Tag: Keila V. Dawson

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Louisiana Book Award Nomination

I am thrilled to announce that Louisiana readers nominated OPENING THE ROAD for a Louisiana Readers’ Choice Award! This is such an honor, and I am beyond grateful to know this work of nonfiction is resonating with kids. Click here to find a list of other titles nominated for this award.

How exciting to know my book is hanging out with the Newbery Medal winning book by a fellow Kidlit For Growing Minds member, Rajani LaRocca.

Merci beaucoup to my home state!

Author visits, Holidays, Mardi Gras, School Visits

Author Visits: Mardi Gras 2016

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School visits are a wonderful way for authors to share their passion for literacy and share the joys of living a creative life. This baby ran all over New Orleans, over the Mississippi River, and across the Twin Span Bridge! I am very fortunate to have met wonderful faculty and great students during each visit.

The kids and I had a blast reading The King Cake Baby and singing 12 Days of Carnival. My song is all about New Orleans food. And what food tops the Mardi Gras food pyramid? King Cake!

 

I had a blast and passed a good time visiting the following schools:

  • St. Pius X Catholic School, New Orleans
  • Terrytown Elementary School, Jefferson Parish Schools
  • Akili Academy, New Orleans
  • Abney Elementary School, Slidell
  • Westpark Montessori Magnet School
  • Homer A. Plessy Community School, New Orleans
  • St. Michael’s Special School, New Orleans

I also attended my first King Cake Festival, a benefit for Ochsner Pediatrics! And I ate lots and lots of King Cake! Maurice French Pastries won the People’s Choice Award for the second year. Delicious. Félicitations!

I am so fortunate to participate in this wonderful tradition and be a part of a very unique culture. And it’s celebrated year after year! Can’t wait till January 6th to kick off Carnival 2017. Mardi Gras Day is February 28, 2017. Who’s counting? ME, Baby!

Mardi Gras 2017 Countown

Author visits, Holidays, Louisiana, Mardi Gras, School Visits

Author Visits: Mardi Gras 2017

I had a wonderful time celebrating Mardi Gras 2017. The King Cake Baby and I ran all over south Louisiana parishes, visiting with students, parents, teachers, and school librarians.

As a guest author for Scholastic, I met many wonderful educators who work tirelessly to bring books into schools for kids. Book fairs are quite popular and the state is recognized as one of the top sales areas!  📚

And while there, of course, I ate a lot of different types of King Cake!  I even ate a King Cake hamburger. Yes. I. Did. The food truck @FoodDrunknola sold them at the King Cake Festival. To my surprise, it was deliciously sweet and savory. Yum.

I was fortunate to visit Impact Elementary School at their Family Literacy Night. And had delightful visits at Port Allen Elementary and North Iberville Elementary. Watch these Port Allen Pre-K students dance! 🎶🎶

Second graders sang the 12 Days of Carnival. So much fun!  🎶🎺🎵🎷🎶 

Kindergarten students at North Iberville sang “Five Little King Cake Babies“. Cutest babies and baker in the city!

The King Cake Baby and I love to Skype with classes, especially during Mardi Gras. We hung out with a great group of first grade students in Kentucky who knew all about Kings’ Day.

Just so happens World Read Aloud Day, known as WRAD, is always during Carnival season. So the baby ran west…to Texas!

All hail the North Pointe Elementary grade 2 Kings and Queens!

                                              💜💚💛🎶🎺🎵🎷🎶 📚

It was wonderful to see kiddos from coast to coast celebrating Mardi Gras, like this Girl Scout troop from San Diego!   💜💚

Every year I bring a King Cake to my tennis club. Guess who got the baby?

Eating King Cake during Mardi Gras is a longtime tradition and fun no matter your age or where you live. But no worries if you don’t eat any by Fat Tuesday on February 28th, there’s always next year!

                                                                                                                                               

Author visits, Holidays, Mardi Gras, School Visits

Mardi Gras 2017 Highlights!

