History from
the Bottom Up

Wednesday, March 4th is World Read Aloud Day

Did you know that March 4th is World Read Aloud Day?

It’s organized by LitWorld as part of their Global Literacy Movement. You can read about it here.

litworldWRAD15logo-webMy schedule for Wednesday has been full for quite some time now, but if you are looking for an author who might still be available, you can click here to visit Kate Messner’s blog, where she maintains a list of authors available to Skype. Happy WRAD!

Ruff Times

Quesnel_Portrait_of_Henri_Valois

In my new book I have a section about ruff collars—those accordion-like, cartwheel-shaped gizmos that were in style from about 1530 to 1630. That’s a long time to be in fashion, expecially considering how incredibly ungainly and impractical (not to say unattractive) these things were. The Dutch wore them for even longer—they seemed to prefer being intentionally out of style. Even working people wore them, although theirs tended to be a much smaller version–because they had to work for a living.

Making a ruff required huge skill and … Read more

Thanks, Southeast Elementary School!

Sometimes when I arrive at a school for an author visit, I have a feeling as soon as I step inside the building that it will be a great day. That’s what happened on Friday when I visited Southeast Elementary School in Mansfield, CT.

There were welcome posters hanging in the hallways, and this little basket of goodies awaiting me in the conference room, where I signed dozens and dozens of books. I spoke with three different groups, from PreK to fourth grade, and they were full of great questions that kept … Read more

Renaissance Selfies

In my last post I discussed Steven Johnson’s book How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World, and I couldn’t resist another post about it. It’s such a cool book, if you haven’t read it.

In his chapter called “Glass,” Johnson describes how in the early fifteenth century, glassmakers in Murano figured out a way to combine their clear glass with an amalgam of tin and mercury to make a shiny, reflective surface: the mirror. Before mirrors were invented, few people had ever seen an accurate reflection of themselves. And with … Read more

Fashion Evolution

Mrs. Harvey W. Wiley, widow of the author of the Pure Food Act, displaying the shocking bathing costume of 1895 while Marjorie Gunnels wears the sensible one of 1936.(Library of Congress)

I’m reading a book by the always-fascinating Steven Johnson, called How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World. His premise is … Read more

Big, Huge, Signed Book Giveaway!

To share teacher-love on this Valentine’s Day, I am participating in a signed book giveaway with a whole bunch of my middle-grade author friends who have recent, brand-new, or about-to-be-published books. (There’s also a separate but equally awesome YA author giveaway.) Check out these sixteen–count ‘em, sixteen!–books:

Jacqueline Woodson Caroline Starr Rose

 … Read more

Naperville Reads!

This morning I am flying out of Chicago after an amazing week of school visits with Naperville Reads, sponsored by Anderson’s Bookshop. I came to celebrate the publication of my new book, Why’d They Wear That?. Along with seven other nonfiction authors, I visited six schools and participated in an evening panel. It was a jam-packed few days, but incredibly fun.

My “team” included the authors Lynda Blackmon Lowery, Susan Buckley, and Elspeth Leacock, who collaborated on writing the book Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My … Read more

Hello from Chicago!

I’m in Chicago for the American Library Association’s midwinter conference, and today was a day of high drama for many reasons. First, we’re in the middle of a blizzard. People in Chicago don’t impress easily when it comes to heavy snowfall, but even the natives are taking it seriously. But the weather does not seem to have dampened the enthusiasm of all these amazing librarians and educators.

This morning National Geographic had a breakfast to celebrate the publication of my new book, Why’d They Wear That? It was an amazing group of librarians and educators from all over the … Read more

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