Wednesday, December 31, 2008

December 31 Birthday: Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse, artist
Dec. 31, 1869-Nov. 3, 1954

A Bird or 2: A Story About Henri Matisse by Bijou Le Tord (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 1999)

This tribute to the French artist, known as the father of modern art, focuses on Matisse's later years, when he lived in Nice and was inspired by its extraordinary light.

View the collection of Matisse art at the Museum of Modern Art.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

December 30 Birthdays: Bo Diddley and Tiger Woods

Bo Diddley, musician
Dec. 30, 1928-June 2, 2008

Shake, Rattle & Roll: The Founders of Rock & Roll by Holly George-Warren, illustrated by Laura Levine (Houghton Mifflin, 2001)

A double page spread in this collective bio is devoted to rocker, Bo Diddley. This artist played the violin as a child, and then switched to the guitar as a teen. He is credited with the invention of a thump-thump-a beat on the guitar.

The Authorized Website of Bo Diddley is the place to go for more information on this Originator.

Tiger Woods, athlete
Dec. 30, 1975-

Tiger Woods by David R. Collins, illustrated by Larry Nolte (Pelican, 1999)

Tiger Woods, the gifted young African American golfer, faced prejudice with positive character and determination as a child and as an adult. He won his first U.S. Amateur Championship at the age of 19.

Visit the Tiger Woods Official Website to learn more about this great golfer.

Monday, December 29, 2008

December 29 Birthday: Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson, U.S. President
Dec. 29, 1808-July 31, 1875

Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt (Harcourt, 1998)

A tailor by profession, this was our only president who could quilt. He was number 17.

You can read Johnson's State of the Union Address on the Project Gutenberg site.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

December 28 Birthday: Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson, U.S. President
Dec. 28, 1856-Feb. 3, 1924

Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt (Harcourt, 1998)

Our most educated president spent more money on books than clothes. His number? 28.

Read the official White House biography of President Wilson at

Thursday, December 25, 2008

December 25 Birthdays: Jesus and Anwar el-Sadat

Dec. 25-

Jesus by Brian Wildsmith (Eerdmans, 2000)

Beginning with the birth of Jesus, Wildsmith highlights the rest of Jesus' life, death on the cross, resurrection and ascension. Merry Christmas!

The King James version of the Bible is available online at Verse Link.

Anwar el-Sadat, politician
Dec. 25, 1918-Oct. 6, 1981

Paths to Peace: People Who Changed the World by Jane Breskin Zalben (Dutton, 2006)

Anwar el-Sadat, a former president of Egypt is featured in this book dedicated to sixteen celebrated individuals.

Read more about Sadat at the Jewish Virtual Library.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

December 23 Birthday: Sarah Breedlove Walker

Sarah Breedlove Walker, philanthropist
Dec. 23, 1867-May 25, 1919

Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Nneka Bennett (Candlewick, 2000)

Born to former slaves, Sarah Breedlove Walker triumphed over numerous adversities to become the owner and operator of a hair products business which became one of the largest companies in America by 1912. Her generosity was legendary as she shared her wealth with others.

The Official Website of Madam C. J. Walker a.k.a Sarah Breedlove Walker offers a bio and more.

Monday, December 22, 2008

December 22 Birthday: Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson

Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson, environmentalist and former First Lady
Dec. 22, 1912-July 11, 2007

Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Joy Fisher Hein (HarperCollins, 2005)

One person can make our world a more beautiful place. Here's proof. Thank you, Lady Bird.

Visit The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Unknown Birthday: Esther

Esther, leader

Esther's Story by Diane Wolkstein, illustrated by Juan Wijngaard (HarperTrophy, 1998)

Esther saved the day. Literally. In this biblical account, written in the form of a diary, Esther tells the story of her life and how as Queen Esther she saved her people from Haman, who wished to destroy the Jewish people.

Queen Esther: The Merit of Things Hidden from the Women in Judaism.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Unknown Birthday: Eratosthenes

Eratosthenes, mathematician and librarian
c. 276 BC-194 BC

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Little Brown, 1994)

Sun and shadows. Those were the keys to the Eratosthenes' discovery of how to measure the Earth's circumference. A fascinating look at ancient times and at how geometry can make sense of our world.

