Our YA novel Hammer of Witches is a historical fantasy that follows young Baltasar Infante as he inadvertently finds himself part of Columbus’s first westward journey. In this post, our intern Andres Oliver looks at some of the places Columbus and Baltasar pass through, then and now.
Baltasar Infante’s quest to find his father carries him along with Columbus from the shores of Spain to the New World. We first meet Baltasar in the Spanish port town of Palos de la Frontera, whose scent of “seaweed and ale…smell of home” to the young protagonist (Hammer of Witches 19). Located in the Andalusian province of Huelva, the present-day Palos may smell different altogether; the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and recent construction of docks to shelter the port of Huelva have brought the town further inland.
Though the town has moved, visitors will still find many of the vestiges of the historical port city where Columbus began his journey. Attractions include the fifteenth-century church of San Jorge, where Columbus and his crew heard mass before departure, and La Fontanilla, a medieval well where they took on water. Furthermore, the town features a monument to the enterprising Pinzón brothers (who also play a part in Hammer of Witches) and a monolith engraved with the names of the seventy sailors who set sail from Palos is 1492.
Holocaust Remembrance Day is next Monday, so we’ve asked Marcia Vaughan, author of Irena’s Jars of Secrets, to share her thoughts on talking to children about the Holocaust:
I first learned of Irena Sendler while watching the Today Show one morning several years ago. I was amazed by how many children she and her network of co-conspirators rescued from the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII. I knew young readers would be also be amazed at the ingenious ways the children were smuggled to safety.
As a child I only knew one person, my father’s good friend, Earl Mamlock, who spent time in a
Everyone knows Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr., but there are many other African Americans who have contributed to the rich fabric of our country but whose names have fallen through the cracks of history.
We’ve asked some of our authors who chose to write biographies of these talented leaders why we should remember them. We’ll feature their answers throughout Black History Month.
It’s Black History Month, and that means it’s time for our annual giveaway from Lee & Low Books! We’re giving away three sets of three books featuring African Americans, and the contest will run through February 28, 2013.
To enter, follow in the footsteps of Dave the Potter, the subject of our new biography Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet. Dave was an enslaved potter in South Carolina who inscribed his works with sayings and short poems in spite of harsh anti-literacy laws for slaves:
Jaclyn DeForge, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching first and second grade in the South Bronx, and went on to become a literacy coach and earn her Masters of Science in Teaching. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
One way to structure close reading questioning is to use the format laid out by the Institute for Learning of the University of Pittsburgh. Under their framework, students read the text selection four times: first, to get the gist; second, to find significant moments or ideas; third, to interpret the ideas in the text; and finally, to analyze the author’s methods (craft). Here’s an example of how to plan out your questions for close reading of the introduction through the first 13 pages of Etched in Clay:
I was watching President Barack Obama’s re-election speech last week and it got me thinking about speeches—how historically great speeches really matter. Speeches are like placeholders to mark significant milestones in history. I think the main idea that moved me about the president’s speech was that the message of unity—even after the most grueling, partisan, expensive election campaign ever—is reminiscent of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech. The sentiments Dr. King expressed fifty years ago are still being realized today. A truly united United States of America is very much a work in progress.
Here are some favorite speeches of mine:
Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I a Woman?, 1851
“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman?” Read more
In this post, our publicity intern Gina Chung offers some thoughts on reframing the Columbus Day holiday:
Have you ever stopped to think about the implications of celebrating Columbus Day? While most of us probably grew up associating the holiday with classroom rhymes and mnemonic devices (“In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” etc.), days off from school, or sales at the mall, it’s important to remember what really happened in October of 1492. Columbus Day occupies a dubious spot in our nation’s calendar, ostensibly commemorating both the “discovery” of the Americas by Christopher Columbus and the subsequent destruction and enslavement of countless indigenous people.
Check out this video created by Nu Heightz Cinema filmmakers Carlos Germosen and Crystal Whelan in 2009. In order to garner support for a movement to “reconsider Columbus Day,” Germosen and Whelan collaborated with indigenous organizations and community activists, giving voice to the horrific and painful stories behind the mythology of the holiday.
Swedish doctor and statistician Hans Rosling illustrates and explains the progression of world health and wealth around the world, tracking 200 countries over 200 years. Disparities between the colonizers and the colonized, the effect of wars, emerging economies—it’s all here:
Another Friday is here, and we have another round of links to articles we think you’ll appreciate. Enjoy, and feel free to come back and comment on what you thought.
Our first reading suggestion comes from the New York Times. This year is the 150th anniversary of the start of the civil war, and the Times has a new column, disunion, that follows the war’s developments, day by day but a century and a half later. You can start at the beginning, or you may be particularly interested in Jim Crow on West Broadway, about a young African American man who refused to get off a whites-only streetcar, a hundred years before Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks.