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Changing Science Fiction Forever

All-Story Magazineby Vicki Palmquist

In its October 1912 issue, All-Story Magazine published a short story by Edgar Rice Burroughs called “Tarzan of the Apes.” Do you remember the plot? John Clayton is born to parents who are marooned on the west coast of Africa. His parents, Lord and Lady Greystoke, die on his first birthday. John is adopted by Kala, an ape, who mothers him as one of her own. He is that child who is unaware he is human. He goes on to be a man more comfortable in the jungle than he is among the gentry, his birthright. He grows up and marries Jane Porter but he returns to his loincloth-and-knife existence as often as he can.

For many years, Tarzan of the Apes with its nearly flawless male hero was one of the books constantly named as a favorite among teen readers. Reading the book, one could imagine oneself living outside of society and any imposed restrictions and expectations. The jungle seemed like a hospitable place which, although very dangerous, offered opportunities to prove the mettle of your existence.

These books can be viewed through a nostalgic, historical lens as being written at a time when Burroughs, proud of his Anglo-Saxon heritage, wrote with the colonial viewpoint of white English supremacy. Today’s readers will find his attitude dated, if not repugnant, and yet the Tarzan books are a part of our growing-up as readers and their influence on an entire genre of fiction continues to be acknowledged.


Dr. Jane GoodallTarzan of the Apes does, indeed, have a tie-in with our Bookstorm™ this month, Untamed: the Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey (National Geographic).

In a 2012 interview on Big Issue, Dr. Goodall wrote: “I read the Tarzan books and of course I fell completely in love with Tarzan. I felt he’d married the wrong Jane—it should have been me. I was very jealous of Jane. My mum saved up to take me to see a Tarzan film at the cinema but a few minutes in I got very upset and had to be taken out. I said: ‘That wasn’t Tarzan.’ Johnny Weissmuller was not how I imagined Tarzan at all. And to this day I’ve never ever watched another Tarzan film.” (Photo: Dr. Jane Goodall, taken by jeekc in 2007, Creative Commons license.)


Music of the DolphinsIn literature and in science, children who are lost or abandoned in the wild are called “feral children.” There are a number of stories and books, offering evidence of our fascination with this concept.

Gilgamesh, Romulus and Remus, and Pecos Bill are classically represented as children raised by animals.

You may have read the following books or you’re adding them to your TBR pile now.

  • Mila in Music of the Dolphins by Karen Hesse
  • Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
  • Mowgli in The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
  • The Blue Lagoon by Scott O’Dell
  • Valentine Michael Smith in Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land was raised by Martians. This is not precisely fitting with the definition of feral children but, having never met a Martian, I’m not sure.
  • Even Gilligan’s Island had an episode with a “jungle boy,” played by Kurt Russell

Here’s an article about “Feral Children: Mind Blowing Cases of Children Raised by Animals,” written by Mihai Andrei for ZME Science


Edgar Rice BurroughsMarried, with two children, Burroughs tried his hand at many endeavors and didn’t succeed at any of them. The pressures to provide a living for his family spurred him on to submit a story he wrote for publication.

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ first published story was “Under the Moons of Mars,” featuring John Carter, which appeared in All-Story Magazine in 1912. It earned him $400. He’s credited with “helping to lead pulps into their golden era of publishing.” 

He sold Tarzan of the Apes to the Prank A. Munsey company for $700, which is $17,164 in today’s money. He had a hard time finding a book publisher, but once A.C. McClurg and Company published Tarzan, it became a 1914 bestseller.

Edgar Rice  Burroughs himself wrote, “In all these years I have not learned one single rule for writing fiction. I still write as I did 30 years ago; stories which I feel would entertain me and give me mental relaxation, knowing that there are millions of people just like me who will like the same things I like. Anyway, I have great fun with my imaginings, and I can appreciate–in a small way–the swell time God had in creating the Universe.”

Here is Chapter One of John Taliaferro’s biography, Tarzan Forever, The Life of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Creator of Tarzan.


Facsimile Dust JacketDid you know that the town of Tarzana, California is located on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ former 550-acre ranch, which was named, not surprisingly, Tarzana Ranch?

