Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Celebrate Passover

This year Passover begins at sunset on March 29th and ends at nightfall on April 5, 2010. Passover is the Jewish holiday commemorating the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt. Passover, in Hebrew "Pesah" meaning passing over, is derived from instructions given to Moses by God, "And the blood (when placed on the door post) shall be for you for a sign on the houses where you are, and I shall see the blood and I shall pass over you, and there shall not be among you a plague to destroy." (Ex: 12:13) The story of the Exodus can be found in the second book of the Bible.

Traditionally, families' gather on the first night of Passover for the seder, a special dinner where the story of the Exodus is told from the haggadah. There are many detailed and elaborate instructions for the seder and other Passover celebrations. They also vary depending upon country and denomination.

For reviews on books about Passover:

And for more information on Passover visit:

Emily Griffin

Thursday, March 18, 2010

10 Things to Remember about Death in YA Fiction by Steve Watkins

Steve Watkins is a professor of English at the University of Mary Washington. His novel Down Sand Mountain was awarded the 2008 Golden Kite Award for Young Adult Fiction by The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Recently, Steve presented writing tips to a captive audience at the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI Fall Conference.

10 Things to Remember about Death in YA Fiction:

1. There’s no life without death.

2. Kill early, not often.

3. The only good surprise is an inevitable surprise. Foreshadow your late deaths.

4. If you have to kill late, don’t do it in the last chapter.

5. Killing off bad guys isn’t killing—it’s poetic justice.

6. Most deaths are better heard than seen.

7. If you kill a dog, replace it with a puppy.

8. The dead have warts too, you know.

9. Cute grief is no grief at all.

10. The dead are never really dead.

To learn more about Steve please visit http://watkins.elsweb.org/, and look for his new book from Candlewick Press out this spring, Goat Girl.

Monday, March 8, 2010

In Honor of Women's History Month

Sandra Day O'Connor was the first woman appointed to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States. Although she spent her early childhood in Southeastern Arizona, O'Connor was born in El Paso, Texas. Her parents sent her to her grandmother, Mamie Scott Wilkey, when it was time for her to go to school. Wilkey greatly influenced her as she developed through her school age years.

Having graduated, with honors, from Stanford University with a degree in economics; O'Connor stayed at Stanford for her law degree. She served as editor for the Stanford Law Review and met her husband, John O'Connor while at Stanford.

Because of the thinking of the times, it was hard for women to find work in the law field. Eventually the couple moved to north Phoenix and had three sons. Three years after the birth of their third son, O'Connor began to work in the Arizona attorney general's office. By 1969, she had been appointed to the state Senate and later was re-elected and served as the first woman to serve as a state Senate's majority leader (1973). Governor Bruce Babbitt appointed Sandra Day O'Connor to the Court of Appeals in 1979. Prior to this she had been elected a trial judge in 1974 (Maricopa County) and served in that position for 5 years.

It was in 1981 that President Reagan appointed Sandra Day O'Connor to fill the seat on the Supreme Court that had been vacated by Associate Justice Potter Stewart upon his retirement. As a relative unknown, she kept her thoughts about how she would vote on several issues of interest at the time to herself, especially with regard to Row Vs Wade. Despite the reservations of the conservatives, she was confirmed by the Judiciary Committee and the U. S. Senate.

Justice O'Connor's term in the Supreme Court included a wide range of cases; but the ones involving gender discrimination and, (in 1989, in Webster vs Reproductive Health Services) an abortion rights' issue garnered the most attention to her judgeship. Her deciding vote upheld states' rights to make specific abortion decisions.

She had a reputation for lacking a sense of humor, but was regarded as a most powerful voice on compromise. Her influence was recognized nationally as she proceeded in her tough, conservative efforts to a achieve majority votes on cases. Her tough conservatism was somewhat mitigated in cases concerning women and children.

Sandra Day O'Connor announced in July of 2005 that she would retire from the Supreme Court as soon as a replacement was appointed. "Justice Samuel Alito succeeded her on January 31, 2006. In 2006 Arizona State University in Tempe honored Justice O'Connor by renaming their law school the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. John O'Connor, her husband, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in 1990, and resides in an assisted living facility in Phoenix."

Other fine sources of information on Sandra Day O'Connor: http://www.oyez.org/justices/sandra_day_oconnor/

For reviews on books by and about Sandra Day O'Connor: http://www.childrenslit.com/childrenslit/mai_oconnor_sandra_day.html

Sheilah Egan

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Was It Really UNITE OR DIE in 1787? by Jacqueline Jules

“If we can’t agree on anything, how can we stay one country?”
“But we could have even bigger problems, if we break apart.”
--from Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation

In 1787, during a blistering hot Philadelphia summer, fifty-five delegates met behind locked doors at Independence Hall to confront a startling problem: America did not have a functioning national government. The thirteen states behaved like squabbling siblings. They fought over river rights and land boundaries. They didn’t honor each other’s money. When Massachusetts was faced with a rebellion, her sister states said, “Sorry! You’re on your own!”
Under the Articles of Confederation, most people considered themselves citizens of a particular state, not the United States of America. No one was in charge. The fledgling nation was like a blind octopus with thirteen arms.

A new government was essential for the United States to have a future. However, during the Constitutional Convention, the states were at a bitter impasse over the issue of representation in Congress. Benjamin Franklin called for prayer, and George Washington looked haggard, as if he were reliving the terrible days at Valley Forge. Delegates feared that if the Constitutional Convention collapsed, the country would, too. The United States came dangerously close to becoming an historical footnote rather than the powerful country it is today.

Such a dramatic time in our country’s history is perfect material for Reader’s Theater. In 2005, when I was working as a library media specialist, I wrote a four minute play for my students to present in celebration of Constitution Day. It focused on the problems between the states and the Connecticut Compromise, which convinced the delegates they could agree on a national government after all. My students had such a great time rehearsing and performing this skit, I decided to expand the material into a book.

The result was Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation, featuring exuberant young actors from the imaginary school of Forest Lake Elementary, dramatizing the conflicts and compromises of the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Illustrated by Nickelodeon Magazine comic strip artist, Jef Czekaj, the book presents students on stage, dressed as the thirteen original states, delivering their lines in speech bubbles.

A Reader’s Theater is available for students and teachers at the Charlesbridge website at http://www.charlesbridge.com/client/client_pdfs/downloadables/UniteorDie_ReadersTheater.pdf

And for a taste of the show, please visit youtube.com at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5oQ6NTjF_M&fmt=18

In addition to Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation, Jacqueline Jules is the author of fifteen children’s books including No English, Duck for Turkey Day, The Princess and the Ziz, Sarah Laughs, and the forthcoming Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off. For more information, please visit http://www.jacquelinejules.com/