History from
the Bottom Up

Thanks for the Skype, Hickory Elementary School!

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 4.44.18 PMYesterday I had a fun Skype visit with a room full of writers–kids in grades 1 through 4 at Hickory Elementary School in Williamsport, Maryland. It was an after-school, extended learning program that focuses on writing, and they asked me some fantastic questions about writing.

We talked about research, and revision, and the importance of reading in order to become a better writer. And my dog, Rosie, put in a quick cameo to wave a paw at the kids.

Thanks to Ms. Katie Lingg for arranging, and for the great questions, all!

Portrait of a Portraitist

Charles Willson Peale (1741 – 1827) was an American painter who might best be known for paintings like this one, of George Washington:And these, of Lewis and Clark: But what I love about him are his many paintings of children, including his own. Here’s a really poignant one of his first wife, Rachel Brewer, weeping over their small daughter Margaret, who died of smallpox.After bearing … Read more

Nonfiction at The Writer’s Loft


Join me, Loree Griffin Burns, Leslie Bulion, Susan Goodman, and April Jones Prince for a panel discussion on writing nonfiction for children and teens this coming Saturday, January 24. The event will be held at The Writers’ Loft, in Sherborn, Massachusetts. Here’s the flyer. Hope to see you there!

Amazing Maine

Last Thursday, I visited the beautiful, newly-built Woolwich Central School in Maine, to speak with three different assemblies of kids in grades K through 8. My visit was impeccably organized by rock-star librarian Abigail Luchies. The kids were well-prepared, full of great questions, and fantastic listeners.On Friday, I visited the Georgetown Central School and spoke with kids in Kindergarten through sixth grade. Yet another rock-star librarian, Megan Fuller, arranged the day, and it was equally awesome. Georgetown Central is a much smaller school (on an island in a beautiful area of Maine), … Read more

Someone Pinch Me

via Wikimedia commons

For those of us old enough to have grown up with the original Star Trek series, Mr. Spock’s Vulcan nerve pinch is a familiar conceit. Here’s a short video compilation of his technique.

I’ve been researching the history of medicine, and according to this fascinating book by Victor Robinson, MD about the history of anesthesia, compression of a patient’s carotid artery to induce unconsciousness before surgery has been a time-tested, if flawed, technique since ancient Greece. In Greek, carotid means drowsiness. In his History of … Read more

The Great Connecticut Caper

Happy New Year, everyone!

Today I’m excited to announce that I am to be one of twelve authors (plus twelve illustrators) who will contribute to a serialized adventure story called The Great Connecticut Caper. Here’s the website, and here’s how it works:

Every two weeks, starting yesterday and running through June, a new chapter will be posted at the Connecticut Humanities website. (ctcaper.cthumanities.org)The basic plot will revolve around the famous Gillette Castle, which goes missing. (The Connecticut landmark was voted on and decided by kids and teachers, and Gillette Castle won.) A couple of 11-year-old kids must solve the case. Readers … Read more

Happy Holidays!


Happy Holidays! I will be taking a blogging break for the next couple of weeks, because I have a book to finish (and relatives to cook for), but will resume my regularly-scheduled blogging on January 5th. Happy New Year to all.

How Perfectly Offal

In the midst of this season of overindulgence, I thought I would post about one of my favorite people from history, Catherine de Medici (1519 – 1589), Italian-born wife of Henry II, king of France, and one of her favorite meals: cibreo. This famous Renaissance Florentine dish was a stew made of gizzards, testicles, offal, and rooster coxcombs. Despite her ironclad constitution and robust health, more than once Catherine ate so much of it she nearly died of indigestion.

Here’s the recipe, adapted from this website:
Catherine’s Cibreo
Serves 4  (or 1 if … Read more

Motoring Gear

Not long ago, as we were driving to New York, this guy passed us on the highway.

It reminded me of fashions people used to wear when autos first came out. I have blogged before about how the first models were open to the air, so passengers wore goggles and “dusters,” and women often wore big, sweeping, net veils over their hats and faces. Here’s one more picture that I came across in the Library of Congress archives, from around 1910: … Read more

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