As school starts up again across the country, kids and their parents are emptying backpacks of forms to fill out, new textbooks and papers that contain some variation of this sentence: “Students are expected to read for 20 (or 30 or 40) minutes every night.”
The Last Line: “Or maybe it was just a trick of the light.” My Rating: 4.7/5 Recommended For: People ages 11+, Retail Price: US $22 A Good Quote: “The corners of her mouth turned down just a bit. “Someone must have seen. Now I’m going to kill you.”
SS Taylor’s The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon is a fantastic YA novel that manages to hearken back to the golden age of kid-detective novels while still telling a thoroughly contemporary story.
Video on Today: Middle school teacher Jessica Lahey and psychologist Jennifer Hartstein discuss the “summer slide”: kids losing months of learning over the summer. They share tips and book suggestions to get your kids reading this summer so they’ll do better when they return to school.
“In this series kickoff, Taylor (Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean) introduces a fascinating world where history took a different turn. The invention of computers in 1880—and their failure a century later—has led to the discovery of strange lands not on any map as well as the rise of steampunk technology in place of gasoline and electricity. Siblings Zander, Kit, and M.K.—14, 13, and 10, respectively—are forced to go on the run after they discover a map created by their deceased father, a renowned explorer, which points the way to a massive hidden treasure, one coveted by the corrupt Bureau of Newly Discovered Lands. As their journey takes them into the depths of a long-hidden region, they encounter all manner of dangers. The author’s evident love of maps and exploration strengthens this Indiana Jones–style adventure, which is filled with nifty gadgets, moments of moderate terror, and high stakes. The retro-futuristic technology, never-before-seen sights, and danger provide plenty of fodder for Roy’s playful illustrations, which have an adventurous, Jonny Quest flair. Ages 10–up. Agent: Esmond Harmsworth, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency. (Dec.)”
I’m getting ready to head up to Montpelier to teach a workshop at the Young Writers Project Celebration of Writing Day at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. The Young Writers Project is a great organization that gets kids across Vermont and New Hampshire writing and sharing their work. I’m very honored to be a part of the celebration of YWP’s new anthology (with a preface by Katherine Paterson!)
"Still only half awake, I stared before me with bleary, sleep-laden eyes. And in the shallow water, not more than thirty yards from shore I saw an enormous pale pink shell. Dome-shaped, it towered up in a graceful rainbow curve to a tremendous height; and round its base the surf broke gently in little waves of white. It could have belonged to the wildest dream.
“‘What in the world is it?’” I asked.
“‘That,’” whispered Polynesia, “‘is what sailors for hundreds of years have called the Sea-serpent. I’ve seen it myself more than once from the decks of ships, at long range, curving in and out of the water. But now that I see it close and still, I very strongly suspect that the Sea-serpent of history is no other than the Great Glass Sea-snail that the fidgit told us of …’”
I’ve been obsessed with Virginia Dare and the “lost” colony of Roanoke ever since I saw a documentary about the mystery that my father, a history teacher, was screening for one of his classes. I must have been about 10 and the final, speculative image of the young Virginia (the first English baby born in the New World) sitting in a boat and then disappearing in a haze of public television fade-out editing haunted me for years. The colony, on Roanoke Island in what is now North Carolina, was settled by a small group of men, women and children in 1587, after two previous settlements on the site failed. John White, grandfather of Virginia Dare, and one of the original settlers, sailed to England to obtain provisions but couldn’t return for three years due to war with Spain. When he made his way back across the Atlantic, three years later, he discovered the colony abandoned and all of the settlers gone. The word “Croatoan,” scratched on to a tree, was the only clue as to what had happened to the colony. The Croatoans were a local Indian tribe and White (and, later, historians) speculated that they had either raided the island or helped the settlers move to a different location. But no evidence has ever been found.
Until now? An old map, reexamined, may tell us what happened to Virginia Dare and the Roanoke colony. Researchers have discovered a patch on a map created by Sir Walter Raleigh’s Roanoke Colony expeditions. No one had ever thought to look under the patch, but when they did, they found a symbol of a fort that may indicate where the Roanoke settlers moved after leaving the island …