “All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on The Hudson River.”

Schenkman’s seventh book: ‘Franklin’s Trees’

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s home and Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill estate became Schenkman and his wife’s happy place, and he wanted to give back in the way he knew best.

“‘Franklin’s Tree’ just came to me like a stream of consciousness,” he said.

The book was published July 2. Geared toward children aged 5-10, it is Schenkman’s first foray into writing about a well-known individual. His six previous stories have focused on those who never had a voice in our nation’s history.

However, Schenkman’s appreciation for Roosevelt’s home stretches back decades. A resident of the Hudson Valley for over 20 years, Schenkman grew up in Kew Garden Hills, Queens. Beginning when he was 10, his father would take him to visit the mansion and camp at Nori State Park, stopping at the Dairy Queen in town for ice cream.

“It’s just such wonderful memories that I have of being there with my father,” he said.

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About the author

Schenkman lives in New Paltz with his wife, young son, golden retriever, three cats and two guinea pigs. “They’re all rescues, just not the kid, or my wife,” he laughed. “I think my wife rescued me.”

He said his wife has always been a part of his writing career and she helped him launch it too, as she used to work at Simon & Schuster publishing company. He’s always enjoyed having her professional input.

Many of the ideas for his books actually come from his job, propelled by his students’ questions. Schenkman teaches seventh grade social studies at John G. Borden Middle School in the hamlet of Wallkill.

He’s also worked at Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh, which launched the ideas for two of his books.

Schenkman has previously held roles at the Astor Home for Children, the Anderson Center for Autism, along with positions as a writer for magazines and newspapers, first responder, interior firefighter and consulting historian for Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz.

He now works as the Gardiner Town Historian on top of being a teacher, but he has recently dedicated more time to focusing on what he’s always wanted to do: write.

Where to purchase ‘Franklin’s Trees’

“Franklin’s Trees” is available in hardcopy or eBook wherever books are sold, as well as the Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Presidential Library and the gift shop.

On Friday, July 12, Schenkman will be at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library for a book signing from 1-4 p.m. On Saturday, July 20, he’ll be at the Hyde Park Library for a reading event for children from 11 a.m. to noon.

You can find more of Schenkman on TikTok, @authoraj, on his website, ajschenkman.com, or on his blog, historymadeseamless.wordpress.com.

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