I had wonderful time celebrating Mardi Gras 2017. The King Cake Baby and I ran all over south Louisiana parishes visiting with students, parents, teachers, and school librarians.

I was a guest author for Scholastic and met many wonderful educators who work tirelessly to bring books into schools for kids. Book fairs are quite popular in Louisiana and the state is recognized as one of the top sales areas!  📚

And while there of course I ate a lot of different types of King Cake! The strangest food I tasted was a King Cake hamburger. The food truck @FoodDrunknola sold them at the King Cake Festival. To my surprise, it was deliciously sweet and savory. Yum.

I was fortunate to visit Impact Elementary School at their Family Literacy Night. And had a delightful visit at Port Allen Elementary and North Iberville Elementary. Watch these Port Allen Pre-K students dance! 🎶🎶

Second graders sang the 12 Days of Carnival. So much fun!  🎶🎺🎵🎷🎶

Kindergarten students at North Iberville sang “Five Little King Cake Babies“. Cutest babies and baker in the city!

During Mardi Gras season, The King Cake Baby and I love to Skype with classes. We hung out with first grade students in Kentucky.

Just so happens World Read Aloud Day, known as WRAD, is always in February, during Carnival. So the baby ran west…to Texas!

All hail the North Pointe Elementary grade 2 Kings and Queens!

                                                                                

                                              💜💚💛🎶🎺🎵🎷🎶 📚

It was wonderful to see kiddos from coast to coast celebrating Mardi Gras. Mon amie’s daughter’s Girl Scout troop from San Diego celebrated!   💜💚

Every year I bring a King Cake to my tennis club. Guess who got the baby?

This tradition is fun no matter your age or where you live. If you haven’t eaten a piece of King Cake to celebrate Carnival, there’s always next year!

  Happy Mardi Gras! 

Holidays, Mardi Gras, Recipes

Easy Peasy Pillsbury King Cake

Happy Almost Mardi Gras! Every January 6th kicks off the official king cake season and Carnival. I wrote a guest post about the history of king cakes on Jama’s Alphabet Soup blog for all you food history and culture buffs. 

Today I want to share another easy king cake recipe. The recipe in my book, THE KING CAKE BABY, uses frozen bread dough with a cinnamon-sugar filling and includes a recipe for making a Cream Cheese icing. In this recipe, I use three Pillsbury Crescent Dough Sheets, the cinnamon-sugar mix, colored sugar sprinkles, and a can of Pillsbury Cream Cheese icing. Easy peasy! The only thing easier than making this king cake is picking one up at your favorite grocery or bakery.

Pillsbury Crescent Dough Sheet King Cake Recipe

 Ingredients:

  • 3 Pillsbury Crescent Dough Sheets
  • cinnamon sugar mix: ½ c. granulated sugar + 2 tablespoons cinnamon 
  • 1 plastic king cake baby (to hide inside, of course!)
  • purple, green, & gold sugar sprinkles
  • 1 can Pillsbury Cream Cheese Icing or make your own 

Directions:

Heat oven to 375 °F (190 °C).

Cover a baking pan with parchment paper or use a nonstick cookie sheet. Unroll dough sheets and sprinkle each with about a tablespoon of the cinnamon-sugar mix. 

Roll each dough sheet from the shortest side of the rectangle. 

Arrange into an oval shape. Press seams together to connect. Bake 20-25 minutes.

Decorate the King Cake

Soften ½ can of Pillsbury Cream Cheese icing. Have purple, green, gold sprinkles handy.

While the cake is still warm, pour icing on top. Alternate with purple, green and gold colored Mardi Gras sprinkles.

If you prefer to make your own icing:

Cream-Cheese Icing

3 cups powdered sugar

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

3 tablespoons melted butter

¼ teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

3 tablespoons milk

Mix all five ingredients in a bowl. The icing should be thick enough to slowly drip from a whisk or spoon. Drizzle over the warm cake.

Hide a plastic King Cake Baby in the underside of the cake. Before eating, check to see if you got the baby! 

