Archive for April 4th, 2006

Exploring Scotland with Martha Morse

April 4, 2006 @ 3:41 am | Filed under: , ,

MarthatallAngela writes:

My daughter is currently in love with all things Scottish, and we have just ordered your Martha Books. (and LOVES that a homeschooling mom wrote them!!!) Can you recommend any websites/ book lists for upper elementary, so I could put together a little unit for her?

Happy to!

(Consider this a work in progress, and I’ll update as I am able. I’ll also put together a resource list for the Charlotte books, as soon as I get a chance. Suggestions from other Bonny Glen readers are welcome!)

Spinning and Weaving
In Martha’s day (late 1700s Scotland), every woman in the household, from the laird’s wife to the lowliest kitchenmaid, was expected to spend every spare minute spinning wool or flax into thread. The spun wool and linen thread was taken to a nearby weaver (weaving was a man’s trade, at this time), who would weave the fabric to order. As a housewife in early-nineteenth-century Massachusetts, however, Martha would have done her own weaving.

Here are some picture books about spinning, weaving, wool, and such.

Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney.
A New Coat for Anna by Harriet Zeifert.
The Rag Coat by Lauren A. Mills.
Warm as Wool by Scott Russell Sanders.
Pelle’s New Suit by Elsa Beskow.

If, like Martha, your child has a hankering to try his or her hand at spinning with a drop spindle, Halcyon Yarn has a very nice beginner’s kit. (Unlike Martha, I never did get the hang of it, though!)

UPDATE: Jane begs to differ about Halcyon’s kit being “very nice.” She agrees that the Harrisville drop spindle and the colored, combed wool are quite satisfactory, “But Mom, the instruction booklet was terrible, don’t you remember? Impossible to follow!” I stand corrected. Fortunately, a kind reader has just emailed me a link to this informative site: The Joy of Handspinning. Many thanks to Christine for the suggestion, and to my ever-vigilant junior editor, Jane.

Gi’me Elbow Room: Folk Songs of a Scottish Childhood and other albums by Bonnie Rideout. (Gi’Me Elbow Room is a favorite with my children. Several of the songs are Robert Louis Stevenson poems set to music with a Celtic flair. Others are traditional Scottish tunes. Lots of fun.)

Folk Songs Index—click on Scotland and listen to dozens of songs, all for free! (This is how I selected many of the songs I quote in the Martha books.)

Poetry and Literature
Robert Burns, whose work was just becoming popular in Martha’s day.

Sir Walter Scott. Rob Roy takes place not far from the fictional valley where Martha’s family lives.

Fairy tales by Sorche nic Leodhas. Wonderful collections of traditional Scottish stories, including versions of some of the tales I adapted for retelling in the Martha books. (Other stories, like the Water Fairy’s tale and the tale of the Fairy’s Spindle, I made up from scratch.)

Dorothy Wordsworth’s Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland—her journal of a trip she took with her brother William and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. A fascinating account of her travels. I found this book invaluable during the writing of Highlands.

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. The classic Scottish adventure book.

The King’s Swift Rider: A Novel on Robert the Bruce by Mollie Hunter. This is on my shelf for a future read-aloud—I haven’t reviewed it yet.

(More Scotland-themed middle-grade and YA novels to come.)

UPDATE: How did I forget? The Scottish author George MacDonald is one of my lifelong favorite writers, ever since I read The Wise Woman at the age of nine. Also delicious: The Princess and the Goblin, The Princess and Curdie, and The Light Princess. Many thanks to the Deputy Headmistress for the reminder.

The DHM also suggests The Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter.

Useful Websites
EdinPhoto Archive—printouts of old engravings from this site are taped up all over my office wall.

Costumer’s Manifesto—all about period clothing. (Check the “ethnic costumes” section.)

All about tartans. (Specific clan tartans, as we know them today, did not come into fashion until the Victorian era, when Walter Scott’s books brought all things Scots into vogue. In Martha’s day, a hundred years earlier, families would wear whatever tartan plaid pleased them—or the weaver.)

Scottish scenery.

Scottish history.

here’s another!

More to come!

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