Hornbooks and Inkwells

Hornbooks and Inkwells

by S.D. Schindler

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Life in an eighteenth-century one-room schoolhouse might be different from today-but like any other pair of siblings, brothers Peter and John Paul get up to plenty of mischief! Readers follow the two as they work with birch-bark paper and hornbooks, play tricks on each other, get in trouble, and celebrate when John Paul learns to read and write.

Verla Kay's

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Life in an eighteenth-century one-room schoolhouse might be different from today-but like any other pair of siblings, brothers Peter and John Paul get up to plenty of mischief! Readers follow the two as they work with birch-bark paper and hornbooks, play tricks on each other, get in trouble, and celebrate when John Paul learns to read and write.

Verla Kay's trademark short and evocative verse and S. D. Schindler's lively art add humor and character to the classic schoolhouse scenes, and readers will love discovering the differences-and similarities- to their own school days.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 1–4—In energetic quatrains, readers follow brothers Peter and John Paul as they race to their Colonial-era one-room school; line up on benches with boys on one side, girls on the other; and begin the day's lessons. Alphabet, math, history, and religion fill the instructional time, but recess finds the children outside playing simple games. Modern children may feel lucky as they learn that the Master does not spare the rod and that wearing neck yokes was considered appropriate punishment for misbehavior. John Paul's delight in his blossoming academic progress will be shared by readers. Watercolor and gouache illustrations bring the boys to humorous life and provide details of the dress and customs of the period. The text and pictures work exceptionally well together. The format of the text does not allow for in-depth explanations but the pictures help fill in the gaps. Appealing visual elements such as quilt squares, illuminated letters, and borders add variety to the overall design of the book. The brownish tones used in the pictures suggest the look of old documents and further enhance the atmosphere of the story. Since this book does not actually explain terms such as "hornbook," pair it with a nonfiction title such as Marian Broida's Projects About Colonial Life (Marshall Cavendish, 2003) to help children gain a more complete understanding of the period.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
In brisk, jaunty rhymes, Kay takes us back to a mid-1700s school. We follow the day of two brothers, Peter and John Paul. There the boys and girls sit on opposite sides. The schoolmaster has to severely stop the boys from fighting. The students have lessons in history, letters, and numbers. During recess they play games. At home that night, the boys study, but John Paul cannot read yet. Time passes; the children ice skate in winter; studying goes on in school as spring arrives. Finally, with a quill pen and Peter's help, John Paul triumphantly begins to write. Lively detailed gouache and watercolor illustrations tell a fuller story than the brief verses of the text. The lanky schoolmaster in his white wig instructs his class; the boys engage in assorted games engagingly depicted, as are the clothes of the period and the rooms of school and home. A gentle sense of humor pervades this depiction of school life long ago. Kay adds an interesting note about the background of the story. There is also a bibliography. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Kirkus Reviews

Terse rhyme introduces children to 18th-century schooling.

Kay personalizes the experience by focusing on two brothers and their school year. They dilly-dally on their walk to school, compete and have their squabbles. But in the end, a little sibling love goes a long way in helping John Paul learn to read and write. From carrying wood and stoking the fire to recess games and outhouse use, children will delight in finding things that are similar to and different from their own school experiences, and indeed, this is one of the text's biggest strengths. A 1700s school day also began with a bell, but the schoolmaster rang it himself. The subjects children studied were similar, though their books, paper and pens were quite different. And children who pay frequent visits to the principal will be truly thankful they did not go to school in the 18th century. Throughout, the rhythms and rhyme never fail: "Feather pen nib, / Sharpen tip. / Paper curling, / Ink pen, dip." Schindler's richly detailed watercolor-and-gouache illustrations depict lively scenes of ordinary kids attending school—playing pranks, daydreaming, feeling both frustration and elation. The children exude personality and life, while their clothing, mannerisms and surroundings exemplify life in 18th-century America.

Whether studying colonial life or comparison/contrast, teachers will surely reach for this. (Picture book. 4-8)

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Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
10.20(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Verla Kay is a native Californian who grew up in the sleepy little town of Watsonville. Located right next to the surfing town of Santa Cruz, it nestles between San Francisco and Monterey Bays and enjoys some of the most beautiful scenery and weather in the world. She now resides in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains with her husband, one cat, one bird, and one son.

With a crop duster father and a stay-at-home domestic mother, one older sister and one younger brother, Verla's early life seemed ideal - and in many ways it was. But Verla had a hard time making friends and spent most of her younger years as a very lonely child. She spent many hours reading books and daydreaming about friends and love and the happiness that she prayed would someday be hers.

That happiness came to her when she met her future husband, Terry. It was love at first sight for both of them and after a rocky courtship, they were married on Easter Sunday the spring following their graduation from high school.

For the first fifteen years, their marriage was anything but ideal, but through sheer stubborness and determination, they made a success of it and their marriage survived despite many loud arguments and frequent broken pottery. During this time, they had four children - three boys and one girl.

