Travel back in time with true stories | Entertainment

Books can be our personal time travelers, whisking us back in time to learn about fascinating people and events we might not otherwise learn about. Such books can be another kind of portal, one that opens us up to being curious, creative and courageous.

What’s not to like about that? Read on.

Books to borrow

The following book is available at many public libraries.

“Ten Days a Madwoman” by Deborah Noyes, photos various credits, Viking, 144 pages

Read aloud: age 10 and older.

Read yourself: age 10 and older.

In the late 1800s, 23-year-old Nelli Bly had already made her journalistic mark in her hometown of Pittsburgh when she decided to move to New York City, confident one of the major newspapers there would hire her immediately. Despite her experience, ambition and tenacity, finding work for a woman was very difficult.

Determined to write more than fluff articles for women, Bly made a bold, courageous decision when she accepted her editor’s suggestion to convince doctors she was mentally unstable, have herself admitted to the insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island and report on the living conditions and treatment by staff of the patients there.

Blyi felt certain she could get herself admitted to the asylum, and her editor agreed to help her. What was uncertain was how he would manage to get her back out.

Fast-paced, fascinating and brimming with courage and determination on several fronts, this true story is amazing.

Librarian’s choice

Library: Reading Public Library, Northeast Branch, 1348 N. 11th St., Reading

Executive library director: Bronwen Gamble

Branch supervisor: Betty O’Neil

Choices this week: “Stand Straight, Ella Kate” by Kate KLise & M. Sarah Klise; “How You Got So Smart” by David Milgrim; “Looking Like Me” by Walter Dean Myers

Books to buy

The following books are available at favorite bookstores.

“Dark Was the Night” by Gary Golio, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, Nancy Paulsen Books, 2020, 32 pages, $17.99 hardcover

Read aloud: age 5 – 8.

Read yourself: age 7 – 8.

Willie Johnson was born in a small Texas town in 1897. As a young boy, Willie loved to sing and play his cigar box guitar. By the time he was 7 or 8, Willie went blind, but Willie didn’t let his blindness get in his way of living. He continued to sing and use his voice to lift people up, telling them not to be afraid of the dark.

Willie knew full well there was both sadness and joy in the world. As he continued to grow, so did his music. Using the blade of a pocketknife, Willie ran it along the steel strings to create a unique new sound called slide.

Traveling from town to town to play his music on the street for coins people would put in his tin cup, Willie’s reputation grew. Finally, a music company had Willie make a record that sold thousands of copies, and his song, “Dark Was the Night” touched people deeply.

Little would Willie Johnson ever know, over 30 years after his death NASA made a time capsule of sorts to send into space to portray life on Earth and promote peace for whatever civilization might intercept it, and among its contents was Willie’s recording of “Dark Was the Night.”

Moving text and lush illustrations seamlessly combine to make “Dark Was the Night” an exceptional book of an extraordinary man who gave hope and light to so very many, perhaps even those far from our planet.

“Jefferson Measures a Moose” by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by S.D. Schindler, Candlewick, 2020, 41 pages, $17.99 hardcover

Read aloud: age 7 – 10.

Read yourself: age 7 – 10.

Thomas Jefferson was interested in many things, especially numbers and facts and relentlessly recorded his findings. Jefferson also loved to read books, so when a famous Frenchman named Buffon wrote a book about America, Jefferson read it. To Jefferson’s horror, Buffon claimed wild inaccuracies about America, a country he had not even visited.

Among other false statements, Buffon wrote that America was a terrible place where nothing good could grow, birds didn’t sing, dogs didn’t bark, and all the animals were too small. Jefferson wouldn’t stand for America being portrayed in such a negative manner.

Setting to the task to prove Buffon wrong would require accurate numbers and measurements, something Jefferson was quite qualified to do. It was a hugely time-consuming and costly undertaking, and Jefferson wrote a book with his findings and went so far as to send Buffon one of America’s largest (albeit dead) animals. Could Jefferson change Buffon’s mind?

Boasting intriguing back matter, “Jefferson Measures a Moose” is a fascinating slice of a little-known history of Jefferson and America. Delightfully written and illustrated, this recommendation provides readers with the concept that tenacity and accuracy are the kind of good qualities you can count on.

Nationally syndicated, Kendal Rautzhan writes and lectures on children’s literature. She can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected].



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