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Results 1 - 25 of 75
1. Bibles Removed From N.C. Baptist Church

by Sally Matheny

Bibles Removed From N.C. Church
The event didn’t make the headlines, but it happened in a North Carolina Baptist church on a chilly, Sunday morning in 2015.

The black Bibles, normally nestled between every two hymnals in each pew, weren’t missed until the morning worship music had already begun. A few people never noticed, but several of the congregation grew concerned. One of the deacons, shaking his head and shrugging his shoulders, discreetly whispered the discovery to the pastor. The pastor nodded in response to the deacon as the praise band continued their music.

When the music ended, the pastor returned to the pulpit and announced for the children to come for the children’s message.

The pastor was my husband. The church was my place of worship.
Read more »

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2. Valentine’s Day – Remembering Today’s Persecuted Christians

by Sally Matheny

The Story of St. Valentine
by Voice of the Martyrs/Cheryl Odden

Hidden under layers of commercialism, it’s difficult to find the origins of Valentine’s Day. 

One of my favorite children’s books on the topic is The Story of Saint Valentine, by The Voice of the Martyrs and Cheryl Odden. It’s a beautifully illustrated book about faith, love, and courage. It’s the story of one Christian’s brave perseverance in standing for truth no matter what the cost.

I think Valentine’s Day is a great day for remembering today’s persecuted Christians. Many think of Christian persecution in faraway countries.
One need only look 1,518 miles. The Voice of the Martyrs gives eye-opening information about the developments in Cuba.

Despite improvements, the Cuban government still arrests, mistreats, marginalizes and openly opposes Christians. Christians are often prevented from working in certain jobs. Though there have been fewer arrests, both church leaders and evangelists have been detained for periods, have had personal items confiscated, property destroyed, and some have endured beatings.”

VOM also states that rules established in 2014 now limit churches to one back account and increases the power of the government to freeze those if they desire.

The government knows the best place to implement and gain support for their policies—with the country’s youngest citizens.

“Some children are required to renounce Christ and embrace communism in school, and Christian young people are often not allowed to graduate from high school or enter a university.”
Read more »

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3. …miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and…


Filed under: flying, journeys, winter

1 Comments on …miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and…, last added: 2/5/2015
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4. Two Middle Grade Books 2014

Middle Grade Readers

1) One Dog and His Boy- Written by Eva Ibbotson, Published by Scholastic Inc. New York, NY 2014. Hal is just an ordinary kid with a large dream of owning a dog. On his birthday Hal is allowed to choose a pet that is when Fleck becomes a part of his life and an adventure begins after Hal finds him gone on Monday. Together with a girl named Pippa Hal rescues Fleck and running away is his only option, made trickier when Pippa announces that she and the other dogs want to come along. It not only teaches your children about the power of friendship and love  but it takes them on a journey through life. I highly recommend this book for your middle graders. Get out and pick up a copy today.

2) The Path of Names- Written by Ari Goelman, Published by Scholastic Inc. New York, NY 2013. Dahlia Sherman loves magic tricks, math and video games. She is not so found of campfire songs or lighting storms or mean girls her age. When she is placed in a sleeping camp strange things start happening like ghosts of little girls and an ancient maze guarded by a mysteries caretaker. This books take her on a journey through the past to discover what all this means. It is a mystery based on ancient Jewish scripture that is much better suited for your older middle grader. The book is a fun read and has a very strong connection to Jewish traditions and mystical culture.     

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5. Fiction, Freedom and the Meaning of Life

Zorba text“The superior virtue is not to be free but to fight for freedom.” ~ Nikos Kazantzakis

I know writers who would argue, “That’s just a man talking.”

Seriously, you’d spend $12 to watch a movie called The Valley of the Happy Free People?

No one has made such a movie and for good reason. Audiences don’t pay to vicariously experience being free, but rather to suffer the personal crises that open us to freedom.

Which explains why screenwriters write movies like Zorba the Greek, Casablanca, Thelma & Louise, and Good Will Hunting.

And American Beauty, Moonstruck, A Late Quartet, A River Runs Through It, Up in the Air, Out of Africa, The Artist, A Room with a View, and A Passage to India.

And Rocky, Sideways, Nebraska, The Matrix, Disgrace, Ordinary People, Of Gods and Men, On the Waterfront, The African Queen, Silver Lining Playbook, American Graffiti, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, and Labor Day.

Labor Day I saw just last night.

If you’re like me you don’t just watch movies, you examine them for how the writer does it. Does what? Frees the protagonist.

It happens in all the best fiction.

Every protagonist is on a trajectory toward freedom.

Let’s look at Labor Day.

Labor DayJosh Brolin plays Frank, an escaped convict. Ask him about freedom. His bid for freedom will intercept the lives of a mother and son living in small town USA.

