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Lynne Cheney is a very gifted writer. She is, of course, the “2nd Lady” (wife of Vice-President Dick Cheney). But she is also a distinguished scholar with impressive credentials, including a Ph.D. in British Literature. She served as the Chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1986 to 1993 and is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Over the past six years she has published a series of very good children’s books on topics in American history.

I think the two best are Washington (published in 2004), and We the People, which just came out this month.

When Washington Crossed the Delaware is subtitled “A Wintertime Story for Young Patriots.” With a clear, direct narrative, Ms. Cheney sets the scene of the beleaguered American army which had been driven from New York and forced to retreat through New Jersey into Pennsylvania. She talks about how desperately the Americans needed a victory – in order to give everyone some hope that they could eventually defeat the British. She mentions Tom Paine, who marched with the American army as they retreated through New Jersey and includes the famous line he composed on the march, “These are the times that try men’s souls. . .”

The paintings that accompany Ms. Cheney’s text are wonderful. The illustrator was able to visit the site of the crossing, consult with local historians and witness a winter re-enactment of the crossing. The attention to detail shows. You can feel the cold. Your eye is involuntarily drawn to the figure of Washington, warming himself by a fire on the New Jersey shore of the river.

After the army is assembled, you can see Washington’s impatience and determination as they set out towards the Hessians soldiers who have occupied Trenton. He had hoped to attack before sunup, but now would be attacking shortly after dawn. The narrative mentions that both 19-year-old Captain Alexander Hamilton, and 18-year-old Lieutenant James Monroe took part in the crossing and the attack on Trenton. Monroe was badly wounded leading a charge against the Hessians, when they managed to get two of their cannon into operation. Hamilton went on to be a signer of the US Constitution and served as Secretary of the Treasury under President Washington. Monroe would be elected our fifth President in 1808.

Following the surrender of the Hessians at Trenton, Washington continued his offensive by launching an attack on the British regulars a few miles northeast of Trenton at Princeton. In that battle, Washington personally rallied his troops and led them to within thirty yards of the British lines. It is miraculous that he survived the volleys of musket fire, but when the British line broke, he joined in the pursuit.

The twin victories at Trenton and Princeton lifted the spirits of the Continental Army and patriots throughout the colonies. For the first time, the American army had defeated British regulars (and German mercenaries) on the field of battle. There would be many more battles and several years of trials, but the character and commitment of General Washington were brilliantly displayed.

Perhaps the best part of this book is that although it is pitched towards elementary students, the story will appeal just as much to older students. First graders will be captivated by the full-page color illustrations and enjoy having the text read to them. Third/Fourth graders will probably be able to read it for themselves. Each two-page spread includes a quotation from an eyewitness/participant in the battle.

When Washington Crossed the Delaware
is a hardback, 40 pages, and is available for $16.95, directly from Greenleaf Press.

– Rob Shearer, Publisher
Greenleaf Press

PS: You have to love the picture of Lynn Cheney with a group of students on the back cover!

PPS: I’ll have a complete review of We the People in another newsletter.


Received today. Buckley is quite possibly, the funniest political satirist currently writing. P.J. O’Rourke might be his equal in the non-fiction essay, but for side-splitting laughs that skewer the political class in general and the politically correct in particular, you cannot beat Buckley. His first novel, The White House Mess, back in 1986 had me laughing out loud. Thank You for Smoking brutally savaged the world of Washington lobbyists. Boomsday, published last year, took on the impending conflict between the boomers and the gen-x & millennial generations.

Supreme Courtship is just plain fun. Imagine a frustrated, unpopular middle-of-the-road president who is so frustrated when the Senate rejects one of his Supreme Court nominees (because he wrote a less-than-enthusiastic review of To Kill a Mockingbird in his elementary school newspaper) that he sends up Judge Judy as his next nominee. Only imagine Judge Judy recast as a Texas drawling not-to-be messed with steel magnolia. The confirmation hearings alone are golden.

Sample lines:

The President had evolved into the sworn enemy of the majority of the United States Congress, whose members understand that their main job, their highest calling, their truest democratic function, is to take money from other states and funnel it to their own. What greater homage to the Founding Fathers and the men who froze at Valley Forge could there be than a civic center in Tulsa paid for by the taxpayers of Massachusetts?