Burroughs had another wildly successful book series beyond Tarzan, set at the Earth’s core! Known as Pellucidar, there are seven books, which also have a fervent following. In one of the books, Tarzan finds his way to Pellucidar, Tarzan at the Earth’s Core

The original dust jacket was hard to come by for collectors. In 2014, Phil Normand of recreated that original dust jacket and sold it to collectors for $50.

Are you a fan of the Tarzan books? Leave a comment to let us know why they appeal to you.


Picture Books and Dementia

by Jenny Barlow

We could reach her through nursery rhymes.

She regularly sat in the living room, wrapped in a blanket in her wheelchair. To people who don’t understand, she would seem withered, vacant, even loose in the joints, and maybe very shabby. But we stroked her palsied hands and gently called her name. On occasion, she’d open her eyes.

“Hickory dickory,” we’d start.

Often fast, like an auctioneer, she’d respond, “DOCK! The mouse ran up the clock, the sheep’s in the meadow the cow’s in the corn, hickory dickory dock!”

Ok, so she wasn’t perfect…but she deserved points for keeping within the nursery rhyme genre. Dementia visits people differently, but commonly the memories it spares are ones from childhood. Someone, likely this woman’s mother, 90 some years ago, before WWI, before women’s suffrage, before radio, took the time to sit with this now-wrinkled woman as a then-chubby-faced baby and sing her nursery rhymes.

Nearly a century later, we were blessed to enjoy the echoes of that love between parent and child.


Jenny in costume for an activity at work where she used the children’s book Rosie the Riveter by Penny Colman, and had a discussion about WWII,

We must not limit ourselves. People of all ages and situations love picture books for different reasons. Kunio Yanagida’s picture book was cited in The Journal of Intergenerational Relationships to express why this is true:

There is a Japanese saying that one should read a picture book at three different times through one’s life: at first, in childhood; second, during the period of rearing children, and third, in later life. Older people are thought to be particularly impressed and feel sympathy when reading picture books because of their rich life experiences.1

Viral videos show how people momentarily awaken hibernating personalities by hearing just the right song. They use the scaffolding of the music to sing words they can’t say on their own in a sentence, yet their expressions suggest they very much know the context. The same can be true with reading.

It is now universally accepted that music should be used daily to empower the lives of those with dementia. It is time for reading, independently or in a group, to become revered in a parallel light. Reflecting back on how the woman remembered nursery rhymes, the leap in logic with children’s stories becoming senior’s stories isn’t so outlandish.

The modern day world of children’s literature is vast, with classics like Peter Pan or The Velveteen Rabbit to sophisticated non-fiction about historical moments this older generation created. Well-written stories stay with us, change us into better human beings, and make our own hearts wiser. C.S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

The words on the page, the illustrations woven with the storyline, the length, the page turns, the weight of the book itself: all of these aspects support an intergenerational market. Precocious picture books work especially well as seniors, even those with advanced dementia, usually retain much of their vocabulary.  

The form and format of picture books are also effective for engaging these readers. Although we see older folks sitting with their cup of black coffee and morning paper, the font size of newsprint can be hard to decipher, the busyness of the ads mixed with blocks of different articles can be confusing, and, due to attention difficulties caused by disease and stress, the length of news stories, let alone novels, can be overwhelming. The design and length of picture books, on the other hand, welcomes these same readers.

The Alzheimer’s Association reports there are currently over five million people in the United States with this type of dementia, and that number may triple in the next 35 years.2 The percentage of the U.S. population made of children ages 12 and younger will dip in that same time period.3 The business of writing picture books and placing them with the perfect reader can, and should, grow up.  

There is a blue ocean of under-served and underestimated people, broken-in-body children-at-heart, who need us. Picture books can help families express love to those they thought they had lost. We already have the power, we just need the reframing mindset. It’s simple, really; we can even reach them through nursery rhymes.

Long live “children’s” literature.

