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Saturday, December 28, 2013

December 28, 1856- A President is born. Happy Birthday, Mr. President. Read about his childhood in Tommy: The Civil War Childhood of a President.

The little boy who became President Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born December 28, 1856. In honor of his birthday, I am repeating my earlier blog about my childhood biography of him. Known to his family as Tommy, I think you will like the little boy that lives through one horrific war only to be called upon to lead us into another.

In Tommy: The Civil War Childhood of a President, readers will get to know Tommy through his family and friends, through his leisure moments, and even through his stubbornness and his caring for others. Each chapter provides insight into the youngster who became 28th president of the United States. The reader will see Tommy learn from his faith and family, and from the history lived. These lessons learned were later evident as President Thomas Woodrow Wilson guided his country through another war, World War I. 

In "Tommy" we get a glimpse of everyday life in a southern town not directly in the line of fire in a bloody civil war. An important strand in the book is found in the many parades, all verified, that took place in Augusta during that time. At the beginning of the war the parades were glorious. By the middle and end of the war the tempo of the parades was changing. The following except describes one memorable parade.

  An excerpt from Tommy: The Civil War Childhood of a President.

     The future President of the United States stood on the edge of the field fascinated by the parade passing in front of him.  He had seen many parades since the war started two years ago, but this one was different.  There were no brass bands playing, no freshly uniformed infantry units stepping high and no prancing cavalry horses.  No one was marching, and no one was cheering.

     This was not a parade of clean, smartly dressed military men.  This was a parade of ragged men in tattered uniforms.  Their sabers and sashes were replaced by blood and bandages. And dirt. 

     There was no one to watch this parade by the railroad track in Augusta, Georgia, but seven-year-old Tommy and his young friends.  Playing in the fields near the tracks, they had heard the solemn ringing of the troop-train's bell and watched as it shuddered to stop beside the field.  Curious, the boys ran to the train and watched as slowly it emptied its cargo of Civil War wounded.
 

          A few of the injured limped unaided, but many more shuffled, supported on one or both sides by others who were themselves wounded.  Others hobbled on crutches.  One man, with a foot missing kept his head down and his eyes on the bandage at the end of his leg.  He seemed to be looking at the foot that wasn't there.                               
     After the walking wounded came men on litters.  Their bodies, their heads, their limbs wrapped in bloody, dirty bandages.  Some of the blood was old and caked; some new and oozing. 
    One man alone seemed to see the boys.  His large body was covered with a blood-soaked blanket on which several medals and many flies competed for space.  His head and face were covered with bloody, dirty bandages.
     A foul, wretched smell filled the air through which the litters moved.  It was not a smell like the barnyard or the cow pen.  It was not even a smell like hogs being slaughtered.  This smell was worse, much worse.  As it grew stronger, Tommy and his friends covered their mouths and noses as to protect themselves from this smell which instinctively they knew to be the smell of death.

     Finally, from the car nearest the engine came a different sight.  Men under guard.  Men whose arms and legs were bound together, making it hard for them to walk.  So they too shuffled.  And they too were covered with dirt and blood and bandages.


     One of Tommy's friends  finally broke their silence.  "Come on," he said.  "Let's get back to our game."

     Everyone turned to go but Tommy.  Tommy stood still, only his head moving to follow the hundreds of wounded and dying soldiers who were passing by.

     Finally, he turned and headed, not toward his friends, but back to his home and the security of his family. He could play no more that day.  He wasn't sure he could ever play that game again.

      The boys had been playing war. 

Tommy: The Civil War Childhood of a President
A Childhood Biography of President Thomas Woodrow Wilson
By Julia Faye Dockery Smith


http://www.amazon.com/dp/1478228881

Monday, December 9, 2013

Based upon historical fact, Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings, is a joy to read.


I love this book. It is by far the best Sue Monk Kidd to date. It is too bad the book will not available until January 2014 for it would have made a wonderful Christmas gift for all the avid readers on anyone’s list.

The blurb for the book almost prevented me reading the book….women, free and slave, in pre-Civil War Charleston. My first thought was ‘oh boy, here we go again with this story.’ But, wow! What a refreshing, riveting story it turned out to be! Then came the icing on the cake; I read the author’s notes at the end of the book. It is based upon a true story; real family, real sisters, real situations, factual history. That took the wonderful story and lifted it even higher.

There are initially two main characters, Sarah Grimke and Handful (Hetty) Grimke, with a strong third character (Sarah’s sister) coming in late in the book. For her 11th birthday Sarah is given Handful as her personal slave. Sarah immediately renounces the gift and the idea of owning another person. Nevertheless, the times and society, along with her Mother, demand that she take Handful as her own. From there grows a bond, a friendship as much as possible, and a fierce caring for each other. 

