November 2, 2016

Native Americans Writing Today (And a Nod to the Past, Too)

by Brandon Marie Miller

Activity: Investigate History and Storytelling, Lone Dog's Winter Count, A Nakota Pictograph of 1851-1852.

To celebrate Native American Heritage month I'm sharing the names of just a few of the Native American authors writing for young people today. Add their books to your to-read stack and please use the link below to check out more authors and books.

The Birchbark HouseLouise Erdrich (Ojibway). Her award-winning novels for adults and young people include the middle grade trilogy The Birchbark House (winner of the National Book Award), The Game of Silence and The Porcupine Year.

Rain Is Not My Indian Name
Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee). Her books include, Jingle Dancer a story for younger readers, the novel Rain is Not My Indian Name, and the YA Ferrel and Tantalize series that combine elements of sci-fi, fantasy, mystery and suspense.

How I Became A Ghost (How I Became a Ghost Series)Tim Tingle (Choctaw) has won several American Indian Youth Literature Awards for historical novels House of Purple Cedar and How I became A Ghost, a story about the Choctaw Trail of Tears. His book No Name is set in the present-day Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Thunder Boy Jr.Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. His numerous books include The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Reservation Blues and Thunder Boy Jr.-- his first picture book.

S. D. Nelson (Lakota) is a writer and illustrator. His books include  Black Elk's Vision, A Lakota Story, Buffalo Bird Girl, A Hidatsa Story, and Greet the Dawn, The Lakota Way.
Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story

Among Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki) many books is Crazy Horse's Vision (illustrated by S.D. Nelson), Children of the Longhouse, and Keepers of the Earth, Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Kids.
Image result for crazy horse's visionImage result for keepers of the earth book

To discover many more books by and about Native People check out:

Image result for lone dog s winter count Activity:
Take a close look at Lone Dog's Winter Count-- the Nakota Peoples' pictograph calendar.What stories and history are kept alive on this buffalo hide, covering the winter of 1851-1852? From the National Museum of the American Indian.

September 30, 2016

The Role of Women Pilots in WWII

[Activity: Experiment to see how stealth planes hide]

By Carmella Van Vleet  (Our guest blogger extraordinaire!)
Elaine Harmon
Last month, World War II pilot Elaine Harmon was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. This was a special event, one that Elaine’s family worked and fought hard to see happen for many years. Even though many women are already buried in Arlington, up until recently, Elaine and other women like her weren’t allowed there even though they played a crucial role in the second World War.

Elaine Harmon was a WASP, or a member of the Women Air Force Service Pilots. The WASPs were female pilots who flew planes in a non-combat capacity during WWII. Not only did they fly supplies and deliver aircrafts to military bases, but they helped train other pilots and tested aircraft. Their efforts meant that male pilots were freed up to fly combat missions.

These women pilots were highly trained and the work was often dangerous  - the enemy couldn’t tell and didn’t care who was flying an airplane. Thirty-eight of them were killed during the war. And yet, they were considered civilians and therefor didn’t qualify for a military burial in Arlington.

Click to find out more!
The WASPs were largely the result of efforts of two women: Jacqueline “Jackie” Cochran and Nancy Harkness Love. When the war broke out, Cochran, a star pilot with speed and altitude records in America, wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt and suggested female pilots could help in the efforts. Lady Eleanor agreed and so Cochran began training female pilots in Great Britain. She later returned to America to train women. In the meantime, Love (a race and test pilot) formed the Women Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. The two groups of women joined together in 1943 and became WASP.

Kristin Wolfe in front of Raptor (credit: Kristin Wolfe)
Because of women like Cochran, Love, and Harmon, girls today can grow up dreaming about being a pilot or flying in the military.

I wrote about one of these young women in my new book, AVIATION: COOL WOMEN WHO FLY (Nomad Press). Her name is Kristin Wolfe. Kristin is a 27-year-old Air Force pilot who grew up in a military family but didn’t decide she wanted to serve until she was college. After her dad encouraged her to join the  AFROTC (Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corp.), Kristin enlisted and began training to become a pilot.

The training to become an Air Force fighter pilot is extremely competitive. There were only 25 students in Kristin’s class. And only a couple of them were women! But Kristin excelled and was given the opportunity to fly the F-22 Raptor, the fastest and one of the most technologically impressive stealth aircrafts in the world.

Activity: Experiment to see how stealth planes hide 

Here’s a simple way to see how much harder it is for radar to find a stealth plane. First, have a friend hold a piece of paper perpendicular in relationship to the floor. Have the friend stand at one send of a dark hall or room and then turn off the lights. Move a flashlight around until you find the piece of paper. Next, have your friend turn the piece of paper so that it’s parallel to the floor. Which is harder to find, the flat surface of the piece of paper or the edge of the piece of paper?

Carmella Van Vleet, co-author with astronaut Kathy Sullivan of TO THE STARS! (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2016), author of AVIATION: COOL WOMEN WHO FLY (Nomad Press, 2016) and ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG, FAT QUITTER (Holiday House, 2014) *a Junior Library Guild selection and 2015 Christopher Award winner* 

September 1, 2016

Hamilton And The Election of 1800.