Note from the Bookologist: Jenny suggests these picture books to begin with:

Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say

The Name Quilt by Phyllis Root, illus. by Margot Apple

The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L.Frank Baum by Kathleen Krull, illus. Kevin Hawkes

A Nation’s Hope: the Story of Boxing Legend Joe Lewis by Matt De La Pena, illus. Kadir Nelson

Up North at the Cabin by Marsha Wilson Chall, illus. Steve Johnson






I Would Like to Thank…

The annual meeting of the American Library Association begins this week. The winners of the various book awards are no doubt eyeing the festivities with some trepidation because they will be presenting speeches. This has been going on since the first Newbery Award was presented in 1922. Traditionally called “Acceptance Papers,” the speeches are the bull’s-eye of events that have over the years morphed from nice little white-glove luncheons into galas.

The Bookologist has been poring over the papers from the first 50+ years of the Newbery and Caldecott awards* and thought, in celebration of the speechifying that will soon be going on in San Francisco, to share some snippets from speeches past. Enjoy.



Mahoney, Bertha Miller, and Elinor Whitney Field, eds. Newbery Medal Books, 1922-1955, with Their Author’s Acceptance Papers & Related Material Chiefly from the Horn Book Magazine. Boston: Horn Book, 1955. Print.

Mahoney, Bertha Miller, and Elinor Whitney Field, eds. Caldecott medal books, 1938-1957, with the Artist’s Acceptance Papers & Related Material Chiefly from the Horn Book Magazine. Boston: Horn Book, 1957. Print.

Kingman, Lee, ed. Newbery and Caldecott medal books, 1956-1965: with acceptance papers, biographies, and related material chiefly from the Horn book magazine. Boston: Horn Book, 1965. Print.

Kingman, Lee, ed. Newbery and Caldecott medal books, 1966-1975: with acceptance papers, biographies, and related material chiefly from the Horn book magazine. Boston: Horn Book, 1975. Print.




A Few Favorite Fossils

by The Bookologist

Here at the magazine we’ve been looking at a lot of paleontology lately, and we thought we’d share a few of the downright gorgeous or just plain cool fossils that sneaked onto our computers as we prepared this month’s issue. After all, who’s not a pushover for a pretty rock?


Photo Credits
Ichthyosaur and Trilobite: Natural History Museum of Great Britain
Argentinian “Terror Bird”: M. Taglioretti and F. Scaglia.
Chinese Fuxianhuia protensa with brain: Xiaoya Ma
Australian stromatolite: Shanan Peters/University of Wisconsin-Madison
Canadian Arctic Fishapod: Ted Daeschler
Antarctic Sea Lillies: Shanan Peters/University of Wisconsin-Madison
South African hand bones: L.Berger – University of Witwatersrand
All other photos courtesy Wikimedia commons.


The Curious Child: writing and books

Catherine, Called Birdy

by Vicki Palmquist

After reading Catherine, Called Birdy, readers will wonder about Edward, Birdy’s brother, and the books he was scribing at the monastery. In what type of book did Birdy keep her journal? Who taught her to write? Did she write in the same fancy script that her brother did at the monastery?

Birdy gives the reader clues about her journal: “The skins are my father’s, left over from the household accounts, and the ink also. The writing I learned of my brother Edward, but the words are my own.”

The author, Karen Cushman, describes the scriptorium in the monastery for us, “Edward works in Paradise. Beyond the garden, near the chapel, is a room as large as our barn and near as cold. Shelves lining the wall hold books and scrolls, some chained down as if they were precious relics or wild beasts. In three rows sit fifteen desks, feebly lit by candles, and fifteen monks sit curled over them, their noses pressed almost to the desktops. Each monk holds in one hand his pen and in the other a sharp knife for scratching out mistakes. On the desks are pens and quills of all sizes, pots of ink black or colored, powder for drying, and knives for sharpening.”

Catherine, Called Birdy is set in 1290-91 AD, a time when writing methods and scripts were changing a great deal. Life was moving from the medieval period to the Renaissance, although no one alive then would have known that or given those names to their lives. In the Author’s Note, Ms. Cushman writes, “Most people did not know what century it was, much less what year.”

