Sunday, May 19, 2019

#Fi50 Reminder!

Just a reminder that it's Fiction In 50 time again! And what is that? Read on!

Fiction in 50 is a regular feature in the last week of every month and I invite any interested composers of mini-narrative to join in!
fiction in 50   image Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

What is #Fi50? In the words of founder Bruce Gargoyle, "Fiction in 50: think of it as the anti-NaNoWriMo experience!" Pack a beginning, middle and end of story into 50 words or less (bonus points for hitting exactly 50 words).

The rules for participation are simple:

1. Create a piece of fictional writing in 50 words or less, ideally using the prompt as title or theme or inspiration.
That’s it!  But for those who wish to challenge themselves further, here’s an additional rule:

2. Post your piece of flash fiction on your blog or (for those poor blog-less souls) add it as a comment on the Ninja Librarian’s post for everyone to enjoy. 
And for those thrill-seekers who really like to go the extra mile (ie: perfectionists):

3. Add the nifty little picture above to your post (credit for which goes entirely to ideflex over at acrossthebored.com) or create your own Fi50 meme pic….
and 4. Link back here so others can jump on the mini-fic bandwagon.
At this time, I haven't been able to find a source for a free linky-list, so it's just comments. I recommend posting your basic blog link below, with the day you post your Fi50 story. You can also add a link in the comments on my story, posted the next-to-last Sunday of the month. Feel free to Tweet using the #Fi50, though I'll not lie: the Ninja Librarian is a lousy tweeter.


The May prompt is: Sweet Home, Alabama

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Photo Friday: In and Around Christchurch

Since all hope of a regular blogging schedule is lost, I'm going to work on this post and share it when I'm done, whenever that may be [as it happened, I finished on Thursday evening, so it really is a Friday post]. On the up side, I am back with a real computer, so no more of those horrid issues with the iPad. On the down side, transferring my photos from the iPad is an annoying process and has resulted in some chaos, though not, I'm happy to report, the loss of my edits.

These photos are a somewhat random collection from our two months in Christchurch, including both views around town and from hikes and trips in the Port Hills and farther out on Banks Peninsula.

One of the first things we did when we settled into our Christchurch digs was purchase a couple of second-hand bikes. Christchurch is a great biking town. Not only is it flat, but in the post-earthquake recovery they have made a point of expanding the biking infrastructure to make it easy, comfortable, and safe to ride.

These were my wheels for the duration, and allowed me to run errands and explore the town without driving, and while getting exercise.

Out beyond the reach of the bikes, we enjoyed a number of hikes in the Port Hills (between Christchurch and the port in Littleton). The hills reminded us in many ways of the Marin Headlands near San Francisco, complete with summer-brown grasses and old WWII-era military installations.
On Godley Head, looking out to the harbor mouth.
New Zealand is, of course, famous for sheep. There are far fewer of the wool-producing critters than in decades past, but they are still a common sight just about anywhere.
I'm guessing that one is wondering if I'm good to eat.

Many of the hikes involved great views of the city on one side, and the (undeniably more scenic) harbor on the other. The best city views from the hills were after dark, but my pictures weren't much good.
Looking over Littleton, and across to Diamond Harbor, a short ferry ride or long drive away.
We didn't do justice to the extensive Bank Peninsula, falling victim to the "we have tons of time to do that" attitude. We did make one drive out to the end of the road at Akaroa, on a cloudy, at times rainy day. The whole peninsula is an ancient volcano, and Akaroa Bay is an arm of the sea reaching right into the center of the caldera.

