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Recommended for ages 6-12.Patricia Polacco
is one of our great contemporary picture book authors, and specializes in picture books with serious content such as racism, disabilities, and even cancer, making them appropriate for older elementary school readers. In her newest book, which fits in perfectly for Women's History Month, she explores the girlhood of one of the most famous female figures of the 19th century, Clara Barton.
Clara was the fifth child to be born into the Barton family in Massachusetts, and with her mother in ill health, she was virtually raised by her siblings, particularly her older brother Davie, whom she adored. Joyous illustrations in Polacco's signature style show Davie showing Clara how to ride on a horse while she flings her arms in the air in delight. She helped Davie with his chores on the farm, and had an immediate affinity for nature and particularly with animals. But she had a speech impediment that made her shy and afraid of people; because no one understood this sort of problem in that day, her older sister punished her for not speaking correctly. School was a nightmare for her, and finally her parents agreed she could be taught at home. Even as a young girl, Clara had healing hands and neighbors let her treat their farm animals. When Clara's beloved brother Davie breaks both legs in an accident, she becomes his nurse and with her coaxing, urges him back to health, giving him the courage to try to walk again.
This is a touching introduction to a famous woman from history from a unique perspective--her love for her brother. Children will be able to easily identify with Clara's inhibitions, her love for nature, and animals, and her desire to help her brother heal. An author's note tells more about Barton's career as a teacher, nurse, and founder of the American Red Cross. In an intriguing author's note, we learn that Patricia Polacco herself is distantly related to Clara Barton, on her mother's side of the family, and they own a vase which is reputed to once have belonged to Clara Barton herself.
See Mary Ann Scheuer
and Louise Capizzio's
post on Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month
for more great suggestions on how to pair this book with other resources on Clara Barton.
Recommended for ages 5 and up.
s most recent picture book, Mister and Lady Day
, an ode to jazz great Billie Holiday and her pet dogs, just arrived at my library in time for Women's History Month.
This is Amy's fourth book on prominent female figures in cultural history; she has also penned Me, Frida
(on artist Frida Khalo), Georgia in Hawaii
(on artist Georgia O'Keefe), Imogen
(on photographer Imogen Cunningham). She is currently working on a picture book on sculptor Louise Bourgeois.
Billie Holiday's tragic life. which included working as a prostitute, living in a workhouse with her mother, drug addiction, a prison sentence, and more, might not seem like a natural fit for a picture book for young children, and indeed, this side of Holiday's life does not appear in Novesky's book. Novesky focused instead on Holiday's love for her many dogs, and in particular for her boxer named Mister. Love for a dog, of course, is a theme that children identify easily with, as do many adults (OK, I'm a sucker for a good dog story).
We first meet Billie Holiday as a young girl, dreaming of being a star, singing on a borrowed gramophone. Illustrator Vanessa Brantley Newton
, whose charming illustrations are done with gouache and charcoal with collage elements, depicts Billie in a beautiful setting on a fancy chair, dressed up with a bow in her hair (perhaps a bit fanciful given the realities of her childhood!). The next spread shows her already a star, the great Lady Day. (Illustrated 2-page spreads from the book can be seen on Novesky's website
). Novesky introduces a note of melancholy in the text from the beginning, by explaining that even stars need someone to listen to them, and that's the role Lady Day's dogs played. We meet her small dogs, chihuahuas Pepe and Chiquita, her big dogs (a Great Dane named Gypsy, and finally her favorite dog of all, Mister, who we see in a fabulous illustration, walking with Billie on a leash wearing matching mink coats. Instead of a sidewalk, they are walking on a piano keyboard, with the buildings of New York in the background. Mister had the life of a star himself; he was so pampered he got to eat steak while she was performing in glamorous clubs, and he waited for her while she performed, even serving to keep eager fans at bay.
Novesky tells young readers that "Lady got into trouble. She had to leave home for a year and a day. And Mister couldn't come." In an afterword, she explains that Billie Holiday was in fact in jail during that time for drug possession. When she returned, Mister was there to welcome her, and even accompanied her to a grand concert at New York's Carnegie Hall. The story ends on a hopeful note, with Billie singing her heart out, and Mister listening in the wings.
