Virginia Johnson

Last Hours of the Titanic

Last Hours of the Titanic

A century ago, 2,224 people boarded the grandest luxury liner of its time. Many were rich and stayed in fine rooms with every need beautifully met. Yet about one thousand of them were emigrants from Great Britain, hardly wealthy but likely just as eager for the voyage that would start new chapters in their lives. After that terrible night when the ship struck an iceberg and broke up, only 710 passengers survived. There were not enough lifeboats for the passengers, and those drifting in the freezing sea outside the boats soon succumbed to hypothermia.

Trails West

Settlers started moving west as soon as the land by the eastern rivers was claimed.  Wanting the right to expand into more territory was one of the factors in the American Revolution, including anger at the Proclamation of 1763 that restricted further settlement. Indeed, many veterans of the Revolution received land grants in the west for their service.  In the late 1700s to the early 1800s, the West could mean Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and parts of Pennsylvania. As those places filled up, too, and immigrants kept on coming, they eventually spread across the plains and into the heartland.

The Road from Home: The Story of an Armenian Girl by David Kherdian

The Road from Home: The Story of an Armenian Girl by David Kherdian

There was more than one wide-scale genocide in the 20th century. In 1916, the Turkish Minister of the Interior Talaat Pasha sent a letter to the government of Aleppo in Syria reminding them that all Armenians living in Turkey were be destroyed completely: “An end must be put to their existence, however criminal the measures taken may be, and no regard must be paid to either age or sex nor to conscientious scruples.”  It was an order that was to be echoed by Adolph Hitler in 1939 in pursuing the end of “the Polish-speaking race.” Hitler added, “After all, who remembers today the extermination of the Armenians?”

Alvin Schwartz Set Down Scary Stories and Silly Ones

Alvin Schwartz, writer of many books for children that collected and shared traditions from times past, first became interested in folklore as a child, although at the time he did not think of it as something to study.  Folklore was just something that was part of his childhood: the games, riddles, rhymes, superstitions and scary stories. He grew up to become a journalist and also worked as an adjunct English professor. Later, his writing and research skills would play an important part in the job he eventually took on to make many types of folklore familiar to young readers.

MonkeyShines

Whether leaping through the vines of a rainforest or the pages of a book at the library, monkeys have lots to teach us about the ways animals live, our responsibilities in caring for the last wild places, and just how to have fun.

I'll bet you know that monkeys are furry, cute, and swing in the trees, but there's so much more to learn about them:

A Monkey is NOT an Ape

Monkeys have tails, but apes do not. Chimpanzees, gibbons, orangutans, and gorillas are all apes. They use their powerful arms and legs to swing through the trees. Many New World monkeys from South America can use their tails like another hand to swing. Monkeys from Asia and India can't do that! Monkeys, apes, and humans are all part of a family group called primates.

Happy Birthday, Secretariat!

Cover to Secretariat's Meadow

It’s been almost forty years since Secretariat made horse-racing history, winning his Triple Crown races with record times. Born March 30, 1970, at Meadow Farm in nearby Caroline County, Virginia, “Big Red’s” driving runs to the finish, “like a tremendous machine,” as one sportscaster phrased it, caught the country’s imagination in a decade of woes from Watergate to the Energy Crisis.

Check out the official Web site devoted to this incredible horse, and check out books from our list, And, They’re Off: Books About Thoroughbreds and Their People.

Fiona’s Luck by Teresa Bateman, Illustrated by Kelly Murphy

Fiona’s Luck by Teresa Bateman, Illustrated by Kelly Murphy

Once, luck was as free to be had in Ireland as sunlight, and just as plentiful.  It filled the air, and anyone could grab a handful of it as the need arose. This was largely due to the leprechauns, for they made luck like cows made milk.

Just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day—and Irish-American Heritage Month—comes Fiona’s Luck, a delightful picture book that lyrically tells the story of how the extra luck came into Ireland with the leprechauns and was lost again from us “big folk” when the leprechaun king decided to hoard it all away in his castle.

The Wonders of Eleanor Cameron

“Any memorable children’s book will possess drama, vitality, vividness, possibly wit and humor, and its own dignity—that is, a deep respect for the child’s quick and devastating perceptions.  As for the story itself, it will convey a sense of complete inevitability, a feeling of rightness throughout the whole structure.  This can only be attained by the writer’s evoking the true aura of childhood through re-experiencing that emotional state he lived in as a child, a state composed of delight in the simplest, most secret, sometimes the oddest things, of sadnesses and fears and terrors one could not or would not explain, of a continuing wonder about much that seems drab and familiar to adults” 

--Eleanor Cameron writing in The Green and Burning Tree: On the Writing and Enjoyment of Children’s Books, pg. 14

Eleanor Cameron was capable of doing all these things, whether writing science fiction, fantasy or more everyday stories.  She was a celebrated children’s writer of the 1960s and 1970s and was known for her lyrical style and the honesty with which she told her tales. A mature reader of That Julia Redfern, featuring an aspiring young writer living in the 1910s Berkley, can easily find grown-up themes that are layered into the story and come to fruition in books about an older Julia, such as A Room Made of Windows.

Wild Horses of the World by Moira C. Harris

Wild Horses of the World by Moira C. Harris

Wild Horses of the World, written by Moira C. Harris and with photographs by Bob Langrish, is a beautiful coffee table book that looks at dozens of types of wild horses around the world. Though all but one example, the Przewalski horse from Mongolia, are really more feral than truly wild, these horses have been roaming free for so many centuries and sometimes millennia that they have established their own identities, which are often interlinked with the history and culture surrounding them. Whether abandoned by explorers or left to freely roam by farmers until needed, the newly-wild horses quickly adapted to the natural herd behavioral patterns that protected them.  Without human interference, only the hardiest of the lot could survive.

Great Grammar

Do you know the difference between a subject and a predicate or between a compound sentence and a simple one? How about the differences between capital and capitol, color and colour, action verbs and passive verbs? Do your subjects and verbs agree?

Learning how to diagram a sentence will not teach you to be a great story writer, any more than learning to read music will guarantee you fame and fortune as a lead singer. However, understanding grammar will show you how English language works, which is certainly handy for every writer.