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Hedy, What a woman

Blogger friend Wendy has long been an admirer of Hedy Lamarr. When she read my review of The Only Woman in the Room, she took the information and ran with it. Thank you, Wendy, for adding to my appreciation of the remarkable Hedy Lamarr!

Ramblings and Musings

LHiggins does wonderful book reviews, and when I saw this one, my reaction was immediate! I ordered the book. The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict. I had to. I’ve admired this woman’s spunk, and beauty since I saw her in Bing Crosby/Bob Hope films when I was little. Mel Brooks gives her a nod in Blazing Saddles. He expounds on his love of Hedy in a documentary on Netflix. He was definitely a big fan of the Sultry Austrian, Spy, Inventor, Patriot, Actress, Sex Symbol.

Hedy Lamarr was one of the most amazing badass in female history. A flawed woman, for sure. I’m not sure she was ever really happy, but her contributions are undeniable.

Here’s a Facebook post from This Day in History that sums up some of her accomplishments with full credit to Jody Abraham.

On this day in 2000, Hedy Lamarr passes away. She…

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Stowing Away with the Vikings–learn history from a graphic novel

Stowing Away with the Vikings

written by Linda Bailey

illustrated by Bill Slavin

Stowing Away with the VikingsAuthor Linda Bailey takes us back in time to the Age of the Vikings in her graphic novel Stowing Away with the Vikings. The Binkerton children have been avoiding the Good Times Travel Agency ever since their surprise trip to Ancient Egypt, but a hailstorm leads young Libby to shelter near the shop door, owner Julian T. Pettigrew offers a guidebook to the Vikings, and the rest, as they say, is history. Stowing Away with the Vikings is a delightful way to learn things about the Vikings that Hollywood will never tell you. Part fiction (the Binkerton storyline) and part nonfiction (clearly delineated explanations accompanying the storyline), this graphic novel is all fun and fascination. Bill Slavin’s pictures in comic style are perfect for entertaining, moving the story along, and illustrating the facts.

This book will delight children as they immerse themselves in history. Just as children reread comic books until the covers fall off, kids will want to reread this book absorbing the information about a culture that no longer exists but has affected our own. Although the author honestly discusses the violence of the Viking way of life, there is no depiction of murder. The Binkerton storyline contains a lot of humor that children and adults will appreciate. I learned a lot from this graphic novel and had a great time reading it. I recommend it for homes, classrooms, and libraries. 

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kids Can Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction, Comic & Graphic Novel

Notes: Grade level—3-7

  Age Range—8-12 years

The Time Travel Guides as a series is being republished by a new publisher. Upcoming books to be released are: On the Run in Ancient China and Game on in Ancient Greece

Publication:   October 2, 2018—Kids Can Press

Memorable Lines:

Does it seem a bit smoky in here? Hazy? Dark? Look around. There are no windows—just a hole in the thatched roof to let out the smoke. The only light comes from oil lamps. P.S. I hope you like fishy smells. The oil in those lamps comes from fish or whales.

Viking laws aren’t written down, so somebody has to remember them. That’s why they have the law-speaker, a man who memorizes all the laws and shouts them out loud for everyone to hear.

The word  “berserk” means bearskin. Berserkers are the most feared of all Viking warriors. Before going into battle, they get into a fighting rage. They howl like wolves. They leap like dogs. They grind their teeth and bite the edges of their shields…Have you ever heard the expression “going berserk”? Where do you think it came from?

The Escape Artists: A Band of Daredevil Pilots and the Greatest Prison Break of the Great War

The Escape Artists

by Neal Bascomb

The Escape ArtistsWar is such a horrible thing—vicious, destructive, and despicable. It brings out the worst and the best in man. We see both in Neal Bascomb’s true recounting of the largest escape of WWI by the British at one time—twenty-nine officers of whom ten actually made it out of Germany to Holland without being recaptured.

Bascomb’s well-researched tale The Escape Artists is divided into four major sections. In the first, “Capture,” he provides a glimpse into the personalities and lives of some of the major players in the escape, their role in the military, and the circumstances of their capture. 

