I learned quite a bit more about Cuban history than I knew before thanks to this book. It's subtitled "Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom," but I'mI learned quite a bit more about Cuban history than I knew before thanks to this book. It's subtitled "Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom," but I'm afraid the one-page sections, although arranged typographically as poetry, do not fit my definition of poetry. Yet, they are well and sometimes beautifully written, and I can understand the temptation to call them poems. They would work well as a set of readings in two or three voices.
The pieces center on Rosa, who is a child during the earliest years (1850s) when slavery still existed and runaways were hunted down and punished. Later during the various rebellions and wars (ending with what we know as the Spanish-American War), she becomes a nurse, using traditional herbal methods and caring for those wounded in the struggle.
There is a narrative at the very end of the book that explains a bit more of the history. The Surrender Tree will at least expose young people to more of Cuba's history than the last 50 years, and tells an interesting story as well. It was a Newbery Honor Book for that reason, I think....more
It was only a few years ago that I discovered Georgette Heyer's books. Although I've read Jane Austen's works over and over, Heyer uses more details aIt was only a few years ago that I discovered Georgette Heyer's books. Although I've read Jane Austen's works over and over, Heyer uses more details about clothing, transportation, gaming, etc. and a whole lot more slang! So I was delighted to find this book on Kindle. Along with What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, this is an invaluable reference work for anyone who likes to know what the characters s/he is reading about are wearing, riding in, or talking about....more
One of my great regrets about my college experience is that I never took a class with David Hackett Fischer (which I could have). This particular bookOne of my great regrets about my college experience is that I never took a class with David Hackett Fischer (which I could have). This particular book has been a great help to me in my genealogy research and also in understanding various parts of my family, as well as regional differences in culture and belief systems. Well-researched and well-written as well, this book is recommended for any student of American history and especially any American with British ancestry....more
Rather Brit-centric, but still useful. For instance, you'll find many British politicians you may never have heard of, but not Sam Rayburn or Harold IRather Brit-centric, but still useful. For instance, you'll find many British politicians you may never have heard of, but not Sam Rayburn or Harold Ickes. Although, having lived through half of it, I'm fairly well-versed in the twentieth century, this dictionary is exhaustive enough in terms of world history that I will hold on to it....more
It took a long time to listen to this audiobook, but it was well worthwhile. I learned a great deal about a period of American history that was skimpeIt took a long time to listen to this audiobook, but it was well worthwhile. I learned a great deal about a period of American history that was skimped in the history courses I've taken, and yet one which was deeply important in the development of the United States. Howe brings in a lot of cultural information as well as the tales of Presidents and generals. The major thing I took away from this book was a distaste for Andrew Jackson. In some ways he seems more like a Tea Partyer than someone who is still memorialized by Democrats holding Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners. This is part of the Oxford History of the United States; I'm now going back to the story of the Revolution in The Glorious Cause....more
I am slowly working my way through the Oxford History of the United States, mostly by audiobook. I previously reviewed What Hath God Wrought, which coI am slowly working my way through the Oxford History of the United States, mostly by audiobook. I previously reviewed What Hath God Wrought, which covers the years from 1815-1848; at that point I decided I'd better get up to speed on the earlier years before moving on to Battle Cry of Freedom, which I own in paper format. Based on what was available from Audible, I went back to the American Revolution; next, at some point in the future, will be Empire of Liberty.
The Glorious Cause begins some years before the Revolution, giving a lot of background about George II and III, the British Parliament, the French and Indian/Seven Years' War, and the first stirrings of unrest in the American colonies. Sometimes I felt that I was learning more than I really cared to know, but this is a serious, though quite accessible, work of history. It definitely filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge of the period. My junior high and high school history teachers were both Civil War enthusiasts (on opposing sides) and I didn't take U.S. history in college, so my view of the Revolution came mostly from a Landmark book (Our Independence and the Constitution, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher), Johnny Tremain (by Esther Forbes), and a few other historical novels and a PBS series. The Glorious Cause offers a much less simplified and sanitized version of events.
For instance, I hadn't known before how Boston mobs attacked the houses of officials connected to British tax policies in the 1760s. The Revolution was much longer a-brewing than I had realized.
The audio format may not have been the best for this particular book. I'll be trolling the used book sales for a paper copy. I expect there'll be diagrams and maps that will help me understand the many battles, which I find confusing at the best of times.
