Tuesday, January 30

Roadschool Trip to New Orleans - Exploring Food & Culture!


Nicknamed "The Big Easy," New Orleans (or NOLA) is known for being a cultural gumbo of music, food, history, and architecture. There's so much more to this city than Mardi Gras...and it's a great place for a roadschool trip!

Step Back in Time

New Orleans was founded in 1718 and named for Philippe II, Duke of Orlรฉans. During the American Revolutionary War, New Orleans was an important port for smuggling aid to the American revolutionaries, and transporting military equipment and supplies up the Mississippi River.

Napoleon sold the city to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Thereafter, the city grew rapidly with influxes of Americans, French, Creoles and Africans. Between 1791 and 1810, thousands of St. Dominican refugees from the Haitian Revolution, both whites and free people of color, arrived in New Orleans; a number brought their slaves with them, many of whom were native Africans or of full-blood descent. Louisiana slave culture had its own distinct Afro-Creole society, which included religious beliefs (most notably, Voodoo) and the Louisiana Creole language.

During the final campaign of the War of 1812, the British sent a force of 11,000 in an attempt to capture New Orleans. Despite great challenges, General Andrew Jackson, with support from the U.S. Navy and the pirate Jean Lafitte, decisively defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815.

Pictured above, the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France in the French Quarter is the oldest cathedral in continuous use in the US, alongside the Royal Presidio Chapel in Monterey, California.

Fast forward to the 21st century, when New Orleans was catastrophically affected when the federal levee system failed during Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005. By the time the hurricane approached the city on August 29, 2005, most residents had evacuated. Floodwalls and levees constructed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers failed below design specifications, and 80% of the city flooded.

That NOLA Sound

Through an intertwining of African, Latin, and European cultures, as well as their musical stylings, New Orleans has a unique musical style.  Beginning in the early American days, there was a blending of Latin and African rhythms with European instruments, and the style evolved up to the start of the 20th century, when local musicians such as Louis Armstrong helped to develop something new - jazz!  It continues to evolve today, as we have seen through Zydeco, Delta Blues, and Bounce.  

The transformation of nineteen century benevolent associations into more modern social aid and pleasure clubs provided communities with a rich cycle of social events. Their tradition of parading and marching bands continues to embody the spirit of Delta culture. In fact, when a jazz musician dies, fellow players gather to follow a hearse. The procession to the cemetery begins with slow-paced dirges and ends with jubilant music, celebrating the soul's entry into heaven. Mourners and bystanders fall in behind the band, forming a "second line."

Distinctive folk music traditions survive in rural areas of the Delta today. Cajun ballads, some brought from France through Acadia (see The Lookout Tree unit study), are set to an instrumentation of triangle, fiddle, and accordian. Zydeco blends blues and R&B components with traditional Cajun dance music. Saxophones, piano accordians, electric guitars, and corrugated rub-boards (frottoirs) that are worn as vests and scraped as percussion instruments, create the dance music.
Learn more about the evolution of music in The History of Rock and Roll.

Classic NOLA Cuisine

If music is the soul, then food is the heart of the Delta.  Like its music, its cuisine reflects a compled blend of cultural influences.  Trying to label Delta cuisine as French, Spanish, or African is as pointless as trying to label its culture.  A local chef, when asked to describe his cooking style, once said," Perhaps I would classify it as Delta cooking because it is a culinary blend of ingredients that reflects our cultural diversity."

New Orleans is world-famous for its cuisine. The indigenous cuisine is distinctive and influential. New Orleans food combined local Creole, haute Creole and New Orleans French cuisines. Local ingredients, French, Spanish, Italian, African, Native American, Cajun, Chinese, and a hint of Cuban traditions combine to produce a truly unique and easily recognizable New Orleans flavor.

Local specialities include beignets with cafe au lait, po'boys, muffulettas, etouffee, jambalaya, gumbo, red beans and rice, and pralines. Food is so important to the local culture, that there is a saying -- "There are two times of day in Louisiana: meal time and in-between."

Christmas in NOLA

With unique traditions and dazzling decorations, Christmas is a wonderful time to visit New Orleans with the family.  Even the streetcars and steamboats are decked out!  

