I am so pleased to share with you today this guest post by Cheri Struble! Recently Cheri told me about this new-to-me author and I asked her to try and put her enthusiasm down on paper. Enjoy this post and leave Cheri a comment at the end.
|Iris Noble (1922-1986)|
This was a Messner biography called John Hunter, Master Surgeon. It felt and looked like a nice book. I placed it on my shelf of science biographies and didn’t think of it again until my oldest daughter read it and was quite excited about it. But I still didn’t read it. I finally pulled it down when I was frustrated with a lack of good living science books, deciding to try it during our group morning time, without pre-reading it first. Everyone loved it and all ages were riveted. Dissection, body snatching, doctors taking over childbirth (gasp!), rival brothers, scientific research, romance, animals...well, I could go on and on. I thought, who is this Iris Noble? This is a living book! And the exciting part for me was that I discovered her without a book list. Maybe she had more books!
A quick Google search didn’t reveal much about her—she didn’t even have a Wikipedia page. Born to American parents in Canada, Iris lived on a horse ranch until she was eleven. Then, the family moved back to the States and she lived in Oregon until graduating college. She was a secretary for a radio station and a publicity director for a dinner theatre. After she married, Noble moved to New York City where she began freelancing for magazines and then writing books. Aha! So she did have more books! I asked the next best source for book information, my friend, Nancy, if she was familiar with her and what she could tell me about Iris. Even Nancy had not heard of her. But she did know about Messner biographies and that opened a big door for me—apparently Ms. Noble wrote quite a few of them.
I am pleased to say I am building a little collection of Iris Noble books and Messner biographies. I think my favorite Noble biography so far has been The Honor of Balboa. When I received the book, all I could remember from my scant education on explorers was that Balboa discovered the Pacific Ocean. I actually read it, not for any interest in Balboa, but for a pre-read for my students. I could not put it down! I had to pull out a map to track his exploration of Central America, whose geography I knew nothing about. It explained so much to me about Spanish culture, Columbus’s role in exploration and decline in popularity, and also the role of the Spaniards in the annihilation of the Native American populations. I knew that the Spanish brought disease to the Indians, what I did not realize was that it was the mass genocide that wiped them out. I was grieved by the horrors they inflicted. Iris helped me to understand the Spanish attitude about natives; they were not considered people, not human. They were not even treated as well as black slaves. Balboa was the only explorer who saw the Indians as people, taking and loving a native wife as well as making excellent policies with them. At the end, I gobbled that book up in a few hours—I just had to know what was going to happen to him, and it was a sad ending.
These books have inspired my students the same way. True stories are sometimes more exciting than fiction, and Iris Noble really brings that to life. I’ve also enjoyed her bio about Cleopatra (Egypt's Queen Cleopatra)and a fictional story based on Fort Ross, CA (Courage in Her Hands) that would be a great state history read. I already love history, but as a good writer she makes it come to life in my imagination and more importantly in the imagination of my young students. And that is the definition of a living book.