Virginia Johnson

Getting Cellular

Cells make up you, your friend, your hamster, and your mom's broccoli surprise. If it's alive or ever was alive, it is made of cells. Space scientists looking for life on Mars are trying to find simple cells-- not little green men, and biologists who search for cures to diseases work with cells. Small as they are, cells determine how life unfolds from its beginning to its end.

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

Lady Jacquetta inherited the gift of Second Sight from a long-ago river goddess, or so the family legend went. What is obviously true is that she does get glimpses of what will happen to her and those around her. For example, Joan, the innocent, brave peasant girl her family has held captive to trade to the English, is almost certainly doomed. As for her own lot, the beautiful teenager who will be called The Lady of the Rivers has captured the attention of a powerful man twice her age and in time she will be his—but not as she imagines.

Virginia Hamilton: Writer of “Liberation Literature”

Virginia Hamilton, self-described writer of "Liberation Literature,"* was born in Yellow Springs, Ohio, the same place where her grandfather was brought to freedom as an infant through the Underground Railroad. Yellow Springs has a connection to our area because it was here that Moncure Daniel Conway brought his newly-freed slaves from Stafford County to settle in the days just before the Civil War.

It's Elementary! Geometry for Grade School Students

Circles, squares, pentagons, octagons, polygons, angles, rays, points, and lines, there are so many names to learn in geometry. They may sound strange and new, but geometry is all around you. Your computer monitor's surface is more or less a rectangle, your pencil is roughly a cylinder, and, viewed from the top, the cable from your mouse to the computer, is a line segment.  Once you start thinking about geometric shapes, you'll find them everywhere.

A Visit to Fairyland

Magical spring weather is a perfect reason to spend the day in the company of the little people. Find a friend, and fill baskets with things to enjoy a special morning outdoors among the spring flowers.

Before starting out, you can make fairy wreaths and prepare a picnic fit for the wee folk. Fairy Bread is easy to make and is a favorite in the Australia, the land down under. Just spread slices of bread with soft butter (a fairy favorite), shake on colored baking sprinkles, and cut into triangles. Pack your favorite juice, and you have a simple, sweet treat to take along on your travels.

If it's a cold or rainy day, you can create your own fairies to keep you company safe inside.

The Nightingale Gallery: Being the First of the Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother Athelstan by P.C. Doherty

The Nightingale Gallery: Being the First of the Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother A

There are graphic novels that literally paint then print images onto the page. The Brother Athelstan books are another kind of graphic novel. They have a very visual feel to them, only it’s done with words. Some medieval mysteries are as stuffy as a centuries-old cupboard. P.C. Doherty’s The Nightingale Gallery isn’t like that. Its characters breathe and move and love and murder with a striking vivacity.

Shadows by Robin McKinley

Shadows by Robin McKinley

Maggie’s new stepfather gives her the creeps. Not only is he short and hairy and definitely not her Dad, but he speaks with a strange accent and spends most of his time in a shed doing who-knows-what. True, it is not his fault that he cannot replace her dead father, and her mother seems to really, really love him, but somehow that only makes worse the Shadows that follow him everywhere—dozens of them that no one else seems to see.

Samuel Pierpont Langley at Widewater

Samuel Pierpont Langley

1903 was a banner year for aircraft development, and Stafford County was on the bleeding edge of it. On December 17, Orville and Wilbur Wright had the first successful manned flight of a mechanical, heavier-than-air machine at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. But two months before that, on October 7, Samuel Pierpont Langley—with the blessings of Smithsonian—launched his design at Widewater in Stafford County. The only problem was, the well-funded flight crashed, dooming Langley’s dreams of being first in flight.

The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel by Deborah Hopkinson

The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel by

Eel’s early morning spent scavenging on the Thames River as a “mud-lark” brought a few things to the surface. There was a nice piece of copper, but he had to give that over to one of the stronger mud-larkers, a kindly blacksmith turned to this low way of making a living. But he did come away with two valuable things—or at least valuable to him. One was a half-drowned cat, thrown into the river by a bully boy. The other was a word of warning from the old blacksmith. Fish-Eye Bill was looking for him again, he said. A year Eel had spent in an easier life, getting his schooling, working two jobs and staying away from places he might be seen by Bill’s crew. It sounded like the makings for serious danger. Though in Deborah Hopkinson’s The Great Trouble, Eel’s problems are only beginning.

Judith Viorst: Writing with--and about--Feeling

With books such as Sad Underwear And Other Complications: More Poems for Children and Their Parents, it’s no wonder that Judith Viorst is best-known for bringing humor and poignancy to readers in a reflection of childhood’s (and parenthood’s) spirit.