Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Thanksgiving Thanks Owed to Sarah Hale

Portrait of Sarah Hale
America's Thanksgiving holiday is credited to the Pilgrims. The truth is, we have a national celebration thanks to Sarah Hale's 38-year letter writing campaign.

Sarah Josepha Hale was born in Newport, New Hampshire, in 1788.  Her father, disabled Revolutionary War Captain Gordon Buell, and her mother, Martha Whittlesay Buell, believed in equal education for both sexes. Hale was educated at home by her mother, and by her brother Horatio, who taught her what he'd learned at Dartmouth. Hale continued her education as an autodidact.

According to Laurie Halse Anderson in her book Thank You Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving, Hale grew up listening to her father's Revolutionary War stories.  They made a deep impression on Hale, setting the stage for her commitment to the American Union.

In 1811, Hale's father opened The Rising Sun tavern in Newport.  At that time, Hale was working as a schoolteacher. She met her eventual husband David, a lawyer, and they were married in her father's tavern on October 23, 1813.

The Hales had five children between 1815 and 1822. David died in 1822, and Hale wore black the rest of her life to mourn his death.

Hale began to write to support her young family, publishing her first book of poems, The Genius of Oblivion, in 1823.  Her novel Northwood: Life North and South, subtitled A New England Tale in London, made her one of the first Americans to write in opposition of slavery. The novel was praised by Reverend John Blake, who asked Hale to move to Boston and serve as editor of his journal Ladies Magazine. Hale accepted and served as "editress," her preferred title, from 1828 until 1836.  Her goal was to help educate women.  In the book Boston Women's Heritage Trail Hale wrote that a woman's, "first right is to education in its widest sense, to such education as will give her the full development of all her personal, mental and moral qualities."

In 1830 Hale published Poems for Children, a collection that included the now famous "Mary Had A Little Lamb," which was originally titled "Mary's Lamb." The poem is based on an event that occurred while Hale was working as a school teacher.

Louis Antoine Godey bought Ladies Magazine and merged it with Godey's Lady's Book in 1837.  He brought Hale on as editor, a position she held for 40 years. According to Ann Douglas in her book The Feminization of American Culture, "During this time she [Hale] became one of the most important and influential arbiters of American taste."

Hale's advocacies included education, especially higher education for women, employment for women, the American Union, and the preservation of Mt. Vernon, George Washington's home. She helped found Vassar College, and she raised money for the completion of the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston.

 Sarah Hale Exhibit at Bunker Hill Museum
Hale also wanted Thanksgiving to be a national holiday, and she started a campaign to bring it to pass in 1825. In Hale's day—two hundred years after the pilgrim's arrival—Thanksgiving had been mostly forgotten.

But, Hale used her editorial position to garner support for a Thanksgiving Day.  Individual states began to declare their own Thanksgiving holidays.  But Hale remembered her father's stories, and she had a bigger goal. She wanted the entire country to celebrate Thanksgiving together, on the same day. She continued her articles and letter writing campaigns. Then she went to the top.  She wrote to the President of the United States.  But Zachary Taylor said, "No." 

So Hale wrote to the next president, Millard Fillmore. He also said, "No."  Hale continued her state-by-state campaign until a new president came to office. She wrote to President Franklin Pierce.  She received another no.  Then it was President James Buchanan.  No.

By now America was at war, North against South. Some states that had instituted a day of Thanksgiving were no longer holding the celebration.  Hale had been working on this project for more than 35 years, and it looked more hopeless than ever.  According to the Hale's biographer Anderson, "She [Hale] picked up her mighty pen and wrote another letter; this time to President Abraham Lincoln.  America needed Thanksgiving, now more than ever, Hale argued. "A holiday wouldn't stop the war, but it could help bring the country together." Abraham Lincoln agreed.

In 1863, Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday. And it has been a national holiday in November ever since.

The Thanksgiving we celebrate today is based on the Harvest Feast celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621, with modern touches added in through the decades.  For example, football was first played on Thanksgiving Day in the 1870's, and the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was held in 1924.  But we'd have none of this but for the perseverance of a woman who did not even have the right to vote. 

Hale retired from her editorial duties in 1877 at age 89.  That same year, Thomas Edison made his first recording on his newly invented phonograph, speaking the opening lines of Hale's poem "Mary's Lamb."