An author's note gives some more background on Holiday's life, appropriately omitting some of the uglier facts, and provides additional sources and a web resource.
There's no CD with the book, but readers could easily find CD's of Holiday's unique singing style at the library or on YouTube, which would enrich the story.
This is a moving yet charming book about a difficult subject, and could be integrated into units on Black History Month, Women's History Month, or jazz.
The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the advent of The Civil
by Teri Kanefield
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
In 1950, fifteen-year-old Barbara Rose Johns was sick and
tired of the horrible conditions she and other black students endured attending
the Robert R. Moton High School.
After reading Ann Patchett’s This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage I had to go back and read this book. Firstly because I learnt Ann writes non fiction just as beautifully as she does her fiction and secondly she talks in the book about a controversy surrounding Truth & Beauty.
In 2006, Clemson University assigned Truth & Beauty to the freshman class and Ann was invited to give the Convocation Address. However one parent deemed the book inappropriate, the media got involved and mass ignorance ensued. Ann details the events in ‘“The Love Between the Two Women Is Not Normal”’ in her frank and forthright style, her humour keeping you from boiling with outrage. After reading the book the whole incident seems even more ridiculous and also I sense more hurtful that Ann let on in her piece.
Truth & Beauty is the story of Ann’s friendship with Lucy Grealy. Lucy had a highly aggressive form of cancer when she was a child which left her with a badly disfigured jaw. Lucy had numerous operations throughout her life to try and correct and/or alleviate her disfigurement.
Lucy’s whole life was (rightly and wrongly) dominated by her face. It defined how people treated her and it defined how she saw herself. It was a part of who she was and shaped her as a person, good and bad. It was also a burden that became impossible for her to bear but her friends were always there to help pull her through.
Ann met Lucy at college but they became friends when they both attended the Iowa Writers Workshop together. Their lives and careers became entwined from that day forward. Ann writes about her friendship with Lucy warts and all. The good times and the bad. The times when Lucy was on top of the world and vice versa. How they supported each other through thick and thin and all the difficulties any friendship faces along the way.
Ann tells the story of her friendship with Lucy with clarity and emotion, with honesty and understanding. Heart breaking and gut wrenching. Truth and beauty. Ann Patchett at her best.
Buy the book here…
Pyle beautifully and poetically captures both time and place in this collection of essays. Village life and nature entwine in Gray's River, a tiny hamlet in rural southwest Washington, as Pyle meditates on the cycles of human, flora, and fauna. At once an accounting of both a year in passing as well as a simpler [...]
The nature diaries of Opal Whiteley are amazing for their magical, wide-eyed descriptions of forest and farm life. Raised on a Willamette Valley settlement in the early 20th century, Whiteley claimed to write this diary on scraps of paper at the age of six. Though her claims were disputed both in her lifetime and after, [...]
Wolff's memoir retells his hardscrabble childhood in a dysfunctional family, but rather than inspire sympathy or pity, he evokes laughter. Wolff's teenage years, spent in Skagit County, Washington, are filled with the desperation of enormous creativity trapped in a midcentury small town, which left me rooting for young Tobias's escape through whatever dubious means necessary. [...]
I have this recurring nightmare that my mother is alive. She never died. I've made a terrible mistake. I have to call my editor. We can't publish the book. I don't know how I could have made such a wild mistake. I mean, she looked dead. I signed the papers. I let the man from [...]
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By Philip Carter
Way back in 2007, when Twittering truly was for the birds, a far-sighted editor at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography piped up: maybe people would like to listen as well as read? So was devised the Oxford DNB’s biography podcast which this week released its 200th episode—the waggerly tale of Charles Cruft (1852-1938), founder of the eponymous dog show held annually in early March.
Over the last seven years we’ve offered two episodes of the podcast per month. Each lasts between 10 and 25 minutes and follows a set format: the reading aloud of a single biography of a historical figure, taken from the Oxford DNB and chosen by Dictionary editors. The structure of an ODNB biography is ideal for the podcast format; dictionary entries being concise, rounded accounts of a life (personal as well as public), told chronologically, and written by specialist authors. Notable writers whose work appears in the podcast list include Will Self on J.G Ballard, Bernard Crick on George Orwell, David Lodge on Malcolm Bradbury, and Anthony Thwaite on Philip Larkin.
