Random Thoughts: Change, Primary Sources & Other Stuff

Archive for the ‘Memorable Books’ Category

 

In the years leading up to World War II the German government destroyed millions of books considered undesirable to the Nazis way of thinking and how others should think or what they should  learn.   Throughout the book burning era,” 37 archives,  402 museums, 531 institutions and 957″ libraries were destroyed.  Americans and institutions such as the American Library Association took action by organizing efforts to provide books for the growing number of Americans serving in the military who lacked the basics, including reading materials at military bases.   Author Molly Manning provides an interesting (and sometimes humorous) account of what transpired in  When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped us Win World War II.  (Houghton-Mifflin, 2014)

The initial goal of the Victory Book Campaign (VBC) was collecting 10,000,000 hardbound books through country-wide book drives.  Hardbound books proved cumbersome and donated books were not always “suitable.”  A newly formed group, the Council of Books in Wartime, led efforts to first purchase paperback books and the eventual  publication of Armed Services Editions from 1942 – 1947.  Millions of these small-sized editions representing popular and classic words of fiction and non-fiction were distributed to American military personnel throughout the world. Some titles such as The Great Gatsby and Tree Grows in Brooklyn remain at the literary forefront; others such as the popular Chicken on Sunday  and Our Hearts were Young and Gay have faded from our reading tastes but provided enjoyable reading to thousands.  The VBC and the ASE  are credited with providing entertainment and comfort for members of the military. The projects also helped soldiers become readers and later college students under the GI Bill.

School library media specialists will relate to the familiar situations of  attempted censorship of “hot” titles such as Forever Amber (always on a waiting list), limited funding, and  unsuitable donations. The New York Telegraph explained, “too many people looked upon the voluntary campaign  an opportunity to get rid of books that nobody would want.”  There were also political issues.  One senator thought the female ALA president was incapable of managing the  VBC; another opposed the government’s involvement in publishing books with political overtones.

Manning’s book is an interesting and informative narrative. She become interested in the ASE and VBC when she discovered letters servicemen wrote to authors.  Berlin’s Bebelplatz has a memorial to the 1933 book burning; there is not a memorial to the ASE and VBC in the United States. Manning hopes her book “may serve as a memorial to those efforts.” (Afterward)

This not too widely known aspect of life on the homefront during World War II  is a unique topic for student research.  Some suggested resources for student researchers are:

Photo:  Victory Book Campaign. Soldiers of Fort Myer, Virginia, in Statuary Hall of the Capitol, receiving books donated by members of Congress for 1943 Victory Book Campaign

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This crew was like a band of brothers” Husky Crew Foundation photo: University of Washington

The Boys in the Boat  (Penguin, 2013) is the newest addition to my “memorable books” list. Daniel Brown’s nonfiction account of the University of Washington’s competition at the 1936 Berlin Olympics is almost as exciting as listening to a broadcast of a tie-breaker basketball ball game. While Washington the team was victorious, winning and getting there was not easy.  Brown describes life in Seattle and America during the Great Depression, the life-long struggles of Joe Rantz (the team member most highlighted) team training, competition with a rival California team, competing against prestigious Ivy League teams, and the art and physics of rowing.

Hitler’s emerging power and the conniving put into creating a positive impression for visiting teams are woven throughout the narrative. The work of Leni Riefenstahl, a producer of Nazi propaganda films, and the massive work dedicated to building the Olympic stadium are especially intriguing. I was also interested in the depictions of East vs West (reminded me of The Great Gatsby) and lt a “younger” and yet unknown Seattle.  The art, woodworking skills, and influence of George Pocock who built the shells are another fascinating part of the story.

As with other non-fiction, I was curious about the author’s resources. They are extensive, including interviews with surviving family members and friends, letters, diaries, photographs, Universal Newsreels, other films, newspapers, log books, and unpublished manuscripts. The end notes provide exhausting insight into just how much research goes into researching and writing a book like this. A few of these many primary resources are:

Read the book about this band to brothers to learn just how hard the team worked and how close the Olympic competition race was!  You will learn some new vocabulary and gain an appreciation on rowing along the way.

I never imagined a book about rowing could be so informative, interesting, and exciting!