It’s hard for us to think of the effort it took to create one book, the hours and hours of painstaking drawing of letters, which not only had to be readable but had to satisfy the fashions of the day, the standards for art and beauty that defined penmanship in that era.

This was approximately 200 years before the first book would be mechanically printed in England.

In the year in which Catherine, Called Birdy is set, the fashionable calligrapher used the penstrokes of Textura Quadrata, so called because its rhythmic vertical strokes created a texture on the paper … and was very difficult to read. There are many modern samples of this style on The Pensive Pen, a blog about calligraphy by Jamin Brown.

gothic textura quadrata

“The Gothic manuscripts … used the same pen stroke for many letters, and thus a word like “minimum,” with its unrelieved parade of vertical strokes, was almost impossible to read.” The Smithsonian Book of Books by Michael Olmert, Smithsonian Books, 1992, pg 75.


Here is an excellent video of a scribe, with a quill pen, creating letters in the Textura Quadrata or Blackletter style. Here are more samples.

In the classroom, you might talk about the differences between the way we write today and the time and care it is taking for the scribe in the video to write the alphabet.

Enjoy this sample page of calligraphy from John Stevens Design, a master calligrapher whose documents are created for special occasions as works of art.

Today, we open up our word processing program and scroll through the choice of fonts, making selections based on our mood or the message we’re hoping to convey. We may choose Fritz Quadrata or Caslon or Brush Script, most likely being unaware of the deep history behind each of these fonts. Today, Gothic Textura Quadrata is a font one can purchase for $12 online. Compare this to the art and care and skill of the scribe creating a page (without benefit of spellcheck or the delete key) to satisfy a rich patron who wanted a book in their house and paid for it to be handwritten.

 “In the early middle ages literacy was viewed with some suspicion; actions definitely spoke louder than words, especially written words. These attitudes changed as the middle ages progressed; government became more dependent on records, and correspondingly the rest of society became increasingly aware that memories were not enough. It became important to have written proof of ownership or events. Latin was the language of government and official business, but by the fourteenth century an increasing amount of writing was being conducted in the vernacular.” A Medieval Book of Seasons, by Marie Collins and Virginia Davis, HarperCollins, 1992, pgs 25-26.

textura quadrata

“From about 1150, however, all this began to change. Professional secular scribes and illuminators started to take over the book business. There is tantalizing evidence from the mid-12th century of traveling craftsman who must have hired themselves out to those who wanted manuscripts made.” The Smithsonian Book of Books by Michael Olmert, Smithsonian Books, 1992, pg 10.

“If a copyist made a mistake he put a series of fine dots under the offending word and then continued with his text. This avoided the creation of a horrific black cross-out, which would spoil the normal density of the letters on the page. Mistakes commonly occurred when the scribe was interrupted and then cast his eye forward or backward to a word similar to the one he had just finished. Christopher de Hamel, an expert in medieval manuscripts, says this usually happened when the scribe lifted his pen from the page for more ink (scribes tried to do a single sentence with each refill.) The Smithsonian Book of Books by Michael Olmert, Smithsonian Books, 1992, pg 74.

 “Monastic scribes engaged in a variety of jobs. They prepared official documents, copied or recopied ancient or contemporary texts, produced missales for use in church or books of hours for rich patrons. Such lengthy, meticulous work was obviously a strain on the eyes, o it is not surprising that the first glasses were worn by monks. Manuscripts could be consulted in the library, but to prevent their being purloined by too individualistic monks they were sometimes changed to the shelves, as at Herford. This explains why in some monasteries copyists either worked in the library or in a scriptorium provided for compiling and copying texts.” Life in the Middle Ages, by Robert Delort, Edita Lausanne, 1972.

Movable type is credited to Bi Sheng, who lived in Bianilang during the Northern Song Dynasty. Somewhere between 1045 and 1058, he fashioned “3000 of the most common letters” out of clay, baked them in a kiln, and used them to print pages of type.

In 1234, Korean printers invented metal moveable type, which was more durable, and they printed the “oldest extant metal printed book” in 1377.” Be sure to take a look at the UNESCO Memory of the World for more details about this milestone that changed the world forever.

