How They Croaked begins with a clear warning: "If you don't have the guts for gore, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK." They are not kidding.
American icon Billy Joel once sang, "Only the good die young," but before modern medicine, almost everyone died young. The only difference was whether it was quick or slow and gruesome. Infections, malaria, gout, and tuberculosis were pretty common ways to go. King Tut, Christopher Columbus, Pocahontas, and Edgar Allan Poe were victims of such illnesses.
What kinds of people settled the new lands of America? They had their own ideas about laws, religion, and what makes a good government. They were, in a word, independent.
In 1776, England was faraway, and people on this side of the Atlantic were heartily sick and tired of paying taxes on top of taxes to finance England's empty treasury. They were tired, too, of losing money by having the Crown interfere with their trade overseas. The men in the assemblies shouted that King George was a tyrant, so the King's men stopped the assemblies. When they still protested, the King brought in the army, making the colonists put them up in their houses. Any crimes the soldiers committed against the colonists were handled in the King's court by the King's judges.
The Blessing Cup, by Patricia Polacco, is a wonderful story for anytime, but especially during the holidays when family gathers close for this is a family story. Patricia Polacco’s great-grandmother Anna and her family came to America from Russia after the Czar ordered all the Jews to leave the country. Just like that, they had to leave behind everything they couldn’t carry. Momma and Papa packed the sewing machine, their menorah, the shofar, his tallis, and holy books. But also precious to them was the tea set they were given when they were married.
Rome grew from a small band of villages in central Italy to the greatest empire of its time. Roman law and sciences spread throughout the Western World, changing forever the ways of the Europeans and North Africans. Romans built coloniae (colonies) on their western frontier by very strict standards, making certain that the people who lived there knew they were a part of the Empire. The ruins of Roman forts and bath houses can be found in England, at the edges of Roman rule, and the parts of the great Roman roads can still be seen today.
In 1800, the land held by the new United States was small compared to what was called Louisiana. Louisiana was named for King Louis XIV. It was part of a large claimed area in the New World called New France. It stretched from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rocky Mountains.
Getting lost in a cornfield maze is an October tradition for many families. Aside from tall fields of corn, mazes can be made with stone walls, hedges, mirrors, and more. Finding your way out of the puzzle can be a heck of a good time, and mazes have a lot of history behind them, too.
Twenty years before Jamestown was founded, over 100 women, men, and children came to Virginia to try their luck at starting a colony. They arrived on the stormy shores of what we know now as North Carolina. They were not the first to land there. Two years before, another group of colonists, all men, gave up trying to settle Roanoke Island and sailed back to England. The supply ships arrived too late to save the abandoned first colony, but they left behind fifteen soldiers to mind the fort who soon vanished into the wilds, driven off by an Indian attack.
In fall, the woods are filled with trees and squirrels and birds and perhaps outlaws with hearts of gold, if your imagination stretches far enough. In England, long ago there arose a legend of a man who lived in the forest with his band of other outlaws. The story goes they stole from the rich, gave to the poor, and fought for justice. Their legend continues to be told today.
If you were visiting the ancient Olympics, you wouldn't see:
Women: The women were forbidden to participate in or even observe the games. Any woman discovered there could be thrown off a cliff! The women (young, unmarried ones) competed in a separate series of foot races called the Heraea, named in honor of Hera, the queen of the gods.
Water Sports: Despite miles and miles of beautiful coastline, water sports such as swimming were never a part of the ancient Olympic Games.
Team Games: In ancient Greece, each athlete competed on his own.
No World Records: No measurements were recorded of the length of a jump or javelin throw. Likewise, no times were kept for the running events. Winners' names might be recorded, however.
Our 16th president was a very odd-looking man. Long-limbed and raw-boned, this frontier president grew up without a lot of the niceties we take for granted today. He grew up surrounded by wilderness and not having much schooling. As he remembered it, "...I could read, write, and cipher (simple math) ... but that was all."