“For good or bad, people of the past have many things to say to us, about what we can do in the future,” said James Buckley Jr. about his Who Was or Who Is children’s historical biography book series. “[The subjects] can become examples of what to do or try (or what not to do or try). And understanding where we’ve been as a people is very important, I think.”
In 2000, the Santa Barbara author founded Shoreline Publishing, which has since produced more than 500 books — mostly nonfiction for adults and children. His Who Was/Who Is series has gained nationwide popularity, and Buckley is the author of more than 125 books for kids.
It is his Who Was/Who Is series, however, that has sparked recent interest and book sales. Buckley, one of a handful of authors who participate in writing the biography series, is a former Sports Illustrated writer and so has focused on athletic icons such as Muhammad Ali and Roberto Clemente. However, his first book in the series was on the famous chocolatier Milton Hershey.
Creating these kids classics requires extensive research that begins with reading a biography of the person who is being covered, said Buckley. That is the first place he goes, especially for older figures “who don’t have current, primary sources written about them.” Buckley furthers his investigation by watching documentaries and reading magazine articles about the subject’s influence and effect on the modern age.
Fans of the Who Was/Who Is series have more of Buckley’s work to look forward to, as he will soon be releasing titles such as Who Was Booker T. Washington? and Who Is Pelé?. Buckley will be signing his works on Sunday, August 30, 2 p.m. at Chaucer’s Books (3321 State St.;  682-6787).