Great stars above!
From our place beneath the heavens, the stars seem to be tiny pinpoints of light. People have seen patterns in the stars for thousands of years. In the storytellers' imaginations, warriors and princesses, flying horses and laughing coyotes all found their way to the stars. Some soothsayers still tell fortunes based on the mysteries of astrology, or the alignment of the planets.
Astronomers know that the real mysteries of space are much greater than the accidental alignments of the stars. Stars, in all their blazing glories of red, blue, green, yellow, and more, are pulsing and moving, swirling around in their galaxies which, in turn, move around the Universe. The stars themselves may be ages old, but we continue to learn more about them all the time. Recently, scientists discovered ten new planets--one of which is orbiting a very young star.
Near Manchester, England, in 1836, Emmeline Roke finished a piece of golden embroidery on a blue silk gown. It wasn’t her gown. Had she enough money for such a dress, she would have used it to buy better food and other small comforts for her family. At fifteen, her sewing work was an important source of income for them. Everyone in her family worked—her beautiful, willful, widowed mother in the fabric mill whilst her beloved little brother, deaf-mute since nearly his birth, also did piece work. Life in the all-too-real world of Linda Holeman’s Search of the Moon King’s Daughter is hard for the Roke family, and it’s about to get harder.
Emmeline remembers that it wasn’t always this way. Not too long ago, they lived in a small cottage attached to the village grocery shop. Her father Jasper Roke may have been destined for greater things, but he gave it up when he met Emmeline’s mother, Catherine. He took the job running the shop, which came with the cottage. If he was a bit lazy and closed down for the afternoon when he felt like taking them all out for a picnic and reading poetry and fairy stories to his family, it was no matter to him. But when he died suddenly, everything came apart. The little family had to move to another town—a mill town—where there was work to be had. It was a hard life, but it was doable—until the day Catherine Roke was hideously injured at her loom.
Multiple-choice standards of learning tests are not concerned with the details that fill out American history. Who wants to know that those who disagreed with the Revolutionary patriots risked their lives and fortunes in a time of mob rule? What state examiner wants to hear tales of men of honor who refused to break their oaths of loyalty to the king and were whipped, tarred and feathered, or "smoked out" of their homes, as happened to 65-year-old Israel Williams, a respected Loyalist legislator, whose signature in support of the rebel cause was only gained after a night of gasping for air inside his smoky home? In Thomas B. Allen's Tories, many of these stories from across the colonies are well-preserved and well-told so that they might be well-remembered.
"I think of writing--particularly of writing picture books--as a kind of choreography. A picture book must have pace and movement and pattern. Pictures and text should, together, create the pattern, rather than simply run parallel." -- Beatrice Schenk de Regniers*
Born: in Lafayette, Indiana, on August 16, 1914
Favorite writing genres: picture books, folk tales, poetry, and plays
Well-known books: May I Bring a Friend?; What Can You Do with a Shoe?; Everyone Is Good for Something; David and Goliath; It Does Not Say Meow, and Other Animal Rhymes; Little Sister and the Month Brothers
Her last name is pronounced, “drain-yay”
Education: Attended University of Illinois, 1931-33; University of Chicago, Ph.B., 1935, graduate study, 1936-37; Winnetka Graduate Teachers College, M.Ed., 1941.
Career: Member of the Eloise Moore Dance Group, Chicago, 1942-43; copywriter, Scott Foresman, publishers, Chicago, 1943-44; welfare officer, UNRRA, Egypt, 1944-46; copywriter, American Book Company, New York, 1948-49; director of educational materials, American Heart Association, New York, 1949-61; editor, Lucky Book Club, Scholastic Book Services, New York, 1961-81.
Awards: May Children's Spring Book Festival honor book, New York Herald Tribune, 1958, for Cats Cats Cats Cats Cats; Boys' Clubs Junior Book Award, 1960, for The Snow Party; Indiana Authors Day Award, honorable mention, 1961, for The Shadow Book; Caldecott Award, 1965, for May I Bring a Friend? ‘s illustrations by Beni Montresor; certificate of excellence, American Institute of Graphic Arts, for communicating with children; Brooklyn Art Books for Children citation, 1973, for Red Riding Hood: Retold in Verse for Boys and Girls to Read Themselves.
Memberships: Authors Guild, Authors League of America, Dramatists Guild, PEN, Society of Children's Book Writers.
