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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Biography, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 743
1. Lincoln's Spymaster: Allan Pinkerton, America's First Private Eye by Samantha Seiple

Lincoln's Spymaster: Allan Pinkerton, America's First Private Eye  by Samantha Seiple Scholastic Press. 2015 ISBN: 9780545708975 I was sent a copy of this book from the publisher. Grades 6-12 This review reflects my opinion and not that of the Cybils YA Nonfiction Committee Over the centuries, immigrants have enriched our (American) culture and Allan Pinkerton was no exception.

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2. In Thanks: Books That Built a Writing Teacher

What are the books that have shaped you as a teacher of writing? Reflecting today, in thanks, for the authors and books that have influenced my life as a teacher.

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3. The phosphene dreams of a young Christian soldier

On a blustery St. Martin’s Eve in 1619, a twenty-three year old French gentleman soldier in the service of Maximilian of Bavaria was billeted near Ulm, Germany. Having recently quit his military service under Maurice of Nassau, he was new to the Bavarian army and a stranger to the area.

The post The phosphene dreams of a young Christian soldier appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. Who Is Ira Aldridge?

Our new children’s book, Ira’s Shakespeare Dream, tells the incredible story of Ira Aldridge. When we’ve shown this book to readers, we get one of two responses:
1) “I’ve never heard of Ira Aldridge.”
2) “You have a book about Ira Aldridge??! That’s so wonderful!”

The truth is, bringing Ira’s story to new readers is one of our great joys as a publisher. His is a story of phenomenal talent and determination, of someone who was truly born to do what he did. Too often, history has let the achievements of black people fall through the cracks–especially when they take place outside the narrative of slavery and civil rights. If you look at the African American biographies that appear most often, so many of them are focused on names we already know: Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass. While it is important to remember these people and their achievements, acknowledging the contributions of black people in other arenas–art, music, science, and in this case, Shakespearean acting–is equally important. 

So: who was Ira Aldridge?

Ira Aldridge was born July 27, 1807, in New York City. As a child, he attended the African Free School, a school established for the children of free African Americans and slaves. During that time, Aldrige would observe plays from high up in the balcony of the Park Theatre.

ira spread
Young Ira at the Park Theatre (image from Ira’s Shakespeare Dream)

Ira always loved Shakespeare. His acting career began in his teens, where he acted at the African Grove Theatre, the first resident African American theatre in the United States. Ira dreamed of performing Shakespeare one day on the stage of the Park Theatre. But black actors were not welcome there.

from Ira's Shakespeare Dream
from Ira’s Shakespeare Dream

Ira’s father, a church minister, tried to dissuade his son from pursuing acting. He encouraged him to become a minister or teacher, but Ira was determined to pursue his dream. At the age of 17, Ira headed to England as a valet for another actor to try his hand at acting. There, he found work running errands for small theaters and became an understudy for other actors.

When Ira finally got his chance to debut, his performance was met with mixed reviews. While some praised his acting, others did not like seeing a black actor onstage playing “white roles.” But Ira was not discouraged. He worked hard, studied acting, and gradually became known for his talented performances in a variety of roles. Later on, he toured United Kingdom, spending many years performing the lead roles in Othello, Macbeth and Richard III. Ira was most famous for his role as the titular Othello, which he first played at the age of 26. He was the first black actor to play Othello on the English stage.

Image of Ira Aldridge in a production of “Titus Andronicus”

Despite the fame he gained, Ira never forgot the plight of the enslaved African Americans in the United States. He would sometimes come out at the close of his performances to sit on the edge of the stage, preaching to the audience about the injustice of slavery. He used his performances to raise money to send to abolitionists fighting to end slavery in the United States.

Ira Aldridge toured around Europe and earned great acclaim for his performances. In 1858, the duke of Saxe-Meiningen granted him knighthood. He is the only African American actor listed among the 33 actors honored with plaques at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon. The theater at Howard University in Washington, DC is named after him.

