Turning a page of history: Maryland Day

March 24, 1995|By Molly Dunham Glassman | Molly Dunham Glassman,Sun Staff Writer

Tomorrow is Maryland Day. If you grew up here, maybe you vaguely recollect a Maryland Day assembly in elementary school. Chances are, you never paid attention to the holiday again until your kids hit elementary school.

Baltimore author Becky Thoman Lindberg has made a Maryland vTC Day school project central to the theme of her third book, "Thomas Tuttle, Just in Time," illustrations by Nancy Poydar, Albert Whitman & Company, $11.95, 112 pages, ages 7-9).

Like her first two books -- "Speak Up, Chelsea Martin!" and "Chelsea Martin Turns Green" -- this one follows the exploits of the students in Mrs. Findlay's third-grade class. Chelsea plays a bit part in the latest story, which focuses on Thomas Tuttle and his troubles in school.

Thomas isn't dumb. He just puts off assignments until the last possible minute, and his sloppy, rushed efforts receive poor grades. The morning that a solar system project is due, he finds an orange Nerf ball on his bedroom floor, pinches out some pieces of foam to form craters and tries to pass it off as a model of Mars. Mrs. Findlay is not amused.

For their next project, the students must come to school dressed as a famous person in Maryland history and give a report about that person.

Thomas, who recently went to Fort McHenry with his family, finally gets excited about an assignment. He'll be Francis Scott Key.

He writes a report. He plans a costume. But then, the morning the project is due, he has to make a last-minute switch. His presentation isn't the greatest, but his effort earns him a most improved ribbon -- the highest praise he's ever received in school.

Procrastinators of all ages can identify with Thomas. Ms. Lindberg works hard to make him a "boy's boy," showing him tunneling to the bottom of the laundry hamper to retrieve a stained shirt to wear to school. But even third-graders will find the characters are drawn a bit too stiffly -- the rough-around-the-edges boys vs. the goody-two-shoes girls.

Yet Ms. Lindberg keeps readers engaged with loads of fast-moving dialogue and enough action to maintain the interest of reluctant readers like Thomas.

* If you know someone who's trying to -- off a Maryland Day report this weekend, here's a resource: "By the Dawn's Early Light: The Story of the Star Spangled Banner," written by Steven Kroll, illustrated by Dan Andreasen (Scholastic, $14.95, 40 pages, ages 5-9).

It's a fine book to have on hand for young, out-of-town visitors before they tour Fort McHenry. And longtime Baltimoreans can learn a detail or two about the War of 1812 as well. For example, I was always unclear about how Francis Scott Key wound up on the British ship invading the harbor. This book explains the events leading up to his being taken hostage.

This is Mr. Andreasen's first picture book, and his oil paintings are handsome and old-fashioned, lending a period feel to the text. Mr. Kroll includes a bibliography of 12 books, a map depicting the Battle of Baltimore and a photograph of the original manuscript of Key's poem, courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.

Also included is the music for the song and the words to all four verses -- for anyone brave enough to try singing the whole thing.

Of local note

* As part of the Storybook Weekend celebration at Towsontowne Mall, area authors and illustrators will be signing books tomorrow and Sunday at the Waldenbooks there. Tomorrow's schedule: noon to 2 p.m. -- Margaret Meacham ("Boy on the Beach," "Secret of Heron Creek," "Call Me Cathy"); 2 p.m.-3 p.m. -- Christine Merrill ("Animals Who Have Won Our Hearts"); 3 p.m.-5 p.m. -- M. C. Helldorfer ("Gather Up, Gather In," "Moon Trouble," "Cabbage Rose," "Sailing to the Sea"); 5 p.m.-6 p.m. -- Jerdine Nolan ("Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm").

Sunday's schedule: noon to 1 p.m. -- Fred Wehr ("Amelia"); 2 p.m.-3 p.m. -- Sally Foster ("Private World of Smith Island," "A Pup Grows Up," "Where Time Stands Still").

* Jean Craighead George, who won the 1973 Newbery Medal for "Julie of the Wolves," will appear at the Children's Book Store on Deepdene Road in Roland Park from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. April 7. Her latest book is "Julie," a sequel to "Julie of the Wolves," and her vast body of work includes "My Side of the Mountain," "The Missing 'Gator of Gumbo Limbo" and the "Thirteen Moons" series.

* Now in its eighth year, Baltimore's Celebration of Children's Literature conference gives teachers, librarians and fans of children's books a chance to meet authors and view writing from the author's perspective. This year the conference is sponsored by the Association of Independent Maryland Schools and will be held April 29 at the Siney Theater of the Roland Park Country School.

Speakers will be Anita Lobel ("Away From Home," "On Market Street," "A New Coat for Anna"), Helen V. Griffith ("Georgia Music," "Grandaddy's Place," "Grandaddy's Star"), Judith Caseley ("Mr. Green Peas" and the Kane family books) and Susan Hirschman, publisher and editor of Greenwillow Books.

They will be joined by a star-studded cast of librarians, including conference coordinator Judith B. Rosenfeld of St. Anne's School in Bristol, Va.; Debbie Taylor, coordinator of school and student services for the Enoch Pratt Library; Frances Sedney, director of children's services for Harford County libraries; and Anna Smink of Holton Arms School in Bethesda.

The program runs from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and includes an opportunity to buy books and have the authors sign them. The $50 fee includes lunch. To register, call Debbie Frye at (410) 987-7025 or (301) 621-0787.

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