Thursday, April 19, 2018

In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll


This is a light and fanciful book. 

Alice's brother is finally in line for a replacement heart. When the call comes for his surgery, Alice is shunted off to a little known grandmother. 

In her worry and agony over her brother and her very temporary position in this place, she is determined not to get involved in the dispute over what her grandmother does with her woods. Her grandmother wants more light in her house, so has slated the trees for removal. People in town say the wood is part of their heritage and must be preserved. 

As Alice walks through this wood every day on her way to the local school, she begins to glance things too fanciful to believe. When she meets a girl that no one else knows about, she is sure something is going on in Darkling Wood. And she begins to think maybe it is something worth saving. 

I have a soft spot in my heart for people who really care about a place. Place is so important. All the little things, flowers, leaves, bushes, bugs, and birds that put together make the larger picture of a particular area.

Growing up on a dairy farm there was so much space for us to roam. And there were so many little spots that were "mine." I loved those spots. If someone had come along threatening one of my little spots in the hedgerow, rockpile in the middle of the field, or atop a stonewall, I would have felt pretty territorial. So I sympathize with these people wanting to preserve Darkling Wood. I also sympathize with Alice's grandmother who wants more light in her house. Because.... light in a house is a pretty gigantic deal--makes or breaks it in my opinion. So it was interesting to have my sympathies pulled one way and then another. 

A bit of magic, a lot of family dynamics, and a dose of love of place and it is a very pleasant little book. This isn't a MUST READ. But anyone who appreciates a fairy and a good family story will have a good time with this one. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

America's First Ladies by Betty Boyd Caroli

I am sure you have all heard that Barbara Bush died yesterday. I was looking at pictures of her life and I remembered this book that I adored when I was about ten or so. 

I loved it so much that when Mom and Dad were getting rid of it, I was the one they gave it to. And although it is obviously out of date (Hilary is the last addition) I still keep it. Because.... well... I still kind of love it. 


I was a major geek and American history was my thing. There was a companion book to this about the American presidents that I loved too, but this one I loved a bit more. 

I ended up studying history (and biology) in college as a result of all this fascination. As I began to choose a focus, I realized that while I liked the intrigue and high stakes in political history, I was much more interested in learning about everyday, lesser known people. 


Most of the First Ladies of America are not really everyday people. Many of them came from a place of wealth and privilege. But they always seemed like accidentally famous people to me. They hadn't chose the spotlight necessarily, and for some, they actively disliked the spotlight. But there they were. 

I loved them for their love of country and that their love for a particular man could make them stay in this scrutinized and often thankless position.

I love our first ladies. 

And when all this love for First Ladies (do we capitalize that?) was developing, Barbara Bush was the first lady. She never struck me particularly when I was ten. She just was. She was the definitive definition of what being a first lady was about to my ten year old self.


A young Hilary, sporting the cold shoulder look while Abraham Lincoln apparently sees something interesting happening stage right. (or is that stage left? I always forget if you say it from the audience or actor's viewpoint.)


Grace Coolidge liked to do her own housework. 

The loss of privacy is one of the hardest things for me to understand as First Lady. Someone is always, always nearby, filling up your house. 


Jackie Kennedy helping the refurbishers put up a candelabra

Clearly, Michelle Obama was not the first First Lady to have ripped upper arms. 


The first Bushs (Bushes?) and the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. 

I read today that her hair went white when she was 28. Their first daughter died of leukemia just before her fourth birthday and Barbara's hair went white from the strain. 

She dyed it for years and then finally embraced her natural hair color. People critiqued her for it, telling her she looked more like her husband's mother than his wife. But she didn't let any beauty industry dictate to her. Go her! 


Eleanor Roosevelt--always fascinating. 

I adore her for her care and interest in the everyday people. Those letter children wrote her in the Great Depression that she actually read and did something about? Swoon. 


I always thought it was unfortunate that we didn't have trains around for political campaigns nowadays. It lends a certain something to the whole proceeding. 


Lady Byrd. How could you not love someone who planted a lot of flowers around and wore coats as yellow as a daffodil?


HW and Barbara and kids. 

They said Barbara was pretty traditional in her role, being her husbands biggest supporter and cheerleader. As HW began to get further into politics and higher up the ladder, Barbara began to get more vocal and let her strong personality shine through. She actually supported abortion rights and gun control, publicly differing from her husband on those issues. 

Go her!


The Kennedys. So tragic and enthralling.


Lucy Hayes apparently loved feeding the pigeons


Barabara and  HW's wedding.

They met at a dance. He couldn't waltz, so they talked. Barbara later told someone, "We started talking that night, and never stopped." 

She married the first boy she ever kissed. 

72 years of marriage later...


A young Hilary receiving her degree


Barbara Bush was asked to speak at a Wellesley commencement, but student's protested that she wasn't qualified, since she didn't have a degree. Instead of backing out, she invited the First Lady of the Soviet Union, a university professor, to speak with her. Attitude!


Jackie-O loved photography! How cool is that?