[Activity: Make a Campaign Button]

By Brandon Marie Miller

 Four men ran for president in 1800. Except back then it looked bad for a gentleman to really "run" for president. Candidates "stood" for office. They didn't debate one another or make speeches. Instead, friends and newspapers fought on their behalf.

President John Adams, a Federalist, hoped he'd be re-elected. Another Federalist, Charles Pinckney was also in the race. Adams's main foe was Thomas Jefferson, a Republican (a different political party from today's modern one). New Yorker Aaron Burr also ran as a Republican. But it was a man not running for president who'd affect the election: Alexander Hamilton.

Alexander Hamilton

The Federalist party had splintered between those who supported Adams and those who followed Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton urged his supporters to abandon Adams after the two men quarreled. Meanwhile, Hamilton and Jefferson had been bitter enemies for years. Their clashing views for the future of the United States left no room for compromise.

President John Adams

Republicans claimed a Federalist win equaled monarchy and corruption. They spread scandal about Hamilton's affair with a married woman. Federalists in turn attacked Jefferson's luxurious lifestyle, his expensive tastes, and warned against his French connection. Did Americans want guillotines lopping off heads like in France? Jefferson's election, claimed Federalists, meant the end to churches and the burning of Bibles.

On December 3, 1800, electors met in each state and voted for the next president. Jefferson and Burr finished in a tie, 73 votes each. Adams finished third with 65 votes, a deep humiliation for the president. Now, the House of Representatives had to decide the outcome.

House members would sleep and eat in the unfinished Capitol building until they named a winner. Jefferson's supporters expected Burr to declare he was unfit, step aside, and throw his votes to Jefferson. But Burr refused. The House began voting on February 11, 1801. Rounds of voting took place; no man gained an advantage.
Thomas Jefferson

Aaron Burr
Since December Hamilton had written fellow Federalists that he preferred Jefferson to Burr. Jefferson, said Hamilton, was not so dangerous and had some slim hopes to character. "As to Burr," wrote Hamilton, "there is nothing in his favor. His private character is not defended by his most partial friends."

On February 17th House members voted for the 36th time. But this round, several Federalists threw in blank ballots, as did one Burr supporter, giving Jefferson the election. In those days, the man earning the second highest vote--Aaron Burr-- became the vice president.

Jefferson saw his election as a new and bloodless American Revolution. The Federalist party never regained its former power after the election. In July, 1804 Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Jefferson and Burr remained enemies. In 1807 President Jefferson had Burr arrested for treason, but there was not enough evidence to condemn him.

Activity: Presidential election materials, like buttons, are rare from the early 1800s. But you can make your own using Kerrie Hollihan's activity from her book, THEODORE ROOSEVELT FOR KIDS.

August 4, 2016

Sometimes the Political is Personal

When Hillary Clinton won the Democrat nomination for US president last week, many thought that she was the first woman so honored.

Not so. Several women, Victoria Woodhull and Shirley Chisholm among them, had their names placed in nomination across the years.

The name that rings in my mind is Margaret Chase Smith, Republican senator of Maine, who was nominated at the Republican Convention at San Francisco’s Cow Palace in 1964. US Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, a right wing Republican, won the nomination. 

Smith is remembered for taking on Sen. Joseph McCarthy in his crusade to ferret out Communists from the US during the 1950s:  
 I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to a political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny—Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear.

My mother, Charlotte Logan of Oak Park, Ill., was there. Recruited by a church friend, Mama served on Smith’s campaign committee and flew to San Francisco. I was 13 at the time, and I remember vaguely catching a glimpse of her on our black and white TV. 

She returned home full of stories. What stuck with me was her outrage at Goldwater’s people, who blocked the restrooms to anyone not wearing a Goldwater pin! There was more, but not for this page.

In my zeal to find a clip of Senator Smith on YouTube, I went hunting. I came on a British film reel and as I watched, there was Smith. I thought, what if I happen to see Mom there?
AND THERE WAS MY MOTHER! Behind Smith, holding a placard, arm raised.
Years on, I wrote a book about women’s suffrage. Mom would have liked it. 

From Rightfully Ours: How Women Won the Vote, comes this learning activity: Dress Up For Women’s Suffrage! Or like an Olympian.  Men wear togas, too.

July 1, 2016

Five Years of Hands-On-Books and Happy July 4th!

By Brandon Marie Miller

[Activity: Make A General's Epaulets]

It is hard to believe 5 years have passed since Mary Kay Carson, Kerrie Hollihan and I began Hands-On-Books! We hope you've enjoyed our bits of history, science and activities. We've had some wonderful guest bloggers along the way, too. Thanks to everyone who has checked us out!

Since I've written books about several Founding Fathers, I've had the July blog a few times in honor of Independence Day. So here we go again.

1776: Washington has abandoned Boston and in mid-April marches his troops to New York, a town of about 20,000 people, but mostly an area of farmland and forest. He has too few men to occupy Brooklyn Heights, Harlem Heights, Long Island, Manhattan Island and Staten Island, and protect the Hudson and East Rivers. The Americans wait for sight of the British fleet.