Something You Probably Didn’t Know about Thanksgiving…

Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson tells the story of a woman named Sarah Hale who wanted a National Holiday of Thanksgiving in the United States.

It had previously only been celebrated in the East and haphazardly at best.  The tradition was beginning to die out due to growing pains of the United States.

So Mrs. Hale took her idea to Congress, newspapers, and Presidents.  She wrote magazine article and recruited women to her cause.  She wrote letters to Presidents Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan who all said no.

Finally, after 38 years of writing letters, she wrote a letter to President Lincoln who said Yes!

So in 1863, Thanksgiving was declared a National Holiday largely due in part to one woman’s crusade to save Thanksgiving!

As you’re eating your turkey today remember to say thanks for all those who came before us and made this country what it is today.  And say thanks for Mrs. Hale who didn’t stop despite all the rejection.

We could learn a lesson from her perseverance, dedication, and iron will and how one ordinary person really can make a difference in this world.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Black Ships Before Troy

Black Ships Before Troy
Black Ships Before Troy

Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliff retells the story of the battle of Troy as told in The Iliad by Homer, beginning with cause of the battle (the fight between the Greek goddesses Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena over the Golden Apple) and ending with the final sack of Troy.

The summary is this:  Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena are fighting over a Golden Apple that reads “To the Fairest”.  No god will decide who the fairest is so the goddesses chose Paris, a shepherd essentially (who’s really a prince) to choose between them.  Hera offers him wealth and power if he chooses her.  Athena offers him supreme wisdom.  But Aphrodite offers him a wife as fair as herself.

Typical male, he chooses the woman who happens to be Helen, wife to Menelaus, King of Sparta.  Oddly enough, Paris is married to to a wood nymph.  (This tale definitely says something about the moral values of the time period).

Helen bewitched by Aphrodite, falls in love with Paris and runs off to Troy with him.

Now, before this time, everyone wanted to marry Helen because of her beauty including Odysseus.  So, Helen’s father made all her suitors swear to stand by her husband if ever he needed them.  Hence, this is how all the Greek heros ended up in the war despite their attempts (notably by Odysseus) to renege.

So, Menelaus wants Helen back so he gathers the Greeks who sail to Troy and lay siege to the city.  This lasts for nine years until the wars finally start.

After many, many battles involving heroes on both sides such as Hector and Achilles and heavy losses by both, Odysseus comes up with the idea to build a huge wooden horse to hide in in order to gain access to Troy.

The rest of the Greeks pretend they are leaving by sailing away, leaving the Horse behind.  They also cunningly decide to leave one soldier behind whom the Trojans do not know, Sinon, who’s job it is to tell the Trojans that the Horse is an offering to appease Athena.

Of course, the Trojans fall for it.  They drag the Horse into their city where that night the plan unfolds exactly as planned.  Troy is sacked and the Greeks finally return home with the spoils of war.

My favorite quote from the book is from Helen as she discusses with Odysseus how she feels about starting this war, “Always, in these times, I am wretched save when sleep comes to me.  Therefore, I have come to look upon sleep as the best of all gifts.”

I like this because I know exactly what she’s talking about.  Sleep is a gift from God that offers us a respite from our world, a chance for our brain to shut down and quit worrying, and to rest.  Great stuff here.

For some reason, I have discovered that retellings of The Odyssey are much more common than The Iliad.  This is the best book in my opinion available for The Iliad for kids.  There are many retellings of The Odyssey that are very good.

This book is quite lengthy but is broken into short chapters for easy reading.  We finished this book in a weekend.

The pictures by Alan Lee are not graphic despite the many battle scenes in the book and are authentic to the time period.

This is a perfect prequel to The Odyssey as this book ends right when all the Greeks are finally returning home after 10 long years of being away.  It will definitely give you a greater understanding of Odysseus when you do read about his adventures returning home from the battle of Troy.

I love ancient history (history in general but especially this stuff) and this book is an excellent portrayal of Greek society and culture around 800 BC in terms of religion, military conquests, and lifestyle as well.

Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog

Some of you may remember my previous review of a similar book entitled Hachiko Waits by Leslea Newman.

This is a much shorter picture book version of the same story written by Pamela S Turner and illustrated by Yan Nascimbene.

It relates the major details of the story about a dog named Hachiko owned by Professor Ueno who waits for the Professor every day at the train station to arrive home from work.

One day Professor Ueno does not come home, having died at his place of work, a nearby University, that day.

But still Hachiko waits.  And he waits and he waits and he waits.

“Hachiko comes back to the house (Professo Ueno’s house) every night to sleep on the porch.  But in the morning, he walks to the station just like he did with Dr. Ueno.  When the last train leaves the station, he returns home.”

He waits every day at the train station until his death at the Shibuya Station almost 10 years later.

A statue now stands in the station very near where Hachiko used to wait, honoring his loyalty and undying devotion.

This site has great information on the story and if you scroll down to the bottom pictures of the real Hachiko:

http://www.vickiwongandhachi.com/

This is a good site as well:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hachikō

I love this story.  It illustrates why many of us are dog owners in this country and what an integral part they play in our lives.  It appeals to us because I think as humans we struggle with loyalty; whereas, dogs don’t.  They don’t think about it.  They just are.

Something we deeply desire as well.

This is how I picture Hachi waiting:

Hachi lived from 1923 to 1935. Continue reading “Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog”

The Quilt Story

“A little girl’s mother made the quilt to keep her warm when the snow came down, long ago.”

So begins The Quilt Story by Tony Johnston, which chronicles a little girl and her quilt. She uses the quilt to keep warm, to play tea party, as a gown, to hide under during hide-and-seek, and as a source of comfort when she is sick.

The family moves and the quilt goes too, the only piece of home the girl now has.

Eventually, the quilt is stored in the attic where mice, a raccoon, and a cat use it as a home.

One day a different little girl finds the quilt in the attic.  Her mother patches it up for her and she then finds comfort from it in her daily life as well.

A great tale about how things made, bought, or given with love are our greatest treasure and source of comfort in times of change and can be our most prized possession.

Illustrated by Tomie dePaola this story is sure to stir fond memories of childhood.