March 5, 2017

Women and World War I

Next month marks 100 years since the United States went to war again Germany and the other members of the Central Powers in the Great War – later called World War I. This month, we celebrate Women’s History Month. Hence my post: to introduce five young women whose war stories I share in  In the Fields and the Trenches: The Famous and the Forgotten on the Battlefields of World War I.

ène Curie, daughter of the groundbreaking physicist Marie Curie, served as an x-ray technician along the Western Front, driving her “petite Curie” vehicle with portable x-ray equipment to diagnose soldiers’ injuries. Still in her teens, she confronted both the French Army and its doctors in order to carry out her work.                                                                                                         

Katherine Stinson Otero, America’s “Flying Schoolgirl” crisscrossed the US and Canada in her plane to entertain crowds and sell Liberty Bonds. She ached to fly for the US Army but was forced to settle for driving an ambulance in France.
Eleanor Butler Roosevelt, wife of Theodore Roosevelt Jr., ran a YMCA for American doughboys in Paris. She was one of few American wives allowed to serve in France.

Elsie Janis, a famous actress, raised her own money to tour France to entertain the troops, whom she lovingly termed “my boys.” She once arrived at a show standing on the cowcatcher of a locomotive. (My Aunt Jan was named for Elsie.)

Helen Johns Kirtland, American photographer who went to the trenches on her honeymoon and snapped memorable photos of the war and peacemaking afterward.


I’m sharing an easy activity: tap—or point and click—your way to some top websites on World War I. Imagine my surprise when I looked at Grandpa's draft card—it's transcribed incorrectly.  Frederick Corban Logan, as recorded, was actually Frederick Urban Logan. Someone at the National Archives couldn’t read old fashioned cursive! 

Library of Congress portal

“World War I: Online Offerings” from the March/April 2017 Library of Congress Magazine

100: First World War (United Kingdom)

The National Educational Assoc. offers a wide-ranging set of links to useful website to help target your research

A private individual has built, admittedly non-academic but worthwhile.

Take a family trip down memory lane by ordering the war record of your World War I soldier:

Find your loved one’s draft card here:

January 31, 2017

Eve, Tracing The Life of An Enslaved Woman

by Brandon Marie Miller

[Activity: Search Runaway Slave Advertisements]

Eve was an enslaved woman owned by Peyton Randolph in Williamsburg, Virginia. Her master was set to serve in the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia when he died in October 1775. As delegates gathered to discuss how Great Britain had enslaved the American colonists, Randolph's will was read. Randolph bequeathed possessions and land to his wife Elizabeth. He left her other important property, as well: "Little Aggy & her children, Great Aggy & her children, Eve & her children, Lucy & her children to her and her heirs forever."
The Randolph house and outbuildings in Williamsburg, Virginia

Eve was a valuable slave, worth 100 pounds, a sum that spoke to her training and skills. She probably worked as Elizabeth Randolph's personal maid. She sewed and mended, dressed her mistress, lit the fires, ran errands, and relayed Mrs. Randolph's instructions. Eve was on call 24/7 and probably slept outside the Randolph's bedroom door, or maybe even in the bedroom.

As British authority crumbled in the colonies, many royal governors fled, including John Murray, Lord Dunmore, of Virginia. Before he escaped to a British warship, Dunmore issued a proclamation in November 1775. He promised freedom to indentured servants and slaves who left rebel masters and who "are able and willing to bear Arms, they joining His Majesty's Troops."
Lord Dunmore's Proclamation
Virginia Memory, Library of Congress

Dunmore's Proclamation did not include the old, sick, women, children or slaves of loyal colonists. But thousands of Virginia's enslaved, including Eve and seven others in the Randolph household, took a chance for freedom. By July, 1776, however, four of the runaways had either been caught and returned or forced back by an outbreak of smallpox in Dunmore's crowded camp. Eve was one of the people returned to Elizabeth Randolph. In 1780 Elizabeth wrote her will, and along with silver candlesticks, blankets, and curtains, wrote, "I give to my niece Ann Copland a Negro woman named Eve and her son George to her use and after her death to her Heirs." [Learn more about Elizabeth Randolph's will at]

As Americans fought a war for liberty, slaves remained in bondage. In October, 1781, Eve ran away again with her fifteen-year-old son. They fled to British general Lord Charles Cornwallis's army at Yorktown, only a few miles from Williamsburg. Here, George Washington's army, aided by French troops and ships, defeated Cornwallis. As British supplies dwindled, the redcoats drove runaway slaves out from behind British lines. Thomas Jefferson estimated 30,000 enslaved people had run to Cornwallis, and out of these, 27,000 died of disease.

Eve survived. But George may have died. He isn't mentioned in an advertisement Mrs. Randolph's nephew placed in a Virginia paper in February, 1782: "TWENTY DOLLARS REWARD FOR  apprehending EVE, a Negro Woman slave, who left York after the surrender; she is about forty years old, very black and slender, has a small mouth for a Negro, and a remarkable mole on her nose...."

Eve's escape to freedom was short lived. Between the February 1782 advertisement and July 20, 1782, Eve was caught and returned to Elizabeth Randolph. On that July date, Elizabeth added a codicil to her will. "Whereas Eve's bad behavior laid me under the necessity of selling her. I order and direct the money she sold for may be laid out in purchasing two negroes Viz, a Boy & Girl I give to my niece Ann Copland in lieu of Eve, in the same manner that I had given Eve."

