Sonora Webster of Georgia adored horses. At age five, she even tried to swap her baby brother for one. Alas, grownups disapproved. At age nineteen, in 1923, Sonora went to the Savannah fair. There she saw a huge, deep pool of water beside a tower as tall as a four-story building. High atop was a lady in a red swimsuit and circle of spotlight. At her signal, a gray horse pounded up the ramps. The lady jumped on. The horse tossed its snowy mane and tail, leaped into space, and down into the pool! Glittering sheets of water SPLASHED the shrieking crowd. After a breathless moment, the horse rocketed UP from the depths, made its way to the arena, and the smiling lady dismounted. How Sonora clapped and cheered— for that beautiful horse!
As it happened, the elderly showman who’d invented this amazing act needed extra ladies for his popular traveling shows. He advertised in the local paper:
“Likes horses?” THIS was the job for Sonora!
As a trainer, “Doc” Carver was tough, but so was Sonora. She learned how to dive with all five of Doc’s horses, all carefully trained and cared-for. (Veterinarians checked often to see that they were.) In time, she made countless dives— and fell for Doc’s son Al. They married. After Doc died, Al took over the act, starring Sonora and the magnificent diving horses.
Sonora met her day of destiny at Atlantic City’s Steel Pier, New Jersey’s great amusement park, July 14, 1931. She hopped astride Red Lips, her favorite horse. “Red” leaped from the tower. And somehow, Sonora hit the water face first, in the instant before she closed her eyes. They stung, but how could she know that the water collision had loosened her eyeballs’ retinas? She didn’t! Soon, despite medical treatments, 27-year-old Sonora saw her vision fading away. Could she accept that her diving days were over? She wouldn’t! She might have lost her sight, but her love and trust for her brave horses? Never! They’d keep flying through the air together, thrilling and splashing audiences for the next eleven years.
Sonora Webster Carver told her story in her 1961 memoir, A Girl and Five Brave Horses, which inspired a 1991 film, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. She died at age 99, in 2003.
Because world-traveling sharpshooter, William Frank Carver had been a dentist, such friends as “Buffalo Bill” Cody called him “Doc.” Wikimedia
Sonora and her brave diving partner. Equine Inc.
An exciting day at Steel Pier, Atlantic City, N.J. NJ com
Cheryl Harness is an illustrator as well an author, as seen by her delightful poster-like illustrations in Women Daredevils by Julia Cummins. The book offers mini biographies of ten fascinating women who risked their lives in the late 1800s and early 1900s to entertain the public.
MLA 8 Citation
Harness, Cheryl. "Splash!" Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank, 17 Jan. 2018,
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the lives of Japanese Americans instantly changed.
As the US declared war on Japan, public scrutiny focused on the 120,000 Japanese Americans living along the Pacific Ocean. Would they help Japan if it attempted an invasion of the coast? A hateful, racist anti-Japanese American campaign swept the nation, and the government decided that for “public safety” Japanese Americans must be isolated in “internment” camps.
With little warning, the roundups began. They were forced to sell their homes and possessions for whatever they could get and to give away their pets. They were allowed just two suitcases each as they boarded trains and buses to over-crowded assembly centers, where they waited for months in primitive conditions until the ten permanent camps were ready.
Those camps were in isolated, inhospitable locations where the internees lived behind barbed wire, guarded by armed soldiers. Each family was assigned one room in a flimsy wooden barrack furnished only with iron cots. Everyone waited in long lines to use the restrooms and to eat. The children attended schools that were started in the camps. But jobs were scarce and adults had little to do.
While they could have sunk into despair, nearly all Japanese Americans wanted America to win the war, and if their confinement helped the war effort, they decided to cooperate and make the best of it. To stay busy they organized scout troops and baseball teams. They hosted talent contests, movie nights, dances, festivals, and celebrations. They started newspapers, libraries, poetry clubs, choirs, bands and orchestras. They took up woodworking and sewing and planted Victory Gardens. In some camps internees were allowed to grow crops to supplement their government surplus food.
Each morning they saluted the flag and said the Pledge of Allegiance. Many participated in Red Cross blood drives and knitted socks and scarves to send to soldiers. The young men from the camps who served in the war distinguished themselves with their bravery and helped ensure an Allied victory.
After the war, Japanese Americans began the difficult task of rebuilding their lives. Many had lost all their belongings and could not find jobs. Worst of all was the shame they felt over their country’s distrust of them. But they had proved their loyalty. And in spite of this terrible injustice, they raised their children to be good Americans.
Andrea Warren is the author of nine books of nonfiction for young readers and young adult readers. Each centers on young people who have faced grave challenges in difficult periods of history. Her latest, Enemy Child: The Story of Norman Mineta, a Boy Imprisoned in a Japanese American Internment Camp During World War II, published by Holiday House, received starred reviews in School Library Journal and The Horn Book. It was selected as a 2019 Best Book by School Library Journal and is the recipient of the Bank Street College best nonfiction award. It has also has been honored by the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Warren is a previous winner of the Horn Book Award and the Sibert Honor Award. You can read Vicki Cobb's review here.