Here’s a fact that many of us learned in school: Johannes Gutenberg published the 42-line Christian Bible in 1455. His accomplishment was to invent a screw-type press that could use movable type to print pages quickly.

The first book to be printed in England was William Caxton’s edition of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur in 1484. Caxton published “about 100 books, a number of which will live forever. The Canterbury Tales (1476-1478) was nearly a century old when Caxton printed them (Chaucer died in 1300). He probably printed them not because they were “literature” but because they contained popular, appealing stories. Caxton was a businessman. Entertainment was more important to him than erudition.” The Smithsonian Book of Books by Michael Olmert, Smithsonian Books, 1992.

And what happened to those books? Did Birdy’s house have a shelf with books on it, script written by Edward? Here’s a public library 400 years later at Wimborne Minster in England.

“Situated within the Minster, this was one of Britain’s first public libraries, established in 1686 in the room previously the Treasury, which housed the wealth of the Minster until it was confiscated by Henry VIII.

“Among the earliest collections of the library, which we see here, were donated by Rev. William Stone on condition that the books were chained to the shelves—he wished that his items be available not only to the clergy but also to ‘the better class of person in Wimborne.’  He provided money for the chains and also stipulated that the existing works also be chained, lest they be pilfered by the less scrupulous. 

Wimborne Minster public library


“Stone’s collection is entirely ecclesiastical, but later collections have a variety of subjects, from architecture to wine pressing and even how to kill an elephant.

“These are Victorian chains but there are two originals remaining. Because the chains are attached to the edges of the book covers, rather than the spines which would become easily damaged, the books face inwards.” From Geograph: Wimborne Minster, Dorset, Great Britain.


Art of Calligraphy

Alphabet Gothique, Textura Quadrata. Gerard Caye. YouTube video.

Art of Calligraphy: a Practical Guide to the Skills and Techniques. David Harrison. DK Books, 1995.

Catherine, Called Birdy. Karen Cushman. Clarion Books, 1994.

China, “Bi Sheng.”

Friendly Korea, my friend’s country. “The Greatest Invention, Movable Metal Type Printing and Jikji.”

Geograph website.

Life in the Middle Ages. Robert Delort. Edita Lausanne, 1972.

Malory Project. Facsimile version of William Caxton’s 1485 edition of Le Morte d’Arthur.

Medieval Book of Seasons. Marie Collins and Virginia Davis. HarperCollins, 1992.

Memory of the World. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. 

Oregon State University Libraries, Special Collections & Archives Research Center. “Treasures from the McDonald Collection, the Incunable Era, the Gutenberg Press.” 

Pensive Pen, a blog about calligraphy. Jamin Brown.

Smithsonian Book of Books. Michael Olmert. Smithsonian Books, 1992.


Two Birds from the Same Egg with Poetry PLUS!

(editor’s note:  In honor of National Poetry Month, we asked Sylvia Vardell and Janet  Wong, authors of  the The Poetry Friday series for a quick example of integrating poetry into the classroom. )

by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong

PFA For CelebrationsWe are pressed for time, so we multitask. You might be eating breakfast while you’re reading Bookology, or doing laundry, or both. “Killing two birds with one stone” or “hatching two birds from the same egg”—integrated teaching—is the best way to fit everything in, especially in the K-5 classroom.

In another post here at Bookology, Melissa Stewart talked about “facts-plus” books that present facts and explain them. We’d like to suggest that our books in The Poetry Friday Anthology series are “Poetry PLUS”; we present poems that tie into the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), social studies standards, and state standards such as the Texas TEKS—and we show you how to teach these poems, too.

For example, here’s one of the 218 poems in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science (K-5 Teacher Edition), with its accompanying “Take 5!” mini-lesson. The NGSS and most state standards for science require elementary students to understand weather and climate and be able to distinguish between the two—something that this poem teaches in a way that will appeal to poetry lovers (who are hesitant about science) and also to budding scientists (who are unsure of poetry).


