Friday, July 23, 2010


I've been wondering if a Sarah Jane scrapbook of her life and times would make it easier for me to blog about her here. We hear about authors writing a journal from their character's viewpoint. It came to me that perhaps a scrapbook might be helpful in getting ideas about her life solidified.

Perhaps this is something school children could do, too, as they studied about Sarah Jane's era in history. Since the idea of writing about Sarah Jane occurred to me as I was researching central New Hampshire for a history column, perhaps children in this area would relate and find it a fun project. This might be especially appealing for 4th grade teachers since we study NH history in that grade.  (Sarah Jane's story, Sarah Jane's Daring Deed, appears in my anthology, Tales of Adventure & Discovery, and the upcoming picture book.

Have you ever created a scrapbook for your characters? Have you created one for characters you're studying with your students? Perhaps it's also a unique "book report" idea.

Check back with me for instructions about doing a Sarah Jane scrapbook that could reflect the history of your area, too. 

(Sarah Jane's illustration (c)Mary Emma Allen)

Monday, June 28, 2010


Was there much quilting done in Sarah Jane's home? She lived in the the pioneer days between 1760-1800. I enjoyed researching and writing her story and sharing it with children.

The quilts in those days consisted of patched blankets and bed coverings made from scraps. Often these scraps were worn out clothing. The pioneers of those days, in the "frontier" land of NH, as compared with the cities of Boston and Portsmouth, very, very seldom had the opportunity nor money to purchase fabric. If they did purchase fabric, it was used for clothing.

Initially, the quilts were made solely for utilitarian purposes. Even then, the ladies liked to individualize them and put their own touches in the designs. Eventually they developed their own patterns.

So I must reasearch and see what Sarah Jane and her mother might have made...and out of what types of fabrics.

Friday, June 18, 2010


What was it like to be a pioneer girl or boy in the early days of New Hampshire and in other parts of our country? The pioneering era began in the area where I live, the Pemi-Baker Valley of Grafton County, around 1760, and earlier in southern New Hampshire.

In other areas of what became the United States, the first settlers were setting up homes in the mid and latter 1800s.

  • What did they do for work and play?
  • What did they eat?
  • How did they cook?
  • What were their modes of travel?
  • How did they make their clothing?
  • How did they keep warm?

I'll explore these questions with activities and projects for youngsters through expanding upon the life of Sarah Jane and her family.

It's exciting when one discovers her book is listed on Amazon and major online book store sites.

You now can find Tales of Adventure & Discovery, my anthology of stories and poems for children, ages 6 to 10 years old, at Amazon.

Here you'll find the story, Sarah Jane's Daring Deed. So, you might say, Sarah Jane now has ventured online.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


It's so exciting when an author discovers a glowing review to a book, a review they hadn't known about. This morning, while searching the Internet for other material, I discovered the review of my children's anthology, Tales of Adventure & Discovery at

The story, "Sarah Jane's Daring Deed" is the first one in this book.

The reviewer seemed to grasp what I was trying to accomplish with my book and "hit the nail on its head:"

The stories are from the heart and home, reflecting an understanding of children and childhood in a way that reaches out to children and lets them feel connected to the stories.

I also discovered that the book is available on Amazon. A friend said she'd carry it on her site, too.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Teachers have used my book, Tales of Adventure & Discovery, in their classes because they liked the stories and the ideas they teach. Sarah Jane's Daring Deed is one of the stories in the anthology.

I've also coordinated writing programs combined with the New Hampshire history programs taught in this state's schools in grade 4. Sarah Jane's story originated from research I did for my New Hampshire of Yesteryear newspaper column.

In one New Hampshire elementary school, I conducted two days of writing workshops as an extension of their studies about the state. Sarah Jane's Daring Deed was the focus for the writing. I have a number of activities for youngsters that I present in the schools and will be developing for teachers to use themselves.

I've been asked to make these available for teachers who will be introducing the study of the state in the second grade.

So...Sarah Jane and her pioneer family will be coming to schools in the future.

Friday, January 30, 2009


As I develop one of my favorite stories, “Sarah Jane’s Daring Deed,” into a picture book, I consider recipes this 10-year old girl and her family might have prepared in their log cabin in the woods. This would be a good activity to accompany the story when youngsters are reading it, either in picture book format or the longer version in the anthology, Tales of Adventure & Discovery.

I wrote this story, which has appeared in four children’s magazines and the anthology, after researching the history of the Plymouth, NH region for a series on New Hampshire history. It’s also a favorite story with children when I give presentations in schools and libraries.

As I read about the early pioneers while doing research for the history columns, I wondered what life would be like for youngsters in those days. Thus, Sarah Jane’s story evolved.

What Would Her Mother Prepare?

So, what would Mother have prepared over the fireplace? They had to raise most of their food, bringing items like sugar and coffee and tea from stores in Concord (45 miles away) or even Boston (more than 100 miles).

Their flour probably was ground at a local mill from grain they grew themselves. The girls and Mother gathered and dried berries for winter use. Sarah Jane was engaged in picking berries when the story opens. (I was familiar with picking berries from prickly bushes in the hot sun during my childhood on a farm. Although not in the 1770s!)

The family’s meat would consist from what Father and brother Steven caught or shot in the surrounding forest. This might include deer, bear, moose, rabbit and raccoon. The family also would make clothing and blankets from the fur and skins. Fish from nearby streams or river could expand the diet.

Drying Berries – In those days, before canning and freezing, pioneers dried berries and fruit to use during the winter months. Sarah Jane picks and dries berries during the story.

When cooking, Mother simply might stir the dried berries into her recipes. Or she could soak them in water to plump them before use.

Corn Meal – In early pioneer days, the settlers took corn and wheat to the local mills to be ground. The mill was one of the first businesses established in a settlement. From the ground corn, Mother might make corn bread, corn mush and corn cakes. Find your favorite Corn Bread recipe for your pioneer meal. (However, you can bake yours in the oven or in a skillet unless you want to try it over a fireplace.)

Dried Corn – The pioneers also dried corn kernels, on the cob or shelled, to save for winter food. To use, Sarah Jane’s mother would soak the kernels and boil them until they were tender. Then add cream or butter and milk of desired amount, salt and pepper to taste (if she had them).

Corn Potato Soup – To make a soup, she might add cubed, cooked potatoes to the creamed corn mixture. (Or cube raw potatoes and cook them with the corn.) Then stir in more milk until soup consistency.

Succotash – In summertime, Mother might make succotash by cutting fresh corn from the cob and cooking it with lima beans from the garden. Add some butter and small amount of milk to this. Some cooks only add butter.

©2009 Mary Emma Allen

(Mary Emma Allen researches and writes from her multi-generational home in Plymouth when she isn’t traveling. Visit her heritage quilting site at: )

Sunday, October 26, 2008


For some time I've been planning to produce some activities and background information connected with Sarah Jane and the era when she lived. Originally I wrote about Sarah Jane as a pioneer girl living in central New Hampshire, where I live and write.

However, her story has been published in a number of magazines distributed throughout the United States. So I guess she could have lived in many areas where blackberries grew and pioneers lived in log cabins. Her story also gave those living in more arid areas an idea of the country.

Since I also write a cooking column and research recipes, I'll include information about foods other than blackberries. I'm involved in and write about quiltmaking. Of course, Sarah Jane and her mother probably were involved in this activity.

Are there activities you'd like to know about that pioneers in early New England were involved in?

(c)2008 Mary Emma Allen