Senator Dexter Mitchell despised President Vandercamp because he had vetoed S. 322, a bill Mitchell had sponsored that would have required every helicopter rotor blade in the U.S. military to be made in his home state of Connecticut.

“Judge,” Senator Shimmerman began, “I wonder if perhaps you might tell the committee a little about your judicial philosophy.”

“Basically, do your best to keep an orderly courtroom. Make sure everyone abides by the rules. Punish the wicked and acquit the innocent. That’s about it. Want to fast-forward to Roe v. Wade?”

If you’re the slightest bit interested (and irreverent) about politics and politicians, you will love this book – and probably be laughing out loud at more than one passage.

And if Buckley hasn’t already started on a movie script and pitched the part of Judge Pepper Cartwright to Dolly Parton, he’s crazy. I had Dolly in mind about two pages into the book!

– Rob Shearer

Fair Warning: Buckley has no qualms about accurately transcribing the colorful vocabulary of some of his characters. I tend to mentally block and skip the “f” & “s” words, but not everyone can.

Next summer will be the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. I was 14 that summer, and was glued to the TV listening to Walter Cronkite describe what had happened, and what was about to happen.

It was a staggering scientific and engineering accomplishment. There is now an excellent children’s/young adult book that captures the excitement of that historic July day from forty years ago.

The subtitle of the book accurately sums up the focus of the text: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon.

The book opens, not with shots of the astronauts on the moon, but rather with pictures of hundreds of people gathered to watch the grainy black & white TV pictures beamed back live from the moon. There is a shot of several dozen workers at Grumman (who built the Lunar Lander) crowded around a TV. There is a shot of thousands of New Yorkers gathered in Central Park watching an outdoor TV screen. There is a crowd in Milan, Italy watching a TV on the sidewalk of a café – and there are the anxious faces of the team at mission control watching the coverage as well.

After a brief background on Kennedy’s announcement of the goal, the book begins a detailed account of the landing attempt and the six challenges (most unexpected) faced by the crew. The first challenge was an overloaded computer began failing and sounding alarms. The second challenge was that the landing area was littered with boulders and Armstrong had to fly the Lander past it to a safer spot. But there was very little margin in the fuel supply. In simulations, he had always landed with over 2 minutes reserve left. On the real landing attempt, the flight controllers called out the 120 second warning, then the 60 second warning, then the 30 second warning. Armstrong finally got the Lander down with only 18 seconds of fuel left in reserve. I won’t give away the other problems, but suffice it to say , that there was a lot of fancy footwork going on in Mission Control that was not reported at the time!

This is a great book for any kids who have an interest in the space program and the history of Apollo. The 80 pages are laid out with full page photography on every page – and a very engaging text.

Reading level is 5th/6th grade and up. Team Moon is a hardback, 80 pages, full color. The price is $19.95, direct from Greenleaf Press

– Rob Shearer
Publisher, Greenleaf Press

Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing is one of those wonderful stories that is so delightful, one’s first reaction is to wonder if it were really true. It has wonderful elements of Americana and New York City history: The Brooklyn Bridge, P.T. Barnum, the Circus, and a publicity stunt to promote the safety of the new bridge and, oh, by the way, get some free front-page publicity for the Circus.

The Bridge was one of the wonders of the Industrial Revolution. Begun just after the Civil War, in 1869, it took fourteen years to build. The bridge joins downtown Manhattan with downtown Brooklyn. The two towers, at 275 feet above the water, dwarfed anything else in the New York skyline when they were built. The were the equivalent of a 25 story building – at a time when the tallest buildings in Manhattan were only five stories tall.

New Yorkers had watched the construction of the bridge for fourteen years. There was some skepticism about whether the bridge could possible stand, with its woven wire cables carrying a thousand-foot long stretch of roadway a hundred feet above the water. Who wanted to go a hundred feet up in the air on a bridge that might fall? Other bridges had fallen. How could anyone know that this one could be trusted? A hundred feet up in the air? That was twice as high as the roof of the tallest building in the city!

Phineas T. Barnum saw the opening of the bridge – and the skepticism of New Yorkers – as a great opportunity for some publicity for his circus.