Click Mardi Gras King Cake from Pillsbury Dough Sheets to download the recipe.

And if any of you need a gluten-free recipe, see this Red Mill cinnamon roll recipe.

 

Author visits, School Visits

East Iberville Elementary, St. Gabriel, LA

Had a blast with the Pre-K 3’s and 4’s at East Iberville Elementary in St. Gabriel!

First we read The King Cake Baby.

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Then I found a baker to help me sing a song.

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Then we sang 5 Little King Cake Babies.

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And Ms. Reames brought us donuts for a yummy snack!

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Author visits, School Visits

St. Mary’s Academy, New Orleans, LA

It was a real treat to read The King Cake Baby and sing the “5 Little King Cake Babies” song with Ms. Hutchison’s kindergarten class at St.Mary’s Academy. A perfect start to my day!

Author visits, School Visits

Hammond Westside Montessori

What a fun visit at Hammond Westside Montessori! I had a blast with the kids in Ms. Donnow’s 1/2/3 combo class. They sure know their Louisiana history and geography. We sang the 12 Days of Carnival and they learned to spell Tchoupitoulas. Yes they did!

school-visit-hammond

But when they learned the King Cake Baby tradition is not well known outside of the state of Louisiana and people don’t eat King Cake DAILY during Mardi Gras they were shocked! C’est ouf! That’s cray cray!

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She can spell TCHOUPITOULAS!!

Holidays, Mardi Gras

5 Little King Cake Babies Action Song

Here are the lyrics and numbered babies to use with this action song that accompanies THE KING CAKE BABY book. Click here for a pdf copy including the numbered signs.  Click here to download a copy of the numbered finger and stick puppets. Enjoy!

 

Author visits, Holidays, School Visits

Abney Elementary School in Slidell, LA

**Abney Elementary Author Visit**

What a fun, fun school visit with Mrs. Lewis’ third graders during Carnival. They sure let the good times roll during Mardi Gras 2016. I made my debut appearance on the Abney Elementary Morning Show! What a fun way to start the day. I saw future news anchors in action.

We read The King Cake Baby, and sang 12 Days of Carnival. Then the class shared their fun MISSING worksheets with me. This class has talent. There are many future authors and illustrators among them. What a fun, talented group of kids and faculty!

Author visits, School Visits

Terrytown Elementary – Jefferson Parish Schools

**Terrytown Elementary Author Visit**

The King Cake Baby ran over the Mississippi River Bridge to visit the pre-k, kindergarten, first, and second-grade classes at Terrytown Elementary during Carnival. The kids sure helped make Mardi Gras 2016 fun! 

We read The King Cake Baby, and everyone joined in to sing my song, 12 Days of Carnival. Scroll down to hear them sing!

These little tigers were a great crowd of students. The wonderful administration and faculty made this visit very special.

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Author visits

Cincinnati Public Library – Deer Park Branch

Thanks to Cincinnati Public Library – Deer Park Branch for inviting me to share The King Cake Baby and the sights, sounds, and tastes of New Orleans on February 19, 2015.

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           Reading The King Cake Baby!

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      Making candy bracelets and necklaces

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      Masks!

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         Parade!

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         Beads!

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      He put the baby back in the box. The baby belongs in a king cake!

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Author visits, Holidays, Mardi Gras

Blue Manatee Children’s Bookstore & Decafé

Thanks for having me at Carnival Story Time Blue Manatee! What a wonderful way to celebrate Mardi Gras day! I read The King Cake Baby, we listened to Mardi Gras music, had a parade, and ate king cake. Yes! Someone got the baby!!

I had a blast sharing the sights, sounds, and tastes of New Orleans!

reading

Reading The King Cake Baby

reading 2

Where is that Baby going? He’s running away!

reading 1

   Who will he meet? Who will get the baby? Who will catch him?

future parade goers

    Parade! Music! Masks! And beads!

catching beads

    Raise your arms high, wave, and yell, “Throw me somethin’ mista!”