Sadly, a defining element for Christchurch post 2011 is the impact of the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. Much is being or has been rebuilt, redefined, or moved on from. Some buildings are still just fenced off, as owners have simply walked away. Others, like this one where many people lost their lives, may simply be too painful to deal with yet.
The ruins have become a kind of memorial in themselves. The standing water isn't just rainwater--it's a reminder that the very high water table of a city built on a swamp was a direct contributor to the extent of the damage.
Christchurch Cathedral has been an icon of the city since it was built in the second have of the 1800s. Since the quakes, it has become a symbol of the depth of the city's suffering. In 2017, under a great deal of pressure from many directions, the Anglican Diocese finally agreed to rebuild, though little progress had been made as of our visit.
On the left side of the photo you can just see the new library, which is as much an example of a brilliant recovery as the cathedral is of, well, indecision.
Poking around the city on foot or by bike led us to many interesting and unexpected things. One of the best, in my opinion, was the library. Beautiful, modern and classic at the same time, and with an abundance of computers as well as quiet places to read and work, so that on none of my visits did I feel it was crowded, though I suspect hundreds of people were present each time.
Looking down the library's elegant central staircase from the third of 5 floors.
Many many works of art--murals and sculptures alike--have blossomed in the city.
The trees, built from recovered wood, are native rimu trees, but echo the shape of the palms beyond.
My bike allowed me to  reach some of the parks on the fringes of the city. In one I stumbled on a small lake, and a new sport.
The sign said canoe polo, but those were clearly kayaks. Water polo in kayaks. The action got intense at times, and it looked like a blast.
Another serendipitous encounter was the city's Festival of Lanterns. Some were a bit gaudy for my taste, but the sunset lent the whole exhibit an extra element of beauty.
The birds may have been my favorites.
The arches are permanent in the park. The lanterns, less so. The sunset, ephemeral.
Sadly, we also witnessed (not directly, though we were only a couple of miles away) the new defining event for Christchurch: the mosque shootings. We were horrified by the event, but we were amazed and inspired by the local and national response to it. It felt like an honor to be able to attend the National Remembrance Service in Hagley Park, a short distance from one of  the mosques.
By the time we arrived, there were already thousands of people present, a quiet, respectful crowd of all ages and religions.
The service was beautifully done, with both speeches and performances that all struck a single note: that hatred has no place in New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave a speech that served both as a rejection of the hatred and violence and a reminder that it was up to each of us to fight against them. She has gone on to make good on her words.

It was our privilege and pleasure to be able to make Christchurch our home for two months. The memories we carry away with us may fade with time and age, but as with all travel, it has changed us, if only in small ways.
I lied. I did get a few acceptable shots of the city at dusk.

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2019
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Middle Grade Monday: A Stitch in Time

35795944

Title: A Stitch in Time
Author: Daphne Kalmar
Publication Info: Feiwel and Friends, 2018. 256 pages (hardback)
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher’s Blurb:
Donut is an eleven-year old geography buff who keeps her taxidermied mice hidden in her late mother’s hope chest. Her pops passed away, leaving her an orphan. Aunt Agnes has moved in, bringing along her lumpy oatmeal, knitting, and a plan to drag Donut off to Boston forever.

Donut stands to lose everything: her friends, her village, her home, the woods, and walks where the memories of her pops are stored up.

While Donut dodges the ache of missing her pops, she and her best friend Tiny plan how to keep her where she belongs. Holed up in a cabin on Dog Pond, Donut clings to the hope that Aunt Agnes will throw in the towel and leave Vermont without her.

A Stitch in Time is shot through with gorgeous, evocative language, and gets right to Donut’s heart.
 

My Review:
Maybe I never grew up, because I think my reaction to this book is that of a kid: without giving anything away, I was rooting for Donut's own solution to work. The ending was the realistic one, and maybe even better for her, but it wasn't the kid's ending. That kvetch aside, this really was a great, quick read. Donut is a very relatable character, and I liked the way her views of the adults, especially her aunt, shifted into a more three-dimensional understanding. Even the minor kid characters proved more fully human than is often the case.

The writing is tight, and so's the action. Donut has a clear objective and her own ways of getting there. The handling of her grief over the loss of her father is delicate, at times maybe too removed as she goes about being herself, but I think that's also realistic for how a kid might handle such a huge loss--as much as she can, she just doesn't think about it, then is periodically overwhelmed.

I wouldn't mind seeing a sequel to this one, to see how the next phase of her life goes.

My Recommendation:
It was a good read, and well suited to kids from 8 or so up. I do wonder if they will share my disappointment in the ending. The more I think about it, the more I feel like it went the wrong way. Are the adults always right? I felt like the author was telling us they are, but I was never quite convinced. 


Full Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of A Stitch in Time from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

IWSG: Writing? What writing?

 http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/2019/05/masquerade-release-day-and-announcing.html

The IWSG took me by surprise—the first Wednesday shouldn’t be allowed to be on the first of the month! But it’s sort of fitting, because we have been on the road and I’ve had no time for writing-and that includes blogging! So at the moment I'm a very insecure--and frustrated--writer, but I'm absorbing experiences like crazy, so that's good.