STOCKTONBRANCFLOURThe high gluten promotion in historic Stockton flour sack displayed at the Winona County History Center caught my eye. A Wingold flour sack also promotes high gluten. High gluten flour hasn’t gone away, but we know the promotion now (and dietary need for others) is Gluten Free.

How – and why – have our eating habits have changed? The Tastemakers, a fascinating look at past, current and emerging food trends gives insight and a cultural history of recent food trends such as Cupcakes, Celebrity chefs, Cronuts, Fondue, Health foods, Ethnic foods  & BACON!

Journalist David Sax who analyzed trends and data, explains clever promotion along with the economic need to increase pork sales during the “other white meat” trend” were factors in the recent bacon trend. All the trends I had encountered – chia seeds, Red Prince apples, Indian cooking, food trucks – were ultimately motivated by commerce. What drove people to open one more cupcake bakery. . . wasn’t their desire to unleash the perfect strawberry buttercream on the world – it was to make a buck. Food trends were products of capitalism. . . . (Baconomics: 101, Ch 10)

“Marketing: Someday my Red Prince Will Come” offers a look at the high cost of developing and marketing specialty apples such as the Red Prince grown in Canada or specialty apples like Honeycrisp or Sweet Tango developed by the University of Minnesota.

“Taco Trucks: Food Politics” is an interesting account of the difficulty food truck operators faced trying to get more selling spaces in Washington D.C. Now we see them everywhere.

What about Bacon? Some reports claim say the trend is fading, others disagree.

The Tastemakers is a fun read for foodies or people interested in advertising and change.

I loved this book and an excited about interesting possibilities for curriculum connections in economics, family and consumer science or sociology. It would be fun to enhance the study the history of food and food related trends with primary sources. There are an abundance of resources. Here a couple to get you thinking.

PantryShelf The story of a pantry shelf, an outline history of grocery specialties (Butterick, 1925) discusses  the “evolution of  five [food} decades.” Advertising and the ingenuity of American enterprise were identified as key influences on what we eat. How does your panty shelf compare to the 1925 example? The book is one of hundreds of items in Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, a Library of Congress collection of documents, books, photos and ephemera.

Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project  highlights a part of America’s cultural heritage for teachers, students and researchers. 76 digital cookbooks represent influential and important cookbooks from the late 18th century to the 20th century. They are for lifelong learners of all ages.

What cookbooks would you include in your historic cookbook collection?

What are you nominations for an update to The Tastemakers?

Primary sources offer engaging learning opportunities for  classrooms. Learn how!

Sax, David. The Tastemakers: Why we’re crazy for cupcakes but fed up with Fondue. Public Affairs/Perseus Books Group, 2014.

Under_Wide_Starry_SkyUnder the Wide and Starry Sky is compelling historical fiction about the life of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife Fanny.  Based on extensive research of primary sources, the novel takes us around the world, chronicling a life of adventure, love and friendship. We meet an array of intriguing and accomplished people throughout Europe, North America and the South Pacific where Stevenson was buried on the island of Samoa. I was fascinated by much RLS wrote in his short life and the unique life Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson lived in the Victorian age. Also a writer, she published a book based on the diary she wrote during a voyage to the South Pacific. After Stevenson’s death she devoted her time to promoting his legacy.

Author Nancy Horan used eight published volumes of letters, Stevenson’s papers and Fanny’s unpublished letters as her chief source, but read and used countless others.  I always go to primary sources to do the real research, because I want to get it right and draw my own conclusions.   Excerpts from diaries and real letters are included. Horan followed the couple’s  “footsteps by visiting many of the places they lived in the U.S. and Europe. . . different landscapes and cultures exerted powerful influences on both of them, so it was useful to experience those places.”

I reconnected with a favorite childhood book, Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses through the novel. As I read I pictured the brown patterned cover, tattered pages, illustrations, and how I wrote my name in the front cover. I knew its exact location on my bookshelves. Revisiting the book was not disappointing. The second half of my book has fewer worn pages. Most likely I never completed many attempted “re-reads.” A short poem is a favorite.

Rain
The rain is raining is all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.

The forward describes Stevenson’s childhood illness and dependence on his nurse Cummy, who also has a role in the novel.  Nancy Horan imagines the adult Stevenson defending his interest in writing for children to his friend Henley, a critic and writer.

