Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Lena Horne, A Star Who Broke Racial Barriers", from VOA.

BARBARA KLEIN: I’m Barbara Klein.

STEVE EMBER: And I’m Steve Ember with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today we remember the singer and actress Lena Horne. She helped break racial barriers by changing the way black women were represented in film. During her sixty-year career performing, Lena Horne electrified audiences with her beauty and rich, emotional voice. She used her fame to fight social injustices toward African-Americans.


BARBARA KLEIN: That was Lena Horne singing her most famous song, “Stormy Weather.” She sang this song in a nineteen forty-three musical movie of the same name. In the nineteen forties, Lena Horne was the first African-American in Hollywood to sign a long-term contract with a major movie studio. Her deal with MGM stated that she would never play the role of a servant.

During this period, African-American actors were mostly limited to playing servants or African natives. Lena Horne refused to play roles that represented African-Americans disrespectfully.

STEVE EMBER: But this refusal also limited her movie career. Horne was generally only offered the role of a nightclub singer. Her characters did not interact with white characters in these movies. This way, her part could be cut from the version of the movie that played in the American South. During this time, racial separation laws were in effect in the South.

Lena Horne later wrote that the movie producers did not make her into a servant, but they did not make her into anything else either. She said she became a butterfly pinned down and singing away in Movieland.

BARBARA KLEIN: Lena Horne once said that World War Two helped make her a star. She was popular with both black and white servicemen. She sang on army radio programs and traveled to perform for the troops. During one event, she noted that German prisoners of war were permitted to sit closer to the stage than black soldiers. She criticized the way black soldiers were treated by the army. These experiences led to Lena Horne’s work in the civil rights movement.

LENA HORNE: “When I went to the South and met the kind of people who were fighting in such an unglamorous fashion, I mean, fighting to just get someplace to sit and get a sandwich. I felt close to that kind of thing because I had denied it and had been left away from it so long. And I began to feel such pain again.”

(MUSIC: “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”)

STEVE EMBER: Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was born in Brooklyn, New York in nineteen seventeen. Her mother, an actress, was away for much of Lena’s childhood. Lena’s grandmother helped raise her. Her grandmother was a social worker and women’s rights activist.

At the age of sixteen, Lena found work as a dancer at the famous Cotton Club in New York City. After taking voice lessons, she soon began performing there as a singer.

BARBARA KLEIN: At the age of nineteen, Lena Horne moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and married Louis Jones. Her marriage did not last long. But she had two children, Gail and Edwin.

In nineteen forty, Lena Horne became the first African-American to travel and perform with an all-white jazz band. She also made records and performed at New York City’s CafĂ© Society jazz club. This was the first nightclub in the United States without racial separation. Many jazz clubs during this period had black performers. But few allowed black people to watch the shows in the audience.

STEVE EMBER: Lena Horne became very popular. After performing at a club in Hollywood, California, she caught the attention of filmmakers. She soon began making movies. Lena Horne said that she was able to make movies because she was the kind of black person that white people could accept. But she said this was the worst kind of acceptance. It was for the way she looked, not for how good she was or how hard she worked.

BARBARA KLEIN: In nineteen forty-seven, Lena Horne married Lennie Hayton. He was a music writer for the MGM movie studio and was white. The couple married secretly in Paris, France. They did so because it was illegal at the time for people of different races to marry in the United States. They did not announce their marriage for three years. Lena Horne later said that she first became involved with Lennie Hayton because she thought he could be useful to her career. He could help get her into places that a black manager could not. But she says she began to love him because he was a nice man.

(MUSIC: “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man of Mine”)

STEVE EMBER: Lena Horne’s movie career slowed down in the nineteen fifties. But she continued recording and performing live and on television. Her nineteen fifty-seven album, “Lena Horne at the Waldorf Astoria,” became a best-seller.

She also became increasingly involved in civil rights activities. She protested racial separation at the hotels where she performed. She took action so that she and her musicians would be permitted to stay in those hotels. Black musicians at the time generally stayed in black neighborhoods.