Hale died at her home in Philadelphia on April 30, 1879, and was buried in a simple grave in that city's Laurel Hill Cemetery. She published some 50 volumes of work by the end of her life. And her persistent pen had brought generations of Americans the annual national holiday known as Thanksgiving.
First published by Lorton Patch 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Native American Heritage Month

You can tell by the dates that I've not posted for a while.  That's because I've been freelance writing for Lorton Patch.  Here is my article What Should I Read? November is Native American Heritage Month.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Beach Reads in Picture Books

Photo by Susan Ujka Larson.  Available on Flickr for Creative Commons use.

Here are ten picture books to take to the beach.

Bats at the Beach by Brian Lies - Night is perfect for bats to enjoy the beach.

Beachcombing: Exploring the Seashore by Jim Arnosky - This guide will help you recognize the wonders of the beach.

Beach Day! by Patricia Lakin - Four crocodile friends set off for the beach.

Beach Day by Karen Roosa - Family fun at the beach is captured in rhyme.

Beach Feet by Lynn Reiser - Many different feet are on display at the beach.

A Beach Tail by Karen Lynn Williams - A boy leaves a trail to his beach drawing.

Harry by the Sea by Gene Zion - When a big wave covers Harry with seaweed, he is mistaken for a sea serpent.

Little Clam by Lynn Reiser - Little Clam faces many dangers at the edge of the sea.

The Sand Children by Joyce Dunbar - A father and son’s sand giant comes alive.

The Seashore Book by Charlotte Zolotow - A mother describes a day at the beach to her son who has never been there.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Reference librarian Carey Hagan has begun her long envisioned online record of booktalks.  A booktalk is a brief introduction to the characters and plot of a book with the intention of enticing a reader.   Teachers and librarians often use booktalks to promote reading.  Carey is writing her booktalks as she reads, and recording them on BooktalkThree for others to use. 

Friday, July 2, 2010

When Writing a Poem

Today while writing about W. S. Merwin, the newly announced 17th Poet Laureate of the United States, I discovered a poetry treasure on the Library of Congress' Website.  Poet Charles Simic shares "A few things to keep in mind while sitting down to write a poem."  His seven guidelines are simple, yet profound.  I know some of us like to try our hand at writing poetry, and that students are given poetry writing assignments.  Simic's list is an inspirational aid.

(Photo:  Lydia and me in the stacks at the Library of Congress, February 2010.)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Great Traveling Read

Can You Keep a Secret?  This romantic comedy by Sophie Kinsella, read by Kate Reading on the Books on Tape version, is an excellent listen for a long drive or a daily commute.  As always, Kate Reading is outstanding.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It's Pouring Books!

You know the saying, "When it rains, it pours." That has happened in my book life. I've passed through a dry spell of not finding anything that looked interesting to read. And now, all of a sudden, I have a stack by my bed and a growing pile on my desk that I'll never get through even renewing them the full extent allowed by the library.  So I thought it would be good to begin a 2010 list of Books to Read for when I'm needing that next one.  Here is the start of that list.
  • Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life by Frances Mayes
  • Your Brain: The Missing Manual by Matthew MacDonald.  (I think a better title for me would be -- Your Missing Brain: The Manual for Finding It)
  • Life is Friends by Jeanne Martinet
  • The Art of Mingling by Jeanne Martinet (I saw this book mentioned on the cover of Life is Friends.)
  • So Stressed: The Ultimate Stress-Relief Plan for Woman by Stephanie McClellan and Beth Hamilton, both M.D.s
  • Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
What are some of the books on your To Read list?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Youngest Ever Summits Everest

Thirteen year old Jordan Romero of the United States today became the youngest person ever to summit Mt. Everest.  Photos and details are at his Web site.  In his honor, I compiled a book exhibit at the library.  Here are a few of the included titles.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (my favorite)
View From the Summit by Sir Edmund Hillary
To the Top of Everest by Laurie Skreslet (nonfiction for children)
Everest (A Fiction Series for Kids) by Gordon Korman
The Contest (Book One)
The Climb (Book Two)
The Summit (Book Three)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

50 Best Blogs for Teen Readers

This month I ran across a list of 50 Best Blogs for Teen Readers on the Website  The list is divided into five categories: General, Book Reviews, Book Lists and Recommendations, Teen Readers, and Librarians.  Take a look and let me know which you like.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Kids Titles for Asian Pacific Heritage Month

Celebrated annually during the month of May, Asian Pacific Heritage Month recognizes the culture and traditions of those Americans who trace their ancestry to the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.

