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Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 14 September 2007
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It has been a while since I have posted anything to this blog...long enough that I've had inquiries from several friends about my health! But I'm fine, have just been busy, and on the road a bit.

The death of Madeliene L'Engle recently was a loss to the world of literature. I was asked by a magazine editor to make a brief statement about it and sent the following:

I never knew Madeleine L'Engle personally. But I felt as if I did. Her books, especially "A Wrinkle in Time," had been an important part of the lives of my children when they were young. Then I entered the same field in which she was already such a towering figure, and though our paths never crossed in person, I felt her presence there in our shared world of literature.

A few years ago, I read that she had lost her son. Because it was something I had experienced, the loss of a son, I wrote her a letter. Both of us had shared many stories with the world, but this was a personal and private loss, and one that we shared with each other. When she replied, she concluded her letter with the word "Blessings."

I thought of that when I heard that she had died. What better farewell is there? Blessings to you, Madeleine L'Engle.

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A Medieval Village

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Sunday, 02 September 2007
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611g8hmie2l_aa240_

I very rarely read children's books. But recently, after coming upon a review of this one: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village
, by Laura Amy Schlitz, I bought it and was so charmed by it that I wanted to mention it here.

I had a personal reason for being interested. I have long had a passion for Medieval times and still have an entire bookshelf devoted to reference volumes about that era. Way back in, oh, probably 1980, I began writing a novel set in a small English village in - I think it was 1439 (I am at the wrong house and can't look it up). In any case, it was the year that the plague entered England and eventually killed a third of the population. I remember that I named my fictional village Tarrant Marsh.

I remember ,too, that my protaganist was a young girl, left with a newborn baby to care for after her mother and the rest of her family...and almost all of her village..dies. (Interesting to think of it now, since many years later the book "The Giver" dealt with a young boy caring for an endangered infant)

I was loving the writing of my Medieval book. The I happened on a review of a book by well-known wrter of historical fiction Ann Turner, a book called "The Way Home"...well, here, I'll look it up:

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The Truly Tawdry

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 28 August 2007
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Spector1gallery121305

Okay, here's a confession. Almost every day at lunchtime I leave my desk, leave my office, and take my lunch into the TV room and turn on Court TV. Then for an hour I watch a little slice of the seamiest part of American life. Lately it has been the trial of Phil Spector, sleazy music mogul (see attached photos) accused of shooting would-be starlet Lana Clarkson.

This trial will end soon and it will be hard to say goodbye to this cast of characters. Yesterday, testifying for the defense, was a friend of the victim who thinks her pal committed suicide. She was apparently very depressed because a famous movie person (I missed the name) didn't recognize her, at a party. "She freaked out," said the witness.

All of the above took place at what the commentators refer to as "the mansion" belonging to Spector (again see photos), a 33-room house, the scene of many parties and much gun-waving.


Spectorvideo5

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Poor Alfie

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 27 August 2007
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Last night, still feeling crummy from a virus that started last Thursday, I went up to bed early with a box of Kleenex and a bottle of Tylenol. Martin was downstairs, reading; and Alfie had gone outside for a final pee before bedtime.

Suddenly, from someplace behind the house, we heard the most godawful, terrifying cries from the dog. Clearly Afie, but sounds we had never heard before.

I raced downstairs. Martin was already outside with a flashlight and a big stick (actually, a handsome hand-carved walking stick that had been a gift from a friend). I fumbled around looking for shoes and a second flashlight, then joined Martin and we started searching when the cries came again...and then, after a moment, from behind the barn, came Alfie, stumbling and whimpering but alive. I think we had both pictured him grasped by the throat by a slavering coyote.

He had tangled with a porcupine. This was a first for him, and for us; and it has left me wondering why on earth such an encounter is generally portrayed as humorous, in cartoons or in children's books. This was not at all funny. The dog was in a lot of pain, and then of course had to undergo a lot MORE pain as one by one (we counted till 30, then quit counting) we wrenched those barbed quills out of him. He bled a lot. But bless his heart, he lay there, trembling but unmoving, and watched us with frightened but very trusting eyes as we tended him.

Today he is limping, and so I am taking him to the vet this afternoon just to be checked out.

