I've always been interested in Queen Victoria, my so-called namesake. My father said I had a “regal birth” (he's a doctor and I have no idea what that's supposed to mean) and so they named me Victoria. I've read many books about the queen and know that the love of her life was her first cousin, Prince Albert from Coburg (today's Germany). Their marriage was one of great love. When he died at the age of 42 from what was officially named as Typhoid (now they think he died of complications from Crohn's disease), she mourned for the rest of her life. She was crowned in 1837 and died in 1901 and was the longest reigning British monarch until the current Queen Elizabeth overtook that record.
As princess, Victoria was very lonely. She lived at Kensington Palace with her mother, Duchess of Kent and Strathearn and her mother's comptroller, Sir John Conroy. The two of them devised a plan to keep Victoria safe and well called the Kensington System. Victoria wasn't allowed outside the Palace and had to hold someone's hand while going up or down the stairs (so she wouldn't fall).
One day, Sir Conroy brought a young dog to the palace to give to the Duchess. Victoria took one look at the King Charles Spaniel named Dash and fell in love.
I'm pleased to announce my new book, “Dash and Victoria Find True Love.” Dash loves his Queen but when Prince Albert comes he must learn that his heart is big enough to love more than one person. This book will be launched in May, 2019 in honor of Queen Victoria's 200th birthday.Continue reading
I took the plunge today! I had my very first school visit and reading! It's so important to connect with the kids that are the readers of my book so I needed to schedule some school visits and readings. It happened to be at the elementary school my children attended many many years ago. I couldn't believe was there and that my kids have been long gone. Most of their teachers have left or retired so I didn't know as many educators as I thought I would. The school had gone through major changes as they built new buildings for classrooms, administration and parking. They expanded the library too!
I was nervous as 50 first graders came into the library. They grabbed their mats and sat on the floor in front of me. On the screen was the first illustration in the book, Thomas Jefferson petting Buzzy on the grass. A couple of the students said they had read my book. Although I doubted that was true, it still made me feel good! Their innocent faces looked at me waiting for me to begin.
I introduced myself and told them that my own kids had gone to their school. I told them that my son just graduated college and my daughter is about to graduate from law school. “What's law school?” one of the students asked. Then I asked them if they knew the difference between fiction and non-fiction. Most of them did. I asked, “Who likes History?” All hands shot up so I continued to explain how this book is “historical fiction.” I can take real people, places and times and make up a story about them. As long as I stick to some facts.
I asked who had a pet and, again, all hands shot up. One student had a frog, one had some fish, and one even had a shrimp! Hmmm. As I read the book, I noticed all eyes on the screen and me. They were entranced and engaged in the story. My worst fear went out the window!
After the 1st graders left, the Kindergarten class came in. This was 1 class with about 15 students. They were just as inquisitive and attentive as the first group.
I'm trying to set up more readings throughout Southern California. In March, I'm visiting the Chicago area and will be doing some readings there.
Stay tuned for a contest I'll be running in March!Continue reading
My first book, “Buzzy and Thomas Move into the President’s House,” will come out in October on Amazon in ebook and printed form. This early chapter reader is about Buzzy, Thomas Jefferson’s dog, moving into the White House with newly elected President Jefferson. But Buzzy loves living at Monticello and doesn’t want to move. What will she do?
To continue my research on Thomas Jefferson, I took a trip to Monticello.
My docent led tour started at the Northeast portico, which then and today serves as the front door. Directly above the door is the “Great Clock.” The clock has a dual face, one on the outside of the door and another on the inside of the door. It also tracks the days of the week and was wound every Sunday. Mr. Jefferson designed this clock to serve the residents of the house and the workers in the field.
Still standing under the portico, I looked above me and saw the “Compass Rose”, a compass connected to the weather vane on the roof. Mr. Jefferson and his family could determine the wind direction without stepping outside! This was altogether different because they didn’t have cell phones to tell them the weather!
We were not allowed to take photos inside the house but I’d like to tell you about a couple of things that stood out for me. In the dining room, Jefferson had installed a revolving serving door, which connected to the stairs leading to the kitchen. The servants could place plated dishes on the shelves and turn the door into the dining room where Jefferson or another servant could grab the plates to serve. When no servants were present inside the dining room, Jefferson had complete privacy when entertaining if needed.
