Wednesday, April 14, 2010

meet phillis - and ann!

Whenever I become lost in a book I feel the urge to tell you. This is one of them. Ann Rinaldi is one of my favorite authors. She takes real historical figures and fleshes them out on paper. Her writing is so remarkable. Never a wasted word! She packs so much punch in every spare sentence. Poignant, rich, beautiful. She writes for young adults but there is enough depth for adults. I was truly sad to come to the last page.

In Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons, she tells
the story of America's first black poetess, Phillis
Wheatley. Taken from the west coast of Africa by
slavers as a young child, she was sold to a wealthy
colonial family who soon saw that she was gifted.
Rather than keep her as a slave, they began to treat her as a family member and educated her. She was schooled in Greek and Latin, studied the classics, and fell in love with the written word.

During the Revolutionary War, she wrote a poem about George Washington and was invited to headquarters to meet with him. She was so remarkable in her lifetime and helped paved the way for the eventual emancipation of her people. I felt a kinship with Phillis because she was a writer and wonder if her author did too. It's the best book Ann Rinaldi has ever written in my opinion.

Reading about Phillis reminded me of an interview question I was once asked which I'll now ask you: If you could have dinner with three authors or historical figures who would you invite and why?


  1. Wow, she does sound amazing. What a life she led! I will definitely have to check this book out. Sounds right up my alley :)

    Hmmm....three authors to have to dinner...or perhaps tea? I'll say Laura Ingalls Wilder, Tasha Tudor and LM Montgomery! Now that would be lively conversation, no doubt!

  2. I love Ann Rinaldi! She is such an amazing writer. I'll definitely be checking this book out.

    Three historical figures...hmmm... I'd like to meet Abigail Adams because she seems to be such a strong woman who loves her family and country and shows it by hard work and sacrifice. And her letters to John are beautiful.
    C.S. Lewis! I'd love to sit down and talk to him about life, writing, and God.
    Laura Ingalls Wilder- She is such a great example of how an ordinary life and be so interesting and so not ordinary. Gives me hope that living my routine life can have a great impact on others.
    thanks for the post, Laura. Got me thinking:)

  3. Heather, Oh I love your choices:) LM Montgomery is certainly on my list and your other two would be delightful. And you're so right - no lull in the conversation! These women would probably really like each other!

    Thanks so much - it's fun to imagine!

  4. Kristen, Glad we are both Rinaldi fans! She has written so many books. I'd be hard pressed to tell which one I liked best after Phillis. After watching the John Adams mini-series, I have a whole new respect for clever Abigail! CS Lewis is also a favorite. And now we have 3 votes for Laura Ingalls Wilder. The amazing thing is that none of these women knew the legacy they were leaving. Something to think about, indeed:)

  5. I've read a few of Ann Rinaldi's books, and really enjoyed them. I'll definitely have to check this one out, along with several others.

    Did you know she's written at least one book set in Kentucky. It's called The Coffin Quilt, and is set during the Hatfield-McCoy feud. I have not read it, but I've heard it's very good.

    Authors, I would choose Jane Austen, Margaret Mitchell, and Robert K. Massie.

    Historical figures, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

    Wow, I really could list a bunch of other people too!

  6. Michelle, I'm impressed with your list - and embarrassed to admit I had to really, really think about mine. I was hoping someone would mention Margaret Mitchell. We southerners can't forget Gone With the Wind!

    I've read The Coffin Quilt as I was on a Hatfield and McCoy kick awhile back. I could never quite get shed of Johnse and Roseann and wanted to find out what REALLY happened. But guess we'll never really know. Have you ever driven through Pike County and thereabouts? Kind of spooky! I used to drive my granny back to Virginia and remember the hanging rock on the way, etc. Carsick country, that's for sure.
    I'll tell you my 6 picks a bit later to see if anyone else chimes in:)

  7. I've definitely been through Pike county, I was born and raised there. :) I definitely know what you mean about the roads. They've never bothered me, but I do know people they have. One of my ancestors was involved in the latter stages of the Hatfield-McCoy feud. Actually I could tell some colorful stories about several of my ancestors.

  8. I'm smiling to hear where you originate! I've been wondering where you're from, Michelle:) That part of KY is very rugged in its own way and has a haunting history. How neat that you have links to the feud! I can imagine it must have shaken up things for a long time as it became so very volatile.

    PLEASE preserve those memories in writing somehow for you and your loved ones. I wish I'd asked my granny more about her history. As it was, I pestered her to death but even now think of things I wish I'd asked her. Thanks for the insights. I find them fascinating.

  9. I hadn't heard of Phillis before and I was glad to learn about Ann, too.
    You always have such interesting things on your blog ~ I enjoy it sooo much.

    I would like to dine with faith, family, & fiction guests:

    Missionary Lettie Cowman (Streams in the Desert) who's sweet spirit and Christian faith have inspired and encouraged so many for almost 100 years.