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The Nairobi Trio

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Saturday, 25 August 2007
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Jeff_lois_stan

Probably no one else is old enough to recognize this title, which was a crackpot invention of genius Ernie Kovacs in the early days of television. If you google The Nairobi Trio and then go to the YouTube demonstration you'll see why it is indescribable, and why people my age all remember it.

Why the title came to my mind, though, when I looked at this photo....I'm not certain. This is Jeff Frank of First Stage Theater in Milwaukee, and me, and Stan Foote of Oregon Children's Theater, when we were working together in Milwaukee last week. We were proper and staid, not at all like the demented (and lamented) Nairobi Trio.

Charlotte Corgi was here yesterday, and I asked her owner about the other names in the litter; the ones she could remember were Babar and Clifford. Several readers of this blog have posted replies telling of various naming themes in their own lives. (I've explained in the past why I can't print comments, though I always read and appreciate them)

I had a friend once whose cat had kittens and she (my friend, not the cat) named the kittens Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy. For those who didn't figure it out instantly, I'll explain that she feared they would follow her all the days of her life.

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dogs and names and books

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Thursday, 23 August 2007
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I woke up to rain this morning...not unwelcome because we need it, and currently the pump in the old well that waters my gardens is not working properly. But I hope it clears by tomorrow, because tomorrow Alfie is entertaining a guest, his friend corgi Charlotte. Charlotte was born into a litter that were all named for children's book characters... I don't know the names of the others but will ask Charlotte's mom.

Once I knew a golden retriever who was named Henry, each of that litter having been named for Shakespeare characters: a rich source; I can picture Falstaff and Prospero.

Alfie's litter was not named thematically...they were not named at all, actually, until owners took over (and I do know that he has a brother and sister somewhere now named Elvis and April) but if they had been named for British movies, as Alfie was, they could have been ... what? Maurice? Iris?

Best news bookwise in a while is the announcment of a sequel to "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. The new one, due out in October, will be called "World Without End." I remember when 'Pillars' was published: quite a long time ago, maybe early 1990's*, and although I had not before been a lover of historical novels, that one so captivated and fascinated me that I recommended it to countless people, and every one of them was hooked the way I had been. Just the other day I got an email from my brother, whose wife had recently had surgery, tellng me that he had whiled away the hours sitting at the hospital by re-reading "The Pillars of the Earth"... His wife is doing fine now, and one hopes he doesn't have to sit in a hospital ever again, but I was pleased to be able to tell him about "World Without End."

* I just googled it to check. 1990.

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How about them apples?

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 20 August 2007
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Apples_2


It is a truly great year for apples, at least at our Maine farm. Every apple tree...and we have seven...is weighed down with fruit ripening. I was looking ahead to making applesauce...LOTS of applesauce...but in a way dreading the hard work of it...until a visiting friend recalled her mother using a gizmo called a Squeezo-strainer for that purpose. "Probably obsolete," my friend. "It was forty years ago." But we googled Squeezo-strainer...and now I have one; and if my friend's memory os correct, I'm going to be churning out applesauce practically effortlessly, as soon as the apples are ripe enough.

In the meantime my grandsons' younger golden retriever, Dash, is chasing apples as if they were balls (and when he's bored, he eats them). (His older half-sister, Tillie, has no interest; nor does my dog, Alfie)

And here is a very majestic dog, already in the car for his leavetaking this morning after a weekend visit. This is Paddington Bear, at least his head, with the other 160 pounds not visible. It is not often one has a RUG to visit. He was lying on the floor last night when a newly-arrived dinner guest walked past and jumped when the Newfie blinked. "It's ALIVE!" she said, startled, having thought it really WAS a rug.

Bear_82007

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IN the beginning...

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Thursday, 09 August 2007
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So here's the thing. I agreed to do the beginning of a story for a section of Weekly Reader called "Weekly Writer"...in which a professional writer starts a story, kids continue it over several months, paragraph by paragraph, and eventually the professioal writer finishes it up. Stephen King has done one. Walter Dean Myers. R.L. Stine. Others. And yesterday I set out to write my "beginning."

I always start a story, or a book, with a little introduction of character(s) and a sense that something is wrong and that something - at this point unkown, perhaps a little mysterious - is going to happen. (That is, after all, why a reader turns the page).