Lena Horne also sang at civil rights gatherings. She took part in the March on Washington protest in nineteen sixty-three. It was during this event that Martin Luther King Junior gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

BARBARA KLEIN: Lena Horne performed in a strong and expressive way. One expert said she was not warm and friendly like white, male singers at the time. Instead, she was a fierce, black woman.

Lena Horne once said she felt a need to act distant on stage to protect herself. She said when white audiences saw her, they were busy seeing their own idea of a black woman. She chose to show them a woman whom they could not reach. She said: “They get the singer, but they are not going to get the woman.”

(MUSIC: “I Want to Be Happy”)

STEVE EMBER: Lena Horne continued making records throughout the nineteen sixties, seventies and eighties. In nineteen eighty-one she returned to Broadway in New York with the show “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music.”

The show ran for over a year, before traveling around the United States and Europe. It earned her a Tony Award and two Grammy Awards.

BARBARA KLEIN: Lena Horne died in two thousand ten at the age of ninety-two. At the age of eighty, she said this about her career: “My identity is very clear to me now. I am a black woman. I’m free.” She said she no longer had to be a “first” to anybody.

She said she did not have to act like a white woman that Hollywood hoped she would become. She said: “I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.”

(MUSIC: “The Lady is a Tramp”)

STEVE EMBER: This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I’m Steve Ember.

BARBARA KLEIN: And I’m Barbara Klein. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts are at Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.

Lena Horne sings "Stormy Weather" with lyrics.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Japanese-American Art During World War Two" from VOA.

STEVE EMBER: I’m Steve Ember.

BARBARA KLEIN: And I’m Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Visitors to Washington, D.C. this summer can see a powerful exhibit that tells about a dark period in American history. The exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery is called “The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942-1946.” It shows more than one hundred objects made by Japanese-Americans.

They were forced into internment camps by the United States government during World War Two. The objects made by these detainees helped to brighten their lives during a difficult period. And, they show the strength of the human spirit in surviving terrible conditions.

STEVE EMBER: To understand the meaning of this exhibit, we start with a little history. In the spring of nineteen forty-two, the United States government began carrying out an executive order to imprison Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast. About one hundred twenty thousand people of Japanese ancestry were forced to leave their homes and businesses. They were moved to ten rural detention centers, mainly in western states. Two-thirds of these people were American-born citizens. The government described the action as a military necessity to protect against spying or sabotage while the United States was at war with Japan.

BARBARA KLEIN: The internment program was a reaction to the Japanese bombing of the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. This event in December, nineteen forty-one resulted in the United States’ entry into World War Two.
But experts say the idea to create internment camps was also rooted in a general prejudice towards Japanese immigrants that started long before the war.

The government did not give Japanese-Americans much time to go to resettlement centers. They were forced to leave behind most of what they owned. For the first months, detainees were forced to live in temporary housing at “assembly centers.” During this time, the United States military built more permanent detention centers. Japanese-Americans would be forced to live there until nineteen forty-five when the war ended.

STEVE EMBER: One of the first objects in the “Art of Gaman” exhibit is a painting of a severe mountain landscape. At the base of these mountains is a detailed drawing of an internment camp. It is filled with small houses and surrounded by metal fences and guard towers.

The unidentified artist lived in this camp, the Tule Lake detention center in northern California. He did not have art supplies to make drawings. So he taped together two military command notices and drew on the back. This work is a good example of the inventive and creative ways that detainees found materials to make their art.

BARBARA KLEIN: Delphine Hirasuna organized the “Art of Gaman” exhibit. It is based on her book of the same name. She describes how she got the idea.

DELPHINE HIRASUNA: "After my mom died, I was going through a box in the garage and when I looked inside, I saw this little bird pin.”BARBARA KLEIN: Delphine Hirasuna says she never heard her parents discuss their life in detention. In two thousand, she found the bird pin carved out of wood. She started to wonder what other artistic objects had been made in the camps. She wanted to know more about the objects that had been put aside and forgotten because of their painful memories.

STEVE EMBER: Delphine Hirasuna says she began to understand that the objects made in the camps were representations of “gaman.” This Japanese word expresses the idea of accepting a difficult situation with bravery and honor. The detainees made the objects to express themselves artistically and do something worthwhile with their time. Many of the objects in the exhibit were made to be useful as well as beautiful.

