Saturday, September 17, 2022

Summer Books: Comic & Funny

More Summer Reading
"Summer, bottle-green, wound slowly
down to mellow, yellow fall

~ Katie Letcher Lyle ~
I Will Go Barefoot All Summer For You

3. a comic book
Tom's Midnight Garden:
A Graphic Adaptation of the Philippa Pearce Classic
Also, a wonderful novel in its original format
& an enchanting movie (if you can find a copy).

18. a funny book
The entire Strange Planet series by Nathan Pyle!

Recent favorites:

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Summer Books: The Beach

Still reading my way through
the lazy hazy crazy days of summer!

Thanks to my friend Katie
for these perfect beach suggestions,
which also just so happen to fulfill
a couple of the requirements on my
~ Summer Reading List ~

16. about your favorite animal [or some other animal! right?]
The Little Gentleman by Philippa Pearce

"So, this time, Bet set off alone. The afternoon sun shone weakly, hardly warming her; raindrops from the long grass sprinkled her legs and fell into her sandals, but the air smelled fresh and sweet after the rain. A heron rose from the river ahead of her and sailed aloft on huge, leisurely wings. Her spirits rose and sailed with the bird. She did not hurry. She simply strolled toward the log as though the rest of the day belong to her, alone and free." (p. 21)

The Little Gentleman is just right for a day at the beach, a playful novel that can be read quickly, like a short story, containing some beautiful imagery, a little fiction, a little history, a little witchcraft, a lot of literary allusion.

I wish the cat, named Moon, played a greater — and more positive — role. On Bet's first outing to the magical reading log in the meadow, Moon goes along and purrs quietly while Bet reads to the unseen "Little Gentleman" who lives in the "Chthonic . . . underworld beneath the surface of the earth" (140). But the next thing you know, Moon is pouncing aggressively and having The Complete Poetic Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson in One Volume hurled in his direction as a weapon (42). Instead of making Moon a "fiercly intent" antagonist, Pearce might have cast him as a co - adventurer, merely curious, not scary (42, 151 - 53). Was the author afraid of cats?

This is one of Pearce’s later works (2004), not yet written during my own childhood but reminiscent of all the “inside a girl’s head” kind of stories that I loved in those days: a mole who can talk and live forever, who can read Tennyson and Darwin, and travel through time; a girl who spends all day in meadows and libraries, talks to animals, and travels through space!

The writing career of Philippa Pearce (1920 - 2006) spanned decades, but even her earlier works -- Tom's Midnight Garden (1958) and The Children of Charlecote (1968) were unknown to me until a few years ago. So glad I have discovered them at last!
Crazy coincidence: a day or so after I finished
The Little Gentleman, I saw this little creature
running around out on our back patio!
Was it the Week of the Mole?
Gerry has since informed me
that it was probably a vole, but I'll take it!

Furthermore, how about those GIANT raindrops?
Crazily, the sun was shining brightly when
suddenly it just started pouring simultaneously!
That seems to happen a lot here!

17. a mystery
The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers
some background reading & a mini-series

One of the best things about our new location is hearing the hourly bells that ring out from the church across the street, every hour from 9am - 9pm, with a brief hymn concert included at 3pm every day! Truly lovely!

Katie happened to call one day right at 3pm, so I carried the phone outside in order to share the bell concert with her. That's what inspired her to recommend this Peter Wimsey mystery, the "nine tailors" referring to nine loud strokes of the tenor bell.
Charlottesville Moment:
Sun is shining!
Rain is pouring down!!
Bells are ringing out!!!

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Summer Books: Such Goings - On

I haven't been doing much reading this summer,
but Ellie has! And Aidan is learning!

Ben's caption:
"Read with your brother;
that's why we had him!"
Notes On The Art Of Poetry

I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on
in the world between the covers of books,
such sandstorms and ice blasts of words,
such staggering peace, such enormous laughter,
such and so many blinding bright lights,
splashing all over the pages
in a million bits and pieces
all of which were words, words, words,
and each of which were alive forever
in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.

Dylan Thomas

The List

Such Goings - On

The Beach

Comic & Funny

I Did It

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Summer Books: The List

Designed for kids,
including several read - alouds,
but also fun for grown ups!

"The summer grew prettier and prettier,
a long series of calm blue summer days

from The Summer Book
by Tove Jansson (1914 - 2001)
Before reading all of the other books on your challenge list, I recommend starting with this summer story of a small family on a small island in Finland. Every page is filled with images of immersive midsummer light, capturing "the allure of summer itself for these people who spend so much of the year in the dark."

