Robinson Crusoe Day is the anniversary of Alexander Selkirk’s rescue from the island Juan Fernandez in 1709. He landed on the island off the coast of Chile in 1704 after disagreeing with the captain. His exploits may have inspired Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. Children can read Robinson Crusoe at: Project Gutenberg.
Supreme Court opened its first session in 1790. In that year the capital was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the Supreme Court met in what is now Independence Hall. When the capital moved to Washington, DC, no Supreme Court building existed. The Court met in various parts of the Capitol Building and even met in a private home during the War of 1812. Until 1935 the Supreme Court continued to meet in various places. The Supreme Court Building opened in 1935. Children can learn more about the Supreme Court at: Supreme Court.
Julia Ward Howe published “Battle Hymn of the Republic” as a poem in The Atlantic Monthly in 1862. The poem was a result of a visit she made to a Union army camp during the Civil War. Soldiers had asked her to create the lyrics of a “fighting song” to match a melody that already existed. She awoke one dawn and the words began to form the verses. She got up and wrote down the poem immediately. Children can read the lyrics and view a photograph of Julia Ward Howe at: Lyrics. Children can listen to the song at: Battle Hymn of the Republic.
Hale Telescope on Mount Palomar began operations in 1949. Named after George Ellery Hale, the 200-inch reflecting telescope was the largest of its kind. Located near San Diego, California, the telescope is still in use. Children can view a webcam at the telescope’s site at: Hale Telescope.
Meg Cabot (born Bloomington, Indiana, 1967) has published over 50 books for young adults and adults. She is best known for her Princess Diary series. Young adults can visit her website at: Meg Cabot.
Hattie Wyatt Caraway (born Bakersville, Tennessee, 1878; died Falls Church, Virginia, December 21, 1950) finished her husband’s term in the Senate when he died in 1931. She then ran for the office when that term expired. She became the first woman to be elected to the Senate, and she worked ceaselessly for women’s rights and Prohibition.
Langston Hughes (born Joplin, Missouri, 1902; died New York, New York, May 22, 1967) was an African American writer. He is famous for his poetry, and he experimented with meter. He wrote or edited at least fifty books, and he also created dramas. Students can read some of his poetry at: Hughes Poetry. Children could learn more about Hughes at the America’s Library site at: Langston Hughes. Students would also enjoy reading Floyd Cooper’s Coming Home: From the Life of Langston Hughes.
James Preller (born 1961) writes books for children. He writes the Jigsaw Jones series and other books, including Bystander and Before you Go. Children can visit his website at: James Preller.
Jerry Spinelli (born Norristown, Pennsylvania, 1941) has written at least 28 books for children. His Maniac McGee received the 1991 Newbery Award. His Wringer was a 1998 Newbery Honor Book. Children could visit his website at: Jerry Spinelli.
Groundhog Day delights children. If a groundhog pops out of his burrow and sees his shadow, then winter will last another six weeks. Idea: Gather statistics as to whether or not the event really predicts the arrival of spring. Children can visit the Punxsutawney Phil website for some great games, activities, and even a cookie recipe at: Groundhog Day. Children could also read Groundhog Day! by Gail Gibbons.
George Walton died in Augusta, Georgia, on February 2, 1804. He was born near Farmville, Virginia, 1741, but his exact birth date is unknown. Representing Georgia, he signed the Declaration of Independence. He fought for his state militia during the Revolutionary War and was caught by the British in late 1778. He was imprisoned until September 1779, when he was exchanged for a British officer. After the war, he served as Georgia’s governor, a United States senator, and the chief justice of Georgia’s highest court.
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in 1848, ending the war between Mexico and the United States. In return for fifteen million dollars from the United States, Mexico gave up the land that became California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Texas also became part of the United States. Children can learn more at: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
Pura Belpré (born Cidra, Puerto Rico, 1899; died New York, New York, July 1, 1982) was a librarian and writer. She preserved and shared works by Latino writers. One of her most famous works was Juan Bobo and the Queen’s Necklace: A Puerto Rican Folk Tale. The American Library Association and REFORMA established the Pura Belpre Award in her honor. The award recognizes Latino writers and illustrations. Children can learn more by reading the Children’s Book Award Handbook by Diana F. Marks.
Rebecca Caudill (born Cumberland, Kentucky, 1899; died Urbana, Illinois, October 2, 1985) wrote more than 20 books for children. Her book Tree of Freedom was a 1950 Newbery Honor Book. She also wrote A Pocketful of Cricket. The illustrator, Evaline Ness, received a 1965 Caldecott Honor Award for her illustrations. The state of Illinois, where she lived for many years, created the Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award in her honor. Every year the school children of Illinois vote for their favorite new book. Children could learn more about her at: Rebecca Caudill.
Jascha Heifitz (born Vilna, Lithuania, 1901; died Los Angeles, California, December 10, 1987) was a violin virtuoso. He started to play at age three and was performing at age six. At age thirteen he played in Berlin and found international fame. During the Russian Revolution he escaped to the United States, where he became a citizen in 1925. He recorded many great pieces and arrangements. Because of his technical skills, he was often the first person to play new pieces by present-day composers.
James Joyce (born Dublin, Ireland, 1882; died Zurich, Switzerland, January 13, 1941) was a writer. One of his most famous works is A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Older children can read some of his works at: Project Gutenberg
Judith Viorst (born Newark, New Jersey, 1931) writes for both children and adults. She is also known for her poetry. One of her books is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
Paper money was used for the first time in 1690 in the colony of Massachusetts. Idea: Children could debate the pros and cons of using paper money as opposed to coins. They can visit the Bureau of Printing and Engraving site: Paper Money.