Learn how Eratosthenes figured it out at the Cornell website.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

December 16 Birthday: Jane Austen

Jane Austen, writer
Dec. 16, 1775-July 18, 1817

Lives of the Writers: Comedies, Tragedies (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt (Harcourt, 1994)

The English author of Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and four other works was not famous until after her death.

Drop by Jane Austen's house on the Web .

Monday, December 15, 2008

Unknown Birthday: Cleopatra

Cleopatra, leader
69 BC-August 12, 30 BC

Cleopatra by Peter Vennema and Diane Stanley, illustrated by Diane Stanley (HarperTrophy, 1997)

The woman was a savvy ruler. Incredible artwork accompanies the story of the last queen of Egypt.

Take a look at the Field Museum of Chicago's Cleopatra of Egypt: From History to Myth exhibit.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

December 13 Birthdays: Ella Josephine Baker and Emily Carr

Ella Josephine Baker, civil rights worker
Dec. 13, 1903-Dec. 13, 1986

Women of Hope: African Americans Who Made a Difference by Joyce Hansen (Scholastic, 1998)

Baker, a civil rights worker was active in the NAACP and helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Read a biography of Baker at the North Carolina State University site.

Emily Carr, artist
Dec. 13, 1871-Mar. 2, 1945

Emily Carr: At the Edge of the World by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Maxwell Newhouse (Tundra Books, 2003)

A Canadian artist whose work focused mostly on the Native peoples of the Northwest is featured in this book about her life. From her childhood through her later years, Carr's incredible work is reproduced alongside the narrative.

See Emily Carr at home and at work at a website devoted to her.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

December 11 Birthday: Annie Jump Cannon

Annie Jump Cannon, astronomer
Dec. 11, 1863-Apr. 13, 1941

How We Are Smart by W. Nikola-Lisa, illustrated by Sean Qualls (Lee & Low Books, 2006)

Cannon was an astronomer and curator of photographs at Harvard Observatory. She was the person responsible for organizing stars into types (O, B, A, F, G, K, M), a classification that is still in use today.

Click on over to the Annie Jump Cannon Homepage at

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

December 10 Birthday: Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, writer
Dec. 10, 1830-May 15, 1886

Emily by Michael Bedard, illustrated by Barbara Cooney (Doubleday, 1992)

This is a fictionalized account of a young girl's encounter with her Amherst, Massachusetts, neighbor—the reclusive poet, Emily Dickinson.

Visit The Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, for tours and information.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

December 9 Birthday: Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper, naval officer and computer scientist
Dec. 9, 1906-Jan. 1, 1992

Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee, illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy (Charlesbridge, 2005)

A reciepent of the National Medal of Technology and many other awards, Hopper helped revolutionize computers.

Grace celebrates women in computing.

Monday, December 08, 2008

December 8 Birthday: Diego Rivera

Diego Rivera, artist
Dec. 8, 1886-Nov. 24, 1857

Diego by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Jeanette Winter (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2007)

This bilingual biography about Diego Rivera, celebrates the life of the incredible Mexican muralist. Brilliant folk-art illustrations compliment the text.

Visit The Virtual Diego Rivera Web Museum and take a look at the work of one of the greatest muralists.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

December 7 Birthdays: Willa Cather and St. Columoille

Willa Cather, writer
Dec. 7, 1873-Apr. 24, 1947

The Divide by Michael Bedard, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully (Doubleday, 1997)

Moved from Virginia to Nebraska, young Willa Cather ultimately found the prairie home. And inspiring.

The Willa Cather Archive offers access to her writings, manuscripts & letters, and life.

Columoille, saint
Dec. 7, 521-June 9, 597

Across a Dark and Wild Sea by Don Brown, illustrated by Deborah Nadel (Roaring Brook, 2002)

This is a story of an Irish monk of the sixth century also known as St. Columba. He established a monastery and copied books and illuminated manuscripts.

The Catholic Encyclopedia posts a biography of St. Columa on it's website.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

December 6 Birthday: Patsy Mink

Patsy Takemoto Mink, politician
Dec. 6, 1927-Sept. 28, 2002

How We Are Smart by W. Nikola-Lisa, illustrated by Sean Qualls (Lee & Low Books, 2006)

Mink, a strong civil rights advocate from Hawaii, was the first Japanese American woman to serve in Congress.

