Back in 1786 a small cottage was built in the scenic hills of Mason, New Hampshire. Many years later, Caldecott Medal winner Elizabeth Orton Jones (1910-2005) lived in the quaint little red house. She used it as a model for her illustrations in Little Red Riding Hood, (Little Golden Books, 1948). I recently visited this idyllic setting–now called Pickity Place–with a group of fellow librarians.
Some of us couldn’t decide which was better: the amazing five-course gourmet meal accented with herbs and edible flowers grown and harvested on location or the gorgeous gardens and pathways where we wandered after lunch. Let’s take a tour of a few highlights. I spy a little drying shed in the distance. Once inside, it feels like a worker has just stepped away. Look inside one of the gift shops to see lots of lovely items on display. And if you peek through the doorway into the next room, you’ll be surprised to find someone sleeping in Grandma’s bed! Here are a few lines from Elizabeth’s Caldecott acceptance speech: “Every child in the world has a hill, with a top to it. Every child–black, white, rich, poor, handicapped, unhandicapped. And singing is what the top of each hill is for. Singing-drawing-thinking-dreaming-sitting in silence … saying a prayer. I should like every child in the world to know that he has a hill, that that hill is his no matter what happens, his and his only, forever.”
I should have worn a red-hooded cape for my escape to this enchanted forest.
Have you ever been to the National Watch & Clock Museum in Columbia, Pennsylvania? So many beautiful clocks of all shapes and sizes. The most impressive clock in the museum is featured at the end of this post.
12,000 clocks and watches!
Wait for it, my favorite is still to come…
At the age of 20, Stephen D. Engle, a self-taught dentist, began making the first known monumental clock. It took the father of seven more than 20 years to complete, but WOW, what a clock! The clock went on tour for the next 70 years and then disappeared until the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors tracked it down. Major restoration began and now it can be enjoyed by all visitors to the museum. There are 48 moving figures, as well as music and intricate details. To see Stephen’s clock in action, click on the picture below.See you next time! (Time, get it?)
Before the recent boom in graphic novels there were comic books! For many years, comic books have been available for all tastes and ages. From stories about super-heroes to science fiction, action/adventure, romance, humor, and horror.
Here is a comic book from 1922:
And here is the first appearance of Captain Marvel in 1940:
It was believed this new super hero was too similar to Superman and publications were halted until the late 1960s when Marvel gained the trademark. A variety of Captain Marvels followed.
I can remember sitting outside on a hot summer day and the excitement of flipping through a new comic book. I loved reading them front to back over and over–unlike the currently popular Japanese Manga comics which read back to front. My old stack of comic books is only valuable to me (and anyone else interested). Rather like old record albums, too many people have them, so there’s no real monetary value. That’s okay though, not sure I could ever part with them. :)
Here’s a picture of a few comic books in my collection:
You’ll notice several Archie comic books in the above picture. Archie, drawn by Bob Montana and written by Vic Bloom, first appeared in Pep Comics in 1941 and now more than 70 years later, he’s still a familiar face.
There are so many fun facts to sort through online, but since I’ve mentioned Archie (who was once nicknamed Chick) here’s the full name of his buddy Jughead: Forsythe Pendleton Jones III.
I also discovered I have something in common with Superman. His favorite book is To Kill A Mocking Bird, as mentioned in Detective Comics #27 – and later it was also said to be his favorite film.
Another fascinating character I discovered in my research was the Green Lama, a practicing Buddhist, who became popular in comic book form during the 1940s.
If you’re ever in D. C., the Library of Congress holds the world’s largest collection of comic books. They have 5,000 titles and 100,000 issues. The oldest comic book in their collection is “Popular Comics,” Feb. 1936.
Do you still have your comic books or maybe a favorite comic book memory?
Have you ever wondered what the differences are between a seal and a sea lion?
Seals have small earholes and short, hairy front flippers with a claw on each toe. On land, they move by wiggling along on their bellies like caterpillars, with their hind flippers straight out. Seals swim by steering with fore flippers and powering with hind flippers. They are more streamlined in water. Their whiskers are rounded and their grunts are usually soft-spoken.
Although sometimes with a mate, seals can be more solitary than sea lions who are usually hanging out in large groups.
Sea lions have the following characteristics: External visible earflaps and long hairless fore flippers. Their hind flippers rotate underneath so they are able to walk on land. They swim underwater using their fore flippers like wings. Sea Lions have long smooth whiskers and can bark quite loud.
A year or so ago I had an opportunity to participate in a seal release where healthy seal pups return to the ocean after their wounds have healed. Here’s a link to my seal release adventure.
