Category Archives: History

Celebrate the Civil Rights Movement with Random House

I HAVE A DREAM_new cover with CSK seal


August 28th is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s landmark “I Have a Dream” speech, a watershed moment in the struggle for civil rights and Random House Children’s Books has been celebrating with a fabulous Civil Rights Movement blog tour. Today, it is my great honor to be part of that tour and I have a fabulous guest post here at AmoXcalli, by Matthew Olshan, author of THE MIGHTY LALOUCHE (illustrated by Sophie Blackall).  Random House Children’s Books has put together an I Have a Dream enhanced website featuring the new picture book by Kadir Nelson, I HAVE A DREAM.  The book is stunning, the paintings really pay tribute to the man, the movement and the speech.  The book also contains a CD with the full speech.

Please join AmoXcalli, Random House Children’s Books and all the others on the tour in celebrating the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King’s historical speech.


The Promise of Freedom, Then and Now by Matthew Olshan

The word “freedom” blazes an incandescent trail through Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” but what does he mean by it? What, exactly, is the freedom he dreams of, the kind that will ring from the mountaintops, that will cause the American people to join hands and sing ecstatically, “Free at last!”

Freedom from what? Freedom to do what?

Freedom from injustice, certainly. Freedom to pursue the American Dream.

For Dr. King, the American Dream is rooted in what he calls its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

He says this knowing all too well the irony in those sacred words from the Declaration of Independence. The men who wrote them didn’t really believe that men were created equal. Many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves. And slaves weren’t created equal. You couldn’t own someone who was your equal; therefore, slaves weren’t men. At least, not fully. A slave was some fraction of a man. Call it three-fifths.

But those imperfect, 18th Century men were dreamers, too. They invented a country that promised more than it could deliver. They drew up a constitution with the goal of forming a more perfect union — not a perfect union, mind you, but a more perfect union. They understood that we live in the world; that the world is full of injustice, greed, and cruelty; that people generally want to do the right thing, but aren’t always strong enough to do it.

Ours has been a history of forgetting our promises, then remembering, and lurching, sometimes violently, towards the light.

Even some of our greatest triumphs have fallen short. Take the Emancipation Proclamation. Church bells rang out across the land on January 1st, 1863. Freed slaves and abolitionists alike were overjoyed. Surely there were ecstatic cries of “Free at last!”

But the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free all the slaves. President Lincoln couldn’t risk losing the border states. The slaves in Maryland, Delaware, and Kentucky may have heard distant ringing that day; alas, the bells weren’t ringing for them.

The century that followed the Emancipation Proclamation saw many gains for people of color, but also great backsliding. In states like Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama, equality wasn’t simply an impossibility; in huge swaths of the country, it was no longer even a dream.

Dr. King’s speech, smoldering with anger and yet brimming with hope, was meant to remind Americans of their creed, that promise of equality dating back to the Declaration of Independence.

Our union is certainly more perfect now. The scourge of slavery is long past. The worst abuses of Jim Crow are over.

But their legacy remains.

We’ll always need voices like Dr. King’s — righteous, melodious, idealistic, and stern — to remind us of the nation we were; the nation we are; and the nation we hope to be.

History shows us how easy it is to forget.

Matthew Olshan is the author of several novels for young readers, including Finn and The Flown Sky. The Mighty Lalouche, a collaboration with the award-winning illustrator Sophie Blackall, is his first venture into the world of picture books. Their next collaboration, Henry and Henri, which will be published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, is the story of the first international flight: a balloon ride across the English Channel in 1785, taken by an Englishman and a Frenchman who absolutely hated each other.??Matthew also writes serious literary fiction for adults. Look for Marshlands, a novel of military occupation and empire, due out from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in February, 2014

Fred Patten Reviews The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.


