The Pumpkin Deal by Alan Venable is written as poetry and clever as good children’s poetry should be. With a one-of-a-kind plot, it tells a story of wThe Pumpkin Deal by Alan Venable is written as poetry and clever as good children’s poetry should be. With a one-of-a-kind plot, it tells a story of witches, pumpkins, nasty wizards with tempers and a Boss with a loathsome plan to steal eight pumpkins the wizards need for Halloween.
The characters in The Pumpkin Deal are delightfully bad with the exception of a small girl named Cricky (who sounds like a cricket when she talks) and a wise scarecrow with a pumpkin head who holds court in a field with seven pumpkins. No one can help but cheer for the young, helpful Cricky when she makes friends with the scarecrow. He is willing to sell his seven pumpkins after many threats and wizard turmoil but insists on keeping the eighth pumpkin that is in fact his head. What will Cricky do?
Alan Venable cleverly writes the The Pumpkin Deal as if it is being told to a friend. That friend becomes you and your little listeners while you turn the pages of come-alive illustrations created in brief vibrant strokes, each page including brilliant, original artwork that mirrors the story. Adolescent humor fills this win-win story of wizards squabbling and the little witch that becomes a heroine. The Pumpkin Deal is a child’s Halloween fantasy at its best. ...more
A good friend gave me an attractively covered book to add to the Little Free Library I have in front of my house. But when I examined Crow Planet “EssA good friend gave me an attractively covered book to add to the Little Free Library I have in front of my house. But when I examined Crow Planet “Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness” by Lynda Lynn Haupt I realized I wasn’t ready to give this book up.
Crow Planet begins with the author, suffering from depression, looking out the bedroom window of the new suburban home her husband and she just purchased in Seattle, Washington. It’s midday but she’s still in her pajamas, seeing no reason to get dressed. Suddenly twelve feet away she sees a nest and hears a tiny bird preening. Looking through her binoculars, she sees a baby crow with a malignant growth over one eye. Both she and the baby bird are injured she thinks, crying and laughing at the same time.
Haupt is a scientist of the natural world who once worked as wildlife rehabilitator and in addition raised nearly a hundred fledging birds. She is also mother of a young daughter also fascinated with birds. After seeing the suffering baby crow, she captures, feeds and when it is healed frees it to join the hundreds of crows she sees daily on her nature walks. She begins to understand that Seattle can become the beloved wilderness she reluctantly left behind when she and her family moved to the city. She learns that urban nature is infused with magic and wonder and I, the reader, do too. The baby crow creates a “liaison with a truer way of being” that is not the romanticized Walden of Thoreau’s “pure nature”, but her — and our—natural world.
Crows are birds of the Corvid family which is several million years older than humans. Most crow populations are increasing while globally birds are declining due to human environmental destruction. This likely is because crows are omnivores who eat anything, scavengers who feed upon the dead (hence the term “murder of crows”).
Crows are also immensely intelligent in a way similar to apes which is why their behavior is so complex. They have an extensive vocabulary, for example a “remonstrative call” consisting of scolding and screeching if you get too close to a nest. They use mimicry. They also whisper, whine, meow, croak, chuckle and whinny. Crows take care of one another; they can use tools and are able to “reach a contemplative state while sunning themselves”. Crows may have a “helper” third crow to tend their young along with the mother, father and babies in a nest. Crows also attend “funerals”, gathering around their own dead. This is known as “mobbing”.
“Everybody has a crow story,” Lyanda Lynee Haupt writes.
GRANT was called "The Greatest Hero" by Walt Whitman.
In this time of California fires, the Coronavirus quarantine and Trump, I'm looking for revelatioGRANT was called "The Greatest Hero" by Walt Whitman.
In this time of California fires, the Coronavirus quarantine and Trump, I'm looking for revelation. My son, Chris, offered to lend me his 1,074-page biography of our 18th President, Ulysses S. Grant, written by Ron Chernow, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of Hamilton and Washington.
I'm no further than the very first page and yet I'm inspired, changing! I'm in time past, another era, experiencing a vastly different life, fascinating and yet familiar, immersed in a historical figure I grew up with in school, sort of,—someone, strangely enough, I can identify with. Someone I wish I knew.
Historical textbooks have portrayed Ulysses S. Grant's terms in office as marked by rampant corruption presided over by a president who spoke only on occasion, had an alcohol problem, little charisma, and was simple-mindedly loyal to duplicitous "friends" in politics. Reading GRANT however, I discover a singular, sensitive man born in the Midwest of pioneer stock, the "son of an incorruptible small-town braggart" and a silent, beloved mother, an expert horseman, a failure at business while brilliant at military maneuvers, who resigned from the army in disgrace. A foe of slavery.
The very first sentence introduces me a Grant who has just left the office of the Presidency. It seems Ex-President Grant is unlike so many other presidents who rushed to publish their memoirs as soon as they departed the White House. No, two-time President Ulysses S. Grant, High Military Commander of the Union Army, who defeated the renown Confederate General Robert E Lee to win the Civil War for Abraham Lincoln, "refused to trumpet his accomplishments in print" and was, in fact, too modest and unpretentious. As Chernow describes it, Grant was a hero in spite of himself. He hated boasting about himself and his wartime accomplishments.