DELPHINE HIRASUNA: “Because the only thing that was in their barrack was a metal cot and mattress ticking which they filled with straw. The first things they made were chairs, tables, someplace to put their clothes away. And then because they were there for three and a half years, as time wore on, they made things to beautify their surroundings.”

<br />BARBARA KLEIN: One example is a table made of pieces of found wood. The artist used pieces of palm tree branches to give the table nice details. Other objects made from found materials include a board for washing clothes and a set of scissors and knives. There were few tools in the camps, so some men melted pieces of metal to make tools.

The detainees were extremely inventive about finding materials. In some camps, they were permitted to explore the land to find natural materials.

DELPHINE HIRASUNA: “Two of the camps were over ancient sea beds. And they discovered that there were millions of shells on the ground. You could just scratch the earth and they said you could pick up buckets. There was a slate quarry at one of the camps. People picked up slate and carved the teapots and things.”

The pins are made of beans, seeds, shells, wood and paper

STEVE EMBER: A glass case in the exhibit holds a collection of pins that people wore on the front of their clothing. They look like flowers, until you look more closely. Detainees in two of the camps made them with small shells that they painted to look like flower arrangements. There were no real flowers for detainees to use in ceremonies like funerals and weddings. So, they would make their own flowers.

At another camp, detainees used different colored pipe cleaners to make large flower arrangements.

One extremely detailed container for holding cigarettes is woven out of an unusual material. The artist tied together pieces of string from a bag that was made to hold onions.

BARBARA KLEIN: Professionally trained artists made some of the works in the exhibit. For example, Sadayuki Uno had studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts. During the war, he was detained in Jerome, Arkansas. In the camp, he carved objects out of wood. He made four small carvings that looked like the faces of four leaders during World War Two: Benito Mussolini, Josef Stalin, Adolph Hitler and Winston Churchill. These carvings are very expressive and lively.

STEVE EMBER: Before the war, Chiura Obata was an art professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Mister Obata helped start an arts program for detainees in his camp. He found other professional artists at the camp to help teach. Mister Obata also kept a detailed record in his drawing book. The drawings show what life was like during the forced move and detainment of Japanese-Americans.

Several of his sketches are in the exhibit. One shows Mister Obata’s wife, Haruko, sitting on the train that took them from a temporary camp to their long-term camp in Topaz, Utah. Another drawing shows an old man bent over, trying to reach for a small dog near a metal fence. The old man was unable to hear, so when prison guards warned him to halt, he did not stop. The guards shot the man because they believed he was trying to escape.

BARBARA KLEIN: Jewel Okawachi’s parents were also detained during the war. Her father made dental devices during his detainment. She says people in the camps gave him the objects they had made as payment for his services. She kept the shell jewelry, bird pins and carved objects her parents collected over the years.
Miz Okawachi does not know the identity of the artists who created the objects. But she says she believes they would be happy to learn their work was on exhibit. And she says “The Art of Gaman” pays a welcome honor to her parents.

JEWEL OKAWACHI: “The only time I feel bitter is what it did to my parents. Because they came to this country for freedom and to make a better life for themselves and this happened.”

BARBARA KLEIN: She says many people would ask her father why he was not an American citizen, but he would never answer the question.

JEWEL OKAWACHI: “Having your freedom taken away from you is really something that is hard to forget.”

STEVE EMBER: No Japanese in the United States was ever found guilty of sabotage or treason during World War Two. But, it took more than forty years for the United States government to officially apologize for its actions. This apology resulted from a campaign organized by the Japanese-American community.
In nineteen eighty-eight the United States passed a law admitting the injustice. The act also gave each surviving victim of internment twenty thousand dollars.

Delphine Hirasuna says in her book that her aim has been to honor the experience of Japanese-Americans in the camps. She says the objects in this exhibit show their strong will and resourcefulness as well as their spirit and humanity.