"It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened." That is the "beginning" of THE GIVER, and it does what I just drescribed, in the space of one sentence.

Another begining, this time of GATHERING BLUE:

"Mother?"
THere was no reply. She hadn't expected one. Her mother had been dead now for four days...

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scarves, earrings, and boots

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 07 August 2007
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Someone has sent me this little news story - and photo - from Castle Rock, Colorado:


Soaring Hawk Elementary kicked off the new year with a school-wide reading of Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry. Gooney Bird has the gift of storytelling and she mesmerizes her classmates from the moment she walks into class from China wearing pajamas and cowboy boots. Her elaborate tales, although they are absolutely true stories open up a new world to her second grade peers. Suddenly, everyone has a colorful tale to spin.

Students are now having book discussions on the playground and at the dinner table with their siblings and parents. They are focused on their writing assignments and trying to include words and phrases that will capture and keep the readers interest. Diamond earrings, a consumed cat, and a flying carpet certainly kept the Soaring Hawk kids entertained.

The last day of school for C-Track, Danna Finks 4th grade class all dressed as Gooney Bird Greene. Polka dot leggings with flip flops, fancy scarves and head bands, one big dangly earring and lots of boots made for an awesome track off day.It also epitomized the spirit of Soaring Hawk as a learning community.

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Back in Maine

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on Tuesday, 07 August 2007
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Alfie and I returned to Maine today, stopping midway for several hours to speak at a lunch in Kennebunkport (no, not at the Bush estate). I've done this two summers in a row, at the Colony Hotel, a vast and luxurious and lovely summer resort hotel. Last year I stayed overnight (their treat in return for my speaking) but this year I needed to head on north because of commitments here tomorrow, and because the dog was with me (though they tell me that it is a dog-friendly hotel,and indeed I did see a cocker spaniel in the lobby).

Alfie was a pretty good boy, though after an hour of so of being tied to a piano leg, the kind local bookseller volunteered to take him for a brief walk. I wrote that sentence wrong, didn't I? I made it sound as if the bookseller was tied to a piano. But you knew what I meant.

I read today's audience...and last week, a different audience, at Lesley University...Chapter 2 from "The Willoughbys"...the chapter that describes the terrible parents, who are dreaming up a despicable plot to rid themselves of their children. Heh heh. Villainry! I love it.

Only recently, reading (also at Lesley) from an very old Anastasia book, did I remember that Anastasia Krupnik..then age 12....had a crush on her gym teacher, who was named...ta DA...Ms. Willoughby!
And also recently, I have had some correspondence with a young man who works for the Civil Liberties Union in Oregon, and his name is...ta DA... Willoughby. And..here in Maine...the local chamber music series is headed up by board president ...ta DA...Mrs. Willoughby.

So apparently the name did not just appear out of the blue, for me. It was lurking there. And I hope no one named Willoughby minds. Although the parents, Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby, are terrible parents and end up dying a bizarre but deserved death at the end....the children (there are four of them) are quite lovely and all of them live happily ever after, as most Willoughbys should.

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Shhh, I'm listening

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Thursday, 02 August 2007
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A recent lightweight article in the NY Times raises the question of whether listening to a book qualifies as "reading" the book. My personal opinion is: who cares?

It did make me remember back to my grad school days when I took two semesters of intensive Shakespeare, and I found that if, while I read the plays, I listened simultanmeously, I got more out of the experience. This pre-dated CD's or even tapes. I used to go to the university library...I seem to recall a glass-enclosed (probably soundproof?) room where I listened to actual recordings.

Now...I mean like RIGHT now...I listen to audio books in the car. Back and forth to Maine, 3 hours each way. Some people tell me they worry that it would distract them from their driving but I haven't found that to be the case for me. I listen to mindless but absorbing mysteries.....except for one recent high-brow trip, a four and a half hour drive - nine hours round trip - when I listened to "Collapse"...interesting, but after a the seventh or eighth hour I really did not want to know one more thing about deforestation. Back to Police Inspector Brunetti.

Anyway: all of those thoughts spring out of the fact that this morning I had a four and a half hour dental appointment. I SHOULD have taken my headphones and a book on my iPod because four and a half hours is a very long time to sit and listen only to the whine and screech of dental tools.