As this relationship grows, so does Sarah’s commitment to fighting slavery and fighting for women’s rights. It isn't easy in the early 1800’s in upper class Charleston, but Sarah has a toughness that even she didn't know she had. As everything unfolds Sarah realizes that Handful is enslaved by the law, and that she. Sarah, is enslaved by society and her family.  As life hands her one setback after another, Sarah’s toughness upholds her and finally guides her to make one final attempt at freeing Handful and one final break with her family and Southern society.

Abolitionist history, suffragette history, and black history are expertly woven throughout the story. The Charleston Grimkes are real, and their adherence to Charleston society and Southern ways are well documented as is the split that tears apart their family. We meet historical characters such as Denmark Vesey.  How many of us remember reading and chanting the poem about him banging on our desks to make the boom, boom, boom, bang, bang, bang of the drums? I remember it all these years later. 

Likewise, I was familiar with Virginia Hamilton’s “The People Could Fly” which retells old slave tales including the one from Africa about their people flying. This idea of the slaves once having wings and being able to fly provides a strong thread in the slave community in this book. Quilts, also, which were important in the lives of slaves, are equally important in this book.

This wonderful story is told in vivid descriptive terms that helps one see the event, person, or place being described. It is a joy to read. Part I, (the book is divided into four parts), is especially poetic in the author’s choice of imagery.

The book has spoiled me. My bedside table, desk, and Kindle are all heavy with unread books, but I need a few day between the beauty I have just experienced and what might be mundane in some of those waiting works. I don’t want to lose Sarah and Handful, and Sue Monk Kidd just yet.



http://www.amazon.com/Invention-Wings-Sue-Monk-Kidd-ebook/dp/B00DMCV7K0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386619169&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Invention+of+Wings





We don't always get what we want for Christmas....or do we?

From Paul R. Hewlett comes this lovely Christmas story. Check out the author's blogspot for more details and to enter a giveaway.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

December 7, 1941--" War Comes To Paradise" Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii

A brief story or the morning attack on December 7, 1941 told in large print and historic photos. A short tour of today's memorials to the memory of that morning and those lost and those that survived. Originally written as a video pictorial history for middle schoolers, the author was amazed at the number of parents and grandparents who wanted to borrow or purchase a copy. The text and photos are now available in an 8X10 history book. Appropriate for middle grade students to veterans. The pictorial tour tells of the many ships in port that day, of the buildings, planes, airstrips and bases away from the harbor front. The author spent several weeks at Pearl Harbor studying with scholars. For two weeks she had the privilege of having lunch each day with survivors of the early morning attack. This book is a concise history of that morning and a look at today's memorials published with gratitude to those who gave their lives and those who survived.



http://www.amazon.com/Comes-Paradise-Julia-Faye-Smith/dp/1493563696/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386433463&sr=8-1&keywords=War+Comes+to+Paradise

Friday, December 6, 2013

Fairy Tales meet today's youth....Meet Ann T. Bugg and see how she does it.

Ann T. Bugg loves Disney, collectibles and fairy tales, not necessarily in that order. Prompted by these loves, she has written a series of fairy tales-meet-today books. The umbrella name for this series is "Before Happily Ever After Series," and each book has its own title. The series does what many imaginative readers do in their own minds, they add to the story, blend the story with others, rewrite the endings, or ask 'what if?'.  I recently read Soaring Up To The Clouds, Not Knowing Jack, Before Happily Ever After Series Book 5. The book is, of course, about Jack and his beanstalk...and our two 21st century girls, and Snow White and the wicked queen. Oh, my how they meet, blend and help each other is straight from a fertile imagination.
Our two 'today' main characters are Valerie and Samantha. Their journey, this time, begins at a county festival as they journey to Val's family farm for they summer. The girls are nosy, and being so end up stranded in a hot air balloon as it rises up, up, up. As they arrive at their unknown destination, they must determine where they are and how to get home. We learn that this is NOT their first mysterious trip, so they are not frightened or bewildered. They are, however, very inquisitive. And so, their journey begins. We meed Jack and his mother first. We find Jack stealing gold coins from the GIANT...Oh, dear. We learn that Snow White is again in DANGER...Oh, dear. Can they help Jack? Will they save Snow again? Read  Book 5, Soaring up to the Clouds: Not Knowing Jack to find out and perhaps set your imagination to work. Try rewriting your favorite fairy tale, or combine several. It isn't always easy, but Ann T. Bugg does it effortlessly.