For an overview of her accomplishments, read Mink's biography in the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

Friday, December 05, 2008

December 5 Birthdays: Bill Pickett, Little Richard and Martin Van Buren

Bill Pickett, cowboy and rodeo performer
Dec. 5, 1871-Apr. 2, 1932

Bill Pickett: Rodeo-Ridin' Cowboy by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney (Gulliver Books, 1996)

Born in Travis County, Texas, Pickett invented the rodeo sport of bulldogging. Yahoo!

Pickett was included in The National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1971. He was the first African American inducted into this elite group.

Little Richard, musician
Dec. 5, 1932-

Shake, Rattle and Roll: The Founders of Rock & Roll by Holly George-Warren, illustrated by Laura Levine (Houghton Mifflin, 2001)

Little Richard was one of the earliest rockers. This deluxe showman from Georgia made his first record at 18 and found fame in 1955 with his hit called "Tutti Fruitti."

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Little Richard in 1986.

Martin Van Buren, U.S. President
Dec. 5, 1782-July 24, 1862

Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt (Harcourt, 1998)

A brief description of the 8th, one-term president who loved to sing.

Read more about Van Buren at a site devoted to American Presidents.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

December 2 Birthday: Georges-Pierre Seurat

Georges-Pierre Seurat, artist
Dec. 2, 1859-Mar. 29, 1891

Seurat and La Grande Jatte: Connecting the Dots by Robert Burleigh (Abrams, 2004)

Focused on a single painting by the French painter Seurat, the author weaves in the story of the artist's life.

Seurat's masterpiece, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte was the subject of an exhibition at The Art Institute of Chicago.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

November 30 Birthday: Mark Twain

Mark Twain, writer
Nov. 30, 1835-Apr. 21, 1910

American Boy: The Adventures of Mark Twain by Don Brown (Houghton Mifflin, 2003)

Brown takes readers on a journey through the childhood and life of the plucky Twain. A fitting introduction to an American legend.

The Hannibal Courier Post looks at the life and works of Samuel Clemens.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

November 29 Birthdays: Lousia May Alcott and Tzu Hsi

Louisa May Alcott, writer
Nov. 29, 1832-Mar. 6, 1888

Lives of the Writers: Comedies, Tragedies (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt (Harcourt, 1994)

Based on her own childhood with her three sisters in Concord, Massachusetts, Alcott's most famous work, Little Women was followed by other classics such as Little Men, Jo's Boys, and Eight Cousins. Alcott also wrote works for adults.

Visit Orchard House, where Alcott lived when writing Little Women.

Tzu Hsi, royal
Nov. 29, 1835-Nov. 15, 1908

Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt (Harcourt, 2000)

Chinese Empress Dowager Cixi ruled her country for 47 years. It was said that she loved to read.

Fordham University posts information about the Court Life in China.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

November 27 Birthday: Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee, athlete
Nov. 27, 1940-July 20, 1973

Be Water, My Friend: The Early Years of Bruce Lee by Ken Mochizuki, illustrated by Dom Lee (Lee & Low Books, 2006)

A master of Kung fu, Chinese American Bruce Lee turned the West on to martial arts.

A photo and article about Lee is posted at

Monday, November 24, 2008

November 24 Birthday: Frances H. Burnett

Frances H. Burnett, writer
Nov. 24, 1849-Oct. 29, 1924

Lives of the Writers: Comedies, Tragedies (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt (Harcourt, 1994)

Burnett, the author of the children's classic, The Secret Garden, originally illustrated by Tasha Tudor, was nicknamed "Fluffy." Who knew?

A biography of Burnett is posted on a site of an ardent fan.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

November 23 Birthday: Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce, U.S. President
Nov. 23, 1804-Oct. 8, 1869

Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt (Harcourt, 1998)

One paragraph about the 14th president who put the first Christmas tree in the White House can be found in this collective biography.

Read Pierce's Inaugural Address on Friday, March 4, 1853, posted on The Avalon Project at the Yale Law School.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 22 Birthday: Sieur De La Salle

Sieur De La Salle a.k.a. Rene-Robert Cavelier, explorer
Nov. 22, 1643-Mar. 20, 1687

Despite All Obstacles: LaSalle and the Conquest of the Mississippi by Joan Elizabeth Goodman, illustrated by Tom McNeely (Mikaya Press, 2001)

Follow La Salle from his birth in France through his Mississippi adventures through a text filled with excerpts from letters, diaries and journals.