The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage: Queen of Pulp Pin-Up Art

Authors:  Stephen D. Korshak and J. David Spurlock

Publisher:  Vanguard Productions

ISBN-10:  1-9343-3150-3

ISBN-13:  978-1-9343-3150-7


From about the 1910s through the 1940s, one of the main forms of popular entertainment was the pulp fiction magazines, so-called because they were printed on cheap pulp paper with gaudy, lurid covers.  There were adventure-fiction pulps, Western pulps, jungle-adventure pulps, historical-adventure pulps, science-fiction pulps, air-ace pulps, pirate-adventure pulps, detective pulps, horror pulps, women’s romance pulps, and many others.  There were artists who specialized in painting pulp magazine covers, such as J. Allen St. John for the Tarzan stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

During the 1930s, one of the standout pulps on the newsstand was Weird Tales, “The Unique Magazine”.  Weird Tales specialized in publishing science-fiction and horror with a fantasy bent, such as the exploits of psychic detective Jules de Grandin by Seabury Quinn.  Most of Weird Tales’ stories are forgotten today, but the magazine was notable for publishing most of the stories of H. P. Lovecraft, the Conan stories of Robert E. Howard, and the early short stories of Ray Bradbury, Henry Kuttner, Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert Bloch (one of whose stories, “A Sorcerer Runs for Sheriff”, WT September 1941, pretty well sums up Weird Tales’ editorial policy).

But what made Weird Tales stand out among all the other pulps were its covers by Margaret Brundage.  From September 1932 through October 1938, almost every monthly issue of Weird Tales featured a Brundage pastel chalk painting of a scantily-clad or completely nude damsel in distress being menaced by slavering werewolves, sinister Oriental master criminals, or a cruelly gloating whip- or knout-wielding dominatrix.  Sometimes the nude damsel was offering love to a statue of a pagan god.  At a time when pulp covers often came under cries for censorship for lewdness, Brundage seemed to have an instinct for just how far she could go and keep within the borders of good taste.  I started collecting pulp magazines in the 1960s when they were long-gone except for the used-magazine shops, but fans of the pulps were still talking about the issues of Weird Tales with Margaret Brundage’s covers.  She is one of the few artists whose cover on a magazine alone could raise that magazine’s price.

The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage: Queen of Pulp Pin-Up Art is an “everything you want to know” book about Brundage and her work.  What makes this a must-have for most connoisseurs of fantasy art is the life-sized (9” x 12”) reproductions in full color on glossy paper of all of her magazine covers.  Most pulp and s-f fans did not realize that she also painted covers for other magazines.  This book includes them, plus several of Brundage’s non-cover paintings, some from long after her magazine period.

But wait!  There’s more!  This book also includes two complete biographies of Brundage, including interviews given to fans who tracked her down in the 1960s shortly before her death.  There is a biography emphasizing her life and art (she was a high-school classmate of Walt Disney, and they remained on good albeit distant terms throughout their lives), and a biography emphasizing her participation and leadership in Chicago’s radical left-wing movement in the late 1920s, including her activism for the Industrial Workers of the World and other labor and bohemian movements, and her unsatisfactory marriage to labor activist “Slim” Brundage.  It was her determination to stay in Chicago that was responsible, after her husband’s desertion of her and their infant son, for her to look for commercial art work in that city.  Weird Tales was one of the few magazines whose editorial offices were in Chicago.  It was Weird Tales’ sale to a New York publisher in 1938 and the relocation of its editorial offices to NYC that was responsible for Brundage leaving WT.  The new publisher wanted a cover artist who lived in NYC, and Brundage refused to leave Chicago.

The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage: Queen of Pulp Pin-Up Art is a 164-page book containing 74 magazine cover reproductions in full-size of mint-condition copies, plus ten reproductions of cover paintings from the original art (without the cover lettering) – the only cover originals that still exist after eighty years, because pastel chalk art smears easily.  The book also includes a plethora of posters, photographs, business cards, handbills, and other ephemera from the 1920s I.W.W. and the Dill Pickle Club, a bohemian social group in which Brundage was a leader.

Buy where there is any interest in lavish art books, in popular art or fantasy magazine art of the 1930s, in Margaret Brundage in particular, or the radical left-wing social movement of the 1920s and 1930s.