Since 2007 many episodes have been commissioned to mark noteworthy anniversaries. For example, Captain Edward Smith and the bandleader Wallace Hartley on the centenary, in 2012, of the sinking of the Titanic; or Ludwig Guttmann, creator of the Paralympics, for the London Games later that year. Others mark notable birthdays (the centenary of the birth of Alan Turing in June 2012, for instance); or dates in the British history calendar (the extraordinary story of Guy Fawkes for 5 November and Fred Perry for Wimbledon fortnight); or one-off events such as the enthronement in March 2013 of Justin Welby, the 105th archbishop of Canterbury, with the story of the first incumbent, St Augustine.
A great many of the 200 episodes—all of which are available free in the archive—chart the lives of well-known people: Anita Roddick, Roald Dahl, Scott of the Antarctic, Dr Crippen, Wallis Simpson, and so on. There are many more familiar names we’d love to include. However, the restrictions of the podcast format (a 25-minute recording allows an upper limit of c.3000 words for a script) means that this isn’t, unfortunately, the place for a Dickens or a Darwin whose ODNB entries run to more than 20,000 words. Even so, it’s possible to touch on major historical figures through the lives of those with whom they spent time: the story of Nora Joyce sheds light on James; that of Alice Liddell (of ‘Wonderland’ fame) on Lewis Carroll.
Photographic study “Pomona” (Alice Liddell as a young woman) by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1872. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
A few episodes, among them Orwell and Diana, princess of Wales, have been reduced from the original Oxford DNB article for reading aloud. Likewise, a handful of episodes take the form of dual lives comprising two Dictionary entries fused together: 15 minutes with the motor-car designer Charles Rolls just wouldn’t seem right without the accompanying story of Henry Royce; and so too the combined talents of Fortnum & Mason, Mills & Boon, or Eric & Ernie. Aside from these edits, what’s read aloud is pretty close to what you’ll find in the Oxford DNB for that individual. People with complex lives tend not to receive the podcast treatment: complicated, multi-layered stories are hard to untangle in 15-20 minutes. More suitable are recognizable people who dedicated themselves to a particular purpose (Alexander Fleming and penicillin, for instance) or lesser-known individuals closely associated with a familiar event or artefect, such as Charles Lucas, first recipient of the Victoria Cross.
Over the course a year, we hope to put out a mix of episodes covering a range of time periods, topics, and tones. Our earliest life is Boudicca (d.60/61 AD), the most recent (in terms of date of death) is Beryl Bainbridge (1932-2010). In between there’s plenty for the medievalist as well as the modernist—the life of Emperor Hadrian is much more than the story of wall-building, while that of the hermit St Godric is an ear-catching account of the privations of an 11th-century anchorite. Some of the chosen stories make for difficult listening. Try, for instance, Margaret Roper or Annie Darwin, daughters of Thomas More and Charles Darwin respectively. Others, like the scandalous medieval cleric, Bogo de Clare, or the raffish socialite Neil ‘Bunny’ Roger, are pure pleasure.
Entertainment is important, of course. But the podcast also provides an alternative route to historical biography for school teachers and pupils—many of whom, it’s fair to say, would not otherwise turn to a work of academic reference like the Oxford DNB. Episodes on Wilfred Owen, the abolitionist Olaudah Equiano, or the suffragette Emily Davison relate to aspects of the UK’s national curriculum. Hopefully, the series can also spring a few surprises on older listeners, be they the Hanoverian female soldier Hannah Snell; the doyen of pigeon racing, Albert Osman; or Charles Isham, bringer of garden gnomes to England.
About 650,000 episodes are downloaded annually from the ODNB podcast. Three things may account for this. First, there are our readers, Paul and Lynne—professional voice actors who have brought to life the words and worlds of writers, politicians, criminals, inventors, eccentrics, and—with Elizabeth Parsons—a would-be ghost. Then there’s the London studio where each episode is recorded, edited, and polished to a high standard.
Finally, and most importantly, there’s our common love of human stories, and of other people’s business—as testified by popular BBC radio series, such as “Great Lives”, “Last Word”, or the “New Elizabethans”. The Oxford DNB biography podcast makes a modest contribution to our fascination with real lives, albeit one that spans nearly 2000 years of British history and offers more than 50 hours listening time. That you can—while cooking dinner or walking the dog—be in the company of Mrs Beeton or, now, Charles Cruft seems rather wonderful.
