Virginia Johnson

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin

It's Maggie's favorite day of the year in Wende and Harry Devlin's Cranberry Thanksgiving. She and her grandmother live on a New England cranberry farm. It's lonely and cold at the edge of the sea, but on Thanksgiving the house is warm with lots of good cooking. As part of their family tradition, Maggie and Grandma have each invited someone who otherwise would have to spend Thanksgiving alone.

The Good Neighbor Cookbook by Sara Quessenberry and Suzanne Schlosberg

The Good Neighbor Cookbook

There are definitely times when friends and neighbors need a little comfort food. It might be a joyful event--new baby, new house--or it might be in sorrowful times such as a long illness, death, or divorce. Chef Sara Quessenberry and writer Suzanne Schlosberg’s The Good Neighbor Cookbook is an excellent source for the family cook who needs some fresh ideas for food to share.

Recipes range from savory (Smoky Corn Chowder) to sweet (Roasted Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies). They are designed to satisfy, to travel well, and to not require a lot of fussing in the kitchen. Although these recipes work great for times of crisis, these same qualities make them great for book club gatherings, church potlucks, or business breakfasts.

An American Thanksgiving

Everybody knows that the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving, right? Well, probably not, but it was the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving that gave us our Thanksgiving holiday as we know it today.

The Pilgrims came to the New World looking for a way to worship God as they wished. They were not Puritans. Puritans wanted to change the Church of England to do away with its bishops but keep its ties to the government. The Puritans went on to settle the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Pilgrims at the Plymouth Colony were Separatists.

Homework Helper: The Plains Indians

Where Are the Great Plains?

The Great Plains are the part of North America east of the Rocky Mountains and west of the Mississippi River. The American states that are part of this region are Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. The land there is flat and includes prairie, steppe and grassland.

Who Are the Plains Indians?

There were many differently-named tribes who lived on the Great Plains when the Europeans came, but they mostly shared a common culture because of living in similar environments. The buffalo (bison) was a major source of food along with other game and cultivated crops. They also gathered wild fruits and vegetables. Nomadic (roaming) tribes lived in large teepees, often painted with religious symbols. Tribes that did not roam often lived in earthen or grass lodges and would grow crops.

Marjorie Sharmat the Magnificent

Libraries are chock full of Marjorie Sharmat’s books, especially the many tales of her young detective, Nate the Great.  Nate is indeed great—at solving mysteries--but only after a plate of pancakes! Nate the Great is the start of one of the most popular series ever written for beginning readers. These mysteries are also drily witty and have been enjoyed by kids and adults alike.

As a girl, Marjorie Weinman was rather shy. She enjoyed playing the piano, reading and drawing. But her ambitions were not so tame. When she grew up, she wanted to be a writer or a detective or a lion tamer! With a friend, she published The Snooper’s Gazette; filled with news they learned by spying on grown-ups!  She kept writing throughout her high school years, eventually getting published in school magazines and newspapers.

All Fun: Red Planet Day

Each November 28 is celebrated as “Red Planet Day.”  Red Planet Day commemorates the launch of the Spacecraft Mariner 4 on November 28, 1964. Its 228-day mission brought the spacecraft within 6,118 miles of Mars on July 14, 1965, sending us back the first close-up photos of the red planet.

Mars is a very bright planet, and when it’s in range, you can usually see it without a telescope.  Of course, if you have a telescope—or binoculars—you will get a better look.  Fortunately, in November the skies are usually clear, and Mars can sometimes be seen in the early morning.  With the Internet, you can find a star chart or other guide to show you where the planets should be in the night sky. If you can’t see the stars where you are because of light pollution, ask if your parents can take you out in the countryside where the view is better.

Starving the South: How the North Won the Civil War, by Andrew F. Smith

Starving the South: How the North Won the Civil War, by Andrew F. Smith

It’s been said an army travels on its stomach, and though many of the starving Confederate troops at the war’s end were still willing to fight, ultimately it was a physically broken army returning to their devastated, burned out farms that sounded the death knell of the nascent nation, so contends gastronomical historian Andrew F. Smith in his recent book, Starving the South.

Mayada: Daughter of Iraq by Jean Sasson

Mayada: Daughter of Iraq by Jean Sasson

She was an educated daughter of the privileged class—granddaughter of two of Iraq’s heroes from its pre-Saddam era. A successful journalist and later owner of a printing business, she seemed to live a more charmed life than most of Iraq’s citizens. But as the door of the women’s prison closed behind her, leaving her virtually entombed, she realized that her sense of security had been nothing more than an illusion, and as one prisoner after another was dragged away to be tortured, she understood the true horror that underlay her world. Mayada: Daughter of Iraq: One Woman’s Survival Under Saddam Hussein is her story as shared with fellow writer Jean Sasson.

The Pull of the Ocean by Jean-Claude Mourlevat

The Pull of the Ocean by Jean-Claude Mourlevat

In Jean-Claude Mourlevat’s The Pull of the Ocean, Yann Doutreleau, youngest of seven brothers and the only one not a twin, whispered to the rest that it was time to go. The wind and rain were beating down in the November night outside their farm house in French countryside, but it was still time to go. Their parents, he said, were going to harm them.

Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt by Barbara Mertz

Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt by Barbara Mertz

Her wit is as dry as a whisper in a mummy’s tomb when she describes the life of a citizen of old Egypt from the squalling dawn of his existence to his final preparation for the afterlife.  But for all her panache, in penning Red Land, Black Land Barbara Mertz has created no gripping historical romantic suspense novel—although she’s written many of those, too.

You may know this author better as Elizabeth Peters, she of the Amelia Peabody mystery series, or by her other nom de plume--Barbara Michaels. Yet Barbara Mertz is her real name, and it’s under that identity that she earned a doctorate in Egyptology from Chicago’s famed Oriental Institute some decades ago.