Posts Tagged ‘literature’

Harper Lee Through the Years

Harper Lee brought readers into fictional Maycomb, Alabama through the narration of a young girl named Scout. Lee’s brilliant story shed light on the topic of racial discrimination and class inequality during a time when these issues were growing, especially in the South. We don’t easily forget Scout and Harper Lee’s novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a piece of literature that has transcended generations. The American novelist we used to only know for her first book, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” excited readers everywhere when she released a second book, “Go Set a Watchman” in 2015.

Born on April 28 in 1926, Nelle Harper Lee lived a mostly private life. She didn’t give many interviews, but when she did, her words resonated. Though her health fluctuated over the years, she remained an active inspiration. She never married or had any children, but her literary contributions kept her busy. She had a sister Alice Lee who lived to 103 and died in 2014 as well as two other siblings who have also passed. Harper Lee passed away on Feb 19, 2016, and in remembrance of her, I wanted to create an infographic highlighting her major milestones.

Find more information on the life and legacy of Harper Lee in SIRS Renaissance, SIRS Discoverer, and eLibrary.

Do you have a favorite Harper Lee quote or excerpt? Comment in the space below or Tweet us at #ProQuest!

Happy Birthday Lewis Carroll!

"Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, c. 1875." Photo credit: National Media Museum via Foter.com / No known copyright restrictions

“Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, c. 1875.” Photo credit: National Media Museum via Foter.com / No known copyright restrictions

Lewis Carroll was the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. The beloved creator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking-Glass and other fantasy tales, has a birthday today (January 27, 1832). To celebrate Lewis Carroll, we wanted to share some of the things that made this children’s author and his work so unique:

He was also a mathematician who wove mathematical lessons into his stories.

This learning disability which hinders the ability to read didn’t seem to hinder Carroll’s writing talent.

He loved visiting the Oxford Museum of Natural History and many of the animals he saw there inspired the use of animals in his writing.

Lewis Carroll taught mathematics at Christ Church College at Oxford for years under the dean Henry Liddell. The fictional Alice was inspired by Liddell’s daughter Alice.

He contemplated a variety of book titles from Alice’s Hour in Elfland to Alice Among the Fairies.

John Tenniel, Lewis Carroll’s illustrator, made his illustrations on a wood-block before giving to an engraver to cut.

Both Carroll’s love for the Dodo Bird and his real name, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, inspired the Dodo in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

The book has also been translated into at least 100 languages including Classical Latin.

How will you celebrate the work of Lewis Carroll? Let us know in the comments below or Tweet us at #ProQuest!

Book Float Projects

As an editor for SIRS Discoverer who has children in elementary school, I like to pay attention to my children’s assignments at school to inform my editorial selections. I believe this adds a layer of personal relevancy to my work. Many projects in elementary school have a research component and that’s where SIRS Discoverer is very valuable as an age-appropriate resource.

My daughter’s 4th grade class was assigned a “Book Float” project this year. I had never heard of these projects before, but after a little research, I found that they are a common 4th grade project.

The idea is to make a shoebox into a miniature parade float based on the theme of a recently read book. The students have to make a 3-D scene from the book, write a summary, rate the book, and present it to the class.

My daughter chose the book “Matilda” by Roald Dahl. She really enjoyed reading the book and the book float was really fun to make. Here are some photos of the finished product. The printed pictures are some scenes from the book, the hearts represent Matilda’s kindness, and the miniature books represent Matilda’s love for reading.

book float 1

Image by Jennifer Oms

book float 2

Image by Jennifer Oms

Teachers, a great place to learn about children’s books is in SIRS Discoverer! Here are some subject searches in ProQuest SIRS Discoverer to get you started:

Children’s books

Books and reading


Remembering Maya Angelou

"Maya Angelou." Photo credit: www.geteverwise.com / Foter / CC BY-SA

“Maya Angelou.” Photo credit: www.geteverwise.com / Foter / CC BY-SA

Today marks exactly one year since we lost Maya Angelou on May 28, 2014. Her literary and educational contributions go beyond books and wisdom. She was an activist, actress, composer, dancer, director, editor, essayist, playwright, poet, singer, storyteller and writer. In the 86 years she spent on Earth sharing her art, voice and many gifts, it is her strength and poise we will remember most. To honor the full life she led, I thought it would be befitting to list 10 facts you may not know about Maya Angelou and reflect on the woman who published more than just poetry. She imprinted our hearts with empathy and adoration so that we always seek to understand instead of to judge.

1. She Was a Southern Soul

Maya Angelou loved country music.

2. Her Real Name Was Not Maya Angelou

She was born Marguerite Annie Johnson.

