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Archive for 2010

Slow as Manassas

Written on Wednesday, August 11th, 2010 [permanent link]

Manassas Battlefield of Virginia

I’ve lived in Virginia for 18 years without making it up to the site of the first major battle of the Civil War — and then there was a last-minute mission to get my boys to the Green Day concert just down Lee Highway from the Manassas Battlefield . . .

(Don’t worry, I got my Cool Dad badge LAST summer when I actually went into the Green Day concert in downtown DC with my boys. But this time the concert was at an outdoor theater, and it hit 101 degrees today, and, well . . . )

Manassas was the site of the first major battle of the Civil War. And the feel of today’s battlefield park is just right. Thank goodness these rolling hills are not covered with condos. Though the Manassas Battlefield is only a mile or so north of Interstate 66, you can stand here and feel the struggle of men and guns up and down these hills (and why holding the high ground was so important). There WAS a modern road cutting through the park, but seeing the modern rush hour traffic jammed on its two lanes did not feel overwhelming — it just reminded me of the traffic jam that came at the end of the First Battle of Manassas, as Union soldiers and spectators rushed over each other down that very same roadway to get back to the safety of DC!!

I love visiting Civil War battlefields in the late afternoon. Battles usually ended at sunsdown anyway, so it’s a good time to feel the peacefulness and consider the bravery and the terrible pain that happened on this ground — and the ideas that brought people here in conflict.

I feel restored and inspired from having walked through the quiet grass of Manassas. Now back to Paneras to wait for the concert to end!

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Posted in Author's Purpose, Historical Travel | No Comments »

George Washington’s Dung House

Written on Sunday, August 1st, 2010 [permanent link]

Mount Vernon Dung House

I love the smell of History in the morning!

When I visited last week, I discovered that less than 100 yards  from George Washington’s mansion — one of the most famous and beautiful homes in America — is his OPEN-AIR DUNG SHED!!!! Archaeologists found the brick foundation, so we KNOW it was there, a safe place to keep old crap for later use as fertilizer on one of Washington’s five farms. This is the best proof I know that Washington considered himself a serious and innovative farmer.

This is the kind of lively detail I’ll put in a new biography of the nation’s first president. The folks at Mount Vernon called me up for meetings this past week to discuss how I can help them update their materials for teachers and students, and I’m excited — but not because I will start from scratch.

I’ve certainly drawn a lot about Washington already, and parts of his story are among the most well-known pieces of American history covered in the nation’s classrooms. What excites me specifically is the chance to build on what Mount Vernon already did in 2006 when it opened a state-of-the-art education center. At the time I covered the opening as a reporter, and the center got a lot of attention for three lifelike statues of GW created by CSI techniques. But every time I go back I see more details and bolder storytelling than I noticed before. It’s an amazing achievement for a historical figure that everyone thinks they know.

I hope to live up to those high standards as I embark on The Definitive George Washington Biography Comic Book!!

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More teacher's guides for free

Written on Friday, July 23rd, 2010 [permanent link]

Jump on over to to get the free pdf download of the teacher’s guides for my comix “First Americans,” “Revolutionary Rumblings,” and “War for Independence.”

These additions to the teacher’s area of the website mean almost all my comix now have free teacher’s guides here at Chester’s home on the web. (Because I’m finally running out of the printed versions — and am gaining back some closet space in my house!!) There are many other free teacher resources on the web, but I think the Chester Comix guides do quite well in comparison. Most of the other resources I see are completely text and skimpy on any material you would present directly to students. My guides are broken into distinct sections, have a lot of visuals and have material to directly help both teachers and their students.

Plus, they have quizzes!! I know, I know, the kids don’t like that. But I try hard to craft a light-but-firm tone with them so that these assessments aren’t as heavy as a full-blown standardized test practice but still give the students experience with those kinds of questions. (“Which of the following did Europeans NOT trade for West African gold?”)

These teacher’s guides are packed with the wisdom and work of a dozen real-world classroom teachers who helped me when Chester ran as a newspaper feature for five years. They taught me a lot, and I still hear their guiding voices every time I sit down to draw a new story to help more students.

And their teachers.

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Posted in History Teacher, literacy | 1 Comment »

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