Marcia Strykowski

Little Free Libraries

little-library-public-domainHave you run into any Little Free Libraries in your travels? I love these little boxes of delight scattered across the country and I hope to unveil one of my own someday. In 2009, Todd Bol built a tiny one-room schoolhouse for his mother, a teacher and avid reader. He attached it to the top of a post in his front yard in Wisconsin. Then he filled the little building with books and added a sign saying: Free Books. His little schoolhouse received a very positive response with requests for more. Inspired by this and those who came before them in support of free libraries and ‘take a book, leave a book’ collections, Todd and colleague Rick Brooks soon saw the full potential of this worthy enterprise. From this humble beginning there are now over 40,000 Little Free Libraries across the globe. little-free-lib-1Note the boogie boards used in this little library I came across last week by the ocean. And here’s another pretty one I discovered on Martha’s Vineyard.little-free-lib2-copylfb3-sideIf you do an online search, you’ll come up with some amazingly creative Little Free Libraries—from gorgeous cottages and castles to giant robots and even Snoopy’s doghouse. What a great method to share millions of books with curbside convenience.little-free-lib-2There are many ways to go about starting up your own Little Free Library with helpful pages on their website, as well as kits and finished models to purchase. Here is their mission statement: “To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide and to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.”little-free-lib-4There’s no need to put a lot of money into it, though. Building your own from wood scraps or using a recycled newspaper dispenser (many newspapers are discontinuing print and getting rid of their old vending boxes) are both economical ways to go. You can still register your library with the organization no matter what your finished product looks like. Once registered, you’ll be added to a map showing all the locations of Little Free Libraries—a fun way to discover if there might be one near where you live. While figuring out this post, I thought it might be fun to design a library inspired by all the sunflowers I blogged about last week. Here’s my attempt: lfl-design

Sunflowers and Sweets

dsc01039-copyI had my annual check-up yesterday and discovered my vitamin d was a tad low, so what better way to spend the afternoon than in a huge field of sunflowers!dsc01049aSunflowers have been around since ancient times, possibly even before corn was cultivated, and they’ve travelled back and forth around the world. Knowledge of their first appearance is from approximately 3000 BC in present-day Arizona and New Mexico by American Indians.
A year or so ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find I enjoyed butter made from sunflower seeds. I’m sure it would make a great alternative to peanut butter for anyone with allergies.
sunbutter-recipe The sunny cheerful flowers have served many purposes over the years, including medicinal, ceremonial, and food, such as grinding up the seeds into flour for cakes, or using the oil for bread. Or simply cracking the seeds open for a quick, healthy snack.

In about 1500, sunflowers were taken to Europe by Spanish explorers, mainly for ornamental use, but they were also developed as medicine. During the 18th century, the sunflower became a very popular cultivated plant and its oil was commercially manufactured to great demand.
Below is Vincent Van Gogh painting his famous sunflowers in 1888, while in turn he is being painted by Paul Gauguin.paul_gauguinI came across several artists in the sunflower field yesterday.dsc01047aBy the early 19th century, Russian farmers were growing more than 2 million acres of sunflowers for two main uses–oil production, and human consumption. The Russian sunflower seed made its way into the United States by late 19th century, where the first commercial use was poultry feed.
With the help of humans over the years, the flowers don’t look the same as they once did and their seeds are much larger now. Here’s an easy way to brighten a party table, using little individual snack cakes for the rays. Worked out well for my daughter’s birthday party one year.sunflower-cake-recipe

The sunflower is the national flower of the Ukraine and the official flower for the state of Kansas. I can’t take credit for this final shot, but wow, what a beauty!sunflower-pd-smallerHave a sunny day!

Robert Frost in NH

Last week I visited the Robert Frost Farm in Derry, NH and enjoyed a lovely private tour of the two-story typical New England-style white clapboard farmhouse.frost-derry-farm-copy First you go into the big barn where there is a lot of information and displays, and a video to watch, too.  The property is a New Hampshire State Park, as well as a National Historic Landmark. frost-full-home-copyc. 1910 Robert FrostFrost (March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963), an American poet and four-time Pulitzer prize winner, lived here with his family from 1900 to 1911. He graduated from Lawrence, MA high school in 1892 and then after a brief time at Dartmouth, he came back to the area to teach 8th grade. Three years after high school, he married his co-valedictorian Elinor White and they had six children. (Only two outlived their father). He attended Harvard for two years, as well. While in Derry, he taught at Pinkerton Academy (1906 to 1911).frost-window-copyAfter the barn, you enter the connected house and see room after room of how life was during his time. My informative tour guide, Randee, pointed out many objects actually owned by the Frosts, including an original soapstone sink with marks where they sharpened their knives.  I was told not to share any indoor pictures in this post, but there are plenty online for you to see with a simple search.  1940 Robert FrostThe picture of two windows above is where Randee said Frost did a lot of his writing at a small table. I pictured him looking out at the flowers growing there while dreaming of new poems. I went back outside and did a short trail walk past some of the areas where Frost found his inspiration, a brook, lots of trees, a path, and even the famous mending wall. real-mending-wall-copyA few lines from “The Mending Wall”

