Big Green Pocketbook
This year, Hal Borland’s Book of Days migrates upstairs with me to read during my afternoon rest and before bed. It’s a daily journal beginning January 1, written from his farm in rural Connecticut, meant to help him answer the questions: Who am I? Where am I? What time is it? At 68, I ask those questions, too. Borland’s entries mix mid-70s science with New England lore, his natural observations of the seasons with his own quiet musings.
January 6: Frost flowers fascinate me. They are related to frost ferns, those intricate patterns that formed on windowpanes before we slept in heated bedrooms. Frost ferns were indoor plants, created by the humidity in the room. Frost flowers are wildlings, outdoor grows created by humidity in the starlight.
When I was ten, I wanted to be a detective-veterinarian-artist-writer-ballet dancer. Never mind I couldn’t stay up late, stand the sight of blood, or ever had a single dance lesson. Ten-year-olds view the world as limitless. When I was a teenager, my dreams shifted to more specific: a writer of children’s books and an animator for Walt Disney Studios.
In Wildness is the preservation of the World. ~ Henry David Thoreau It’s rare a children’s book changes you when you’re an adult. I don’t mean fleeting Harry Potter/Team Edward crossover fandom, but genuine change (as with Watership Down). I was nearly 30 when Jane Langton’s book The Fledgling was published in 1980. At that stage of my
My first inkling there was a thing called children’s literature came at a yard sale. I picked up a thick green textbook, Children’s Literature in the Elementary School, by Charlotte S. Huck. I marveled at the idea that people discussed and studied the books I loved and planned to write, that children’s books were literature, like Moby Dick. I was eighteen, one
As a kid, I couldn’t wait until the first day of school — a fresh beginning, when the heat and green of summer make way for red plaid bookbags and corduroy jumpers.
I’m trying hard not to be a Fillyjonk. Honestly, I am. Mrs. Fillyjonk is a character in Tove Jansson’s wonderful Moomintroll series. Fretful Mrs. Fillyjonk needs order in her world. If anything is out of place, or goes wrong, she is flattened by depression and anxiety. Is anything more out of order than the world we live in
The only “real” books we had in our house was a small selection of adult novels from the Doubleday Book Club. Mid-century titles such as Panther’s Moon, Lost Horizon, and Wake of the Red Witch piqued my eight-year-old interest until I opened them, dismayed by the tiny print and lackluster dialog. I had a shelf of Golden Books which
It is more important to pave the way for the child to want to know than to put him on a diet of facts he is not ready to assimilate. —Rachel Carson One would never guess from the following excerpts that a certain nine-year-old would grow up to write more than 50 nonfiction children’s books. This is from
I’ve been keen on dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals my whole life, since I read Roy Chapman Andrews’ All About Dinosaurs. When I was nine, I added paleontologist to my string of future occupations (writer, artist, ballet dancer, detective). My love for Jefferson began when we moved to Fredericksburg in 1996. I was touring James Monroe’s Law Office downtown
Every winter I find myself missing Arnold Lobel, a quietly brilliant author-illustrator who left us far too early. I pull out my Lobel I Can Read collection. Frog and Toad Are Friends was published in 1970, the year I graduated from high school, bent on my own career in children’s books. Hailed an instant classic by many far-seeing individuals, Frog
“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,
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
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
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
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