History

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

I admit to being a streaky reader - I think this time last year I was on a World War I fiction kick. And this winter I read three books in a row about the Johnstown Flood including both fiction and nonfiction titles - Three Rivers Rising, In Sunlight In a Beautiful Garden, and The Johnstown Flood. The latter is by David McCullough, a famous historian and two time Pulitzer Prize recipient who is from Pittsburgh near the area where the flood occurred.

Recently though it seems I am reading a lot of coming of age novels featuring girls as the main character. E. Lockhart has written some wonderful contemporary coming of age novels, but for something historical I also have recently fallen for The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.

Forge - Historical Thriller

If you thought this winter in Bloomington was a fierce one, you may feel it was downright balmy after reading about the winter the Revolutionary War soldiers experienced at Valley Forge in 1777-1778.

In Forge, Laurie Halse Anderson continues the compelling story she started in her award-winning novel Chains which describes the involvement of African American slaves in the Revolutionary War. Chains was told from the perspective of Isabel, a slave who spies for the rebels during the start of the war. She meets Curzon, a slave whose owner required him to enlist as a soldier and fight in the war in his place, with the promise that Curzon would become free when the enlistment time expired.

Ruth and the Green Book

When I got my first car, I couldn't wait to take a road trip of my own. I'd spent plenty of time in the "wayback" of the family station wagon as a kid attempting to read while my Dad switched the radio back and forth from baseball broadcasts to classical music stations. Now I'd be in the driver's seat and could choose what to listen to and when and where to stop for a rest break! The road atlas was my guide as I set off on my own from Chicago to visit my brother in Pennsylvania.

When Ruth and her family set off in the early 1950s on a road trip from Chicago to Alabama, they needed something in addition to a road map to guide their trip. They needed "The Green Book." "The Green Book," author Calvin Alexander Ramsey explains in his picturebook Ruth and the Green Book was developed in 1936 by a postman named Victor H. Green to help black people who were traveling. The book listed by city all the restaurants, hotels, gas stations and businesses that would serve African Americans during the era of "Jim Crow" laws when many establishments, especially in the South, refused to admit blacks.

Teenaged Freedom Fighter

Lafayette and the American Revolution by Russell Freedman tells the fascinating story of a young man who helped our nation gain its independence in the Revolutionary War. Orphaned at twelve, Gilbert de Motier, marquis de Lafayette was one of the wealthiest young aristocrats in France. Married at sixteen, he was already a father by the age of nineteen when he left France to aid the American revolutionaries in their struggle to win freedom from the British king.

Through My Eyes

Fifty years ago, it fell to a little girl named Ruby to be the first black person to attend William Frantz Public School in New Orleans, Louisiana. It's normal now for people of all skin colors to go to school together, but sadly, in 1960, there were still many ignorant people who thought that white-skinned people were better than others and should not have to share their schools. Even after federal courts ordered that public schools be integrated, some states, including Louisiana, objected. It was a dangerous time for African Americans in the United States, especially in the south. Some of the white people who believed black people should remain separate from white people did hateful or even violent things.

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

Homer P. Figg and his older brother Harold are orphans, and their sad lives are made even more wretched by their mean guardian, Uncle Squinton. "Squint" forces Harold to be conscripted into the Union Army even though he is underage, and Homer is compelled to try to rescue his brother before he is killed in the savagery of the Civil War. Thus begin The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg.

Exploring the Titanic

Robert Ballard is my hero. Dr. Ballard is a scientist, inventor, and a deep-sea explorer. He is most famous for discovering the wreck of the Titanic, 12,460 feet beneath the sea. The Titanic was the largest ship ever built in her time. She was as tall as an eleven story building and almost four city blocks long. The unique design of her hull was supposed to make her unsinkable, but in the middle of her first voyage the huge ship struck an iceberg and sank in the dark, icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912. Only 705 of the Titanic's 2,223 passengers and crew survived. Ever since the Titanic sank, people have been fascinated with the story and many have wondered about the location of the monster ship on the ocean floor.

Seventy-four years later, Bob Ballard led a team of scientists in a mission to discover the lost Titanic. Using Argo, the deep sea underwater robot craft Dr. Ballard developed, tethered to a research vessel called the Knorr, the team explored the region of the ocean where the ship went down. They tried for weeks to find the Titanic, but without any luck. Then Dr. Ballard thought of a new way to search. He knew that when things fall in deep water, they leave a long tail of debris, like a comet. He hoped that they might find a trail of wreckage from the ship that would lead them to the Titanic. He was right! With only days left to complete their mission, the team discovered a line of man-made objects that led them directly to the Titanic.

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