The second section, “All Roads Lead to Hellminden,” describes a number of interment camps but focuses especially on notorious twin commandants, Karl and Heinrich Niemeyer. Both prisoners and commandants could be transferred at whim in Germany and being transferred could be positive or negative for a prisoner. This section details life in the camp and shows a better situation for officers than that experienced by enlisted soldiers who were put in labor camps. Officers, instilled with the patriotic drive to do whatever they could to hinder the enemy and return home to fight again, spent a lot of their energy devising and executing escape plans. If their attempts were unsuccessful or they were recaptured, the punishment was generally a long and uncomfortable time in a small isolation cell—dark, very hot or very cold, dirty, overrun with vermin, and little food. This trial on the body, mind, and spirit might last several days, weeks or months. Nevertheless, instead of deterring escape attempts, it prodded the officers into yet more clever tries.

“The Tunnel” describes the huge group effort spearheaded by an officer named Gray to construct a very long tunnel and plan how to proceed once outside the walls of Holzminden. All of the background material in the first two sections was essential, but at this point the story really takes off and you will want to keep reading until finished. The last section. “Breakout,” shares the actual escape attempt.

To write this book, Bascomb read a lot of books on the escape and the interment camps, interviewed descendants of the officers, and relied greatly on primary documents including memoirs and letters from the time. His narrative style is effective and the subject matter is interesting. Having read several books on labor and death camps, it was interesting to read about the British officers, drawn from all over the globe. Many of them were young pilots from exclusive schools and families. They had little training, but were very patriotic and had a honed sense of duty and honor. One surprising detail for me was that the imprisoned officers were able to write to their families and receive packages and money from them. Not everything went smoothly in that process, but they were better off than those in labor camps. They even had orderlies from the enlisted ranks of prisoners to make their beds, etc. This was not a luxury situation by any means, and the men were quite bored and frustrated whiling away time when they felt they should be fighting. 

Neal Bascomb is a former journalist who turned to writing nonfiction books  full-time in 2000. He is the award winning author of nine books for adults and three for young adults.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: History

Publication:   September 18, 2018—Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Memorable Lines:

The greatest resistance of all would be to escape. 

None of the diplomats gathered in The Hague in 1899 or 1907 could have anticipated the vast populations of prisoners that would come out of industrialized total war—nor the challenges this would involve. In the first six months of World War I, 1.3 million soldiers became POWs across Europe.

The arrival in December of Harold Medlicott had bolstered the mood throughout the camp. The officers believed that if anybody could escape Holzminden and humiliate Karl Niemeyer, it was Medlicott. A legend even to the German guards, he had broken out of nine camps already, never using the same method twice.

Harvey might not get another chance to escape, but in aiding Cartwright, as in countless other efforts to help his fellow prisoners, he found freedom within. In his own way, he was a breakout artist.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

by Laura Hillenbrand

UnbrokenHow much can the human body, the human spirit, endure? Unbroken is the story of Olympic track contender Louie Zamperini as he is tested past the limits of endurance during World War II.  His running career is cut short as he becomes a bombardier. The characteristics that made him a difficult child, always testing the limits, become the foundation of an unrelenting resilience in the face of life challenging circumstances. He endured horrors, but he was miraculously saved from death several times. Did God have a plan for Louie’s life? Could he be saved from his own destructive behaviors and the hatred dwelling in his heart?

Unbroken is a biography and so much more. It reads like a fascinating work of fiction. In fact, if more nonfiction maintained the interest level of Unbroken, there would be a lot more readers of nonfiction. This book is engaging and fast paced. Unbroken was thoroughly researched over seven years using archives and many interviews including seventy-five interviews with Louie himself. Very importantly, author Laura Hillenbrand found few discrepancies among the various reports. 

I read and review a lot of books. I mentally gauge my review comparing each book within its genre. A five star cozy mystery is not compared to a five star book of poetry, for example. I must state, however, that Unbroken rises above a star rating system. Although emotionally difficult in places, it is a book that everyone should read.