Ira's Shakespeare Dream

Learn more about Ira Aldridge in Ira’s Shakespeare Dream, written by Glenda Armand and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Additional resources:

Read an interview with author Glenda Armand
View and download the free Teacher’s Guide

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5. The flirtatious friendship of Alexander Hamilton and Angelica Church hits Broadway

Theatergoers have been dazzled by the new Broadway hit Hamilton, and not just by its titular lead: the Schuyler women often steal the show. While Alexander Hamilton’s wife Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton provides heart and pathos, her sister Angelica Schuyler Church is sassy, witty, and flirtatious.

The post The flirtatious friendship of Alexander Hamilton and Angelica Church hits Broadway appeared first on OUPblog.

2 Comments on The flirtatious friendship of Alexander Hamilton and Angelica Church hits Broadway, last added: 11/18/2015
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6. New Mentor Texts for Information Writing + Book Giveaways

The books featured in this post, all of which were published in 2015, represent a variety of information writing. All of these are texts that can pull double- and even triple-duty in your classroom, thereby allowing you to use a text during read-aloud time so you can revisit it during a writing workshop minlesson and/or in a content area.

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7. #764 – George Ferris’ Grand Idea: The Ferris Wheel by Jenna Glatzer and Stephanie Dominguez

George Ferris’ Grand Idea: The Ferris Wheel Series: The Story Behind the Name Written by Jenna Glatzer Illustrated by Stephanie Dominguez Picture Window Books    8/01/2015 978-1-4795-7161-1 32 pages    Age 7—10 “You’ve heard of a Ferris wheel (you’ve probably even ridden one!), but do you know who designed the first one? Who had the idea? …

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8. In search of Thomas Smith Grimké’s portrait

Most biographers would agree that it is difficult to write about someone whose face you have never seen. When I set out to write a biographical entry on Thomas Smith Grimké (1786-1834) for the American National Biography Online, I confronted that challenge.

The post In search of Thomas Smith Grimké’s portrait appeared first on OUPblog.

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9. Admiral Nelson in letters

This year, on 21st October, marks the 210th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. This naval battle was between the British Royal Navy, led by Admiral Lord Nelson, and the combined French and Spanish fleets led by French Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve. The most decisive victory of the Napoleonic Wars, this battle ensured Nelson’s place as one of Britain’s greatest war heroes.

The post Admiral Nelson in letters appeared first on OUPblog.

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10. Untamed, The Wild Life of Jane Goodall – Book Recommendation

As regular readers of my blog know, one of my passions is the conservation of our planet and all its species, and today’s post returns to that theme. There is only one of my childhood heroes that followed me into … Continue reading

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11. Charles Williams: Oxford’s lost poetry professor

It was strikingly appropriate that Sir Geoffrey Hill should have focused his final lecture as Oxford Professor of Poetry on a quotation from Charles Williams. Not only was the lecture, in May 2015, delivered almost exactly seventy years after Williams’s death; but Williams himself had once hoped to become Professor of Poetry.

The post Charles Williams: Oxford’s lost poetry professor appeared first on OUPblog.

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12. The Courage to Act

In this extraordinary story of politics and the people, the former chair of the Federal Reserve offers an insider's account of the cataclysmic financial crisis of 2007 and the extraordinary effort of the Fed and the Treasury Department to buoy the U.S. and world economies, preventing further catastrophe. Books mentioned in this post The Courage [...]

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13. Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton  bu Don Tate Peachtree, 2015 ISBN: 978-1-56145-825-7 Grades K-5 The reviewer received a galley from the publisher. Earlier this year Louise reviewed The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Don Tate. Peachtree recently published a gorgeous picture book biography written and illustrated by Don Tate. Poet: The

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14. Fur, Fins, and Feathers by Cassandre Maxwell

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15. Gershwin and color: how blue is the Rhapsody?