This book is reviewed from the $24.95 trade paperback edition.  There are also a $39.95 hardcover edition with a different cover; and a $69.95 de luxe slipcased edition with a third cover and a 16-page art folio that is not included in the other editions.


Scholastic Discover More: World War II


Scholastic Discover More: World War II
Author: Sean Callery
Publisher: Scholastic Reference (March 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0545479754
ISBN-13: 978-0545479752

I’m quickly learning to love the Scholastic Discover More series of books. The grandchildren love them and for me, they are a wealth of information.

In World War II, a visual history of the world’s darkest days, there are plenty of full color photographs, as well as some stunning black and whites and infographic type pages laid out in a way that is appealing to most children. Also provided is a free digital companion book that kids and parents can access either on Mac or PC through Scholastic’s Discover More website. Continue reading

Conflict and Costume: The Herero Tribe of Namibia


Conflict and Costume: The Herero Tribe of Namibia
Photographer: Jim Naughten
Introduction: Lutz Marten
Publisher: Merrell Publishers (February 19, 2013)
ISBN-10: 185894600X
ISBN-13: 978-1858946009

It’s always interesting to learn about cultures and people from far away lands. That’s one of the reasons I read so much and I am well used to being swept away in time or place, but not as stunningly as with Conflict and Costume: The Herero Tribe of Nambia. I must confess, the images were so stunning – bright colors against a pale sky and desert sand; that I just had to pore over them for hours before I read the introduction or any of the text. The most striking and what keep me gazing into the photographs, were the faces. Such strength and history in the expressions. It moved me profoundly and I found myself wanting to go to Namibia and meet these people. Continue reading

Fred Patten Reviews Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration. The Stories – The Movies – The Art.


Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration. The Stories – The Movies – The Art.
Author: Scott Tracy Griffin. Introduction by Ron Ely.
Publisher: Titan Books
ISBN-10: 1-7811-6169-0
ISBN-13: 978-1-7811-6169-2

Tarzan of the Apes, the first Tarzan novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, was published in October 1912. Titan Books has won the authorization and full cooperation of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. to publish this only official commemorative visual history of Tarzan.

This is an extremely imposing tome. It is a tall, thick 10.2 x 13.1 inches, weighing 5 pounds; 320 pages in full color (except for the numerous period photographs, which are in black & white). It is written by Scott Tracy Griffin, a leading expert and consultant on documentaries about Tarzan and Burroughs for almost twenty years. The introduction is by Ron Ely, who portrayed the ape man in 57 one-hour NBC TV episodes from 1966 to 1968.

Aside from short biographical chapters on Burroughs’ early years (pages 10-18) and his later years (pages 312-315), the book concentrates mostly on his 24 Tarzan novels and other books (pages 20-183), the Tarzan motion pictures (pages 224-265), Tarzan in other entertainment media (television and radio series, and the stage), and dramatizations for children. Shorter chapters of a few pages each cover Tarzana (from its origin as Burroughs’ large farm/ranch in the 1920s to its status as a residential suburb (population 26,000+) of Los Angeles today) and the ERB, Inc. office built in 1927 by Burroughs where he worked; Tarzan collectibles for children such as lunchboxes; authorized Tarzan books by other authors; foreign editions; authorized Tarzan fanzines and fan publications; and the major fan club, the Burroughs Bibliophiles, and its annual “Dum-Dum” conventions.

The meat of the book is in its coverage of Burroughs’ books and the Tarzan motion pictures. A Titan Books press release describes this as “…a visual treasure trove of classic comic strip, cover art, movie stills, and rare ephemera”. The movie stills are in the forty pages on the Tarzan movies; the rest is in the 160 pages devoted to the 24 Tarzan novels and Burroughs’ other books. This is a treasure trove of graphics. The coverage of each book includes (besides a detailed plot synopsis, a summary of its public response, and trivia related to it) a complete publication history, original dust jackets, magazine covers, newspaper comic strip and comic book adaptations, and ephemera related to it. Burroughs and his heirs were collectors, and these are not pictures of the used copies that often appear in books about decades-old popular literature. Each image is from a mint-condition copy, a publisher’s proof, or the original artwork. Each image including the comic book covers is identified as to its artist. In the sections on motion pictures (including the Disney 1999 animated version), TV series, the stage musical, fan publications, foreign editions, collectibles, etc., ERB and his corporate heirs also built up a huge collection of publicity stills and other graphics, that are featured here. Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration is current up to Jane, the Woman Who Loved Tarzan by Robin Maxwell (Tor Books), published on September 18, 2012.