To sum up, this is a fine, detailed biew of the years 1757-1789 in our history and nearly everyone would learn a lot by reading or listening to it. Highly recommended....more
I was stationed in Berlin during much of the Watergate scandal, and even during the hearings we did not have a television, although I did listen to soI was stationed in Berlin during much of the Watergate scandal, and even during the hearings we did not have a television, although I did listen to some on the radio. So, much of what I know I learned from Woodward and Bernstein's book. I'm not absolutely sure I'd require this one in high school civics, but I'd say it's probably still worth reading for anyone who wonders what "Watergate" was all about and why we now append "-gate" to any Washington scandal....more
I'm listening to this on Audible. It comes in four parts and I'm in part 4 now; I no longer understand why the Democratic Party keeps celebrating JeffI'm listening to this on Audible. It comes in four parts and I'm in part 4 now; I no longer understand why the Democratic Party keeps celebrating Jefferson-Jackson Day -- especially Jackson. (And although the Whigs are said to be the forerunners of the Republican Party, most of the current Republicans would not feel they had much in common with John Quincy Adams or the young Abe Lincoln.)
This book is part of the Oxford History of the United States series. I decided I should read/listen to it before tackling Battle Cry of Freedom because my grasp on this period of American history was rather weak. Until recently, the only bad thing I could remember about Andrew Jackson was the Trail of Tears; now I fear I've lost all respect for him.
I enjoyed this book also because Howe brought in a lot of information about daily life, religious and social movements, and technological advances of the period. I would recommend it to anyone who feels a gap in his/her knowledge of this important era. The reading was well done, however, if there are illustrations in the book it would be worth taking a look at that format....more
I don’t read very many biographies, and those I do read tend most often to have a great deal of history in them. I also prefer to read biographies wriI don’t read very many biographies, and those I do read tend most often to have a great deal of history in them. I also prefer to read biographies written after the dust has settled and some historical perspective has been achieved. Jean Edward Smith’s book on Eisenhower fits the bill – disconcerting though it was to think of my childhood as history. But that comes later.
Smith’s portrait of Eisenhower’s childhood contains elements that seem to be common to a number of presidents – a weak, unsuccessful, or absent (physically or emotionally) father and a strong mother. In Eisenhower’s case, poverty was added to the mix. Yet not only “Ike” but all his brothers grew to be highly successful men in their own fields.
Smith shows how Eisenhower, though circumstances were often against him, made the best use of his military experiences (primarily staff work rather than leading troops, so, historically not the best way to become a five-star general). The interwar years were sometimes difficult for Eisenhower, but laid the foundation for his success in World War II.
The war takes up a large part of the book, and of course the wartime section brings up the Kay Summersby affair. Smith does not gloss over it, nor does he sensationalize it. I’m not a military historian so I can’t fully judge, but I’d say Smith did a good job on this part of the book.
One of the myths about Eisenhower is that he never voted until the 1952 election. It’s true that he never allied himself with a political party in public nor endorsed a candidate until he had retired from the Army. But Smith says he did vote in 1948. In any case, both parties made overtures to him and he chose the Republican party. One of the more fascinating things I learned from this book was that Truman almost begged Eisenhower to run (even as a Republican) because he wanted to retire, but could not face the possibility of the isolationist Robert Taft as President. (Had Taft won the nomination and been elected, he would have served only a few months, as he died from stomach cancer in mid-1953.) In these days, when the party conventions are more or less rubber stamp PR events, it’s difficult to imagine the excitement of the 1952 conventions – not only smoke-filled rooms but last minute delegate switching – notably by the Minnesota delegation. It’s also interesting to have some of the rumors of Ike’s feelings about Richard Nixon confirmed.
The section on the Eisenhower presidency shows us a man who really was “the decider.” He also took full responsibility for those decisions, even those made by his Cabinet and other staff members without his explicit approval – just as he had been trained to do by the Army’s chain-of-command policies.
I was surprised to see how much I remembered about the news stories from 1953 to 1961. I guess those grimy elbows I got from leaning on the Stars and Stripes and later, the New Haven Register gleaned me more than a familiarity with Pogo and Peanuts. (Some credit must also go to My Weekly Reader.) It was fascinating and a little scary to learn what was going on behind the scenes and what disasters Eisenhower saved us – and the world – from. For example, a lesser man might have agreed with or acquiesced to those who wanted him to use nuclear weapons in Indochina to help the French. Perhaps his finest moment as President was the dispatch of troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to protect the young people integrating Little Rock High School, and I learned more about that process than I had known before.
