Category Archives: History

Discovering Fred Harvey

The time has long since passed for me to expect surprises beneath the Christmas tree.  Not only do I select most of my presents, I wrap them too.  Which, in all honesty, is absolutely fine with me.  But this year there were two unexpected gifts bearing tags addressed to me.  What wonders would they behold?  The first, an insert for my Nalgene bottle, was the practical gift.   Apparently I missed the lesson in preschool about not dribbling down the front of yourself when drinking.  It’s an embarrassing habit and one which has long inhibited my quest for hydration.  This insert makes it more likely I’ll ingest the water, rather than wear it.  The second gift was, of course, a book.

During our cross-country adventure I discovered a fascinating piece of history – Harvey Houses.   Fred Harvey revolutionized the hospitality industry during the late 1800’s by developing restaurants and lodging along the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway.  Fred Harvey was a person, but also a company and a brand.   He brought refinement and quality to the West – changing the face of travel and setting standards that are still emulated to this day in customer service.  One particular aspect of his methodology really captured my attention.  Fred Harvey needed a work force that would uphold his strict requirements for quality service, consistency, and respectability.  His answer was to hire responsible, unmarried women.  Harvey found himself a reliable staff, and the Harvey Girls had respectable jobs and financial independence.  This mutually beneficial arrangement was quite progressive – and successful.  How had this morsel of American Women’s History eluded me for so long?

To remedy the gap in my knowledge I purchased several books on our trip and read with enthusiasm.  But it is my Christmas present, The Harvey House Cookbook, that is the crowning jewel.  The Cookbook provides an overview history of Fred Harvey, Harvey Girls, and Harvey Houses.  It also provides recipes from restaurants along the Santa Fe line.  Although my children aren’t clamoring for me to make “Jellied Chicken” anytime soon, I delighted in reading about the delicacies offered more than a century ago to weary West-bound travelers.

Several Harvey Houses, under different management, are still in operation.  Stay on the edge of the Grand Canyon at El Tovar Hotel and enjoy a meal at Bright Angel Restaurant (we did) where you’ll find several authentic historic Harvey House items still on the menu.  In Santa Fe, New Mexico you can stay at La Fonda and in Winslow, Arizona spend a night at La Posada.  Take an hour while traveling historic Route 66 to see the Painted Desert Inn for a glimpse into the glory days of Harvey Houses.  Barstow, California is home to the Casa Del Desierto, a former Harvey House converted into multi-use space including museums, offices, and event rooms.  If you can’t get away, but want to know more about this delightful piece of history check out some great books about Fred Harvey.  You may even want to try your hand at making “Albondigas Soup” or “Lobster Americaine”!

Diary of a Waitress: The Not-So-Glamorous Life of a Harvey Girl by Carolyn Meyer – The fictionalized diary of young Kitty Evans an aspiring journalist who, due to unfair and unfortunate circumstances, has to find a job instead of going to college.  Follow Kitty as she journeys West finding adventure as a Harvey Girl during the 1920’s.  MR/YA -6/8

Appetite For America by Stephen Fried  – This comprehensive history of Fred Harvey the man, the company, and the brand is engaging and entertaining.  Reading like a novel, with clear benchmarks of well-researched historical documentation, it is a must for anyone interested in Harvey, the American West, and rail travel. Author Fried gives a presentation on the history of Fred Harvey at La Fonda which you can check out HERE.  Learn more about the later years of the Fred Harvey company in a Q&A session with Fried and Daggett Harvey Jr.  HERE.

The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened The West by Lesley Poling-Kempes –  A history of the Harvey Girls combining oral history and well researched details.   This book acknowledges the long overlooked contributions of the women who, in search of respectable employment and independence, were influential in altering the fabric of life throughout the American Southwest.   For more about women who, against convention, braved the West read Poling-Kempes Ladies of the Canyon.

The Harvey House Cookbook by George H. Foster & Peter C. Weiglin – As stated above, a delightful overview of Fred Harvey the man and the company, as well as Harvey Girls, the changing landscape of the American West, and the rise and decline of rail travel in the U.S.   Plus many delicious and entertaining recipes sure to whet your appetite or possibly cause revulsion to your modern dining sensibilities (anything with the word aspic is nausea inducing for me).  A great complement to the Harvey history and a wonderful addition for any food historian!

Fred Harvey Houses of the Southwest by Richard Melzer – Harvey House history told through remarkable photographs of the people and places that made up this groundbreaking brand.  A wonderful visual documentation of the history and diversity of the Harvey Houses across the Southwest. (Images of America series)

PBP note: Fred Harvey, at the turn of the 20th century, made another extremely progressive move hiring Mary Colter, a schoolteacher and untrained architect, to design and develop many of the Harvey House locations.  For nearly 50 years. she worked in a male dominated field as the chief architect and decorator for Fred Harvey.  Read more about her remarkable spirit, her building and design philosophy, and her legacy in Mary Colter: Builder Upon the Red Earth  by Virginia L. Grattan

 

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Filed under cooking, cross country, History, hotel, North America, United States

Philadelphia Freedom

We are taking a road-trip to Philadelphia!  The agenda includes the standard sights: Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, Rocky Steps, and Reading Terminal Market.  While that’s all fantastic, the best part of this trip isn’t the sightseeing or even the food (gasp!) – it’s the people.  We are meeting up with a group of my dearest friends from college and their families.  There will be 34 of us – nearly half of whom are children ranging in age from 6 months to 14 years old – reuniting with the main goal of just hanging out together.   I’m not sure what to expect, except it will be amazing.  Ahead of us are two days filled with friends, food, history, laughter, beer, and ax throwing.   There may be a slight possibility of disaster, but I am choosing to only see the potential for greatness in this trip.

