Virginia Johnson

Getting to Know Abraham Lincoln

Our 16th president was a very odd-looking man. Long-limbed and raw-boned, this frontier president grew up without a lot of the niceties we take for granted today. He grew up surrounded by wilderness and not having much schooling. As he remembered it, "...I could read, write, and cipher (simple math) ... but that was all."

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

He was happy enough to share his dinner with the lanky man as they were both seekers. He sought the beauty of the Wisconsin countryside in the early autumn. The fellow who sat down beside him, his wool shirt buttoned tight though the day was a warm one, sought the relief of his misery in the beginning of The Illustrated Man, a collection of short stories by Ray Bradbury.

At last he stripped off his shirt in the heat.

"…he was a riot of rockets and fountains and people, in such intricate detail and color that you could hear the voices murmuring small and muted, from the crowds that inhabited his body. When his flesh twitched, the tiny mouths flickered, the tiny green-and-gold eyes winked and the tiny hands gestured. There were yellow meadows and blue rivers and mountains and stars and suns and planets spread in a Milky Way across his chest. The people themselves were in twenty or more odd groups upon his arms, shoulders, back, sides, and wrists, as well as on the flat of his stomach. You found them in forests of hair, lurking among a constellation of freckles, or peering from armpit caverns, diamond eyes aglitter. Each seemed intent upon his own activity; each was a separate gallery portrait."

He was an Illustrated Man, he explained tiredly. A witch from the past and future had stitched the glowing colors into his flesh forty years ago. He had wanted it done so he could always find a job at a carnival, but the pictures, all eighteen of them, came with a curse, and ultimately no traveling show would hire him and no man or woman would be his friend.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

What Lyra enjoyed most was scrambling across the rooftops of Oxford, committed to the serious fun of war that raged amongst the children of all the colleges and the townies in between. There were pummelings with armfuls of rock-hard plums, mud fights, and even the occasional kidnapping. Yet for all of her wild behavior, Lyra was not an ordinary child. She was a lonely, genius child with aristocratic blood in her veins, and every so often some unfortunate young Scholar would be dispatched by the Master of the College to round her up for a hot bath and tedious lessons at the start of The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

"Irish businessman will pay large amount of U.S. dollars to meet a fairy, sprite, leprechaun, or pixie."

The ad was posted on the Internet. Indeed, it generated numerous fraudulent responses, but the person who placed it only needed one true lead for his purposes. He had studied all he could in the mundane world he inhabited, but he knew the important secrets of the Fairy would only be known by others of their kind in Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer.

After a wild goose chase in Cairo, at last the trail led to Ho Chi Minh City. Artemis Fowl the Second, latest in a thousand-year-old line of criminal masterminds, sweltered in the heat of a Vietnamese summer, carefully noting every detail of the passersby as he waited to make contact with his source. He was accompanied by his devoted servant, Butler, who served as confidante as well as being an amazingly lethal bodyguard.

Mercer Mayer

When Mercer Mayer was a young artist looking for book illustration work, a potential employer suggested he give up and throw away his portfolio.  Fortunately for the thousands of children who have enjoyed his many books, he did not give up. Indeed, he went on to create one of the first widely-published wordless books for children, A Boy, A Frog, and a Dog. That book and its successors were hugely popular.

Soon after that, Mayer tackled one of the biggest problems facing young children—how to cope with fears of the unknown. Rather than write pedantic, matter-of-fact, non-fiction children’s books, he turned the process of dealing with those fears into engaging stories from a child’s point of view: There’s a Nightmare in My Closet; There’s an Alligator under My Bed; and There’s Something in My Attic.

Green Rider by Kristen Britain

Totally disgraced after her expulsion from school, Karigan trudged homeward through the countryside in Green Rider by Kristen Britain. It wasn't an easy walk, more of a cross-country hike, really, but her shame and rage kept her moving even as she spent an aching night sleeping in a meadow and washed down some hunks of cheese and bread with less than clean brook water.

Suddenly from out of the dark woods, there came an explosion of red and green.

The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer

The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer

In the year 2194, there are three Zimbabwes. There is the Zimbabwe of the rich such as the luxurious compound of General Amadeus Matsika, the country's Chief of Security. His children, Tendai, Rita, and Kuda want for nothing. The robots take care of all their needs, and the Mellower, the house poet, makes everyone feel so much better when he sings their Praises in The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer.

In another part of the city dwells the woman who is called the She-Elephant. She has her own compound, her own kingdom, in the abandoned waste dump. She has her servants, too. Fist and Knife are good for running errands-- a little thieving here, a little kidnapping there... When they find Matsika's children by themselves in downtown Harare, the opportunity for profit is just too good to let go.

CRRL Hosts Civil War 150 Exhibition

CRRL Hosts Civil War 150 Exhibition

The Central Rappahannock Regional Library will host Civil War 150, a national traveling exhibition, on display at the library headquarters, 1201 Caroline Street, Fredericksburg, from Tuesday, November 27 to Sunday, December 16.

The library is inviting the public to an opening reception, Friday, November 30,  at 5:30. National Park Service Chief Historian John Hennessy will briefly address the themes of the exhibit.

As part of the area’s ongoing commemoration of the war’s sesquicentennial, the library invites the community to view this major exhibit that explores “the war and its meaning through the words of those who lived it," to experience the battle through the eyes of major political figures, soldiers, families, and freedmen. Through reproductions of documents, photographs, and posters, the exhibition invites visitors to learn about events that took place during the war. By virtue of letters, personal accounts, and images, learn how people grappled with the end of slavery, the nature of democracy and citizenship, the human toll of civil war, and the role of a president in wartime.

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.