It’s always a temptation for someone who was a child in the 1950s to see it as a golden time of peace and prosperity. Of course not everything was perfect then, and even the good things may have had unintended consequences (the interstate highway system is just one example.) But according to Smith (and I have no reason to doubt this), no American serviceperson died in combat during Eisenhower’s Presidency. None of our subsequent Presidents can say that. I have grown to admire Eisenhower much more than before; and I also plan to read some of Jean Edward Smith’s other biographies (among them Grant, George C. Marshall, and FDR). I’d count this as one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. My one complaint about the Kindle edition is that there were some charts (military tables of organization for instance) that were difficult to read. ...more
Not long ago here in Maine we were bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Irene. She scorned us, deciding to pay her watery attentions to Vermont and NeNot long ago here in Maine we were bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Irene. She scorned us, deciding to pay her watery attentions to Vermont and New Hampshire instead. In fear of Irene, the Mayor of New York even closed down the subways. People who think this was all silliness ought to read this book, which describes the 1938 hurricane which devastated Long Island, Connecticut and on up into Massachusetts. Fascinating microhistory with pictures, oral histories, and a reminder of what it was like before we had Doppler radar and all that other weather-forecasting technology. Recommended....more
(This book was read as part of my project to read all the Newbery Award and Honor books. It was an honor book in 2004.) Once again, as with The Voice T(This book was read as part of my project to read all the Newbery Award and Honor books. It was an honor book in 2004.) Once again, as with The Voice That Challenged a Nation, I felt that I was simply reading an adult book with large print and a lot of pictures. It's not clear to me why this book is considered to be "for young people" except that it's relatively short. The language (necessarily so when one is quoting many 18th-century documents) is not particularly simple, and no effort is made to define unfamiliar words.
Still, it is a fascinating story, and the last chapters carry on through the discovery of yellow fever's causes and the dangers of a new epidemic of the disease in our own time. Some of the descriptions of yellow fever's effects would surely appeal to preteen boys with their appetite for "gross stuff." I would like to believe that the average 6th-8th grader could easily read An American Plague, but I'm not sure that belief would be right....more
This is one of those rare books that could easily have been awarded both the Newbery Medal (for writing) and the Caldecott Medal (for illustration). JThis is one of those rare books that could easily have been awarded both the Newbery Medal (for writing) and the Caldecott Medal (for illustration). Jacqueline Woodson, a three-time Newbery Honor Book winner, uses African-American idiom so well that, reading the words silently, one can hear them spoken in the mind. Show Way is many things: a matrilineal genealogy that emphasizes the liberating role of creativity; a history of African-Americans over the last 150 years or more; a book about family love. The illustrations are by turns comforting and chilling; you can go from a double-page spread featuring a joyous mother and child to one that uses newspaper advertisements, posters and photographs to show the dangers faced by civil rights protesters. This would be a book for parents and children to read together. I'd recommend it very highly to families of all races....more
(This book was read as part of my Newbery Award project; it was an Honor Book in 2005.)
I must confess at the outset that I am not much of a biography(This book was read as part of my Newbery Award project; it was an Honor Book in 2005.)
I must confess at the outset that I am not much of a biography reader, although I do make exceptions if the subject is especially interesting to me. Marian Anderson was very famous in my childhood and I still like to listen to her recordings. It seemed incredible to me that Russell Freedman, the author of this Newbery Honor Book, had not always known the story of Anderson's concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939. I mean, my parents, who grew up in rural Maine and were not liberals, knew this story and recounted it to me. But, apparently, Freedman only heard it relatively recently and this inspired him to choose Anderson as the subject for this biography.
Freedman has written several other biographies for young people, including Lincoln: A Photobiography which won the Newbery Award in 1988. I kept wondering, what makes The Voice That Challenged a Nation a young people's biography? It is shorter, true, than the average book written for adults, and the print is larger. I really appreciated that the many photographs were scattered throughout the book in their proper contexts, rather than being relegated to one or two sections of plates as in most "adult" books. But the writing is not particularly child-friendly, except that Freedman explains the pre-Civil Rights era of Jim Crow laws for children who never experienced it. His sources are mostly secondary. I did learn some things about Marian Anderson that I didn't know before, and came away with a fresh appreciation for her struggles and her artistry. This would be a fine book for a child to read for a school assignment or if s/he just didn't care much for fiction. I'm not convinced it was one of the three of four best children's books of its year, though. ...more
This book should be read by anyone who thinks liberals, Democrats etc. don't love America. Maira Kalman's wonderful drawings, paintings and the occasiThis book should be read by anyone who thinks liberals, Democrats etc. don't love America. Maira Kalman's wonderful drawings, paintings and the occasional photograph, as well as her ruminations on Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, soldiers at Fort Campbell, civil servants in New York, the Supreme Court, a Vermont town meeting -- and many other topics -- show a deep love for this country. I believe the book was originally a blog at the New York Times; I had seen some of the work before, but it is well worth looking at again. It amazes me that this book, which must weigh about 5 lbs. because it's all color plates, only has a list price of $30. Highly recommended....more
A former editor of ATLANTA magazine has written a fascinating bit of microhistory about the death and burial of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. aA former editor of ATLANTA magazine has written a fascinating bit of microhistory about the death and burial of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and how Atlanta handled it (quite well, all things considered.) Both the Black and white Establishments in Atlanta cooperated to support the King family, keep the city from erupting in the riots that marred other cities' mourning, and to honor a native son. Burns has done a lot of research and although I lived through this period (not in Atlanta) I learned a lot of things I hadn't known about what went on.