If you go to the I Love Middle Grade Books site, you can participate in a blog hop and win many prizes, including a free download of this book The link for the hop is  http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=334406   Go there and click on any one of the middle grade authors listed to get started enjoying middle grade book reviews, news, and giveaways. Many giveaways. Check out all the authors, for the books cover many types of literature and good reading. Again, all the authors are giving away goodies, just in time for the Christmas holidays. From now through December 15. Get started!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Let's talk cooking: Canal House Cooking that is.

Canal House Cooking Volume No. 8 Pronto:
I don't know why I loved this book, but I did. I do not cook, but I do eat, so that may explain the attraction. That and all things Italian. When I requested this book from Net Galley, I expected the Canal House to be somewhere in Italy, probably Venice. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the Canal House is in New Jersey. Oh, well. The recipes are Italian and sound delicious. I can't wait to pass them on to our cook, my Italian husband, and have him try a few of them. Some were already familiar and some not. The chatty tone of this book is engaging and makes for an easy read. I would love to see the book in print form. My only complaint was....too much eggplant! Loved the mentions of my favorite cheese, pecorino,which is not available in our little hamlet, albeit the state capital. Some of the Tuscan wines discussed are among my favorites. I guess I am beginning to see why I loved this book. I would recommend it and would read another by these authors.


http://www.amazon.com/Canal-House-Cooking-N°-Pronto-ebook/dp/B00FS0MVWC

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sharon Ledwith: I came. I saw. I wrote.: Let’s get the Holiday Season started with a Goodre...

From a friend....Good luck, everyone. I think you will enjoy Sharon's work.

Sharon Ledwith: I came. I saw. I wrote.: Let’s get the Holiday Season started with a Goodre...: As the holiday season encroaches, I thought I’d set up a Goodreads giveaway for anyone who hasn’t had a chance to read the first book in my ...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Easy Christmas Shopping.....don't let them tell you that they are not readers.

BUY A BOOK FOR EVERYONE.... "I'm not really a reader." Oh, yeah. Well, at our house, everyone gets a book as part of their Christmas joy. When our daughter married, her husband was not a reader. When our son married, his wife was a'somewhat' reader. For the first few years our son-in-law received sports books. I don't know if he ever looked at them. For the first few years our daughter-in-law received cook books which I know she looked at. Then she became easier to buy for. Now she is one of the easy ones; she reads a lot and receives not just cookbooks anymore. Can't wait to give her this year's find. Our son-in-law will now receive and read gardening, sports, and some history books. I think we've made progress. Love my in-law children.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Anna Casey's Place in the World....She deserves a special place.

Anna Casey's Place in the World by Adrian Fogelin is a soft and gentle story about a subject that is often times not a soft and gently subject---foster care and the reasons for the need for it. This book is not harsh, does not point fingers. It simply tells a lovely story that is sometimes funny, sometimes sad.

The two main characters, unrelated, have been placed in the foster care of a first time foster mother. A recipe for disaster? No, here it becomes a recipe for caring and sharing and helping each other and the new foster mother through the steps of parenting.

Ed is ten, a frightened little boy who tries without much success to hide his feelings through faked toughness and indifference. Anna Casey is an adventurous, inquisitive twelve-year-old who desperately wants a place to belong. Anna has lived with many different family members, until at last, she has run out of relatives. Ed has lived with his very irresponsible mother and whoever the current boyfriend might be. Ms. Dupree, a third character, is a new 'parent' whose heart is in the right place but who has very little idea how to be a 'mother' or even a friend to these two, but she tries. She runs a business from her home--matching lonely hearts. Her's, perhaps, is one of the loneliest.

Through adventures and misadventures the two  youngsters are thrown together and become unlikely allies. They meet and befriend a homeless veteran and an eccentric neighbor who has a pet spider, all types of specimens, and a penchant for picking up neighborhood trash. She is also very likable, someone you might want in your neighborhood. They also meet the neighborhood kids, among them Jemmie and Cass, the main characters from Fogelin's wonderful Crossing Jordan, for Eb and Anna are lucky enough to have landed in their neighborhood.  The two girls, along with the boys from the neighborhood, help Eb and Anna start to feel somewhat 'at home'.

Then, of course, change comes along. It is all around as wishes seem to be coming true for all, but will they be for the best? We hope so, we can mentally write it that way for ourselves, but I guess we will have to read the next book from this neighborhood and see if we can find the answer. I don't know!

I have purchased this book for one of my ten-year-old granddaughters for Christmas, along with  Crossing Jordan, for the other 10-year-old granddaughter. I hope they like Eb and Anna and Cass and Jemmie as much as I do.


From Peachtree Publishing, available at book stores and on line through
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_10?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=anna+casey%27s+place+in+the+world&sprefix=anna+casey%2Cstripbooks%2C227

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thanks John,,, John Grisham that is.