When I suffer in mind, stories are my refuge; I take them like opium.. . . . Frankly, it isn’t Shakespeare we take to when we re in a hot corner, is it? It’s Dumas or the best of Walter Scott. Don’t children, especially children, deserve that kind of refuge? Even it’ poetry.

In a later chapter the fictional Stevenson recites The Land of Counterpane a  poem about the power of imagination.

Land_of_Counterpane

When I was sick and lay abed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day . . . .

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
Complete poem

A Child’s Garden of Verses was the first book of poems for children told through a child’s world. Multiple digital editions are available through the Library of Congress. My favorite is Scribner’s 1895 edition From the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. View poems and illustrations online or download a PDF.

Childs_Garden_Verses_songs
References
~ Horan, Nancy. Under the Wide and Starry Sky Ballantine, 2014
~ Stevenson, Robert Louis, A Child’s Garden of Verses, World Publishing 1946, illustrated by Alexander Dobkin.
~ Stevenson, Robert Louis, A Child’s Garden of Verses, Scribner, 1895.
~ Songs from A child’s Garden of Verses.  Poems   paired with music by Natalie Curtis.
Wa Wan Press, 1902
How can I Use Primary Sources with Elementary Students?

I can remember the time I spent in this state park. We had to work at Plainview in the cannery. I enjoyed very much the landscape surrounding us. The trees, the rocks. It was similar to Germany.
Ernst Kohleick, former POW, 1974.

A major character in Chris Bohjalian’s Skeletons at the Feast is a Scottish prisoner of war working on a family estate in Eastern Germany as Russian forces are invading at the end of World War II. German internees are employed on a farm during an episode of the British detective series Foyle’s War. Both situations renewed my interest in learning more about the German POW camp at Whitewater State Park in Southeast Minnesota, a short distance from my home. Housed in a former Civilian Conservation Core barracks, POWs worked on area farms and in canning factories. They were paid a minimum wage so they could resettle in Germany after the war. Friendships developed between POWS and county residents, including some of German descent. Some POW returned to the area in the 1970’s to revisit the former campsite; some oral interviews were recorded.

German_POW

Wounded German prisoners being loaded aboard a United States Army transport plane at an advance air base in North Africa (Library of Congress)

Camp Whitewater POWs were from North African and Normandy campaigns. Whitewater was one of 20 POW camps in Minnesota and a “branch” of the Algona, Iowa base camp. On Veterans Day an area television station broadcast a video featuring the camp setting, an interview with the park naturalist, and historic photos.

 

A tornado destroyed the Whitewater camp barracks in 1953 leaving few visible remains. There are, however, primary sources about camps in Minnesota and other states available in digital collections.  A comprehensive starting place is The Library of Congress State Memory Collections Portal.  One Minnesota Reflections artifact is a Letter from Alois Sauer to Henry Peterson in Moorhead, Minnesota. Sauer shared fond memories of his time at in Minnesota:

AloisSauer_1The time I lived in America, especially on your farm, was the best of my life. I learnt [learned] this, when I came as a prisoner from the U.S. to France. What a contrast! In the U.S. we had plenty to eat and the people were so good to us, and there in France we met only hunger and hate. And when I returned at home the conditions were not much better. Our food-rations were and are still today terrible small, and I often wanted to have only a small amount of the foods I got in the USA.

More resources

German POWs, treatment of POWs and unlikely friendships between POWS and civilians are timely classroom topics!

Historical fiction suggestions

  • Bohjalian, Chris. Skeletons at the Feast. Crown, 2008. For older readers.
  • Greene, Bette. Summer of My German Soldier. Puffin Modern Classics, 2006. Story of a young Jewish girl in Arkansas and a German POW. For middle level readers
  • Dallas, Sandra. Tallgrass. St. Martin’s, 2007.  Weaves the story of an unlikely friendship between  internees at a Colorado Internment Camp and a beet farmer’s family throughout the book. A parallel plot is the anti-Japanese behavior and attitudes of other community citizens. Upper middle level and senior high readers.

Primary sources offer exciting possibilities for all content areas
Learn how to find and use primary sources in your classroom!

 

For-Adams-Sake-Amazing! 