BARBARA KLEIN: This program was written and produced by Dana Demange with reporting by Susan Logue. I’m Barbara Klein.
STEVE EMBER: And I’m Steve Ember. You can comment on this program on our website, Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

To see and read more about the art of gaman, click on the following link: Renwick: The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942-1946

Monday, May 10, 2010

"The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park" from VOA.

This is Gwen Outen. And this is Bob Doughty with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Today we tell about the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. This unusual national park celebrates the great harbor of San Francisco, California. It also celebrates the men and women who sailed the ships that made this harbor famous.


Our story begins long ago in October, 1769. A group of Spanish explorers have come north from Mexico. They are moving slowly up the coast of the territory of California. The governor of California, Gaspar de Portola, leads the group.

The men and horses are tired. It has been a long trip. Governor de Portola decides to rest for a few days. But he still wants to explore the area. He orders a young man to take some soldiers and search to the north for a few kilometers. The young man is Jose Francisco Ortega.

On the morning of November second, 1769, Ortega leads his small group of soldiers up a hill. What they see from the top of the hill makes them stop. There, below them, is a body of water. They are looking at a huge bay. Its waters seem to stretch for many kilometers to the north, south and east. The waters are very calm.

When the small group of soldiers reports to Governor de Portola, they are excited. They tell him of a huge natural harbor. A Spanish religious worker reports the harbor is so large it could hold all of the ships of Europe.

Six years after the huge bay was discovered, the Spanish ship San Carlos is sailing north along the coast of California. Juan Manuel de Ayala commands the ship. As the little ship sails along the coast, one of the crew reports to de Ayala. He says there is a huge opening in the landmass several kilometers wide.

De Ayala orders the San Carlos to sail carefully into the opening. A crew member reports the water in the opening is more than 120 meters deep. Slowly the little ship enters the huge natural harbor.

For more than a month, de Ayala and his crew will sail their little ship around the huge bay. They make maps and study the area. They discover the bay is more than 80 kilometers long and from three to 19 kilometers wide. On September 18, 1775, the San Carlos leaves the great bay. The San Carlos was the first ship to enter what would become San Francisco Bay.


The Spanish exploration was the beginning of the history of San Francisco harbor. That long history is celebrated at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

The park’s main visitor center and museum is only a few hundred meters from the waters of the great harbor. The main building and the surrounding area are part of the history of the city and its link with the Pacific Ocean. It is a memorial to the great ships and those who sailed them.

The Maritime National Park was designed to tell the story of the huge harbor. It also tells of the importance of the bay to the city of San Francisco, the state of California and the United States.

The visitor center holds many objects linked to the past of the great harbor. There are small ships, ship equipment, and hundreds of beautiful old photographs. Many of the photographs from about 1849 show thousands of sailing ships surrounding the city of San Francisco. This is when gold was discovered in California. Thousands of people came looking for gold and wealth.

Many visitors also stop to look at a large painting of a huge sailing ship. The painting shows the ship fighting against an angry ocean. Blue and green waters break against the side of the ship. Men high up in the ship’s masts are trying to control the sails. It is a painting of a ship named the "Balclutha." The ship was built in Scotland in 1886.

Visitors learn that the Balclutha fought storms around the tip of South America on its first trip. It reached the harbor of San Francisco after one 140 days at sea. It carried a cargo of coal from Britain.

Visitors who look at the painting can go out the front door of the visitor center and see the real Balclutha. The Balclutha is the largest of almost 100 ships and boats that are part of the Maritime National Park.

People walking near Fisherman’s Wharf often do not believe their eyes when they first see the Balclutha. Almost everyone stops and looks at the huge ship. Many people take photographs.

The Balclutha is more than 91 meters long. The three tall masts that once carried its sails reach 44 meters into the sky. It seems to be an object from the past that has arrived in modern San Francisco.

The great ship looks almost new. Several years ago, more than one million dollars was spent to repair and paint the Balclutha. Now, more than 200,000 people a year visit the ship. The visitors learn how the Balclutha once traveled the world carrying cargo. They can see a photograph of the first crew of the Balclutha. That crew sailed it into San Francisco harbor with a cargo of coal more than 100 years ago.


