New Book News: Science and Cultural Connections

Our final two books that are celebrating their book birthdays this month are A True Princess of Hawai‘i and Vivian and the Legend of the Hoodoos.

 At the center of each of these stories is a rich history that has been shaped by the landscape. Today we talk with Terry Catasús Jennings and Tammy Yee on how these stories were created and where they found inspiration.

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Vivian and the Legend of the Hoodoos
by Terry Catasús Jennings and illustrated by Phyllis Saroff

Terry, what inspired you to write Vivian and the Legend of the Hoodoos?

Ten years ago, my husband and I visited friends in Southwestern Utah. The beautiful red rock mountains and canyons stole our heart. We’ve wintered there ever since. Biking and hiking with friends we can’t help but follow in the footsteps of the native civilization that lived there about a thousand years ago—the Ancient Ones. Seeing the petroglyphs and pictographs they left is a humbling experience. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to find evidence of a village. In 2014, we visited a beautifully preserved site in a private ranch. As we walked through the piñon pine grove, pottery sherds crunching beneath every step, I felt a sense of connectedness. This was a place where ancient peoples had lived, but it had not been disturbed. I could imagine them by the fire, grinding pine nuts, stringing bows. I could imagine them looking out over the wide expanse below the mesa at sunset. Not long after, visiting Bryce Canyon, I learned about the Legend of the Hoodoos. The book almost wrote itself.

Greg Woodall, a local archeologist, educated me in the ways of the Ancient Ones in Southwestern Utah. Barbara Frank at Southern Utah University let us look in at the University’s collection of artifacts. Then I spent time with the elders at the Shivwits Paiute Indian Reservation making sure I portrayed the Paiute culture accurately and with respect. The story acquired new layers from the details they shared with me. The legend connected the story to the geology and they connected the legend to their daily lives. My own experience when I came to the United States as a twelve-year-old refugee from Cuba colored Vivian’s behavior. Like Vivian, I wanted to fit in. I had better things to do than worry about the traditions my family brought from Cuba. In addition to explaining the process of erosion, I hope the book is helpful to students of all cultures in explaining the value of knowing our history and customs.

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A True Princess of Hawai‘i
by Beth Greenway and illustrated by Tammy Yee

Tammy where did you find inspiration for A True Princess of Hawai‘i?

Years ago, I lived in a sleepy subdivision six miles above Hilo town on the island of Hawai’i. Many of the homes were built on the remnants of the 1881 Mauna Loa eruption featured in the book, A True Princess of Hawai’i. Evidence of the eruption was everywhere. Lava rock walls bordered tiny gardens and black pahoehoe lava peaked through the grass, ferns and ‘ōhiʻa trees. Nearby was Kaumana Cave, part of a miles-long lava tube that was formed during the eruption. It was the perfect place to raise two young sons!
Since then, I have been fascinated with the story of Princess Ruth’s intervention to save Hilo from Pele’s destruction. So it was a joy to pour through the Bishop Museum and Hawai’i State Archives for photos from the 1880s depicting the people, places, and events in this story. I was inspired, too, by the paintings of Joseph Nawahi, and also the Volcano School paintings of late 19th century artists Charles Furneaux, D. Howard Hitchcock, Titian Ramsay, and Jules Tavernier.
I hope this book will inspire you to learn more about Hawai’i and it’s rich cultural and natural history.
Learn more about these books and get educational extra for all of Arbordale’s new releases on our book homepages.

Book Launch Day!!!

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Congratulations to all of our spring authors and illustrators it is book launch day!

This season we have pairs of fun. For budding young scientists, we have Bat Count: A Citizen Science Story and Moonlight Crab Count. Animal lovers will enjoy reading about the rescue of Honey Girl: The Hawaiian Monk Seal and learning about the adorable ways of owlets in Otis the Owl. Finally, our topography forms in many different ways, giant rocks have a connection to culture in Vivian and the Legend of the Hoodoos. Then, lava flows shaped the Hawaiian Islands, but learn how a town was saved in the 1880’s in A True Princess of Hawai‘i.

Get to know the books and their creators:

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Jojo is prepping for an exciting night; it’s time for the bat count! Bats have always been a welcome presence during the summers in the family barn. But over the years, the numbers have dwindled as many bats in the area caught white-nose syndrome. Jojo and her family count the bats and send the numbers to scientists who study bats, to see if the bat population can recover. On a summer evening, the family quietly makes their way to the lawn to watch the sky and count the visitors to their farm.

Read our interview with Anna Forrester & Susan Detwiler

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Hawaiian locals and visitors always enjoy spotting endangered Hawaiian monk seals, but Honey Girl is an extra special case. She has raised seven pups, and scientists call her “Super Mom.” After Honey Girl is injured by a fishhook, she gets very sick. Scientists and veterinarians work to save Honey Girl so she can be released back to the ocean. This true story will have readers captivated to learn more about this endangered species.