Philip Carter is Publication Editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is a collection of 59,003 life stories of noteworthy Britons, from the Romans to the 21st century. The Oxford DNB online is freely available via public libraries across the UK, and many libraries worldwide. Libraries offer ‘remote access’ allowing members to gain access free, from home (or any other computer), 24 hours a day. You can also sample the ODNB with its changing selection of free content: in addition to the podcast; a topical Life of the Day, and historical people in the news via Twitter @odnb. A new e-brochure offers more on the Oxford DNB podcast, along with selected content. All 200 episodes are available as free downloads in the Archive. New episodes in the podcast are available on alternate Wednesdays as ‘Oxford Biographies’ via iTunes.
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The post Have you heard? Oxford DNB releases 200th episode in biography podcast appeared first on OUPblog.
A lively botanical excursion: from the world's largest pumpkin to a truly black petunia, this is a delightful romp through the world of plants. Books mentioned in this post A Garden of Marvels: How We... Ruth Kassinger Used Hardcover $21.00
Women's History Month began on Saturday, March 1. You can learn more about outstanding children's books on women's history by following the 4th annual group blog which I co-organize with fellow blogger/librarian Lisa Taylor, Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month, Once again we will feature posts from distinguished authors, illustrators, librarians and bloggers, and we invite you to participate in the conversation. This year's contributors will include authors Tonya Bolden, Sandra Neil Wallace and Gretchen Woelfie, librarian Penny Peck, and many others. In addition to the blog, you can also access our content on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. While new content is published only in March, the blog is available all year long as a resource for librarians, parents, and educators. Please join us in our 4th annual celebration! Here at the Fourth Musketeer I will also be highlighting books about women in history this month. Today I will be reviewing Demi's newest book on Florence Nightingale. Demi has published over 150 books during her long career, many of them large format biographical picture books aimed at elementary school-aged students. In addition to their informative text, Demi's biographies showcase her unique artistic style, which features a strong Asian influence, traditional materials, intricate patterns, and vibrant, glowing colors.
When I was a girl in the 1960's and '70's, Florence Nightingale would have been one of the only women from history you would have been likely to find a book on in the children's biography section of your local library, although I would be reasonably certain that I could not have found a biography as beautifully illustrated as this new one. On the end pages and title page, we see Florence as the iconic Lady of the Lamp. The book unfolds in a traditional linear narrative, beginning with Florence's birth and girlhood. She was born into a very wealthy British family, where she had all the advantages of an upper class upbringing. But her interest in nursing and helping others began at a young age; Demi shows us Florence as a little girl playing hospital with her dolls. Her interest in nursing intensified on a family trip to the Continent when in addition to seeing the tourist sights, she visited hospitals and charities. Her parents were opposed to her becoming a nurse, but eventually relented when they saw her commitment.
Demi's text and artwork show Florence's career progressing from working at a hospital for indigent women to her groundbreaking work nursing soldiers in the Crimean War, where she arranged for patients to get healthy food and water and stressed the need for cleanliness. We see Florence wandering the wards at night with her lantern, earning her nickname, The Lady with the Lamp.
Florence worked herself to exhaustion and suffered ill health later in her life. Nonetheless, she continued to work for the poor and downtrodden in society, and inspired the founding of the International Red Cross.
Demi's book not only provides an outline of Florence Nightingale's remarkable life but also considers her legacy as an extraordinary woman in history. Back matter includes a timeline and suggestions for further reading.
This slim but powerful volume is a must for school and public libraries.
By: JOANNA MARPLE,
Blog: Miss Marple's Musings
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, Perfect Picture Book Friday
, A SPLASH OF RED
, African American
, Horace Pippin
, Jen Byrant
, Melissa Sweet.
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Title: A Splash of Red, The Life and Art of Horace Pippin Written by Jen Bryant Illustrated by Melissa Sweet Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013 Ages: 5-8 Themes: biography, Horace Pippin, artist Awards: A Robert F. Sibert Honor Book Winner of … Continue reading
Using mentor texts and a notebook entry to think about biographical writing
I just heard that Shirley Temple Black passed away last night. She was an amazing child actress and went on to a great career in politics as a U.S. Ambassador. I am offering here an original story that puts her early life into the context of the Great Depression. Enjoy!
