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Veterans Day: Honoring the US Colored Troops & the Tuskegee Airmen

9 Nov

Pictured clockwise from top left: Isaac Copper, USCT; book cover of You Can Fly; illustration of U.S. Colored Troops by Jeffery Weatherford. 

My great-great grandfather Isaac Copper was born into slavery at Wye House, Maryland’s largest slave-holding plantation–once home to Frederick Douglass. As a young man, he was sold by his master to Union Troops and enlisted in the U.S. Colored Troops 7th Infantry Regiment. He fought in the Siege of Petersburg and marched on Appomattox Courthouse, where Lee surrendered. Isaac went on to co-found the village of  Unionville on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

My father fought in the Pacific theater during World War II. He didn’t talk much about his military service or the war. But I thought of him when I wrote the verse novel YOU CAN FLY: THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN, which my son Jeffery Weatherford illustrated.

On Veterans’ Day, I salute my own ancestors and all veteran who fought for freedom and democracy.

Harriet, a film on the power of faith

5 Nov

As I watched the movie, HARRIET, I felt as if my book MOSES, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, were coming to life. However, to say that the movie, or my book, was faithful to her biography would be false. Masterfully executed, the film included composite and archetypal characters, as well as dramatic episodes which were not in the 1848 narrative that Harriet dictated to Sarah Bradford. Yet, the movie was true to Harriet’s faith journey. The spirits of Harriet, of William Still and of her enslaved kin and bands of runaways were conveyed with deserved magnitude. Harriet’s courageous exploits–on the Underground Railroad and as a Civil War spy–are legendary. Though barely five feet tall, the real-life Mother Tubman was larger than any myth, any movie, or for that matter, any piece of money that may bear her portrait. May her miracles continue to inspire.

Hyped for HARRIET biopic! Opens Nov. 1

27 Oct

Harriet movie book tie in (2)

Harriet Tubman has been a hero of mine since I first heard her name while a student at Edgewood Elementary in Baltimore’s Walbrook Junction. I loved her even before I knew she hailed from Dorchester County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore–just like my grandfather. So you can imagine, I’m excited about the HARRIET movie–especially since I collaborated with Kadir Nelson to tell her story in MOSES: When Harriet Tubman Led her People to Freedom.

MOSES and other children’s books can introduce young people to Mother Tubman before they see the movie. Two that most inspire me are Minty by Alan Schroeder and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney and Before She Was Harriet  a collaboration between my friends Lesa Cline Ransome and James Ransome. Harriet’s story never gets old. It’s powerful every single telling. She was that FIERCE!

 

BOO!

21 Oct
Bat Cave.jpg  LibraryGhostCover.jpg
For Halloween, hang out with A BAT CAVE: An Abecedarian Bedtime Chronicle, a 41-word story exploring bat habitats and behavior and ending with bat trivia.View the book trailer. Check out the study guide and lesson ideas.
Read aloud THE LIBRARY GHOST, a rhyming fantasy with cameos by classic storybook characters. The riddle behind the plot centers on this Emily Dickinson poem. Send your young ghost-hunters on a Web quest for haunted libraries. Some have webcams for “live” sightings.
For a Halloween unit on picture book biographies, have students dress as the books’ subjects. Is there a Matthew Henson, Jesse Owens, Martin Luther King, Jr., Arturo Schomburg, Harriet Tubman, Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lange, John ColtraneLeontyne Price. Fannie Lou Hamer or Lena Horne in your school?
WDUS4.jpg
In the spirit of masquerade, guess who.

Hurricane season ends soon.

16 Oct
Two of my books document hurricanes that slammed North Carolina’s coast–known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” The true adventure, SINK OR SWIM: African-American Lifesavers of the Outer Banks, centers on the nation’s only all-black lifesaving crew. During an 1896 hurricane, the crew swam through raging seas to rescue shipwreck survivors. The book’s back matter includes hurricane lore and a reading guide. See the free guide here.  
Sink-or-SwimCover (2).jpg  New Princeville Cover.jpg
PRINCEVILLE: The 500-Year Flood is historical fiction set in 1999. After hurricane Floyd flooded eastern North Carolina, residents of Princeville, the nation’s first incorporated black town, were left homeless. They had to decide whether to abandon their roots or to return and rebuild. What choice would your students have made? The paperback edition for early readers includes photos of recovery and relief efforts. View the author interview here. So far this year, the Atlantic has had 13 named storms. The last name on the 2019 list is “Wendy.” No pun intended.

Of Hurricanes, Heritage & Heroes

8 Oct
Sink-or-SwimCover (2).jpg  New Princeville Cover.jpg
These two books document hurricanes that slammed North Carolina’s coast–the so-called “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” Both books are available in new paperback editions chock full of primary sources.
The true adventure, SINK OR SWIM: African-American Lifesavers of the Outer Banks, centers on the nation’s only all-black lifesaving crew. During an 1896 hurricane, the crew swam through raging seas to rescue shipwreck survivors. The book’s back matter includes hurricane lore and a reading guide. The guide is also online.  
PRINCEVILLE: The 500-Year Flood is historical fiction set in 1999. After hurricane Floyd flooded eastern North Carolina, residents of Princeville, the nation’s first incorporated black town, were left homeless. They had to decide whether to abandon their roots or to return and rebuild. What choice would your students have made? The paperback edition for early readers includes photos of recovery and relief efforts. View the author interview here. So far this year, the Atlantic has had 12 named storms. The last name on the 2019 list is “Wendy.” No pun intended.

Batty for Halloween & Biographies

8 Oct
Bat Cave.jpg  LibraryGhostCover.jpg
For Halloween (and Bat Month), hang out with A BAT CAVE: An Abecedarian Bedtime Chronicle, a 41-word story exploring bat habitats and behavior and ending with bat trivia. What’s “abecedarian”? you ask. It means the text is in alphabetical order (save articles and prepositions).View the book trailer. Check out the study guide and lesson ideas.
Read aloud THE LIBRARY GHOST, a rhyming fantasy with cameos by classic storybook characters. The riddle-driven plot centers on this Emily Dickinson poem. Send your young ghost-hunters on a Web quest for haunted libraries. Some have webcams for “live” sightings. This book is out of print but you can still find used copies.
For a Halloween unit on picture book biographies, have students dress as the books’ subjects. Is there a Matthew Henson, Jesse Owens, Martin Luther King, Jr., Arturo Schomburg, Harriet Tubman, Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lange, John ColtraneLeontyne Price. Fannie Lou Hamer or Lena Horne in your school?
WDUS4.jpg
  In the spirit of masquerade, guess who.