On This Day, December 8

On this day, as America’s Pacific fleet lay in ruins at Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt requests, and receives, a declaration of war against Japan. Leaning heavily on the arm of his son James, a Marine captain, FDR walked haltingly into the House of Representatives at noon to request a declaration of war from the House and address the nation via radio. “Yesterday,” the president proclaimed, “December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.” Roosevelt’s 10-minute speech, ending with an oath-“So help us God”—was greeted in the House by thunderous applause and stamping of feet. Within one hour, the president had his declaration of war, with only one dissenting vote, from a pacifist in the House. FDR signed the declaration at 4:10 p.m., wearing a black armband to symbolize mourning for those lost at Pearl Harbor. Find Pearl Harbor at the library and hoopla.


James Grover Thurber, cartoonist, author, journalist, playwright, and celebrated wit, was born in Columbus, Ohio on December 8, 1894. Thurber was best known for his cartoons and short stories, published mainly in The New Yorker magazine and collected in his numerous books. One of the most popular humorists of his time, Thurber celebrated the comic frustrations and eccentricities of ordinary people. In collaboration with his college friend, Elliott Nugent, he wrote the Broadway comedy, The Male Animal, later adapted into a film, which starred Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland. Many of his short stories are humorous fictional memoirs from his life, but he also wrote darker material, such as “The Whip-Poor-Will”, a story of madness and murder. His best-known short stories are “The Dog That Bit People” and “The Night the Bed Fell”; they can be found in My Life and Hard Times, which was his “break-out” book. Among his other classics are The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Catbird Seat, A Couple of Hamburgers, The Greatest Man in the World, If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox. The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze has several short stories with a tense undercurrent of marital discord. The book was published the year of his divorce and remarriage.  Find James Thurber in the library and on hoopla.


Mary Azarian

Mary Azarian, woodcut artist and children’s book illustrator was born in Washington, D.C. on December 8, 1940. She won the 1999 Caldecott Medal for U.S. picture book illustration, recognizing Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. It tells about the life of Wilson Bentley. She lives in Plainfield, Vermont. She produces original prints and has illustrated over 50 books.  Azarian shows respect for the children who read her books in much the same way she respected the students in her classroom. “I try to do each illustration as well as I can, regardless Mary Azarian1of whether it will be viewed by a child or an adult,” she explains. “I think it is a mistake to talk down to a child. Early in my career, I did a book cover that showed a man feeding a live mouse to an owl. Everything had gone well design-wise with this cover and I was very pleased with it. However, a horrified editor called me with the news that I would have to redo the cover. She considered the subject too gruesome for a children’s book. I should add that the text had mentioned feeding the mouse to the owl. I complied, but I have always regreted that I didn’t defend my choice. I know that children don’t need or even want to have things toned down.”



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