Kate Winslet is Adele, who has lost all faith in herself in the aftermath of a divorce. She’s a prisoner of the belief that she’s an utter failure. She can hardly get out of bed. Don’t ask her anything.

Henry is Adele’s adolescent son. Since Henry is not the protagonist, he is not required to behave as though he were fighting to be free. However…

Henry has to bring his poor depressed mother breakfast in bed, for goodness sake. Ask Henry if he’d like to be free of the responsibility that weighs so heavily upon him?

Labor Day is unique for depicting a trio of characters who each find freedom early in Act I.

Most stories depend upon a merciless plot to beat the hard-headed protagonist into an awareness of how to solve their problems, but in Labor Day the miracle takes ten minutes.

Five minutes into the film, Frank shows up to kick-start the story. Injured from his leap out a prison hospital window, Frank politely but firmly inserts himself into the lives of Adele and Henry. The violence and trauma you’d expect to characterize an abduction are quite unnecessary in this case.

Adele blows convention out another window by acquiescing almost immediately to this stranger’s demands. She wants nothing more than to escape her sorry life. Perhaps to end it.

(To die and be reborn—there’s a freedom trajectory!)

Frank, Adele, and Henry foresee their salvation in this strange and sudden togetherness. But wait! They haven’t arrived in Freedom Valley yet. Not only would that be utterly boring, but it ignores Kazantzakis’ aphorism:

The superior virtue is not to be free but to fight for freedom.

The manhunt!

Kazantzakis will be happy to know that the police are closing in on Frank. The story becomes a fight to escape the forces that would annul these newfound freedoms.

Suffice to say that Adele, Henry, and Frank must remain freedom fighters into the foreseeable future. And I think that’s an accurate portrayal of the human condition.

However many jail breaks we execute, the walls of our human condition keep us under house arrest. The fight for freedom is an ongoing battle.

Which explains why The Valley of the Happy Free People strikes us as a bogus premise.

Freedom isn’t a place, it’s an attitude. Good fictional protagonists earn this perspective only after the plot has beaten the apathy right out of them. Now we realize that there are two ways to live, just as there are two ways to die.

“Free or not free—this is our choice in every moment.”

And that’s a woman talking, by the way—Pema Chodron.

Just had a thought…

Why doesn’t someone write a story about an escape from Happy Valley?

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6. Program Owners Are Real?

Is it Important to Know Your Program Owners Real?

Knowing that program owners are real is a major boost to your confidence when you are considering the merits of the program.

Check out this link to read the article by Wealthy Affiliate member who has met Kyle and Carson.

Eddy meets Kyle and Carson

Not only are the owners of Wealthy Affiliate real but they are actively involved in the community, adding training, joining in discussions and also being available for personal messages. This shows how they believe in their product and are concerned with their members.

Read more of Weal;thy Affiliate in my revew. - Wealthy Affiliate Review

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7. Are schools teaching British values?

By Stephanie Olsen

In June, (now former) Education Secretary Michael Gove announced that all primary and secondary schools should promote “British values”. David Cameron said that the plans for values education are likely to have the “overwhelming support” of citizens throughout the UK. Cameron defined these values as “freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility and respect for British institutions”. ‪At root, such a policy gets at the emotional conditioning of children. To adhere to a certain ideological conceptualization of “freedom,” to feel “tolerant,” or to be “respectful” (whether of parents, teachers, authorities or institutions), is to act according to implicit feelings of rightness.

Values are never just abstract ideas, but are expressed and experienced through emotions. And they are not ideologically neutral. To stress the education of British values is to put a form of emotional education on the agenda. Though many commentators have pointed out that the broad outlines of such an education already exist in schools, the fear of “extremism”, of the promotion of the “wrong” sort of values, has triggered a vigorous debate. What has largely gone unrecognized in this debate, however, is that it is emphatically not new.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, politicians and educationalists promoted a new education based on character training and the emotions, precisely to build British citizens who would respect and uphold British institutions. This brand of education was to be accomplished at school, but also at home, and in religious and youth organizations.

Herbert Fisher, the President of the Board of Education who spearheaded the Education Act of 1918, argued that the masses should be educated “to stimulate civic spirit, to promote general culture … and to diffuse a steadier judgement and a better informed opinion through the whole body of the community.” Other educational commentators broadly agreed with this mission. Frederick Gould, a former Board School teacher and author of many books on education argued that “The community cannot afford to let the young people pass out with a merely vague notion that they ought to be good; it must frame its teaching with a decisive and clear vision for family responsibilities, civic and political duties”.

Michael Gove, by Paul Clarke, CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Michael Gove, by Paul Clarke, CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Civic duties – the civic spirit – were to be taught to the extent that they would become ingrained, implicit, felt. This was to be primarily a moral education. Educators stressed character training, linking moral education to British imperialism or nationalism in an unashamedly patriotic spirit. Education reform was to improve future citizens’ productivity and develop national character traits.