The Handbook of Texas Online provides a biographical sketch of La Salle.

Friday, November 21, 2008

November 21 Birthday: Isaac B. Singer

Isaac B. Singer, writer
Nov. 21, 1904-1991

Lives of the Writers: Comedies, Tragedies (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt (Harcourt, 1994)

Singer spent his childhood in a Jewish ghetto in Poland. He escaped the Holocaust, became a writer and won the Nobel Prize in literature for his work.

Isaac Bashevis Singer is profiled at the Jewish-American Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

November 19 Birthdays: Indira Gandhi and James Garfield

Indira Gandhi, politician
Nov. 19, 1917-Oct. 31, 1984

Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt (Harcourt, 2000)

Indira Gandhi served as the Prime Minister of India during portions of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. This remarkable woman is highlighted in this book dedicated to women who have changed the world.

Remembering Indira Gandhi highlights Gandhi's contributions.

James Garfield, U.S. President
Nov. 19, 1831-Sept. 19, 1881

Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt (Harcourt, 1998)

One pithy paragraph about the 20th president who had a dog named Veto is included in this book about U.S. presidents.

Visit the White House to learn more about Garfield.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

November 18: Wilma Mankiller

Wilma Mankiller, Chief
Nov. 18, 1945-

Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee, illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy (Charlesbridge, 2005)

Wilma Mankiller, the first female Chief of the Cherokee Nation who served for over ten years during the 1980s and 90s, made health and education her top issues.

A brief bio of Mankiller is posted at the National Women's Hall of Fame site.

Monday, November 17, 2008

November 17 Birthdays: Isamu Noguchi and Soichiro Honda

Isamu Noguchi, artist
Nov. 17, 1904-Dec. 30, 1988

Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt (Harcourt, 1995)

Although Noguchi was discouraged from pursuing art, thank goodness he persisted. Now, works of this important Japanese-American sculptor can be found in Detroit and Atlanta, to name just a few places.

The Noguchi Museum has exhibitions and collections that feature Noguchi's life and work. Visit online today.

Soichiro Honda, automaker
Nov. 17, 1906-Aug. 5, 1991

Honda: The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars by Mark Weston, illustrated by Katie Yamasaki (Lee & Low Books, 2008)

From sweeping the floor of a car garage to becoming the founder of one of the world’s largest automakers, the story of Soichiro Honda chronicles his journey of hard work, dedication and the pursuit of excellence. An inventor and visionary, Honda changed the industry.

Find a brief bio of Honda, with an emphasis on his contribution to motorcycle manufacturing at

Saturday, November 15, 2008

November 15 Birthday: Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe, artist
Nov. 15, 1887-Mar. 6, 1986

My Name is Georgia: A Portrait by Jeanette Winter (Silver Whistle, 1998)

From the age of twelve, O'Keeffe knew she wanted to be an artist. Using O'Keeffe's own words within the text as well as O'Keeffe-like illustrations, readers are in for a vivid look at an interesting life.

The O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, offers an online look at some of her amazing work.

Friday, November 14, 2008

November 14 Birthdays: Robert Fulton, Claude Monet and William Steig

Robert Fulton, inventor
Nov. 14, 1765-Feb. 24, 1815

Robert Fulton: From Submarine to Steamboat by Steven Kroll, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth (Holiday House, 1999)

Fulton's name is synonymous with steamboats. But first he was a sign painter, air-gun inventor and apprentice jeweler. Read all about his life and inventions in this picture book biography.

An article about Robert Fulton and the War of 1812 is posted at

Claude Monet, artist
Nov 14, 1840-Dec. 5, 1926

A Blue Butterfly: A Story About Claude Monet by Bijou Le Tord (Doubleday, 1995)

In the style of Monet's work, Le Tord uses impressionistlike paintings to illustrate this snapshot of his later years.

View Monet images at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Museums, including one of the famous Water Lilies paintings.

William Steig, writer and illustrator
Nov. 14, 1907-Oct. 3, 2003

When Everyone Wore a Hat by William Steig (Joanna Colter Books, 2003)

In this picture book autobiography, Steig looked at the year he was eight, when the world was at war, and he had dreams for the future.