As a planner, organizer, and schedule keeper it is often a challenge to travel with others.   It’s a delicate balance juggling a large group, with different priorities and agendas.  In the past I’ve been so focused on my travel goals, while simultaneously trying to accommodate everyone,  that I’ve found group experiences often result in frustration and disappointment.   Whose disappointment? Usually just mine, since I’m the one with rigid expectations.  So thankfully, over time, I have learned to ease up a bit and embrace the journey rather than just the destination.   An important key to happy travel is determining the real purpose of your trip, and keeping it in mind as events transpire.   The purpose of this weekend is about the company we keep, and less about the sights.   For the first time, maybe ever, I have only a loose idea of what this weekend will involve – and all of that comes courtesy of the amazing Philly locals who are hosting this “jawn”.    Embracing the true purpose of this trip, and trusting others to guide the planning, was actually quite liberating.  Overall this weekend feels like exactly what it is supposed to be -an opportunity for my own version of Philadelphia freedom.

Check out the Philadelphia page in locations – if you simply must plan ahead!

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Filed under American Revolution, History, North America, United States

Super Series – 39 Clues

If your middle reader is looking for high action, intense adventure, and danger at every turn  – all while scouring the globe securing essential information, both for the heroes success, as well as to keep it out of the wrong hands – then this series is sure to please.

The 39 Clues – by Rick Riordan & Various Authors

Amy and Dan Cahill set out on a quest to discover the 39 missing clues that will reveal the true power of the Cahill family – but they aren’t the only branch of the mysterious family searching for answers, and not everyone has noble intentions.  As Amy and Dan travel the globe each mission becomes more dangerous, it becomes less clear who to trust, and their motives are constantly questioned.  Do Amy and Dan want to find the clues or just discover what happened to their parents?  What role do they play in the larger story of the Cahill family history, and what obligation do they have to keep the clues out of the wrong hands?

Initially I loved these books, they were fun, exciting and engaging.   The appeal for middle readers was three-fold – constant action, a distinct lack of adult supervision, and familiar authors who excel at this escapist type of novel.  I was won over by the incredible locales across the globe that the kids visit throughout their quest.  Eventually, though, the repetitive nature and implausibility of the perilous situations Dan and Amy constantly find themselves in wore thin.  (Seriously, how many times can two kids be trapped in a dark cave without any light being chased, attacked, etc.)  However, most middle readers, once they are hooked, will enjoy seeing the series through.  And if they want even more 39 Clues there are additional series, Cahills vs. VespersUnstoppable, and Doublecross for readers to enjoy.

39 clues1The Maze of Bones (39 Clues, No. 1) by Rick Riordan – Author Riordan, known for the Percy Jackson series and The Kane Chronicles kicks off the series with Dan and Amy choosing between a million dollars or embarking on the quest for the 39 clues.   As they meet the other branches of the family,  the search for the clues becomes more sinister.  Danger and mystery await as Dan and Amy travel to Philadelphia and then Paris chasing after the first clue.

39clues2One False Note (The 39 Clues, Book 2) by Gordon Korman – The competition between the warring factions of the family gets fierce as Amy, Dan, and their au pair chaperon Nellie lead chase through Austria in the second book, this one authored by Korman who is known for the Swindle and Island series.

39clues3The Sword Thief (The 39 Clues, Book 3) by Peter Lerangis – Amy and Dan discover more clues that lead them through Japan and Korea where an unlikely alliance could be their undoing.  This installation is authored by Lerangis, who is known for the Seven Wonders series and the Spy X books.

 

39clues4Beyond the Grave (The 39 Clues , Book 4) by Jude Watson – Egypt is full of danger and mystery as Dan and Amy face betrayal and find themselves trapped in their hunt for the next clue.  Author Watson has written extensively for the Star Wars series.

 

39clues5The Black Circle (The 39 Clues , Book 5) by Patrick Carman – A mysterious telegram from someone known only as “NRR” lead Dan and Amy to Russia where they infiltrate the Lucian base to get the next clue.  Carman also authored the Floors stories, a PBP favorite.

 

39clues6In Too Deep (The 39 Clues, Book 6) by Jude Watson – Amy and Dan head to Australia to follow their parents trail on the hunt for the 39 Clues.  Being so close to their parents memory is painful for Amy and her clouded vision leads to betrayal and the loss of an ally. Will they all survive?