Like Gould, educator John Haden Badley stressed the need to teach active citizenship and service. Education on these lines would provide “a deeper understanding of the human values that give to life its real worth”, cultivating and maximizing the potential of a “superior” Britishness. Meanwhile, in a speech in Manchester in 1917, Fisher argued that “the whole future of our race and of our position in the world depends upon the wisdom of the arrangements which we make for education.” He observed, in language strikingly familiar to contemporary political rhetoric, that “we are apt to find that the wrong things are being taught by the wrong people in the wrong way.”

But even in 1917 the rhetoric was clichéd. A generation of commentators before Fisher argued that the civic shortfalls in mass formal education could be fixed by informal education in youth groups and religious organizations and through improved reading matter. Much juvenile and family literature, whether motivated politically or religiously, stressed emotional socialization, especially in the building of morality and character, as critical for national cohesion.

The trouble with visions of national cohesion, as the last century and a half of educational debate bears out, is the difficulty in getting any two parties to agree what that vision looks like. At the turn of the twentieth century all agreed that children mattered. How they were to be educated was important not just to individual children and their families, but equally importantly, to the community and the nation.

Yet some reformers had patriotic aims, others religious; some civic, some imperial; some conservative, others socialist. Many combined some or all of these aims. All, whether explicitly stated or not, wanted to train, instrumentalize and harness children’s emotions. Children’s reading matter, the stories they were told, and the lessons they heard were known to be powerful forces in cultivating the emotions. Hence the high stakes, then and now, on the narratives supplied to children.

Michael Gove, in common with his Victorian forebears, turns to the “great heroes of history” to serve as models of emulation. Back in the early 1900s, Gould thought history “the most vital of all studies for inspiration to conduct.” The study of history is certainly no stranger to being manipulated for didactic ends in order to impart “British values.”

While Gove is only the latest in a long line to link British history, British values and education, there are surely lessons to be learnt from past attempts and past failures to implement this strategy. A generation of boys and young men at the turn of the twentieth century had grown up learning the positive value of patriotic service. In this memorial year, marking a century since the outbreak of the First World War, it seems appropriate to reflect on what values we might want to instil in the young. What feelings do we want them to learn?

Stephanie Olsen is based at the history department, McGill University (Montreal) and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Center for the History of Emotions (Berlin). She was previously postdoctoral fellow at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University. The co-author of Learning How to Feel: Children’s Literature and the History of Emotional Socialization, c. 1870-1970 she is currently working on children’s education and the cultivation of hope in the First World War.

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8. #595 – Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence by Gretchen Woelfle & Alix Delinois


Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence

by Gretchen Woelfle & Alix Delinois, illustrator

Carolrhoda Books           2/01/2014


Age 7 to 9            32 pages


“All men are born free and equal.” Everybody knows about the Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence in 1776. But the founders weren’t the only ones who believed that everyone had a right to freedom. Mumbet, a Massachusetts slave believed it too. She longed o be free, but how? Would anyone help her in her fight for freedom? Could she win against her owner, the richest man in town? Mumbet was determined to try. Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence tells her story for the first time in a picture book biography, and her brave actions set a milestone on the road toward ending slavery in the United States.”


“Mumbet didn’t have a last name because she was a slave. She didn’t even have an official first name. Folks called her Bett or Betty. Children called her Mom Bett or Mumbet. Others weren’t so kind.”

The Story

The year is 1776 and the United States begins its fight for freedom from the rule of the British by declaring on paper their Declaration of Independence. Mumbet is a slave owned by the richest man in town—the one who is usually the most powerful in town. Colonel John Ashley lived in Massachusetts and owed many businesses. He might have been kind, but his wife was definitely a cruel woman when it came to her husband’s slaves. Mumbet worked for Mrs. Ashley, usually in her kitchen. Mumbet hated that another human owned her, as wouldn’t you or I. She knew servants and hired hands could leave a cruel employer, but Mumbet had no recourse—she’s is property.

As the founding fathers gathered to write the Declaration of Independence, which started the seven-year war against the British, Mumbet served refreshments and tried to listen. The men were against British taxes and feared losing all their rights under British rule. As Mumbet listened, she heard one man say,

“He [the King of England] would make us slaves.”


“Mankind in a state of Nature are equal, free, and independent . . .

God and Nature have made us free.”

After seven years of war against England, and freedom won, the town held a meeting to introduce The Massachusetts Constitution in 1780. It declared,

“All men are born free and equal.”

