Virginia Johnson

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.

When Clay Sings by Byrd Baylor, illustrated by Tom Bahti

When Clay Sings by Byrd Baylor, illustrated by Tom Bahti

They say
That every piece
Of clay
Is a piece of
Someone’s
Life.

In faraway times, the artisans of the Southwest peoples smoothed the clay they collected. They painted it with their symbols and heated it to make it strong. When these tribes left their homes, pieces of their past remained behind. When the shards are gathered together, the pictures they make seem to summon the spirits of the people who created them so long ago. When Clay Sings, by Byrd Baylor and illustrated by Tom Bahti, is a melding of archaeology and word craft that brings a unique and subtle sense of the past to today’s students.

How Sound Is Used For Communication

Sound travels in waves, much like those that roll across the ocean, to give our ears information which we may or may not understand. These sound waves are very much like those that light uses, too, whether it’s the (mostly) steady flow of light from the Sun or spectacular 4th of July fireworks which combine light and sound for an amazing night of excitement.  But sound waves are also used for communication amongst humans and amongst other life forms to tell about important things (Predator coming!) and not so important things (the bus is late—again!). 

When we cannot see, sound can be used to know where we are and to help us find our way. This can be as easy as listening for the sound of traffic if you are lost in the woods or as sophisticated as using sonar to find sunken treasure or enemy vessels. There are certain animals, such as bats, that don’t rely on their sense of sight very much at all. Living mostly in the dark, they use their own sonar to know where they are.

Arna Bontemps Left a Rich Literary Legacy

A Solid Beginning

Arnaud “Arna” Wendell Bontemps was born on October 13, 1902, in Alexanderia, Louisiana, a child of middle class parents of mixed racial heritage--what is sometimes called Creole. His father, Paul Bismark Bontemps, was descended from French plantation owners living in Haiti and their slaves. After coming to the United States, the Bontemps family lived free in Louisiana for decades, and the many of the men worked as skilled brick and stone masons for generations.  In addition to working his trade, Arna’s father also played music with a popular band. Arna’s mother, Maria (pronounced Ma-rye-ah) Carolina Pembrooke was descended from an English planter and his Cherokee wife. Maria taught public school and enjoyed creating visual art.