Everyone knows George Gershwin as a composer, songwriter, pianist and icon of American music. But few know of his connections to the world of paintings and fine art. As a practicing artist himself, Gershwin produced over 100 paintings, drawings, and photographs.

The post Gershwin and color: how blue is the Rhapsody? appeared first on OUPblog.

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16. Caitlin Doughty’s Playlist for Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

The soundtrack perfectly suited to facing your own mortality. ("My Way," "Wind beneath My Wings," and other popular funeral songs need not apply.) 1. "Dead Man's Party" by Oingo Boingo The first time I heard this song, I couldn't believe how good it was. It imagines death as a raucous adventure. "Who could ask for [...]

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17. James Baldwin and The Fire This Time

As the fires burned in Baltimore, following the arrest and subsequent death of Freddie Gray in April 2015, protesters brandished placards with quotations from James Baldwin’s work, and thousands of blogs and twitter feeds invoked the legendary writer.

The post James Baldwin and The Fire This Time appeared first on OUPblog.

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18. Gamelife

Michael Clune's mother accused him of using computer games to escape from reality. She wasn't wrong, but part of what's fascinating about Gamelife is where Clune escapes to and what he thinks about along the way. "I need to be somewhere else," he writes, and that is the gift and the curse computer games offer. [...]

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19. The Life of Charlotte Bronte (1857)

The Life of Charlotte Bronte. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1857/1975. Penguin Classics. 623 pages. [Source: Bought]

I should have read it years ago. I really should have. I simply loved, loved, loved Elizabeth Gaskell's biography of Charlotte Bronte. Yes, it's packed with information on the Brontes. But it's more than that. It's how this information is conveyed, it's how the story is written that makes it a compelling read. Not many biographies are impossible to put down. This one was. Gaskell, in many ways, let Charlotte Bronte speak for herself by sharing so many letters or excerpts from letters. One really gets a sense of "knowing" from reading it. And that isn't always the case with biographies, though it is sometimes the case with autobiographies. I appreciated Gaskell's narrative voice very much. It was a real treat. Anyone who loves Victorian literature should read this one. Or anyone who loves Jane Eyre or any other Bronte novel.