Mumbet wondered if that meant her. She approached Theodore Sedgwick, a young lawyer who helped draft the Declaration of Independence, and asked him to represent her in a fight for her personal freedom under the new Massachusetts law. He accepted. Mr. Sedgwick reminded the judge and jury that no law existed in Massachusetts making slaves legal and the new constitution now made them illegal. Would the judge and jury agree with Mr. Sedgwick and grant Mumbet her freedom—and the freedom of all slaves in Massachusetts in the process?


Mumbet’s story, a true story, is an unusual biography in that I don’t recall hearing about this woman in any history class, not even American History. Mumbet had strength unseen except on rare occasions. To take your master to court to demand your freedom was a crazy idea. Even white women were still considered their husband’s chattel, why would a slave be above that. How was Mumbet going to convince a jury—not of her peers—and a judge—most likely friends with the richest man in town—that she deserved her freedoms for the same reason as the men deserved theirs from Britain? The new Massachusetts Constitution was not that old and here is this slave trying to gain her freedom, yet she is property. This must have caused some laughter, smirking, and hate. I find this story truly moving. Her new name became Elizabeth Freeman, a most deserved last name.

Mumbet’s clear and succinctly written story tells of an amazing, intelligent, and courageous woman who dared stand up for her rights when no one ever considered her to have rights. She entered a paternal courtroom, a jury not of her peers, and a town overflowing with curious citizens not all of which could have been happy Mumbet wanted freedom. It was probably more hostile, considering ever man probably stood to lose his slaves if Mumbet were successful. That makes Mumbet one of the strongest woman to have ever lived in the United States.


The illustrations are profoundly beautiful with deep rich colors. Even the end pages have an elegance to them. Alix Delinois represented that time in America accurately, with facial expressions that must have matched the frustration felt by most citizens, as the founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence. Mrs. Ashley’s cruelty is shockingly visible, immediately making you feel empathy for Mumbet and her daughter. For people sincerely wanting freedom and respect from the British, some were capable of much harm to others.

Thankfully, someone thought to write down Mumbet’s story giving the author great accounts of Mumbet’s life and challenges before, during, and after that day in court. After the story are two pages of author notes. They tell of the help the author received from Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Theodore Sedgwick’s daughter. Catharine wrote Mumbet’s story as it happened, leaving accurate historical documents from which this story was written. These notes are fascinating.Teachers would do well to keep Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence as an adjunct history lesson. It is a story not told in most history classes. Gretchen Woelfle’s impeccable research and storytelling skills gives us a story of slavery not well known in the very country in which it happened—until now. Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence should fascinate kids and adults alike.

MUMBET’S DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. Text copyright © 2014 by Gretchen Woelfle. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Alix Delinois. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Carolrhoda Books, Minneapolis, MN.

Buy a copy of Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence at AmazonB&NiTunesBook DepositoryCarolrhoda Books—at your local bookstore.


Learn more about Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence HERE.

Meet the author, Gretchen Woelfle, at her website:  http://www.gretchenwoelfle.com/

Meet the illustrator, Alix Delinois, at his website:   http://alixdelinois.com/home.html

Find more books a the Carolrhoda Books blog:   http://carolrhoda.blogspot.com/

Carolrhoda Books is a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.     https://www.lernerbooks.com/


Also by Gretchen Woelfle

Write On, Mercy!: The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren  

Write On, Mercy!: The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren

All the World's a Stage: A Novel in Five Acts

All the World’s a Stage: A Novel in Five Acts

The Wind at Work: An Activity Guide to Windmills

The Wind at Work: An Activity Guide to Windmills






Also by Alix Delinois

Eight Days: A Story of Haiti

Eight Days: A Story of Haiti

Muhammad Ali: The People's Champion 

Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champion




Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Children's Books, Favorites, Historical Fiction, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Top 10 of 2014 Tagged: 1776, Alix Delinois, American Revolutionary War, Carolrhoda Books, children's book reviews, Declaration of Independence, freedom, Gretchen Woelfle, Lerner Publishing Group, Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, slavery

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9. Wishing Chairs and Flying Bedrooms - Heather Dyer

 © John Atkinson Grimshaw
I suspect there’s a reason why fairies are found at the bottom of the garden: the bottom of the garden represents the limits of a child’s freedom. It is the furthest they can go from home without entering the big wide world – and it’s in this space between security and freedom that magic occurs.

Children have so little freedom. Freedom beckons, but is also frightening. Perhaps this is why I loved reading so much when I was a child. From the safety of an armchair in the front room or beneath the covers of my bed, I could escape safely.

When I was seven I loved books in which magical items transported children directly from the security of home into another world - stories like Enid Blyton’s The Wishing Chair, in which an old chair intermittently grew wings and carried the children off on fantastical adventures. There was also Nesbit’s Phoenix and the Carpet, in which an old rug turns out to be a magic carpet - and let’s not forget  that wonderful flying bed in Bedknobs and Broomsticks - or The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, in which an old wardrobe provides the portal to freedom.