The Balclutha is perhaps the most popular ship with visitors to the Maritime Park. However they can also visit several others ships. These are also very important to the history of the great harbor. But not all of these ships are open to the public. One that is open is a small steam-powered workboat that was built in 1907.

This small boat is named the Hercules. The Hercules is a tugboat. Until 1924 it pulled ships around the harbor. It pulled huge amounts of wood from trees from the city of Seattle, Washington in the north all the way to Panama. And it moved cargo from place to place within San Francisco harbor.

Another boat popular with visitors is the Eureka. It was built in 1890. It is the largest wooden ship still floating today. The Eureka was a ferryboat. It carried people and cars across San Francisco bay. It did this until the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge were built.

The C.A. Thayer is another sailing ship. It was built in 1895. It carried wood from trees along the Pacific Coast from the state of Washington to California. Later it was used as a fishing boat. It is one of only two West Coast lumber ships in existence. A few years ago, it was badly in need of repair. The park decided to rebuild the ship using traditional materials

The work began in 2003. The C.A. Thayer returned to its home in the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in April 2007. The superintendent of the park, Kate Richardson, said the project "preserved an important piece of history and culture."

A much smaller sailing ship is called the Alma. Sailors called this kind of ship a scow. It usually had only two crew members and perhaps a boy who was learning how to work on a boat. The Alma was the kind of small ship used during the California Gold Rush. It delivered cargo across the great harbor and up rivers. Ships like the Alma carried almost everything -- bricks, salt, lumber, grain, food. The little ships could carry as much cargo as a large modern truck.


The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park also has a very unusual looking museum. It is a large building that almost looks like a ship. The museum is filled with interesting equipment. One room has been made to look like a ship’s radio room

Radio operators show visitors how the equipment was used.

One of the most interesting objects in the museum is a small sailboat only large enough for one person. It is only five-and-one-half meters long. The little boat is named Mermaid. In 1962, Japanese sailor Kenichi Horie sailed the Mermaid alone across the Pacific Ocean from Japan to San Francisco. No one had ever done such a thing before.

From the top of the building, visitors can watch the ships of the world sail in and out of the great harbor. Visitors to the San Francisco Maritime National Park learn that the history of the harbor is important to the past. And the work of San Francisco harbor continues into the future.


This program was written by Paul Thompson. It was produced by Mario Ritter. This is Bob Doughty. And this is Gwen Outen. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program in VOA Special English.


1. Kenichi Horie sailed the __________ from Japan to San Francisco Bay.
a. Alma
b. Hercules
c. Mermaid
d. Eureka

2. The largest and most popular ship on display at the Maritime Museum and Park is the __________ .
a. C. A. Thayer
b. Balclutha
c. Santa Maria
d. Titanic

3. Many ships crowded San Francisco Bay during the __________ .
a. Bicentennial Celebration
b. Independence Day celebration
c. Gold Rush
d. 1929 Stock Market Crash

4. Explorers on an expedition led by _____________ were the first Europeans to see San Francisco Bay.
a. Arnold Schwarzenegger
b. C.A. Thayer
c. Juan Manuel de Ayala
d. Gaspar de Portola

5. It is not true that the C. G. Thayer was __________ .
a. restored using traditional materials
b. a fishing boat
c. a cruise ship
d. carried lumber from Washington to California

6. The Alma, used during the Gold Rush, had a crew of __________ .
a. no more than three
b. over a hundred
c. about twenty or twenty-five
d. animals as well as humans

7. The San Francisco Maritime Museum is shaped like a __________ .
a. sea gull
b. sail
c. ship
d. island

8. The first ship to sail into San Francisco Bay was the __________ .
a. Balclutha
b. San Carlos
c. San Bernadino
d. Mermaid

9. Another name for this article could be " __________ ."
a. The History of the Bay Area
b. San Francisco's Harbour
c. A Great Maritime Museum and Park
d. Schwarzenegger's Journey

10. This article is mainly about __________ .
a. different types of vessels
b. Bay Area shipping practices
c. the largest fishing boats in San Francisco
d. the San Francisco Maritime Museum

This is Sweeney Ridge. It is the site of the first view of San Francisco Bay by the Portola expedition. There is a plaque on the ridge that
marks the probable site of the dramatic discovery by Jose Francisco Ortega and his small group. There is a very nice hike to the ridge you can take. You will also enjoy this magnificent view.