Emma beads       Leilah beads

   Great catch! Look at all those beads!

Emma & Leilah    Emma book

   Made some new friends!

keila & jen   cutting king cake

  Grown up friends came to visit!                                                                       And we had king cake!

eating king cake

                                                     And someone got the baby!

signig

        And autograhed books

Happy Mardi Gras!

Author visits, Holidays, Mardi Gras

Little Toy Shop, New Orleans

Little Toy Shop, 900 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116, French Quarter

Thanks for having me over for a Meet The Author event on a beautiful day in New Orleans!

First sale!
Little Toy Shoppe Kennedy2
Little Toy Shoppe on Decatur1
Little Toy Shoppe Teacher sale
Author visits, Mardi Gras

Maple Street Book Shop

Maple Street Book Shop meet the author event. Thanks for having me, serving king cake and allowing me to read my debut book The King Cake Baby during story time! Visit them at 7529 Maple St, New Orleans, LA 70118.

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Author visits, Media

2015-16 Interviews -Radio & Print

Blogging about THE KING CAKE BABY!

  • Christie is a writer and blogger who runs! Check out her site for loads of writerly advice and author interviews. To see the interview about my runner, The King Cake Baby, on Christie’s HIGH FIVE page, click here.                                                                                                                                             
  • WVXU 91.7 (NPR) interview, aired on February 1, 2015, Lee Hay, host of the program Around Cincinnati, interviewed me about my debut book, THE KING CAKE BABY. Click here to listen to the interview.   
  • Marcie Atkins is a librarian and blogger who graciously shares her knowledge about using mentor texts as resources for teaching and writing. Visit Marcie’s blog to see my post from March 17, 2015, “Finding Authentic Voice in Cultural Mentor Texts” and much, much more.                                         
  • Jennifer Cunningham Sommer’s blog interview from January 19, 2015, about my debut release.         
  • Sub It Club featured the query letter that lead to the acquisition of my manuscript for The King Cake Baby. To see that post from February 7, 2015, click here. I blogged about Sub It Club here.
  • Author interview by Debbie LaCroix co-creator of the Debut PB Study Group on Facebook. To see the February 11, 2015 interview, click here.
  • Carissa Mina’s blog, Writer and stuff to read her March 6, 2015, First-Time Picture Book Author Cover Letters, Exposed!

     

 
Author visits, Holidays, Louisiana, Mardi Gras

NOLA kids

NOLA kids Meet the Author & Illustrator event. Thanks for having us! Visit them at 333 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130.

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Vernon making his mark

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Krewe of Barkus rolling through the French Quarter

Author visits, Louisiana, Mardi Gras, Picture books

Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble Meet the Author event. Thanks for having me B&N! Visit them in Metairie at 3721 Veterans Blvd., (504) 455-4929 or in Harvey at 1601B Westbank Expy, (504) 263-1146

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Author visits, Mardi Gras, Picture books

ZukaBaby

ZukaBaby Meet the Author & Illustrator Events at 2122 Magazine, Uptown and 3248 Severn Ave in Metairie.

Thanks for having us, and allowing me to read my debut book The King Cake Baby during story time!

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Our baby!                                                                                     Carla, a friend from high school came!

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Media, Picture books, Writing Craft

The King Cake Baby – A Query Letter That Worked

Sub It Club featured the query letter that lead to the acquisition of my manuscript for The King Cake Baby. To see that post at the SubitClub blog, click here.

Every writer knows the importance of a query letter. A what? That’s what I asked after writing an early draft of my story. Upon learning the purpose of a query and what it entailed, I then set out to learn how to write one. Essentially, it’s a letter that accompanies your manuscript when sending it to an agent or editor and includes the following components: the hook, the book, the cook. Huh?

No worries, at Sub It Club you can learn a lot about how to write a query and more. Writers work hard on perfecting the manuscript they hope to sell. But first you must sell your story idea to an agent or editor through your query. The intent is for the person reading it to want to read your picture book manuscript or pages to your novel that’s attached.