39clues6reallyThe Viper’s Nest (The 39 Clues, Book 7) by Peter Lerangis – Danger hits close to home in South Africa, sending Amy and Dan running from the police.  That’s the least of their problems as they discover a final, devastating secret about their family branch that could change everything.

 

39clues8The Emperor’s Code (The 39 Clues, Book 8) by Gordon Korman – What happens when you think you are on the right side, but it turns out you might not be?  Amy faces her toughest challenge yet when she and Dan are separated in China -does she go after Dan or the clue?  How can Dan and Amy live up to who they thought they were, or who they want to be?

39clues9Storm Warning (The 39 Clues, Book 9) by Linda Sue Park – As they explore the Bahamas and Jamaica, Dan and Amy realize that they are finally about to confront the mysterious man who’s been tracking their movements throughout the search for the clues.  However, this meeting uncovers more secrets, and reveals the truth about the Madrigal branch of the family-one Amy and Dan never could have expected. Park is also the author of the remarkable A Long Walk to Water, which chronicles the stories of two Sudanese children.

39clues10Into the Gauntlet (The 39 Clues, Book 10) by Margaret Peterson Haddix – In England it is up to Dan and Amy to finish this, once and for all.  They are tired of playing by someone else’s rules and determinedly vow to end the hunt for 39 Clues their way.  Do they have enough strength to finally put all the pieces together and come out victorious?  Or do they just want to come out alive?  Haddix is well known for The Shadow Children Series and her The Missing Collection.

39clues11Vespers Rising (The 39 Clues, Book 11) Authors Rick Riordan, Peter Lerangis, Gordon Korman and Jude Watson come together to weaving four different stories, each by one author,  about the history of the Cahill family and their enemies, the Vespers.  While this book ties some loose ends together, it also leaves plenty of room and raises enough questions to introduce the next series The 39 Clues Cahills vs. Vespers.

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Filed under Action, Adventure, History, Middle Reader, mystery, series

A Christmas Carol

I’ve always adored the timeless, enduring message of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Perhaps it stems from my youth, when my parents would take us to the theater to see the annual stage production. Or perhaps it was my academic focus on 19th century history and literature as a college student that bred my fondness for Scrooge’s reformation. Maybe it’s that I cherish the sound of laughter and togetherness watching the The Muppet Christmas Carol with my girls. Whatever the motivation, A Christmas Carol has cemented itself as a necessary staple of our holiday season. Through Scrooge we are reminded that Christmas isn’t about things, that sharing is more wonderful than getting, family matters most, it is never too late to turn over a new leaf, and that forgiveness is easily given.   I adore many of the film versions, from the aforementioned Muppets (Gonzo is spectacular as narrator, and Miss Piggy does a perfect Mrs. Cratchit), to Scrooged, a commentary on ’80’s indulgence (with a fantastic Bill Murray), to the terrifying iterations of Scrooge as done by Patrick Stewart or George C. Scott.  However, I recommend giving the written story a try – from the original work, to adaptations for younger readers, to inventive interpretations –  curl up by the fire and experience the true magic of Dicken’s classic tale.

christmascarolPBA Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Illustrated by Brett Helquist – This picture book version of the beloved tale of Scrooge and his midnight apparitions is a wonderful addition to every holiday library and a perfect introduction to the story for younger readers.  It would make a wonderful holiday tradition to gather round the fire to read this aloud together as a family. (PB/RA)

mth christmas carolMagic Tree House #44: A Ghost Tale for Christmas Time by Mary Pope Osborne – Jack and Annie are transported to Victorian England where they meet up with writer Charles Dickens.  Although he appears to have everything he needs, Dickens has secrets about his past that haunt him.  Can Jack and Annie save the beloved writer of a Christmas Carol?  For more information on Dickens London check out Rags and Riches: Kids in the Time of Charles Dickens the non-fiction companion book by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce.  (ER-1/3)

cracked classicsCracked Classics: Humbug Holiday by Tony Abbott – When Frankie & Devin need a little boost with their English homework they usually get banished to the library where, to their surprise, they are frequently zapped into the books they are supposed to be reading.  This time they are in Victorian England where they come face to face with the grumpiest grouch they’ve ever encountered.  Can they help soften Scrooge’s cold heart and make sure he listens to the visiting spirits? (MR-4)

christmas carolA Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Illustrated by Yelena Bryksenkova – A beautifully illustrated edition of the classic story of Ebeneezer Scrooge, a miser who, through the midnight visitations of three spirits, learns the true meaning of Christmas and discovers it isn’t too late to embrace the joy of the season and change his fate.  (MR 6+/YA/RA)

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Filed under classics, History, Holiday

The Third Sighting of Nellie Bly

I am a strong believer in signs.  If something comes into your sphere take note, for it is likely meant to guide you towards your destiny.  Ok, so mildly melodramatic.  It could be that once I hear or see something my subconscious is more aware of it and takes note.  But what fun is that?  I’d rather interpret it as signs, a nudge to take action, or even fate.