Part of the excitement lay in the fact that the children never quite knew when their adventure might take place. Nesbitt’s children always had to wait until their parents were out – and Blyton’s children had to keep going down to the playroom to see if the chair had grown wings. The appeal also lay in the fact that there was always the risk of mishap - along with the assumption that the children would return home safely.

When my friend’s daughter Elinor told me about a dream in which her bedroom flew, I was delighted. What a wonderful symbol her unconscious had conjured up to grant her both security and freedom! She could go wherever she wanted without leaving the safety of her bedroom – and what’s more, she would have everything she needed with her: a raincoat, a book to read, a sunhat or a swimsuit …

So, inspired by Elinor’s dream, I wrote The Flying Bedroom, a series of short adventures in which Elinor’s bedroom takes her to faraway places including a tropical island (from which her bedroom nearly floats away), the theatre (where Elinor reluctantly takes centre stage), and even to the moon (where Elinor helps a man called Niall fix his rocket). I’m hoping that The Flying Bedroom will satisfy children’s longing for both security and freedom – the tension that never really goes away, no matter how old we are.


 The Flying Bedroom is released on May 15th by Firefly Press

You can find more information about Heather Dyer and her books at www.heatherdyer.co.uk

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10. Fly, Eagle, Fly! An African Tale – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Fly, Eagle, Fly! An African Tale Retold by by Christopher Gregorowski Pictures by Niki Daly Foreword by Desmond Tutu Published by Margaret McLederry Books, 2000 Ages: 5-8 Themes: parables, eagles, freedom Quote, page 10:  He climbed up a gully in case the calf had … Continue reading

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11. naive illustrative rant at global injustice













Filed under: flying

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12. First World Problems

I have to say, these last three months have not been easy. I had to drink water, milk and other stuff besides my beloved soft drinks. What a serious “first world” problem. Right? And until I started writing this post, I was really proud of myself for giving up the soft drinks for three whole […]

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13. Undocumented immigrants in 17th century America

By Richard A. Bailey

“In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are under-written, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine our selves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the eleventh of November in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Dom. 1620.”

When the Mayflower—packed with 102 English men, women, and children—set out from Plymouth, England, on 6 September 1610, little did these Pilgrims know that sixty-five days later they would find themselves not only some 3,000 miles from their planned point of disembarkation but also pressed to pen the above words as the governing document for their fledgling settlement, Plimouth Plantation. Signed by 41 of the 50 adult males, the “Mayflower Compact” represented the type of covenant this particular strain of puritans believed could change the world.

The signing of The Mayflower Compact

While they hoped to achieve success in the future, these signers were especially concerned with survival in the present. The lives of these Pilgrims for the two decades or so prior to the launching of the Mayflower had been characterized by Separatism. Their decision to separate from the Church of England as a way to protest and to purify what they saw as its shortcomings had led to the necessity of illegally emigrating from the country of England and seeking refuge in the Netherlands. A further separation was needed as these English families realized that the Netherlands offered neither the cultural nor economic opportunities they really desired. But returning to England was out of the question. Thus, in order to discover the religious freedom they desired, these Pilgrims needed to remove yet again, which became possible because of an agreement made with an English joint-stock company willing to pair “saints” and “strangers” in a colony in the American hemisphere.

Despite the fact that they were the ones who had recently arrived in North America, the Pilgrims taxed the abilities of both the land and its native peoples to sustain the newly arrived English. Such taxation became most visible at moments of violent conflict between colonists and Native Americans, as in 1623 when Pilgrims massacred a group of Indians living at Wessagussett. Following the attack, John Robinson, a Pilgrim pastor still in the Netherlands, wrote a letter to William Bradford, Plimouth’s governor, expressing his fears with the following words: “It is also a thing more glorious, in men’s eyes, than pleasing in God’s or convenient to Christians, to be a terrour to poor barbarous people. And indeed I am afraid lest, by these occasions, others should be drawn to affect a kind of ruffling course in the world.” As his letter makes clear, Robinson clearly hoped the colonists would offer the indigenous peoples of New England the prospect of redemption–spiritually and culturally–rather than the edge of a sword. The Wessagussett affair, however, illustrated such redemption had not been realized. From at least that moment on, relationships between English colonists and the indigenous peoples of North America more often than not followed ruffling courses.

While an established state church isn’t a main threat nearly 400 years later, some of the Pilgrims’ concerns still haunt many Americans. Like those English colonists preparing to set foot on North American soil, we remain afraid of those we perceive as different than us–culturally, racially, ethnically, and the like. But the tables are turned. We are now the ones striving to protect ourselves from a stream of illegal and “undocumented” immigrants attempting to pursue their dreams in a new land. Our primary method of protection? Separatism. Like the Pilgrims we often remain unwilling to welcome those we define as different. We’ll look to them for assistance when necessary, rely on their labor when convenient, take advantage of their needs when possible, but we won’t welcome them as neighbors and equals in any real sense nor do we seek to provide reconciliation and redemption to people eager to embrace the potential future they see among us.