Everything at my house has stopped while I indulge myself in John Grisham's latest book, Sycamore Row. Thanks, John for getting back to the good stuff. I've missed you.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Little Golden Books Revisited....how refreshing.

 Couldn't resist posting this from Diana Muldrow.

Her blog is Books I Buy and Why:  http://booksibuyandwhy.blogspot.com/
Her most recent blog is "Everything I need to know I learned from Golden Books. As the mother of a five year old, she is revisiting these lovely books. and applying lessons to adulthood. Check out her blog and her book. If nothing else, read the description of the book on Amazon.



https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17190361-everything-i-need-to-know-i-learned-from-a-little-golden-book

Friday, October 18, 2013

Thanks Judy Blume.......

Grandson AJ and granddaughter Jamie spent the day with us. After AJ prepared and served us brunch, cooking is his hobby and he makes great pancakes, we had 'reading' hour. AJ is 8 and Jamie 10 both are involved in a reading contest at school. Luckily, both read a lot and have always been read to by the adults in the family....a real must for creating lifelong readers among our young! These two, and our other grandchildren are all on their way to being lifelong readers. When today's reading hour was over, they both kept on reading. Yea!

Jamie stretched out on the sofa with President of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston, was  no doubt reading. AJ first sat in a chair with legs thrown over one arm. Then he was on the floor upside down with feet and legs supported by an upholstered coffee table. Finally, as I was beginning to wonder if he was really reading, he was on his knees leaning over that upholstered coffee table when he started snickering then laughing out loud. His laughing went on for a while. I asked what was so funny, and he said 'just this book.'

Judy Blume, who had first worked her magic on their mother 38 years ago, was again working her magic. Thanks Judy Blume.




Monday, October 14, 2013

The Trees Have Hearts....imaginary friends from Nature fill a little girl's life.

"When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile." (Unknown)

This is clearly the underlying message of this book. After we see the importance of her imaginary friends, the trees and the wind, the main character, a lovely little girl, must move away and leave them. She is heartbroken. She feels that she has reason to cry, but these friends embrace her as only they can and help her understand that life has more beauty than sadness.

The Trees Have Hearts, full of imagery and symbolism, is a lovely story that many children in today's society can relate to and understand. A little girl is happy in her home, a beautiful home with a lovely garden in which the trees become the girl's friends and offer her companionship, comfort, and a sense of security. The little girl is full of happiness. After a summer vacation she learns that she and her family must move. She is, as most young children would be, devastated. She does not want to leave her home and her garden friends. Her friends, the trees, each with a special gift for companionship, offers her comfort and healing words that help her see the wonder of moving as a growing period and new adventure. Even the gentle Old Wind is the girl's friend and he,too, helps her when she needs him.

The book is beautifully illustrated with garden pictures full of color and light. Each tree has her own personality and look. This is clearly shown.

 My only complaint would be that the story is too long and too demanding of a young reader. An older reader could beautifully read the book with a youngster and have some wonderful discussions.

The author is Mrs. D. (Olga D'Agostino).
The illustrator is Juli Hasagawa.
The book is a winner of the Mom's Choice Award.
I read the ebook version.





http://www.amazon.com/The-Trees-Have-Hearts-Mrs/dp/1469134799

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Owl Summer: A true story, mostly... Warning, tooting my own horn!

Publication Date: September 25, 2013



Danger!   The swamp is burning!  The fire is spreading!  
The animal kingdom, led by Woodpecker, is preparing for the arrival of birds and animals escaping a raging swamp fire. This has happened before and the animal kingdom knows it must be ready to help those animals forced from their homes. Woodpecker leads the effort, and soon all the animals in the region are spreading the word...."The swamp is burning. Get ready to help."

Woodpecker has another worry: Will the human family living in the house nearby know that their help is needed also? Soon he learns that he should not worry on their part for remembering the past, the humans know and will be ready. 
As they prepare for the animals they know will come, they tell their grandson, AJ, about the last time the swamp burned and they were the rescue area for the Owl family. The grandparents fell in love with the Owls that summer and they, along with AJ, hope they will return this time. Will they? Will the Owls return? Read and find out.

This is a story about humans and nature working together to help in time of emergency. It is about habitat destruction and rescue. It is about caring and sharing. 
It is also a book about animals. One third of the book gives photos and facts about the animals found in the book. There is even a quiz!!! How much do you and your youngsters know about animals?

Based upon our own Owl Summer of several years ago when the Okefenokee Swamp was burning and the wildlife escaping, the book is illustrated with animal and nature photos. The cover was created by a graphic artist who is also a bird lover.