Although it can be exciting to see seals in the wild, please keep your distance. They may have come ashore merely to relax or because they need help, but it’s better to call your local authorities. About the time period of my first novel, Call Me Amy, which features Pup the harbor seal, the Marine Mammal Protection Act went into effect. This law prohibits the taking of marine mammals without a permit.
There is one more marine mammal in the pinniped family and I bet you can guess who that is!
Without even trying I’ve accumulated a great little collection of picture books from other countries. These first two handsome editions were given to me by my son after he toured with fellow musicians in Germany and Poland.
This book of Swedish folk tales was published in Stockholm in 1946. They have been producing anthologies since 1907. I bought the book many years ago from Antiquarian Booksellers of NY for about $12. It’s gorgeous with attached illustrated plates, although unfortunately when I pulled it out to snap a picture, I discovered some of the pages have come loose.
The title translates to “Among Gnomes and Trolls.” Included in the book are illustrations by the amazing John Bauer. Famous for sympathetic trolls, his paintings have a lovely mythical quality to them. Sadly, he died in a shipwreck at age 36, along with his wife (also an artist, but better known as the model for the Fairy Princess) and their two-year-old son.
Here’s another closeup of the inside–illustration by Einar Norelius.
Other favorite books in my collection were gifts from faraway friends. Maryse airmailed me Petit Renard perdu all the way from France. The story about a little lost fox is told from two viewpoints. You flip it over halfway to read Mama Fox’s version.
This photo shows how my collection looked while on display at a public library. The little Clifford (the Big Red Dog) book is in Spanish. The very bottom, as well as the top shelf holds more French books. The two on the second shelf up from the bottom are Danish. The one on the right was written by Hans Christian Andersen–very appropriate since today is his birthday! The little brown-trimmed ones in the center are German. Do you have any foreign language books or maybe a different type of collection from a faraway land? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. I love to hear from you and appreciate when these posts bring readers together for discussion.
I’m pleased to announce I’ve been awarded a Liebster Award! Thank you very much to Maca for nominating me. Maca has been speedily reviewing lots of great books–check out her interesting blog here: booksaremylovers. The Liebster Award is a chain tradition for bloggers to share other blogs they enjoy.
Here are the rules:
1. Thank and link the person who nominated you.
2. Answer the questions given by the nominator.
3. Nominate 11 other bloggers who have less than 200 followers and link them. (I have over 200, but it can be tricky to figure that out and also, I am quite late in posting this award.)
4. Create 11 new questions for the nominees to answer.
5. Notify all nominees via social media/blogs.
OK, now on to Maca’s fun questions:
1. What is the book that you are currently reading right now? I’ll be sitting in as my library’s book club leader in a few weeks and they have chosen to discuss THE CHAPERONE by Laura Moriarty. So, not only am I giving it a careful reading, but I’m also listening to an audio version during my commute. I like to be prepared. :)
2. Do you like movie adaptations of books? What adaptation lived up to your expectations and you would recommend? Ones that come to mind are TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, GONE WITH THE WIND, and many of Jane Austen’s titles.
3. In your opinion what book has the best cover ever? No way can I choose just one. So, after a quick search these are today’s choices, although I have to confess I haven’t read most of them.
4. What is your favorite/s book genre? Historical Fiction and just about anything in YA.
5. What is the book that you’ve read the most number of times? I don’t tend to read books over and over, although I know I’ve read THE GREAT GATSBY, as well as TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, at least twice. That said, I do read my own books (in manuscript form) over and over, along with the manuscripts written by members of my critique group.
6. In case of calamity (fire, flood, etc.) and you only have a chance to save a few books that you can carry in your arms. What are those books? Easy. I would grab my photo books. I love to make fancy books using all my favorite photos of family, friends, and memorable events.
7. What do you enjoy doing aside from reading? I enjoy writing, working in a library, painting, travel, music, paper-cutting, and holidays.
8. What do you prefer, physical copy or ebook? Why? Definitely ones made from paper. I like to hold them and flip through their pages. I spend enough time in front of the computer without wanting to read another screen during my downtime. I’m also fond of audio books for my car.
9. If you are given a chance, who is the author you would want to be close friends with? Hmm, this is a tough one. I know many authors who I consider to be friends already. Instead, I’ll go back a few years and choose Lucy Maud Montgomery.
10. What is your favorite part of the year? Spring, especially after this extra long winter.
11. What is the first book you would instantly recommend to someone you just met? Like me? How about my own books CALL ME AMY and AMY’S CHOICE! :)
In turn, I nominate the following people for the Liebster Award (I had to nominate a bunch back in January for a different award, so these will be all new ones):
And here are your quick and easy questions:
1. What’s your favorite pastime?
2. Favorite ice cream?
3. Favorite book?
4. Favorite movie?
5. Favorite climate?
6. Favorite vacation?
7. Favorite color?
8. Favorite hot meal?
9. Favorite song?
10. Favorite season?
11. Favorite candy?
Congratulations to the new nominees and thanks for playing!