Some of the holiday highlights include: Candlelight Caroling in Jackson Square (by the cathedral pictured above), building bonfires on the levee to guide Papa Noel, and celebrating with Reveillon dinners.  City restaurants recreate a centuries-old tradition of a Creole four-course holiday feast.
If you've ever wanted to peek behind the iron railings and see history upfront, Christmas is also your change to ride the train through the city to experience holiday displays.  You'll see the oldest homes of the French Quarter and Garden District exhibiting the Christmas spirit, with 600-year old trees covered in Spanish moss and dripping in lights.  Many also throw open their doors and invite you inside to experience the holiday beauty.

New Orleans unit study resources

Younger Kids
  • Le Petite Rouge - In this Cajun Little Red Riding hood, when her grand-mรจre comes down wit' de flu, this Cajun Little Red knows what she has to do.  With her witty cat, TeJean, she sets off in a pirogue to bring Grand-mรจre some gumbo.
  • All that Jazz! - When kids are finished exploring this book, they can see even more of New Orleans by watching, singing and dancing to the music video that goes with this book on the Bellissimavideo YouTube channel.
  • Boudreaux the Louisiana Mosquiteaux - Swept away by a hurricane shortly after his birth, Boudreaux the mosquito has one biting question that needs to be answered: what are mosquitos supposed to eat? Across the swamps of Louisiana he goes, determined to find a breakfast fit for a pest.
Chapter Books
  • Recipe for Adventure: New OrleansZia's secret ingredient takes Alfie and Emilia to New Orleans. There they meet the members of a kids’ jazz band and are soon helping save the band’s performance venue, as well as tracking down a long-lost cookbook, which just might hold some very special secrets. From beignets and gumbo, to jazz and zydeco, Alfie and Emilia experience everything New Orleans has to offer, all while trying to find their way home.
  • I Survived Hurricane Katrina - The horror of Hurricane Katrina is brought vividly to life in this fictional account of a boy, a dog, and the storm of the century.
Older Chaper Readers
  • They Called Us River Rats - The previously untold story of perhaps the oldest outsider settlement in America, an invisible community on the annually flooded shores of the Mississippi River.
  • RuinedA gripping supernatural mystery and romance set in post-Katrina New Orleans.Rebecca couldn't feel more out of place in New Orleans. She's staying in a creepy house with her aunt, who reads tarot cards. Sweet, mysterious Lisette is eager to show Rebecca the nooks and crannies of New Orleans. There's just one catch, Lisette is a ghost.
  • Little Local New Orleans Cookbook - The Little Local New Orleans Cookbook brings the essential flavors of New Orleans to your table.
  • Musical GumboA guide to the music and musicians of New Orleans profiles such legends as Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, and Buckwheat Zydeco, as well as modern performers including Harry Connick, Jr. and the Marsalis family.
  • Little Snippets of New OrleansSnippets of New Orleans is a whimsical 248 pages of witty text and wonderful illustrations all about New Orleans: its music, food, architecture, people, eccentricities, and traditions.

Resources for Upper Grades Students

  • Soldiers rounding up terrified civilians, expelling them from their land, burning their homes and crops...  Do you know the history of how the Acadians are similar to Jews?
    • Although they were never actually shipped by the British to Louisiana, many Acadians found their way there due to the attraction of the language and culture – we know it as ‘Cajun.’  In the 1770s, they were allowed to return to Canada, settling in places such as Prince Edward Island,, New Brunswick, and Cape Breton.  The Great Upheaval continued into the 1820s.  They still maintain a strong cultural history and set of traditions today.
    • Pick up the full unit study for The Lookout Tree & the Acadian Exile.
  • How did a French pirate help to defeat the British in the War of 1812?
    • In the early 1800s, Jean and Pierre Lafitte operated a smuggling operation out of Barataria, near New Orleans.  For several years, they made a lot of money through both smuggling and piracy.  In September of 1814, the US Navy invaded their base of operations and captured their fleet.
    • Pick up the full unit study for We Were There with Jean Lafitte at New Orleans.

Resources for Elementary Students

Our first trip to Louisiana was several years ago, when the boys were younger.  You can take the virtual field trip and see many lesser-known locations in this Roadschool Trip to Louisiana.