A cartoonist for the New Yorker, Steig was in his 60s when he began writing and illustrating children's books. Stop by the Official Site of William Steig for articles on Steig, his books, reading guides and more.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

November 13 Birthday: Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson, writer
Nov. 13, 1850-Dec. 3, 1894

Lives of the Writers: Comedies, Tragedies (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt (Harcourt, 1994)

Treasure Island, Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Stevenson penned these classics and more. He suffered from tuberculosis and wrote mostly in bed. A Scot, he eventually settled in Samoa.

Want to listen to a classic read aloud? Download Treasure Island at, a site dedicated to promoting recordings in the Public Domain.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

November 12 Birthday: Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, social activist
Nov. 12, 1815-Oct. 26, 1902

Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote by Tanya Lee Stone illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon (Henry Holt & Company, 2008)

As a child, Elizabeth Cady wanted to do “anything any boy could.” And she did. As an adult, Stanton and others proposed women should have the vote. Millions of women took up the cause, and eighteen years after her death, Stanton’s dream became law.

Find the papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony at the Rutgers site dedicated to findings and publishing their work.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

November 11 Birthday: LaVern Baker

LaVern Baker, musician
Nov. 11, 1929-Mar. 10, 1997

Shake, Rattle and Roll: The Founders of Rock & Roll by Holly George-Warren, illustrated by Laura Levine (Houghton Mifflin, 2001)

"Tweedle Dee," a top song recorded in 1954 and "Jim Dandy," a 1956 hit made Baker, a jazz-and-R&B-vocalist-turned-rocker famous. As an African American, Baker suffered backlash from her early records being labeled "race records." But she continued to record and eventually the barriers came down.

Read more about Baker's life and music at a site dedicated to her.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

November 9 Birthday: Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker, mathematican & astronomer
Nov. 9, 1731-Oct. 9, 1806

Dear Benjamin Banneker by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney (Voyager, 1998)

Banneker, an 18th century free African American was passionate about learning. Aside from excelling professionally in the fields of math and astronomy, he published an almanac and corresponded with Thomas Jefferson about slavery. Brian Pinkney's hallmark style—scratchboard—illuminates this story.

Go to the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park & Museum in Baltimore to learn more about this multi-talented man.

Friday, November 07, 2008

November 7 Birthdays: Alexa Canady and Marie Curie

Alexa Canady, physician
Nov. 7, 1950-

Women of Hope: African Americans Who Made a Difference by Joyce Hansen (Scholastic, 1998)

Canady was the first black female neurosurgeon in the U.S. and has won numerous awards for her work. This collective biography includes a photograph and one-page biography of her.

Read more about Canady on a site celebrating Women's History Month.

Marie Curie, physicist and chemist
Nov. 7, 1867-July 4, 1934

Marie Curie by Leonard Everett Fisher (Atheneum, 1994)

Life as a pioneering scientist was not easy but Curie, a Polish-French pioneer in radioactivity persevered and ultimately won two Nobel Peace Prizes for her efforts.

Visit the Nobel Winners site to read more about Curie.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Unknown Birthday: George Crum

George Crum, chef
1822-July 22, 1914

George Crum and the Saratoga Chip by Gayila Taylor, illustrated by Frank Morrison (Lee & Low, 2006)

Thank you, George Crum. For inventing a most tasty treat. August 24 is National Potato Chip Day, though by all accounts, Americans celebrate potato chips every day of the year. Crum, part African-American and part Native America is the king of snack-makers.

The Lemelson-MIT Program hightlighted George Crum as an Inventor of the Week earlier this year.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

November 4 Birthdays: James Earle Fraser and Will Rogers

James Earle Fraser, sculptor
Nov. 4, 1876-Oct. 11, 1953

The Buffalo Nickel by Taylor Morrison (Houghton Mifflin, 2002)

This is the story of Fraser's life and work, and in particular, his design of the nickel depicting a buffalo on one side and a Plains Indian chief on the other. Fascinating.

Visit Wikipedia to view images of Fraser's other work.

Will Rogers, humorist, social commentator, actor
Nov. 4, 1879-Aug. 15, 1935

Will Rogers: An American Legend by Frank Keating, illustrated by Mike Wimmer (Silver Whistle/Harcourt, 2002)

Born in Oklahoma of Cherokee heritage, Rogers's wit and wisdom are highlighted as quotes of his are woven throughout this story of his life. Amazing artwork!

