Eleanor Roosevelt's Civics Book From Nearly 90 Years Ago Has Been Revamped and Reissued

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain

A children's civics book that Eleanor Roosevelt wrote nearly 90 years ago is making a comeback just in time for the midterm elections, PBS reports. The book, titled When You Grow Up to Vote: How Our Government Works for You, is being reissued with revised text by author Michelle Markel, who previously penned children's books about Hillary Rodham Clinton and the lesser-known Clara Lemlich, a Ukrainian immigrant who led a shirtwaist workers strike in 1909. It also features illustrations by Grace Lin, who's best known for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Dumpling Days.

The 101-page book—suitable for children between the ages of 6 and 12—explains what our elected officials do as well as each citizen's role in a democracy. "Children will come away from the book excited that one day soon they will have the chance to use their own votes to help shape the world they want to live in," Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, writes in an introduction to the book.

A section about voting, for instance, includes the following piece of sage advice: "You may be guided by the choices of your party, but you should also learn, on your own, the facts about the issues and the candidates."

The former First Lady wrote the book in 1932, right after her husband Franklin was elected president. She was raising five children at the time, and wanted them to understand what their parents did and how government worked, according to granddaughter Nancy Ireland.

Ireland tells PBS that the updated book is "very similar to the original" with some minor tweaks. "There was nothing negative [in the original], but it was not as inclusive and, of course, things needed to change, like the number of secretaries in the cabinet," Ireland says. "But I always say—because it's an ability I don't have—my grandmother could envision the way things could be, which is what made her so powerful and so important."

Eleanor Roosevelt was a prodigious writer. In her lifetime, she published 27 books and more than 580 articles, 8000 columns, and 100,000 letters, according to the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. When You Grow Up to Vote is currently available on Amazon for $13.51 in hardcover, and $9.99 on Kindle.

[h/t PBS]

The Christmas Book Flood: Iceland’s Literature-Loving Holiday Tradition

iStock.com/Viktor_Gladkov
iStock.com/Viktor_Gladkov

In Iceland, the most popular Christmas gifts aren't the latest iProducts or kitchen gadgets. They're books. Each year, Iceland celebrates what’s known as “Jólabókaflóðið:” the annual Yule Book Flood.

The holiday season is the Black Friday of the Icelandic publishing world—but it’s not just about one day. According to Reader’s Digest, at the beginning of November, each household in Iceland gets a copy of the Bokatidindi, the Iceland Publishers Association’s catalog of all the books that will be published that year, giving residents a chance to pick out holiday books for their friends and family. September to November marks Icelandic publishers’ biggest season, and many sell the majority of their yearly stock leading up to Christmas. Even grocery stores become major booksellers during the Book Flood season.

The Jólabókaflóðið (pronounced YO-la-bok-a-flothe) tradition dates back to post-World War II economic policies. Iceland separated from Denmark in 1918, and didn’t become a fully autonomous republic until 1944. During the Great Depression, the country created a rigid, intricate system of import restrictions, and its protectionist policies continued after the war. High inflation and strict rations on imported goods made it difficult for Icelanders to get their hands on many products. The one imported product that was relatively easy to get? Paper. As a result, books became the nation’s default gift purchase, and they still are, more than half a century later.

The "flood" in Christmas Book Flood has more to do with the deluge of books hitting bookstores than it does a flood of books flowing onto individual bookshelves. To take advantage of the tradition, most hardback books published in Iceland come out in the months leading up to Christmas, when Icelanders will be purchasing them for friends and family. (Cheaper paperbacks often come out a few months later, since people are more apt to buy those for themselves rather than their loved ones, according to The Reykjavik Grapevine’s Hildur Knútsdóttir.)

While family traditions vary from household to household, most Icelanders unwrap a book on December 24, according to Reader’s Digest. Some people get a book for every member of their family, while others do a swap exchange where everyone brings one title and everyone gets to pick one from the pile. After the exchange, many people cozy up with their new volume and get reading, preferably in bed, with chocolate.

As Icelandic writer Alda Sigmundsdóttir explained in a blog post in 2008, people in Iceland “will typically describe the pinnacle of enjoyment as lying in bed eating konfekt [filled chocolates] and reading one of the books they received under the tree. Later, at the slew of Christmas parties that inevitably follow, the Christmas books will be a prominent topic of conversation, and post-Yule the newspapers are filled with evaluations of which books had the best and worst titles, best and worst covers, etc.” Sounds like a pretty good tradition to us.

It’s not surprising that Iceland places such high importance on giving and receiving books. The country reads and publishes more books per capita than any other nation in the world, and one in 10 Icelanders have published a book themselves. (There’s an Icelandic adage, “ad ganga med bok I maganum,” that means “everyone gives birth to a book.” Well, technically it means “everyone has a book in their stomach,” but same idea.)

But the glut of books that flood the Icelandic market during the latter months of the year may not be as completely joyful as it sounds, some critics warn—at least not when it comes to the stability of the publishing market. Iceland is a nation of just 338,000 people, and there are more books than there are people to buy them. Some publishers, faced with a lack of space to store the unsold books, have had to resort to destroying unpurchased stock at the end of the holiday season. But marketing books outside of Yuletime is a relatively budding practice, one that Icelandic presses are still adapting to. It’s hard to beat the prospect of curling up after Christmas dinner with a freshly opened book and a bunch of chocolates, after all.

Mundal, Norway Is Home to More Books Than People

Markus Tacker, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Markus Tacker, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Mundal, Norway, isn't the busiest town in Norway, but as long you're an avid reader, you'll never get bored there. According to Travel + Leisure, Mundal is home to more books than people, a distinction earning it the nickname "The Norwegian Book Town."

Mundal is small, with only 280 residents, but it boasts an impressive second-hand books scene, with roughly 150,000 books scattered throughout the town. And the reading materials aren't limited to its many secondhand book shops: They can be found in abandoned sheds, a grocery store, a post office, and even an old ferry waiting area. If all the bookshelves in the town were lined up end-to-end, they would cover more than 2.5 miles.

Only accessible by boat until the mid-1990s, Mundal is one of the most isolated book towns on Earth. Picking up a literary souvenir from the town isn't easy, as it's only open to visitors during the warmer months from May though September. To get your hands on a book from Mundal without booking a trip to Norway, you can purchase one online.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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