Verla worked off and on, to help make ends meet. But her primary goal was to stay at home and take care of her children, so most of the time the jobs she took were temporary ones and some of them were quite interesting.

She tried picking chives in the fields, but that job only lasted two weeks. The decision to stay at home and care for her children herself was made very quickly after she discovered that her first paycheck was less than what she owed to her babysitter!

One of the most fun and profitable jobs Verla ever had was when she worked for a party plan selling toys and gifts at home parties. This was a job that she could do while staying at home with her children and she earned hundreds of free toys and gifts for her family and seven free trips to exotic places around the world on her group sales as a District Manager with this company.

As a result, she and her husband, Terry, have been to Bogota, Columbia and Rio de Janerio, Brazil in South America. Verla went alone to Israel and both of them toured Portugal in Europe. They enjoyed Hawaii and a cruise to Alaska together. The last trip she earned was to Greece and due to a severe case of bronchitis, she could not go, so she sent Terry without her. He says that cruising the Greek Isles with 600 women while his wife was at home was a wonderful experience - and Verla tends to believe him!

Becoming A Writer

It wasn't until Terry and Verla had moved their family to Nevada and purchased a laundromat in Carson City, that she found herself thinking about becoming a writer. One of their regular customers was a woman who was a successful free lance writer for magazines. She looked at some of Verla's writing and was constantly encouraging Verla to become a writer herself. The seed had been sown. They lived in Carson City for three years, then the call of the ocean breezes and tall redwoods became too strong and they moved back to Santa Cruz.

For the next few years, Verla ran a licensed daycare from her home. Snaps 'N Snails Daycare catered to six children at a time - most of the children being between five months and three years old. While she read books to the children, Verla couldn't stop thinking about writing stories of her own. Finally, the call to WRITE became too strong and she signed up for a correspondence course through the Institute of Children's Literature. During the next two years, she studied and practiced and learned what it took to write and sell stories for children.


After selling two short stories, one to Turtle Magazine and one to Humpty Dumpty's Magazine, one of her picture book manuscripts was pulled from the slush pile at Putnam Books and she was on her way to being a REAL author. Six months later, Putnam bought a second manuscript.

It was while Verla was working as a desk clerk in a local motel that she found herself checking in a very special couple one night. While chatting with the people, some things she said about her writing triggered events that eventually led to her gaining a terrific agent in New York who was able to negotiate much better terms for Verla on her third picture book contract.

Because it wasn't until she was grown that she herself discovered the joys of history, it is Verla's fervent desire to bring history to life for young children in an interesting way. She does this by writing short, entertaining books that spark children's interest in different historical periods. Most of Verla's books are written for young children in a distinctive rhyming style she calls "cryptic rhyme."

Since April of '97, Verla has been staying home, working full time on her writing. She considers her life to be idyllic. She spends many contented hours in front of her computer screen, thinking, plotting, planning and writing what she hopes will be wonderful books. Her agent has just sold her eighth book. Her first two books (both with Putnam) can be purchased now through any bookstore or by going to Verla's Books page and following the link there to www.Amazon.com.

Learning and keeping up with the times are very important to Verla and she is constantly discovering new ways to expand her experiences. After building her own website, and putting the #Kidlit children's writer's chat room on her site, she began holding monthly on-line workshops there. Her website has become so popular that Writer's Digest named it one of the Top 101 Websites for Writers in 2000.

Her first published book, Gold Fever, received three starred reviews and was named a Best Book of the Year by Bank Street College of Education in New York. It is on several public library recommended reading lists.

Her second book, Iron Horses, received two starred reviews. It has been named a Society of School Librarian's International Honor Book and is also on the Children's Book Council's Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People list. Her third book, Covered Wagons, Bumpy Trails, was just released in October of 2000. She has five more picture books to be published in the next few years.

Today and Beyond

Most of Verla and Terry's children are grown now, and lead productive lives of their own. Their oldest son, Eric, is the past Senior Network Systems Administrator for Netscape and their middle son, Donn, is currently in his fourth year of college, studying as a vocal music major. Their youngest son, Bruce, is now in his first year of college and is well on his way to becoming a computer programmer. Their only daughter, Portia, is happily married to Heath, and she has given Terry and Verla four incredibly wonderful grandchildren - Kristyn, Charles, Mikayla and Rayana.

Verla enjoys boating and fishing, reading, writing, and working puzzles. She has spent many happy hours panning for gold with her husband in the nearby hills and she is very proud of a third-place Gold-Panning Competition trophy she won at her county fair in 1994. She is addicted to Nintendo - Dr. Mario is her favorite game. She can repeatedly win level 20 High and once got as far as level 24 on it. She loves computer games and when she is at home and not writing, responding to e-mail or working on her website, she spends many enjoyable hours puzzling her way through her latest adventure program.

What the future may bring is alw

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