Virginia Johnson

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.

Rebel River: A Guide to Civil War Sites on the Potomac, Rappahannock, York, and James by Mark Nesbitt

Rebel River by Mark Nesbitt

Virginia's many rivers were strategic points in the Civil War. Thousands of men had to cross them at a time, whether by boat or pontoon bridge, or, in shallower places, on foot.  Major rivers slowed down--or, in the case of flood, could block movement entirely. Generals placed their supply depots on rivers, and gunboats patrolled the waters, blasting artillery positions as well as enemy strongholds in large plantation houses.

In Mark Nesbitt's Rebel Rivers, readers are treated to an easy-to-follow guide to river sites and their Civil War history. Rebel Rivers, published by Stackpole Books, is available to check out from the library. The author is also the creator of the Ghosts of Gettysburg Candlelight Walking Tours® and the Ghosts of Fredericksburg Tours.

This excerpt is used with the author/copyright holder's permission.

Seeds of Discontent: The Deep Roots of the American Revolution, 1650-1750, by J. Revell Carr

Seeds of Discontent: The Deep Roots of the American Revolution, 1650-1750, by J.

The American Revolution didn’t start with the Tea Party.

For more than 100 years before that, the immigrants who came to America had very cogent reasons for leaving the civilized world. Many were hotheads—rebels against the king and his policies on religion. Others had come to the colonies hoping to make their fortunes and discovered much to their dismay that the king was very interested in taking a cut of their profits through high taxes, particularly on tobacco.

In Virginia, high taxes meant that the small farmers were left landless when they could not pay. Their farms were taken by wealthier landholders and the dispossessed went to the frontier to find new land to support them and their families. Not surprisingly, this meant clashes with the native population, some of which were quite bloody. Royal Governor Berkeley’s refusal to support the frontier farmers with soldiers—and his obvious friendships with the wealthier Tidewater land barons--led to Bacon’s Rebellion against the king’s most powerful representative and was but one example of the tension felt between the colonists and their royal masters’ representatives.

Ethan Allen: His Life and Times by Willard Sterne Randall

Ethan Allen: His Life and Times by Willard Sterne Randall

If you don’t live in Vermont, the name Ethan Allen may just be a furniture brand to you. But the life of this key figure in the American Revolution embodied a lot of the conflict between the colonists and their English overlords. From relatively humble beginnings, the Allen family became involved in trade and land ownership. The problem was, wildly rich speculators from New York had in mind to keep New Hampshire land under the tenant farm system whilst the struggling farmers wanted to be able to own their land outright.

Bread to Bake

March yourself into the kitchen, and start making some delicious bread! We have recipes for kid favorites teamed with fun books for a smart, sweet weekend treat.

A Day of Knights

What is a knight?
The simple answer would be a soldier who fights on horseback while wearing armor, but there’s much more to being a knight.

Who were the first knights?
There have been soldiers on horseback for thousands of years, but what we think of as medieval knights first came into being during the time of King Charlemagne (Charles the Great). Charlemagne was a Frank (Frenchman). His knights kept him safe in battle and won him many victories. Chanson de Roland (Song of Roland) was written about Charlemagne’s most famous knight.