My only writer news, aside from a quick-and-dirty draft of some flash fiction that I haven't edited yet, is that feedback is starting to trickle in on Death By Library, which is also well on the way to having a cover (early sketches have been bandied about and approved). If anyone would like to add their beta-reader feedback to Book 4 of the Pismawallops PTA mystery series, I'd love to hear from you! Here's the quick-and-dirty blurb: 

JJ has a new job at the library, and everything is looking peachy. But when things in the stacks turn deadly, she has to figure out who might have killed the local gadfly. It’s not like she has a lot of spare time. Her personal life just keeps getting more chaotic, and there’s never enough time to spend with her sweetheart, police chief Ron Karlson. That’s especially true with Thanksgiving on the horizon and her mother coming to visit!
 
 ***
So much for my writing--let's turn and give a shout-out to the new IWSG anthology! Can I just say that I love that cover? I'm looking forward to reading this, and will review as soon as do!
https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-hH5sJCP0R8c/XLpJe2twn4I/AAAAAAAAShw/N6h9iKI7IgASEAP74RNcaPuVM6bds2ocwCLcBGAs/s1600/9781939844644%2BMasquerade%2BOddly%2BSuited.jpg
Masquerade: Oddly Suited - An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology
Young Adult Fiction: Romance - General/Paranormal/Contemporary
Print ISBN 9781939844644 $14.95
EBook ISBN 9781939844651 $4.99

Find love at the ball…

Can a fake dating game show lead to love? Will a missing key free a clock-bound prince? Can a softball pitcher and a baseball catcher work together? Is there a vampire living in Paradise, Newfoundland? What’s more important—a virtual companion or a date to the ball?

Ten authors explore young love in all its facets, from heartbreak to budding passion. Featuring the talents of L.G. Keltner, Jennifer Lane, C.D. Gallant-King, Elizabeth Mueller, Angela Brown, Myles Christensen, Deborah Solice, Carrie-Anne Brownian, Anstice Brown, and Chelsea Marie Ballard.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these ten tales will mystify and surprise even as they touch your heart. Don your mask and join the party…

Find Masquerade: Oddly Suited here - Barnes and Noble, Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and Goodreads

You can find out more about the authors of Masquerade: Oddly Suited here.

And the authors of Masquerade: Oddly Suited are hosting a live Q & A session on Discord! Join them on Sat 11th May from 1:00 pm EST / 6:00 pm GMT to find out more about the anthology and the contributing authors and ask any burning questions you may have.
The Q & A will be held on Discord. Please follow the invite link: HERE 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Book Review: Women Heroes of World War I

18778115 

Title: Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics
Author: Katheryn J. Atwood
Publication Info: Chicago Review Press, 2014. 256 pages (hardcover)
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher’s Blurb:
In time for the 2014 centennial of the start of the Great War, this book brings to life the brave and often surprising exploits of 16 fascinating women from around the world who served their countries at a time when most of them didn’t even have the right to vote.

Readers meet 17-year-old Frenchwoman Emilienne Moreau, who assisted the Allies as a guide and set up a first-aid post in her home to attend to the wounded; Russian peasant Maria Bochkareva, who joined the Imperial Russian Army by securing the personal permission of Tsar Nicholas II, was twice wounded in battle and decorated for bravery, and created and led the all-women combat unit the “Women’s Battalion of Death” on the Eastern Front; and American journalist Madeleine Zabriskie Doty, who risked her life to travel twice to Germany during the war in order to report back the truth, whatever the cost. These and other suspense-filled stories of brave girls and women are told through the use of engaging narrative, dialogue, direct quotes, and document and diary excerpts to lend authenticity and immediacy.

Introductory material opens each section to provide solid historical context, and each profile includes informative sidebars and “Learn More” lists of relevant books and websites, making this a fabulous resource for students, teachers, parents, libraries, and homeschoolers.
 
My Review:
When I picked this book out on the library web site, I didn't see anything to indicate it is a kids' book (though if I'd looked at the reviews I could have figured it out,  since the only review there is from the School Library Journal). As a result, I was frustrated by the lack of depth in the biographical sketches. After the first two or three I looked harder, realized it wasn't meant for adults, and began to consider the information in a more realistic light.

The sidebars and explanations included in the text (some of which had a kind of "duh" feeling for an adult reader) give a lot of good information and background for students, providing the context they need to understand the really remarkable accomplishments of some of the women. In a few cases, it felt like a bit of a stretch to make heroes out of the women, but the majority of them did, in fact, act with courage under fire.

In all, despite the thin information in some areas, I found the book a nice supplement to my other reading on the war as well as on women's history. Further, it offered information about the war in a number of eastern European countries, which I haven't heard much about.