I read for the same reason that I ate or drank; because it was a real craving of nature. I wrote on the same principle as I spoke--out of the impulse and feelings of the mind; nor could I help it, for what came, came out, and there was the end of it. ~ Charlotte Bronte in a letter to Mr. Wordsworth, 1837
It is very edifying and profitable to create a world out of your own brains, and people it with inhabitants, who are so many Melchisedecs, and have no father nor mother but your own imagination. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1840
Some of my greatest difficulties lie in things that would appear to you comparatively trivial. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1841
Write to me often; very long letters. It will do both of us good. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1841
If I could, I would always work in silence and obscurity, and let my efforts be known by their results. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1841
They wanted learning. They came for learning. They would learn. Where they had a distinct purpose to be achieved in intercourse with their fellows, they forgot themselves; at all other times they were miserably shy. ~ Elizabeth Gaskell about Charlotte and Emily going to Brussells 
Any one who has studied her writings,—whether in print or in her letters; any one who has enjoyed the rare privilege of listening to her talk, must have noticed her singular felicity in the choice of words. She herself, in writing her books, was solicitous on this point. One set of words was the truthful mirror of her thoughts; no others, however apparently identical in meaning, would do. She had that strong practical regard for the simple holy truth of expression, which Mr. Trench has enforced, as a duty too often neglected. She would wait patiently searching for the right term, until it presented itself to her. It might be provincial, it might be derived from the Latin; so that it accurately represented her idea, she did not mind whence it came; but this care makes her style present the finish of a piece of mosaic. Each component part, however small, has been dropped into the right place. She never wrote down a sentence until she clearly understood what she wanted to say, had deliberately chosen the words, and arranged them in their right order. Hence it comes that, in the scraps of paper covered with her pencil writing which I have seen, there will occasionally be a sentence scored out, but seldom, if ever, a word or an expression. She wrote on these bits of paper in a minute hand, holding each against a piece of board, such as is used in binding books, for a desk. This plan was necessary for one so short-sighted as she was; and, besides, it enabled her to use pencil and paper, as she sat near the fire in the twilight hours, or if (as was too often the case) she was wakeful for hours in the night. Her finished manuscripts were copied from these pencil scraps, in clear, legible, delicate traced writing, almost as easy to read as print. ~ Elizabeth Gaskell about Charlotte Bronte's writing habits
Even at the risk of appearing very exacting, I can't help saying that I should like a letter as long as your last, every time you write. Short notes give one the feeling of a very small piece of a very good thing to eat,—they set the appetite on edge, and don't satisfy it,—a letter leaves you more contented; and yet, after all, I am very glad to get notes; so don't think, when you are pinched for time and materials, that it is useless to write a few lines; be assured, a few lines are very acceptable as far as they go; and though I like long letters, I would by no means have you to make a task of writing them. . . . ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1847
If "Jane Eyre" has any solid worth in it, it ought to weather a gust of unfavourable wind. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1847
If I ever DO write another book, I think I will have nothing of what you call 'melodrama;' I think so, but I am not sure. I THINK, too, I will endeavour to follow the counsel which shines out of Miss Austen's 'mild eyes,' 'to finish more and be more subdued;' but neither am I sure of that. When authors write best, or, at least, when they write most fluently, an influence seems to waken in them, which becomes their master—which will have its own way—putting out of view all behests but its own, dictating certain words, and insisting on their being used, whether vehement or measured in their nature; new-moulding characters, giving unthought of turns to incidents, rejecting carefully-elaborated old ideas, and suddenly creating and adopting new ones. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1848
Every one has a right to form his own conclusion respecting the merits and demerits of a book. I complain not of the judgment which the reviewer passes on "Jane Eyre." Opinions as to its tendency varied then, as they do now. While I write, I receive a letter from a clergyman in America in which he says: "We have in our sacred of sacreds a special shelf, highly adorned, as a place we delight to honour, of novels which we recognise as having had a good influence on character OUR character. Foremost is 'Jane Eyre.' ~ Elizabeth Gaskell on book reviews
I wish you did not think me a woman. I wish all reviewers believed 'Currer Bell' to be a man; they would be more just to him. You will, I know, keep measuring me by some standard of what you deem becoming to my sex; where I am not what you consider graceful, you will condemn me. All mouths will be open against that first chapter; and that first chapter is true as the Bible, nor is it exceptionable. Come what will, I cannot, when I write, think always of myself and of what is elegant and charming in femininity; it is not on those terms, or with such ideas, I ever took pen in hand: and if it is only on such terms my writing will be tolerated, I shall pass away from the public and trouble it no more. Out of obscurity I came, to obscurity I can easily return. Standing afar off, I now watch to see what will become of 'Shirley.' My expectations are very low, and my anticipations somewhat sad and bitter; still, I earnestly conjure you to say honestly what you think; flattery would be worse than vain; there is no consolation in flattery. As for condemnation I cannot, on reflection, see why I should much fear it; there is no one but myself to suffer therefrom, and both happiness and suffering in this life soon pass away. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1849
You say that you suspect I have formed a large circle of acquaintance by this time. No: I cannot say that I have. I doubt whether I possess either the wish or the power to do so. A few friends I should like to have, and these few I should like to know well. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1850
I have read Tennyson's 'In Memoriam,' or rather part of it; I closed the book when I had got about half way. It is beautiful; it is mournful; it is monotonous. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1850
It is my intention to write a few lines of remark on 'Wuthering Heights,' which, however, I propose to place apart as a brief preface before the tale. I am likewise compelling myself to read it over, for the first time of opening the book since my sister's death. Its power fills me with renewed admiration; but yet I am oppressed: the reader is scarcely ever permitted a taste of unalloyed pleasure; every beam of sunshine is poured down through black bars of threatening cloud; every page is surcharged with a sort of moral electricity; and the writer was unconscious of all this—nothing could make her conscious of it. And this makes me reflect,—perhaps I am too incapable of perceiving the faults and peculiarities of my own style. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1850
You charge me to write about myself. What can I say on that precious topic? My health is pretty good. My spirits are not always alike. Nothing happens to me. I hope and expect little in this world, and am thankful that I do not despond and suffer more. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1851
Even if it should turn out reasonably well, still I regard it as ruin to the prosperity of an ephemeral book like a novel, to be much talked of beforehand, as if it were something great. People are apt to conceive, or at least to profess, exaggerated expectation, such as no performance can realise; then ensue disappointment and the due revenge, detraction, and failure.~ Charlotte Bronte, 1852