Rating: 5/5

Category: History, Biography

Notes: Thanks to my brother Don Lyons who insisted I borrow his copy of Unbroken. It was every bit as powerful as you said it would be!

Publication:   November 16, 2010—Random House

Memorable Lines:

In a childhood of artful dodging, Louie made more than just mischief. He shaped who he would be in manhood. Confident that he was clever, resourceful, and bold enough to escape any predicament, he was almost incapable of discouragement. When history carried him into war, this resilient optimism would define him.

“The other pilots act as though nothing has happened and speak of sending the other fellow’s clothes home as though it were an everyday occurrence. That’s the way it has to be played because that’s the way it is—it’s an everyday occurrence!”

This self-respect and sense of self-worth, the innermost armament of the soul, lies at the heart of humanness; to be deprived of it is to be dehumanized, to be cleaved from, and cast below, mankind…Without dignity, identity is erased. In its absence, men are defined not by themselves, but by their captors and the circumstances in which they are forced to live.

Conan Doyle for the Defence–real life detection

Conan Doyle for the Defence

by Margalit Fox

Conan Doyle for the DefenceAs a lover of mysteries, I enjoyed reading Conan Doyle for the Defense. Be forewarned, however, that this book is not light reading. It is the recounting of Arthur Conan Doyle’s application of Holmesian deductive skills to the real case of Oscar Slater, wrongfully found guilty of the murder of an elderly lady.

In the process of relating the details of the case, the author Margalit Fox puts the events in context. She discusses the Victorian era and the development of crime fiction, including, of course, the Sherlock Holmes mystery series. She also addresses the life and character of Arthur Conan Doyle as well as Scottish politics, police, and the penal system. Fox presents an in-depth discussion of the different types of reasoning that might be used in trying to solve crimes.

If you are looking for a beach read, Conan Doyle for the Defence is not it. If you are interested in learning more about true crime detection, and how its principles apply to fiction, then this is the right book for you.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Profile Books/Serpent’s Tail for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: History, True Crime

Notes:  Includes a complete list of references, footnotes, and bibliography to support the information contained in the book.

Publication:   June 28, 2018—Profile Books/Serpent’s Tail

Memorable Lines:

First joining the case in 1912, he turned his formidable powers to the effort to free him, dissecting the conduct of police and prosecution with Holmesian acumen. But despite his influence and energy, Conan Doyle discovered, he wrote, that “I was up against a ring of political lawyers who could not give away the police without also giving away themselves.”

Holmes quickly became a global sensation, not only for his investigative prowess, unimpeachable morals and ultrarational cast of mind, but also for his exquisite embodiment of an age of Victorian gentility, and Victorian certainties, that was already imperiled.

Detection, at bottom, is a diagnostic enterprise, and the late 19th century was where the shared diagnostic concerns of medicine, criminalistics and literary detection first truly converged in public life.

Hot on the Trail in Ancient Egypt–young time travelers

Hot on the Trail in Ancient Egypt

written by Linda Bailey

illustrations by Bill Slavin

Hot on the Trail in Ancient EgyptHot on the Trail in Ancient Egypt is a juvenile graphic novel that kept this adult interested from beginning to end.  In this book, which is part of The Time Travel Guides, the bored Pinkerton twins chase after their little sister Libby who has entered the rather creepy Good Times Travel Agency. Opening the owner’s personal guide book catapults the three children into Ancient Egypt. They learn that their adventure will not end until they finish reading the book.

The layout of the book is very appealing. The fictional story is told in comic book style at the top of the page. At the bottom of the page is a drawing of an aged book (Julian T. Pettigrew’s Personal Guide to Ancient Egypt) containing nonfiction text that explains and elaborates upon what is happening in the story. For example, when an Egyptian woman invites them into her home, the nonfiction text describes the house, food, and clothing of Ancient Egypt.