In the middle paragraph, Chernow fast-forwards to 1883 in post-Civil War New York City, where Grant, no longer president, has a crippling accident getting out of a taxi on a snowy night and ends up being a lifelong invalid with "excruciating pain" and the "agonizing onset of pleurisy coupled with severe rheumatism."
And still on Page 1, Chernow hints at the financial success Grant longed for finally being realized at the end of his life. Ex-president Grant has partnered with a young brash swindler, Ferdinand Ward, and imagines himself a millionaire who will be able to at last provide support for Julia after he's gone. But then . . .and then . . .while. . .after.
Deep into it now, I experience a small, unassuming man who never wanted to go to West Point, who could fall asleep in the middle of a battle and wake up refreshed, and who had the love and loyalty of the huge Union Army of Lincoln. Who Frederick Douglass called, "the protector of my race." Grant who sought freedom and justice for newly emancipated slaves both as Commander in Chief and later as President, fighting carpetbaggers and the newly formed Ku Klux Klan. There's been recent controversy around Julia who grew up in a slave state, in a family with slaves, and Grant keeping one slave, William, for a year, which led to Grant's statue being toppled in San Francisco. But, as I discover on p. 106, "when it came within his power, Grant . . . filed papers, to "hereby manumit, emancipate and set free said William from slavery forever."
It was revelatory and comfortingly satisfying to me to learn intimate details of this far-sighted, faithful, loving husband and father whose lifelong love affair was with his four children and his wife, Julia, a fascinating, vivacious woman in her own right, who flourished even at the very end of what became his torturous life.
GRANT, a cliff hanger. And it all happens in fascinating detail, written in pristine language. Somehow it became my life too, embodying my wish for a real president. Now. For the time being, I'll settle in with Ron Chernow's GRANT, imagining the man behind the book. And I'll vote for the next president on November 3rd. So much for wishing.
When I picked up Enemy Women, I imagined the intriguing title to be a metaphor that might describe any era, including my own, the twenty-first centuryWhen I picked up Enemy Women, I imagined the intriguing title to be a metaphor that might describe any era, including my own, the twenty-first century. Looking more closely at the cover, I saw a photo of a woman on a horse photographed from behind, her long black hair flying one direction while the horse, ears pricking, leaned in the other. A Native American story? A fantasy adventure? No, these “enemy women” I found out were mainly white and poor, living in the southeastern Ozarks of Missouri during the American Civil War.
I couldn't put the book down, mainly because of Adele Colley, eighteen years old, first person narrator. Adele speaks her mind, is eager to know her future. She shuns domesticity, knows she’ll likely be imprisoned by marriage, and worried it might be to the wrong man. Adele’s free spirit, her bravery, her independent, tomboy behavior and her unique dreams hooked me. I too have been entranced by the silence of early morning, “a coin to be spent very carefully.”
In the first pages, Adele’s father gives her a dun horse she names Whiskey, of mixed straw color, grey and gold with black legs, tail and mane. Whiskey is Adele’s best friend, her only companion. Her brother covets the horse and so does the Union Militia, made up of dubious characters from the Missouri waterfront who joined up "for a keg of whiskey and five dollars a month" and totally outnumber the retreating Confederate soldiers.
Adele’s mother died of the fever five years before and her brother, with his withered arm, has fled to the hills to avoid being arrested and shot (the Militia practice being to arrest Southern men “weeds in the garden of humanity” and punish anyone with Southern sympathies).
Even though the Colley’s are officially “non-partisan”, Adele (and her two little sisters) watch as her father, a justice of the peace, is arrested by the Militia. Adele’s father tells her to flee with her sisters to a distant relative. The Militia then sets their house on fire, burning everything, even food and valuables, and beat her father up before taking him away along with Whiskey, who looks back at her as he is led away.
A driving rain saves Adele, her sisters and her father’s house. She leads her sisters away, walking by graveyards where Confederate and Union soldiers are buried together. Looking to find her horse, her own journey has just begun and so has the reader's.
The author, Paulette Jiles, prefaces each chapter of Adele’s story with factual, primary source documents from the Civil War era, magnifying the power and horror of this reader's experience. For example, a few hours before being hanged in a St. Louis prison, Asa Ladd, “prisoner of war” and Confederate soldier, writes to his wife and children, “I want you to tell all my friends I have gone home to rest. I want you meet me in heaven.”
The author’s decision to not use direct quotes for her characters is also an unusual touch and stands in contrast to the meticulous, primary source quotations that precede each chapter.
Jiles’ careful, singular style of writing seduces the reader along with Adele into the hills of the Ozarks, following the flow of the rivers, the magnificent, overwhelming wilderness of the mountains where only the women and children are left.
Reading Enemy Women, I experienced every woman's grief during the American Civil War in present time, right now, not a just a subject of history in our country’s past of injustice, slavery, and wealthy “Gone with the Wind” white column mansions of the deep South. I saw familiar ghosts of "enemy" women, which could have been my ancestors in a new, compassionate light. I can thank the author for that....more