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Big Green Pocketbook

Candice Ransom

Forgotten Treasures:
Scholastic Book Club Editions 

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

Candice Ransom

Growing a Nonfiction Reader
and Even a Nonfiction Writer 

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

Candice Ransom

The Crack in the Door:
How I Came to Write Bones in the White House

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

Candice Ransom

Arnold Lobel at Home 

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

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

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