Animal lovers will love the book. It is a longer book, 66 pages including the end factual material. not just a children's picture book, but a story book. The reading level tests at fifth grade, but our 3rd grade grandson will have no trouble with it. It tests at the higher level for the sentences are compound and complex rather than simple declarative sentences found in lower reading levels. The words are easily elementary grade words. 



  Now available at Amazon ;http://www.amazon.com/Owl-Summer-story-mostly-Grannie/dp/1492333239/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380216359&sr=1-1&keywords=Owl+Summer

 



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Too cute to pass up.... Shelve under C: A Tale of Used Books and Cats.

Here is a book for all my cat loving friends....you know who you are. The Kindle version as been available for a while, but the bound version is newly releasesd. The Kindle version is free today, so take advanatage of it.

Brenda Dockery and Terry LaSalle, you should open a used bookstore and call it Used Cats and Books....don't they just go together. On Amazon. Check it out...
The kitten on the cover completely captured my attention and I am not a cat lover.... I just bought it, the free version and will be reviewing it soon on this blog. Here's info on the book: Shelve under C: A Tale of Used Books and Cats.



http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Shelve%20under%20C

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Caterpillar and the Stone by Erec Stebbins: I love this book!!! Read it!

What an unusual book. Billed as a fairy's tale and a love storybook for not-quite grown-ups, I wasn't sure what to expect. Never did I expect to fall so completely in love with this little book.

It looks like a children's book, almost.
It reads like a children's book, almost.
But it is an ageless story of love and loss, of opposites attracting, of cultural differences, of lifestyle choices, and of simply growing apart. It helps us see that while life may not always be fair, we can survive.

Caterpillar and Stone love each other. Both of their cultures are aghast. "It won't work," they both hear from family and friends. It does work, for a time. Then his need to do the work he was meant to do and her inborn need to change pulls them apart. She no longer needs his security and his warmth for she learns to spread her wings and fly to freedom. He cannot, for he is after all, only a stone.

The book is written and illustrated as if it were a children's book. At least, that is what one thinks at first glance. Then one will notice that the illustrations are not light and happy, not the type that pleases most young readers. They seem to be photographs taken mostly at or near the ground, caterpillar and stone's points of view. They look to be manipulated with a wonderful photo editor.

Upon reading the book one will see that the language is full of imagery and beautiful phrases, beyond those found in most children's books. Also, one will see the beautiful script or calligraphy in which the book is written...definitely not the easy font of children's books.

The author is first and foremost, a scientist with a degree in physics from Oberlin College and a PhD in biochemistry from Cornell. Today he is a scientist and professor in biomedical research studying the atomic structures of bacterial toxins that cause disease...Whee, no wonder his mind sometimes must wander into the fantasy fairly tale world.

There is only one thing I can say about this book....I loved it. Absolutely. Thank you Erec.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A good wine, a good book....hmmmm. Great combo.

    I recently read Gracianna by Trini Amador.  Trini Amador is co-founder of Gracianna Winery in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, CA. The winery and wine was named to honor his Grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga, the Gracianna of the title.

When the author was 4 years old he found a loaded German luger in his Grandma’s house in South California. Years later, he was able to delve into his family history to find out why his Grandmother would have a loaded German gun. He used her story to write Gracianna; combining fact with fiction.

At the age of eighteen, in the early 1940s, believing drunken comments from American vacationers who said they would employ her in America, Gracianna was determined to make the journey. On her way to American from the French-Basque region of France, she had to pass through Paris. Once there, she was caught up in the Nazi Occupation of Paris and in the French Resistance Movement. Her sister was arrested and sent to Auschwitz. Gracicanna then began a determined effort to free her sister. With Nazi headquarters in her backyard, she finds a job working in a bar cafe and sharpens her instincts for survival in occupied Paris. In time she is recruited into the French Resistance. As Gracianna works to free her sister, the story continues and takes us into the horrors of the concentration camps while giving us an insight to the persecution of the Jewish people in France.

Luckily, Juan, a shepherd from her village a strong, dependable young man has loved Gracianna for years. He followed her to Paris and due to his hard work and adaptability, was able to support himself and Gracianna through the very troubled times of World War II.  
          
This is a tale of love, family, suspense and survival. It is not an easy read, due to both the subject matter and the style of writing. Do I recommend it? I’m not sure. Readers will either love it or hate it.


The Luger found by the young author….well, grab a glass of wine and settle in to read the book to find out why that was important to Grandmother Gracianna.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Last Sunday was International Literacy Day....did you read?

I read. I wrote. I reviewed. You know the old saying, "some many books, so little time." So Right.
If you haven't checked mine out, you can find them easily. In honor of International Literacy Day and our blog hop, check out all of your favorite authors. Let them know you appreciate them.