    My ancestor Lydia Frost to learn more about my family heritage and her personal experiences during the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

    Author George MacDonald who was an extraordinary Christian man and storyteller who influenced many writers hence.

  10. So glad you added to the list, Carla, as I know you love history like I do. Am glad you mentioned Lettie Cowman as a reader friend in Kentucky just sent me my very own copy this week! And I love it. Seems perfect for the season of life I'm in right now. I've been reading her Springs in the Valley but will switch over now.

    The name of your ancestor, Lydia Frost, is intriguing to me. I think I would have to pick one of my KY kin also from the 18th-c. for the same reasons. And I'm not surprised you picked George M. He was amazing and his legacy continues to this very day!

    Thanks so much for taking time to read and post - I know how busy you are! And I'm glad you find things here that interest you. That is sure an encouragement to me.

  11. Thanks for the good book recommend. My daughter went on a Ann Rinaldi readathon and read everything she could get her hands on. I picked up a few and loved them as well. Rinaldi has an amazing knack for turning back the clock, doesn't she? I swear she time travels and recoreds her experiences!

    Okay, I had to give this a lot of thought and I've decided that my dinner guest would be:

    Louisa May Alcott
    Beatrix Potter
    Sojourner Truth

    All very strong, independent women who wouldn't let social norms or men's dictates put them down.

  12. Kav, I had a feeling that your being a librarian alone acquainted you with Ann Rinaldi. Glad your daughter loves her books! I guess she has a new one out or about to release but I can't remember the title. Good excuse to hop on over to Amazon and peek.

    Beatrix Potter is a favorite of mine, as well. My boys used to love her videos when they were small and would play them over and over. I miss the music that accompanied them.

    Louisa May Alcott should certainly be invited! How many people haven't read Little Women and all the rest! And I think Sojourner Truth and Phillis Wheatley would get along very well. Now that is an interesting combo!

    If you come across any other writers of historical that you want to pass on, I'd love to know!

  13. It is a big week end here in AL for the 50th anniversary for "To Kill a Mockingbird" and there was even an article about it in the new issue of Readers Digest.
    I'm sure you probably never heard of Nancy Beckett but she is a writer and also writes plays...she has invited my Daughter to come to her show in May and that will be exciting for Nellie.

  14. Nancy, Good to hear from you! So many people list To Kill a Mockingbird as their favorite book. I guess Harper Lee is still living - I think we talked about that and you told me she is. Congrats to Nellie! I know she'll enjoy every minute, especially since she received a personal invitation. Hope things are going well for you and you are having some spring weather down there:)

  15. I have an award for you. pleae pick up at

    You really are an inspriation to me and it is good to call you friend


  16. I love Ann Rinaldi's books! I have read many of them and recently got an advanced copy of her newest book (which is about a family shortly after the revolutionary war)

    I would like to meet:
    Laura Ingalls Wilder - I loved her books as a child and I think she had an amazing life.
    Queen Elizabeth I - for being a powerful female ruler in a time when women usually had no power or even choices about their own lives.
    Abigail Adams - she sounds like she was a very intelligant and learned woman. She was an early advocate of women's rights and ending slavery. And she lived in a very interesting era!

  17. Rebecca, You are one of the luckiest folks I know - that must be Ann's upcoming one about Kitty Greene?! Aw, I'm so envious:) I bet it was a great read. She always adds such an interesting twist to history. I just finished her Wolf by the Ears and now I am dying to visit Monticello. Sadly, I am on the wrong side of the US to make that trip anytime soon.

    Love your list! Several people have mentioned Abigail - she must be so popular. Laura Ingalls Wilder is definitely a winner and I think Queen E the first would make a lively addition, to be sure. I've always been a fan of English history and she was a major player.

    Guess I'll share my list:
    1. Daniel Boone
    2. George Rogers Clark
    3. George Washington or, if he was indisposed, Thomas Jefferson or Meriwether Lewis or William Clark...

    Hmmm, those are all men. Here are the women:
    1. Empress Alexandra of Russia
    2. Sally Hemmings
    3. Sacajawea

    I could go on and on and on. Not a fair question!

  18. Edna, It's always a delight to see your name pop up in my inbox:) Thanks so much for the award! It means so much that you would do that when there are so many inspiring blogs out there. Bless you this week, dear reader and friend.

  19. hmm.... will definitely need to find that Rinaldi book. Sounds good.

    Historical figures....
    1. Jesus, For SURE!!!
    2. Laura Ingalls Wilder
    3. ???? not sure. Actually there are so many that would be interesting to spend time with.

  20. Lisa, I'm so glad you said Jesus!! I was surprised that none of us had mentioned a Biblical figure! Maybe that would be a good post for future - to name favorite Biblical characters:) I think Laura Ingalls Wilder would be so pleased if she could see all the dinner invites coming her way:)