Today I came across the third (yes, the third time seals the deal for me) reference to Nellie Bly in the past couple weeks and I knew it was fated that I post about this intrepid-journalist turned world-traveler.  I admit, although I had heard the name before, I knew little of Ms. Bly’s adventures.  The first mention of her was on a educational television program that provides insightful historical anecdotes.  Ok, fine.  I watch Drunk History religiously.   It’s as close to reality TV as I get, and it’s for history geeks!   So this is where Nellie Bly, and her counterpart Elizabeth Bisland, first crossed my path.  Then, just a few days later I attended the Rochester Children’s Book Festival, where author/illustrator Matt Phelan was signing books.  When I came to his table what should I discover, but his graphic novel Around the World– which depicts the story of Nellie Bly!  Hmmm…twice in one week?  Coincidence perhaps, but I wasn’t ready to dismiss her just yet.  And today, a post in my Facebook feed from A Mighty Girl (one of my favorite sites to follow) heralded the anniversary of  the start of Nellie Bly’s around the world trip, which she began on November 14, 1889.

Clearly it was meant to be.  I encourage you to check out these inspiring stories about Nellie Bly,  a 24 year-old female journalist who, over 125 years ago, took on the challenge of beating Jules Verne’s fictional journey Around the World in 80 Days.

daringnellieThe Daring Nellie Bly: America’s Star Reporter – Author Bonnie Christensen shares the story of adventurous and groundbreaking journalist Nellie Bly, as she reinvents the rules to become one of the most famous and influential investigative journalist in history.  (ER-2/RA)

aroundphelanAround the World – Matt Phelan’s intriguing graphic novel recounts three amazing journeys around the world – all more than 100 years ago!  Travel the high seas with Joshua Slocum, the first man to sail around the world alone, hop on a bicycle with Thomas Stevens as he pedals his way across the globe,  and follow journalist Nellie Bly as she takes on a record-breaking challenge and becomes a celebrity of the times.  (MR-5)

blyinvestigativeNellie Bly and Investigative Journalism for Kids: Mighty Muckrakers from the Golden Age to Today – Ellen Mahoney brings to life the story of Nellie Bly, and her exploits as one of the first investigative journalists in the United States.  Highlighting Bly’s influence, and following the evolution of this new form of journalism and it’s headline makers up to modern day, this is an excellent introduction to Bly and her counterparts that changed journalism forever.  (MR- 5)

72 days blyAround the World in Seventy-Two Days and Other Writings – The collected works of Nellie Bly, including the travelogue of her unchaperoned journey around the world in 1889. (YA+)

 

 

blybislandEighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World – by Matthew Goodman. Follow the voyages of journalists Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland as they attempt to best Jules Verne’s hero Phileas Fogg and journey around the world in less than 80 days. Traveling in opposite directions, the two female journalists, pioneers of their day, keep readers at home enthralled with tales of their exploits and discoveries, as they journeyed through foreign lands competing against each other, and time, to be the first to return to New York.  (YA+)

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Filed under History, Journalism, travel

Witchy Wonders

As part of my eldest daughter’s “13th birthday in Boston” celebration it was her decision how to spend the morning before our drive home.  Possible options included a trip to the Museum of Science, Boston for the opening day of the “Science of Pixar” exhibit or visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, a locale from our favorite Boston based middle-reader book Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking by Erin Dionne.

In the end it was the irrepressible draw of Salem that determined how we would spend our final hours.   The allure of history and witchcraft is powerful, and the heart of our visit was really to just get the feel of the place.  Salem is peppered with hokey museums and theme driven gift shops, but actually being present in a location full of witchcraft lore totally overpowered the touristy vibe.  We took the obligatory, if outdated, tour of the Salem Witch Museum, had a delicious chowder lunch, and picked up dessert at the Salem Ice-Screamery.   All-in-all it was a worthwhile diversion and time well spent, especially the time browsing the gift shop bookshelves for witchy reads!   This Halloween, if you can’t be in Salem, pick up one of these fun, fantasy or non-fiction books to discover a new view on witches and witchcraft.

room on broomRoom on the Broom by Julia Donaldson – A little witch gets some help from some special animal friends but now they all want a ride on her broom….will there be room for everyone? (PB)

witchWitches by Cheryl Christian – Adorable rhymes bring to life this story of Halloween preparations for a group of little witches. (PB)

 

littlewitchLittle Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennett – This 60th anniversary edition brings the story of the very reluctant little witch, Minx, to a whole new generation.  Although it sounds fun to be the daughter of a witch, Minx just wants to be a normal girl.  She takes it upon herself to attend the local school and her adventures are heartwarming and fun.  (ER-2) 

worst witchThe Worst Witch by Jill Murphy – Mildred Hubble is the ready for her first year at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches, but things aren’t as easy as she thought they’d be and, just when it can’t get much worse, it seems she’s made Ethel, the favorite student, her sworn enemy.   A funny, fun precursor for witch crazy readers not quite ready to tackle Harry Potter. (ER-2)

witches dahlThe Witches by Roald Dahl –  The enduring tales  Grandmamma tells are about witches, real witches, that look just like regular people.  But they hate children, and the warning stories are never more important than when coming face to face with the Grand High Witch!  A true classic tale as only Dahl can tell it!  (MR-4)

truesalemWitches: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem by Rosalyn Schanzer – This award-winning retelling of the hysteria that shook Salem in 1692, told in engaging text and highlighted by riveting illustrations.  (MR -5/6)