My Recommendation:
In the fine print the book is listed as for grades 6 and up (that's age 11 up, roughly). I would agree with that. The writing is only slightly noticeably simplified for younger readers, and the subject matter is, after all war, so I wouldn't recommend it for younger readers than that.

Full Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of Women Heroes of World War I from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Flashback Friday!

Flashback Friday: 

http://jemimapett.com/flashback-friday-meme/


 Flashback Friday is a monthly meme that takes place on the last Friday of the month.
The idea is to give a little more love to a post you’ve published on your blog before.  Maybe you just love it, maybe it’s appropriate for now, or maybe it just didn’t get the attention it deserved when you first published it.

Thanks to Michael d’Agostino, who started it all, there is a solution – join Flashback Friday! And thanks to Jemima Pett, who has kept it going--visit her blog to add your name to the list!

Just join in whenever you like, repost one of your own blog posts, including any copyright notices on text or media, on the last Friday of the month.

I found this one from 2014 that seemed appropriate, given that we are definitely on the road, and will be starting across the country about the time this posts up!

This story is a merging of two Chuck Wendig challenges. A couple of weeks ago he ran a random title challenge that sparked the story, and I finished it off this week and retitled it for the color title challenge.  The second title is from the original challenge.

Singing the Highway Blues

or, What the Highway Prefers

LeAnn clutched the wheel of her ’78 Buick, and kept her eyes on the road. It had been a long drive from Ely, and traffic was growing thicker. US 50 wasn’t the Loneliest Road in America at this end, and there were on-coming cars every minute or two. She pulled off the road at Grimes Point, where the petroglyphs were, just outside Fallon. She knew it was the last convenient bathroom before Donner Pass.

LeAnn didn’t like to stop at Donner Pass. The thought of what had happened there so long ago (even though it hadn’t happened at the Pass at all, but down below, closer to Truckee) haunted her, and she always thought the water in the drinking fountains tasted . . . odd. She didn’t want to wait that long anyway.

LeAnn didn’t even know why she was making this trip. The ancient Skylark didn’t need this kind of abuse, in spite of what her late husband had always said about needing to get out on the highway now and again to blow the carbon out of the cylinders, or something like that. But she’d felt compelled to come. Just to get into the car and go, maybe not stop until she could see the Pacific, except she needed a bathroom, and she had to buy gas.

Meanwhile, the sun beat down on the dark lava rocks that surrounded the restrooms. She thought about walking the trail and looking at the petroglyphs. She liked to wonder about the long-ago people who must have struggled to live in this place but still had time to chip their art into the stones. People who must have really wanted to make art, or leave a mark, or something, because this was not like spray-painting your initials on a wall. This took work. She started toward the trail, but a blast of heat hit her like a blow, and the road called.

The car had air conditioning, miraculously still functional.

Reluctantly, LeAnn got back behind the wheel and turned the key. The first blast of air was even hotter than that among the rocks, but in a minute it began to cool.

She needed gas. There was the new station by the freeway. She’d get a tankful there and it would take her almost to the coast. Surely that was why she’d come—to see the ocean again.

First she had to get through Fallon. It used to be a small town, LeAnn thought as she idled at a stoplight. It was well suited back then as anchor to one end of the Loneliest Road. But now—now the place was growing in all directions, but mostly it was growing a slick strip-mall chain-store look along the highway that she hated. She had the odd thought that it must have offended the highway, too.

At the second light, LeAnn glanced at the gas gauge. Dang, she’d not make it to the freeway. She turned on her blinker and pulled into a station on the next block, scanned her credit card, and filled the tank. It took so much gas to fill, and gas cost so much these days. She really shouldn’t be doing this. She tried to recall why she was. Something about the ocean? She liked the ocean.

Thinking about cool sea breezes and waves breaking on sandy beaches, LeAnn didn’t realize at first that she’d turned east, not west. When she noticed, she thought about turning around, but the urge to go west seemed to have faded. Besides, she was on the causeway and couldn’t do a U-turn there. She thought about home and kept driving.

The car and the road settled down together smoothly, and LeAnn relaxed. Maybe this was just what the highway wanted—a single car, driving the breadth of Nevada. The road was, after all, lonely. A little company was all it had needed.
###

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2014

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Writer’s Wednesday

The big news: we are back in the USA, and on the same day as my family!

Since we have been on the road so much this month, I haven’t been posting regularly. Nor have I been writing much besides my journal. But I have been thinking about a couple of things. One is a short story that I will probably pop out in a week or two, and the other is what it is I need to do with Gorg the Troll. I was re-inspired by seeing quite a lot of rocks lately that are what I think of as Gorg and his kinfolk!

