Big Green Pocketbook

Candice Ransom

Making Peace with January 

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.

Candice Ransom

Magic Needs Humble Soap 

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.

Candice Ransom

Jane Langton Gave Me Geese 

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

Candice Ransom

Big Green Textbook 

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

Candice Ransom

Porch School 

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.

Candice Ransom

Fillyjonk in Moominland 

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

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

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