Following that trip, we put together a guide for studying the cultures of Louisiana, and the history behind them. Includes math, cooking, reading, and worksheets.  This unit also covers the history of Mardi Gras, arts and crafts activities, cooking projects, language arts, and more! It includes several worksheets and a printable book.  Pick up a copy here!

Wednesday, January 24

Roadschool Trip to Jorvik & York Castle


The period referred to as the Viking Age dates from around AD 800 to 1050. Wherever they lived, the Viking-age Scandinavians shared common features such as house forms, jewelry, tools, and other everyday equipment. When the Vikings settled in York, they clearly had trouble saying the Saxon name for the city: Eoforwic (which is thought to mean wild boar settlement), so decided to call it Jorvik (thought to mean wild boar creek).

The Vikings had been raiding the coasts of England from the late 8th century, but in 865 a Viking army landed with the intention of conquering rather than just raiding. The Vikings dominated York from the late Stn century until the Norman Conquest. One of the more famous rulers from this era was kthelwold, was the son of /Ethelred, the king of Wessex in the mid to late 9th century. Alfred the Great became king from this line.

Jorvik was part of a busy international trading system, with thriving workshops, and well-established mints. However, throughout Viking-age Scandinavia, the main occupation was the production of food. Farming, fishing, and trapping were important community activities, and the people were largely self-sufficient. This was possible due to the fertile soils, good pasture, and well-stocked fishing grounds of the area.

Raiding and pillaging were a large part of Viking history. When a Viking sacked a monastery, he literally hit the jackpot since the local magnates used them for personal storage centers. These religious centers were also where imported goods,

including wine, textiles, produce, and raw materials from surrounding lands, were exchanged.  By the end of the 7th century, Christianity had been established in Northumbria. The arrival of the pagan Vikings seemed to have little effect on the Christian religion, with the incoming Scandinavians converting to Christianity within a few decades of their arrival and largely adopting local burial customs, however there are stone crosses and grave markers — such as the Hogback gravestone - that introduced Scandinavian motifs to the designs and instituted new forms.

York Castle is a fortified complex in the city of York. The complex includes castles, prisons, courts, and other buildings which were built over the last nine centuries on the River Foss. While most of the complex is no longer standing, the medieval Normal castle keep ruins are commonly known as Clifford's Tower, which still stands today.

York was a Viking capital city in the 10th and 11th centuries. In 1068, on William the Conqueror's first northern expedition after the Norman Conquest, he built several castles across the north-east of England, including one at York.

In 1190, York Castle was the location of one of the worst pogroms in England during the medieval period. English Jews were subject to considerable religious prejudice and primarily worked from towns and cities in which there was a local royal castle that could provide them with protection in the event of attacks from the majority Christian population.

By the 13th century, there was a well-established system of castle guards in place, under which various lands around York were granted in return for the provision of knights to protect the castle. King John used York Castle extensively during his reign, using the keep as his personal quarters for his own security. When the Military Order of the Knights Templar was dissolved in England in 1307, York Castle was used to hold many of the arrested knights.

In the 15th century, York Castle fell into increasing disrepair. Richard III recognized the problem, and in 1483 he had some of the most decrepit structures removed, but he died at the Battle of Bosworth Field before the work to replace those could begin. By the 16th century, it had become traditional to execute traitors by hanging them from the top of Clifford's Tower.

The deterioration of York Castle continued into the reign of Elizabeth I, and Robert Redhead, the tower keeper, became infamous at the time for taking pieces of the castle and selling off the stonework for his own profit. By the 18th century, the Female Prison and county jail were combined to become the Debtors' Prison.

Kirkgate is a recreated Victorian street which has become the most iconic part of York Castle Museum. The street is one of the oldest recreated indoor streets of its kind in the world and the first to be opened in Britain. Each shop and business on Kirkgate is named after a real business that operated in late Victorian York. Some shops, like Banks Music and Sessions Printers, are names still operating today; others are within living memory for many residents, like Leak and Thorp Drapers shop.

Some of the shops sold to the rich, like George Britton's grocers, importers of fine teas and coffees; others like Thomas Ambler's grocers to the working class. Some did both —John Saville, Pharmaceutical Chemist, would sell to leading citizens but also worked as a surrogate doctor to the poor. An alleyway off Kirkgate, called Rowntree Snicket, aims to portray the poverty of Victorian York. It includes a working class  home and was inspired by a famous survey of York's poor.