I think at some point I’ll run a contest for the best photo of a face in a rock—when I am ready to start promoting the Gorg book :)

A final note: I could still use another reader or two for the beta draft of Death By Library. I unfortunately forgot to mention this with my WEP post, but I’ll be sharing that need for the next severeal posts. Just drop me a note in the comments if you want to read for me, or send an email through the “Contact Me” page of this blog.

This one might not be Gorg so much as Gorg’s dog.


Saturday, April 20, 2019

#Fi50: Exactly


It’s #FictionIn50 time again!  Please consider sharing your own 50-word creations, and join the hop.

Fiction in 50 is a regular feature in the last week of every month and I invite any interested composers of mini-narrative to join in!

fiction in 50   image Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

What is #Fi50? In the words of founder Bruce Gargoyle, "Fiction in 50: think of it as the anti-NaNoWriMo experience!" Pack a beginning, middle and end of story into 50 words or less (bonus points for hitting exactly 50 words).

The rules for participation are simple:

1. Create a piece of fictional writing in 50 words or less, ideally using the prompt as title or theme or inspiration.
That’s it!  But for those who wish to challenge themselves further, here’s an additional rule:

2. Post your piece of flash fiction on your blog or (for those poor blog-less souls) add it as a comment on the Ninja Librarian’s post for everyone to enjoy.  
And for those thrill-seekers who really like to go the extra mile (ie: perfectionists):

3. Add the nifty little picture above to your post (credit for which goes entirely to ideflex over at acrossthebored.com) or create your own Fi50 meme pic….
and 4. Link back here so others can jump on the mini-fic bandwagon.
At this time, I haven't been able to find a source for a free linky-list, so it's just comments. I recommend posting your basic blog link below, with the day you post your Fi50 story. You can also add a link on the #Fi50 page. Feel free to Tweet using the #Fi50, though I'll not lie: the Ninja Librarian is a lousy tweeter.

This month’s prompt is Exactly.

Exactly

What did we think we were doing, anyway? A few minutes of delusion, and you pay with your life. Simon convinced me we could do the climb and be back before the weather went bad. 

“I never would have thought it could change so fast,” he muttered.


Never thought. Exactly.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

WEP: Jewel Box

Apologies for a lack of polish and all the usual info about the amazing WEP (Write, Edit, Publish) Challenge! And I’m on the road again, so I’ll be commenting as I can on the everyone else’s posts. If you are a participant, I’ll be around to see you before June :).  If you aren’t, consider joining in!



I originally mixed this up with last April’s challenge (the road less traveled), which made me want to do a photo essay. Even though that’s not what the challenge is, I could see the jewel box working for some of my photos, so here goes...

New Zealand itself is a jewel box of fantastic scenery, so I had to narrow this down. I decide to share photos of... some beautiful rocks I’ve found here! We have spent most of our time in the mountains, but we did get to the beach a few times. When we did, I wanted to pick up and take home every stone and shell I saw. Mostly I took photos and put them back. Here are some of the “jewels” I left behind.





“I left my heart in New Zealand”

 And a few shells, too.


Some of the best rocks you just can’t haul home.
Harris Lake/Harris Saddle on the Routeburn Track





Thursday, April 11, 2019

Photo Friday: Gillespie Pass/Siberia Valley


My husband and I are spending several months traveling and tramping in New Zealand. We arrived on the South Island Dec. 28, 2018, and spent January hiking like crazy with our 21-year-old son, Dave’s brother, and his wife. February and March we spend largely based in Christchurch with our son, and now we are on the road for a final 3 weeks to visit the North Island. But I’m still catching up with January. This was the last of our four major multi-night tramps in that month.

Gillespie Pass/Siberia Valley semi-loop

This was a rugged tramp with some seriously steep ups and downs, and some poor weather in the forecast. My sister-in-law wisely decided to sit this one out, but the other four of us headed out boldly. The trip began with a five-minute jet-boat ride across and up the river, thus saving us either a potentially dangerous ford or an extra 2 or 3 miles of hiking (from the nearest bridge).