In honor of Asian Pacific Heritage Month, a brief list of suggested titles for kids.

Buster Changes His Luck by Marc Brown
Chang’s Paper Pony by Eleanor Coerr
The Ch’i-Lin Purse: A Collection of Ancient Chinese Stories retold by Linda Fang
The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 by Laurence Yep
The Jade Dragon by Carolyn Marsden

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month honors the generations of Asian and Pacific Islander peoples who have enriched America’s history, and provides opportunities to learn about the diverse culture of Asian Americans. The celebration was established in 1977 as Asian Pacific Heritage Week, and became a month long celebration in 1990. May was chosen because it is the month in 1843 when the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the U.S.

Five Picture Book Suggestions -
The Beckoning Cat: Based on a Japanese Folktale by Koko Nishizuka 

Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin  

A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno

The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack 

Yoon and the Jade Bracelet by Helen Recorvits 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, William

William Shakespeare is the most renowned English playwright and poet in history. Details of his life are sketchy due to the fact that little documentation remains besides his writings and a few church documents including his baptismal, marriage and burial records.
Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, on or about April 23, 1564. Records from Holy Trinity Church indicate that he was baptized on April 26. He was the third of eight children born to John Shakespeare, a glover and leather merchant, and local heiress Mary Arden.
On November 28, 1582, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway. Their first child, Susanna, was born on May 26, 1583, and twins Hamnet and Judith were born on February 2, 1585. Hamnet died at age 11, but Shakespeare’s wife and other two children outlived him.
Scholars estimate that Shakespeare arrived in London in about 1588 and began to work as a playwright and actor. By 1594 he was acting and writing for London’s most popular and successful theater company of the day, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, as well as serving as the group’s managing partner. He is credited with writing 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and two narrative poems.
As with his birth, the date of William Shakespeare’s death is a guess -- April 23, 1616. Church records do show that he was buried at Holy Trinity in Stratford on April 25. In 1623, two of Shakespeare’s colleagues published the First Folio, his collected plays, half of which were previously unpublished.
Special thanks to Dora Lee for the graphic.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Five Earth Day Reads for Kids

An Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis of Global Warming by Al Gore (2007)

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen (2002)

10 Things I Can Do to Help My World by Melanie Walsh (2008)

Eye on Energy - Alternative Cars by Jill C. Wheeler (2008)

Just A Dream by Chris Van Allsburg (1990)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mark Twain Centennial

Samuel Langhorne Clemens is the American author and humorist Mark Twain, best known for his novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Twain was raised in Hannibal, Missouri, along the Mississippi River, and was licensed as a steamboat pilot in 1859. He worked on the river until the Civil War, when fighting interrupted river traffic. He then worked as a traveling reporter, writing stories from all across the United States. This led to his writing career.

His life along the Mississippi River influenced much of his work, and his pen name comes from a common riverboat term for testing the depth of water. If a crew man called “Mark Twain” it meant to check for a depth of 12 feet, the minimum depth required for a river boat to travel safely. Nobel Prize-winning American author William Faulkner called Twain "the father of American literature."

April 21, 2010, marks the centennial of Mark Twain's death.

Photo is courtesy of the Library of Congress creative commons - public domain collection.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Picture Books for National Library Week

National Library Week is an annual celebration that highlights the value of libraries and librarians. Join the 2010 celebration April 11 - 17 with a visit to your local library.  Here are ten picture books with a library theme to read with your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews, or students.

Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn
The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians by Carla Morris
Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
The Shelf Elf by Jackie Hopkins
Beverly Billingsly Borrows a Book by Alexander Stadler
Our Library by Eve Bunting
Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk
Bats at the Library by Brian Lies
Winston the Book Wolf  by Marni McGee

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I Am The Book

I'll be your friend, stay by your side, contradict you, make you laugh or teary-eyed
On a sun-summer morning.

I'll spark you, help you sleep, bring dreams you'll forever keep
On a dappled-autumn afternoon.

I'll warm you, keep you kindled, dazzle you till storms have dwindled
On a snow-flaked winter evening.