York Castle Museum is housed in 18th century prison buildings. Inside you can experience the crooked prison and meet their most notorious prisoner: the legendary highwayman, Dick Turpin. York Castle Prison focuses on the lives of eight former inmates, including the last woman to be burnt at the stake in Yorkshire, a Luddite, a notorious turnkey, a man who was beaten so badly in prison he died, and a young tearaway who went on to lead a successful life in Australia.

Pick up activities and worksheets to augment your real or virtual trip in the unit study bundle below!

Explore the art, history, geography, food, and culture of England in this cross-curricular unit study….perfect for families getting ready to travel abroad or folks who want to travel via unit studies!  Each stop along the roadschooling trip covers a different facet of history and culture with unit information, resources, worksheets, activities, and more...  

YES!  I want 122 pages of FUN STUDIES!

Table of Contents:

  • o Introduction & Geography of England
  • o Portsmouth
    • o The Mary Rose & naval archaeology
  • o London
    • o The British Museum & archaeology
    • o The Wallace Collection & medieval history
    • o The Tower of London / London Bridge & the Tudors
    • o Buckingham Palace & royalty
    • o Victoria and Albert Museum & medieval art
    • o Thames / Globe Theater & Shakespeare
    • o Sherlock Holmes Museum & British Literature
    • o Abbey Road & British Invasion
  • o Leeds
    • o Royal Armouries & middle ages
  • o York
    • o Jorvik & Vikings
    • o York Castle & archaeology
  • o Haltwhistle
    • o Hadrian’s Wall & ancient Celts
    • o Vindolanda & archaeology
  • o Alnwick
    • o Alnwick Castle & architecture
    • o Poison Garden & herbs
    • o Barter Books & WW2 history
  • o Alnmouth
    • o North Sea & train history
  • o Newcastle o Segedunum & ancient Romans
  • o Tips & Tricks for Travelling in England

Monday, January 8

Explore Jewish & Latinx Literature with MultiCultural Book Day 2024

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2024 (1/25/25) is in its 11th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those books into the hands of young readers and educators.

Read Your World’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves. Read about our Mission and history HERE.

This year, we were given the opportunity two fantastic books that weave Jewish and Latino culture into their respective stories.  One is a science fiction, dystopian fantasy, and the other is a contemporary coming-of-age story.  Both are appropriate for young adults and a great way to introduce other cultures through literature.

Young Adult - Jewish  

Tracker220 (Jamie Krakover)

When everyone has a brain-interfacing tracking chip, one glitch threatens the entire network. Kaya Weiss is that glitch.

Through thoughts and blinks, Kaya can access anyone or anything on the tracker network. But the authorities monitor everything--where Kaya goes, who she talks to, and what she searches. And without the ability to turn it off, Kaya and her family can't observe a tech-free Shabbat. To fix the glitch, the authorities slice into her skull to reset her tracker, leaving Kaya to question more than the system's invasion into her faith.

Kaya won't be a lab rat again.

Evading the authorities requires some serious tech skills the rogue underground Ghosts can offer. But Kaya's not sure she can trust them--even if their top tech wiz, Bailen, has interest in her running deeper than her bum tracker. Kaya must decide if gaining freedom is worth losing her tracker's infinite knowledge--because to take down the tracker network, she must betray the only tech she's ever known.


Covering questions that are already being asked today - with our social media and relianace on technology and computing - this book takes it a step further by putting the computer directly into the characters' brains and having them wired together.  How does a Jewish girl, who is supposed to unplug for Shabbat, reconcile that ever-present technology?  The story features many 'normal' aspects of teenage life, including a romance, high school classes, and family drama, but injects both cultural and technological struggles into this dynamic.  Teens who like dystopian literature will enjoy this one.

Young Adult - Latino    

Where I Belong (Marcia Argueta Mickelson)

In the spring of 2018, Guatemalan American high school senior Milagros "Millie" Vargas knows her life is about to change. She has lived in Corpus Christi, Texas, ever since her parents sought asylum there when she was a baby. Now a citizen, Millie devotes herself to school and caring for her younger siblings while her mom works as a housekeeper for the wealthy Wheeler family. With college on the horizon, Millie is torn between attending her dream school and staying close to home, where she knows she's needed. She is disturbed by what's happening to asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border, but she doesn't see herself as an activist or a change-maker. She's just trying to take care of her own family.