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Max Planck’s debt

The great German physicist Max Planck once said, “However many specialties science may split into, it remains fundamentally an indivisible whole.” He declared that the divisions and subdivisions of scientific disciplines were “not based on the nature of things.”

The post Max Planck’s debt appeared first on OUPblog.

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21. Fab Four Friends

Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the BEATLES  by Susanna Reich illustrated by Adam Gustavson Henry Holt Books and Company, 2015 ISBN: 978-0-8050-9458-9 Grades K-5 The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher. Over the past few years I've added two Beatles biographies to my school library collection: The Beatles Were Fab by Kathleen Krull and Who Were the Beatles? by Geoff

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22. 60 years of Guinness World Records

On 27 August 1955, the first edition of the Guinness Book of Records–now Guinness World Records, was published. Through listing world records of both human achievements and of the natural world, what started as a reference book became an international franchise, gaining popular interest around the globe. In celebration of this anniversary of weird and wonderful world records, we’ve selected a few favourites from talented individuals featured in our online products.

The post 60 years of Guinness World Records appeared first on OUPblog.

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23. Drowning in Facts: A Conversation with Amy Stewart and Masie Cochran

Amy Stewart is the author of the novel Girl Waits with Gun and six other books, including The Drunken Botanist and Wicked Plants. Some of her earliest research for the novel happened right here in Portland, and Tin House editor Masie Cochran was there to witness it all. We've brought them back together to reminisce [...]

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24. Electrical Wizard

Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World. Elizabeth Rusch. Illustrated by Oliver Dominguez. 2013/2015. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

It never failed, when I was in school, that one of the year's assignments would be to read a biography and either write a written report or give an oral report. It was a boring assignment, but, it wouldn't have had to be. What did I look for in a biography? First, that it was a SHORT book, meeting the minimum number of required pages certainly, but, not looking to go OVER either. Second, that it had PICTURES. The more illustrations, the better, in my opinion. And if they were COLOR illustrations, it was EVEN better. The subject matter didn't matter as much to me--at least then--as did these two essentials. Electrical Wizard would have been an absolute dream come true to me as a kid. I really don't remember ANY biography coming close in terms of being kid friendly and visually appealing. Children are lucky to have such lovely biographies available today. This one happens to be published by Candlewick.

So, the book is a biography of Nicola Tesla. And Rusch managed quite effortlessly to make electricity easy to understand. And Tesla was quite an interesting--fascinating--man. So this one makes for a delightfully compelling read.

Seven chapters focus on his life. Several more focus on his impact and relevance. For example, "Ahead of His Time," shows the brilliance of Tesla's inventions. And "Tesla Vs. Edison" provides context for understanding/appreciating both men. Also included scientific notes, a time line, source notes, and selected biography.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. Signs

As a teenager, I didn't pay much attention to posted signs. I was a strange kid — both very confident and very lost. My façade, my own sign posted for the world, was a lie and I knew it. But I believed if I could just be patient enough, a kind of secret door would [...]

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