I can’t stress enough the current importance of books like this to interest children in history for three reasons. First, most people are familiar with the saying attributed to George Santayana that “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” There are many horrific events in history most can agree should never be repeated. Second, sadly to say, most children are not exposed to history in their younger years in school. The school day and curriculum in public elementary school is so regimented that the focus is reading, taught in a boring and uninspired way, math, and standardized testing. I am not kidding or exaggerating when I say that as a teacher I had to sneak in science and history and hope the principal didn’t catch me. Third, history is interesting and FUN. in an age when teachers do their best to incorporate games and movement activities called “brain breaks” (to replace the recess that was taken away), we need to restore the intrinsic fun that comes through learning interesting things. In that way we create life long learners.

In addition, a book of this type actively demonstrates reasons for reading—to learn more about something you are interested in and to be carried away by a story. I particularly appreciate that Bailey gave a belated shout out to her high school history teacher: “Great work, Mr. Visch—you made it fun!” She dedicated the book to her daughter who “once did a school project on the Sphinx and has been in love with all things Egyptian ever since.” Teachers and projects do make a difference.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kids Can Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Nonfiction

Notes: 1. new edition of an older book

  2. Grade Level: 3-7

  3. Age Range: 8-12 years

Publication:   May 1, 2018—Kids Can Press

Memorable Lines:

For drinks, try the national beverage—beer! It’s made from half-cooked bread and river water, and it’s thick, dark and sometimes a bit lumpy. You’re supposed to strain it well before serving, but not everyone does.

Down at the bottom are the farmers and laborers. Most people in ancient Egypt are at the bottom of the society—where there’s plenty of room!

Sightseeing in the middle of a getaway? This was a very bad idea. Emma and Josh tried to lure their little sister out of the pyramid.

Putting It Together Again When It’s All Fallen Apart–rebuilding

Putting It Together Again When It’s All Fallen Apart

by Tom Holladay

Putting It Together Again When It's all Fallen ApartWe all have times when we need to rebuild, whether it is a “church, a business, a relationship, or a purpose in your life” says Tom Holladay. He is the senior teaching pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, and he uses the book of Nehemiah in the Bible as his foundation for teachings about “putting it together again when it’s all fallen apart.”

Do you, like me, need a reminder, a prod—who was Nehemiah anyway? Holladay says “Nehemiah was a government leader who rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem after it had fallen into ruin.” Actually, in the book I learned that Nehemiah also went on to reestablish the city, resettle its inhabitants, establish rules for commerce that aligned with God’s laws, and give thanks to God for completing the project which naysayers said couldn’t be done.

Holladay takes a book of the Old Testament that could be boring and makes it come alive. He analyzes the text well and applies it in a very practical way to a variety of situations from personal to business. He gives examples of how real people have used these principles successfully in their lives. I especially like that this is not a verse by verse study of Nehemiah; Holladay explains how Nehemiah worked through the problems of his building project and how we can apply the same Scriptures in our own lives.

I highly recommend this book for its interesting content and writing style and for its Scriptural insights and integrity. There are so many possible applications that I think every reader will come away enlightened and blessed in their daily walk with God.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Zondervan for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian

Notes: This book ends with a Small Group Study Guide and references 10 minute videos available on YouTube to accompany each chapter.

Publication:  February 6, 2018–Zondervan

Memorable Lines: (Just way too many—a sign of a book with a lot of wisdom—so I’ll just pull out a few of the first ones I highlighted.)

Gossipers love to destroy what others are building. It gives them a twisted sense of power.

Victory comes from your relationship with God. Nehemiah exemplifies dependence on God at every point in the battle: he talks to God in prayer, follows God in the changes, listens to God in his encouragement, and lives by means of God’s priorities through God’s Word.

Rebuilders must have thick skin because they’re going to face attack. That attack may come from an individual, but it can also come from within. One of the names for Satan in the Bible is “the accuser” (Revelation 12:10). He loves to ridicule your faith. So he’ll send a thought when you want to renew your faith, a relationship, a ministry, or a dream.

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