READ [present tense verb]:

1. by flashlight
[or nightlight]
The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

Somehow instead of the "Signed Edition" I ended up with the "Large Print Edition." But that's okay. That nice big font actually comes in handy when reading by nightlight -- a lifesaver when your hotel room is without a reading alcove and your traveling companion falls asleep before you.

So, as it turns out, I have already fulfilled my flashlight requirement by staying up super - late reading the first few chapters of this book by the glow of a tiny nightlight! [I'm all for tweaking the stipulations a little bit if need be!]

p 142: "Do I believe in God? I believe around God. But I can only believe in what I am in -- sunlight and shadow, oxygen and carbon dioxide, solar systems and galaxies." Hey -- that's what I said: The Miracle of Oxygen & The Precession of the Equinoxes!

p 248: "Tradition is a way of being with people, not just the people you're observing the traditions with now, but also all those who've ever observed them."

2. in a funny accent [audio ~ Cornish]
The Birds by Daphne du Maurier

3. a comic book ~ [Click for more]
Tom's Midnight Garden:
A Graphic Adaptation of the Philippa Pearce Classic

4. as a family
Family favorite author Bill Bryson's uber - informative The Body: A Guide for Occupants. We read it sequentially (first Gerry, then me). I think that counts for "as a family." Book after book, year after year, Bryson never fails!

The Body:
p 4 - 6: “That is unquestionably the most astounding thing about us – that we are just a collection of inert components, the same stuff you would find in a pile of dirt. I’ve said it before in another book, but I believe it’s worth repeating: the only thing special about the elements that make you is that they make you. That is the miracle of life. . . . Altogether it takes 7 billion billion billion (that’s 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, or 7 octillion) atoms to make you. No one can say why those 7 billion billion billion have such an urgent desire to be you. They are mindless particles, after all, without a single thought or notion between them. Yet somehow for the length of your existence, they will build and maintain all the countless systems and structures necessary to keep you humming, to make you you, to give you form and shape and let you enjoy the rare and supremely agreeable condition known as life. . . . But your atoms are just building blocks, and are not themselves alive. Where life begins, precisely is not easy to say. The basic unit of life is a cell -- everyone is agreed on that. The cell is full of busy things --ribosomes and proteins, DNA, RNA, mitochondria and much other cellular arcana, but none of those are themselves alive. The cell itself is just a compartment – a kind of little room: a cell -- to contain them, and of itself is as nonliving as any other room. Yet somehow when all of these things are brought together, you have life. That is the part that eludes science. I kind of hope it always will.”

The Brain:
p 48 - 49: “The great paradox of the brain is that everything you know about the world is provided to you by an organ that has itself never seen that world. The brain exists in silence and darkness, like a dungeoned prisoner. It has no pain receptors, literally no feelings. It has never felt warm sunshine or a soft breeze. To your brain, the world is just a stream of electrical pulses, like taps of Morse code. And out of this bare and neutral information it creates for you—quite literally creates—a vibrant, three-dimensional, sensually engaging universe. Your brain is you. Everything else is just plumbing and scaffolding.”

p 50: " . . . to quote the neuroscientist David Eagleman . . . [there are] as many connections ‘in a single cubic centimetre of brain tissue as there are stars in the Milky Way.’"

For more on these neural connections & pathways,
see my previous post: Twister!

Thus the persistent & perpetual
importance of CONNECTION!

5. about your country

6. under a tree

7. about friendship

8. about space

9. in a blanket fort

10. to a pet

11. a book with a color in the title

12. a book with chapters

13. at breakfast

14. about a city far away

15. a book of poems
The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy
Edited by John Brehm

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

by Philip Larkin (1922 - 1985)

Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

by Robert Frost (1874 - 1963)

16. about your favorite [or other] animal
The Little Gentleman by Philippa Pearce

[For more on 16 & 17, see
"Summer Books: The Beach"]

17. a mystery
The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers
some background reading & a mini-series

18. a funny book
~ [Click for more]
The entire Strange Planet series by Nathan Pyle!

19. to a sibling:
Take a look at Ellie Reading to Aidan: "Such Goings- On"!
Ready, set, go! I will be back to fill
in each line as the summer progresses!
I hope to incorporate into the challenge
a number of books that I have been meaning
to read for months. Now is my chance!

I am NOT a fast reader.

