A Man of His Word
The Running Encyclopedia
When he was a young man in his mid-twenties, future Roman leader Julius Caesar was voyaging across the Mediterranean Sea. Pirates swarmed over his ship. They took him to their base on tiny Farmakonisi Island, which lies off the coast of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), and held him for ransom.
When he learned how much the pirates were demanding for his release, Caesar laughed. Do you have any idea who I am, he asked. I belong to one of Rome’s most important families. So you can get more money for me—a lot more—almost three times as much. The astonished pirates were only too happy to oblige him.
Keeping a friend and two servants with him on Farmakonisi, Caesar ordered the rest of his traveling party to go to Asia Minor and raise his ransom. While they were doing that, Caesar acted as if he were the ruler of the tiny island, rather than a captive cowering in fright. He ordered the pirates to attend lectures and poetry readings he gave, and prodded those who nodded off as he droned on and on and on. When he wanted to sleep, he ordered the pirates to either speak in whispers or go to another part of the island. He even played games with them. He also told them that when he was released, I promise I will hunt you down and execute you. In the spirit of bonhomie he engendered, the pirates apparently thought he was joking.
He wasn’t. Though outwardly he was friendly with the pirates, he seethed inwardly at the humiliation of being taken prisoner. After the ransom was paid, Caesar sailed to a nearby port. He raised a fleet of ships and scores of armed men. He returned to Farmakonisi, captured the pirates, and reclaimed the ransom money. He threw his former captors into prison. They didn’t stay there long. Caesar crucified them. He did show some mercy. Since crucifixion was a long, lingering death, he cut their throats so they died instantly.
Jim Whiting has written on many subjects. Check out his page on Amazon.com
MLA 8 Citation
Whiting, Jim. "A Man of His Word." Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank, 26 Mar.
Food Chain Poems
When I take a big bite into a hamburger, I am taking part in a food chain. When energy moves from one living organism (hamburger) to the next (me), scientists call this path or chain the Food Chain. Every living thing needs food. Food provides energy for plants and animals to live.
Food chains begin with plants using sunlight, water and nutrients to make energy in a process called photosynthesis. There are lots of different kinds of food chains— some simple, some complex. An example of a simple food chain is when a rabbit eats grass and then a fox eats the rabbit. I think food chains are so interesting, I’ve written some poems about them.
A Shark is the Sun
Shark eats tuna,
Tuna eats mackerel,
Mackerel eats sardine,
Sardine eats zooplankton,
Zooplankton eats phytoplankton,
Phytoplankton eats sun.
So...shark eats sun.
In every food chain there are producers, consumers and decomposers. Plants make their own food so they are producers. Animals are consumers because they consume plants or animals. Decomposers have the final say as they break down and decompose plants or animals and release nutrients back to the earth. Animals can be herbivores (plant eater), carnivores (meat eater) or omnivores (plant and meat eater). What are you?
Why Can’t I Be On The Top?
I don’t like the bottom,
I want to be at the top.
I’m tired of being crushed and stomped
and chewed into slop.
Why can’t I be the tiger
with claws as sharp as shears,
With a roar as loud as thunder
To threaten trembling ears?
Who designed this food chain?
Is there a chance I can opt out?
At least I’m not a plankton
Floating all about.
I hope you are happy with your place in the food chain. If not, you might want to sing along with the Food Chain Blues.
Food Chain Blues
Mama said be careful,
It’s a risky world outside,
Dangers lurking everywhere,
Hardly a place to hide.
She said some of us get eaten,
And some of us survive.
Count yourself quite lucky,
If you make it out alive.
We’re stuck in this cruel cycle,
Nature’s red teeth and claws.
You wanna do your best,
To stay clear of someone’s jaws.
I got the food chain blues
I got the food chain blues
Someone’s gonna eat me.
I got the food chain blues!
For more of Steve's poems about creatures check out Ocean Soup. It even has its own web page here.
Steve Swinburne is a member of iNK's Authors on Call and is available for classroom programs through Field Trip Zoom, a terrific technology that requires only a computer, wifi, and a webcam. Click here to find out more.
MLA 8 Citation
Swinburne, Stephen. "Food Chain Poems." Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank, 8
Mar. 2018, www.nonfictionminute.org/the-nonfiction-minute/Food-Chain-Poems.
