Sunday, May 16, 2021

Happy National Love a Tree Day!



Happy National Love a Tree Day! Who knew? I love trees every day, and even more so since I read The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom written and illustrated by Lita Judge.

Each beautiful spread, with carefully detailed illustrations, contains a poem about trees on the left side, and information about tree communities' ability to communicate, warn, and protect each other on the right. An author's note tells how this fascination for trees took root, and back matter fills in more details about tree communities. 

Scientists have learned a lot about tree behavior recently, and it is amazing! For example, in "Neighbor, Can You Hear Me?" the poem is a tree calling out to its neighbors. The factual information tells us that when insects attack a tree, the tree sends electrical signals through the fungi living among the tree's roots. When other trees receive the warning, they "pump a bitter-tasting chemical called tannin into their leaves to ward off the insects" (p. 11). 

Enjoy this short video about how the book was made and see its beauty for yourself.

Through the seasons and around the world, Judge shows and tells us how trees take care of each other. We could learn a lot from trees!

          See more about Lita Judge's award-winning books here.  




Monday, February 15, 2021

The Clothesline Code: Celebrating Valentine's Day and Black History Month

I can't think of a better way to celebrate Valentine's Day (well, let's make it a week, shall we?) and Black History Month (let's make that year 'round, shall we?) than to introduce you to award-winning author, Janet Halfmann's, newest book, The Clothesline Code, released February 1.

From the back cover: "Lucy Ann and Dabney Walker didn’t have to risk their lives to spy for the Union army. The couple had already risked everything to escape slavery themselves."

This is a true story of a loving black couple, Lucy Ann and Dabney Walker, who found a unique and daring way to help the Union during the Civil War. Dabney was assigned to an intelligence unit in the Union Army. Lucy Ann was a camp laundress. As formerly enslaved people, neither had been allowed to learn to read or write. How could they sneak behind enemy lines and set up a system for communicating what the Confederates were up to? The clothesline code was born. 

Lucy Ann was the one who would go into enemy territory, learn Confederate secrets, and send them to Dabney, who would look at the clothesline and decode the message. Should they be found out, both of their lives were in danger. Suspense builds as the Walkers send messages back and forth. Readers feel Dabney's distress on days when messages don't come. Was Lucy Ann ok? Would their plan succeed?

The Walkers' determination to help defeat slavery demonstrates the power we all have in using everyday items, courage, and caring to change the world.

Halfmann's vivid writing and Trisha Mason's emotive illustrations bring these little-known heroes to life, engaging youth and adults. Halfmann says that she "strives to make her books come alive for young readers and listeners," and this book proves that she does. 

Find out more about Halfmann and her books here. Find out more about Mason and her art here.

I like Halfmann's writing so much that I have written about her work before here and here.

Halfmann proudly displays The Clothesline Code.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy New Year! and Some Un-resolutions for Joyful Living


Happy New Year! For those unfamiliar with northern winter climates, I'll tell you that the image above is snow. This snow is not new, yet has no tracks or marks on it, and it serves as an analogy for the new year. This snow fell last year and remains, just as parts of 2020 remain with us into 2021. But what remains has not marked this snow. Here it is, crisp and untouched. What can we make of it? It's ours to decide. What can we make of our new year? At the end of 2021, will we be glad of the tracks we've made? 

A new year presents challenges and responsibilities. A turn of a calendar page is not magic. I'm sure I'm not alone in making and breaking resolutions year after year. This year, I realized that the things I usually resolved to do felt more like punishment. So I'm going to make some un-resolutions that I can actually keep that will increase my joy. My list is in progress and subject to change, but here are a few items:

Eat a bite of chocolate every day.

Listen more to music.

Read more, generally, and read more poetry, specifically.

Look at--really look at--works of art.

No, these are not SMART goals. These are just life-enriching things that often get pushed aside in daily busyness. How will you add more joy this year? What tracks will you leave in 2021?

"...Lift up your hearts.
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings...." is from the incredible poem by Maya Angelou,"On The Pulse of Morning," written for and delivered at President Clinton's inauguration in 1993. Here is the entire poem: