Sunday, October 26, 2008

What's Special About This Week--Oct. 27-31

October 27--Global Environment Day

Today would be a good day to read some of the many books that are now out about the environment, global warming and other issues. Try Al Gore's book for young adults, An Inconvenient Truth or watch his movie by the same name. Maybe you would like The Down to Earth Guide to Global Warming by David Laurie or the DK book Climate Change by John Woodward. For a somewhat different viewpoint, take a look at The North Pole Was Here: Puzzles and Perils at the Top of the World by Andrew Revkin. If you prefer fiction, even if it is not very optimistic, the young adult novel Exodus by Julia Bertagna imagines the world in 2100. When the protagonist learns learns about communities in space, she tries to convince the others on her home island to head there before they are all covered by the rising seas.

October 27, 1787--The First of the Federalist Papers were published

The Federalist Papers are a collection of 85 articles that were written by the United States' founding fathers, primarily Alexander Hamilton, urging the ratification of the newly written Constitution. The Library Congress has kindly put the full text of the Federalist Papers on line, but I am going to bet that even with the link you won't be reading them any time soon.

October 28, 1846--The Donner Party is stopped by snow

As someone who grew up in the West, I suppose we learned a lot more about the history of that area than the people who grew up in the Mid-West. You can bet I did not know much about the history of the middle part of this country when I was in Middle or High School. None the less, it still surprises me that kids don't know about the gruesome Donner Party story. The essence of the story is that this group of people heading west to California from Laramie, Wyoming, and other points East took a wrong turn along the way. This meant they were trapped by late October snow in what is now known as Donner Pass. As folks died, the survivors had little or no choice but to eat the flesh of those who had already frozen. Read all about it at the PBS site or read the book The Perilous Journey of the Donner Party by Marian Calabro.

October 28, 1886--The Statue of Liberty dedicated

The Statue of Liberty sits proudly in New York harbor. This lovely lady may be the symbol of America that is most widely known around the world. Immigrants speak with awe of the first time they saw her, welcoming them to their new lives. Offered as gift for America's 100th birthday, the statue took years to build, arriving a full ten years late. You can read more about her at the Statue of Liberty official website or read one of the great books about Lady Liberty in the library. My personal favorite is Lady Liberty: A Biography by Doreen Rappaport which looks at all of the people who played a part in the creation of the Statue of Liberty, from the first germ of an idea, through the fund raising efforts, and on to the people still honor her today.

October 29--Biographies are Beautiful Day

What an exciting day it was when I discovered biographies. At their best--and there are many, many biographies that fit this description--biographies are as exciting as a good novel with the bonus that they are true. Think of someone who interests you and find their biography to read. You could also browse the shelves to discover someone you never knew existed. Reading a biography encourages one to wonder about how to live a biography-worthy life.

October 29, 1960--Muhammad Ali's First Professional Fight

Muhammad Ali grew famous not just for his boxing skills, but also for his political and social activities. Born Cassius Clay, he changed his name when he joined the Nation of Islam. He was an Olympic boxing champion in 1960. Soon after the Olympics he fought his first professional boxing match against Tunny Hunsaker who was then the chief of police in Fayetteville, West Virginia. Ali's win in that fight was the start of an amazingly successful boxing career. There was a time when every child I knew wanted to also "Soar like a butterfly/Sting like a bee". Read about this fascinating life at the official Ali website or check out a good biography from the library. The Greatest: Muhammad Ali by Walter Dean Myer is a good choice if you are in grades 4 to 7. If you would like a quick and easier biography try The Story of Muhammad Ali by Leslie Garrett.

October 30, 1864--Helena, Montana, founded

Helena, as you all know, is the capital of my home state. It has an interesting history. In July of 1864, four gold miners from Georgia, now affectionately known as "the Four Georgians", were about to give up and go home. They decided to give gold one last chance. They were near what is now Helena's main street when they struck it rich. The street is known as Last Chance Gulch. While it seemed like the city grew up overnight, the name took a while longer to settle. Among the names that were tried on for size were Crabtown (one of the Georgians had the name of Crab), Pumpkinville and Squashtown. Eventually many of the miners were from Minnesota and decided to name the town after the Minnesota town of Saint Helena. Helena was made the state capital in 1875. Today it is a beautiful, historic town worth a visit, if only in a virtual realm.

October 30, 1938--"War of the Worlds" radio broadcast

Imagine sitting around a big radio, the center of your evening entertainment. As you listen carefully to the usual scratchy broadcast, a voice interrupts to announce that there has been an alien attack. How would you react? The people who heard the "War of the Worlds" broadcast on their radios in 1938, but missed the introduction that stated that it was a radio play, got more than a little concerned. Orson Wells had little idea that his acting would have such an impact. You can read more about this evening of fear and excitement on the Internet or you can read the wonderful picture book by Meghan McCarthy called Aliens are Coming: The True Account of the 1938 War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast. This book includes actual text from the program, some history, and wonderful illustrations.

October 31--Halloween

Oh, but you knew that!

October 31, 1864--Nevada became the 36th state in the United States

Learn the facts about Nevada at the official Nevada Facts site.

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