A sweetheart of a flamingo, a mysterious woman talking about a Snow Angel, watermelons hidden under the bed, strange animals in the backyard, a little boy growing up to be president....all subject matter for some of my books. Owls fleeing disaster to join this group very soon.  Check them out at http://www.fayeswordbasket.com
Also, would love some followers as we discuss literature, reading, writing, reviewing at http://fayeswordbasket.blogspot.com ,,,right here.  I'll reciprocate any following. Let's unite and entertain and educate the world!

Just finished Gracianna...reviewing soon.


Blog hop addressHop on over to the middle school blog hop:


Sunday, September 8, 2013

"Tommy" is hopping like a frog from link to lilnk in this MG blog hop. Join us.

I wrote this as part of a blog hop, but procrastinated posting to the hop and missed the deadline. I'm posting it here anyway. Maybe someone will see it.  This is the second edition. I had a ball with the first edition.

Tommy: The Civil War Childhood of a President
A Childhood Biography of President Thomas Woodrow Wilson

My offering is quite different from the others on our hop. Mine is a biography...something that might come in handy in history, English, or reading class this year but that might not be at the top of a MG reader's book list. From experience I have seen wonderful "biography book reports' that have been required by teachers completed for "Tommy". I am available for internet interviews and phone interviews as needed for book reports. There is a special email address in the book that readers may use. There is a Wilson family photo album, small bios of his friends as adults, and a wonderful copy of Tommy's own doodles....he really was not an attentive student when in school.

So, here is  Tommy: The Civil War Childhood of a  President






"Tommy" is a MG/YA/OF (Old Folks) biography of a young boy growing up during the American Civil War. Originally written for MG reading/English and history classrooms, the book became an immediate favorite with the older readers in historical societies, book clubs, and library associations. The story is a new one to most people, a bit of history almost lost. As an adult we know him as President of the United States, Thomas Woodrow Wilson. As a young boy in Augusta, GA during those turbulent prewar, war, and postwar years he was simply, Tommy. 

The Wilson family lived in Augusta from the time young Tommy was 18 months old until he was 13. During four of those formative years of his life, the Civil War was raging and affecting his town daily. This is the story of all those formative years, as Tommy learned to read (at age 9), went to school for the first time, played with his friends (many became influential men in business and government), and was paddled by his schoolmaster for running away to join the circus rather than study.

Each chapter is a dialogue scene of an event. After the dialogue scene comes factual background of the scene. I chose to put the factual information with the scene rather than as footnotes or endnotes at the end of the chapter or the book for I know from years of teaching MG that MG students do not like to read footnotes or anything written after 'the end".

Readers will get to know Tommy through his family and friends, through his leisure moments, and even through his stubbornness and his caring for others. Each chapter provides insight into the youngster who became 28th president of the United States. The reader will see Tommy learn from his faith and family, and from the history lived. These lessons learned were later evident as President Thomas Woodrow Wilson guided his country through another war, World War I.

In "Tommy" we get a glimpse of everyday life in a southern town not directly in the line of fire in a bloody civil war. An important strand in the book is found in the many parades, all verified, that took place in Augusta during that time. At the beginning of the war the parades were glorious. By the middle and end of the war the tempo of the parades was changing. The following except describes one memorable parade.

  An excerpt from Tommy: The Civil War Childhood of a President.

     The future President of the United States stood on the edge of the field fascinated by the parade passing in front of him.  He had seen many parades since the war started two years ago, but this one was different.  There were no brass bands playing, no freshly uniformed infantry units stepping high and no prancing cavalry horses.  No one was marching, and no one was cheering.

     This was not a parade of clean, smartly dressed military men.  This was a parade of ragged men in tattered uniforms.  Their sabers and sashes were replaced by blood and bandages. And dirt. 

     There was no one to watch this parade by the railroad track in Augusta, Georgia, but seven-year-old Tommy and his young friends.  Playing in the fields near the tracks, they had heard the solemn ringing of the troop-train's bell and watched as it shuddered to stop beside the field.  Curious, the boys ran to the train and watched as slowly it emptied its cargo of Civil War wounded.
 