Died: March 1, 2000, from a stroke at her home in Washington, D.C.
Fiction authors sometimes begin historical narratives by announcing the discovery of a long-forgotten strong box in a dusty attic containing purportedly true accounts of times passed handily preserved for the modern reader’s enjoyment. T.O. Madden, Jr.'s We Were Always Free starts with just such a scenario, but unlike historical fiction, this is no ploy. The history unearthed is real and traces back to colonial Virginia when Mary Madden, an Irish woman, gave birth to a child of mixed race on August 4, 1758 in Spotsylvania County.
Because of the laws of the time, just as the mother was free so would Mary’s child, Sarah, be considered free, as would all of Sarah’s descendents. Mary and her newborn were first tended at the Collins farm in Spotsylvania, and the church vestry paid the Collins for their year of upkeep with 600 pounds of tobacco taken in tithes from the parishioners. In 1759, still being paupers, Mary was sent along with her baby, to the local workhouse where the poor labored to support themselves.
On April 15, 1912, the supposedly unsinkable Titanic struck an iceberg, cracked in two and plunged fathoms deep into the icy North Atlantic. Some passengers were saved, but more than a thousand souls were lost that night, and each one had a rich, full life leading up to either those final moments or desperate rescues. Such was the case for one special family in Suzanne Weyn’s Distant Waves.
Jane and her four sisters were very young when their mother, widowed and alone, decided to move the lot of them to Spirit Vale, a place where ghosts gathered around the psychics, real and fake, who were the principal citizens of the place. Their mother could have chosen to stay with her mother-in-law—a woman whose grudging wealth and the security it provided did not make up for her cold, insulting ways. Spirit Vale seemed the answer to their mother’s dreams, as she had the Sight, and so did several of her daughters.
Jean Craighead George came easily to her life’s work as a nature writer. Her father was an entomologist (studier of insects), and the rest of her family loved the outdoors as well. Her mother enjoyed storytelling, and, after graduating from college with a degree in science, Jean was eventually able to combine both family talents by writing compelling books about nature for young people. Whether she writes factually of what happens in the animal world or weaves a story about young people who love the outdoors, she always adds a generous amount of woods lore and scientific knowledge to her writing however lyrically it’s presented.
He watched as the mob killed his father slowly and perfectly legally. Mr. Proctor sat in the stocks day after day as neighbors spat on him and pitched rotten fruit and rocks and his body broke down but never his spirit. What was the villain’s crime? He was a printer who dared to publish a tract that angered the local authorities. It was enough to doom him and change his young son’s destiny. In Bruce Alexander‘s Blind Justice, thirteen-year-old Jeremy heeds his dying father’s last words to flee to safety.
Peter Dickinson’s The Tears of the Salamander begins with a simple gift and ends with a magical legacy. When his seldom-seen, rich Uncle Giorgio gives young Alfredo a strange present on his name day, his parents aren’t sure they want him to have it. The golden chain doesn’t have the expected cross on it—from it dangles the golden image of a strange animal—a little lizard with splayed feet and other peculiar features. Alfredo’s older brother is very jealous. He sees nothing special in Alfredo. Sure, he can sing like an angel, but that’s not much use to a baker’s boy, is it?
The local priests see Alfredo’s gift differently. They want him in their boys’ choir, and he is happy to be there for he loves to sing—but he also loves baking and hopes to follow his father into the trade. When catastrophe strikes leaving Alfredo alone and friendless, the priests urge him to join the choir permanently, and he would have done so even though it would have meant giving up a normal life. But just at the crucial moment, his Uncle Giorgio comes to take him away to reclaim his birthright—the birthright his father refused by choosing instead to become a simple village baker.
Rupert Holmes’ Swing has more than a touch of noir—and its own soundtrack. Set in San Francisco in 1940, vagabond jazz musician Ray Sherwood has been made a very interesting proposition. A beautiful, young Berkley music student wants him in a most peculiar way. She’s won an international contest for composers, and her piece needs to premiere at the Golden Gate Exposition in just a few weeks. What she needs from Ray are his talents to orchestrate her music for many instruments. Ray is enchanted by Gail’s breezy joie de vivre and her snappy patter even as his own troubled past makes him hesitate. But the tenor veers from sweet romance to dangerous liaison when a lovely woman plunges to her death mere feet from the happy couple, changing this composition’s theme from serenade to police siren.