But it didn't occur to me. I did, though, because of an aching head and mouth, come home at the end of those hours and curl up with a book and some Tylenol. I rarely read during the day....it feels decadent. But I started today on "Peony in Love" by Lisa See and it pulled me right in. Now I can't wait to get back to it, though I am not yearning for more dental recovery time...just routine bedtime reading.

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Lilies of the Field

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Saturday, 28 July 2007
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I think that's an old movie title. Sidney Poitier and a bunch of cheery nuns, maybe?

IN my case, it's just a lot of flowers in my garden (see photos), and also:Lily_2
Lily_3
Lily_4

a shameless plug (I get no commission) for Deerwood Gardens in North Waterford, Maine, where Beverly Hendricks raises thousands of daylilies of all varieties. I took my visiting thirteen-year-olds there yesterday (they thinking, Ho hum, gotta humor the grandma) ...then they were just as dazzled as everyone is on seeing the array of colors this time of year. I had them each pick out two...(and now I forget the names they chose, except for "Blueberry Candy" and "Aquarelle.") Bev went out and dug up their choices and so yesterday my visitors went on to their next stop (and how I'll miss their giggling!) with daylilies tucked in the back of the rental car.

And what's a great way to amuse 13-year-olds iif you have a good camera and know how to use Photoshop?

Here are the fake book jackets I made for them:

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Harry Who?

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Sunday, 22 July 2007
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A reader has emailed to ask my feelings about the Harry Potter phenomenon. I feel very out of that particular loop...have not read a single one of the books, not seen a single movie. During the past two weeks I got calls from a lot of media, including ABC News, wanting a statement from me regarding HP...but I couldn't reply except in a general way. Certainly the whole thing has been wonderful for the world of books and kids. It got kids reading, and talking about what they were reading, and looking forward to more reading...and three cheers for that.

I feel kind of sorry for J.K. Rowling, though, because she lost any vestige of privacy she ever had, and I don't know if she'll ever get it back. Anonymity is something writers savor, I think. No matter how popular a writer is, he/she can walk down the street and not be mobbed or photographed or intruded upon. But not so, I fear, for Rowling. The books made a celebrity of her and that part of it must be awful. I hope she can get her life back now.

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visiting granddaughter

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on Sunday, 22 July 2007
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Nadine_alf_2
Nadine_cartwheel

Last Wednesday I drove down to Boston and on Thursday collected my grandaughter and her best friend, both 13, who had flown in from Germany, and on Friday brought them back to Maine. Fortunately the weather has been fabulous here and they've spent time at the beach, and had a boat ride on the lake with thier uncle, aunt, and two cousins. In the evening we've watched movies...last night, "Aquamarine"...and done jigsaw puzzles, and just hung out.

Today my German daughter-in-law arrives...she has been in New York....and probably some serious shopping will have to take place, since the weak dollar against the Euro means that things are a great bargain here for her, even if it is a nuisance schlepping stuff home.

Luckily teenagers sleep late in the morning, which means that I do have these early hours—it is 6:20 AM as I write this—at my computer, and today I can mail off the completed Gooney Bird manuscript (now titled "Gooney Bird is So Absurd") and then turn my attention to the stage adaptation of "Gossamer" before I head to Milwaukee August 12th to work on it with the theater director there.

I stopped in yesterday at our wonderful Bridgton Books, the local bookstore, and when my friend Perri, who works there, commented that she was weary...and I asked why...she said, "Have you been living under a ROCK?" Of course: Harry Potter. In this tiny town they had had 500+ people lined up at midnight the night before. Even as we talked, Perri was fielding phone calls from people wondering if she had a copy available for them. Nadine and Annika, when I mentioned it, just shrugged. They aren't HP fans. Cornelia Funke...yes. They would have stood in line at midnight for one of her books.

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And beginning with the letter D:

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 17 July 2007
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Day_lilies_2
Deer_2
Dog

Dawn: daylilies; deer; dog.

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Land ho!

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Sunday, 15 July 2007
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Although we look - because the sun was in our eyes - like Magellan and his sidekick disovering the Pacific, this is actually me and Paul Janeczko, yesterday at my house. Paul and his wife and daughter Emma joined me and several other friends for lunch.

