Virginia Johnson

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones, starts off with a young girl trying to keep life interesting at her a dead-end job at the hat shop.  So Sophie talked to the hats. No, they didn't answer her, but she talked to them just the same. "You have a heart of gold and someone in a high position will see it and fall in love you," she told one. Soon enough a plain-looking lass bought the plain bonnet and sailed off with the heart of the Count of Catterack.

Exploring Ancient China

The First Emperor

China's first emperor was named Qin Shi Huangdi. He brought together all the warring states and made them his subjects in 221 B. C. Qin is pronounced "Chin" and ever after the country was named China. He took the name Shi Huangdi which means "first emperor." Qin was an unusual man. He standardized writing, bureaucracy, scholarship, law, currency (money), and weights and measures. He built a capital and many roads. He connected the old walls along China's northern frontier to form the Great Wall, to protect his country from invaders. But he was also cruel. He killed and banished many people who disagreed with him and destroyed books from the past.

Margot Zemach

Children’s author and illustrator Margot Zemach was born into a show business family--her father was a theater director, and her mother was an actress. Growing up, she drew imaginatively costumed characters to retell her favorite fairy stories and folktales, something she continued to do as an adult that would lead her to worldwide fame.

As she wrote in her autobiography, Self-Portrait: Margot Zemach: "I can create my own theater and be in charge of everything. When there is a story I want to tell in pictures, I find my actors, build the sets, design the costumes and light the stage. . . . If I can get it all together and moving, it will come to life. The actors will work with each other, and the dancers will hear the music and dance. When the book closes, the curtain comes down."

The English Monster or, the Melancholy Transactions of William Ablass by Lloyd Shepherd

The English Monster or, the Melancholy Transactions of William Ablass by Lloyd S

The English Monster, by Lloyd Shepherd, blends two stories of horror—one short, sharp, and bloody while the other is a slow unraveling of a man’s conscience.

October, 1564: A handsome young man, just married and very much in love, travels a dangerous path to the port of Plymouth, England, where he hopes to find a berth on a ship bound for adventure, but more importantly, riches to make their new life together secure. It is try and succeed or fail and never return for William Ablass. His letter of introduction earns him a place on board Captain Hawkins’ vessel where he becomes shipmates and friends with Francis Drake, later “El Draco,” the terror of the Spanish fleet.  Their adventures succeed in turning a golden profit but at a very dark cost.

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

The year is 1912, and the Torrington family is caught on the cusp between a graceful if dying and class-conscious era and the fast-paced, more egalitarian and sometimes brutishness of the coming modern world. And for all that it is Emerald Torrington’s birthday on her family’s grand English estate, she was finding it terribly soothing that morning to pull uselessly at weeds and try to not cry, grown-up and beautiful young woman as she was.  There would be a party in the evening—chocolate cake with green spun-sugar roses in her honor—and it would be the carefully-planned, best effort her lovely mother and their devoted housekeeper could put together, for all that her world—and everyone’s—seems to be ending. And then The Uninvited Guests show up.

Introducing Fantasy Author Elanor H. Kindred

Elanor H. Kindred

There’s a new author working in the library. Elanor Kindred, who can be found in the circulation department at our England Run branch, has been writing fantasy stories since she was a child growing up in Stafford County.  Through the years, the stories have become longer and more refined until they have emerged as books, two of which--The Immortal and Bound by Blood--are now published. Written for a young adult audience, they are set in parallel worlds both magical and not. The Immortal finds Lask Somadar, leader of an enchanted realm, pursuing a villainous beast into a land ill-prepared to deal with the griffin or his army.

James Marshall

“I have always thought my best stuff was in my sketchbooks.  I have hundreds and hundreds of sketchbooks.  I like to work at night, I suppose because that’s when my defenses are sort of low.  I have my most creative ideas at night.  I’m less inhibited, and I really let it rip.”

From: Ways of Telling: Conversations on the Art of the Picture Book, edited by Leonard S. Marcus. p. 96; pp. 82-106 are on James Marshall

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, James Marshall’s whimsical drawings added humor to dozens of children’s picture books.  While many were made for other writers’ works, including classics such as Mother Goose, Edward Lear, and Ogden Nash, he was also a talented writer on his own.  Indeed,  he became one of the most popular and prolific illustrators in children’s publishing.  In high school, however, he wasn’t so much about the art--though he did doodle, as he called it--as about the music which he saw as a way to get a scholarship to college far away from swampy Texas town where his family lived.

The Iron Ring by Lloyd Alexander

The Iron Ring by Lloyd Alexander

The young king Tamar was awakened in darkness by the sound of elephants in his courtyard. Their jeweled tusks and golden banners proclaimed them the property of a great maharajah. In short order, a dark figure strode into the palace and demanded an immediate audience.

Tamar sighed heavily.
As his tutor reminded him, the principles of Dharma--the code of honor, conscience, and the obligation to do what is royally virtuous, meant that he could not refuse an audience to another king, no matter the lateness of the hour. Indeed, in the long-ago world of ancient India recreated in Lloyd Alexander's The Iron Ring, a king's honor is his most important possession.

The mysterious visitor, King Jaya, ruled the distant land of Mahapura where, he grandly informed his host, all was much better than in Tamar's own kingdom of Sundari. Musicians, dancers, food, all were better in Mahapura, King Jaya purred. The only distraction he sought from Tamar was a simple game of aksha. Pure luck would determine the rolls of the dice.

In all hospitality, Tamar could not refuse, although the stakes Jaya proposed would have fed the court for a month. Die-roll after die-roll, Tamar won. Then the king of Mahapura yawned and made a final wager: "Life against life."
This time the dice seemed to jump from Tamar's fingers of their own accord.
"King of Sundari," Jaya said, "you have lost."

Kids Can Cook

Imagine a plate piled high with warm chocolate chip cookies, ooey and gooey with melted chips and crunchy with nuts. Your grownup might have helped a little bit, but these beauties are all yours, to share with friends (or eat yourself!) because YOU made them!

The Fated Sky by Henrietta Branford

The Fated Sky by Henrietta Branford

There was a dragon in the sky the night the stranger came to Smolsund farm. A girl named Ran saw it and feared it. She clutched the tiny silver hammer, a talisman for Thor's protection. Amma, her father's mother, had placed it around her neck. She knew that her grandmother was worried for her, too. The Fated Sky, by Henrietta Branford, tells of how Ran's fears for her destiny came to be realized.

A child still in some ways, Ran shared her name with a sea goddess, and she also loved the sea. Her father was away now across the ocean with her brothers, and they might bring back riches when they returned, for that was the way of the Vikings. Ran dreamed of the day her father would return. She was so much like him: his dark hair and his proud features. Ran prayed for his safe homecoming. She prayed he did not feast with that other Ran at the bottom of the ocean.

When the storm blew in at dawn, Ran climbed the slope to the house. She saw her mother, still a beautiful woman, kissing a handsome man who was not her father!