Great Art in This Book for Kids, and Other Readers

November 21, 2018 /
Art by Kenard Pak for a letter by Terry Teachout from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

  I have a soft spot for beautiful graphic art. And I plan to buy multiple copies of this children’s book — as a gift and for myself — so I can savor the illustrations as well as the words. A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader contains short pieces by authors and other notable people describing how books have enriched their lives. Each of the 121 entries has an illustration by a different artist. (See sample below.) Another incentive to buy the book: all proceeds benefit the New York Public Library. Among the contributors: scientist Jane Goodall…

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Scidmore in Book on Women Writing in WWI

November 11, 2018 /
Book "In Their Own Words" on Women in WWI

(Reposted from October 14, 2015) Eliza Scidmore, the subject of my biography in progress, appears in a new book of writings by American women in World War I. Author Elizabeth Foxwell took a very different turn in compiling the anthology. Foxwell has spent much of her career immersed in mystery and crime fiction. A true scholar of the genre, she’s won an Agatha Award for her stories, reviews mysteries for Publisher’s Weekly, and is managing editor of Clues: A Journal of Detection For the anthology, In Their Own Words, Foxwell selected letters, journal entries, and articles to present a cross-section…

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Veterans Day: “Quiet on Western Front” Sequel

November 6, 2018 /

To mark the hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I, the Library of Congress is previewing a newly restored film sequel to the classic war movie “All Quiet on the Western Front.” The 1937 film sequel, titled “The Road Back,” follows German soldiers from the Armistice through their return home. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque, who also wrote the earlier work. The film screening will be held on Saturday, November 10, as part of a special Veterans Day program at the Library. The events also include a panel…

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Japan Has Cherry Trees Blooming–in October!

October 18, 2018 /
cherry trees Mukojima in Tokyo

Cherry blossom buds are popping open in parts of Japan. Not all of the iconic trees are affected, by a long shot. But there have already been several hundred sightings of early blooms, according to an article in the New York Times. That’s six months ahead of schedule, of course. And the phenomenon appears to be unprecedented. Weather experts think it’s related to the major typhoon that swept across Japan in September. One horticulturalist explained that the freak blossoms are probably appearing so early because strong winds from the typhoon stripped the trees of their leaves. It seems the foliage…

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From Early ‘Lady Writer,’ Washington Cherry Blossoms and a National Geographic Legacy

June 16, 2018 /

From NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY NEWSROOM Originally posted January 16, 2018, on National Geographic Voices Blog (Under the transition to Disney partnership in 2020, National Geographic removed previous blog content by contributors. The article below is copied as it appeared on the site.)   Eliza Scidmore went to Japan for the first time in 1885. She was 28. Her brother George worked in Japan as a U.S. consular official, and she returned many times. Captivated by the beauty of cherry blossoms, she carried home an idea that indelibly shaped the public landscape of the U.S. capital: the flowering cherry trees that…

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John Muir Website Adds Page on Eliza Scidmore

April 2, 2018 /

Eliza Scidmore now has her own page on the John Muir website hosted by the Sierra Club. The website, established in 1994, features a huge amount of information on all things Muir, with new material added regularly. After learning about Scidmore’s connection to Muir, the webmaster of the site, Harold Wood, invited me to post a page on Eliza Scidmore. John Muir was a great inspiration to Scidmore in her own travels to Alaska in the 1880s. Journeys of Discovery Muir went to Alaska in 1879 and again in 1880 to pursue his interest in glaciers. Arriving at Fort Wrangell…

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Eliza Scidmore on Stage at National Geographic

March 30, 2018 /
Woman in kimono with Mt. Fuji backdrop

Eliza Scidmore got top billing on stage Thursday night, March 29, in Washington. National Geographic Live! featured a staged presentation of her writings during the city’s cherry blossom season. I was there, and National Geographic VP Greg McGruder kindly introduced me to the audience as Scidmore’s biographer. I had served as an informal adviser to Dan Stashower, a local author who wrote the script. The 90-minute program opened with a dramatic retelling of Scidmore’s ascent of Mount Fuji in Japan in the late 19th century. Classic of Travel Literature Scidmore described the climb of Mount Fuji in her best-known book,…

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Girl Scout Patch Includes Scidmore’s Legacy

March 12, 2018 /

Washington celebrates the birthday of its famous cherry trees later this month. The city got the first of those trees on March 27, 1912. Two weeks earlier, on March 12, a resident of Savannah, Georgia, founded the Girl Scouts. So, Girl Scouting and Washington’s cherry trees have both been going strong for 106 years. (Many of the original trees, however, have been replaced over the years.) Because of her historical importance, Eliza Scidmore — the subject of my biography in progress — gets main billing in the Scouting materials. The badge program describes her as a woman who “acted on…

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Scidmore, National Geographic Female Explorer

February 3, 2018 /
Tourists at Muir Glacier, 1880s

Eliza Scidmore is known largely for her role as the earliest visionary of Washington’s cherry trees. She was also an intrepid traveler. And the National Geographic Society considers her its first female explorer. The Geographic recently spotlighted some of its pioneering women on its blog. I kicked off the series with an article on Eliza Scidmore. She became a member of National Geographic in 1890, two years after its founding. The Society’s leaders elected her corresponding secretary in 1892, making her the first female board member. She won the scientists’ respect especially for her writings on Alaska, a place not…

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In St. Louis, Intrepid Women on the Frontier

October 30, 2017 /
Brochure Women Writers of Frotier

I had never been to St. Louis until this fall. Funny I should have missed it, as I attended grad school in journalism at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Mizzou classmates and I used to pile into a car and go eat catfish at a tin-ceiling hotel in Booneville. We drove to Kansas City for barbeque at Arthur Bryant’s, which Calvin Trillin made famous in a 1972 article for Playboy. Certainly I would have remembered visiting the famous gateway arch — if we ever went to St. Louis. But it remained a vague landmark I remember passing on the major…

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