Time Travel With Historical Fiction: by Marilyn Ostermiller

Harper Lee’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was recently voted America’s best loved novel in a competition sponsored by the Public Broadcasting System.

            Published in 1960, “Mockingbird,” harkened back to a racially-motivated incident in a small Alabama town in 1936.

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Classic historical fiction tugs at our hearts and can motivate us long after we’ve turned the last page. Miss Lee immersed readers in a previous time and place to such an extent, that book has been credited with helping fuel the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

            Who doesn’t remember how a desperate Scarlet O’Hara tore down the green velvet drapes in the parlor at Civil War-ravished Tara, to sew them into a dress she hoped would entice a bank officer into giving her a loan? Or, when George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” stopped a run on the bank in the 1930s, by cajoling customers into withdrawing only as much money as they absolutely needed?

Getting the details right requires meticulous research of authors. I’m writing a historical novel about a 12-year-old girl, who vows to win the 1932 National Spelling Bee, to prove she’s the best speller in America. The idea came to me when I visited the official site of The National Spelling Bee, www.spellingbee.com. I discovered, that in the midst of The Great Depression, ordinary kids were competing to win a bag full of gold coins, worth the equivalent of about $60,000 today.

That, in turn, led me to wonder who these kids were and what words the finalists spelled. That directed me to archived newspaper articles reporting on the finals of the 1932 National Spelling Bee. I learned the national championship was held in the National Museum in Washington, D.C. The first thing visitors saw, in the lobby, were glass cases of life-size, stuffed animals, some of them reputed to have been shot by President Theodore Roosevelt while on safari in Africa.

With the help of the Smithsonian’s archives, I’ve been able to describe what it was like for those kids, who ranged in age between 8 and 13 years old, to approach the microphone on that stage, take a deep breath and spell their words in front of an audience of more than 100 people. The winning word that year was “invulnerable.” It was spelled by Dorothy Greenwald, who took the grand prize back home to Des Moines, Iowa.

            Historical fiction transports us back in time, but as with many things in life, the devil is in the details.

Next month: The second post in this series on researching historical fiction will delve into which details are most likely to resonate with readers.

Marilyn Ostermiller

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time professional journalist, who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.

 

 

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Worried About Your Kids Not Reading This Summer? Join the Dr. Seuss Summer Reading Challenge.

We, and our children, have grown up with the wonderful books written by Dr. Seuss.  Those books taught many of us how to read independently.  What better way to insure that our kids keep their reading skills sharp during the non-school summer months than with a reading challenge.  I heard the groans.  Who wants to have to read TONS of books during the carefree days of summer?

What makes the First Annual DR. SEUSS SUMMER READING CHALLENGE different is the focus: Not how many BOOKS read, but how many WORDS.  The Scripps National Spelling Bee, and the  Carnival Cruise Lines, are teaming up with Dr. Seuss to encourage kids to keep on reading.

To provide readers with extra incentive to read and record their word tallies, Carnival is awarding one registered challenge participant (to be selected at random) with a Caribbean cruise for four and a $1,500 Visa gift card for airfare. Two runners-up will each receive a cache of Dr. Seuss books.

To register or learn more about the challenge visit: http://www.Seussville.com  

The Cat in the Hat (Beginner Books(R))   Oh, the Places You'll Go! (Classic Seuss)Go, Dog. Go! (Beginner Books(R))

Good at Spelling? Check Out the 91st Spelling Bee.

Thursday, 5-31-2018 is the 91st Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals competition.  Students from all over the country will spell their hearts out to try and become the nations best speller for a cash prize of $40,000.000.

You can watch the action on ESPN.

For a printable list of the most frequently misspelled words: https://www.spelling-words-well.com/frequently-misspelled-words.html

The winning word for the 2017 contest was “marocain,” a dress fabric that is made of ribbed silk or rayon and a filling of other yarns. Check out highlights from the contest here: https://www.cnn.com/2017/06/01/us/national-spelling-bee-finals-winner/index.html

One of the hardest words for me to spell correctly is: diarrhea

Care to share the word that you have the most difficulty spelling?