Eve's two attempts to run away, though sadly unsuccessful, prove how strong was an enslaved human being's desire for freedom.
Read more about Eve and other enslaved women in my book
Women of Colonial America, a New York Public Library Best Book For Teens

ACTIVITY: Try reading some selections of runaway advertisements in colonial Virginia. What do they have in common? Description of the enslaved? How much reward is offered? The name of the person placing the ad (the subscriber)? Clues to where the runaway might be found? How is the enslaved person shown as a piece of property?

January 4, 2017

Mission to Pluto is a Starred Success!

By Mary Kay Carson
🌟Read the starred Kirkus review!🌟

Happy New Year to you and happy new book to me! ☺

Mission to Pluto: The First Visit to an Ice Dwarf and the Kuiper Belt is out January 10th. The book is about the first ever spacecraft mission to visit Pluto and the surprising discoveries it made. The plucky piano-sized probe New Horizons reached Pluto in 2015 after a 9½-year journey. The book follows the team of scientists as they build, launch, and fly New Horizons three billion miles to finally arrive at the Pluto system of an ice dwarf planet and its five moons. Images taken by the spacecraft have given us a never-imagined look at Pluto. They show a reddish surface with ice-water mountains, glaciers, ice volcanoes, and hint of an underground ocean. I'd followed the mission since its 2006 launch, even sending in my name to be included on a CD of Pluto fans that flew aboard the spacecraft. (Geek alert!) Being given the opportunity to attend the flyby events and see the first images coming back from Pluto was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

 TE pdf
Download the pdf!
Like all recent Scientists in the Field books, there's a free discussion and activity guide for Mission to Pluto. It includes suggestions for pre-reading, activities to extend learning, and connections to the Common Core standards. Download a free pdf of the teaching guide here

Make me!
If you're looking for more Pluto orientated activities and teaching resources for grades K-12, look no further than the page for educators on New Horizons website. There are lesson plans on everything from parallax and orbits to debating the definition of a planet. Paper models are also available to download and assemble. One of my favorites is this 1/25th scale paper model of New Horizons, available as a printable PDF. (You'll need the instructions, too.) It's packed with information about the spacecraft, too. Enjoy!

December 17, 2016

Christmas Cakes in the Trenches

From the Library of Congress: Poster shows a Christmas tree decorated with candles in front of a red cross. Text: Christmas in the field! 1914. Donate gift packages for our warriors!
When Europe went to war in the fall of 1914, many were sure that soldiers on both sides would be "home by Christmas."  Then the first ugly battles took place, and that thinking changed.  World War I would see not one but four Christmases, and many soldiers were still in France and Germany for the Christmas after Armistice Day in 1918.

British "Tommies" received Christmas cakes from home, recipe reflecting wartime rationing plus the need for these cakes to survive the trip to the trenches. Hence the Trench Cake, egg-free and as every fruitcake eater knows, indestructible.

I follow up on these Tommies, American Doughboys, French nurses and more in my latest
book on the Great War. Pick it up from your library or bookstore. Reviews are posted here:

"....An ideal introductory work about the war, and even adults well read in the subject may find this of interest." --New York Military Affairs Symposium Review

November 2, 2016

Native Americans Writing Today (And a Nod to the Past, Too)

by Brandon Marie Miller

Activity: Investigate History and Storytelling, Lone Dog's Winter Count, A Nakota Pictograph of 1851-1852.

To celebrate Native American Heritage month I'm sharing the names of just a few of the Native American authors writing for young people today. Add their books to your to-read stack and please use the link below to check out more authors and books.

The Birchbark HouseLouise Erdrich (Ojibway). Her award-winning novels for adults and young people include the middle grade trilogy The Birchbark House (winner of the National Book Award), The Game of Silence and The Porcupine Year.

Rain Is Not My Indian Name
Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee). Her books include, Jingle Dancer a story for younger readers, the novel Rain is Not My Indian Name, and the YA Ferrel and Tantalize series that combine elements of sci-fi, fantasy, mystery and suspense.

How I Became A Ghost (How I Became a Ghost Series)Tim Tingle (Choctaw) has won several American Indian Youth Literature Awards for historical novels House of Purple Cedar and How I became A Ghost, a story about the Choctaw Trail of Tears. His book No Name is set in the present-day Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Thunder Boy Jr.Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. His numerous books include The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Reservation Blues and Thunder Boy Jr.-- his first picture book.

S. D. Nelson (Lakota) is a writer and illustrator. His books include  Black Elk's Vision, A Lakota Story, Buffalo Bird Girl, A Hidatsa Story, and Greet the Dawn, The Lakota Way.
Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story

Among Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki) many books is Crazy Horse's Vision (illustrated by S.D. Nelson), Children of the Longhouse, and Keepers of the Earth, Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Kids.
Image result for crazy horse's visionImage result for keepers of the earth book

To discover many more books by and about Native People check out:

Image result for lone dog s winter count Activity:
Take a close look at Lone Dog's Winter Count-- the Nakota Peoples' pictograph calendar.What stories and history are kept alive on this buffalo hide, covering the winter of 1851-1852? From the National Museum of the American Indian.