Thanks to my friend
Cathy McKinnis for this delightful idea!

Monday, May 30, 2022

Sawdust or Stardust?

Poems by Jim Barnes
my undergrad poetry professor and friend
The Sawdust War

On the early summer days I lay with back
against the sawdust pile and felt the heat
of a thousand pines, oaks, elms, sycamores
flowing into my flesh, my nose alive
with that peculiar smell of death the trees
became. Odd to me then how the summer rain
made the heat even more intense. Digging
down the dust, I began to reshape a world
I hardly knew:
the crumbly terrain became
theaters of the war. I was barely ten.

What I knew of the wide world and real war
came down the valley's road or flew over
the mountains I was caught between. Remote
I was nightly glued to the radio,
wondering at reports of a North African
campaign and Europe falling into chaos.
All daylight long I imitated what I
thought I heard, molding sawdust into hills,
roads, rivers, displacing troops of toys,
claiming ground by avalanche and mortar

fire, advancing bravely into black cities,
shrouding the fallen heroes with white bark.
I gained good ground against the Axis through
long summer days. Then one morning, dressed in
drab for hard work of war, I saw real smoke
rising from my battlefield. Crawling from
beneath the sawdust like vague spider webs,
claiming first the underground, then foxholes,
it spread like a wave of poison gas across
the woody hills I shaped with a mason's trowel.

I could not see the fire: it climbed from deep
within. No matter how I dug or shifted dust,
I could not find the source. My captured ground
nightly sank into itself The gray smoke
hovered like owls under the slow stillness
of stars, until one night I woke to see,
at the center, a circle of smoldering sparks
turning to flame, ash spreading outward and down.
All night the pile glowed red, and I grew ashamed
for some fierce reason I could not then name.
Illustration by GĂ©rard DuBois
for "The Cost of Sentimentalizing War"

Perhaps not quite the same imagery as
that of rural Northeast Oklahoma, but still
a childhood infused with the details of war

When I came across this picture in The New Yorker (November 29, 2021), I was reminded of the above poem, "The Sawdust War," with its 10-year-old narrator, "nightly glued to the radio" and the next day, in his innocence, imitating "what I thought I heard." The poet himself was just a kid at the time, which is how these poems -- written in the 1980s, about the 1940s -- convey the experience of WWII: through the eyes of a carefree yet apprehensive youngster, growing up in rural Northeast Oklahoma.

I wrote to tell Jim that I had been re-reading The Sawdust War and finding every poem so incredibly appropriate to the current atmosphere of confusion and wastefulness and disbelief, that it seemed his book could have been written this very week, rather than 1992. A straightforward enough message, right? But facebook had a different idea, morphing "sawdust" into "stardust." Or had I mis-typed that? But no, it kept happening. Every time I tried to type "Sawdust," facebook changed it to "Stardust." I swear it was not me -- it was spellcheck!

The spelling corrector had obviously not read the poem and knew nothing about a curious child's ability to construct an entire world from sawdust and then to witness its self - combustion! Yes, that can really happen. See, it's a metaphor! Jim caught the error right away: "Thanks, Kitti. But The Sawdust War, right? The gaze is earthward still. . . . Thank the stars that I got beyond the Sunday papers in far away 1944. The Stardust War maybe it should have been, but I made it The Sawdust War."
[Speaking of stardust, this passage from Paul Zindel's play is one of my all time favorites: "For one thing, the effect of gamma rays on man in the moon marigolds has made me curious about the sun and the stars, for the universe itself must be like a world of great atoms . . . but most important, I suppose my experiment has made me feel important--every atom in me, in everybody, has come from the sun--from places beyond our dreams. The atoms of our hands, the atoms of our hearts" (101-02).]

My readerly Nebraska friends were recently discussing the authors of their state: Willa Cather for fiction, Ted Kooser for poetry, Mari Sandoz for "grit and tough truths" (thanks Laura!). If Wallace Stegner and Ivan Doig seem lacking in authenticity, what other writers can provide "a rubric of art and fiction that can frame, intellectually and artistically, the experience of living farther West than Willa Cather was writing about"?