3. She Reached an Educational Milestone

Maya Angelou received over 30 honorary doctorates from universities spanning the world during her life, but never attended college.

4. She Was Very Multi-Talented

Aside from being a poet, she was a calypso singer and dancer. She also immersed herself in other artistic areas including acting, directing, editing, and playwriting.

5. Her Birthday Held a Unique Significance

April 4, 1928 was Maya Angelou’s birthday and April 4, 1968 was the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. She didn’t celebrate her own birthday for years after his death because of the shared date.

6. She Was Multilingual

She mastered French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Fanti and English of course.

7. She Earned Presidential Praise

In 1993, Maya Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” during Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration and was the first black female poet to do so.

8. She Loved Oprah

Though Maya Angelou had one son, she thought of Oprah Winfrey as the daughter she never had.

9. You Can Say She’s a Space Poet

NASA sent Maya Angelou’s poem “A Brave and Startling Truth” into space aboard the Orion spacecraft in December 2014.

10. She Was a Powerful Advocate

Maya Angelou was a strong supporter of civil rights and marriage equality.

Celebrating Jane Yolen


Jane Yolen
Source: Luigi Novi [CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons]

Jane Yolen was born on Feb. 11, 1939. She has published hundreds of books, novels, poetry and short stories suitable for children and teens. Her novella geared for young adults, “The Devil’s Arithmetic,” draws on Holocaust history to captivate readers and was turned into a made-for-TV-movie in 1999. Her ever-growing imagination and talent for fiction-writing has led her to win notable awards and accolades. While she is now both a mother and grandmother, her love for children’s literature began way before having children of her own. She has written stories and penned poems since childhood, though she jokingly refers to the first poem she ever wrote, “Bus, bus, wait for us!” as being “truly awful.” To celebrate Jane Yolen’s birthday through the power of literature and prose, think about incorporating a mix of ProQuest resources and educational activities into your next lesson:

1. ProQuest eLibrary Research Topic on Jane Yolen: ProQuest eLibrary Research Topics are carefully hand-crafted with curated materials to meet your educational needs.

Jane Yolen Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

Jane Yolen Research Topic Screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

2. ProQuest SIRS Discoverer not only guides you in the right direction, but is also a great resource for discovering other children’s book authors and their works. Here are a couple of articles to get you started: see Poet Finds Inspiration All Around Her and Jane Yolen: A Writer for Every Reader.

3. Jane Yolen’s For Teachers PageA wealth of teacher resources for use in the classroom can be found on Jane Yolen’s web site.

4. NPR Interview: Kids Author Jane Yolen Never Too Old For Comics: Audio interviews as primary sources are both personal and informative.

5. Reading Rockets: Interview with Jane Yolen: Video interviews can be a wonderful way to complement a lesson and bring an author’s experiences to life.

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise,
we don’t believe in it at all.”Noam Chomsky

The idea of books being banned seems like it would be a violation of the First Amendment’s freedom of speech protections. In fact, the Supreme Court ruled in the 1982 case of Board of Education v. Pico that “local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.” Yet more than 30 years later, hundreds of books are challenged in schools and libraries in the United States each year.

ALA Banned Books Week

Image by American Library Association

The first Banned Books Week was celebrated later that same year, and it is now an annual national celebration of the freedom to read. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, it seeks to draw national attention to the harms of censorship. This year it will be celebrated from September 21−27, with an emphasis on comic books and graphic novels.

According to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, at least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been the target of ban attempts. Ironically, a science fiction novel in which firemen burn books and the state suppresses learning, is among those that have been challenged and banned in the U.S. (Fahrenheit 451, written by Ray Bradbury in 1953).

In 2012, the American Library Association (ALA) created an interactive timeline celebrating 30 years of liberating literature. The ALA has also produced a map displaying banned and challenged books throughout the United States from 2007-2010. You can learn where books were challenged or banned, the rationales, and the outcomes. 

Educators can find resources to engage students and explore the topics of book censorship, intellectual freedom and the rights protected by the First Amendment with SIRS Issues Researcher’s Leading Issue Banned Books. All Leading Issues include a topic overview, essential questions and answers, a timeline, resources for critical thinking and analysis, as well as articles that cover pro/con viewpoints, global impact and statistics. Invite your students to enlist in the battle against censorship today!

Banned Books Leading Issue

Banned Books Leading Issue on ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher

Hurray for Terrific Teen Literature!

Today is Celebrate Teen Literature Day! And in today’s literary marketplace there’s much cause for celebration. Young adult (YA) literature is thriving! If the New York Times best-seller list is any indication, teens don’t need to be persuaded that reading can be fun. They already know it. And, according to recent studies, they’re not the only ones devouring  YA books. Many adults are hip to the not-so-guilty pleasures of great YA fiction.

Despite the recent crop of Hollywood adaptations of YA novels, including the Twilight Saga, The Hunger Games and Divergent, YA fiction extends beyond vampire romances and dystopian fantasies, covering a broad range of themes and genres. From coming-of-age classics like S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders to John Green’s contemporary tear-jerker The Fault in Our Stars, there are stories to suit all tastes.


In honor of Celebrate Teen literature Day, librarians across the country are hosting events in their libraries or through their websites. What’s more, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is hosting Teens’ Top Ten, its annual “teens choice” list, where teenagers nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year. Winners will be announced after Teen Read Week in October. YALSA is also giving away 40 sets of the 2014 Teens’ Top Ten nominated titles to libraries in need.

Join ProQuest SIRS in celebrating the wealth of high-quality literature written for teens today! Visit SIRS Renaissance for articles on the latest and best YA literature on the market.

Anniversary of “The Raven”: Why Poe’s Famous Poem Lives On Forevermore

On this day in 1845, Edgar Allan Poe’s narrative poem, “The Raven,” was published in the New York Evening Mirror. Although the poem earned him a mere nine dollars upon its publication, it immediately captured readers’ imaginations and made Poe a household name. More than a century and a half later, our continued fascination with Poe and his mythical bird are evident throughout popular culture. What other poem can be said to have inspired an NFL football team (the Baltimore Ravens), a rock album (Lou Reed’s “The Raven”), a Hollywood film (“The Raven,” starring John Cusack as Poe) and an episode of “The Simpsons” (“Treehouse of Horror”)? Even those who’ve never read the poem are likely to recognize its most famous line: Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”

Poe considered the death of a beautiful woman the “most poetical topic in the world,” and he believed that bereaved lovers made great narrators. Thus “The Raven” follows an unnamed narrator who is beset with grief over the death of his beloved Lenore. Late one dreary December night while reading a book in an effort to distract himself from his sorrow, the narrator is visited by a mysterious guest—the raven, who answers the narrator’s every inquiry with a single, maddening word: Nevermore. The poem’s supernatural atmosphere and gothic setting give “The Raven” its spooky appeal. But the narrator’s mental anguish gives the poem its emotional power. By the end of the poem, the bereaved narrator, so distraught at the prospect of never seeing his love again, has lost his sanity. If you’ve never gotten around to reading this most famous of American poems, give it a shot! Find out why “The Raven” continues to haunt and enthrall readers. After you’ve read it, visit the Literary Corner in SIRS Renaissance to learn more about the poem and its legendary author.

The Importance of Critical Thinking

Given the bewildering amount of information available today at the click of a mouse, knowing how to read critically and thoughtfully is arguably more important than ever. The featured TED-ed video by Amy E. Harter offers helpful tips on how to dig beneath the surface of a text to uncover its deeper meanings.

To aid students in learning how to evaluate and interpret written information, SIRS Renaissance features scholarly criticism of literary works, from classic novels to contemporary poems and plays. Through the study of literature, students develop the analytic skills that will help them succeed in our increasingly complex world.

It’s a Great Month to Get Caught Reading!

First lady Michelle Obama reads "The Cat in the Hat" to children at Prager Child Development Center at Fort Bragg, N.C., March 12, 2009. The first lady spoke with soldiers and family members as part of her initiative to care for military families. <br \> U.S. Army photo by Reginald Rogers, via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter [Public Domain]

First lady Michelle Obama reads “The Cat in the Hat” to children at Prager Child Development Center at Fort Bragg, N.C., March 12, 2009. The first lady spoke with soldiers and family members as part of her initiative to care for military families.
U.S. Army photo by Reginald Rogers, via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter [Public Domain]

Psssst. Hey, watch out…look over your shoulder…hide! Someone might catch you reading this!

Well, May is Get Caught Reading Month!

In 1999, the first Get Caught Reading campaign was celebrated in the United States. The goal of this annual celebration remains the same: to encourage recreational reading and emphasize the joys of reading for fun. There are so many reasons to love literature…books can take you to faraway places, imaginary worlds, or connect you more strongly with your own emotions. Reading a biography can introduce you to someone new and fascinating; a book of poetry can open your mind to a unique way of viewing the world. And did you know that there is more than one way to read a book? Learn about audiobooks and the impact they’ve had on the nation’s reading habits. And be sure to try SIRS Researcher’s “Read Out Loud” feature! Open an article, make sure the “Read Out Loud” toggle is on, and click on “Audio MP3.” Not only is it fun to read, but it’s fun to be read to!

Join SIRS Knowledge Source during the month of May and Get Caught Reading!