Read our interview with Jeanne Walker Harvey & Shennen Bersani

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Even kids can get involved in science! Ecologist Dr. Neeti Bathala and Jennifer Keats Curtis collaborate to bring us the story of these adventurous citizen scientists. Leena and her mom volunteer each summer to count the horseshoe crabs that visit their beach. With their dog Bobie at their sides, the duo spends a night on the shore surveying horseshoe crabs who have come to mate and lay eggs. Readers will learn valuable facts about these ancient animals and how they can get involved in the effort to conserve horseshoe crabs.

Read our interview with Jennifer Keats Curtis, & learn more about Dr. Neeti Bathala & Veronica V. Jones

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In beautifully detailed photographs, Mary Holland captures the first few months of a baby barred owl’s life. The huge eyes and fluffy feathers will steal the hearts of readers as they learn how barred owl parents ready their young owlets for the big world outside the nest. Follow along as Otis learns to eat, fights with his sister, and prepares for flight.

Read our interview with Mary Holland

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Nani has always dreamed of being a princess. When a real Hawaiian princess comes to her hometown of Hilo, Nani dresses in her best clothes. But as she watches Princess Luka, who has come to save the town from a volcanic lava flow, Nani learns that there is more to being a princess than fine clothes. This incredible story of kindness and generosity is based on the historical events of the 1880-1881 eruption of Mauna Loa on the Island of Hawai‘i and the real-life Princess Luka.

Read our interview with Beth Greenway & learn more about Tammy Yee

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Long ago, the Old Ones were bad. They drank all the water, ate all the pine nuts, and left nothing for the other creatures. Sinawav the coyote punished them by turning them into rocky hoodoos. Now when children misbehave, their Paiute elders remind them that they too could be turned into stone columns! Vivian has heard the stories, but this year as she and her grandmother climb the mesa to pick pine nuts, Vivian has something more important on her mind: basketball tryouts. When Vivian is disrespectful to the trees and the land, her grandmother must remind Vivian of the legend of the hoodoos and how nature has made it possible for her people to live.

Read our interview with Terry Catasús Jennings & learn more about  Phyllis Saroff

Check out arbordalepublishing.com for more information and teaching activity guides for each book!

 

 

 

The Many Facets of Halloween!

Our celebration of Halloween today is but a pale representation of its actual rich and multicultural history.  It was once a celebration marking the end of the growing season, and a heralding of the coming winter months.  It is told that this day, of all days in the year, is the one in which the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest.  It is the day that ghouls and ghosts can walk among the living.  While costumes today are for entertainment and fun, they were once used to confuse the dead and keep the living safe on this supernatural night.  Blended from several origins, including the Celts, Romans, and Catholic tradition, Halloween came to be it’s own special celebration.  Today, however, it has become a nationally commercial holiday, supported by a consumer based economy. 

Back in the old days…with the history of the Celts, Druid priests were believed to have the ability to commune with the dead.  It was rumored that their powers were the most powerful on the last day of the year: Samhain (sow-en) according to the Celtic calendar.  On this day, the Celtic people would extinguish their hearth fires and gather in front of a bonfire for the evening instead.  A celebration of singing, dancing, and listening to stories would ensue.  At the end of the evening, each family would take some of the bonfire home and relight it in their hearths in hopes of good fortune for their home and family in the coming year.  If it did not light, misfortune or death would come to someone in the house that year. The celebration of Halloween does not come directly from this day, however, for credit can also be given to the practice of several other cultures.

For instance, in the New World, Halloween was largely disallowed.  In Maryland, however, it was encouraged, and people would attend parties with singing and dancing and ghost stories.  Children would dress in costumes and try to scare one another.  The actual tradition of trick-or-treating from door to door, did not begin until the Irish immigrants brought it with them when they came fleeing from the Potato Famine. 

In relation to Pagan tradtion, this night was determined to be the night that a young woman would find out her future husband.  This would be done by looking into a mirror in a dark room or by peeling an apple and casting the peel over her shoulder.  Many Christian churches, who believed such paganistic rituals would lead to witchcraft and Satanism, created “Hell Houses” (haunted houses to us today), which were meant to scare children and young adults away from ever tampering with such damning traditions.

As you can see, this now famous American holiday is due to the old practices of many cultures throughout the centuries.  There is so much more to learn about the history of Halloween as well all the other holidays we celebrate with our friends and loved ones.  The best part is that ALL of the learning can be done through the simply wonderful act of reading!

Tomorrow, Nov. 1, is the start of National Family Literacy Month.  Take advantage of this time to spark a budding love of reading in your child.  Read to them about interesting facts they don’t know, and let them read with you.  Sylvan Dell Publishing has a whole slew of options that can help aid you in educating your little one on a parent-child basis.  Check out our homepage, and from there you can read about every book we have to offer you and your child!