Then Mr. Wheeler, a U.S. Senate candidate, mentions Millie's achievements in a campaign speech about "deserving" immigrants. It doesn't take long for people to identify Millie's family and place them at the center of a statewide immigration debate. Faced with journalists, trolls, anonymous threats, and the Wheelers' good intentions―especially those of Mr. Wheeler's son, Charlie―Millie must confront the complexity of her past, the uncertainty of her future, and her place in the country that she believed was home.


Told through an authentic voice, the story provides a detailed and intimate experience for the reader of the struggles that immigrants face in the US.  It features Millie, who came to the US as a young child, and Charlie, the son of a wealthy Senate candidate.  It shows the dichotomy of rich and poor, the class system, and cultural values.  There are a lot of really big topics covered here, including immigration, coming of age, and learning to persevere...but it's a good read for teens and young adults.  Will Millie continue to try and blend in, or will she finally decide to stand up and stand out?

Starswept (Mary Fan)

This last-minute addition to our Multicultural Book Day round-up featured an Asian-based, futuristic culture and was one we'd recommend to teens who like dystopian and futuristic fiction.  In 2157, the Adryil an advanced race of telepathic humanoids contacted Earth. A century later, 15-year-old violist Iris Lei considers herself lucky to attend Papilio, a prestigious performing arts school powered by their technology. Born penniless, Iris s one shot at a better life is to attract an Adryil patron. But only the best get hired, and competition is fierce.  A sudden encounter with an Adryil boy upends her world. Iris longs to learn about him and his faraway realm, but after the authorities arrest him for trespassing, the only evidence she has of his existence is the mysterious alien device he slipped to her.  When she starts hearing his voice in her head, she wonders if her world of backstabbing artists and pressure for perfection is driving her insane. Then, she discovers that her visions of him are real by way of telepathy and soon finds herself lost in the kind of impossible love she depicts in her music.  But even as their bond deepens, Iris realizes that he s hiding something from her and it s dangerous. Her quest for answers leads her past her sheltered world to a strange planet lightyears away, where she uncovers secrets about Earth s alien allies that shatter everything she knows.


While this is Multicultural Book Day, and I understood the culture the author was coming from, I didn't feel a lot of 'world culture' here.  It really was more of a futuristic and dystopian read, which isn't a bad thing, just not what I expected for MCBD.  In the book, Earth's resources are used up.  Earth is fighting aliens who are wanting non-conformity, art, music, and soul.  The alien culture is all about groupthink and conformity, and they want was Earth has...which can be found in these talented musical teens.  The book started out slow, but escalated about halfway through with some great action sequences.  It does appear to be the first in a trilogy.

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Pick up eight unit studies for your tween/teen readers in the Diversity Literature Unit Study Bundle!

Bring modern history to life with living literature that represents several different groups!  Includes eight unit studies covering cultural stories from around the world. Each unit addresses a historic era from a new perspective, and these are told in living history format.  Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.

Product sample:   The Button Box


  • The Year of the Panda
  • The Button Box
  • Men of the 65th: Borinqueneers of the Korean War
  • Killers of the Flower Moon
    • Indigenous People insert
  • Genius Under the Table
  • Anna Strong & the Culper Spies
  • Inoyo of the Congo Forest
  • The Forgotten Finca

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๐Ÿ“Œ Register for the MCBD Read Your World Virtual Party

Join us on Thursday, January 25, 2024, at 9 pm EST for the 11th annual Multicultural Children's Book Day Read Your World Virtual Party!

This epically fun and fast-paced hour includes multicultural book discussions, addressing timely issues, diverse book recommendations, & reading ideas.

We will be giving away a 10-Book Bundle during the virtual party plus Bonus Prizes as well! *** US and Global participants welcome. **

Follow the hashtag #ReadYourWorld to join the conversation, and connect with like-minded parts, authors, publishers, educators, organizations, and librarians. We look forward to seeing you all on January 25, 2024, at our virtual party!