Ruffled courses persist as the United States wrestles with how it ought to treat those men, women, and children who, like the Pilgrims of the seventeenth century, are looking for newfound opportunities. As we remember the voyage of the seventeenth-century immigrants who departed England on 6 September 1610 and recall their many successful efforts to establish a lasting settlement in a distant land, we do well to celebrate not only their need to separate but also their dedication to “covenant and combine [them]selves together into a civil body politic.” The world has enough ruffling courses and perhaps needs the purifying reform modeled by the Pilgrims and the potential redemption those like John Robinson hoped for as they agreed to work together for the common good. In short, one would hope that a people whose history was migration from another land would be more welcoming than we often are, especially in our dealings with the immigrants and the impending immigration reform of our own day.

Richard A. Bailey is Associate Professor of History at Canisius College. He is the author of Race and Redemption in Puritan New England. His current research focuses on western Massachusetts as an intersection of empires in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world, fly fishing in colonial America, and the concept of friendship in the life and writings of Wendell Berry. You can find Richard on Twitter @richardabailey

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Image credit: The Mayflower Compact, 1620. Artist unknown, from Library of Congress. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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14. What does Passover celebrate?

Tonight marks the first night of Passover, so I thought I’d share a bit about what the holiday celebrates and what it means to me. Passover is one of the most important Jewish holidays of the year, and is probably the most observed Jewish holiday after Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur (despite what people think about Hanukah!). Etched in Clay

Passover commemorates the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, as told in the old testament (or, if you’re the kind of person who waits for the movie to come out, as told in The Ten Commandments). According to the story, the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years, until God, with the help of Moses, led them out of Egypt and into freedom.
Whether or not you believe in God or the Old Testament, the Passover story resonates. For me, one of the most meaningful parts of it is the acknowledgement of how truly terrible and traumatic slavery is: terrible enough that, although Jews were slaves many thousands of years ago, we still recall the experience in great detail every year. We even eat bitter herbs during the seder, the traditional Passover meal, so that the bitter taste of slavery is fresh on our tongues.

Unfortunately, slavery is not ancient history; in fact, it’s alive and well in many parts of the world. Whether enslaved by law, by force, or by poverty, many human beings living on earth today are not free. Passover is a time to really meditate on what that means – and, perhaps, on our part in it. What have I done to support or abolish slavery? Am I buying from companies with good labor practices? Am I aware of what’s happening in my own community? Are there sustainable ways of dismantling slavery that I can support?

A Song for Cambodia

Although slavery is a heavy subject, I actually think it’s one that young people can really understand deeply, and Passover is a great time to explore it together. Over at Pinterest, we’ve rounded up some books for children about Passover and/or freedom. These books are great ways to start a discussion with young readers about slavery, both ancient and modern.

Another resource I’ll be thinking about a lot this year is a documentary I saw last week called Girl Rising, by the organization 10 x 10. The documentary focuses on the stories of ten girls from around the world and shows that for many young women, the passage from slavery to freedom is an education. Definitely worth watching, and suitable for children 12 and up. Taking kids to a screening near you would be a great way to celebrate the holiday.

Yasmin's Hammer

If you have other slavery/freedom related resources for young people, feel free to leave them in the comments. And to all those who are celebrating tonight, I wish you all a very happy (and meaningful) Passover!

Further Reading:

What does Ramadan celebrate?

What does Chinese New Year celebrate?

Filed under: Holidays Tagged: Cambodia, freedom, Girl Rising, holidays, Jewish, passover, slavery

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15. I am who I am

I am who I am your approval is not needed

Do you feel this way? Feel free to share this image if you do.

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16. The Midnight Zoo - a review

My review of The Midnight Zoo  (as it appeared in the March 2012 edition of SLJ)

The Midnight Zoo (unabr.). 4 CDs. 4.33 hrs. Prod. by Bolinda Audio. Dist. by Brilliance Audio. 2011. ISBN 978-1-7428-5126-6. $49.97.