 

blackbird pondThe Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare –  In 1687, Kit is uprooted from her home and thrust into a new life in colonial Connecticut.  As she struggles to find her way in these new harsh surroundings she finds happiness a new friendship with Hannah Tupper, but Hannah is believed to be a witch.  Can Kit hold true to her heart, and what she knows is right?  Or will duty sway her in these difficult times?  1959 Newbery Award Winner (MR – 6)

crucibleThe Crucible: A Play in Four Acts by Arthur Miller –  Not just for High School English classes anymore, this classic tale of mass hysteria, based on actual events of the Salem Witch Trials, is fascinating as an historical observation.  Take it to another level – when placed in context of the political climate during its writing, the vilifying McCarthy era, it is a social commentary on the power of group mentality.  (YA)

Check out some spooky witchy reads from Mom’s Bookshelf.

deliverancedanceThe Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe – Connie Goodwin is spending the summer cleaning the dilapidated old house in Salem, left to her family by her grandmother, and working on her doctoral proposal.  While cleaning she comes across a lead on original historic source that could change her academic work, her relationship with her advisor and her understanding of her family’s history. (MBS)

discoveryofwitchesA Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – After a lifetime suppressing her abilities as a witch in favor of academic research, Diana Bishop discovers an ancient manuscript that pushes her to acknowledge her gifts, embrace and challenge the relationships between creatures, and redefine her beliefs.  The story continues in Shadow of Night and concludes in The Book of Life. (MBS)

witchesdaughterThe Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston – Centuries ago Bess watched her mother hang as a witch, and her desire to escape the same fate led her to Gideon, who awakened power in her – but who has chased her across the centuries to exact payment for saving her life.  Now, in the 21st century, Bess has discovered a young protege.  In sharing her knowledge Bess has awakened feelings she’s kept hidden, but also led Gideon back to claim her soul.   Continue the story of Bess and Gideon in the upcoming sequel The Return of the Witch (publication date 3/8/16)  or discover more “witch” stories by Paula Brackston: The Midnight WitchThe Winter Witch, and The Silver Witch. (MBS)

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Filed under Halloween, History, magic, Mom's Bookshelf, Uncategorized, witch

Graveyard Ruminations

Down the street from my elementary school, hidden behind a ring of trees, on the grounds of a golf course, stand three simple gravestones.  Weathered by time, they are illegible and unmoveable.   We visited them once, as a class, when learning about the early settlement of our town.  And so began my fascination with cemeteries.   I love looking at them from the highway, stopping in small towns, or historic battlefields.  Old cemeteries are best, ones with tilted stones half buried in earth, tabletops washed free of writing by centuries of wind and rain, elaborate mausoleums bearing family names holding old secrets.   Discovering headstones with tragically short lives elicits sadness, and a grateful heart for the blessings of 21st century medicine.  Come across a particularly long life to wonder at all that soul bore witness to, as time marched on.  I’m especially fond of the park-like setting and rolling hills of Mt. Hope Cemetery where, one day in early November, women come to place their “I Voted” sticker upon the headstone of Susan B. Anthony in thanks, and as a reminder never to take the hard-won right for granted.   For cemeteries are places to honor, remember, grieve, but also to connect us with the lives of those who have gone before us.susanbgrave

This time of year we associate graveyards with the spookie and scary – home to the hostile undead looking to haunt those careless enough to cross through the gates after dark.  There are many frightening tales to enhance this image of cemeteries -but there are also plenty that show a softer side of these final resting places.  Check out the unusual spin these great reads take on the traditional graveyard tale.

43 cemetery roadDying to Meet You (43 Old Cemetery Road) by Kate Klise – When Ignatius B. Grumply moves in to 43 Cemetery Road he presumes it is abandoned, but to his surprise, and frustration, it is occupied by eleven-year old Seymour Hope- and a ghost named Olive C. Spence.  This delightful epistolary novel tells how very different people can come together, opening their eyes and hearts to become a family.   A riveting page-turner, it leaves you wanting more – luckily the series continues in Over My Dead BodyTill Death Do Us BarkThe Phantom of the Post OfficeGreetings from the Graveyard Hollywood, Dead Ahead, and The Loch Ness Punster(MR-4/5)

graveyard bookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – Bod Owens hasn’t had a typical childhood.  When his family is murdered the toddler crawls to the graveyard where he is taken in by the resident spirits who raise him, albeit unconventionally, as part of their family.   Things begin changing when Bod questions the world outside the graveyard and where he fits between the living and the dead.  Dangers lurk outside the gates for Bod as the man who murdered his family is out to finish the job. (MR -5/6)  