Download: SPARKLE, SHIRLEY! SPARKLE!: How Shirley Temple Brought Hope to the Great Depression.
Wisdom, the oldest known bird in the world at age 63, has just seen her newest chick hatch! Wow!
Wisdom and her chick on Midway Atoll NWR. Photo credit: Ann Bell/USFWS
One of the surprising things about writing a nonfiction piece is that the story isn’t finished yet. Our world doesn’t just stop, it’s not stagnate. Life goes on. And that means that Wisdom has yet another chick.
Laysan albatrosses are known to take a year off now and then, usually at 4-5 year intervals. Wisdom has continuously hatched a chick since 2008, so she’ overdue for a sabbatical. This year, I was worried that she might not return and that could mean she was taking a break; or, it could mean that she died somewhere, lost at sea. Instead, Wisdom is breaking all records and teaching scientists so much about the life of an albatross. Before Wisdom–banded since 1956–scientist believed that Laysan albatrosses lived to be about 25 years old. We still don’t know if her life is an aberration or the norm. Scientists have banded Wisdom’s chicks for the last few years to follow the life of her chicks. They could fall prey to predators, storms, pollution or fishing. Or, they could live as long as Wisdom, or longer. This story is far from over. And that makes it even more exciting to me than when Wisdom first captured my attention. When will her story end? No one knows. Cool!
Cornell Bird Lab maintains a web-cam of a Laysan albatross nest on Kauai, Hawaii. Watch it here.
READ Wisdom’s remarkable biography here.
"Irreverence implies a word or act that strips a person or thing of its dignity, but a subversive word or act that is irreverent on the surface may be an attempt to restore a dignity or autonomy that has been lost to those in the margins." – Mary Ruefle What, are you kidding? I was [...]
I remember the first time I read this funny, amazing book. I remember thinking: What is this? Is it poetry? Is it prose? Is there going to be a plot? Is the entire book going to be statements that begin with the same two words? I remember, a couple of pages later, not caring about [...]
The Black Count is the story of Alex Dumas, the father of Alexandre Dumas and inspiration for some of the best adventure fiction ever written. Alex Dumas's life is stranger than fiction in a time when hope for the common man, equality, and emancipation are vying to be the ideals of a revolution. Books mentioned [...]
My good friend Abner Violette, a retired NASA electrical engineer (literally a rocket scientist) and owner of five radio stations throughout Nebraska and Colorado, is the most intelligent person I've ever met. He can talk with facility on just about any subject, from physics to falafel to the Foo Fighters. He is a Christian (though [...]
One day back in 1959 in San Clemente, California, Surf Dawg Rickey and Mysterious Felipe were strolling along the beach, boards under arms, when they ran into a slump-shouldered, hairy-backed man with a ski-jump nose and bags under his eyes who said his name was Dick. Dawg and Felipe felt sorry for this gloomy loner, [...]
Official dire prophecy USED to be issued exclusively under the authority of the cleric/sorcerer, but now the public trust for such tales has shifted to the province of the professional scientist. It makes sense. The scientist has models and stuff and has studied subjects deeply. Writers have minor credibility in this area but often discredit [...]
In The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit weaves seemingly disparate topics, from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to the birdman cult on Easter Island, with elements of her own life: her mother's advancing Alzheimer's, the collapse of a long-term relationship, a brush with cancer. The result is a book that is as fluid and boundless as a dream, [...]
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"When you live your life through records, the records are a record of your life." Drummer, DJ, producer, and cofounder of the legendary Roots crew, Ahmir "Questlove" (a.k.a. "?uestlove" and "Questo") Thompson is one of the music world's most virtuosic individuals. Possessing talent in spades, Questlove's accomplishments are many, but it is his encyclopedic knowledge [...]
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Most celebrity musician memoirs amount to not much more than an inevitable litany of the excesses that come with the dubious position of rock star. Sting, however, makes the interesting (and refreshing) choice to stop his memoir right before The Police hit it big. While the opening recollection of his first experience with the entheogen [...]