Gr 7–10-- Like a 20th-century version of Avi's Crispin, who fled across 14th-century England, 12-year-old Andrej is without parents and adrift in Europe during World War II with his younger brother, Tomas, and infant sister in tow. Without destination or an understanding of the war that has divided them from their nomadic Roma clan, the siblings travel by night and sleep by day, sensing danger at every juncture. Andrej scavenges for their food and necessities for the baby. One moon-drenched evening, the trio arrives at a zoo in the ruins of a bombed village. They encounter a menagerie of talking animals, trapped in zoo cages with neither keeper nor keys. Throughout a surreal evening, the boys and animals share life stories. Through the animals, Andrej and Tomas begin to understand the nature of man and war. This understanding, however, offers more questions than answers. Richard Aspel's, rich and sonorous voice creates memorable characterizations for the many humans and animals in Sonya Harnett's novel (Candlewick, 2011), including German-speaking soldiers; his Aussie pronunciation requires a keen ear. Listeners who persevere will be rewarded with a stellar performance. With some aspects of fable, minimal dialogue, and heavy use of allegory, this artfully crafted look at the character of man and the concept of freedom may have limited popular appeal.

Copyright © 2012 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

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17. Never forget – A Letter to My Son Written on September 11, 2001

"That's what it takes to be a hero, a little gem of innocence inside you that makes you want to believe that there still exists a right and wrong. That decency will somehow triumph in the end."  -Lisa Hand Those who know me well know since my son was a baby I have kept journals [...]

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18. Jennifer Egan Wins 2011 Tournament of Books

Today A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan has won the 2011 Tournament of Books at The Morning News–a round robin competition that pits books against books every March.

A team of literary judges decided each round of the competition, and all the judges voted on the final two books: Jonathan Franzen‘s Freedom and Egan’s novel. Egan earned nine votes; Franzen earned eight.

Andrew Womack concluded the contest with this vote: “How fortunate to find two books in the championship so comparable—both spanning decades (or beyond) and heavily centered on music. For me, this decision comes down to pacing, and Franzen is the Pink Floyd to Egan’s Sex Pistols; by the end of Freedom I couldn’t take another meandering guitar solo, while I was dazzled by how much Goon Squad packed into such a compact space.”


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19. Should Tyra Banks Review Books in a Post-Oprah World?

Plenty of celebrities–from Kristen Bell to Elizabeth Banks–have tweeted about Suzanne CollinsHunger Games trilogy. But, not all of them have their very own talk show. That’s what sets Tyra Banks apart from all the rest. You can read Banks’ Twitter book review in the image embedded above: “Soooooo good!!!”

Shelf Life poked fun at the review: “That is especially impressive, since six o’s and three exclamation points is the highest possible score in Tyra’s rating system. (By comparison, she thought Twilight was ‘Soooo good!!’ and she broke with critical consensus by only giving the new Franzen a tepid ‘Soo good!’)”

Oprah Winfrey chose Jonathan Franzen‘s Freedom as this year’s book club pick. Could Banks review books in a post-Oprah world?  Some feel that with or without Oprah, publishing will go on.

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20. Nini Lost and Found: A Charmer That Feels Like Home


Nini Lost and Found by Anita Lobel

This second book about Nini the cat follows the award-winning Nini Here and There that won a Caldecott Honor in 2007.   In this book, Nini discovered that the door to the house has been left open and escaped out into the garden.  While the house was cozy, the outdoors was also fun.  There were grasses, flowers, and an entire woods to explore.  But when night falls, the woods became more frightening, darker and filled with noises that could be large animals coming after her.  Nini hid under a tree, but realized that she could not just stay there.  That’s when she heard voices calling her from the house.  With a burst of courage, Nini ran home, through the open door that closed behind her.  Back to the familiar things and smells and food.  She was very happy to be home and safe, for now.

Lobel’s deep colored illustrations show both the comforts of home and the enticements of the outdoors as equally welcoming.  The richness of the autumnal landscape brings a warmth to the outdoors, inviting both Nini and readers to explore.  Children will understand Nini’s wish to escape, wander and explore.  They will also understand her conflicting desire for safety and warmth.  It is a gentle take on the theme of running away from home.  When the book turns darker with nightfall, Lobel’s color palette turns to deep blues, blacks and browns.  The contrast is distinct and makes for a more chilling moment when Nini is hiding and scared.  The contrast is clear and effective.

This simple picture book will be enjoyed by children for many different reasons.  Some for the story of a cat, others will see the parallel with children running away, and others will enjoy the adventure at night in the dark.  I look for books that can be enjoyed by many types of children for different reasons.  This is most certainly one of them.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Knopf.

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21. What is Freedom? By Shane Evans

I will start this piece by asking the questions… “What is FREEDOM?...”

Now as you have likely pondered that and come up with an answer, I will share with you some thoughts on why I came to address this topic “underground”. The idea of the “underground railroad” (and I think of this as an idea) was something that has been with me since I was a child. I recall hearing the idea for the first time thinking of it as a real thing or place, an intricate tunnel that had small trains taking people from the south to the north and essentially to FREEDOM. I recall as I grew older and found out more about what it really was and filling in the space of imagination with facts that it was truly about a rebellion against an institution… the institution of slavery.