spotted dogThe Spotted Dog Last Seen by Jessica Scott Kerrin – Derek was sick the day the 6th graders signed up for their community service requirement, so he’s assigned the least desirable project – care and maintenance of the cemetery.  Not only does it sound boring, but Derek carries his own grief from a childhood accident that took the life of his friend.  Surprisingly the lessons and work at the graveyard turn out to be interesting, and a secret mystery discovered in the pages of a book leads Derek and his new friends to uncover the truth about the past – and help him come to terms with the tragedy of his childhood.  (MR -5)

graveyard girlGraveyard Girl by Anna Myers -A haunting historical fiction novel set during the yellow-fever epidemic that, during the summer of 1878, ravaged Memphis, TN.  Eli’s father has fled, unable to handle the loss of Eli’s mother and sister to the disease that has been raging throughout the city.  It is left to Eli to bury them at Elmwood Cemetery, a place hauntingly busy as evidenced by the constant ringing of the bell by the Graveyard Girl.  Just a bit older than Eli, the Graveyard Girl has nursed her father through the fever, but as he’s still too weak, and she has taken over the duties of recording the dead and tolling the bell for each soul lost.  It is through the Graveyard Girl that Eli learns to find strength to go on and the hope to keep living. (MR-5/6)

This October wander through your local graveyard or, for the more ambitious, take a trip to visit one of these remarkable American cemeteries.  Though I highly recommend daylight hours, because it is awfully close to Halloween and you never know who you might meet.

Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia – Set just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC this hallowed military burial ground located on the previous estate of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is a sobering reminder of the sacrifice of our nation’s military.  The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and President John. F. Kennedy’s grave are highlights of this extensive burial ground still in use.

Gettysburg National Cemetery , Gettysburg, Pennysylvania – The first national burial ground for the military dead of the Civil War.  It was at this cemetery’s dedication that President Abraham Lincoln gave his heartfelt 3-minute Gettysburg address.

Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia – Known for its Southern Gothic architecture, Bonaventure is hauntingly beautiful and inspiring.

St Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans, Louisiana –  The historic, unique, above-ground mausoleum cemetery only encompasses approximately one block in downtown New Orleans, but holds thousands of souls.  Due to new regulations visitors must be part of a paid tour group to visit the cemetery grounds.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, California –  Part cemetery, part cultural events showcase, Hollywood Forever is the final resting place for some of some of the entertainments industries most famous names.  Visitors can see the burial sites for Johnny Ramone, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. & Jr. and  Cecil B. DeMille.  Or take in a concert at the Masonic Lodge, a performing art hall inside the cemetery.  This is truly a unique graveyard – as only Hollywood could do it!

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Filed under cemetery, Halloween, History

Classic Disney

I’m going to DisneyWorld – tomorrow!  I pretty much love all things Disney, but in true Paperback Pigeon form, my absolute favorite Disney films, rides, and attractions come by way of classic literature.  Which also means that many of my favorites harken back to the 60’s and 70’s.  These adaptations were some of my mother’s childhood favorites, which she lovingly introduced to me.   I’m super excited to continue the tradition and share my “classic” favorites with my girls – visiting the attractions and meeting the characters that first entered the world via storybooks.

Check our some of my favorite novels that became Disney films and attractions.  Planning a visit to DisneyWorld?  Read your favorite before you visit.  Not traveling anytime soon?  Grab one of the stories below for a virtual trip to the classic Disney universe.

mary poppinsMary Poppins by P.L. Travers  – The Banks house will never be the same after Mary Poppins arrives to take care of Jane, Michael & the twins.  She’s a most unusual nanny who, with a little magic and make believe, changes the Banks family forever.

Brought to life in the 1964 musical starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition is a true Disney classic.  Looking for the story behind the making of the film?  Check out Saving Mr. Banks, with Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, which tells the story of Disney’s quest to adapt the novel for movie audiences.

Looking to meet Mary Poppins?  Enjoy the Supercalifragilistic breakfast at 1900 Park Fare at Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel & Spa where she regularly makes an appearance.  Or if you are heading to EPCOT make sure to stop at the United Kingdom Pavilion where Mary Poppins makes multiple visits each day.

swissfamilyrobinsonThe Swiss Family Robinson by Johann D. Wyss – When the Robinson family is shipwrecked on a tropical island they must create a new life for themselves in this uninhabited paradise by creatively using the items they salvaged from the wreck of their vessel.

Disney’s 1960 live action Swiss Family Robinson brings this remarkable adventure to the screen.  With an amazing treehouse, an ostrich and elephant race, and pirates, this relic from the Disney vault is worth a watch.

Who wouldn’t love to live in a treehouse, if just for a day?  Visit the Swiss Family Treehouse in Adventureland at the Magic Kingdom Park to walk through the treetops and see how the Robinson Family used some ingenuity and innovation to make their shipwrecked life spectacular.

tomsawyerThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain – The classic tale of boyhood uses humor and wit to evoke a simpler time, highlighting memorable adventures of a 19th century childhood.

Disney translated the novel to film in 1995’s Tom and Huck.

