To the Moon!


NASA plans to return to the moon by 2020 and hopes to build a moon base by 2024. While you are waiting for the Ares I & V to launch, take a look back at other trips to the moon: Project Apollo and Méliès.

From the Earth to the Moon a superbly done HBO series, produced by Tom Hanks, and based on the book A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin, takes you through the entire Apollo program.

Moon Shot: the inside story of America's race to the moon by astronauts Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton.

First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen.

Méliès the magician contains the 1902 "La Voyage dans la lune" along with other films by Méliès.

Happy Birthday Michigan


Michigan turns 170 on Friday, January 26th. It was on that date in 1837 that Michigan joined the Union as the nation's 26th state. Join in the birthday celebration at the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing on Saturday, Jan. 27, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hands-on activities, exhibits and even birthday cake for the first 100 visitors. In what city was the Frostbitten Convention held that paved the way for Michigan's admission to the Union?

Another Children's Book Award - Historical Fiction

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages is the recipient of the 2007 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. The prize was established by the late author of Island of the Blue Dolphins to honor the best work of historical fiction in a given year.

The Green Glass Sea is the story of the group of children that accompanied their parents to Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1943. These were the children of America's best and brightest scientists. They knew their parents were working on a Big Project but they did not know what it was. After the experimental detonation of the atomic bomb in the desert, the children were taken out there to see the aftermath. The heat of the bomb turned the desert sand into the glass sea of the title.
I have a strong suspicion that there will be a sequel to this book. By the end of the story one of the mothers, a scientist, is starting to question what they have done and what should happen with The Project in the future.
Another children's fiction title about this same event is Where the Ground Meets the Sky by Jacqueline Davies.
For some really interesting history lessons, go the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction website and work your way through all the winning titles since 1984.

And the Nominees are...

The Oscar nominations came out Tuesday and, as usual, there were plenty of surprises, most notably the absence of Dreamgirls in the Best Picture category. Most titles are not yet available on DVD, but you can check out Little Miss Sunshine (on order) or Meryl Streep's nominated performance in The Devil Wears Prada. We also own this year's top contender in the Best Animated Feature category, as well as Monster House. My favorites for actress and actor this year are Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker.

Prize Winning Stories

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Prize Winning Stories are available to check out. Short Stories are published in a booklet with the top three winning stories in each of the three grade categories. Last year winning writers came from Community, Rudolf Steiner, and Huron. Middle school contest winners came from Tappan in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Dexter. You might be inspired to contribute a story to this year's contest, or simply read them for the fun of it. We are taking submissions until March 19th, and click here for current contest guidelines

"There's gold in them thar hills!"

On January 24, 1848, James W. Marshall noticed some flakes of gold in the American River while building a sawmill. That discovery started what became known as the California Gold Rush, the frenzied migrations of thousands to California to strike it rich. At that time, California was still technically part of Mexico. Only a week later, The United States purchased land that later became California and other southwestern states for only $15 million. If Mexico had only knwn.

The Gold Rush caused an increase in California's population from 2,700 to 200,000 in two years. Few people actually became wealthy from panning gold but revenue increased enough to help expand the American West.

One person who did become wealthy was Levi Strauss, an immigrant from Bavaria who was a traveling merchant specializing in trousers made from sailcloth held together with copper rivets. These, of course, were the precursors of modern jeans.

The Story Prize finalists are announced

The Story PrizeThe Story Prize

The Story Prize, a three-year old award that recognizes excellence in short fiction, has announced its three finalists from titles published last year.

The finalists are:

Rick Bass's The Lives of Rocks
The Stories of Mary Gordon, by Mary Gordon
In Persuasion Nation, by George Saunders

Edwidge Danticat is one of the three judges.

The Story Prize purses ($20,000 for the winner; $5,000 each for the two runners-up)will be awarded on February 28 in New York City.

New DVDs on Michigan history

We've recently added several documentaries on Michigan history to the collection. Check out Indian History of Michigan's Thumb Region; Mackinac Island: A 600 Year History; and Michigan's Lumbering Days.

More DVDs on Michigan History.

Beat the cold with hot homemade food!

What could be better on a chilly winter day than a steaming helping of homemade chicken pot pie? (Perhaps a slice of apple or cherry pie for dessert?) In the NPR article, "Restoring Humble Potpie to Its Rightful Place," you will find not one, but two delicious recipes to warm up any winter day. You can also check out our assortment of Cook's Illustrated cook books, or my personal favorite, the America's Test Kitchen cook books.

What Can Fiction Teach Us?

Yesterday I started reading The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. What I find so interesting about the book is the amount of research that has gone into the story. The author spent 10 years working on this, her first novel. The story revolves around a group of people who are studying Vlad the Impailer aka Dracula. Much of the information is given to the readers in the form of letters written by various researchers, from primary and secondary sources. As I've been going through the story I keep asking myself how much of the information is real and how much the author invented. Some people may find the amount of detail slows the story down. I found it provides added depth to the story, making it more real. I hope you enjoy it.

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