Discovery Site, Sweeney Ridge

This not a bad video of the bay, sea gulls, the bridge, and the Maritime Musuem.
The wind sound is soothing. I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

"Doctor Seuss" - a great writer of children's books, from VOA.

MARY TILLOTSON: PEOPLE IN AMERICA, a program in Special English on the Voice of America.

Today we tell about one of the most successful writers of children’s books. Sarah Long and Steve Ember tell about Doctor Seuss.


SARAH LONG: Doctor Seuss was the name used by Theodor Seuss Geisel. He was famous because of the books he wrote for children. They combine humorous words, funny pictures, and social opinion. Mister Geisel also illustrated his books with pictures of funny creatures and plants. He did not receive training in art. Yet he created the pictures for most of his books.

The Doctor Seuss books are very popular with young readers. They enjoy the invented words. And they like to look at the pictures of unusual creatures such as the Cat in the Hat, Thing One, Thing Two, Little Cindy-Lou Who, and Sam-I-Am.


STEVE EMBER: Theodor Geisel was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in nineteen-oh-four. He graduated from Dartmouth College in nineteen twenty-five. He spent a year studying literature at Oxford University in England. Mister Geisel returned to the United States in nineteen-twenty-seven. He hoped to become a writer of serious literature.

During this time the United States was in an economic decline known as the Great Depression. This forced Mister Geisel to delay his dreams of becoming a serious writer. He found work as a creator of advertising campaigns designed to sell products. He also drew cartoons for popular magazines including Life and Vanity Fair. Cartoons are humorous pictures with words.

Doctor Seuss wrote his first book for children in nineteen thirty-seven.

SARAH LONG: Doctor Seuss wrote his first book for children in nineteen thirty-seven. It is called "And To Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street." A number of publishers rejected it. They said it was too different. A friend finally published it. Soon other successful books followed. Over the years he wrote more than forty children's books. They were fun to read. Yet his books sometimes dealt with serious subjects including equality, responsibility and protecting the environment.

By the middle nineteen fifties, Doctor Seuss had become one of the best-loved and most successful children's book writers in the world. He had a strong desire to help children.

In nineteen fifty-four, Life magazine published a report about school children who could not read. The report said many children's books were not interesting. Doctor Seuss decided to write books that were interesting and easy to read. He used rhyming words, words with the same ending sound, like fish and wish.

In the book "Hop on Pop," he presented two words. Then he used them in simple sentences like this. Day. Play. We play all day. Night. Fight. We fight all night.

STEVE EMBER: In nineteen fifty-seven, Dr. Seuss wrote "The Cat in the Hat." He used less than two hundred twenty-five words to write the book. This was an estimate of the number of words a six-year-old should be able to read.

The story is about a cat who tries to entertain two children on a rainy day while their mother is away from home. The cat is not like normal cats. It is more like a human. It walks on two legs instead of four. It wears a tall, red and white hat. A big red bow is around its neck. And it talks. As the cat entertains the children it creates complete disorder in the house.

The book was an immediate success. It was a fun story and easy to read. Children loved it. Their parents loved it, too. Today many adults say it is still one of the stories they like best.

Listen as Ray Freeman reads from "The Cat in the Hat."


The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play.

So we sat in the house all that cold, cold, wet day.

I sat there with Sally. We sat there, we two.

And I said, "How I wish we had something to do!"

Too wet to go out and too cold to play ball.

So we sat in the house. We did nothing at all.

So all we could do was to Sit! Sit! Sit! Sit!

And we did not like it. Not one little bit.

And then something went BUMP!

How that bump made us jump!

We looked!

Then we saw him step in on the mat!

We looked!

And we saw him! The Cat in the Hat!

And he said to us, "Why do you sit there like that?

I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny.

But we can have lots of good fun that is funny!"

