History & Historical Fiction
One hundred and fifty years ago, life was turned upside-down for residents in our communities. Stafford County was occupied by Union troops. Fredericksburg changed hands many times between Union and Confederate and was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Spotsylvania County had the battles of Spotsylvania Courthouse, the Wilderness, and Chancellorsville. Thousands of men encamped and fought here. Many died here. Our state—even just our own area--has some of the most fought-over ground in the country.
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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.
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.
Weaver’s Daughter, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, is a great story for mothers and daughters to share together!
Every fall Lizzy gets sick…very sick and no one knows why. Each year it gets worse and worse. It’s 1791, and doctors are expensive and hard to come by, and her family does not know what to do. Lizzy just knows that she won’t be able to get better when it happens again this year. What did families do back then when their children were sick? They didn’t know about asthma and allergies.
“A haunt in the wind”
That’s how Al Hoots described the small, thin filly named U-See-It who happily crunched his peppermints in the saddling shed before her big race. Al picked up such talk from his wife, Rosa, of the Osage tribe. In the newly-minted state of Oklahoma, the spring weather of 1909 saw most everybody who lived near the Chisholm Trail come out to watch the match race between little U-See-It and a big-striding mare from Missouri named Belle Thompson. Soon enough Al Hoots had traded 80 acres of land for the little filly, and she began winning races for him. That’s just the beginning of the story Black Gold, by Marguerite Henry.
On a blazing summer's day, there's nothing quite like the aroma of piping hot...garbage. It's gross, slimy, and we each make about four pounds of it per day. The one thing that everyone can agree on is that no one wants to deal with garbage, and that notion is exactly what Here Comes the Garbage Barge! is all about.
In 1987, over 3,000 tons of Long Island, New York's garbage was loaded onto a barge and pulled by the tugboat Break of Dawn. The plan was to unload the cargo in North Carolina, where poor farmers had been paid to bury the waste. But when the barge and its captain arrived, they met a police boat which refused to let them dock there under any circumstances. So began a wild goose chase up and down the coast to find a place to store the disgusting floating dump.
Artist and author Glen Rounds was neither a tenderfoot nor a city slicker. He was the real deal of the nearly Wild West--though he wasn’t beyond telling a few tall tales, too, here and there. Born in a sod house in the Badlands of South Dakota, when he was just a babe he and his family traveled by covered wagon to the open spaces of Montana.
George Mason, future patriot, spent part of his childhood in Stafford County. His father died by drowning when he was very young, so he sometimes stayed with relatives including his uncle, John Mercer who lived at Marlborough Point. His uncle was a lawyer and landowner. He had a large library for the time—more than 1,500 books—and 11-year-old George enjoyed the library, including law commentaries his uncle had written.
It is 1941, and the German Army occupies The Netherlands. A young Dutch boy named Piet has been given the task of escorting two neighborhood children to safety in Brussels. The Greatest Skating Race: A World War II Story from the Netherlands, by Louise Borden, is the exciting story of Piet Janssen. He live in the town of Sluis in the Netherlands. His town is on the border between The Netherlands and Brussels. During the winters there, it is so cold that the canals freeze and the ice is thick enough to skate on. In fact, skating is a form of transportation for many people in the Netherlands.
Piet loves to skate. He also idolizes a skater named Pim Mulier who once skated through eleven towns. Many Dutch have skated through towns, but the route that Pim took has its own name, the Elfstedentocht (the Eleven Towns Race). Piet has been training to duplicate this race and finish just like his idol Pim Mulier. But in December of 1941, many of the Dutch were concerned with much more than a race along the canals. Their country was occupied by Germany. Because of the war, many fathers were gone. They had joined the Allied forces in England.
Black History Month begins tomorrow and the library has recently updated the bibliography, “Our Stories: The African-American Experience,” recommending many wonderful recently published titles. Here are just a few of the historical picture books that made the list.
Two titles are Caldecott Honor winners. Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad, by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, tells the true story of Henry “Box” Brown. When his wife and children are sold to pay for their master’s debts, Henry can stand it no longer. With the help of a white doctor, he hides inside a wooden crate and mails himself to an abolitionist in Philadelphia. Travelling by train and boat he at last arrives to freedom.
The details painted on every character’s face are a powerful complement to the text. Henry’s joy in his family and the pain at their loss are beautifully conveyed. The picture of Henry upside down in his box is my favorite. One hand is splayed, reaching towards the reader as he struggles to hold himself up just a little, attempting to relieve some of the pressure on his head, neck and shoulders.