Almost done. There’s more? Yep. To complete the submission process, you must know what agents and or publishing houses are a good fit for your manuscript. Huh?

No worries, hang around the Sub It Club  to learn all about it!

Author visits, Mardi Gras, School Visits

Woodland West Elementary

Woodland West Elementary, Harvey, Louisiana, Friday, Februray 6, 2015

Thanks to the teachers, staff, and students at Woodland West Elementary, I had a wonderful visit!

king cake art

     

Author visits, Louisiana, Mardi Gras, School Visits

International School of Louisiana

International School of Louisiana , Friday, February 6, 2015

Such a wonderful visit with ISL! Thanks to Laurence Copel, the resource librarian at ISL, I had a wonderful visit!

king cake
History, Louisiana, Mardi Gras

King Cake, Mardi Gras, Baby!

King cake, Mardi Gras, parades, krewes – all traditions unique to New Orleans and Louisiana culture here in the US.

Everyone in Louisiana knows what day it is! It’s Kings’ Day, January 6th, the first day of the Carnival Season!

When people learn I am from New Orleans, they often ask about our Carnival or Mardi Gras traditions. I always include a bit of history about king cake and the tiny plastic baby that is hidden inside. The idea for my upcoming debut picture book, The King Cake Baby, came to me while making a king cake. I couldn’t find a baby and panic ensued. If you don’t have a  king cake baby to hide inside, the pastry is just a cinnamon roll!

And I was listening to New Orleans music. So first, here’s a song. Sing along!

Eh là bas! Eh là bas! [Hey over there! Hey over there!]

Eh là bas chérie! [Hey over there, dear.]

Komen ça va? [How’s it going?]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8n-iedQpGko

(New Orleans musician Don Vappie on banjo and vocal)

Read on if you’d like to learn more about our traditions. The history of our Carnival and Louisiana king cake practices stem from the periods of colonization as well as English tradition. Combining cake customs from the French and Spanish rulers created the foundation for this Louisiana Creole tradition celebrated on the last day of Christmas also known as Little Christmas, Feast of the Epiphany or Twelfth Night. The beginning of Carnival is always on January 6th and is also known as Kings’ Day. King cakes are baked and eaten throughout this time, known as the  pre-Lenten season. Carnival or “carne vale,” means “farewell to the flesh”. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent, is the last day of Carnival. In 2015, Mardi Gras Day is February 17th. Although always a Tuesday, the date varies, therefore the length of the season does too. The number of days during Carnival depends on the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church. It’s the time between Twelfth Night (in New Orleans, that’s between January 6th and the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday.) Actually, the date for Easter Sunday sets the length of the Mardi Gras season.

Carnival is celebrated all over the world. And cakes are made too. In France & Québec the cake is called La galette de rois, in Spain and places they colonized like Mexico, South America, Florida, and California the cake is called Rosca de Reyes or ring of kings, in Germany its Dreikonigskuchen, in Scotland, the Black Bun, in Portugal, Bola-Rei. And many more I did not mention. In Louisiana, king cake is a symbol associated with the spirit of Carnival.

Many are surprised to hear that Carnival was not always a mass public daytime celebration in New Orleans. The first Mardi Gras parades were organized in Mobile, Alabama! In 1837, when the people of New Orleans started publicly celebrating in the streets, they were so wild that the government almost banned these celebrations. Yikes! By 1856, the private club or ”krewe” named the Mistick Krewe of Comus from Mobile came to New Orleans to save Mardi Gras. They organized a festive and safe event with floats, masked members who paraded in the street wearing costumes, and hosted masquerade balls .

Credit for the merriment of Mardi Gras seen today in New Orleans goes to the Krewe of Rex dating back to 1872. When Russia’s Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff visited New Orleans, the Krewe of Rex arranged a daytime parade. In 1875 Mardi Gras became a legal state holiday. Decade after decade the celebration grew. More krewes started, bands and throws like beads and doubloons were added to the parades. With the addition of larger krewes and celebrity participation Mardi Gras in New Orleans became an international event.