It was interesting to see how they handled the jet boats. The river is too erratic to allow for any permanent dock, so they trailer the boats across the road, and back a mobile dock into the river!
Launching the dock. He then drove the boat around and moored it to the dock.
It was forecast to be a wet day, but the early morning had only a few sprinkles and things started off promisingly. The trail mostly followed the river, with an occasional detour through a meadow to cut off a curve. Later the detours were up and over steep bluffs.
Hopeful—or deluded—trampers hit the trail.
By late morning the rain had begun, and the ponchos came out. We were following the Young River upstream; at this point the river split (actually, of course, two branches came together). We had to cross one, but happily there was a bridge.
That strange blob isn’t an alien—it’s my son!
Lunch—the only time we got to sit down on the whole hike, since it was so wet out. Note the rather small size of dry area under the shelter!
The tank on the right is water collected from the roof, to provide drinking water. This is untreated but generally safe—we never bothered treating any of the water provided. 
The next morning the weather was better, and kept improving. We enjoyed the first part of the hike, up to the upper valley where we turned to go over the pass. The stream was a beauty.

Things got more interesting when we started up.
Yes, that’s the track, and yes, it really is that steep.
The view from the summit was stunning—both for the beauty and wildness of what we could see, and because I realized how far down we had to go—and the trail on that side was nearly as steep, and a lot longer.
The hut is around to the left on that lowest meadow. Ow ow ow.
The views were in all directions, though, and many of them I didn’t have to climb (or descend).

In spite of everything (including a gratuitous 500’ climbout of the upper valley adding to the total descent!) we made it to the Siberia Hut, which is very nice and fairly new, having burned in the last 10 years or so and been rebuilt.
My husband (right) and his brother relaxing in front of the famous view.
Next day, not having damaged our knees enough, we did a day-hike to Crucible Lake, which involved a similar sort of no-nonsense trail. First we had to cross the Siberia River. Brrr!
Happily only knee deep
Then we started up.
Tree roots make a good staircase. 
 It took another wet stream crossing, but we finally reached the lake. It is tucked so deeply into a south-facing (dark side) cirque that it never fully melts out.
My feet didn’t thaw, either.
Lunch always helps.

Fortunately, the final day was fairly easy. It began with some beautiful clouds.

Then it was farewell to the valley. Though it started with an easy valley walk, the trail did climb about 600’ before dropping to the Wilkins River. In 1996, my husband and I explored well up that river, then hiked 2 days to get out. This time we picked up a jet boat after lunch, at the point where we started our second day of walking down the river last time. As that hike ended in a nearly disasterous river crossing, we were glad to have the ride.
High winds added to the speed of the boat made it a *very* breezy ride!
This was our last major hike with the group, and we were delighted to be met by Carol, who had dinner for us in a warm, dry cabin out of the wind. We were glad not to be tenting as the wind was fierce all night!

Still lots more NZ adventures to come!

Text and photo copyright Rebecca M. Douglass. Please do not use without permission. Link-backs are always appreciated!









Sunday, April 7, 2019

Middle Grade Monday: Wishtree, by Katherine Applegate

Another beautiful blue cover!


Title: Wishtree
Author: Katherine Applegate
Publication Info: Feiwel And Friends, 2017. 254 pages (hardback)
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher’s Blurb:
Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this "wishtree" watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red's experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.
 

My Review: 
Wishtree was the selection for the March book of the month for the Great Middle Grade Reads group on Goodreads. I was a little hesitant as I started it, both because a few people who’d gotten an earlier start on it didn’t entirely like it, and because of the timing. It’s a book that deals, in part, with anti-Muslim hatred—and I started it just before the Friday attacks on the mosques in Christchurch (where we are spending February and March). I wasn’t sure I wanted to read about more hatred.

I should have known better. Katherine Applegate addresses some tough issues in her books (see, for example, The One and Only Ivan), but she does it in ways that lead the reader to hope and understanding, not sorrow and frustration. A rather whimsical tale of love and community, the book might be described as magical realism—the situation is all too real, but the sentient tree who narrates it provides a unique perspective.

While some readers disliked the use of a patently unrealistic element (talking tree) in an otherwise realistic story, I found that it was easy to engage Wordsworth’s “willing suspension of disbelief” and accept the insider-outsider perspective the tree provides, and I think children will generally be happy with it as well.

Applegate’s writing is smooth and easy to read, without talking down to the children. There are some good giggles provided by the critters that inhabit Red (the tree), which will appeal to readers of all ages.

My Recommendation:

I think this is a good book for a gentle introduction to the issues, as well as being an enjoyable story with a generally happy ending. It’s suitable for kids perhaps as young as 7, as the writing is simple and straight-forward without being simplistic (thus maintaining the appeal for older children).

Full Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of Wishtree from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."