Or here’s an example that’s perfect for today, April 7th—which happens to be Metric System Day. Using “Just Weight” by Heidi Bee Roemer from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, you can combine a language arts lesson with three other content areas in just five minutes:

  • science (learning about hippos)
  • math (doing a tons to kilos conversion)
  • social studies (geography; identifying the three countries that have not adopted the metric system: the U.S., Liberia, and Myanmar)


 We hope that our books—and the Take 5! approach to sharing any poem—will help teachers find more time to share poetry, this month and all year long!



Teaching the Future

by Rob Reid

Animal Shenanigans

Animal Shenanigans, Rob Reid’s latest resource book for teachers, parents, and librarians.

I am fortunate to teach three sections of children’s literature each semester to future elementary teachers, future special education teachers, and future librarians. It’s truly a fun gig. I was asked by the Bookology folks to share those books and topics I teach to these budding professionals.

I open each semester by introducing myself and reading my current favorite interactive picture book. The last few years, it has been Press Here by Hervé Tullet and the students are delighted to know such a book like this exists. I then ask them to tell me what comes to mind when I say, “Children’s Books.” I write their responses on the board and…the same titles appear year after year. Titles from their school years: Arthur, Amelia Bedelia, Magic Treehouse, Harry Potter, Dr. Seuss—the usual suspects. All good choices but no surprises and nothing recently published. That’s my job then for the next 15 weeks: combine history of children’s literature with the best of the newer stuff, so they can share those with kids down the road.

Next, we look at current trends in children’s publishing: trends I pick up from Publishers Weekly, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, the American Library Association, and my own observations. We also look at the current NY Times bestseller lists for picture books, middle grade books, and series. I read a few of those bestselling picture books to the class as well as selections of the chapter books. (I read aloud children’s books to my college students pretty much every class session.)

I contrast what sells with what wins the numerous awards: quantity vs. quality (and luckily, the two go together with many titles) and how kids need to be exposed to all. Over the semester, my students learn what the following awards are for, who are the most recent winners, and many of the notable past winners: Newbery (and I share my own experience being on that committee), Caldecott, Geisel, Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpré, American Indian Youth Literature, Scott O’Dell, Sibert, Orbis Pictus, and the Schneider Family Award.

Sibk_wonder_140nce that last award originated at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where I teach, and because I have many special education students, we put special emphasis on this award that recognizes portrayals of people with disabilities. As a class, we all read Wonder by R.J. Palacio (before that it was Rules by Cynthia Lord) and I will also be adding El Deafo by Cece Bell this upcoming year as a required read to represent graphic novels (I have been using the first Babymouse and the first Lunch Lady as examples of elementary school graphic novels).

The other required read is Love That Dog, and I introduce the other works of Sharon Creech and Walter Dean Myers (who is a fictionalized character of himself in the book). We look at dozens of poetry books not written by Shel Silverstein (and I have some good Silverstein anecdotes to share) and learn ways to make poetry fun for kids.

Out of My MindStudents pick an elective chapter book from a list I provide (which includes Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, Out of My Mind, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, Al Capone Does My Shirts, Coraline, Tale of Despereaux, Princess Academy, Elijah of Buxton, and several more) and they create a literature activity guide to go with their novel.

Students draw the name of a children’s illustrator and put together a PowerPoint to share with the class what they learned about the various artistic elements present in the picture books.

We also look at the timeline of diversity in children’s literature, traditional folklore from around the world, fantasy and science fiction, controversial books, informational books and biographies, easy readers and bridge books, realistic fiction, historical fiction, and Minnesota and Wisconsin book creators (since most of my students are from these two states and we have so many talented, published, award-winning authors and illustrators here).

Each student also has to tell an oral story to the class based on a folktale. They are sent to the 398 section of the library to look through both the picture book editions and anthologies of folktales, learn one, and share it without notes.

We finish the semester with competitive rounds of Kiddie Lit Jeopardy, they fill out their student evaluations that all read “This was a lot of work!” and I send them off to explore the remaining 99% of the wonderful children’s books we didn’t have time to cover in class.