I'll plant in you a spring-seedling with bursting life while you are reading.

 I am the book you are needing.

Poem by Tom Robert Shields
Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins for the book Wonderful Words

Monday, April 5, 2010

MLB, Opening Day

A baseball poem from the poetry collection for children called Sports! Sports! Sports!, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Fly Balls

I am like a spider,
So it's fly balls that I love.
For I catch them when they're buzzing,
In the webbing of my glove.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Besides Fairy Tales, He Wrote Poetry, Too

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) is considered the "father of the modern fairy tale," but he also wrote poetry, novels, travel journals, plays, and three autobiographies.  His most famous stories include The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, The Emperor's New Clothes, The Ugly Duckling, Thumbelina, The Red Shoes and The Snow Queen.  A statue of The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen harbor honors Danish born  Andersen. His birthday -- April 2 -- is celebrated as International Children's Book Day.  In 2010 Google noted the writer's 205th birthday by replacing its logo with depictions of Andersen's Thumbelina.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

by A. E. Housman.  Photo by Susan Ujka Larson

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April is National Poetry Month

American’s Favorite Poems edited by Robert Pinsky

Robert Pinsky, U.S. Poet Laureate from 1997-2000, invited Americans to share with him their favorite poems, and from their letters he compiled this anthology. This may be a great book to start with for National Poetry Month.

Recently I met Peter Armenti, Digital Reference Specialist at the Library of Congress. His love and expertise is poetry, and he compiled this Online Resources Guide to Pinsky and his work.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Coming Soon - Poetry Month!

Begun in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, National Poetry Month is celebrated each year in April. I know it is yet a few weeks away, but I could not resist and today began compiling a list of poetry resources. These are some of my favorite poetry Web sites.
Library of Congress: Poetry
Poetry Foundation
Favorite Poem Project
Poetry 180
Scholastic Celebrates National Poetry Month

Do you have any to add?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Yours 'til . . .

Whether for love or friendship, I enjoy giving Valentine's greetings.  In a used book store I came across a little book of Valentine sentiments called Yours 'till the Ice Cracks: A Book of Valentines by Laura Geringer, illustrated by Andrea Baruffi and published in 1992 by HarperCollins.  A few of my favorites:

Be my valentine.  Yours 'til the desert disappears.

Be my valentine.  Yours 'til the moon melts.

Be my valentine.  Yours 'til the sky falls.

What can you come up with? Yours 'til . . .

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Emma and Jane

On Sunday, January 24, PBS will air part one of Masterpiece's new version of Jane Austen's novel Emma.  Parts two and three will follow the weeks of January 31 and February 1, respectively.  Beginning on Monday, January 25, the series will be available for viewing online.   

A highlight of the Emma debut on January 24 will be a live Twitter Party from 9 to 11 p.m. (EST).  Posts should be tagged with #emma_pbs, and can be viewed on TweetGrid (PBS' own aggregator) or an aggregator of your choice.

Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775, and lived in England until her death in 1817 at the age of only 42.  Her novels are:   

Saturday, January 2, 2010

An Old Book for a New Year

About ten years ago at an estate sale, I purchased for 50 cents a small hard cover book titled, Daily Food for Christians.  Inside the front cover is a penciled inscription which reads, "Dec. 23, 1908, To Janie From Mollie."  I keep this daily devotional on my night stand and occasionally read the day's entry before bed. I thought I'd start a new project for 2010 and post photos of old books I've collected.  I'm beginning with this book of daily readings.  A little sleuthing reveals that the publishing company --  Henry Altemus Company -- had its start in the 1820s when Henry Altemus' father Joseph began book binding in Philadelphia.  In 1842 Joseph and his brother Samuel founded Altemus & Co.  When Joseph died in 1850 of Typhoid Fever, his 20 year old son Henry took over the business, working with his Uncle.  By the 1860s Altemus & Co. was one of the largest book binders in the United States, with about 150 staff. In 1900 Henry incorporated the company to Henry Altemus Company. Afer his death in 1906, Henry's four sons continued the family business until 1936.  It is exciting to own a bit of history.  I especially wonder about Janie and Mollie. I assume this book was a Christmas gift from one friend to another. Where did the book travel these past 102 years, and what did it mean to its owner(s)?  It is interesting to consider the history of a book.