When Barnum’s circus came to New York in April of 1884, the Circus parade up Broadway was led by the star of the show – Jumbo, the elephant. After the parade passed City Hall, it continued on towards the new bridge.

One after another,
The elephants press onward,
Silently trusting the wood planks and steel.
Five, six, then seven were crossing.
Ten, eleven – and still there were more!

How many elephants could the bridge hold?

This is fun book. The author of the text has done her research well. The illustrator, too, has studied the setting and the times and captures the feel of New York in the 1880’s – an era when new things were possible.

Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing
is a hardback, 32 pages, full color throughout. The price is $16.00, available directly from Greenleaf Press.

– Rob Shearer
Publisher, Greenleaf Press

From the same team at National Geographic who brought us Mayflower 1620 and 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving, comes an important book about the FIRST permanent English colony in North America, Jamestown. The story of Plymouth is told and retold in the children’s books and history texts. Jamestown always seems to come in as an afterthought, or footnote.

There are many reasons for that, some of them logical, some simply prejudice. Plymouth is in New England. New England has dominated the school movement in America, ergo. . . The north won the war and gets to write the textbooks.

There are other, more logical reasons. The location of the Plymouth colony still survives, and has been rebuilt as an interpretive, living history museum. The location of Jamestown was thought to be lost, swallowed by the meandering James River. But in 1994, the original site of the Jamestown settlement was discovered on a small rise on the banks of the river. It had not crumbled into the water, after all. Over the past 14 years, over a million artifacts have been recovered, along with the foundations of the fort. This book includes photographs of the site and the recovery and restoration work, along with some arresting photographs of re-enactors taking the part of the early colonists.

The other reason for the relative neglect suffered by the history of Jamestown is that its story is even darker and more depressing than the struggles of Plymouth. At Plymouth, half the settlers died in the first winter. At Jamestown, three-fourths of all those who arrived between 1607 and 1625 were dead before 1626. At Jamestown, the conflict between settlers and Indians began early and never abated. There were murderous attacks by both sides.

But there is a positive side to Jamestown as well. Like Plymouth it is a story of perseverance and courage and independence. Although the settlers began with all of the class distinctions of English society, they quickly learned that in the struggle for survival, all men must labor side by side. A certain egalitarian spirit quickly developed.

The chapters in this book have the following titles:

  • Strangers in a Strange Land
  • A Native American Empire
  • The Dying Times
  • Green Gold
  • Winners Take All
  • A New Look at Jamestown

To adequately understand the history of the founding of the English colonies in America, it is important to understand Jamestown, as well as Plymouth.

National Geographic has done an admirable job of presenting a balanced account of that colony named for King James I of England – the first permanent English settlement in North America.

1607: A New Look at Jamestown is a hardback, 48 pages. The price is $17.95, direct from Greenleaf Press.

– Rob Shearer,
Publisher, Greenleaf Press

I am, in general, a big fan of the DK books. Their Eyewitness series, with 160+ titles now, is an excellent resource for young readers (approximately 8-16) on a wide variety of topics. I’m busily adding all of the Eyewitness books into their own category in the Greenleaf online store. But beyond the Eyewitness books, with their museum quality photography, DK has also done some excellent development in traditional illustrated children’s books.

Parents, teachers, and students who will be tracing the history and connectivity of peoples and places from ancient through medieval and modern times will find the following two books very intriguing. They will definitely help your students to understand how the past still influences and is visible in the present.

