Virginia Johnson

Elizabeth Winthrop, Storyteller

Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop grew up in a rambling house, surrounded by woods, and with a stream nearby for catching crayfish.  With no television until she was twelve, she and her five brothers would make up all sorts of imaginative games. Their home was filled with books to feed that imagination.  Among her favorites were C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins, as well as books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Charles Dickens. Both her parents loved to read, and her father was a journalist.

A Writer in the Wings

“My father read aloud from Shakespeare—he made us take parts and read from plays in the evenings sometimes… Reading was like breathing.”*

Thistle and Thyme: Tales and Legends from Scotland by Sorche Nic Leodhas

Thistle and Thyme: Tales and Legends from Scotland by Sorche Nic Leodhas

In the far-off days when the Picts and the Scots were dividing the ancient land of Scotland and fighting amongst themselves to decide who could get hold of the most of it, there came good men from over the seas to settle the land.

--“The Drowned Bells of the Abbey”

Firelight and drumbeat were the original backdrop for these tales, true and added to and some imagined altogether, that are retold in Sorche Nic Leodhas’ award-winning book, Thistle and Thyme.

Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

She never knew her father the farmer.  But in Paul Fleischman’s Seedfolks, Kim is determined to do something to connect with him, though he died before she was born in far-off Vietnam.  Her mother and sisters remember him with incense and candles on the anniversary of his death.  However, that’s not enough for Kim. She has something else in mind even though the prospect of carrying it through is unnerving.  The Cleveland neighborhood her family can afford to live in is scary. But outside the apartment building is vacant lot. Well, it’s not exactly vacant. It’s filled with junk—an old couch, tires, all kinds of trash—a real haven for rats. But it’s ground that’s not spoken for. And Kim has a plan.

Walter Dean Myers

In his autobiographical novel for young people, Bad Boy, Walter Dean Myers wrote of a world--1940s Harlem--that was markedly different from that of today. Most families were tightly-knit as was the community itself. Even so, it wasn’t a perfect place.  As he grew up his family struggled to get by, and, as he became a teenager, he became more aware of racism and how it could affect his future.

But during his early years, he didn’t think too much about race. He had friends who were white and black, and the woman he thought of as his mother was of German and Native American ancestry. The man who raised him, though not his biological father, was African American.  Herbert and Florence Dean took Walter and his half-sisters in to be fostered when they needed a loving and caring home.

Ha-Ha! Jokes for You

Like to hear jokes? Like to tell them? People have riddled for fun throughout history and all across the world. From Africa to Spain to Russia, brainteasers and jokes rule. Always have. Today, you can't keep a good joke to yourself. They're everywhere: in books, on cereal boxes, even sometimes on popsicle sticks.

Find funny jokes, punny jokes, riddles and knock knocks both online and in the library

Folktales of the American Indians

The tribes who lived in the Western Hemisphere before the coming of the Europeans were as different from each other as the countries that came to claim their lands. The many stories of the people who farmed, hunted, and herded in the plains, forests, deserts, and hills of what we call North America tell how they saw the Universe and the wisdom that they found in Nature.

The Forgotten History of America: Little-Known Conflicts of Lasting Importance from the Earliest Colonists to the Eve of the Revolution by Cormac O’Brien

The Forgotten History of America by Cormac O'Brien

History, particularly popular history, need not be dull, something that Cormac O’Brien demonstrates readily in his book, The Forgotten History of America. Written in a conversational tone and broken into vignettes, old history is made new when written this way. Even so, it’s not the standard stuff taught in schools. It’s about wars and both sides in those wars, reaching back to the country’s colonial beginnings in the 16th century. With personalities writ large on both sides and a good understanding of the differences in modern and historical society, O’Brien leads his readers on journeys back in time:

It begins with the first permanent European settlement in North America:

1565

Pedro Menedez de Aviles anxiously paced the deck of his flagship, San Pelayo. Two days earlier, off the coast of Florida, he had gone ashore and met with Indians who offered valuable information about the prey he was desperately seeking.  Now, confident of success, he led his five vessels northward along the coastline, scanning the beaches for any sign of European settlement.  The day was September 4, 1565, and Menendez was hunting heretics.

Colonial Churches of Virginia, by Don W. and Sue Massey

Colonial Churches of Virginia, by Don W. and Sue Massey

Colonial Churches of Virginia is a  beautiful and beautifully-written work that does a good job of giving the history and architectural highlights of more than 50 historic churches in the Old Dominion. Most are Anglican or Episcopal, but representative early churches can also be found for Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Mennonite, and Lutheran congregations. Current service times are noted for each church.

Natalie Babbitt: Truth in Fairy Tales

“...it makes me uncomfortable to know that my story Tuck Everlasting is required reading in some classrooms. My sympathies are entirely with the children, for many will react to Tuck as I well might have--with a shudder. Many will find its language too ‘fancy,’ its pace too slow, its topic unsettling, the behavior of its hero incomprehensible.”--Natalie Babbitt in "Saying What You Think." The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress*

It is perhaps surprising that an author would almost prefer her books were not required reading.  But it is less surprising in Natalie Babbitt’s case. Her best-beloved books are sweet and strong and true in spirit while containing enough wonder and marvel to lend a sparkle to a reader’s otherwise mundane childhood. This children’s author, like many of the best, remembers what it is like to be a child. What she liked to read--and what she didn’t. She understands that children have strong opinions on their favorite books, even if they may not be comfortable in expressing them.  She certainly remembers what she liked:

Dying for Tie-Dye

Image courtesy of Paula Burch's All About Hand Dyeing, http://www.pburch.net/dyeing.shtml

Feel like putting a little free spirit in your summer? Get on your oldest clothes, grab some buckets and rubber gloves, and head for the backyard to create beautiful tie-dye crafts.

You can use natural or artificial dyes, depending on whether you want your design to be a real eye-popper or something subtler that bespeaks being at one with nature. You can use a tie-dye kit or collect wild things from nature for earthier tones. Heck, even unsweetened Kool-Aid can be used as a dye to produce vivid color.