Friday, January 31, 2014

Ick! Yuck! Eeeew! -- An Interview with Lois Huey

Yuck! Ick! Eew! by Lois Huey is disgusting!  And that’s what makes it a wonderful read for middle school kids interested in how people really lived in history. As a reader who loves to read historical fiction and imagine myself in those flowing gowns riding inside carriages and walking through heather-filled fields, Lois Huey’s book shatters that dream by shining a very bright light on the reality of those days. Lois has done an amazing job on her research and so much of this information will be new to readers. This is a great book for classes studying Colonial America.  I’ll leave my dreams inside those romantic book pages and be thankful I can put on a gown for Halloween and still live in 2014 America! 

Lois, can you tell us more about how you conducted your research for this book?

In addition to information from excavations, I consulted original sources, that is, accounts from the time period. The people who lived then had little to say; they were used to their conditions. But the diaries and letters of visitors were a great source. They commented on what they saw--and a lot of it wasn't flattering.

As an archeologist you have probably encountered history from the ground up.  Did anything surprise you when you were writing this?

First, I encounter history from the top of the ground down. I have excavated in the yards of many New York State historic houses from the 17th and 18th centuries and discovered their surroundings were far from clean. Trash littered the ground. What surprised me in the research about life above the ground was the information about bugs! They were surrounded with flies, mosquitoes, bedbugs, etc. Yuck!

Is there any period of time that you could imagine yourself in if you could travel back in time?

I would love to go back in time to the 18th century, but I'm afraid the smells alone would knock me over! So I'll stick to what I can imagine while excavating through layers of time in the ground and what I can learn from those who did experience it firsthand.

What can your fans look forward to reading?

Just out is my first online publication done for The New Netherland Institute. Click on the link to read it  and enjoy the colorful illustrations.

My next book, also from Lerner Publishing, is about the lives of enslaved people in the northern states. Yes, there were thousands of slaves in the north living with their enslavers in the same house while working in the cities and small farms. What were their lives like? Since they left few records, I am reporting what has been learned by scientists who examine bones and test for DNA. Three 18th century African burial grounds  have been excavated by archaeologists in the north so far. One is near Albany, NY, one in Portsmouth, NH, and one in New York City. I am comparing the results of each.

Thanks, Lois!  If readers want to learn more about Lois' books check out her site

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