The Official Site of Will Rogers offers a biography, fast facts, photos, quotes and more.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

November 2 Birthdays: Marie Antionette, Warren G. Harding and James Polk

Marie Antoinette, politician
Nov. 2, 1755-Oct. 16, 1793

Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt (Harcourt, 2000)

The queen of France at nineteen, Marie Antoinette ruled for almost twenty years. One of her most famous quotes? "Let them eat cake."

Visit to learn more about Antionette.

Warren G. Harding, U.S. President
Nov. 2, 1865-Aug. 2, 1923

Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt (Harcourt, 1998)

This one-termer was the 29th president of the U.S. Krull offers a paragraph of tidbits about his life.

For more information about Harding, visit the Harding Home in Ohio.

James Polk, U.S. President
Nov. 2, 1795-June 15, 1849

Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt(Harcourt, 1998)

Another one-termer, Polk was the 11th president of the U.S. The tradition of playing "Hail to the Chief" when a president enters a room began with him. One paragraph describes his life of work in this collective biography.

Read Polk's Inaugural address on March 4, 1845 at the Avalon Project at Yale.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

October 30 Birthdays: John Adams and Charles Atlas

John Adams, U.S. President
Oct. 30, 1735-July 4, 1826

Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt (Harcourt, 1998)

An early riser, this president had the longest life of any in this office. Adams was the 2nd U.S. president, served one term and had a horse named Cleopatra.

Read more about Adams at the page devoted to him.

Charles Atlas, athlete
Oct. 30, 1892-Dec. 23, 1972

Strong Man: The Story of Charles Atlas by Meghan McCarthy (Knopf, 2007)

Angelo Siciliano was a one-man revolution for fitness. Tired of being a weak and skinny kid, Angelo embarked on a quest for physical health. A trip to a local museum where he saw a statue of Hercules, and a visit to his favorite thinking place, the zoo, where he watched a lion stretch his muscles fueled Siciliano's inspiration. He took a new name to go with his new muscles—Charles Atlas—and was ultimately named “The World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man.” Atlas inspired millions to exercise, eat right and live right.

Print out a copy of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans [PDF Version - 7.8 MB) to learn more about keeping healthy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

October 28 Birthday: Lady Liberty

Lady Liberty, statue extraordinaire
Oct. 28, 1886 dedication

Lady Liberty: A Biography by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Matt Tavares (Candlewick Press, 2008)

Vignettes written from the perspective of those who created the Statue of Liberty offer moving accounts of her inspiring story. From Edouard De Laboulaye, a professor of law in France who dreamed of giving this birthday gift from his country; to Emma Lazarus, who wrote a poem in Liberty’s honor; to Florence De Foreest, a young girl who was one of more than 100,000 people in America who contributed to the campaign to raise funds; this is a story of honor and hope and love. One of the best book cover designs, ever. And the interior art is glorious, too.

You can visit the Statue of Liberty online. Take a look at the beautiful photo gallery, read about Lady Liberty’s history and take the Junior Ranger Program self-guided program for kids.

Unknown Birthday: George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver, scientist
c. 1864-Jan. 5, 1943

A Weed is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver by Aliki (Aladdin, 1988)

Born a slave, George Washington Carver loved to learn and became one of America's most important agriculturists.

Visit the George Washington Carver National Monument in Missouri preserved by the National Park Service.

Monday, October 27, 2008

October 27 Birthdays: Ruby Dee, Theodore Roosevelt and Nawal El Sadaawi

Ruby Dee, actress and activist
Oct. 27, 1924-

Women of Hope: African Americans Who Made a Difference by Joyce Hansen (Scholastic, 1998)

Dee's Broadway debut in South Pacific was in 1943. Dee was and is an advocate for social issues of our times.

Read a biographical sketch of Ruby Dee and listen to an interview with her and her late husband, Ossie Davis on the PBS African American World site.

Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. President
Oct. 27, 1858-Jan. 6, 1919

Theodore by Frank Keating, illustrated by Mike Wimmer (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster, 2006)

The oil-on-canvas illustrations in this book should be hanging in an art museum. Wow. This biography of Teddy Roosevelt, told in his own words, offered me more than facts. I felt as if I also knew Roosevelt's heart

The Theodore Roosevelt Association hosts a web site devoted to TR. Teddy and the Children's Room

Also check out the Smithsonian exhibit: Theodore Roosevelt: Icon of the American Century.