Jefferson had designed his bed in the same manner as he noticed in France, when he was ambassador for 7 years. The bed was placed sideways in an alcove, which gave the room more space. It seems logical now, but in those days, no one was doing that except the French!
Jefferson wrote many letters and in 1804, acquired a device called a “Polygraph” that could duplicate his letters while he wrote them. Invented by John Isaac Hawkins, the polygraph used the principles of the pantograph, a draftsman's tool for reducing and enlarging drawings. The writer's hand moves one pen whose action is duplicated by the second one, producing a copy strikingly like the original. Because of this device, we have copies of over 11,000 letters that Jefferson wrote!
Jefferson was known for many things, but not many people know that he loved his vegetable garden. It still stands today, with many plants that grew when he was alive. In the Monticello Café, I ate sautéed kale, from kale grown in his garden. He grew many kinds of lettuce, peas, beans and strawberries. He also planted sesame seeds, which he used to make his own salad dressing!
We toured the kitchen, stables and wine storeroom as well. While in France, Jefferson collected many kitchen utensils, which he brought back with him to Monticello. In 1809 and kitchen remodel was completed which included a bake oven, fireplace and stew stove. Jefferson is described as America’s “first distinguished viticulturist.” He believed the United States could “make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good.” His wine cellar was built directly beneath the dining room with bottle-sized dumbwaiters that rose into the cellar’s ceiling and into both sides of the mantelpiece in the dining room.
My visit to Monticello taught me a lot about our 3rd President and founding father. As I walked around the grass, flowers and gardens, I could envision my main character, Buzzy, running around, chasing a stick, lounging under a cherry tree and playing in the snow.
I hope you’ll love my new book and share it with friends and family. And if you’re ever near Richmond, Virginia, stop and visit Buzzy and Thomas’ home, Monticello.Continue reading
While doing research for possible historical fiction stories involving animals, I came across this great book, “Ben and Me,” written and illustrated by Robert Lawson. This 114 page chapter book was originally published in 1939. Robert Lawson was born in 1892 and was the recipient of both the prestigious Caldecott and Newberry awards. As well as writing and illustrating his own books, he also illustrated books for a number of different authors, including Richard and Florence Atwater, authors of “Mr. Popper's Penguins.”
“Ben and Me” is about Benjamin Franklin as told by his mouse, Amos. He starts the book explaining that Amos's manuscript came to him by an “architect friend.” The friend had been working on an old home in Philadelphia and discovered a tiny room “beneath a bedroom hearthstone.” The room contained “small articles of furniture, all of the Colonial Period,” and in the desk was a”manuscript book, the leaves of which, about the size of postage stamps, were covered with minute writing.” Such a cute idea for telling the story of a famous person through the eyes of an animal!
Lawson details the story of the mouse, Amos, his childhood, parents and many siblings and how Amos found his way to Benjamin Franklin's home. Of course the mouse could talk and would freely give Ben advice every day. Mr Franklin was very accomplished and Lawson describes these accomplishments in separate chapters. Amos claimed many of Ben's inventions as his own idea and made fun of the fact that Ben thought that he had discovered them!
Benjamin wouldn't travel without Amos, so he joined him in France. He hid in a special cozy “nest” in Ben's hat, making it very easy to whisper in his ear! Amos met a “royal” mouse who had been exiled from the castle. She implored him to help her return to her family and Amos couldn't resist. A revolution amongst the French mouse population was born!
This book is perfect for children aged 6-9 who can read by themselves or with help from an adult. To buy the book, click on the Amazon link.
I am giving away my hardback copy of the book. If you would like to be entered into the contest, please leave me a comment describing your favorite childhood book.Continue reading
Today is Benjamin Franklin's birthday. This founding father was a scientist as well and invented bifocals, an instrument called a “glass harmonica,” the Franklin stove and a lightening rod. Watch this video to learn more about this very accomplished man:
He also had a pet squirrel!
Will this be our next Historial Tail? Watch and see!Continue reading