In Praise of Vultures
Stephen R. Swinburne
I really like vultures. Sure, they’re ugly and they eat nasty dead things. But those are not necessarily bad characteristics.
First let’s deal with “ugly.” Vultures’ bald heads are what make them seem ugly to most people. But think about why they’re bald. Imagine thrusting your head inside the carcass of a white-tailed deer to reach the meat. A feathered head might capture bits of flesh, blood and gore and you end up with a face full bacteria and flies. Scientists believe that one reason vultures have evolved featherless heads is to aid in hygiene. A bald head stays clean and any remaining germs or bacteria are baked off by the sun. Vultures have also found that a bald head can help with temperature regulation. When it gets cold they can tuck their heads down to keep their neck covered with feathers. When it’s hot, vultures can extend their neck to expose bare skin. Their bald heads work so well that I wrote a poem about them.
It’s best to have no feathers,
When you stick your head in guts,
That way you don’t go walkin’ round,
Your noggin dripping schmutz.
Moving on to “eating nasty dead things,” the next time you see vultures eating a dead animal on the side of the road, be thankful! That carcass might be dead from rabies or contaminated with other harmful diseases. Vultures have the amazing ability to consume rotting and diseased flesh and stay healthy. It’s all in the stomach. Vultures possess very powerful stomach acids that destroy most bacteria and deadly viruses. In fact, vulture stomach acid is so strong it can dissolve metal! Except if that metal is lead shot -- many turkey vultures are killed every year by consuming shot that they encounter in dead deer. Vultures are the world’s natural “sanitation workers,” helping to stop the spread of disease.
I’m so appreciative of the work they do, I even wrote a poem about eating dead things:
I like my meat dead,
It’s best if it’s not moving.
Don’t want to see one final twitch,
I prefer it oozing
So, the next time you see a vulture circling in the noonday sky, think about the valuable and important clean up service this bird provides to us and to the environment. Maybe I’ll write a poem about that….
Steve Swinburne is a science writer, but as you can see from this Minute, he likes to write poetry too. In his book Ocean Soup, he offers verses in the voices of tide-pool animals, including the barnacle, sea urchin, sculpin, mussel, starfish, hermit crab, anemone, and lobster. For more about Steve's poetry, click here.
Steve Swinburne is a member of iNK's Authors on Call and is available for classroom programs through FieldTripZoom, a terrific technology that requires only a computer, wifi, and a webcam. Click here to find out more.
MLA 8 Citation
Swinburne, Stephen R. "In Praise of Vultures." Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank, 8 Dec. 2017, www.nonfictionminute.org/ In-Praise-Of-Vultures.
Carole Boston Weatherford
The Poet Professor
According to family lore, my relative Fayett Johnson was lynched in Bristol, Virginia. Not surprisingly, my research produced no clues beyond a fatal house fire. Many lynchings went unreported and remain unsolved. This question poem evokes the climate of hate that fueled lynch mobs and the mystery surrounding so many such crimes.
On that day my family has tried to forget
Were buds on the branches or did leaves shade the lawn?
Were the trees adorned in red and gold or sheathed in ice?
What had Fayett done to land in jail?
Did he wink at a white girl who smiled at him?
Or had he simply sassed the wrong white man?
How many days was he locked up
before the masked mob took the law
into its hands and snatched him from that cell?
Who was in the mob? The doctor, the shopkeeper?
Did it swell to hundreds? Thousands? And did they advertise?
Could the sheriff have stopped them if he’d tried?
Did they drag Fayett down a dusty road
to a clearing in the woods? Or to a bridge?
What if they marched him to the square?
Did families flock to the spectacle as if a picnic or a fair?
Were there boys in caps and girls with bows?
Who would miss this?
Was a rope waiting on a limb? Did they make him climb
A ladder? Thread his head through a noose?
Was there a hush as his body dropped, as his neck broke?
Did the mob strip Fayett
And then light kindling beneath his limp body?
Did they swap jokes as flesh charred?
Did the onlookers clamor for bits of rope and bone
and scraps of overalls? Did they sever body parts as souvenirs?
Did this horror make headlines?
Did a photographer snap a penny postcard?