Nawal El Sadaawi, advocate
Oct. 27, 1931-

Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee, illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy (Charlesbridge, 2005

"N" is for Nawal, in this collective biography about women. El Sadaawi is an advocate for women's rights, doctor and writer. Born in Egypt, she was imprisioned for her views of Arab women but has been released.

Visit for more info.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

October 26 Birthday: Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson, musician
Oct. 26, 1911-Jan. 27, 1972

The Blues Singers: Ten Who Rocked the World by Julius Lester, illustrated by Lisa Cohen (Jump at the Sun/Hyperion, 2001)

Renowned gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson "brought the blues feeling into church music." Born in New Orleans, she moved to the city of Chicago when she was a teenager. It was there that Jackson found her voice.

America's Library has a small feature on Mahalia Jackson with photos that would be of great interest to children.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

October 25 Birthday: Admiral Richard Byrd

Admiral Richard Byrd, explorer
Oct. 25, 1888-Mar. 11, 1957

Black Whiteness by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Walter Lyon Krudop (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1998)

This is a harrowing account of the 1934 Antarctic winter Byrd spent alone at the South Pole. Brrrrr.

See what's happening today at the South Pole at the web site.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

October 23 Birthdays: Gertrude Ederle, Pele and Victoria Woodhull

Gertrude Ederle, athlete
Oct. 23, 1906-Nov. 30, 2003

America's Champion Swimmer: Gertrude Ederle by David A. Adler, illustrated by Terry Widener (Harcourt, 2000, Voyager, 2005 reprint)

It's twenty-one miles across the English Channel and in 1926, an American named Gertrude Ederle was the first woman to successfully swim across it. In the process she beat the men's record by almost two hours.

Sports Illustrated for Women named Ederle one of the Top 100 Women Athletes.

Pele, athlete
Oct. 23, 1940-

Young Pele: Soccer’s First Star by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2007)

Soccer was Pele’s passion from an early age. He played and dreamed and dreamed and played, all the while honing his skills and talent. When he finally had the opportunity to play in a youth soccer tournament, he saw that it would be possible for him, a child from humble means, to achieve his goal.

ESPN posts a biography of the "King of Futbol" on their site.

Victoria Woodhull, politician
Oct. 23, 1838-June 9, 1927

Woman for President: The Story of Virginia Woodhull by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Jane Dyer (Walker, 2006 reprint)

Woodhull's run for president in 1872 is a fascinating part of American history. In this race, women's rights were raised to a new level. Her eclectic background: fortune-teller, newspaper owner and investment business owner, to name only a few of her talents also make Woodhull a woman to be remembered.

"Who is Victoria Woodhull?" offers more information about this political pioneer.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

October 21 Birthdays: Celia Cruz, Dizzy Gillespie and Ursula Le Guin

Celia Cruz, musician
Oct. 21, 1925-July 16, 2003

Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa by Veronica Chambers, illustrated by Julie Maren (Dial, 2005)

When this salsa superstar was a child, her neighbors crowded the street to hear her sing to her family. Jewel toned illustrations add much to this vibrant story of her life.

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History featured Celia Cruz in a exhibit called Azucar! The Life and Music of Celia Cruz.

Dizzy Gillespie, musician
Oct. 21, 1917-Jan. 6, 1993

Dizzy by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Sean Qualls (Arthur A Levine Books/Scholastic, 2006)

Everything changed the day Dizzy Gillespie's music teacher gave him a trumpet. From that moment on, Gillespie channeled all his feelings into his music. Jazz was his music and with it he created a whole new sound, BEBOP.

Drop by to learn more about the man and his music from Ken Burns' Jazz.

Ursula Le Guin, author
Oct. 21, 1929-

Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee, illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy (Charlesbridge, 2005)

Best known for her Earthsea fantasy series, Le Guin is featured as "U" in this collective biography of women.

Visit Ursula LeGuin's web site to read more about the Earthsea series, current work and other facts.

Monday, October 20, 2008

October 20 Birthday: Charles Ives and Wanda Jackson

Charles Ives, musician
Oct. 20, 1874-May 19, 1954

What Charlie Heard by Mordicai Gerstein (Frances Foster/FSG, 2002)

A composer of innovative music, Charles Ives realized his dream at 77 years of age! What an inspiration. This is one of my all-time favorite picture book biographies.