Louisiana “king cake”, known as kings’ cake or three kings cake in Europe and Latin America, takes its name from Catholic liturgical tradition commemorated on January 6th that celebrates the visit of the Wise Men or three kings to visit the Baby Jesus. The Twelfth Night Revelers, a Carnival society from 1870 chose the “Lord of Misrule” as their king at their ball, following old English tradition. The following year they started the tradition of choosing a queen for his majesty on January 6th. Today that tradition continues, using a “mock” king cake, and the event is considered a kick-off to the Carnival season. King cake eventually became a symbol for the start of the Mardi Gras among locals who were not members of these grand societies. The Krewe of Rex chose the colors associated with Mardi Gras today; purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power also used to decorate king cakes. In the French tradition, originally a bean or la fève, was hidden inside a king cake. Early on Spain used figurines to represent the Baby Jesus. In Louisiana, pecans and even jewelry were used. However it wasn’t until the 1940’s, that a beloved New Orleans bakery, McKenzie’s, started using the plastic baby we see hidden in king cakes today. In Catholic tradition, the baby represents the Baby Jesus. Whoever gets the baby or whatever is hidden inside is supposed to bring the next king cake or host the next king cake party or could be “crowned” king or queen.

Retail stores love Christmas, florists love Valentine’s Day, chocolatiers love Easter, and Louisiana bakeries love the king cake season!  By 1950, the public began buying lots of king cakes. Today, thousands of cakes are eaten and shipped around the world during the Louisiana Mardi Gras season.

And now New Orleans hosts its very own King Cake Festival! The second annual King Cake Festival scheduled for January 25, 2015 is sure to be fun!

Starting today, EAT. KING. CAKE. if you are in New Orleans, join the festival. Plan a trip to see a Mardi Gras parade. Just don’t forget the baby mon ami!

History, Louisiana

All Saint’s Day vs. All Souls’ Day

Today, November 2, is All Soul’s Day, It is a day of prayer for the dead, particularly but not exclusively, our relatives. Whereas, yesterday, All Saint’s Day, the Catholic church asks followers to live as saints did, on All Souls’ Day we honor and ask for mercy for our ancestors and the souls departed from this world as we know it.

Yesterday, on All Saint’s Day, the family back home cleaned our family tombs in cemeteries around the city, some so old they were built when la Louisiane was still a colony. Today, on All Souls’ Day we honor our dead because we believe their souls and spirits live on even when the body dies. To us death is not creepy or scary, it’s a part of life. In a way, we keep our dead alive, the lines a little blurry. Our ancestors live on in those left behind in their families and communities. Those are our customs and traditions and in our culture, that’s the way we roll.

I lost two elders recently, a 5th cousin and my mother. Today they are in my thoughts and heart as are all the family departed I was fortunate to know in their lifetimes. As our family historian, I also honor our ancestors whose stories I have uncovered, buried in documents and dusty archives. Prayers up mama, love and miss you dearly. Tell everyone I said hello.

ECCLESIASTICUS 44TH CHAPTER, VERSES 1-10 AND VERSES 13-14.

Let us now sing the praises of famous men, our ancestors in their generations. The Lord apportioned to them great glory, his majesty from the beginning. There were those who ruled in their kingdoms, and made a name for themselves by their valor; those who gave counsel because they were intelligent; those who spoke in prophetic oracles; those who led the people by their counsels and by their knowledge of the people’s lore; they were wise in their words of instruction; those who composed musical tunes, or put verses in writing; rich men endowed with resources, living peacefully in their homes-all these were honored in their generations, and were the pride of their times. Some of them have left behind a name, so that others declare their praise. But of others there is no memory; they have perished as though they had never existed; they have become as though they had never been born, they and their children after them. But these also were godly men, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten. Their offspring will continue forever, and their glory will never be blotted out. Their bodies are buried in peace, but their name lives on generation after generation.

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