The first title is A Street Through Time, by Dr. Anne Millard and Steve Noon. It is billed as a 12,000-year walk through history. The book focuses on a location somewhere in the island of Britain, along a river and presents a detailed over-sized two-page spread which depicts what the place looked like at fourteen key periods of history. The first picture is labeled 10,000 BC. We can pass lightly over this one, since it’s largely guess-work. The second scene is 2,000 BC and shows farmers who have constructed a simple village. By 600 BC, this village has passed into the iron age and grown in population. On a nearby hilltop is an iron-age fort similar to those found throughout southern Britain. In AD 100 our village has become an outpost of the Roman Empire. There is a Roman bath, a Roman temple, and a Roman market. In AD 600, things have slipped backwards. The Romans are gone, their buildings are in ruins. But the place by the river is still inhabited. In 900 AD things have gotten both better and worse. There is a stone church and new thatched residences, but there is also the threat of Viking raids. Our scene shows such a raid in progress. In 1208 AD, we have reached the high middle ages. The village has grown a bit. There is a castle on the hill now. In 1400 AD the village has turned into a town. There is a new stone church, new town walls, and a new stone bridge. The townsmen are prospering. In 1500 AD, the plague strikes. It’s not a pretty scene. The next scene is labeled 1600’s finds our town caught in the conflict between King and Parliament – civil war in fact. Some of the houses are burning, the castle on the hill is under siege, and there are soldiers marching in the fields outside the town walls. The 1700s are much more prosperous, even elegant. The residences along the river have been rebuilt. The castle is in ruins, but there is a Georgian estate constructed beside it. The 1800s show the effect of the industrial revolution. The effect on the town is mixed. Some prosper, but many of the workers are poor (grim times). The last two scenes show our familiar street in the late 1800s and today. The church is still there – a landmark to help us orient ourselves. The castle is in ruins, but has become a tourist attraction.

Among the other fun things to do with this book is to play a sort of “Where’s Waldo?” game. The illustrator has hidden a time traveler, named Henry Hyde in each scene. He keeps the same costume through the ages, and you can recognize him by the goggles on his head, his scarf, and long duster.

There are also text cues in the sentences printed in the margins that direct the reader to find particular features. A teacher or parent could use these very effectively with a child. An older student will enjoy the challenges on their own.

The book is oversize, 14″ x 10″, making each 2-page spread a full 28″ wide.

A Street Through Time is a hardback, 32 pages, with full-color illustrations throughout. It is available for $17.99 direct from Greenleaf.

The second DK book is constructed on the same pattern as A Street Through Time, but takes a broader view. A City Through Time is billed as “The Story of a City – from Ancient Colony to vast Metropolis.” The setting for this book is somewhere in Europe, at the mouth of a river on the Mediterranean coast – though the precise location is never specified. Rather than give an identical view for each snapshot in time, the depiction of the city in these spreads is a bit more varied. This allows for a more detailed examination of particular features and buildings. The story begins with a Greek colony in 550 BC (with a separate spread on the Greek temple), then continues to Roman civitas (again with a separate spread showing the public baths in great detail). There is a view of the medieval city (with detail on the castle) and then the more modern industrial port (and railroad station) and the steel and glass modern city (with a cutaway view of a skyscraper turned on it’s side).

This one is also oversize, 14″ by 10″ making each 2-page spread a full 28″ wide.

A City Through Time is a hardback, 32 pages, with full-color illustrations throughout. It is available for $17.99 direct from Greenleaf.

– Rob Shearer
Publisher, Greenleaf Press

For those of us who are book-lovers (and if you’re not, one wonders why you’re reading this blog!), this is a delight. It is billed as “the story of writing – from ancient picture scripts to medieval manuscripts and modern printed books.”

As with all the Eyewitness Books, this one is a visual feast. There are 25 two-page spreads, each illustrated with photographs of museum-quality artifacts. There is a bit of overview text, and then lengthy captions underneath each photograph describing the item in detail. The spreads are titled:

What is writing?

On Press

First signs

Early printed books

Writing with signs


Egyptian writing



Illustrated books

Before paper

Learning words



A medieval Psalter

Children’s books

Manuscript books

Words at work

Books from Asia

The typewriter

Islamic books

The book market

Getting ready to print

Keeping your words


Examples of medieval handwritten manuscript books

There is a fascinating chart on page 16 showing the alphabet family which compares the letter forms from Phoenician, Modern Hebrew, Early Greek, Classical Greek, Etruscan, Classical Roman, and Modern Roman.

As you can see from the spread titles above, the focus is on book-making BEFORE the 20th century. There is no coverage of modern book-making machinery or computer typesetting. For those topics, though, there are other books.

With its 8 page center section devoted to Gutenberg, moveable type, and his press, this book makes an excellent resource for anyone studying the invention of the printing press. It will give you extensive background on how “books” were created in the ancient world, which helps you to understand the significance of what Gutenberg accomplished.