The biographical sections on Edgar Rice Burroughs include what is probably the most complete collection of Burroughs’ personal photographs ever published. In addition to straightforward biographical data, there are many anecdotes of Burroughs’ sense of humor. The story of how his original pseudonym, “Normal Bean” (meaning a normal human), was changed by a typesetter into “Norman Bean”, is well-known, but this book documents many others. For example, Burroughs was often asked how “Tarzan” should be pronounced. His replies were seldom serious; one answer was that “the ‘o’ is silent, as in ‘mice’”.

This is an authorized history, so it does not mention the many unauthorized Tarzan novels, written mostly since the 1960s after the first Tarzan novels’ copyrights expired. The Tarzan name is still trademarked, and ERB, Inc. has suppressed those in the U.S. individually in a series of lawsuits. This is a minor omission since most of the unauthorized stories were dreadful. ERB, Inc. has carefully used its authority to make sure that the authorized novels, mostly by such professional science-fiction authors as Fritz Leiber, Philip Jose Farmer, and R. A. Salvatore, and British TV and comic book author Andy Briggs, have been of high quality.

There is no index, although the clear arrangement of the contents makes most information easy to find. While most of Burroughs’ non-Tarzan novels such as The Mad King and The Oakdale Affair are minor enough that this book will satisfy most readers’ search for information about them, readers will have to search for complete information about Burroughs’ other science-fiction tales – the John Carter of Mars novels, the Pellucidar novels, the Carson Napier of Venus novels, The Moon Maid and The Moon Men – elsewhere.

Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration will sate the most obsessed fans’ desire for information about Edgar Rice Burroughs the author; about his Tarzan books and their adaptations in motion pictures, comic strips, and comic books; and about Tarzan and his supporting characters – Jane, his son Korak, Cheetah, and Tantor the elephant. It is a bargain at the price.

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

Shannon Muir Reviews Planet Taco


Planet Taco – A Global History of Mexican Food

Author: Jeffrey M. Pilcher

Publisher: Oxford University Press

ISBN-10: 0199740062

ISBN-13: 978-0199740062



Planet Taco talks about how the taco grew from a small regional type of food into a diversified global cuisine. It breaks down how tacos started as the food of migrant workers, what factors spread it internationally, how it struggled to find a presence in the world of fine dining, and ultimately  developed a diverse identity with many cultures taking it and adopting the taco as its own with each bringing a unique twist. Though the book clearly shows its biases in favor of the Mexican history of the taco, and sympathizes with the modern day taco trucks when discussing the current day status of the food, it still provides many insights that the average person may not know and is packed with information in an interesting read that is far from dry.


Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review via Netgalley, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

Shannon Muir Reviews The Woman Reader


The Woman Reader

Author: Belinda Jack

Publisher: Yale University Press

ISBN-13: 9780300120455

ASIN: B00871VXJ6


Though this book is dense reading, it’s also a treasure trove of information – reflecting how women readers also tended to also be the first woman writers, but following the progression of how reading made its way to the masses. There were women writers I knew about, as well as some I did not, plus a lot of information is gleaned about women later on wealthy enough to be patrons of the arts and well-read though not writers. The book ends focusing more on censorship and the threat it poses to all readers, not just women, though an emphasis is placed on women. This book offers a lot to think about a reminder that the gift of reading does not come free for anyone, regardless of gender, and that literacy is not to be taken for granted.

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review via NetGalley, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.