Now as an author and illustrator I am typically conscious of the words that I use… This is important in the communication of ideas. It is important because in many ways we look to ignite the imagination of our readers to go deeper into the feelings of a situation. There are certainly books that inundate us with words where you have to refer to a dictionary to understand and there are books where the words are so sparse that your “minds eye” has to capture the rest. The beauty of a picture book is that you have the luxury of visuals to accompany your words and the power of that relationship can bring so much to life in ones imagination on the subject.

That is where Underground was born... in the imagination… I began this work asking myself… “what would it feel like to be on this journey?”… and essentially I began. In many ways this is likely how those who were in this situation thought. I have always had a problem with the impression that the word “slave” provoked in the mind. As a child we learn that slaves in this country were African people… but when you read the definition of what a “slave” is there is a much broader and deeper meaning. I believe that it is dangerous to define a people or their mindset simply by words The institution of slavery is and was about the MIND, BODY and SPIRIT of ALL people involved. It is about captors and those captured and the effects that this idea has on all living amongst it. There were people during this time in our history that did not BELIEVE in this idea of slavery. People looked at the idea and felt many things about it I am sure… “this is NOT right…!”, “this is NOT who I am…!”, “this is NOT how people should treat others…!”, “this is NOT what I want to be for the rest of my life…!” and countless thoughts can be added to this list. So when I asked myself “what it would feel like to be on the underground railroad…?” I realized that I did not have to look far for those feelings. We have all felt trapped at some point in our lives and wanted to “break free” and I am no exception. As I learned more about the underground railroad I realized that it was a SPIRIT… the spirit of a living idea. It lived amongst those “stealing away” during this time in our American history and it lives today in the spirit of those trapped and bound where they do NOT feel free and look to “BREAK THE CHAINS THAT HOLD THEM”… we are all victums and we are all looking to escape

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22. Talking about freedom

Having a blog can be a roller coaster ride. Some days you are going up that huge ramp and your stomach goes all queasy because you aren't sure. And then some days are the rush of the downhill and the thrill of what's next. I'm on the downhill today. I asked a simple question about daydreaming and am having a beautiful dialogue about freedom. Here's the first comment:

I’m daydreaming about freedom and wondering, simultaneously, if I can even define freedom.

Click here if you'd like to join the discussion. What does freedom mean to you?


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23. The Friday Five: Inspiration

These are five things that inspire me today:

You can rent your own private island

My friend told me now is the time to write a blank check from The Law of Abundance

I wrote what I thought was some garbage at a new writer's group that I joined [because I've recently moved to a new city] and instead of focusing on my poor writing the group focused on the pure emotion of the piece and urged me to include it in one of my stories, so I did.

It's my brother's birthday today and I remember when my other brother--who's afraid of travel--took the train from Chicago to Texas to be with us to celebrate my older brother's 50th not so long ago.

The people of Egypt and the journalists who continue to report despite the risk.


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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins caught my attention quickly and held it fast throughout the rest of the book. The cliffhanger ending prompted me to buy the next two books without thinking twice.

A book like this makes you think about your situation as it is today and the direction everything is going. It is clearly set in a futuristic United States, but it's no future any of us (hopefully) would ever want. It has a corrupt government in every sense of the word. People nowadays may not be happy with the way things are going, but at least we aren't publicly whipped or shot if we want to speak out against things that are happening. We still have so many freedoms that The Hunger Games shows us we should be thankful for.

Who could live in a world where "games" are held every year pitting people–teenagers–against each other in a battle for their lives? Aside from that there is a constant fear of starvation or a fear of things getting worse than they already are, though that is hard to imagine. This government has torturous ways of dealing with difficulties that keeps everyone terrified.

One girl, a hunter who just wants to keep her family alive, especially her little sister, is faced with what she considers no choice. She enters the hunger games to save her sister from having to go. This sacrifice leads her down a road she can't turn away from. Her hunting skills and ability to out-think her opponents–and the government–are the only things keeping her alive. For now. But will the government let her truly win the games?

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25. Jennifer Egan Wins 2011 Tournament of Books

Today A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan has won the 2011 Tournament of Books at The Morning News–a round robin competition that pits books against books every March.

A team of literary judges decided each round of the competition, and all the judges voted on the final two books: Jonathan Franzen‘s Freedom and Egan’s novel. Egan earned nine votes; Franzen earned eight.

Andrew Womack concluded the contest with this vote: “How fortunate to find two books in the championship so comparable—both spanning decades (or beyond) and heavily centered on music. For me, this decision comes down to pacing, and Franzen is the Pink Floyd to Egan’s Sex Pistols; by the end of Freedom I couldn’t take another meandering guitar solo, while I was dazzled by how much Goon Squad packed into such a compact space.”

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