Have you ever toured the home of a famous long-ago author? There are so many interesting stories behind writers and their homes, but I’m going to limit today’s brief visit to Concord, Massachusetts.
In 1834, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) went to live in what we now call the Old Manse. He completed the first draft of his first published work, Nature, in the upstairs study. Another famous author who lived there was Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864). He arrived in 1842 with his new bride for what he referred to as three of their happiest years. Hawthorne is the one who named it the Old Manse which means minister’s home.
In 1835 Emerson purchased Bush which is now called the Ralph Waldo Emerson House. He moved in shortly after his second marriage and they raised their family there.
Thoreau (1817–1862) lived there briefly, as well, and was a frequent visitor. He later built his well-known cabin on Emerson’s property.
The Alcott family’s longest permanent residence was Orchard House where they lived from 1858 through 1877. Appropriately named, their land was filled with apple trees. This lovely location is where Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888) wrote Little Women.
Before Orchard House, the Alcotts lived in a home they called Hillside. You can see Louisa’s father’s signature on this sketch of their home. They bought Hillside in 1845 and then sold it to Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1852. Following his tradition of naming his homes, he renamed this one The Wayside and it is still called that to this day. Isn’t it interesting to find two amazing authors who lived in the same house? But wait, there’s one more!
Harriett Mulford Stone Lothrop (1844–1924) also lived at The Wayside. Who? Harriett wrote under the pen name of Margaret Sidney. Her most famous series was The Five Little Peppers. The first book was published in 1881, the same year she married the founder of the company who published it. (How convenient!) In 1883, the Lothrops bought The Wayside. After her husband died (their daughter was 9 years old at the time) Harriett continued to run the publishing company. Eventually she sold the company which later became Lothrop, Lee & Shepard. Oh, and by the way The Wayside is next door to Orchard House (did she move in to be next to Louisa?) Either way, Harriet worked hard to preserve both homes.
I’ve barely touched the surface here, but I hope you’ll look up more on this subject. There is a vast amount of fascinating history about these homes and the authors who lived in them. All of the above houses are open to visitors and can be found in Concord, Massachusetts. There are many other places of literary interest to visit in New England, but I’d like to point out two especially notable stops: Mark Twain’s gorgeous home in Hartford, CT (check out his neighbor’s place, too–Harriet Beecher Stowe!) and Edith Wharton’s estate in Lenox, MA.
“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.— In the highest civilization, the book is still the highest delight.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
Do you read a lot? Have you ever walked into a library or bookstore and checked-out or purchased a title only to arrive home and realize you’ve already read it before? Believe me, you’re not alone. I see it often at my library. But things are changing. Many readers now keep track of their books.
I use Goodreads. Another one to try is Shelfari. Shelfari can be visually pleasing, but sometimes the graphics are slow to load and the email ads too frequent. LibraryThing is another popular venue, although many prefer to use this just to list those books they actually own, rather than for books they’ve borrowed or would like to read at a future date. LibraryThing might be the best choice for those who collect old and rare books, since their cataloging reaches farther. Keep in mind, unlike the first two sites, after your first 200 books are recorded, LibraryThing charges a fee ($10 per year, or $25 for life). There are also a variety of phone apps that work well for some people, such as Reader Tracker.
There’ll always be a few naysayers for any online program, but since I feel Goodreads (ages 13 & up) is the most user-friendly (along with 30 million other readers), I’ll show you the steps below—follow the big blue arrows. :)
It’s very easy to sign up for Goodreads, just put in your name (or a nickname if you’d like to remain private), add in your email (this will also be kept private), and lastly make up a password.
To start your book list, type in a title (see below). The books show up immediately and you click on them to choose. It only takes a few minutes to build up your list. Later, if you decide to get more involved, you can enter giveaways for free books, check lists for recommendations, and maybe even find a new friend or two in the discussion threads. All of these optional adventures can be found under the Explore tab.
The next picture shows how the screen looks after you select a title. When you click the Want to Read tab there are two other choices as well: Read, or Currently Reading. It’s up to you if you want to add ratings or reviews to help you remember what you thought of the book. I find this useful in recommending books to others. All I have to do is glance at my list to jog my memory, no more saying: “Oh, I read this great book last year. I think it was about a boy in Italy, no France, and it had a greenish-blue cover.” Goodreads keeps me organized. Click here to join.
I’d love to hear how you track your reading!
People from around the world have asked how we’re doing with all the snow. They’ve also asked for pictures, as it can be hard to imagine this winter bliss from certain balmy locations. So, bundle up, hang onto your hats and welcome to New England! This photo shows how we walk through the early stages of a blizzard.