Reading this book brought back a lot of memories, of how jubilation at Lyndon Johnson's announcement that he would not run for President again turned to shock and sorrow just a few days later. Morris Abram, President of Brandeis during some of my time there, is referenced in the book, along with many other familiar names from those times. However, the book is also detailed enough that those who did not live through the 60s could read it without too much confusion. It's a fairly quick read and well worth spending a couple of hours with. Recommended. ...more
I might have rated this book a little higher had I not already seen the PBS programs on which it was based -- it's quite good, it was just that a lotI might have rated this book a little higher had I not already seen the PBS programs on which it was based -- it's quite good, it was just that a lot of the information wasn't new to me. Gates, with the aid of genealogists and DNA testing, explored the family histories of such well-known African-Americans as Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Chris Rock, and Don Cheadle, among others. In almost every case, he hit the well-known "brick wall" sometime before 1870, the first census taken after Emancipation. Before that, it's very difficult to be sure about slave identities. Many of the people Gates worked with had some impressive stories in their family trees -- stories they had never heard (for example, an ancestor of comedian Chris Rock was a state legislator in South Carolina during Reconstruction). After exhausting the genealogical possibilities of the documentary record, each of the subjects had DNA testing, revealing the percentage of their DNA that came from African, European, Asian and Native American ancestors, and suggesting the parts of Africa from which the African ancestors came. The television programs actually did a better job of explaining the possibilities and limits of DNA testing than the book.
Reading this book made me feel very fortunate that, as a genealogist, my one African-American ancestor had a first and last name as early as 1785, because he was free and lived in the District of Maine. The book would be interesting even to people with no African-American roots because of its insights into black culture and U.S. history, its description of genealogical method, and the interesting people who were interviewed....more
This illustrated history of costume through the nineteenth century uses illustrations from two older works. This is both a plus and a minus, since somThis illustrated history of costume through the nineteenth century uses illustrations from two older works. This is both a plus and a minus, since some aspects of costume are thus not illustrated. Still, it would be a great addition to a reference shelf, especially for theatrical types, but also for those of us who feel a need to look up places and artifacts in the fiction we read....more
David Halberstam tackles the first year or so of the Korean War, interspersing research in various archives with interviews with the rank and file vetDavid Halberstam tackles the first year or so of the Korean War, interspersing research in various archives with interviews with the rank and file veterans. If you didn't already despise Douglas McArthur, you will after reading this book. Highly recommend....more
It's going to take me a long time to read this book, because I am not at all familiar with most 20th century serious music (I hesitate to call it clasIt's going to take me a long time to read this book, because I am not at all familiar with most 20th century serious music (I hesitate to call it classical, I'm referring to the sort of music one hears at the symphony or chamber concert rather than in a bar or stadium). So, I am needing to read each chapter twice, once with highlighter in hand to mark pieces of music I want to listen to, and then after or while listening to them....more
I had originally marked this book as read, but realizing from the placement of a bookmark that I hadn't finished it, I started over. It was well worthI had originally marked this book as read, but realizing from the placement of a bookmark that I hadn't finished it, I started over. It was well worth reading. For some people this might be more than they ever wanted to know about "Amazing Grace." About half of the book is a mini-biography of John Newton, who wrote the lyric, with digressions about William Cowper, his friend, and William Wilberforce, the abolitionist. It's quite useful as a corrective to the various urban legends about the author. Then as we get to learn about the tune, we also learn about Southern Harmony and Sacred Harp singing. The third section describes the song's resurgence in the early 1970s with recordings by Judy Collins and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards pipes, drums, and band. The author also points out that it is George W. Bush's favorite hymn; cynically, I would suggest that perhaps it's the only one he knows. There is a (necessarily incomplete) discography at the end as well as a (now outdated) list of movies which use the hymn in their soundtrack (Invasion of the Body Snatchers??? Huh.)...more
I learned quite a lot about the metric system from this book, which was not something I expected. However, my wish to learn more about the surveying oI learned quite a lot about the metric system from this book, which was not something I expected. However, my wish to learn more about the surveying of the western U.S. (starting in East Liverpool, Ohio) was fulfilled and I learned about a lot of interesting characters along the way....more