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Big Green Pocketbook

Candice Ransom

Pterodactyls and Dragons 

The Boy chiefly dab­bled in nat­ur­al his­to­ry and fairy-tales, and he just took them as they came, in a sand­wichy sort of way, with­out mak­ing any dis­tinc­tions; and real­ly his course of read­ing strikes one as rather sen­si­ble.” The Reluc­tant Drag­on Ken­neth Gra­hame wrote “The Reluc­tant Drag­on” as a chap­ter in his book Dream Days, in 1898,

Candice Ransom

The Door to Arcadia” 

The first sum­mer my hus­band and I were mar­ried, we went on a pic­nic. Not an ordi­nary pic­nic; I had an agen­da. My hus­band had grown up dur­ing World War II, when plane-spot­t­ing and mix­ing yel­low food col­or­ing in Oleo was more inter­est­ing than read­ing children’s books. We spread the blan­ket on the banks of Goose Creek. I opened

Candice Ransom

No Wraiths or Fetches Necessary 

To cel­e­brate our for­ti­eth anniver­sary this year, we decid­ed to take a Big Trip. My hus­band sug­gest­ed Paris. “Corn­wall,” I said. “Some­place old.” Not that Paris isn’t old. Instead of a crowd­ed city, I want­ed win­kles and pasties, lost gar­dens and stand­ing stones, piskies and Tin­tagel cas­tle. He agreed and I began putting togeth­er a trip that would send us back

Candice Ransom

Enchanted Points of Entry 

My first glimpse of Mar­garet Wise Brown’s house on Vinal­haven Island, Maine, was from a boat. It topped a gran­ite slope, clap­board sid­ing paint­ed the same gray-blue as the sparkling Hur­ri­cane Sound. I was so excit­ed I near­ly fell over­board. We’d just passed the Lit­tle Island that Mar­garet had made famous in her Calde­­­cott-win­n­ing book and I’d spot­ted a seal

Candice Ransom

Richard Adams Gave Me Rabbits 

Knee-deep in spring! The rab­bits will be here soon, rangy after a long win­ter. They like our yard because we have low bush­es good for hid­ing and we let the lawn go to clover and dan­de­lions. I like to think rab­bits feel safe because they have lit­tle chance else­where. If ever there was an ani­mal with “a

Candice Ransom

On the Way to East Dene 

One day dur­ing this drea­ry Vir­ginia win­ter, I came across a talk by Susan Coop­er, giv­en at Sim­mons Col­lege in 1980. The talk was titled, “Nahum Tarune’s Book.” To explain the title, she begins by quot­ing an aston­ish­ing pas­sage from the intro­duc­tion of Come Hith­er by Wal­ter de la Mare, an anthol­o­gy of poet­ry first pub­lished in 1923:

Candice Ransom

The Arrow of Time 

When you walk into our house, you know imme­di­ate­ly my hus­band and I are read­ers. The din­ing room is des­ig­nat­ed as the library, but there are book­cas­es and books in every sin­gle room, includ­ing the bath­rooms. We sub­scribe to The Wall Street Jour­nal and the Sun­day New York Times, as well as Smith­son­ian, Audubon, and Sky

Candice Ransom

When a Map Is a Journey 

The first map I remem­ber was flashed briefly on TV, part of a com­mer­cial for Sto­ry Book Land. It aired on “Cap­tain Tugg,” a local kid­die pro­gram. I adored Cap­tain Tugg, so any­thing he endorsed must be gold. Like the home-movie type kid shows of the 50s and 60s, Sto­ry Book Land was a fam­i­­­ly-owned amuse­ment park. And for my

Candice Ransom

Teaching Passion 

When the direc­tor of Hollins University’s grad­u­ate pro­gram in children’s lit­er­a­ture asked me to teach a crit­i­cal class on the his­to­ry of children’s book illus­tra­tors, I said no. Even with an MFA in writ­ing for chil­dren from Ver­mont Col­lege, an MA in children’s lit­er­a­ture from Hollins, scores of pub­lished books, and years of teach­ing grad­u­ate-lev­­­el cre­ative classes,

Candice Ransom

The Angel in the Woods 

It was the ear­ly eight­ies and I was grap­pling with my first mid­dle grade nov­el, a piti­ful imi­ta­tion of Daniel Pinkwater’s Alan Mendel­sohn, the Boy from Mars. The boy in my apt­­­ly-titled “The Dooms­day Kid” played Dun­geons and Drag­ons and attend­ed a rock con­cert that end­ed in a bot­­­tle-and-can riot. For “research,” I tried to teach myself D&D and dragged

Candice Ransom

The Books We Keep Forever 

A few weeks ago, I stood at the cor­ner of 37th and Madi­son Avenue in New York City and gazed long­ing­ly at the ele­gant pink mar­ble build­ing that housed J.P. Morgan’s library, now the Mor­gan Library and Muse­um. In late Jan­u­ary 2019, the Mor­gan will host the “Tolkien: Mak­er of Mid­­­dle-earth” exhib­it. I’m too ear­ly. I only

Candice Ransom

Tonight is the Night … 

… when dead leaves fly like witch­es on switch­es across the sky …  In the cen­ter of our Wegman’s is all the stuff that is not food. Of course, I head there first. Brows­ing tea tow­els and sun­flower coast­ers is my reward from hav­ing to shop in the too-big gro­cery store.  Recent­ly I found a plate among the Halloween

Candice Ransom

The Need for Secret Places 

In the fifth grade, my best friend and I dis­cov­ered a tan­gle of hon­ey­suck­le in the scrub­by woods bor­der­ing our school play­ground. It would make the per­fect recess refuge. All we had to do was pull the hon­ey­suck­le from inside the cir­cle of saplings it was twined around, leav­ing a cur­tain of vines. The next day, we sprint­ed into

Candice Ransom

Some Illustrator! 

In my next life, I’m com­ing back either as a cat liv­ing in our house (think Canyon Ranch for cats), or Melis­sa Sweet. I’ve fol­lowed her career since she illus­trat­ed James Howe’s Pinky and Rex (1990). I love this book for its atyp­i­cal char­ac­ters (Pinky is a boy who loves pink and stuffed ani­mals, and Rex, his girl

Candice Ransom

Pumpkins into Coaches 

In 1961, when I was nine, I fell under the spell of a crum­bling stone tow­er. It stood on the weed-choked prop­er­ty of the Port­ner Manor in Man­as­sas, Vir­ginia, cat­­­ty-cor­n­er from my cousin’s house. As a devo­tee of Trix­ie Belden books, I craved mys­ter­ies the way oth­er kids longed for ponies. Here was a mys­tery with­in spit­ting dis­tance! My cousin and

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