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.'mending-wall-copy
Opening of "The Road Not Taken"

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;frost-farm-trail-copy

After living in England for several years, Frost returned to New Hampshire, settling in Franconia for five years, before moving to Vermont in 1920 (where he helped found the Breadloaf School of English at Middlebury College), followed by two years in Michigan and then finally to Cambridge, MA in 1941. This next shot is looking back at his house from a far edge of the trail that circles the

Fall 10 - CopyPlease click on the above mailbox to see a post I did two years ago after seeing his home in Franconia. There’s a beautiful poem from A Boy’s Will included there.

From the end of a long poem titled ‘New Hampshire’ written in 1922 after he’d left NH:

Well, if I have to choose one or the other,
 I choose to be a plain New Hampshire farmer
 With an income in cash of, say, a thousand
 (From, say, a publisher in New York City).
 It's restful to arrive at a decision,
 And restful just to think about New Hampshire.
 At present I am living in Vermont.
1961 Robert Frost


One last poem in its entirety:

“A Time to Talk”  1916

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, ‘What is it?’
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.

Library Author Visits

Do you ever go to your local library to hear an author talk about their writing process or share their latest book? I’ve been to quite a few over the years at various libraries and now that I have my own books out there in the world, I sometimes am a guest at those same libraries. Here are a few pictures from one of my latest events.seal-craft3-copyI shared a couple of very short videos with the group including James Taylor singing “You’ve Got a Friend” which is featured in Call Me Amy. I also shared my book trailer and talked with the kids about the seal release I attended–shown here.

After that, we made a paper craft. Since Pup the harbor seal is one of the characters in Call Me Amy and Amy’s Choice, I scoured the internet for a craft featuring seals. I found a great one on sample1Only trouble is the directions are in Japanese (which I can’t read!). We struggled through, but the craft involves quite a bit of fine snipping and fussy gluing, so I’m not sure if I’ll use this particular craft again. Beforehand, my son made me a demonstration model which came out wonderful, as shown in the below picture.seal-craft2-copyEverybody seemed to enjoy themselves despite the tricky craft.seal-craft4-copyAs I’ve mentioned before, the Amy books have been read and enjoyed by all ages, not just for their intended audience of tweens. It’s been amazing how many women come up to me during book fairs and either say their name is Amy or that they were born in 1973. OR that they were the same age as Amy is in 1973. Here’s a picture of one of my largest book club turnouts. I don’t believe there was anyone named Amy present that day, but I remember many of them said they enjoyed the flashback to the seventies.

???????????????????????????????I’ll include a few more library event pictures. There’s often more talk about school visits when it comes to hosting children’s book authors. Maybe because of the ready audience—a classroom full of kids all the same age—or maybe it’s because teachers are more encouraged to have this type of program.
If you’re an author, I’d love to hear what type of event you prefer—library or school—in the below comments. Or perhaps neither is your cup of tea and you’d much rather stick to festivals or bookstores. For those of you who enjoy going to author events, what do you always hope will be on the agenda—a reading from the book, questions & answers session, show & tell about the writing process, or….??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Rodgers Memorial Library 5 - CopyThanks for reading!

Girls Reading Books (Part 2)

Before publishing my last post, I searched for paintings of girls of various complexions to be included in the portraits I shared, but between the time period and my need to use only public domain pictures, my choices were limited. Rather frustrating, since nine different countries were represented in that post.

For this second part of the post, I’m not limiting myself to girls reading by themselves, but instead I will also be sharing groups and pairs. I had already planned it this way—one post of solo portraits and one post of paintings with multiple models, so you can imagine my delight in spotting an almost hidden book in this breathtakingly beautiful Japanese silk painting.Two Girls by the SeaThe above is entitled Two Girls by the Sea and is signed Kafu, but with no other information as to the true identity of the artist. It was painted on silk c. mid-1920s and now resides in the Honolulu Museum of Art.