          A few of the injured limped unaided, but many more shuffled, supported on one or both sides by others who were themselves wounded.  Others hobbled on crutches.  One man, with a foot missing kept his head down and his eyes on the bandage at the end of his leg.  He seemed to be looking at the foot that wasn't there.                               
     After the walking wounded came men on litters.  Their bodies, their heads, their limbs wrapped in bloody, dirty bandages.  Some of the blood was old and caked; some new and oozing. 
    One man alone seemed to see the boys.  His large body was covered with a blood-soaked blanket on which several medals and many flies competed for space.  His head and face were covered with bloody, dirty bandages.
     A foul, wretched smell filled the air through which the litters moved.  It was not a smell like the barnyard or the cow pen.  It was not even a smell like hogs being slaughtered.  This smell was worse, much worse.  As it grew stronger, Tommy and his friends covered their mouths and noses as to protect themselves from this smell which instinctively they knew to be the smell of death.

     Finally, from the car nearest the engine came a different sight.  Men under guard.  Men whose arms and legs were bound together, making it hard for them to walk.  So they too shuffled.  And they too were covered with dirt and blood and bandages.


     One of Tommy's friends  finally broke their silence.  "Come on," he said.  "Let's get back to our game."

     Everyone turned to go but Tommy.  Tommy stood still, only his head moving to follow the hundreds of wounded and dying soldiers who were passing by.

     Finally, he turned and headed, not toward his friends, but back to his home and the security of his family.  He could play no more that day.  He wasn't sure he could ever play that game again.

      The boys had been playing war.



Tommy: The Civil War Childhood of a President
A Childhood Biography of President Thomas Woodrow Wilson
By Julia Faye Dockery Smith


http://www.amazon.com/dp/1478228881



                                                       
 
 
 











 






From childhood to
 President of the United States

Thomas Woodrow Wilson







Saturday, September 7, 2013

"Shipwrecked" for oral discussion for reluctant readers

Shipwrecked by Alexandra Pratt:

This is an excellent book for oral reading by a teacher to a group of reluctant readers. It is a quick and easy read with a story that is easy to follow. Some of the reluctant readers could read it alone, but many would not. Used orally there could be great discussion for those readers would have many thoughts and opinions about the actions, and the non-actions, of these characters. I have found that reluctant readers like to impose themselves into the story and react with "I would have...." and then proceed to tell how they would have solved the problem or gotten out of the situation. This book gives them many opportunities to do that.

It's 1740, and a British warship is wrecked on a remote island in Patagonia. But that is only the first of Midshipman Isaac Morris's problems. When mutiny among the crew leads to murder, Isaac must survive starvation, slavery and imprisonment if he wants to see his home again.... Reading age: 8. Interest level: up to age 14. Written and edited for reluctant or struggling readers.  




https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/163185

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Add Crossing Jordan to your reading list, and share it with a middle schooler!

In the late afternoon a few days ago I sat down with a glass of wine and a book I had just purchased for my ten year old granddaughter and planned to read for 'awhile'. I did not get up until I had finished reading the book. It was that good, that engrossing, and that easy to read.

Crossing Jordan is a timeless story of a black family moving into the neighborhood. The scene is the South, but it could be anywhere. Most of us immediately think we know what will happen, and it does, but along with 'it' happening comes some wonderful moments and insights. This is a soft treatment of prejudice, nature, and friendship. There is no hitting you over the head with a message, it is just there, naturally.

The story opens with word going through the neighborhood that Mis Liz's old place has been sold to a black family. The white father next door immediately puts up a fence, recalling Robert Frost's "A good fence makes good neighbors," but we know that being a good neighbor is not what he has in mind. He wants nothing to do with and forbids his daughters to have anything to do with the black family moving in. When the black family arrives we learn that there is prejudice there also. The mother wants nothing to do with and forbids her daughter to have anything to do with the white family next door. "Stay away from that house, stay away from them"  is the message they both receive.

Ironically, that tall wooden fence offers them a way to get to know each other that they would not have had without it for they naturally communicate through the knothole and through the boards.They feel they can do this and follow their parents' instructions for they do not go into each other's yards.

The girls share many interests, but it is their love of running that truly brings them together. They practice in the early mornings, at the school track, and form a team. They even name their team....Chocolate Milk. Their light-hearted use of this familiar term for their friendship exemplifies the soft, sensitive approach Ms. Fogelin uses to portray her message against prejudice. There is nothing heavy-handed in this book.

Through time, a wise old grandma, a near tragedy, a dead woman, and Jane Eyre the families finally come together. As for Cass and Jemmie, who won their first major race ? They both did, but not in the manner the reader expects.

Although this is a serious subject, the book is not serious and ponderous in its approach. It is fun reading, with very likable characters on both sides of the fence, and there are many scenes that accurately portray the lives of young people about to enter or in middle school.

I highly recommend this book and cannot wait to give it to my granddaughter. I think she will enjoy it and pass it to cousins and friends to read.


http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1561452815/ref=s9_simh_se_p14_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=auto-no-results-center-1&pf_rd_r=1SXKSSMCPG0FDBD3043F&pf_rd_t=301&pf_rd_p=1263465782&pf_rd_i=isbn9781361452156

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

From the fields of Iowa, to the halls of the Florida Supreme Court, to the aisles of children's literature. Phil's journey.


