History from
the Bottom Up

We Interrupt This Blog…

Winslow_Homer_-_Beach_sceneHello, Dear Reader, and thank you for stopping by my site. I’ve decided to take the month of August off from blogging. I am working on not one, but two new book projects, plus finishing up my last book, and I really need every moment I can to work on these. Plus I’m sneaking in a little vacation time as well. I will be back after Labor Day. Please stop by again then!Bathing_Beauties

Author Event: Hotchkiss Library of Sharon

Tomorrow evening (Friday, July 30th) I’ll be signing books at the annual Hotchkiss Library of Sharon Book Signing in Sharon, CT. I participated last year and it was a fantastic experience, with a huge, enthusiastic crowd despite a driving downpour. This year it’s supposed to be perfect weather. There’s also a special event for kids– Children and their caregivers will receive free, early admission, with refreshments, from 4:30 to 5:30pm. I’m also looking forward to catching up with some of my favorite kid lit authors.

Hope to see some of you there! … Read more


Brass, ivory, ebony and pewter enema syringes Wellcome Library, London.

I’m still deep in the midst of picture research for an upcoming book. In this blog post I wrote about the preponderance of pictures of physicians taking patients’ pulses, and in this … Read more

Hello Mutter

I just returned from a research trip to Philadelphia, where, among other things, I visited the Mutter Museum. It was founded in 1863, and has been at its present location, at The College of Physicians, since 1909. The mission of the museum, as stated on their website : The Mütter Museum helps the public appreciate the mysteries and beauty of the human body while understanding the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.The museum houses thousands of osteological specimens, wet specimens, … Read more

Confratute 2015

Last week I was at the UConn Co-op for a bookstore visit followed by a conversation with the amazing Susannah Richards, as part of the Confratute program.

Here’s Susannah!

Susannah is on the faculty at Eastern Connecticut State University, and she knows everything there is to know about children’s literature, and she knows everyone there is to know who is involved in the world of kid lit. She’s been on the Newbery Award Committee and regularly reviews and presents on books for youth … Read more


Sunrise this morning. I got here a day early, and had the whole place to myself.

This week, I am back at my annual writing retreat in upstate New York, overlooking beautiful Lake Champlain near Plattsburgh, NY. I can look across the lake and see the Green Mountains of Vermont, and the twinkling lights of Burlington–where I grew up. I’m here with a couple of dozen other children’s book writers. We’ll be spending the next several days writing in solitude, in this stunning setting, sharing meals together that someone else … Read more

Teachers Write!

I hope you’ll hop over to Kate Messner’s blog today, where I have a guest-author post about writing humor. Here’s the link.

Teachers/librarians: if you don’t yet know about Teacher’s Write, it’s a free and unique professional development activity for teachers and librarians, organized by Kate, Gae Polisner, and Jo Knowles, with lots of guest authors participating. It’s a wonderful, low-key, supportive and passionate community of writer/educators. It’s not too late to join!

Curling Up with a Hairdo Archeologist

Flavia statue, which Ms. Stephens describes as a “mullet from hell”

A couple of Facebook friends* sent me this article from the Wall Street Journal concerning a scholarly journal called the Journal of Roman Archeology, which published an article about ancient Roman hairstyles. You can read the original article here.

It was written by Janet Stephens. She’s not an archeologist. She’s a hairdresser from Baltimore.

I don’t wish to suggest that there’s anything wrong with hairdressers or people from … Read more

A Grim Reminder

Right now in the headlines there’s a big controversy–in California particularly, but in other states as well–over parents’ right to opt out of having their children vaccinated. As of last week, the California House passed a proposal that would make it illegal for parents to use their family’s personal and religious beliefs as reasons to exempt their children from school vaccinations. Here’s the website for one opt-out movement.

Many of my books touch on the history of infectious diseases, and I’ve lived in parts of the developing world where some of these diseases still occur. So … Read more

Lead Astray

I’ve been thumbing through old magazines, looking for advertisements to possibly include in my upcoming book, and came across an ad in this issue of The American Magazine, from December, 1923:It’s an ad for LEAD PAINT on page 195.It’s too small and detailed to include in the book, but fascinating nonetheless. A first glance might look like it’s a joke–like this Saturday Night Live spoof where Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtin … Read more

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