Visit the Charles Ives Society web site for background information, works, and useful links.

Wanda Jackson, musician
Oct. 20, 1937-

Shake, Rattle and Roll: The Founders of Rock & Roll by Holly George-Warren, illustrated by Laura Levine (Houghton Mifflin, 2001)

A performer at nine, Jackson sang country for years. Until she sang with Elvis. Then she became known as the Queen of Rockabilly.

At Wanda you'll find tour dates, photos, biographical info and the latest news on Jackson.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

October 18 Birthday: Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry, musician
Oct. 18, 1926-

Shake, Rattle and Roll: The Founders of Rock & Roll by Holly George-Warren, illustrated by Laura Levine (Houghton Mifflin, 2001)

This collective biography includes a double page spread devoted to Berry. Chuck Berry learned to play the guitar as a teen and is still playing today. His first hit, Maybellene was in 1955. Go, Mr. Berry, Go!

The Official Site of Chuck Berry offers his bio, photos, song lyrics and more.

Friday, October 17, 2008

October 17 Birthdays: Mae Jemison and Jerry Siegel

Mae Jemison, astronaut
Oct. 17, 1956-

Women of Hope: African Americans Who Made a Difference by Joyce Hansen (Scholastic, 1998)

Jemison, a medical doctor, was the first African American women astronaut. She flew on the Endeavor in 1992.

Check out the NASA Kids site for games, stories, activities and a cool kids' club.

Jerry Siegel, writer
Oct. 17, 1914-Jan. 28, 1996

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman by Marc Tyler Nobleman, illustrated by Ross MacDonald (Knopf, 2008)

Everyone will champion this story of ingenuity and perseverance. Together, mild-mannered and unassuming teens Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster created the most inspiring and beloved comic book hero of all-time—Superman. Their struggles in the industry were heartbreaking and their successes equally phenomenal. A super read!

Click here, and faster than a speeding bullet, you can learn about planet Krypton, Superman’s birthplace.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

October 16 Birthday: Princess Ka'iulani

Princess Ka'iulani, leader
Oct. 16, 1875-Mar. 6, 1899

The Last Princess: The Story of Princess Ka'iulani of Hawai'i by Fay Stanley, illustrated by Diane Stanley (HarperCollins, 2001)

Heir to the throne, the United States annexed Hawai'i before Ka'iluani would rule. This is the story of her all too brief life.

A photo of Ka'iulani and information about her can be found at a web site devoted to this Hawaiian royal.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

October 14 Birthdays: Dwight Eisenhower and William Penn

Dwight Eisenhower, U.S. President
Oct. 14, 1890-Mar. 28, 1969

A Picture Book of Dwight Eisenhower by David A. Adler (Holiday House, 2004)

Opening with a 1945 parade in New York City at which General Eisenhower was given a medal, this book then highlights his childhood, West Point career, family life, WWII leadership and presidency.

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Library is the place to go for more information about this president.

William Penn, colonist
Oct. 14, 1644-July 30, 1718

William Penn: Founder of Pennsylvania by Steven Kroll, illustrated by Ronald Himler (Holiday House, 2000)

This book about William Penn, a strong Quaker, is also a lesson about the history of his time. writes about Penn's life and work.

Monday, October 13, 2008

October 13 Birthdays: Mary Kingsley and Art Tatum

Mary Kingsley, adventurer
Oct. 13, 1862-June 3, 1990

Uncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa by Don Brown (Sagebrush, 2000)

Kingsley traveled through the pages of the books in her father's library as a child. Caregiver of her parents until the age of 30, upon their death, Kingsley traveled to Africa. When this British explorer returned to England, she wrote about her observations.

Living on Earth Today has an online profile of Mary Kingsley.

Art Tatum, musician
Oct. 13, 1907-Nov. 5, 1956

Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum by Robert Andrew Parker (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2008)

Mostly self-taught, Tatum began playing the piano as a young child. Because of his poor eyesight, he could not participate in many activities. The piano was his refuge and strength. Word spread and soon he was playing in cafes, bars and the local radio station in his hometown of Toledo. Written in first person, this is a humble story of a gifted child who becomes one of the all-time jazz greats.

Watch and listen to Art Tatum play “Humoresque” on YouTube, his signature tune.