SARAH LONG: Doctor Seuss was very concerned that some children were not learning to read. The success of the Cat in the Hat made him want to write more books for children. He started a series called Beginner Books. Beginner Books remain well liked among children today. The series includes such titles as "Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories," "Fox in Socks" and "The Lorax."

In nineteen sixty Doctor Seuss was urged by a book publisher to write a book using less than fifty words. And he did. The book is called "Green Eggs and Ham." It is one of Doctor Seuss' most popular books. In the book a creature named Sam-I-Am tries to get another creature to eat an unusual meal, green eggs and ham.

Here is part of the story read by Miko Prescott.


STEVE EMBER: In nineteen sixty, Doctor Seuss wrote the story "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." It is about an extremely unkind man called the Grinch. He tries to stop Christmas from arriving in a village called Whoville. He steals all the Christmas gifts and food in the village while everyone is sleeping. Yet Christmas comes anyway. The people of Whoville are happy although they have no gifts. By the end of the story, the Grinch becomes a kind person. In this story Doctor Seuss gives the message that Christmas is about more than receiving gifts.

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" was later produced for television. It first was shown in nineteen sixty-six. It continues to be a very popular holiday program. Here is a song from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." It is called "You're a Mean One Mister Grinch."


SARAH LONG: In nineteen eighty-four, Mister Geisel won a Pulitzer Prize for children's literature. At that time he had been writing children's books for almost fifty years. He was honored for the education and enjoyment his books provided American children and their parents.

In nineteen eighty-six, Doctor Seuss wrote "You're Only Old Once." It was his first book written for adults. It talks about getting old. His last book was written in nineteen ninety. It was called "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"

STEVE EMBER: Theodor Seuss Geisel died in nineteen ninety-one. He was eighty-seven years old. Doctor Seuss's influence remains through the books he wrote and illustrated. Millions of copies of them have been sold worldwide.

Experts say his books helped change the way American children learned to read. Yet, his books are loved by people of all ages. Doctor Seuss once said "I do not write for children. I write for people."

People continue to honor Doctor Seuss. Theodore Seuss Geisel was born on March Second. Each year on that day the National Education Association calls for every child and every community in America to celebrate reading. This program is called "Read Across America."


MARY TILLOTSON: This Special English program was written by Lawan Davis. It was produced by Paul Thompson. Your announcers were Sarah Long and Steve Ember. I’m Mary Tillotson. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

"To Build a Fire" by Jack London

Now, the weekly Special English program, AMERICAN STORIES.


Our story today is called "To Build a Fire." It was written by Jack London. Here is Harry Monroe with the story.


HARRY MONROE: The man walked down the trail on a cold, gray day. Pure white snow and ice covered the Earth for as far as he could see. This was his first winter in Alaska. He was wearing heavy clothes and fur boots. But he still felt cold and uncomfortable.

The man was on his way to a camp near Henderson Creek. His friends were already there. He expected to reach Henderson Creek by six o'clock that evening. It would be dark by then. His friends would have a fire and hot food ready for him.

A dog walked behind the man. It was a big gray animal, half dog and half wolf. The dog did not like the extreme cold. It knew the weather was too cold to travel.

The man continued to walk down the trail. He came to a frozen stream called Indian Creek. He began to walk on the snow-covered ice. It was a trail that would lead him straight to Henderson Creek and his friends.

As he walked, he looked carefully at the ice in front of him. Once, he stopped suddenly, and then walked around a part of the frozen stream. He saw that an underground spring flowed under the ice at that spot. It made the ice thin. If he stepped there, he might break through the ice into a pool of water. To get his boots wet in such cold weather might kill him. His feet would turn to ice quickly. He could freeze to death.

At about twelve o'clock, the man decided to stop to eat his lunch. He took off the glove on his right hand. He opened his jacket and shirt, and pulled out his bread and meat. This took less than twenty seconds. Yet, his fingers began to freeze.

He hit his hand against his leg several times until he felt a sharp pain. Then he quickly put his glove on his hand. He made a fire, beginning with small pieces of wood and adding larger ones. He sat on a snow-covered log and ate his lunch. He enjoyed the warm fire for a few minutes. Then he stood up and started walking on the frozen stream again.