On this blog dated August 14, 2013,  I reviewed a children's book by an author new to the world of writing for children. His picture book, Feathers in a Flap, is a great favorite. (See my review of August 14). Today I thought you might like to get to know this author better and learn why he choose to enter the wonderful world of children's literature. So meet Phillip M. Pollock, a rural  Iowa  boy who now daily walks the halls of the Florida Supreme Court as Web Administrator for the Office of the State Courts Administrator. Writing is a large part of his daily routine, but not writing for children. He graciously granted me this interview.
Phillip, as a new author, it must have been very exciting to finally hold the published book in your hands. Can you tell us what that felt like?                                                                                                    Even thought I have been involved in published work before, it was only in bits and pieces. In Feathers in a Flap I wrote the story, designed the page layouts and did all of the illustrating. It was an extremely satisfying moment to see it for the first time.
For those who have not read your book, give us a one sentence summary.
This is a story of a relationship a man has with the birds in his back yard and how the relationship evolves from one of mistrust (based on a single misperception) to trust and cohabitation.

What was the inspiration for your book, or where did the idea originate?                                                   I’ve always been a great lover of birds, so the basic idea of writing a book about birds was easy. One of the key aspects of the story was based on a collection of bird feathers I have found over time. I have them all arranged beautifully in a frame with a green felt backing.
I understand the story was first written about 6 years ago. Why did it take you so long to publish it?
Yes, that’s about right. I have always been somewhat of an exacting watercolorist of birds, so the idea of making a bird drawing look, essentially, like a cartoon, for children, seemed very difficult to me. I had to really switch art gears to make them look simple and like they still had some personality.

What was the biggest challenge in creating your book?                                                                              Perhaps it was the above. But, in addition, it was getting rid of some "darlings", both in writing and the illustrations. Some text didn’t work with the art and vice versa. I hate to back-track, so I had to stop being wedded to everything I did and know that I was going to have to re-work some things if I was going to be truly happy with the finished book.
How did you come up with the title?
There is a bird in the story who is pretty agitated—he’s got has feathers in a flap. “Flap” is a somewhat dated synonym, but I liked the way it sounded.
When you started writing the story, did you know what the ending or outcome would be?
Yes! Once I came up with the idea of using the collection of feathers, I knew exactly how the story would play out.

Are you writing another children’s picture book?                                                                                             I think I will start another, similar sort of children’s story over the coming winter months.
Do you do other types of writing?                                                                                                                    I’ve always been a writer—it has been woven into almost all the professional work I’ve done. Years ago, I was assistant editor of a beautiful, full-color magazine called Florida Heritage (historical site-based) and then a year later held the same position for FSU Law Magazine. Go figure!
What were some of your favorite books as a child? Did your parents read to you often? When did you learn to read?
My parents did not read to me often. I grew up in Iowa, which boasted a very high literacy rate, so I learned to read and was a good reader early on, but I didn’t start to read for fun until later down the road—maybe ten or twelve years of age. I was a Hardy Boys fan, all the way. I loved the stories, but was even more taken by the colorful dust sleeves wrapped around the hard copy. That was adventure!
The illustrations are an important part of this story. When did you learn to paint and why did you choose watercolor as your medium?
I started painting in grade school. I won “fire prevention” and other poster contests all the time. I was a good letterer and a professional draftsman (I drew toy tractor models for a company). But, back to paints . . . I love the way colors flow with water as the conduit. You lay a pure water wash down on your paper, then fill a brush with paint, and with one smooth stroke, you see the color migrate from dark to light. It’s like magic.
Which illustration is your favorite?
I think I have two. One is where the bird knocks himself out by hitting the window and the second is the bird bath scene on the back cover. The latter was an afterthought, and necessary. but because it was so mentally spontaneous, I finished it in about 20 minutes.
Do you consider yourself an author first and then an illustrator or the other way around?
Neither. I feel lucky to have both skills. If I have written something that needs an illustration, well then . . . If it happens in the reverse, then I am a writer.
Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do to relax?
I swim. I can sometimes conceive ideas and write when I do that. I also read a lot, both to relax and to be a better writer. Ask Steven King about that. You can’t be a writer unless you’re a reader.
 Again, check out Phil's Feathers in a Flap  at 
http://www.amazon.com/Feathers-Flap-Phillip-M-Pollock/dp/1490389318/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378152936&sr=1-1&keywords=Feathers+in+a+Flap

Thanks, Phil....