I’ve scanned three of the sample spreads and placed them to the left here.

This is a reproduction of the Gutenberg press

Gutenberg Bible on the right, Caxton’s Canterbury Tales on the left, and an Aldine edition from Venice in the center.

Book, like all the other Eyewitness Books is a hardback, 64 pages, with a price of $15.99. It can be ordered directly from Greenleaf Press by clicking here.

– Rob Shearer
Publisher, Greenleaf Press

This is a remarkable, and hopeful children’s book about the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s. The book tells the story of two lives, in simple, clear text and powerful illustrations. The first biography is of a young black boy growing up in Atlanta. He is constantly confronted with painful reminders of the injustice and prejudice directed towards the members of his race. The second biography is of a young Jewish boy growing up in Poland. He too is constantly confronted with painful reminders of the injustice and prejudice directed towards the members of his race.

In the 1960s, the young boy from Atlanta had grown up to be a Baptist preacher like his father. He led a movement to end the injustices of racial segregation and prejudice. That story, too, is told in the book. When Martin organized a protest march in Alabama, his followers were confronted by police with dogs and clubs. Martin issued a national call for all God’s children to come to Alabama and join the march.

The Jewish boy from Poland, who had emigrated to America and become an influential rabbi, was among those who answered the call. On March 21, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Luther King, Jr. prayed together. And then they marched together.

In January of 1968, Martin Luther King spoke at Abraham Heschel’s 61st birthday party. In April of 1968, Abraham Heschel spoke at Martin Luther King’s funeral.

This is a simple, yet powerful book with a message that parents should be encouraged to teach their children. Published in May of 2008, forty years after the death of Martin Luther King.

I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. In early April of 1968, I turned thirteen years old. In late April, Martin Luther King was assassinated. It was, to say the least, a terrible year. In Atlanta, my family had been proud of Dr. King, and we mourned his death. We were proud that Atlanta had a reputation as “the city too busy to hate.” The ideals of the Declaration and Constitution have taken a long time to be fully realized. Teaching our children about the ideals and the struggle is an important part of their education.

The book is a hardback, 40 pages, full color throughout. The text is written on a 3rd-4th grade reading level, but the book will work very well read out loud to younger children as well. As Good as Anybody is available directly from Greenleaf Press for $16.99.

It is with great pride that Greenleaf Press announces the publication of the Greenleaf Guide to Medieval Literature ($19.95) by Cyndy Shearer

For over ten years, Cyndy has been teaching high school literature classes in home school tutorial settings. For the past five years, she has been teaching all four years of western literature at the Schaeffer Study Center, in Mt. Juliet. We are very pleased to be able to publish the second volume in her four year syllabus. The Greenleaf Guide to Medieval Literature joins the already published Greenleaf Guide to Ancient Literature
($18.95). The Greenleaf Guides for years three & four (Early Modern Lit and Modern Lit) are under development – meaning Cyndy is already teaching them and refining the material.

Like the Greenleaf Guide to Ancient Literature, the Greenleaf Guide to Medieval Literature takes an inductive approach to the study of selected outstanding literary compositions. Rather than studying short excerpts from dozens of possible works, Cyndy has selected a representative set of selections for close study. Students are led by a series of questions that help them to read and understand the text, and then to reflect on the larger questions being dealt with and the authors’ worldviews. A high school student who completes these two literary studies will have a superior background and preparation for the study of modern literature – either in high school or college.

Beginning with Bede and Anglo-Saxon poetry, the Guide (with wry observations by Cyndy) takes students through Beowulf, Gawain, Chaucer, & Hamlet. A worldview bonus is the conclusion of the course with a study of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead – Tom Stoppard’s raucous verbal pyrotechnics on the themes of fate and death which uses two of the minor characters from Hamlet who get caught up in Shakespeare’s play and then try to puzzle out what the intrigues of Denmark mean when all the Shakespearean characters have left the stage.

The text is designed for an instructor (parent, teacher, or tutor) and student who are reading the text together. Some students may be able to complete this study on their own, but the best experiences will be the discussion of themes and issues with another reader. You don’t have to be an expert in medieval lit in order to teach this course – you just have to be willing to do the reading along with your student(s).