The holiday we celebrate is named after a Christian martyr who was killed in the fifth century. Valentinus was a priest who secretly performed marriages for Roman soldiers who were forbidden to marry by Emperor Claudius. He was caught, tortured and killed for disobeying the emperor’s edict. Legend says that while he was awaiting his execution in jail he restored the sight of the jailer’s blind daughter. There is also a legend that the last words he wrote were in a note to the jailer’s daughter that he signed, “from your Valentine.”
Valentine and his saint’s day became synonymous with love. Although valentine greetings have been popular since the Middle Ages they weren't widely distributed in the United States until Esther Howland made her mark on the card industry. Esther, a student at Mt. Holyoke College, received a Valentine’s Day card created by an English company. Her father was a stationer and Esther got the idea to make her own cards and sell them in his store in Springfield, Massachusetts. She began to publish and sell valentines in 1850. The cards caught on.
Soon she was hiring her friends to help her keep up with the business. Even though the practice of sending pre-printed cards was mocked in a New York Times editorial in 1856, the business actually grew. In 1866 New Yorkers mailed more than 86,000 cards. And although most were priced low enough for anyone to send, they were also becoming more elaborate. Some were reported to sell for $500 each.
Today valentines are no less popular. More than 150 million cards are exchanged each year on February 14th. Some of those are still handmade, but the majority of them, 145 million in 2013, are purchased.
And there are still some very expensive cards created for those willing to spend the big bucks on their valentine. One of the most expensive cards you can buy is custom made by Gilded Age Greetings. For a price of $3,500 they will create a card that comes complete with 23-karat gold and precious stones. Their most expensive card comes at a whopping $5,000. Most will argue that it is the sentiment that counts the most when sending a Valentine greeting. Homemade cards with a lovely wish are most often the most memorable.
Here's a story of some animals you can love. How could capturing the last wild California condors help save them? Why are some states planning to cull populations of the gray wolf, despite this species only recently making it off the endangered list? How did a decision made during the Civil War to use alligator skin for cheap boots nearly drive the animal to extinction?
Nancy Castaldo's Back from the Brink answers these questions and more as it delves into the threats to seven species, and the scientific and political efforts to coax them back from the brink of extinction. This rich, informational look at the problem of extinction has a hopeful tone: all of these animals’ numbers are now on the rise.
Bessie Coleman, better known as Queen Bess, was America’s first black woman pilot. Born in Texas in 1892, into a world of extreme poverty and deepening racial discrimination, her dream to “amount to something one day” was fought against overwhelming odds. Working as a manicurist in a Chicago barbershop, she read about World War I pilots. She decided that she wanted to become a pilot. But she was met with the reaction: “You, a Negro and a woman—you must be joking.”
Undeterred, Bessie sought the advice of a valued customer in the barbershop. “Go to France,” he said. “The French are much more accepting of both women and blacks— but first learn the language.”
That same day, Bessie began taking French lessons. A few months later, she sailed for France, and signed up with an aviation school. Her training included everything from banked turns and looping-the-loop to airplane maintenance. In 1921, she became the first black woman to earn a pilot’s license.
Back in the U.S., an African-American woman pilot was big news. Thunderous applause and a rousing rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” greeted Bessie at her first airshow in New York. Memphis and Chicago followed. Bessie’s future never looked brighter. She managed to buy an old Curtis Jenny, a favorite plane among barnstormers. She was heading for a performance in Los Angeles, when the engine stalled; she crashed onto the street below, was knocked unconscious, broke one leg, and fractured several ribs.
Distraught over having disappointed her fans, she sent a telegram to the local newspaper: AS SOON AS I CAN WALK I’M GOING TO FLY! Seven months later, she was back in a borrowed plane, performing to upbeat crowds in Ohio, Texas, and Florida.
Bessie loved flying and accepted its risks, but her real ambition was to open a flight school. Sadly, she didn’t live to see her dream realized. In 1926, her old, run-down plane went into a spin. Bessie was thrown out of her seat, and fell to her death.
At her funeral, thousands paid their respects to the brave young aviator. With her pluck and determination, Bessie Coleman had set an example for many black people.
Shortly thereafter, the Bessie Coleman Aero Club in Los Angeles became a reality, introducing young blacks to the world of aviation. Among those inspired by Bessie was Dr. Mae Jemison, the first woman African-American astronaut.
As you can see, Roxie Munro is a talented illustrator as well as a writer. She has a new series of nine desktop two-sided fold-out wordless nonfiction books called KIWiStorybooks Jr.. They come with a stand-up "play figure" and a free interactive app loaded with games and puzzles, fascinating facts in a Q&A format, sounds, and more. OCEAN has a Coral Reef on one side and a Research Ship Laboratory on the other.
Roxie is also a member of Authors on Call. You can read more about how you can have her visit your classroom with interactive videoconferencing here.
MLA 8 Citation
Munro, Roxie. "Bessie Coleman." Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank, 16 Feb. 2018,
For Vicki Cobb's BLOG (nonfiction book reviews, info on education, more), click here: Vicki's Blog
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