The question of "a literary path through the Western States" (thanks Jim!) came at the perfect time for me because, coincidentally, I have just finished reading three very different books about life in the wild wild west -- not my usual genre, but a timely coincidence! These all take place further south, from whence I hail, but are still of interest to the train of thought:

1. Killers of the Flower Moon:
The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

by David Grann
From the introduction: “In April, millions of flowers spread over the blackjack hills and vast prairies in the Osage territory of Oklahoma. There are Johnny-jump-ups and spring beauties and little bluets. The Osage writer John Joseph Mathews observed that the galaxy of petals makes it look as if the " gods had left confetti". In May, when coyotes howl beneath an unnervingly large moon, taller plants, such as spiderworts, and black eyed Susans, begin to creep over the tinier blooms, stealing their light and water. The necks of the smaller flowers break and their petals flutter away, and before long they are buried underground. This is why the Osage Indians refer to May as the time of the flower-killing moon.”

From the conclusion: “Stores gone, post office gone, train gone, school gone, oil gone, boys and girls gone—only thing not gone is graveyard and it git bigger.”
An utterly sad and astonishing expose of evil in Northeastern Oklahoma, just a few miles south of where my parents (and all of their parents) grew up in Southeast Kansas. I wish my grandfather (1895 - 1983) were still alive so that I could ask him what he remembers about this terrible aspect of American history.

Thanks to my cousin Sally for recommending. Everyone should read this informative, important book. It is being made into a movie, scheduled for release later in 2022. Hoping they do a good job!

2. The Horse and Buggy Doctor: A Memoir
by Arthur E. Hertzler, M.D. (1870 - 1946)

Again, like The Sawdust War (RE: Ukraine), could have been written today (RE: COVID):
"It is all right to do fool things if someone is standing by able to protect us from the fruits of our folly. But, let it be emphasized, if the cultists [anti-vaxxers] inherited the earth the epidemic diseases wold be upon us with their original pristine terribleness. After more than sixty years [written in 1938, thinking back to 1878] I can still hear the eloquent prayers that filled the countryside when epidemics of diphtheria appeared. One tube of antitoxin will do more good than all of these. I have seen all of these things. A doctor, an M.D., must think the truth. Perhaps it would be better if he sometimes proclaimed it."

3. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story
of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl

by Timothy Egan


The Last Days of the Rainbelt
by David J. Wishart

These two are especially pertinent to the story of my grandfather's parents who came from Ohio to settle a homestead in Madrid, Nebraska. They were there from 1887 - 1895, before moving to Southeast Kansas where the drought was less severe.


So there you have enough material,
for a seminar on memoirs of the West,
maybe even a two - semester course!
Well, at least a blogpost!

Saturday, April 30, 2022


~ 1956 ~
Who doesn't love a neighborhood
visit from the Bookmobile?

Even more exciting than the ice cream truck circling our block every summer afternoon was the Bookmobile arriving once every other week! I loved to enter the air - conditioned van, peruse all the choices, and check out Little Women. The illustrated version that was my favorite in 1968 is still a vived memory.

Searching google images, I was disappointed not to come across an exact match for the book jacket that I remember so well. This 1960 abridged paperback is not exactly right but the closest I could find. My Bookmobile version was a big fat hardback with a laminated chartreuse cover. However, it had this same floral oval cameo motif; so I'm guessing it might have been the hardback companion to this paperback:


More on Louisa May Alcott

Junior High Favorites


Orchard House

Simone de Beauvoir

Jo March and More


More happy memories from Bookmobile Days:
Author Cards!
So many authors to learn about!
More recent editions:

Thursday, March 31, 2022

A Year of Ellie Reading

“Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows
she can read printed words. . . . From that time on,
the world was hers for the reading.”

from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
by Betty Smith


December 11, 2020
Starting With One, Two, Three!

January 29, 2021
Seasonal Magazines from Katie!

March 4, 2021
Highlights from Doris & Denis!

April 14, 2021
A Greeting Card from Aunt Sue!

April 20,2021
More Highlights!

April 27, 2021
A Real Page - Turner!

Finger Puppet Books ~ Thanks Sandy!

April 29, 2021
Grandpa, Read Me the Dragon Book!

June 12, 2021
Soon She'll Be Reading Music!

July 17, 2021
Let's Have a Look at this Special Offer!

August 14, 2021
A Very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Party!
Click for some darling videos: Caterpillar & Dada

August 24, 2021
“Currently reading about the price of Bitcoin.”

October 23, 2021
Reading Eloise Wilkin
In her little rocking chair

December 17, 2021
Christmas Classics

March 13, 2022
Sesame Street: Don't Forget the Oatmeal!

March 15, 2022
~ Ellie Reading and Rearranging ~


See more:
Summer 2022
Ellie Reading to Aidan