Enjoy your own adventure on Tom Sawyer Island in Frontierland at Magic Kingdom Park.  The original attraction was designed in 1956 for Disneyland by Walt Disney himself!  Want to get up close and personal with author Mark Twain?  He is the animatronic host of the American Adventure, along with Benjamin Franklin, at the America Pavilion in EPCOT.  This 30 minute show highlights events in American History.

peter panPeter Pan by J.M. Barrie – The story of a boy who never grows up, but spends his days having adventures in Neverland, leading his band of Lost Boys, and cavorting with fairies and mermaids.  However, when Wendy and her brothers join Peter he questions his path, and Wendy must face difficult decisions that will determine her future.

Disney’s animated Peter Pan is a warmer version of the classic tale, charming and lighthearted without the dark undertones in the original story.  Once they’ve seen this movie every child can’t help but wish for a little pixie dust and membership in the Lost Boys.

Take a trip to Neverland when you visit Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom Park – a ride on Peter Pan’s Flight is a must!  Just around the corner you can meet Peter and Wendy.  Pixie dust more your style?  Head to the Town Square theater where you can shrink down to fairy size and meet Tinkerbell.

aliceinwonderlandAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – A trip down the rabbit hole takes Alice to a nonsensical universe where nothing is quite as it seems and with each turn of the page things get “curiouser and curiouser”.   From the Mad Hatter to the Cheshire Cat, everyone Alice meets introduces her to a wacky, wonderful world

Alice in Wonderland, Disney’s 1951 animated version plays on the whimsy of Carroll’s original and brings the iconic characters to life.  Everyone is here  – from Tweedledee & Tweedledum to the Queen of Hearts!  The 2010 live action Alice in Wonderland starring Johnny Depp is a more sophisticated take on the surreal world of Wonderland.  Nothing is as it seems for a more grown-up Alice, except the creative influence of director Tim Burton is evident in every aspect of this magical adaptation.

Ready to take a whirl into your own Wonderland?  Join the Mad Tea Party and spin yourself silly in Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom Park.  When you are done, if you’re not too dizzy, you can meet characters from Wonderland just outside the ride.  Or if you happen to find yourself in United Kingdom Pavilion at EPCOT you can find Alice in the gardens, perhaps recalling her time in Wonderland.

poohThe Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne – Everyone loves the endearing, charming, sweet chubby bear that is Winnie-the-Pooh.  He’s charmed children for generations and his dear companions in the Hundred Acre Wood, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore and Christopher Robin, provide enduring friendship and endless adventures.

Even the young, or young at heart, can embrace classic literature through Disney adapted films and attractions. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Disney’s 1977 animated film is a wonderful introduction to Pooh and friends.  Many additional films followed, but start with the original to keep close to the storybook’s classic tales.

Enjoy the Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh in ride form, as you travel via honey-pot through the Hundred Acre Wood, in Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park.  After the ride stop in for a delicious buffet meal at the Crystal Palace, where Pooh and friends can be found making the rounds at every meal.  No time to stop and eat?  No worries, you can also meet Pooh & Friends just outside the attraction entrance.  Pooh also makes an appearance in the United Kingdom Pavilion at EPCOT. He can be found, often with one of his friends, in Christopher Robin’s room.

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Filed under classics, Disney, History, Uncategorized

W is for….

What if all you need is someone who understands you….

When Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens

It’s a struggle to adjust to the fishbowl life of the President’s daughter.  Sure it sounds like a cool gig, but the constant supervision by the secret servie, the new school, the “friends” who pretend to like you because your mom is the leader of the free world, and those who are mean and jealous for the very same reason, makes normal life pretty difficult.  The biggest problem is no one really understands you- as very few have ever been in this position before. How is a girl to survive the next four years (oh, no – what if it’s eight?!?!) without a little help. (MR-5/6)

whenaudreymetaliceAudrey is just trying to hang on to what is left of her “normal” life, but being the President’s daughter is making that all but impossible.  Living in the White House is like being permanently grounded, except she didn’t do anything wrong!  And don’t even get started about the kids at Audrey’s school.  Even seeing a movie is a production – and the special privileges make it feel like she’s buying friendships, and it is nearly impossible to find a true friend who doesn’t have ulterior motives.  Just when Audrey feels like things couldn’t get any worse she discovers a hidden diary  – written by none other than Alice Roosevelt, another first daughter who had to navigate the crazy White House life 100 years ago.  With Alice as her guide, Audrey learns to manage her new role while remaining true to herself, all the while gaining confidence and grace.

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Filed under A to Z, History, Middle Reader

A Revolutionary Birthday Celebration

Shakespeare had a milestone birthday this year, and since my big 4-0 deserved a getaway, then her entry to the teenage years definitely warranted a trip.   So we decided to take her away for a weekend- without her sisters.  Choosing a nice city about 3 hours from our house with culture, shopping and dining was sure to set the stage for a memorable 13th birthday.  And then some spontaneous internet surfing resulted in a discovery that Shakespeare’s favorite ukulele playing artist happened to be playing a concert the exact night we were planning to be away – in a city 6 hours from home, in the opposite direction from where we were planning to go.   What to do?  Easy decision.  We scrapped plan 1, pulled in some serious family favors to get babysitting for HuskyGirl and WeezyJean, and took off for a 24 hour whirlwind trip to Boston.