Was that dread or sick delight on the faces in the crowd?
Did a single soul cringe or shed a tear?
When the news reached Fayett’s folks
Did his father pound his fists and his poor mother faint?
Did he leave a wife or children? Or just unrealized dreams?
Months later, when grass covered his grave,
Did his dog wait on the porch for his return?
Did his family mention that day only in whispers?
A century later, does that tree still stand?
Carole Boston Weatherford's book, Birmingham, 1963 is a poetic tribute to the victims of the racially motivated church bombing that served as a seminal event in the struggle for civil rights. In 1963, the eyes of the world were on Birmingham, Alabama, a flash point for the civil rights movement. Birmingham was one of the most segregated cities in the United States. Civil rights demonstrators were met with police dogs and water cannons. Archival photographs with poignant text written in free verse offer a powerful tribute to the young victims.
The Rosenwald Schools Legacy
Carole Boston Weatherford
The Poet Professor
Booker T. Washington was an African American educator; Julius Rosenwald, a tycoon descended from an immigrant. Together, they planted the seed for thousands of public schools in rural communities during the segregation era
In 1881, the formerly enslaved Washington founded Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Washington held the controversial view that Blacks should focus on economic and educational progress rather than equal rights. At the same time, he advocated for Black businesses and secretly funded civil rights lawsuits.
n 1912, Julius Rosenwald, the president of Sears, Roebuck and Company, joined Tuskegee Institute’s board of trustees. Rosenwald opposed racism and wanted to use his fortune to help others. Washington suggested funding schools in rural African-American communities, many of which were still using ramshackle Freedmen’s Bureau facilities.
From 1917 to 1932, the Rosenwald Fund awarded seed money—matching grants averaging $600—to construct more than 5,000 schools in 15 states. Communities had to raise additional funds, secure land and build the schools using blueprints from Tuskegee’s architecture department. The residents also bought supplies, fuel, and sometimes, school buses. The grants stipulated that the white community had to contribute to the building projects as well and that the state had to maintain the new schools.
In some areas, Rosenwald schools were the first educational institutions open to African Americans. Most Rosenwald schools lacked electricity or indoor plumbing and relied on hand-me-down furniture and textbooks from whites-only schools. Despite limited resources, Rosenwald schools were beacons of educational opportunity for generations growing up in the segregated South.
After integration, the schools closed and most were torn down. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has listed the remaining structures as endangered historic places.
The Rosenwald schools’ rich legacy offers lessons about community, anti-racism and the value of education.
Poem: Taking Root
(from Dear Mr. Rosenwald)
The church deacons voted to give an acre
Of land for a new school. Space
For a building, playground and garden.
Land that would have been used for graves.
Now, a seed is sown instead.
Carole Boston Weatherford, a Newbery Honor author, wrote the picture book Dear Mr. Rosenwald, an NAACP Image Award finalist and Golden Kite Honor winner illustrated by C. Gregory Christie.
For Vicki Cobb's BLOG (nonfiction book reviews, info on education, more), click here: Vicki's Blog
The NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Committee is pleased to inform you
that 30 People Who Changed the World has been selected for Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2018, a cooperative project of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) & the Children’s Book Council
African American History
Anderson Marian 1897-1993
April Fool's Day
Brill Marlene Targ
Carson Mary Kay
Cartoons & Comics
Carving (Decorative Arts)
Cinco De Mayo
Civil Rights Movements
Civil War - US
Clocks And Watches
COBOL (Computer Language)
Code And Cipher Stories
Collard III Sneed B.
Collectors And Collecting
Congressional Gold Medal
Declaration Of Independence
De Medici Catherine
Douglass Frederick 1818-1895
Edison Thomas A
Forensic Science And Medicine
Hollihan Kerrie Logan
Hot Air Balloons
Lafayette Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier Marquis De 17571834
Lewis And Clark Expedition (1804-1806)
Louis XIV King Of France
Oaths Of Office
Patent Dorothy Hinshaw
Schwartz David M
Swinburne Stephen R.
Thompson Laurie Ann
Trung Sisters Rebellion
Us History Revolution
Weatherford Carole Boston
Woman In History
Women Airforce Service Pilots
Women In History
World War Ii
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