Autobiography and Biography

The Timeless Stories of Jane Yolen

She's been compared to Hans Christian Andersen and that clever fable maker Aesop. For children (and adults!) in today's world, her carefully crafted stories sing with a timeless rhythm and an honest truth. Her family's Russian-Jewish roots have given her the jumping-off place for many a tale (And Twelve Chinese Acrobats, Firebird, and Baba Yaga), but some stories seem to drawn from the heart of the world itself.

Jane Yolen, born in New York City on February 11, 1939, showed a talent for writing early on when she wrote and composed the words and music to her grade school pageant, starring as the lead carrot. She seems to have never slowed down during her years in high school: news editor of the school paper, Spanish club vice president, singing with the a capella choir, and captain of the varsity basketball team. Summers spent at a Vermont camp run by Quakers influenced her deeply. Several of her later books (The Gift of Sarah Barker and Friend: The Story of George Fox and the Quakers) relate to this period of spiritual growth.

Great Lives Series: Norman Rockwell

Twentieth-century illustrator Norman Rockwell reflected in his work much of what was good in America. He is known for his sweet depictions of small-town life—soda fountains, family scenes, Boy Scouts, town meetings, doctors’ offices, and boys with dogs—but one of his most touching images was a painful one from the Civil Rights Era: “The Problem We All Live With.”

Great Lives Series: Jesus of Nazareth

On Thursday, January 14, 2010, James E. Goehring of the University of Mary Washington’s Department of Classics, Philosophy and Religion gave a talk on Jesus of Nazareth. The lecture was part of the University's Great Lives series.

Great Lives Series: Thomas Jefferson

On Tuesday, January 26, 2010, the University of Mary Washington invites the public to a free lecture on Thomas Jefferson.

Feisty Females for Middle Schoolers

    Nine months before Rosa Parks made history, a fifteen-year-old girl was arrested for refusing to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.  Claudette Colvin was well aware of the convoluted rules about where blacks could sit on the city buses, but on this day she decided not to obey the bus driver’s command to give up her seat.  She was arrested and eventually convicted of assault and violating the segregation law. 


    Deemed too emotional to become the public face of the civil rights cause, Colvin has been a footnote to history for the last fifty years. But that has changed with the publication of Philip Hoose’s “Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice,” winner of this year’s National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Local Counter Terror Expert!

Seems as though every time there is an incident like the recent tragedy at Fort Hood, Clint Van Zandt turns up on TV, offering insight into what has happened and how to understand it. Van Zandt is well known for having been, for many years an FBI major crimes analyst, “profiler” and hostage negotiator. You may not know that he is today the president of a local business, Van Zandt Associates – an international risk and threat management consulting firm.

R.I.P. William Safire: Lord of the Language Arts, 1929-2009

Mr. Safire had no college degree, yet he went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1978 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006. Already in his forties when he joined the NYT staff, Safire had previously worked as a U.S. Army correspondant, as a publicist, and as a radio & television producer. He also wrote speeches for Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew and was outraged to discover that Nixon's administration had been secretly taping his phone conversations.

Shel Silverstein

By Sarah Amick, CRRL Intern

Shel Silverstein was a unique writer with many artistic talents. While generally best known for his poetry and literature for children, he was also a cartoonist, composer, lyricist, and folksinger. He was born Sheldon Allan Silverstein on September 25, 1930, in Chicago, Illinois. In the preface to her book entitled Shel Silverstein, Ruth K. MacDonald writes, "Shel Silverstein is admittedly not a great technical poet; he will not be remembered for the advances he has made in the rhyme, meter, diction, or form of his poetry, which children have come to love so much. What he has accomplished is bringing poetry-- perhaps more accurately described as light verse-- to children who would otherwise avoid it." I believe that Silverstein had made a huge impact on children's literature, and his poetry has undoubtedly influenced children of all ages.

Frank McCourt: The Man Himself

When Frank McCourt passed last month, he left behind memoirs filled with anguish, love, and dark merriment.  Personal experiences are what this Irish-American author took and shaped into works of sorrowful beauty.