A thousand thanks to all of you who have watched, shared, and commented on my #kidlitquarantine video, The Flora and Fauna of Your Place. As if your kind responses weren’t exciting enough, kids and adults alike are starting to send me pictures of what they’re finding in their own neighborhoods, and it is thrilling. Check out what Ellie from Massachusetts found over the weekend …
I’m writing with an update on the spring launch of You’re Invited to a Moth Ball. Many of the planned events have already been postponed, and its highly likely the rest will be as well. At this time, protecting as many of our friends and family and community members as is humanly possible through diligent hygiene and social distancing is paramount. Ellen Harasimowicz and I are, of course, disappointed. Our amazing team at Charlesbridge Publishing, too. Rest assured, though, that we will launch this book with all due fanfare as soon as it’s safe for us to do!
Like many of you, I’m struggling to navigate the uncertainty that coronavirus has made front and center in my life. I’m following the directives of those with the most practical knowledge of the situation and how to contain spread of the virus. I’ll include a few links below. I’m also doing what I can to reduce stress levels. In other words, I’m retreating to my one true comfort: nature.
The images above are from a hike I took yesterday. I didn’t see a single person (and if I did, I’d have simply waved and kept a prudent distance; experts recommend six feet). I didn’t see a single frog either, although that’s what I’d hoped for. I did see a lot of interesting and unknown-to-me things that were both beautiful and distracting. And it turns out beauty and distraction was just what I needed.
Maybe its what you need right now, too?
Stay safe, friends. We’ll get through this. We will.
A COUPLE HELPFUL LINKS:
Information on the WHYS and HOWS of social distancing
So, are you the sort of person who would be distracted by a parade of hopping frogs and excited by the idea of helping them? Do you like being out of doors, even at night? Are you intrigued by the thought of listening to spring? Have you held a frog or toad in your hand, looked it in the eye, and felt something?
These are questions I posed in the pages of Citizen Scientists, suggesting those who answered YES! would make good frog watchers. Today I’d like to add that those people–frog people–will also adore this new picture book from April Pulley Sayre.
Being Frog is a delight, cover to cover, a celebration of language and image and, of course, frogs. Don’t miss this one, friends!
I’m pleased to share that a feature I wrote about Rachel Goclawski, a Worcester county mushroom forager and wild food enthusiast, was published in the winter 2020 issue of Edible Worcester. My favorite part of writing this piece was heading out into the woods with Rachel, learning how to find and identify mushrooms. I also got to take one of her classes, and I can’t recommend them enough. All the links you need are in the article. Enjoy!
Distilling a full life into 32 pages is such a hard thing to do. It requires deep reflection, a willingness to seize a single theme and, at the very same time, to let all the other beautiful and important and relevant themes in that beautiful and important and relevant life go. Hayley Barrett and Diana Dusyka manage this task brilliantly in their picture book biography of Maria Mitchell. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW is a marriage of deliberate storytelling and expansive art, a book that focuses readers on knowing and naming, cornerstones of scientific inquiry, but doesn’t get mired in details of astronomy, its devices, and its techniques. I’m really glad I finally picked this gem up. You should too!
Worcesterites can celebrate local authors, support local bookselling, and shop for the holidays at this year’s Holiday Author Festival, hosted by the booklovers at Root and Press, 623 Chandler Street, Worcester, MA. You’ll find great books, festive music, warm drinks, sweet treats, and plenty of holiday cheer. Here are the details:
Worcester Holiday Author Festival
Root & Press, 623 Chandler Street, Worcester, MA
Saturday, December 14
And here’s a list of the excited local authors–writers of fiction and nonfiction for adults and for children–who will be on hand to sell and sign their books:
We hope to see you there!
“No good book is loved by everyone,
and any good book is bound to bother somebody.”
~ Mac Barnett
Even if you don’t recognize the name Margaret Wise Brown, you’re likely to have read some of her books. The Runaway Bunny, Bumblebugs and Elephants, The Little Fireman, Goodnight Moon, among so many others. Hers are classics of childhood reading, even today, and I know I’m not the only mother of grown children who can still recite them rote. (And every now and then, does.)
Mac Barnett’s biography of Brown is unusual, deeply literary, and spellbinding. I cannot get enough of it. And while often such books are criticized as being inaccessible to children, I believe my kids would have adored this book. Would they have appreciated the metaphor that turns a single life into a single book? Would they have grasped, when they were small, the dangers of a gatekeeper? Maybe not. But they would have understood being misunderstood. They would have felt the joyful zaniness of buying an entire cart of flowers or bringing ducks into a place for no reason at all. They wanted desperately to know more about things they knew were frowned upon, like swimming naked in an ocean, or borrowing the fur from a dead rabbit. I think they’d have peered into the life of the woman behind books in their very own bedrooms and felt satisfied.
I cannot express how much I admire this book. I’m going to read it aloud to my kids, adults though they may be, when they’re home for the holidays. I’m not kidding. Because the important thing about me is that I share the stories that move me most. I’m grateful to Mac Barnett, Sarah Jacoby, and Margaret Wise Brown for this beautiful reminder of that.
I’ve been making my way through the 2019 edition of The Best American Science and Nature Writing, edited by Sy Montgomery, and as is the case every year, it’s like taking a master class in communicating life and living and all the ways those two things happen in this world. I try to read a couple essays a week, but often pause, struck dumb by a piece that begs for a deeper study. That’s what happened with Matt Jones’ No Heart, No Moon.
Originally published in The Southern Review, the essay is available in its entirety at Jones’ website. It’s a stunning example of literary nonfiction, of taking the facts of a story and weaving them into something that is informative and also deeply meaningful. Art. I read the essay before bed, and re-read it the very next morning, out loud, with my morning tea. It’s gorgeously written, layered with connections that surprise and worry. I’ll be studying it for a while, sharing it with students and friends, pondering the mechanics and the message.
When I started blogging back in 2006, my little apartment on the internet–a light-filled efficiency in a great neighborhood (LiveJournal!)–was called A Life in Books. I saw that title as a play on words, a way to categorize posts about my life as a working writer, which was then only just starting, and my life as a reader, too. Every post was titled with the name of a book, one I was reading to research a new project, or for pleasure, or with my three (then) young kids. Over time, it became clear that the books were just a way for me to connect to other things going on in my life at the time, and I was obsessed and pleased with the interesting ways books and thoughts and life influenced one another.
As always happens, though, life changed. My kids got older, and my working world got busy, and this, and that. Blogging became a sometimes affair. I left LiveJournal for a place with more space, built an entire author website, took on more work than I had hours in the day. You get it, right? I was still reading, but I no longer had (or took?) the time to reflect on those books and their place in my life, on the ways the work of other writers shaped my thinking, or inspired ideas, or entertained me. Such, too, is a life in books, I guess.
But, again, change. My kids are two young men and one young woman mostly off in their own places reading their own books. I’m still writing, still reading, but also teaching, and nowhere is it clearer to me how important reading is than in a classroom with writers. So much of what I know about writing–I’d say all of what I know about writing–I soaked up by reading the work of other writers.
All to say, I’m dusting things off here, spit-shining tables, sweeping up the cobwebs, thinking about how to better use all the spaces at my disposal. I’ll continue to post updates on upcoming books and essays and appearances here, of course. But I’m also going to share my reading life again, the blog posts that make me think, the articles and essays that thrill me, the books that paper, spark, and inspire this life of mine.