The Shack

the shack masks blog 2018
I created this digital sketch for my book, “Arrows Axes and Scythes”. Although the skills displayed are crude, the picture helps to tell my story and conveys the mood of the day.

I’ve been working on and off on a memoir, “Arrows Axes and Scythes”.  It’s an odd book.  Because it is about my early childhood, many memories are vague, but impressions are not.  As a consequence, I created pictures, using “Paint” and “Gimp”, to help recreate the scenes I recall.  The narrative below explains what is happening in the picture.  My book, in yet again under revision. I hope to be publishing it…soon.


As I explained earlier in this book, my first years in school were not successful. Everyone believed I was slow. This assessment persisted into at least November of the third grade, when my teacher wrote a sympathetic note to my mother and lamented my poor performance. Between November and the end of the year something remarkable happened. I learned to read. By June, I had become one of the most advanced readers in the grade.

With this improvement in skills came an insatiable appetite for reading material. There was none at home, until we discovered the shack. This humble building, shown above, was concealed by thick overgrowth in the forest. When we investigated, we found that comic books covered the floor of the ramshackle shelter. We helped ourselves to these, though we did not know who might have proper rights to them.

The shack was my library.

Reading was one of the great gifts of my life. Socially I remained awkward, but peers and teachers showed new respect simply because I seemed to be talented. The conversion from being a dolt to being an excellent student taught me an important lesson. I was the same person before and after my transformation, but people around me changed. Previously, they had punished me for being dull, a circumstance over which I had no control. And then they rewarded me for being bright, a gift I’d done nothing to earn. The folly, the sheer cruelty, of their early behavior enlightened me. It taught me to place little value on the judgment of others. And it allowed me, for the rest of my life, to see worth in people whom others disregard.


If You Were Me and Lived in…Ancient Greece: Book Review

Poseidon, as drawn by Marie Briot, 1685

By Carole P. Roman

According to renowned psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980), young children go through an egocentric stage of development. At this time in their lives, they don’t have the ability to imagine experience from another point of view. The world is important only in so far as it relates to them. Piaget’s discovery is something most parents and teachers recognize and it is the principle at work in Carol Roman’s If You Were Me and Lived in….Ancient Greece. The book puts the child at the center of the Ancient Greek universe.

Concrete, realistic scenes carry the narrative forward. Children are invited to use their imagination and place themselves in various real-life situations. Each of these scenarios is accompanied by a vivid illustration.

If You Were Me and Lived in… Ancient Greece is not a long book, but it does manage to convey a trove of information. The marketplace, domestic life and even politics are covered. Some information will be startling, though not upsetting, to young children. Learning about the Greek system of slavery will certainly impress them. They might find it hard to believe that a person can be free, captured and then enslaved for life. Equally surprising may be the discussion about gender roles. Girls will no doubt protest when they learn how diminished their status would be, if they lived in Ancient Greece.

One aspect of Greek culture that is handled skillfully is the subject of gods. As children grow older they’ll probably be obliged to learn about Greek mythology. Familiarity with the most important of the gods will likely help them to sort the myriad personalities. Each god introduced by Ms. Roman is presented in the context of that deity’s role in society. Poseidon, for example, rules the sea, so shipping and trade are connected to him. And Heracles, known for extraordinary strength, is associated with a description of the Olympics.

If You Were Me and Lived in …Ancient Greece is beautifully illustrated. The book begins with an airplane ride and magically transports children to another time and place. It is a journey they will eagerly embrace. Be prepared to read this book many times, because it is bound to become a favorite.

Prompting Students to Write Poetry

Rupert Brooke was known for his war poems. On his way to battle, in 1915, Brooke was bitten by a mosquito. It was the mosquito bite and not a gunshot wound that killed him.
From: Teacher’s Manual The Artist Inside

•Suggest to your students that anyone can write a poem.

•Explain that, in a way, writing poetry is easier than writing prose. There are no punctuation or grammar rules in poetry. There is something called poetic license, which means an author can break all the rules if breaking the rules helps to advance the poem.

•Tell students that sometimes prose is like poetry and sometimes poetry is like prose. It’s usually up to the author to decide how to characterize a piece.

•Rules were much stricter years ago about poetry. Today there are almost no rules.

•Suggest to your students that poetry might give them more freedom to express ideas than a prose piece might. Poetry, more than prose, is the medium of feelings.

Sample Poems

Both selections in this section were written during war time.

•Explain to students that war provokes strong emotions.

•Ask students if they detect emotion in the two selections. If so, how?

On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln of the United States gave one of the most famous speeches in American history–The Gettysburg Address. This speech was so artfully written and conveyed emotion so eloquently that it is has often been called a prose poem. The speech is printed in its entirety on the following pages. The first version of the speech is in prose, as Lincoln wrote it.

The second version of the speech is in verse, the way many people believe the poem sounds.

•Ask your students if they think the speech works as a poem.

•Ask them to find phrases that are particularly eloquent and moving.

•Ask students if they can hear a cadence, a kind of music, in the words, whether they are presented as prose or verse.

The selection following the Gettysburg Address is excerpted from a poem, Safety, by Rupert Brooke. Brooke was British; he wrote Safety in 1914, the first year of WWI. In 1915, as the poet was headed toward battle, a mosquito bit him. The bite became infected and Brooke died shortly after of blood poisoning. His poem, Safety, was written in sonnet form; this means it has a definite meter (like a beat in music) and it rhymes.

•Ask your students if they think this poem is of a very serious nature, or if the subject matter is not terribly significant.

•Ask your students to find words that help to set the mood. Ask them how they would describe the mood of the poet.

•Invite your students to try their hand at writing any kind of poem they’d like. Remind them that they want to choose their words carefully so that mood and tone are conveyed.

•Tell them to have fun; writing poetry is personal and can be a very rewarding experience.

lincoln PinkertonLincolnMcClernand
This photo of Lincoln was taken at Antietam by Alexander Gardner, in 1862. Allan Pinkerton, head of Union Intelligence Services, is on his right. Major General John A. McClernand is on his left. The picture is available from the US Library of Congress. It is in the public domain.