Virginia Johnson

09/01/2017 - 10:13am
Playful Julia Donaldson Spins Songs into Stories

If you are looking for picture books with charming rhymes that tell funny stories to amuse preschoolers and their adults, Julia Donaldson is your author. She got to fame as a children’s author in a roundabout way. Before she set down words between book covers, she used to write children’s songs and plays for British TV and radio.

Julia has written well more than 100 books, and it all began with A Squash and a Squeeze, which was originally written as a song for children’s television. It’s the story of an elderly woman who is unhappy that her house seems so small. Fortunately, a neighbor has a very clever solution!

As a musician, Julia was happy to set her stories down for all to see—and keep: “It was great to hold the book in my hand without it vanishing in the air the way the songs did.”

10/02/2017 - 1:40pm
Cover to George Washington’s Virginia by John R. Maass

Virginia has long held the nickname of “the mother of presidents,” and surely its most famous native son was the first president, George Washington. His birthplace in Westmoreland County, now a national monument, can be visited today and often features living history performers demonstrating what life was like in the times he knew. George Washington’s Virginia, by John R.

10/02/2017 - 1:40pm
Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem

In Jewish lore, there is the legend of the golem, a being composed of earth and given life with ritual prayer. It is a protector that might be brought forth for the darkest days. And, surely World War II must be counted among those days.

Dark Horse Comics’ Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem imagines a scenario where a poor Jewish village, whose fighting-age men have gone to war, has mercy on a downed British pilot, even knowing that his presence will endanger them all.

10/02/2017 - 1:40pm
My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis

On May 17, a beautiful spring day, P. Mantis is born. On October 17, she lies down to “take a long nap” and says “Good-bye!” What happens in-between is her Awesome Summer.

The first thing you will notice when you open this picture book are all the praying mantis facts. The facts are different inside the front and back covers, so you will want to read both sides. But you don’t need to read those to enjoy P. Mantis’ story, though the facts will help you understand it better.

08/24/2017 - 9:23am
How do you catch a squirrel?
Climb a tree, and act like a nut!

If you've got trees, you've probably got squirrels. Whether gray or black or red or white, all squirrels act pretty much the same. However, there are other animals which are close kin to squirrels which are a little shyer of people. Chipmunks and prairie dogs are cousins.

08/21/2017 - 8:41am

Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop grew up in a rambling house, surrounded by woods, and with a stream nearby for catching crayfish.  With no television until she was twelve, she and her five brothers would make up all sorts of imaginative games. Their home was filled with books to feed that imagination.  Among her favorites were C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins, as well as books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Charles Dickens. Both her parents loved to read, and her father was a journalist.

A Writer in the Wings

“My father read aloud from Shakespeare—he made us take parts and read from plays in the evenings sometimes… Reading was like breathing.”*

10/02/2017 - 1:42pm
Under the Sea by Kate Riggs, illustrated by Tom Leonard

Let Kate Riggs’ Under the Sea take you and your toddler on a dreamy trip to the ocean’s depths. Bonus! This is also a concept book, teaching relative positions—over/under, bottom/top, and so on. Clownfish wiggles OUT of an anemone. Octopus waits IN a dark den. Sea turtle swims AFTER jellyfish but BEFORE tuna. Learning these direction concepts and the names of sea creatures happens happily when accompanied by Tom Leonard’s lovely, glowing illustrations.

10/02/2017 - 1:42pm
The Shadow Land: A Novel by Elizabeth Kostova

In 2008, a young woman from the Blue Ridge Mountains, who loves poetry and literature, arrives in Bulgaria. She’s been hired to teach English but has a month to explore on her own. Jet-lagged, at the wrong hotel and in need of rest and a shower, it’s not surprising Alexandra makes a terrible mistake while simply trying to help a family with their luggage. It’s not the first awful mistake she’s made, either.

In the late 1930s, a 20-something violin virtuoso, who has everything in the world to look forward to, slips back to his Bulgarian hometown on the eve of World War II. When the conflict is over, Stoyan Lazarov has very good reason to believe his talent will grant him fame. So what if he has to play second chair for now in a provincial orchestra? He has the love of his life, brilliant talent and enough patience. But musical genius though he may be, he has not factored in the crushing power of the political police.

In 2008, Alexandra’s and Stoyan’s paths will cross, and their separate, shameful secrets will be laid bare. Elizabeth Kostova’s The Shadow Land is at once a historical mystery and a modern thriller. There is true bravery and true love in this page-turner that spans decades, even as it illuminates an ancient country’s marvels and sorrows.

10/02/2017 - 1:44pm
Cover to Perseus retold by Geraldine McCaughrean

Sometimes it’s better to not know what the future holds. King Acrisius asks the oracle serpent how he will die. The answer frightens him: by his grandson’s hand. But he has no grandson. His daughter Danaë isn’t even married…. And now, the king is determined she never will be.

He builds an astonishingly tall tower just for her. Trusting him as she does, she goes to the top to see the view, only to find she is imprisoned. That’s the plan her father had for her. To let her grow old without ever knowing the comfort of a husband or a child. He thought he was being merciful—after all, he didn’t kill her, did he? She could have anything she wanted up there, as long as she stayed up there and away from everyone else.

10/02/2017 - 1:44pm
Cover to The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming

In the 1860s, many people went west after the Civil War, looking for a fresh start and prosperity. Eleven-year-old Jane Deming really wants a new start, too. So, she is excited when a visionary—or is he a con man?—signs up her and her very young widowed stepmother to go on a voyage around South America to Seattle. There, young ladies and Civil War widows with families can marry the many bachelors who have gone on ahead, or in some other way contribute to the new city.

Beautiful, balmy Washington Territory, as described in Mr. Mercer’s “Reflections” pamphlet, is looking for people “with broad minds and sturdy constitutions,” and it sounds like paradise to Jane. A smart and determined girl, she had to give up her schooling to look after her baby brother Jer, while her widowed stepmother worked in a mill. A land full of possibilities sounded perfect to her.

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