This next painting also has a bit of mystery (at least to me). It was created circa 1901, but I haven’t figured out how to spell the artist’s name and therefore I have no information on him. The name is in a language with symbols I can’t figure out. (Russian?) You’ll find his signature in the bottom left corner. (Makobck..?) If anyone has any ideas, let me know!1901

As_duas_irmãs_-_Renoir 1889There are many paintings by French painter Auguste Renoir (25 February 1841 – 3 December 1919) depicting girls reading books. One was in the last post and after deleting three other options of pairs of girls reading, I settled on this one from 1892. I think they may be sisters who also appear in some of his other works.

Since a picture’s worth a thousand words, here are a few more without too much commentary.Perrault_Leon_Jean_An_Interesting_Story c. 1800sThe above cute pose was painted by Leon-Jean Bazille Perrault (16 June 1832 – 1908) a French painter.Henri_Lebasque_(1865-1937)2 c 1900Henri Lebasque (25 September 1865 – 7 August 1937) was a French post-impressionist painter.Laura_Muntz_Lyall_-_Interesting_Story_-_1898Laura Muntz Lyall (18 June 1860 – 9 December 1930) was a Canadian impressionist painter known for her portrayal of mothers and children.

This next picture of a young teen is from c. 1785, Lucknow, India. Although not certain, Portrait of a Bibi is thought to be painted by Johann Zoffany. You may say she’s holding a little mirror (or her smartphone?), but I’m thinking it’s a small book of cherished words.Portrait_of_a_Bibi,_Lucknow 1785After much searching to find more diverse subjects for this post, I suddenly realized the following pictures did indeed have books in them, if only you look closely. Each of these three girls has at least one hand out of sight. I’ve decided they are holding their books below the artist’s vision (off-camera, if you will) while having their portraits painted.Lilla_Cabot_Perry,_1889_-_La_Petite_Angèle_II

Lilla Cabot Perry (13 January 1848 – 28 February 1933) was an American artist who worked in the American Impressionist style.Jean_Etienne_LiotardPortrait of a Young Woman, above, is from the late 18th century. Beautifully painted by Jean Etienne Liotard (22 December 1702- 12 June 1789) a Swiss-French painter, art connoisseur and dealer.Girl_in_a_Yellow_Dress_by_Wada_Eisaku_(Yamatane_Museum_of_Art)Wada Eisaku (1874 – 1959) was a yôga painter of the Meiji through Shôwa periods, and was director of what is known today as the Tokyo University of the Arts. So easy to picture the book this young beauty is holding in her right hand.

Marie-louise-catherine-breslau-alemanha-meninas-lendo-1897I’ve got to get another woman painter into this collection, so here is Louise Catherine Breslau (6 December 1856 – 12 May 1927). Born Maria Luise Katharina Breslau into a German Jewish family of Polish descent, she spent her childhood in Switzerland and as an adult made France her home (where she dropped “Maria”). Suffering from asthma all her life, Breslau turned to drawing as a child to help pass the time while confined to her bed. Alfred_von_Schüssler_Lesende_Mädchen 1849The above was created by Alfred von Schussler who must have painted it quite young as he only lived for 29 years, from 1820 to 1849. During that time he lived in Germany and Italy.

Are you familiar with The Fairy Tale? Walther Firle (22 August 1859 – 20 November 1929) was a 19th-century painter from Germany. I’ve had a print of this picture on my library wall for many years.Walther_Firle_The_fairy_tale c 1900 Here’s another painting of the same scene from a different perspective. c. 1900Walther_Firle_Spannende_Lektüre c 1927And last, but not least, is a stunning painting (c. 1900) of a very clever girl. I believe she is hiding a small book behind her fan and taking peeks at it during her breaks. I hope you’ll zoom in on this one, the handling of the translucent fabric is amazing. Simon_Maris_001 c. 1900 (1873-1935)Simon Maris (12 May 1873 – 22 January 1935) was a Dutch painter.

Of course I’ve still left out many beautiful options, as there is only so much room in a blog post. And that’s my answer to the following questions: Where are the boys? The grownups? And for that matter, why aren’t there more women painters? Yay, for the three L ladies: Laura, Lilla, and Louise for bringing their beautiful work into the world. And yeah, the men are pretty talented, too. Thanks for reading!