A half hour later, it happened. At a place where the snow seemed very solid, the ice broke. The man's feet sank into the water. It was not deep, but his legs got wet to the knees. The man was angry. The accident would delay his arrival at the camp. He would have to build a fire now to dry his clothes and boots.

He walked over to some small trees. They were covered with snow. In their branches were pieces of dry grass and wood left by flood waters earlier in the year. He put several large pieces of wood on the snow, under one of the trees. On top of the wood, he put some grass and dry branches. He pulled off his gloves, took out his matches, and lighted the fire. He fed the young flame with more wood. As the fire grew stronger, he gave it larger pieces of wood.

He worked slowly and carefully. At sixty degrees below zero, a man with wet feet must not fail in his first attempt to build a fire. While he was walking, his blood had kept all parts of his body warm. Now that he had stopped, cold was forcing his blood to withdraw deeper into his body. His wet feet had frozen. He could not feel his fingers. His nose was frozen, too. The skin all over his body felt cold.

Now, however, his fire was beginning to burn more strongly. He was safe. He sat under the tree and thought of the old men in Fairbanks. The old men had told him that no man should travel alone in the Yukon when the temperature is sixty degrees below zero. Yet here he was. He had had an accident. He was alone. And he had saved himself. He had built a fire.

Those old men were weak, he thought. A real man could travel alone. If a man stayed calm, he would be all right. The man's boots were covered with ice. The strings on his boots were as hard as steel. He would have to cut them with his knife.

He leaned back against the tree to take out his knife. Suddenly, without warning, a heavy mass of snow dropped down. His movement had shaken the young tree only a tiny bit. But it was enough to cause the branches of the tree to drop their heavy load. The man was shocked. He sat and looked at the place where the fire had been.

The old men had been right, he thought. If he had another man with him, he would not be in any danger now. The other man could build the fire. Well, it was up to him to build the fire again. This time, he must not fail.

The man collected more wood. He reached into his pocket for the matches. But his fingers were frozen. He could not hold them. He began to hit his hands with all his force against his legs.

After a while, feeling came back to his fingers. The man reached again into his pocket for the matches. But the tremendous cold quickly drove the life out of his fingers. All the matches fell onto the snow. He tried to pick one up, but failed.

The man pulled on his glove and again beat his hand against his leg. Then he took the gloves off both hands and picked up all the matches. He gathered them together. Holding them with both hands, he scratched the matches along his leg. They immediately caught fire.

He held the blazing matches to a piece of wood. After a while, he became aware that he could smell his hands burning. Then he began to feel the pain. He opened his hands, and the blazing matches fell on to the snow. The flame went out in a puff of gray smoke.

The man looked up. The dog was still watching him. The man got an idea. He would kill the dog and bury his hands inside its warm body. When the feeling came back to his fingers, he could build another fire. He called to the dog. The dog heard danger in the man's voice. It backed away.

The man called again. This time the dog came closer. The man reached for his knife. But he had forgotten that he could not bend his fingers. He could not kill the dog, because he could not hold his knife.

The fear of death came over the man. He jumped up and began to run. The running began to make him feel better. Maybe running would make his feet warm. If he ran far enough, he would reach his friends at Henderson Creek. They would take care of him.

It felt strange to run and not feel his feet when they hit the ground. He fell several times. He decided to rest a while. As he lay in the snow, he noticed that he was not shaking. He could not feel his nose or fingers or feet. Yet, he was feeling quite warm and comfortable. He realized he was going to die.

Well, he decided, he might as well take it like a man. There were worse ways to die.

The man closed his eyes and floated into the most comfortable sleep he had ever known.

The dog sat facing him, waiting. Finally, the dog moved closer to the man and caught the smell of death. The animal threw back its head. It let out a long, soft cry to the cold stars in the black sky.

And then it tuned and ran toward Henderson Creek…where it knew there was food and a fire.


SHEP O'NEAL: You have just heard the AMERICAN STORY called "To Build a Fire." It was written by Jack London and adapted for Special English by Dona de Sanctis. Your storyteller was Harry Monroe. For VOA Special English, this is Shep O'Neal.