Personal posts by public historian, Rose O'Keefe


Hot Weather Reading

Jul 18, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

I made it through last week’s heat wave and storms reading my way toward the end of the Newbery Award winners. The 2017 winner, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, wove a fascinating web of lies, deceptions, betrayals and truths.


Jul 01, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

I started to blog as a sanity saver on Jan. 3, 2022 and decided to read all 100 Newbery Award winners about a year and a half ago. As I near the countdown to 100, I’m at 2016, I can’t believe what a wide variety of books I’ve read, and I’m starting to read books from the year they were awarded.

On Becoming an Artist

Jun 28, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe
Years ago, I read The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Newbery winner. That was before I started my quest last year to read all 100 winners. It amazed me how little I remembered of it, but astounded me how truly marvelous it was. Ivan, the silverback gorilla kept in a cage for over 20 years had a wonderful voice, as did the caged elephants, Stella and Ruby, and the feisty stray dog Bob.

Books to the Rescue

Jun 23, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

When You Reach Me, the 2010 Newbery Award winner by Rebecca Stead was a good book for hot-weather reading. It got off slowly with a  puzzling letter to sixth grader Miranda in New York City in a pre-techno-time. Miranda and her best friend Sal’s friendship fell apart and before long a strange web unfolded around classmates, parents, odd neighbors and shopkeepers. This story had good characters, setting and an intriguing plot.

A Correction

Jun 19, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe
Last month I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Mark Christian, a wonderful man who came to Rochester to visit sites related to Frederick Douglass.

Peer Center

Jun 11, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

It was a glorious sunny day at the opening ceremony for the Steve Preston Peer Connection Center at the Veterans Outreach Center in Rochester on May 30. Watching the presentation of colors by six members of the Vietnam Veterans Chapter 20 Honor Guard was like watching a living legacy.

A Valuable Voice

May 31, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Mark Christian Ngoma, a wonderful man who came to Rochester to visit sites related to Frederick Douglass. I am happy to share his pending and past book publications.

Happy Friday

May 17, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

In the name of the downsizing books, I’m adding a few to the let-go pile. Celtic folk and fairy talks edited by Eric and Nancy Protter (1966) was a mixed bag. Some of the stories were inventive and original, others, clever, but overall I wasn’t fond of them. There is something to be said of the repetitive pattern of such and such happened once, twice and three times and then the surprise, but the lowly peasant boy getting the king’s daughter’s hand as a prize wore thin.


May 10, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

Despite the difficulty of reading small print in the Spring 24 edition of RH Rochester History, a joint venture of Rochester Public Library and RIT College of Liberal Arts Department of History, the content was excellent. Michael J. Brown’s article, “Revisiting the Mid-Sized American City” spoke well to the dilemma of places like Rochester. Reading “Bringing the Past into Conversation with the Present” by Rebecca Edwards, and “The State of the City: Past, Present, Future” facilitated by Erica Bryant was right on target about current issues.

 Because I know her and of some of the hurdles she has faced as a wheelchair user, it was a mixed pleasure to read Luticha Andre Doucette’s book review of This Brain Had a Mouth by James M. Odato. Luticha addressed how racially segregated the disability-rights movement has been and told of Lucy Gwin who suffered a brain injury after a car accident and coined the term “dislabeled.” Well done.

Two Newbery Winners

Apr 23, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

 At first I wondered why the 2006 Newbery award winner Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins, had won. Its take on smalltown life unfolded slowly as a group of siblings, neighbors and classmates figured out what to do with themselves. One of their activities was for three of them to sit in the front seat of a pickup truck parked in a driveway and listen to a radio show. Eventually one teen taught another how to drive it, and that skill played a key part in a crisis. The story came together well in the end.

Mixed Feelings

Apr 08, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

I was captivated by the big-screen wonder of the movie Cabrini, got a biography of Francesca Xavier Cabrini (1850 – 1917), and read through it in a week. Pietro Di Donato’s biography, Immigrant Saint: The Life of Mother Cabrini (1960), was surprisingly different from the movie which went out of its way not to clobber people over the head with Mother Cabrini’s strong Catholic faith.


Apr 01, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe
Cynthia Kadohata’s Kira-Kira, which won the 2005 Newbery award, was a touching remembrance of a beloved older sister in a Japanese-American family that endured hardship and insults along the way to owning their own home. The burden of both parents working almost non-stop and giving up their time with their three children to afford it, became heavier with their oldest daughter’s illness.

Green Thumbs

Mar 21, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

Many thanks to Jessica Damiano of the Associated Press for the surprising article in Saturday’s Real Estate section on women trailblazers in horticulture. I don’t think I’d ever heard of Jane Colden, the first female American botanist in the 1750s. Nor had I heard of Beatrix Farrand, the first lady of American landscape architecture in the early 1900s. I’d heard of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, but not as founder of the Freedom Farm Cooperative in Sunflower County, Mississippi in the late 1960s.

Beloved Books

Mar 06, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

I sorted through another box of books and found so many favorites. Sigh! I had to remind myself that others will enjoy them too. Women, Heroes and a Frog: Human Situations in pictures by Nina Leen (1970) fell open to a softened image of a couple tucked in bed. The saying by Herman Melville ended with “. . . and some old couples often lie and chat over old times till nearly morning.” So tender.

Leap Day Update

Feb 29, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

Richard Peck’s A Year Down Yonder (2001 Newbery winner) returned us to Grandma Dowdel’s small town in 1937, still hit hard by the Depression. Such fascinating characters and plot! I had absolutely loved his A Long Way from Chicago, the 1999 Newbery honoree, and while not as powerful as that, the down-home adventures in Down Yonder still hit the spot.

At the Moment

Feb 07, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

I picked up two Newbery award winners at the library last week, and started Bud, Not Buddy (2000) by Christopher Paul Curtis. What a stunning story of an orphaned ten-year-old Black boy in Flint, in the 1930s. Curtis’s word choices are wonderful. The story’s pace and the plot deliver one surprise after the next. Can’t wait to find out how it ends. I have not yet started Holes (1999 winner) by Louis Sachar.

New beginnings

Jan 28, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

E. L. Konigsburg’s The View from Saturday, (1997 Newbery Award) showed four sixth graders from the fictional town of Epiphany, NY who became best friends despite different cultures, divorce, split parenting, racism and bullying.

Amazing Journeys

Jan 22, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

In Walk Two Moons, the 1995 Newbery-Award winner, author Sharon Creech told the “extensively strange story” of Phoebe Winterbottom as shared by 13-year-old “Chickabiddy” Salamanca Tree Hiddle on a cross-country trip with her doddering grandparents. They went to every location from which Sal’s absent mother had sent her a postcard. This is a layered story, full of unusual names, characters and connections. I never predicted the outcome.

Some Favorites

Jan 16, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

Last year I read many remarkable books with outstanding characters, settings and plots. Many thanks to: Marguerite deAngeli for Young Robin, who survived the bubonic plague in England, in The Door in the Wall (1950); to Meindert DeJong for Lina, set in a Dutch hamlet that no longer had storks, in The Wheel on the School (1955); to Harold Keith for 16-year-old Jefferson Davis Bussey and his mishaps during the Civil War in Rifles for Waitie (1958).

Happy Surprises

Jan 03, 2024 by Rose O'Keefe

Lately the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s sports section has had a number of satisfying articles. One was the feature with photos about Najiah Knight, a 17 year-old from Oregon, who plans to champion in professional bull riding. Knight has had her eye on winning since she was 3 . Thank you to AP reporter Anne M. Peterson and others for this engaging story.