20th century

Fri, 02/26/2016 - 11:02am
Lost Communities of Virginia by Terri Fisher and Kirsten Sparenborg

You can find them on a map. Barely.  Little towns that used to be rather important hubs dot the Virginia countryside, dating from the days when agriculture ruled along with the horse and buggy or mule and wagon. These central spots, often near rail stations, rivers, or better roads, were communities in their own right and many have faded away as the interstate system grew. The Lost Communities of Virginia, by Terri Fisher and Kirsten Sparenborg, takes a look at these fading places, several of them near our area, including Mineral, Woodford, and Milford.

Fans of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café can relate to little Milford, situated in Caroline County and still located on a railroad line.  Originally the popular area here was Doguetown, named for the Dogue Indians who used the Mattaponi River for transportation. Milford, named for a nearby plantation in 1792, also used the river as a point for shipping—and inspecting—tobacco. The Mattaponi River was connected to both the York River and the Chesapeake Bay. By the early 1840s, the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad ran from Richmond to Aquia Creek with a stop in Milford. Milford’s North-South railroad connections made it a target in the Civil War. 

Tue, 01/12/2016 - 12:03pm
The Lindberghs: First Couple of the Air

Most people today have heard of Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly non-stop over the Atlantic Ocean. Fewer people these days are familiar with Anne Morrow Lindbergh, his wife, but, in the mid-20th century, they were both well-known in America and abroad.  

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:22pm

In the summer of 1910, hundreds of electric lights shed their radiance on the Rappahannock River for the opening of Casino Island Park.

Wed, 07/22/2015 - 5:19pm
March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

March: Book One is the beautifully constructed graphic novel biography of Civil Rights activist and Congressman John Lewis. Relying only on black and white imagery, it is quiet in its form and presentation. Lewis' struggle of growing up in the Deep South, fighting to go to college, and helping to organize lunch counter sit-ins speaks volumes and needs no distraction.

Wed, 07/22/2015 - 5:16pm
When the Beat Was Born by Laban Carrick Hill and Illustrated by Theodore Taylor

When the Beat Was Born, by Laban Carrick Hill, is a stunning example of just how wonderfully diverse the world of children's biographies is getting. This picture book offers a look into the life of DJ Kool Herc, one of the founders and innovators of hip-hop music.

Hill's words, when combined with Theodore Taylor III's crisp, colorful illustrations, depict how a boy named Clive left Kingston, Jamaica, for the Bronx. Clive wanted to be a DJ, slinging an arsenal of records and getting crowds amped up at parties.

Wed, 07/22/2015 - 4:37pm
The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski

Darcy Jones has been bouncing from foster home to foster home around Chicago for most of her short life. She remembers nothing from her early childhood. She has finally managed to spend more than a year with a foster parent and finally has some friends at her high school.

Little does Darcy know that there is an alternate world just like this one as well as an alternate Chicago. But in that world, the Great Chicago Fire never happened. In that world, The Shadow Society remains a deadly threat.

When a mysterious new boy at school, Conn McCrea, captures Darcy’s attention... her heart soon follows. She is about to find out though that Conn is from that alternate world, and so is she.

Wed, 07/22/2015 - 4:15pm
The Left Bank Gang by Jason

The Left Bank Gang opens with a dog shuffling down the streets of 1920's Paris, keeping mostly to himself. He ignores a panhandler, but then sees another dog that he recognizes. They shake hands. One dog's name is Ezra Pound. The other's is Ernest Hemingway.

Gang is a clever nugget of alternate history fiction. Rather than focusing on complex geopolitical questions like "What if the Germans won World War II?"  Norwegian cartoonist Jason turns to the zeitgeist of expatriate writers such as Pound, Fitzgerald, Joyce, and Hemingway. His hypothesis is "What if all of these starving geniuses just got fed up and turned to crime?"

Wed, 07/22/2015 - 1:16pm
The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

The ten Boom family lived a quiet, respectable life in the Dutch town of Haarlem. Corrie and her father made and repaired clocks. Her sister was their housekeeper. They were loved by the community. But in neighboring countries, Nazi Germany was rising, and soon it would sweep into the Netherlands.

Tue, 07/14/2015 - 2:13am
Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson

In Isaac’s Storm, Erik Larson tells the story of the fateful year 1900 when Isaac Cline and a hurricane crossed paths in the city of Galveston, Texas. As a meteorologist at a time when that science was still not being taken seriously by most people, performing well at his job was a major goal for Isaac. Despite his commitment, a series of factors—most significantly disillusionment with the Cuban weather reporting and an incomplete understanding of certain weather patterns, would result in absolute catastrophe for Galveston and the people living there.

Tue, 07/07/2015 - 2:53pm
In the Garden of Beasts

It's 1933 and President Roosevelt is having a devil of a time finding someone to appoint to the post of ambassador to Germany in Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts. All of the usual picks politely decline the post, as news of Germany’s foreboding political atmosphere drifts to America. Roosevelt eventually settles on William E. Dodd, a historian at the University of Chicago whose primary goal is to finish his multi-volume historical treatise on the antebellum South before he dies. By most accounts, Dodd is an odd pick for ambassador, being neither rich nor well-connected. Most ambassadors entertain lavishly during their appointments, and it is expected that the costs will come from their own coffers. Frugal Dodd immediately made waves by pledging to live solely on his meager income, almost unheard of in cosmopolitan Berlin.

Dodd naively sees the appointment as a respite from the trials of University department chairmanship and a boon of time to work on his project. He, like most Americans, is grossly uninformed about the political machinations happening in Germany, as Hitler, Göring, and Goebbels vie for power and German Jews are increasingly menaced. The entire Dodd family decides to come along to Berlin, ready for a new lark: the professor and his wife, Mattie, their son, William Jr., and their beautiful, flirtatious, 24-year-old daughter, Martha (who happens to also be fleeing the wreckage of a precipitous marriage to a banker).

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