Cyndy is eminently well qualified to teach and write on these themes. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Queens College (she graduated in three years and wrote an undergraduate honors thesis on the poetry of T.S.Eliot). She has an MA in English from the University of Virginia, with an emphasis in contemporary American and European poetry. At U.Va. she participated in the graduate poetry writing workshop led by the gifted poet, Gregory Orr. Cyndy has been homeschooling the Shearer children since 1985, having graduated five from high school – and with six more still at home. She co-founded the Francis Schaeffer Study Center in Mt. Juliet with her husband Rob in 2003.

Along with the Greenleaf Guide to Medieval Literature, Greenleaf Press is pleased to make available a complete study package which includes the Guide and all six of the texts selected by Cyndy for her course on Medieval Literature. The texts include:

The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, by the Venerable Bede
Beowulf, trans. Rebsamen
Gawain, trans. Tolkien
Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer
Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, by Tom Stoppard
The Greenleaf Guide to Medieval Literature, by Cyndy Shearer

The Medieval Lit Study Package is available for $70.91 (regular retail – $78.70)

Also available from Greenleaf Press is the Ancient Lit Study Package which contains:

The Greenleaf Guide to Ancient Literature ($18.95)
The Epic of Gilgamesh (Sandars translation)
The Odyssey (Robert Fitzgerald translation)
The Oedipus Cycle (Robert Fitzgerald translation)
Antigone by Anouilh (Barbara Bray translation)

The Ancient Lit Study Package
is available for $61.08 (regular retail – $67.85)

Both the Greenleaf Guide to Ancient Literature and the Greenleaf Guide to Medieval Literature are also available as downloadable eBooks, making it easy for a parent/teacher/tutor to provide the text to their student, while using the eBook to follow along on their computer.

Needless to say, I highly recommend these high school literature courses for homeschoolers, classical schools, and any high school program that wants a thoughtful rich study of the history of Western Literature.

By popular demand, we have restocked and resumed selling Anna Botsford Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study and all 18 of the Audubon Field Guides.

For those who want to do nature study (especially for those inspired by Charlotte Mason), these are invaluable resources.

The late Anna Botsford Comstock was the founder and first head of the Department of Nature Study at Cornell University and the first woman to be appointed to the Cornell faculty. Written originally for elementary school teachers, this book is as valid and helpful today as it was when it was first written in 1911.

Here’s an accolade to her from the Conservation Hall of Fame at the National Wildlife Federation:

“Named one of America’s 12 greatest living women in a 1923 survey by the League of Women Voters, Anna Botsford Comstock was a conservationist before most people knew what the word meant.

Comstock is widely recognized as the mother of nature education. Along with her husband, John, whom she met while she was a student at Cornell University, she formed the Comstock Publishing Company. Its motto: “Nature through Books.” In 1911 the company published Anna’s 900-page Handbook of Nature Study. The now-famous sourcebook for teachers went through 24 editions and was translated into eight languages.

In her book, Comstock emphasized the rewards of direct observation. She was ahead of her time in stressing the importance of natural relationships that work to form what we now call an ecosystem. The point of her approach to nature study, she said, was to “cultivate the child’s imagination, love of the beautiful, and sense of companionship with life out-of-doors.”

Comstock was instrumental in launching a pilot nature study program – the first of its kind in the country – in the schools of Westchester County, New York. In time, the program grew into a nationwide teacher-education program administered by Cornell University and other colleges.

By encouraging instructors to take their students outside to learn, and then helping them see the relationship between people and the natural world, Anna Botsford Comstock left her mark on countless generations.”

Similarly, the 18 Audubon Field Guides are among the best nature resources ever produced. First released over 30 years ago, they are still magnificent. Each is over 800 pages, and each has 200+ color photographs to aid in identification. There are guides on Birds, Trees, Wildflowers, Mushrooms, Insects, Seashells, Rocks, Fossils, and Weather. These are books that we still consult regularly, 20 years after having first purchased them.

The Handbook of Nature Study is a paperback, 887 pages, available direct from Greenleaf Press for $26.00.

Most of the Audubon Field Guides sell for $19.95. A few have been more recently updated and reprinted and sell for $20.95 or $21.95.