Monday, November 30, 2009

Pride and a Little Prejudice

A couple of years ago I took a break from writing nonfiction children's books and spent several months editing them instead. I had been hired to fill in for my own editor while she was on maternity leave. This temporary dream job gave me the opportunity to work with--and learn from--some wonderful authors, including fellow Inklings Sue Macy, Deborah Heiligman, and Roz Schanzer.

I've recently received copies of two of the books I worked on during that time, and I'm almost as proud of them as if I had written them myself. I can't resist showing them off. The Erie Canal by Martha E. Kendall (National Geographic, 2008) tells the fascinating story of one of America's greatest feats of technology. Two hundred years ago, many people--including Thomas Jefferson--thought it was impossible to build a canal across mountains and through wilderness. But as Kendall writes, "DeWitt Clinton, governor of New York State,
proved them wrong. In 1825, he celebrated the completion of the Eighth Wonder of the World. It was called the Erie Canal, and it changed America forever. This manmade waterway, 363 miles long...made travel easier, cheaper, and faster than ever before between the American East and West. It is hard for us to imagine that transportation on the canal at four miles per hour could be considered 'high speed,' but in the 1820s, that pace seemed very fast indeed. Two hundred years ago, the canal...was a miracle of technology."

**Shameless bragging alert--feel free to skip to the next paragraph.** For those of you still with me, I'm delighted to report that The Erie Canal was one of two National Geographic titles among the four 2009 Jefferson Cup Award Honors bestowed by the Virginia Library Association. The other was my own Helen's Eyes: A Photobiography of Annie Sullivan.

The second book I'm excited about sharing is Margaret Whitman Blair's Liberty or Death: The Surprising Story of Runaway Slaves Who Sided with the British During the American Revolution. Scheduled for release in January 2010, Liberty or Death is the little-known story of the American Revolution as told from the perspectives of the African-American slaves who fought on the side of the British Royal Army in exchange for a promise of freedom. Blair notes in her epilogue, "It is often said that history is written by the winners. Americans won their rebellion against British rule--and are proud of recalling the struggle to become an independent nation. But what of the thousands of people who were brutally dragged from their homes and families in Africa to America? To the slaves, the Patriots' cries to live free from British tyranny must have rung hollow indeed." When I worked on this book it was still in the manuscript stage and it fascinated me. Now that I see it all grown up into a beautifully illustrated book, I find the important story it tells even more compelling. Blair deserves to be proud of this one. I know that I am.


Shannon O'Donnell said...

Thanks for the reviews and congratulations on your Jefferson Cup Award! :)

Imagination said...

I really enjoyed your website! Your book reviews are wonderful reading. Have you heard of Danny the Dragon? It’s worth a review: Please let me know if you are interested in reviewing this nominee for Best Children’s Book of 2009! Thank you, Rosie

Anonymous said...

I am delighted that you wrote books on these two topics. I have been collecting resources on the under-represented participants in the American Revolution, and am glad to see more on this topic. As a Midwesterner, my knowledge of the Erie Canal is a little shaky, but I have come across references to it in other nonfiction and now will have a good first source.
I have a preference for nonfiction myself, and as a reading specialist I'm working to get more nonfiction into the classrooms. I.N.K. is a Godsend, and I appreciate the opportunity to connect directly with authors. Don't ever apologize for blowing your own horn--you are doing a great service. I hope school librarians are following this blog.