The young Roosevelts. FDR is apparently knitting. Was that a thing? Was it normal for men to knit back in the day? 


Betty Ford, having a quiet moment.

This, more than anything, captures what I love about the First Ladies--trying to live life, having all those attendant feelings as a woman, wife, mother, citizen, and having to do it in front of the whole world. How did they keep their sanity? How did they balance the constant demands of the public with their private life? 

Fascinating stuff. 

And goodbye to my first (or at least the first one I was aware of) First Lady. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Spring Diet by Nancy Dingman Walsh and Erik Blegvad


Spring Diet

  Nibble on a fiddle fern
Chew on a birch twig
     Sip upon a honeysuckle
  Then you'll grow big   

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace


I AM SO TIRED OF SNOW. I took a walk yesterday because it was gorgeously sunshiney, even thought it was cold and windy. Within 20 minutes it was snowing like crazy. I love snow. I am a big fan of cozy snow. But I just lost my patience with it yesterday. 

I want spring! 

In our never ending winter, I think we could all use a dose of kindness or two in our life. 


Before we talk about the plot, do you see how adorable all these cut paper bunnies are? So much texture and depth to these illustrations!


Minna's homework is to do a kind deed and draw a picture of it. 

Minna reads to her little brother. But is that the best thing to draw a picture of? 


Minna continues being kind while thinking of what is best to draw.


Minna started drawing and cutting out shapes.  And then she knew what to do. 


A quilt square of kindness!


Everyone in class gets in on the quilt creating



Soon everyone in the school gets involved and the kindness quilt grows and grows!

Isn't that sweet? I think I might do something like this with students next year. Because lets face it, the whole world could use a little kindness. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

That Neighbor Kid by Daniel Miyares


This is a sweet story about the tentative beginning of a childhood friendship.


The illustrations are all black and white at the beginning


A kid reading a book upside down! 

And a peeking neighbor....


The kids loved the peeking, hiding aspect of this book. 


Then we see the neighbor climb a tree, up a very intriguing makeshift ladder


And the shy, new girl brings up the dropped tools.


Oh the nerves!! For someone who grew up to be loud and obnoxious, I really was painfully shy as a kid. So I feel for this girl. All the "What if....s" going through the head at this very minute. 

Actually, I am still a tiny bit that shy girl. Because "What ifs" dance through my head the minute someone invites me to something outside the bounds of the normal school routine. I can talk to anyone and voice my opinion confidently, but social situations without clear rules and objectives....? Eeek. 


The meeting. 

Aren't these pictures nice? I love them.


Assistance and color


I love the visuals here--as the friendship develops, the world becomes more colorful.


Happiness!


Juice boxes are better together.


And goodnights are nicer when there is someone to wave to. 

Friends are the very best. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Homeplace by Anne Shelby & Illus by Wendy Anderson Halperin



I fully intended to have an amazing array of women's history books for March, but.... that didn't happen. I am a little behind things! 

This book isn't strictly women and it isn't nonfiction, but I love thinking about the women who have come before me. Those farm women on the Canadian shield, the Irish immigrants in 1920's New Jersey, the Scottish potato farmers in New Brunswick.... 

All the amazing things women have done to break down barriers is more important to my everyday life, but the stories of my women is much more personal and deeply felt. 


A little girl learns about her family history from her grandmother. 


All those years ago, this person whose blood runs in your veins conceived of the very house you are living in. The summer before last, I visited the farmhouse all those farm wives lived in on the Canadian shield. I saw the tools and creations used by all those generations and it was incredibly moving. I had expected to be interested, but I hadn't expected to feel so much. 

I think that connection to the past, that rootedness is something we are losing in this global, transient world of ours. Sometimes that is good--we don't want to be stuck in one place just because someone before us couldn't go anywhere else. Yet, I think that feeling of belonging, of a deep connection to a certain place can be very steadying influence in life. Even the pioneers, as they headed west, it was always with the intent of making a new family homestead, a place where future generations would come to. 

There is no denying that history can be a burden at times, but there is something in me that feels nostalgic for that feeling of belonging. Maybe that has something more to do with not having grandparents around when I was little--my mother's parents died when she was young, and my father's grandparents were older and died when I was 3 (grandfather) and 9 (grandmother).  


As the grandmother tells about each generation, we get a sense for what they were doing, how they were living, and what the tools they had. 

I adore this kind of day-to-day history. 

Much more interesting to think about how women cooked 200 years ago than how some men argued and got into wars. 


SHEEP. I also feel very nostalgic about owning sheep. Mostly because my husband thinks sheep are a scourge on the earth. One of these days, I am going to buy some. I am sure he just has confused memories from his childhood year on a sheep farm... 


Family love. This makes my heart happy.


The illustrations are just jammed full of details. So much to look at. And look at again. 


Mother love


Women on tractors


And then to the grandmother's personal life. 


I love the connection between the grandmother and child


And now, here you are, growing like a melon in the patch, like tulips in the springtime of the year, like a young tree coming up from old roots deep down in the ground. 

And those deep roots help you stand strong and tall. 

I LOVE THIS BOOK.