Girls Reading Books (Part 1)

XX Albert_Anker_Lesendes_Mädchen 1905Have you ever watched a child, or anyone for that matter, deeply engrossed in a book? Maybe they wear a slight Mona Lisa smile. Maybe they glance away from the page for a minute, but still have a faraway look in their eyes. Or maybe they even cry, gasp, or laugh out loud. There are so many gorgeous paintings from the 19th century of people reading books. This one (upper right) is slightly after that period (1905) and is by Albrecht Samuel Anker (April 1, 1831 – July 16, 1910). He was a popular Swiss painter and illustrator who often depicted scenes of 19th-century Swiss village life. XX Eduard_Klieber_(Kopie_nach_Meyer_von_Bremen)_Lesendes_Mädchen_1855For the sake of post length, I’ve limited my favorite portrayals to the following: young girls reading books by themselves. The picture at left was created in 1855 by Austrian painter Eduard Klieber (1803-1879).  It was around the time of many of these paintings (mid 1800s) that beautiful books were first produced for children. With a German influence, both type and illustration improved and the fashion of only writing about morals and manners was finally starting to decline. When we study these expressive paintings, it’s interesting to wonder what the girls are reading. Could it be a book of fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, or maybe Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)?XX At_A_Reading_Desk_by_Frederic_Leighton 1877Above painting from 1877 is by English painter Sir Frederic Leighton (3 December 1830 – 25 January 1896). Good idea to use a book-stand as some of these old books look pretty heavy.XX Meyer_von_Bremen_Strickendes_lesendes_Mädchen_1863Even back in 1863, there was multitasking going on. This girl probably couldn’t choose between her two favorite hobbies, deciding to enjoy them both at once, instead. Her joy is beautifully captured forever by German painter Meyer von Bremen (28 October 1813 – 4 December 1886).

XX Franz_Eybl_(1806-1880),_Lesendes_Mädchen 1850Look at the concentration and emotion on this lovely young lady from 1850. So completely absorbed in her book, she seems unaware of being studied by Austrian painter Franz Eybl (1 April 1806 – 29 April 1880) who created this timeless oil on canvas.

XX Georgios_Jakobides_Girl_reading_c1882Not exactly a book, but let’s head over to Greece to enjoy this humorous portrayal of a young girl reading what appears to be the daily news in 1882. Could she be reading about political candidates? She has been captured forever by Greek painter Georgios Jakobides (11 January 1853 – 13 December 1932).Rachel_Russell_(1826-1898)_by_Edwin_Henry_Landseer_(1802-1873)Sir Edwin Henry Landseer (7 March 1802 – 1 October 1873) painted the above portrait in 1835. An English painter, he is best known for his lion sculptures in Trafalgar Square.XX _02 c1930Above painting is by Emil Rau (1858-1937), a German painter. I love the light coming in through an unseen window.Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_-_Jeune_Fille_lisant 1886An example of the highly recognizable style of French artist Auguste Renoir (25 February 1841 – 3 December 1919). A leader in the development of Impressionist painting, he completed the above in 1886.Reading_girl_by_Repin 1876Ilya Yefimovich Repin  (5 August or 24 July 1844 – 29 September 1930) was a Russian realist painter who gave us this lovely Reading Girl in 1876.Winslow_Homer,_Reading_by_the_Brook,_1879._Oil_on_canvas._Memphis_Brooks_Museum_of_Art,_Memphis,We can’t leave out Winslow Homer (February 24, 1836 – September 29, 1910), American landscape painter and printmaker, best known for his marine subjects. He painted the above work: Reading by the Brook in 1879.XX Anton_Ebert_Lesendes_Mädchen c. 1895Anton Ebert (1845-1896) was an Austrian painter who painted the above girl (c. 1890) with two little books to enjoy.

Three more to go, all too beautiful to leave out.George_Goodwin_Kilburne_A_peaceful_read_1869From 1869, the above masterpiece is by English painter George Goodwin Kilburne (24 July 1839 – 1924).Albert_Edelfelt_-_Hyviä_ystäviä_(1881)Albert Gustaf Aristides Edelfelt (21 July 1854 – 18 August 1905) was a Finnish painter. Although the above was painted in 1881, it has a more contemporary look to me. Except for the shoes and lack of a cellphone, this might be the girl next door. The dog looks very much like author Cynthia Lord’s adorable little dog, Milo, with one ear up and one ear down.Myles_Birket_Foster_The_shepherdess c. 1899Last, but certainly not least, The Shepherdess (c. 1890) by English Illustrator Myles Birket Foster (4 February 1825 – 27 March 1899).

That’s plenty for now, Happy Reading! Please check out the second half of this post here.

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