Later, we locate our vehicles.
Then we drive home.
We check out the window to see if there are any wildlife passing through our backyards.Next day, the kids head off for school.
What can I say, we’re New Englanders and there’s lots of fun to be had in the snow, too!
I had a lot of fun researching 1973 music, fashion, TV shows, and other popular pastimes when I was writing the Amy books. Call Me Amy takes place from March 1973 until August. And Amy’s Choice picks up right after, continuing through November 1973. But what about just before then; what were teens listening to on their transistor radios during the cold weeks of February 1973? Turns out there were some great hits happening exactly 42 years ago today.
First, we’ve got American sensation Stevie Wonder who was born in 1950. He had two huge hits in February 1973 that reached #1: Superstition and You Are the Sunshine of My Life, both from his Talking Book album and both winning Grammy awards. Only 23 years old in 1973, Stevie already had fourteen previous albums to his name (first one at age 11!). He now has more than 25 albums and just as many Grammy awards. Here’s a link to his 1973 performance on Soul Train (wait ’til you see the dancers!): Superstition
Next up, from England, Sir Elton John, born in 1947. One of his enormous hits of February 1973 was Crocodile Rock, quickly followed by more #1 songs off his popular Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, such as Candle in the Wind, Bennie and the Jets, and Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting. Still going strong, he has sold more than 300 million records. Here’s Elton in action (check out the shoes!): Crocodile Rock
American singer-songwriter Carly Simon was born in 1945. On this day in 1973, you’d most likely hear her number one hit You’re So Vain. She had many other hits, as well, but this particular song was always a bit of a mystery. Who is she singing about? She claims it’s not James Taylor (her former husband) or Mick Jagger who sings backup on the original song. Could it be Warren Beatty, as many suspect? Or, as she often says, is it really a combination of three different people? Live from Martha’s Vineyard, you decide: You’re So Vain
Last, but not least, lovely singer-pianist Roberta Flack, born in 1937 in North Carolina and raised in Virginia. Her most popular song of February 1973 was Killing Me Softly with His Song. This hit, released soon after The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, remained at number one for five weeks—both songs won back-to-back Grammy awards. Sit back and enjoy her amazing talent: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Valentine’s Day will be here before we know it, so I thought I’d share some quick and easy crafts. To make a lollipop flower, cut out four hearts about 3″ tall from construction paper. Punch a hole in the point of each heart. Layer all the hearts on top of each other so that the punched holes line up, add a little glue if needed, and then stick a lollipop through to make a center and stem. For a fuller flower, layer with six hearts.
This second valentine craft will add a fancy touch to your cup of tea. First, cut out two small hearts (I used a cookie cutter for my template). Tape a teabag string between the hearts, and glue the two hearts together to cover the end of the string. Write a saying on the front and you’re all set to drop your teabag into a mug of steaming water.
Amy has been busy choosing Valentine’s Day cards for her friends.Uh oh. She has one extra. Should she give a second Valentine to Ricky or to Craig? If you’ve read Amy’s Choice, you’ll already know who she ends up going with to the Fall Harvest dance. :)
For more crafts and recipes, click on tab at top of page.
If you’ve read Amy’s Choice, then you’ve met Finn. He is a lighthouse keeper and talented painter. In 1973, he lives on a small island across from Amy’s home in Port Wells. Finn paints beautiful coastal scenery using oils and canvas.
Obviously, the above painting is not from the 70s, but at least it’s a gorgeous scene of Maine, the same location where Finn paints. Due to copyright laws, I’m not able to post any of the artwork from more recent artists (Google them!).
Two times in Amy’s Choice, Finn mentions his admiration for real-life painter Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009). A good place to view Andy’s work is at the Wyeth Center, a part of the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine. Click here for another post about Andrew Wyeth and here to view illustrations by his famous father N. C. Wyeth.
A few other American painters who were popular during the 1970s were Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
“Some people have been kind enough to call me a fine artist. I’ve always called myself an illustrator. I’m not sure what the difference is. All I know is that whatever type of work I do, I try to give it my very best. Art has been my life.” Norman Rockwell
Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way–things I had no words for.” Georgia O’Keeffe
and Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” Andy Warhol
Speaking of pop art, who remembers Peter Max (1937–)? This old stamp will remind you of his bold cosmic style. More recently, you may have seen his colorful artwork covering a Continental Airlines super jet or the hull of the Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship.
I wish I could post paintings by these amazing American artists, but hardly any of their works are in the public domain. We’ll have to settle for a photograph of Peter Max and me hanging out at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston last summer—long story!
“I never know what I’m going to put on the canvas. The canvas paints itself. I’m just the middleman.” Peter Max