Virginia Johnson

01/28/2013 - 6:18am
The Founding Foodies: How Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin Revolutionized Ame

The Founding Foodies, by Dave DeWitt, is an easy-going chat on matters historic and gastronomic in the Old Dominion and beyond. DeWitt dismisses some food writers’ contentions that colonial food was poor stuff.  Having attended Mr. Jefferson’s university and being thus familiar with the third president’s many accomplishments, he knew that this common opinion was surely an overgeneralization.  Jefferson, as well as Washington and Franklin, were trend-setters—learned men who easily absorbed and promulgated cultured styles of fashion, philosophy, architecture, and, yes, food, derived European trends, especially their French allies.

Besides these Founding Fathers’ culinary preferences, DeWitt also looks at curious historical periods of Virginia history where food, or lack of same, played a noteworthy role.  At Jamestown, the horrors of spoiled ships’ rations and the colonists’ inexperience with hunting and fishing made them very dependent on the native tribes’ shared knowledge. They did learn to hunt and fish which was well since the supply ship was delayed, nearly resulting in John Smith being hanged.  Desperate to turn a profit in the days before tobacco, the settlers took up fishing on a grand scale—thousands of pounds of salted cod to England and dried fish to Spain.

01/14/2013 - 7:43am
Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

A Covenant and a Code

In Sherwood Smith’s Crown Duel, it’s been hundreds of years since the mysterious Hill Folk went to war with the people of Remalna to defend their groves of colortrees, whose rich hues of blue and red and gold made them valuable for trade. The Hill Folk fought back with their all of their magical powers and easily defeated their foes. At last a truce was reached. The Remalnan settlers would cut no more wood, and in exchange the Hill Folk would give magical Fire Sticks to last them the winter.

01/16/2017 - 4:09pm

Whether it's filled with mossy rocks and ferns or sands and cactus, a terrarium is an amazingly fun way to learn more about nature. With a terrarium in your room, something of the outdoors can always be inside.

Terrariums that feature plants (not animals!) lock water inside to keep the soil moist. When the plants transpire, they let out water vapor. When the soil gets warm, it lets out water vapor. All this vapor collects against the top and falls back as rain.

01/15/2013 - 11:22am

The best craft store may be right outside your door. This summer, take time in the cool mornings to gather together pieces of nature to work into craft projects in the afternoons. That way you’ll have a remembrance of summer to keep all year long. Rocks can become patterned pictures. Leaves can make delicate prints. Everything in nature can inspire your arts and crafts.

01/14/2013 - 10:56am

Rocks come in all shapes and sizes, but what kind are they? You can’t ask them, but sometimes, if you know how to listen, they’ll tell you anyway.

The shape and size of a rock doesn’t tell you much about what it’s made of.
Big rocks break into smaller rocks all the time. But there are other things to look for that can give you their I.D.

01/08/2013 - 2:02pm
The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde

What's wrong with this story:

A father tells the authorities his daughter can do impossible things AND the authorities believe him. 
A soon-to-be bride promises to give her future baby away to a TROLL. 
Said bride agrees to marry the man who's threatened to kill her if she can't keep doing the impossible. 
What would a troll do with a baby anyhow, and why would he give her all that spun gold for a tiny ring? 
Why doesn't the heroine do ANYTHING to get herself out of this predicament?!

This old fairy tale is such a ridiculous story that the author wanted to fix it. So Vivian Vande Velde set out to do so six different ways in The Rumpelstiltskin Problem. The characters never come out the same in these retellings. The troll in "A Fairy Tale in Bad Taste" has gruesome appetites. "Straw Into Gold" has our beauty and her father resorting to an elaborate con game to keep from starving to death in the days before Social Security or insurance.

08/10/2017 - 12:50pm

Rosemary Wells is one of our best-loved writers and illustrators for very young people.  Her “Max and Ruby” books capture the relationship between a bossy big sister and her inquisitive (and stubborn!) little brother.  That they happen to look rather a lot like rabbits makes no difference to the stories. Rosemary Wells’ wry humor turns these brief books into rather perfect treasures for the preschool set.

12/24/2012 - 3:32am
The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

He was happy enough to share his dinner with the lanky man as they were both seekers. He sought the beauty of the Wisconsin countryside in the early autumn. The fellow who sat down beside him, his wool shirt buttoned tight though the day was a warm one, sought the relief of his misery in the beginning of The Illustrated Man, a collection of short stories by Ray Bradbury.

At last he stripped off his shirt in the heat.

"…he was a riot of rockets and fountains and people, in such intricate detail and color that you could hear the voices murmuring small and muted, from the crowds that inhabited his body. When his flesh twitched, the tiny mouths flickered, the tiny green-and-gold eyes winked and the tiny hands gestured. There were yellow meadows and blue rivers and mountains and stars and suns and planets spread in a Milky Way across his chest. The people themselves were in twenty or more odd groups upon his arms, shoulders, back, sides, and wrists, as well as on the flat of his stomach. You found them in forests of hair, lurking among a constellation of freckles, or peering from armpit caverns, diamond eyes aglitter. Each seemed intent upon his own activity; each was a separate gallery portrait."

He was an Illustrated Man, he explained tiredly. A witch from the past and future had stitched the glowing colors into his flesh forty years ago. He had wanted it done so he could always find a job at a carnival, but the pictures, all eighteen of them, came with a curse, and ultimately no traveling show would hire him and no man or woman would be his friend.

12/17/2012 - 7:43am
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

What Lyra enjoyed most was scrambling across the rooftops of Oxford, committed to the serious fun of war that raged amongst the children of all the colleges and the townies in between. There were pummelings with armfuls of rock-hard plums, mud fights, and even the occasional kidnapping. Yet for all of her wild behavior, Lyra was not an ordinary child. She was a lonely, genius child with aristocratic blood in her veins, and every so often some unfortunate young Scholar would be dispatched by the Master of the College to round her up for a hot bath and tedious lessons at the start of The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman.

12/10/2012 - 3:31am
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

"Irish businessman will pay large amount of U.S. dollars to meet a fairy, sprite, leprechaun, or pixie."

The ad was posted on the Internet. Indeed, it generated numerous fraudulent responses, but the person who placed it only needed one true lead for his purposes. He had studied all he could in the mundane world he inhabited, but he knew the important secrets of the Fairy would only be known by others of their kind in Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer.

After a wild goose chase in Cairo, at last the trail led to Ho Chi Minh City. Artemis Fowl the Second, latest in a thousand-year-old line of criminal masterminds, sweltered in the heat of a Vietnamese summer, carefully noting every detail of the passersby as he waited to make contact with his source. He was accompanied by his devoted servant, Butler, who served as confidante as well as being an amazingly lethal bodyguard.

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