I’ve  just read For Adam’s Sake; A Family Saga in Colonial New England. It is extremely interesting, packed with detail (some juicy) and highly readable. Historian  Allegra di Bonaventura meticulously researched an abundance of primary sources but relied heavily on the detailed diary Joshua Hempstead  kept for nearly 50 years while living in New London, Connecticut,

The lives the Hempstead family, other families of English ancestry, and the Jacksons, an African American family, are interwoven.  Adam Jackson, was Hempstead’s slave for 30 years. Informative accounts of Native Algonquins are also part of the saga. Family and daily life, farming, occupations, hard work, disease, travel, Colonial slavery, and disagreements over religion and land are just some of the many facets of late 17th and early 18th century life in  Colonial America. Rich detail and intense narratives captured my attention throughout.

The Hempstead name and my ancestors’ experience Colonial New England piqued my interest when I read about the book.  I have known Hempsteads all of my life; my Ford ancestors immigrated to Colonial New England in 1621.  I dug out a family history and discovered that Hannah Dingley, wife of James Ford, a 4th generation family member, lived in the New London. The Ford family is not part of For Adam’s Sake, but there is a crossover of the names (Beebe, Winthrop, Rogers, and Harris) and similar situations are included in both.

di Bonaventura’s sources span an extensive range of primary source documents and pictures from New England Historical Societies, The Library of Congress, and beyond. The Hempstead family homeHempstedHOUSE was occupied by 8 generations of Hempsteads into the 20th century.  It is now a historic site.

  • For Adam’s Sake: A Family Saga in Colonial New England by Allegra di Bonaventura.  Liveright, 2013. More info.
  • The Ancestry of the Children of William Arthur and Nellie Clara Ford Van Alstine; Part 2; Ford Ancestry in America, 1620-1976.
    Compiled by James Neal Van Alstine, Center Conway, New Hampshire, 1976.
  • Hempstead Houses, Connecticut Historic Site
  • Excerpt from the Joshua Hempstead Diary, New London County Historical Society
  • Ebook Version of Joshua Hempstead’s Diary (Google Books)
  • Mary Johnson’s Primary Source Librarian blog alerted me to this intriguing book.  She also has a personal connection with the book! Amazing!  Thank you!
Quilt_1b

Get Carried Away ~ 2014 Great River Shakespeare Festival ~ Photo by Sydney Swanson

A Stitch in Time Turns a Dime.  Our quilt made the Front Page, Winona Daily News July 24, 2014.

In May I described the inspiration for the design of this year’s Great River Shakespeare raffle quilt.  The post also has links to primary sources about quilts. Our 2014 GRSF  “Get Carried Away, Birds in the Air” themed quilt is complete and hanging in the Festival’s performance lobby.  The original painting that inspired the quilt design is nearby.  It is incredibly beautiful and a true collaborative project. We are thrilled and excited.

Quilts have a major role in Sue Monk Kidd’s newest novel, The Invention of Wings (Penguin, 2014).  The historical fiction novel expands on (and heavily imagines) an actual relationship between abolitionist Sarah Grimke and her house slave, Handful. Charlotte, Handful’s mother, the Grimke household seamstress, creates story quilts telling stories of life in Africa and America.  She wouldn’t say what happened to her with words. She would tell it in the cloth

Red and Black triangular quilt blocks also are described in Monk’s book.  In Africa, her mauma was quilter, best there is. They was Fon people and sewed applique, same like I do. They cut out fishes, birds, lions, elephants, every beat they had, and sewed em on, but the quilt your granny-mauma brought with her didn’t have no animals on it, just little three-side shapes, what you call a triangle. Same like I put on my quilts. My mauma say they was blackbird wings.

Kidd used many primary sources and visited historic sites as she prepared to write the novel. The quilts that inspired Kidd as she researched background information  for the novel were created by Harriet Powers, a slave.  Powers’ quilts are archived at the Smithsonian Museum of American History and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  Powers is highlighted in Americas Library,  a Library of Congress selection of primary sources young learners.  Powers is also featured in Seven Southern Quilters from the University of Virginia.  Stitching Stars: The Story Quilts of Harriet Powers (Mary Lyons) is an ALA notable book for children.

Have you seen quilts that tell a story? What stories do your quilts tell?   Quilts are primary sources too!

May 6 post: Quilts are Primary Sources too!  Includes links to primary sources about quilts and a photo of the original painting.
Season 10 Great River Shakespeare Festival Quilt ( Mary Lee Eischen, Breeze on My Skin, June 8, 2013)
Great River Shakespeare  Festival


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