Virginia Johnson

10/25/2011 - 3:30am
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.

10/17/2011 - 3:30am
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.

10/12/2011 - 8:37am
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.

10/06/2011 - 3:30am
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.

10/03/2011 - 12:36pm

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.

10/06/2011 - 1:42pm

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.

10/03/2011 - 12:41pm

As if we needed an excuse to eat pizza, there’s actually an official month for it—and that month is October.  Time for football games and harvest fairs, and there’s enough of a cool nip in the air that hot, fresh pizza is the perfect fit for a busy night.

However you like your pizza, one of these books is sure to be to your taste.

How It’s Made

Extra Cheese, Please! Mozzarella's Journey from Cow to Pizza by Cris Peterson
The cheese is supreme and in this book, Cris Peterson tells how the favorite ingredient gets from her family farm to your dinner table.

Pizza at Sally’s by Monica Wellington
With vegetables from her own garden and other fresh ingredients, Sally mixes and bakes hot and bubbly pizzas for her customers to take home or eat in her pizzeria.

Pizza Man by Marjorie Pillar
Black and white photographs highlight the steps in making a pizza pie, from the moment the pizza man starts mixing the dough until he serves a slice to a hungry customer.

The Pizza That We Made by Joan Holub
What could be better than pizza? A pizza you make all by yourself! Three ambitious cooks, with a little help from their dog, get together to make a pizza topped with all kinds of yummy things-and they have a great time doing it! A book for beginning readers.
 

09/29/2011 - 3:31am
Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright

“How glorious!”

Beginning-to-be-eleven-year-old Portia and her little brother Foster are excited to be visiting their relatives in the countryside for the summer in Elizabeth Enright’s Gone-Away Lake. Besides seeing their favorite aunt and uncle, there is Katy the boxer dog who has just had a litter of puppies “with flat faces like pansies, and ears that felt like pieces of silk, and claws like the tips of knitting needles”—but best of all for Portia is having time to hang out with her cousin Julian, he of the hundred-thousand freckles. Closer than a friend and nicer than a brother is how she thinks of him. Julian is interesting and interested in everything that goes on around him.

09/15/2011 - 8:31am
Mistress Masham's Repose

When one thinks of heirs and heiresses, one thinks of bags and bags of money.  But in T. H. White’s Mistress Masham’s Repose, ten-year-old Maria has no money. She is only the heiress to a falling down 17th-century English estate called Malplaquet. Even so, she might have enjoyed a lovely if quiet life in the countryside. But she doesn’t.

09/01/2011 - 10:02am

He was trouble, into everything at once, with an imagination that just wouldn't quit. Neither his teachers nor his parents knew quite what to do with him. But when he opened his mouth the most beautiful sounds came out. Young Jack Prelutsky had a glorious voice, so good they called him a prodigy, and the New York Metropolitan Opera's choirmaster gave him free lessons. But he gave up his dream of being the world's best opera singer when he heard Luciano Pavarotti perform. He knew he couldn't match that amazing voice, and he did know for certain that whatever he did in his life, he wanted to be the very best at it.

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