Not only did this trip enable us to take Shakespeare to see her very first concert, but she’s also a bit of a Revolutionary War fanatic.  In Kindergarten each child was given a turkey-shaped cut-out to “disguise” for Thanksgiving – so as not to get eaten.  Among the wall of turkeys decorated like Hannah Montana and Spiderman was one lone turkey with a cotton-ball wig and dollar-bill visage.  Her turkey was George Washington, and her paperback copy of Magic Treehouse’s Nonfiction Companion to Revolutionary War on Wednesday eventually fell apart from so many readings.

Boston, the birthplace of the American Revolution, was the perfect place to spend her birthday weekend.  Beginning at Boston Common we walked the entire Freedom Trail.   We saw the final resting sites of her favorite revolutionaries- yes, she has favorites- their stomping grounds, their homes, and their places of worship.  Looking up at the balcony of the Old State House, where the Declaration of Independence was read for the first time in Boston, I literally had chills.  After the most amazing cannoli ever, eaten in the North End, we climbed 294 excruciating steps and stood at the top of the Bunker Hill Monument.  Our journey placed us in the footsteps of American history’s greatest patriots.

I also connected with my daughter in a way that we hadn’t for a while.  As she’s growing up it is really fun to engage in shared experiences  – complete with inside jokes, which had us in stitches.  It was exciting to let her determine our plans, and although I find it hard to let go of control, I loved seeing her advocate for her interests.  Not only did everything turn out perfectly, but I did things I would never have chosen myself.

Take some time this summer, with a vacation or stay-cation, to stage a revolutionary getaway – one that indulges the passions of your younger travelers.  Allow them to overthrow the adult planning tyrants and determine their own vacation destiny.  Not only will they be empowered and enthusiastic about the trip, but chances are you’ll learn more about them than you ever imagined, and be awed in the process.

Check out these “revolutionary reads” that support a trip to Boston’s Freedom Trail.

paulreveresridePaul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – The classic poem chronicling the events of April, 1775 that officially started the American Revolution.  This is a must read if you plan to stop at the Paul Revere House and Old North Church PB  *PBP Note: During our Freedom Trail visit we determined that Longfellow just couldn’t find a rhyme for William Dawes or Samuel Prescott, and that’s why we remember Revere above the others who rode that fateful night.  We also attempted to re-write the poem to include the slighted men, much to our amusement.   We challenge you to give it a try!

youwouldntbebostonteaYou Wouldn’t Want to Be at the Boston Tea Party!: Wharf Water Tea You’d Rather Not Drink by Peter Cook – An engaging overview of the events that lead to Boston’s rise as the center of the pre-revolutionary colonial conflict. Meet the Sons of Liberty and discover their motivation to break from England, and the risks involved. ER-2/3

johnnytremainJohnny Tremain by Esther Forbes – As a silversmith apprentice 14 year-old Johnny is injured trying to make a sugar basin for John Hancock. His despair threatens to destroy him, until a good friend pulls him into the heart of the Sons of Liberty and he finds purpose in the Revolutionary cause.  Newbery Medal Winner 1944.   MR – 5/7   *PBP Note: Just a block off the official Freedom Trail you’ll find the only remaining part of Province House, the residence of Massachusetts colony’s royal governors – the back stone steps that led to the formal gardens. These steps brought to life a vision of Johnny Tremain visiting Cilla at the Lyte’s house.  And isn’t that what great historical literature does? Bringing facts, dates, and even cold stone steps into fully-formed impressions of past human struggles.  

sarahrevereThe Secret of Sarah Revere by Ann Rinaldi – Rinaldi, a master of historical fiction for the YA set, shares the struggle for independence from the point-of-view of a young woman whose father was a leading revolutionary.  Sarah Revere reflects on the struggles leading to the American Revolution, as she faces challenges at home with her family and her emerging role as a young woman of Boston.  Check out Ann Rinaldi’s other books for riveting female perspectives 5thofmarchthroughout history, including The Fifth of March which brings to life the events surrounding the Boston Massacre. MR- 5/7

 

reginasilsbyRegina Silsby’s Secret War  by Thomas J. Brodeur – Looking for a little sinister supernatural with your history?  Rachel Winslow witnesses the Boston Tea Party and she narrowly escapes the Tory soldiers with a little luck, or was it more? Did the spirit of long dead Regina Silsby help her by thwarting their pursuit? Rachel uses the superstitious nature of the Redcoats against them, and the legend of Regina to help the patriot cause. MR – 5/7

Looking to stay with the Revolutionary War theme but branch out from Boston proper?  Check out the earlier post Patriotic Pigeon or find information at the National Park Service: Revolutionary War website.  Click on Revolutionary Parks  and Tour the Revolution to take a virtual tour of the Revolutionary era historic sites from Florida to Maine.

 

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Filed under 4th of July, American Revolution, History, military history, travel