I had been reading some of Paul's excellent books on the art/craft of writng poetry because that is what Gooney Bird Greene's classroom is doing in the book I'm just finishing. Then I remembered that Paul lived in Maine, and not actually all that far from here. (I had also been reading Lee Bennett Hopkins, and corresponding with Lee, who's an old friend. But Lee lives in Florida, too far for lunch). So I got in touch with him and voila! Fun lunch yesterday.

But: here's the small-world thing. Paul, in explaining to his wife who this unknown person was who had invited them over, said something like "She lives in Bridgton and has a dog, some sort of, ah, something terrier..." (probably he had read this on my website) ..and his wife said, "Tibetan?" and he said, "Yes, how did you know that?" and his wife said, "Because I met her and her dog on the 4th of July."

I had been on th edge of the street watching the funky tiny-town parade that day with my dog and grandsons, when a nice woman came up and asked about the dog and we had a brief conversation, without exchanging names. Paul's wife, Nadine. Who knew?

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Allen Say Exhibition

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on Friday, 13 July 2007
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It was nine hours of driving, round-trip, but worth it. Allen Say's retrospective exhibition...in celebration of his 70th birthday...will be at the Eric Carle Museum in Amerhest, Massachusetts, until October, and if you are able to get there, you should. We all know his books. But to see the orgiinal paintngs is a very different experience; they are luminous.

I was fortunate to have dinner with Allen and a number of others including Eric Carle and his wife. The grounds of the museum are so beautiful, and there was a moment, when, glancing out, I could see one of Allen's guests from Japan, in kimono, standing in the twilight in the grden..it was magical.

Here is a not-so-magical photograph of me and Allen.

With_allen

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wise women

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on Wednesday, 11 July 2007
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from a blog reader:

In two weeks we will be discussing The Giver in my book club...at 59 I am their junior member, and many are approaching 80...one is 92. I am excited to lead this discussion...it will be the third level of readers I have talked about it to.

Any special words of wisdom, or insight you may want to pass on to these wonderful, wise women?

What an opportunity..as book discussions always are...to reminisce, to recall ways in which one's life was touched by issues raised in a book. Quite simply, I think women of that age might recall compromises they have made in their own lives, for the sake of comfort and safety...choices they may now regret (or not).

I look forward to hearing how it goes!

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Kids and poems

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on Wednesday, 11 July 2007
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Yesterday...after the exterminator was here (powder-post beetles on the underside of the barn)...I drove about 15 miles to a lovely lakeside house that friends of mine from Massachsuetts have rented for three weeks. They'd invited me for lunch.

Granddaughter, Emma, age 9, was visiting, and so I looked for a book to take Emma, who is a bit of a bookworm. I settled on (pictured) "This is Just to Say: Poems of Aplogy and Forgiveness"
Sorryshadowcover_op_209x276_op_141x

by Joyce Sidman. Emma settled right in with it.


That would have been me, at her age: outside, woods and trees and water and boats and sunshine...and me curled in a couch with a book (and usually my mother saying, "Wouldn't you like to go OUT on such a nice day?") But she was a sympathetic mom, and preferred a good book to a brisk walk herself.

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Blueberries for Sal (or whomever)

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on Tuesday, 10 July 2007
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Boys_in_field

Well it is blueberry season. last year we did not get a good crop, but this is the Year of the Blueberry, and this past weekend we had blueberry pancakes and blueberry pie, the berries straight from the field. This is - first (clikc to enlarge) - a photograph of my grandsons, picking (mostly eating) blueberries in a earileir summer; and also a painting by my friend Middy Thomas (who illustrates the Gooney Bird books) of the same boys, same blueberry field. It hangs in the room we call The Fold (family room, office, library, den).

And looking at these does make me remeber Robert McCLosky's "Blueberries for Sal" about a little girl picking with her mom, and around the hill, a bear cub similarly with his mom; and the two little ones get mixed up and with the wrong mothers, if I am remembering it correctly. We have bears here (and there are moose droppings in the field, though I have not yet SEEN the moose, and would love to) so we are sharing the berries for sure; that is what life is like in rural Maine.

So many children's books come to my mind on a day-to-day basis. "Miss Rumphius" by Barbara Cooney, who also (like McCLosky) lived here...I think of that book every time my lupine is in bloom.

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