VIVIAN KIRKFIELD PRESENTS:#50 Precious Words For Kids Contest

A Children’s Book Week Activity:  #50PreciousWordsforKids

Celebrating Diversity in Imagination

A writing contest for kids from all over the world.  Writing a story in 50 words or fewer.  Contest runs from April 30 through May 6, 2018.

 GUIDELINES:

  • Each child, grade K-6, writes a story of 50 words or less.
  • Title not included in word count.
  • Story must have a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Happy or sad, silly or serious, true or make-believe.
  • Teachers/students choose one story to submit per class.
  • Homeschooling parents submit one story per child.
  • Please email story to: viviankirkfield@gmail.com by May 7 at 11:59pm EST. This challenge is INTERNATIONAL.
  • Stories post on my blog: viviankirkfield.com on May 11.
  • Teacher receives a certificate to copy and present to each child who wrote a story
  • Giveaway of seven mini-Skype author classroom visits.

Picture 158 B 2

Picture 158 B 2

Here’s the link from last year’s contest: https://viviankirkfield.com/2017/05/11/50preciouswordsforkids-international-writing-challenge-stories-are-here/

Questions? Contact Vivian Kirkfield at:  Viviankirkfield@gmail.com

Heal The Earth Classroom Contest.

After the long winter, kids in your classroom may long to get outside and play or explore.  Why not make it part of the curriculum?  Perfect for Earth Day or Arbor Day, here’s a contest your classroom can participate in to show ways we can help heal the earth. 

http://healtheearthclassroomcontest.pagedemo.co/

The contest is open to classroom teachers and librarians.  Winners will receive a signed copy of Author Julian Lennon’s new book HEAL THE EARTH.

What creative activities and projects can your class come up with that promote a positive message about taking care of Planet Earth?  Check the website for rules and entry forms

All submissions must be received by midnight EST on Monday, April 30.

Summer Olympics Here We Come!

The opening of the Summer Games in Rio are only a few days away.  I am one of those people who normally ignore sporting events and televised games during the regular season.  But there is something about the Olympics that keeps me riveted to the screen.  I think it has to do with the premise of peaceful International competition.  So many countries coming together to share their best athletes with the world.

Sure there is controversy, and rivalry.  But the “bloated egos” of professional sports is absent as athletes work as a team to support, encourage and cheer each other on.  It’s inspiring.

Sunday, 7-24-16 is PARENTS DAY. Why not make this day all about the family and enjoy some Olympic competitions of your own?  Got a pool?  Try some water polo or synchronized swimming.  Practice backstrokes or have raft races.  Who can get the wettest in a splashing contest?  Young children can enjoy water fun as well: Set up the sprinkler.  Or fill up buckets of water and have toddlers “paint” the driveway to their hearts content.  What is more fun than a water balloon throwing competition?

There are lots of ways to enjoy water-free Olympic events as well.  Sack races, three-legged races, wheelbarrow races, crab walk races and log rolling (using your body as the log) are guaranteed to bring on smiles and get everyone moving.  You can also set up games and events using balls, ropes, or other props.

Let you imagination go and enjoy exercising as a family by trying some “Backyard Olympics”.  For more fun ideas visit: http://www.familycircle.com/summervideo

What are some of your favorite outdoor family activities?

Mrs. P’s “Be A Famous Writer Contest” for Kids.

Pets is the theme of the 7th annual   MrsP.com    Be-a-Famous Writer Contest. The contest is for K-4 classrooms and the winning classroom is filled with books in every format from the generous sponsors of the contest.

• ENTRY DATES: SEPTEMBER 1, 2015.
• Contest Closes: November 15, 2015
• Winners Announced January 15, 2016
• For classrooms K – 4th grade
Mrs. P invites classrooms to write a story on the topic of PETS no less than 250 words and not to exceed 1,000 words. It may be fiction or non-fiction. Any classroom from Kindergarten through 4th grade may enter. Just one story per classroom! It can be a collaborative story, or teachers can have their class vote on which child’s story to enter. While the contest is for classrooms only, parents can participate by telling their child’s teacher about it.  Find all the details at my contest website. http://contest.mrsp.com/