Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell
I thought it was a sarcastic title. That the guy who wrote it must have a cracked sense of dark humor. Why would anyone want to visit Chernobyl? See deforestation as it happens in the Amazon? Visit the most polluted river in India? Blackwell asked himself the same questions. Did he have a thing for industrial waste? Was he some kind of environmental rubbernecker? What exactly was the point in going to some of the world's worst man-made, human caused devastation?
Some chapters really stick with me. The one on Port Arthur, Texas, for example, where the brown breeze has a rancid aftertaste; where the community is among the poorest and most polluted in the nation, yet is surrounded by multi-billion dollar companies. Back in the day, a huge oil gusher erupted from the ground near Port Arthur. The dirt-covered men who were witness looked at each other and asked "what is it?" Can you even imagine that? As Andrew Blackwell (irony of his last name is duly noted) traveled and researched this chapter, an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded and sank, the start of the Deepwater Horizon spill.
In other chapters he travels to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch where he can't keep himself from channeling Hornblower's "Where away?"; the oil sands mining of Northern Alberta, Canada; Chernobyl of course (my favorite chapter)--did you know that, unbelievably, Chernobyl has become possibly the largest nature preserve in eastern Europe?. And there's plenty more environmental disaster where those came from, a little something for everyone.
And there is humor, and lots of it--I promise. It is wry and sweet, his use of language precise, sharp. I want to have a drink or two with Andrew Blackwell and ask about a thousand questions. He wrote the best armchair travel book I've read in a long, long time. There's no crumbling ruin, restored by wealthy retirees, true. Yet I find myself cruising the website chernobylwel.com with its jaunty black gas mask logo, just out of curiosity mostly, but you never know.
Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell
Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway is the story of an exceedingly careful man with the euphonious name of Joe Spork. His father was the king of criminal London. His grandfather was a genius with clockwork. Joe runs a modest clockwork shop and tries to make amends for his father’s sins.
But when he is asked to repair a particularly ornate and clever device he finds himself drawn into the flotsam of super spies, religious zealots, and vengeful despots that his family left behind. Whole worlds live inside this book, each with its own rich history, and together weaving the background for strong characters and their fantastic capers.
Readers, writers and book lovers! Mark your October calendars for two of Portland's biggest book events: Wordstock book fair extravaganza and Portland Arts & Lectures author series, kicked off by legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
October’s just a warm-up –- there are literary events galore throughout the year. Attend one of the library’s author talks, book discussions and conversations featuring local writers on a wide range of topics. Search the Events calendar listings for the who, where and when details.
There’s no one place that tracks Portland’s sprawling literary scene -- there’s SO much going on -- so here’s a rundown of where to find author readings, writers workshops and more book-centered events.
Portland is home to the largest independent bookstore in the world. The legendary Powell’s City of Books draws headline authors for its popular readings. If you’re a mystery lover, keep your eye on the Friends of Mystery calendar of author appearances at Murder by the Book. Use the Mercury’s list of Portland’s Other Bookstores to see what’s happening in the indie bookstore universe.
City of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Portland by Gabriel H. Boehmer, a third-generation Oregonian, is a bible for Stumptown bibliophiles, bringing together bookstores, libraries, landmarks, authors, events and titles in one volume. Published quarterly, the free Portland Book Review newspaper is available at bookstores, libraries, coffee shops, restaurants and retail locations around metro Portland.
If you’re an aspiring author and want to meet fellow writers, Willamette Writers meetings showcase Oregon authors from mix of professions. The Attic Institute offers readings, workshops and a Poets Studio. Write Around Portland runs free writing workshops for adults and youth; participants share their writing with the public at free community readings. DIY folks should check out the extraordinary IPRC -– Independent Publishing Resource Center -– where you can create and publish your own artwork and writing.
For a true DIY experience, print out the map of West Portland Writers and find the homes and workplaces of noteworthy authors such as Hazel Hall, John Reed and Stewart Holbrook.
Next Best Thing is a wonderful story about Ruth Saunders and her grandmother Rachel, who move from Boston to Hollywood. Ruth wants to make it as a sitcom writer. Her grandmother wants to have fun and finds work as a an extra for tv right away. Ruth is twenty-three and a bit broken. Grandma Rachel is tough as nails and elegant. She totally supports Ruth in finding herself and her career. Their loving relationship is what moves the story.
Weiner certainly knows how to write a grandmother character (take a look at In Her Shoes). There’s a reason she is a bestselling author, and much of it is due to her fully formed characters and her great story-telling. This is a lively and moving story about two women finding their way in the challenging place that is Hollywood, California. I think you will find yourself rooting for them if you decide to read The Next Best Thing.
Sheet music, as a type of music, refers to single songs, published for singing and playing on the piano, as was the custom for many years in living rooms all across the country. At Central Library, we have a collection of these, donations from Portlanders in years past. Arranged in boxes by year of publication, all are listed in the Library Online Catalog, by song title, and also by the title of the box with the publication year. The songs from 1800-1850 all fit in one container, but as the years progress, there is a box for each year, up to the early 70's with songs by the Carpenters and other singers of that time.
Here are two samples from vastly different eras: "A Life on the Ocean Wave," published in 1840 by the District Court of New York, and "Tuck Me to Sleep in My Old Tucky Home," published by the Irvin Berlin Music Company in New York in 1921.
How are these song sheets used at the present time? We get questions about songs popular in a particular decade for school reports, musicians who need particular old songs, and for people looking for popular songs that are in the public domain. The artwork on the cover of historic sheet music is also of interest, for the illustrations and typefaces characteristic of the era of publication.
The Historic Sheet Music is a reference collection at Central Library available through the reference staff at the Humanities South Reference Desk (art and Music) on the 3rd Floor. But if you would prefer to have music that you can check out and take home, we can look up whatever song you are looking for by title in the Online Catalog. For American songs by decade, there are collections of music scores for popular music by decade, singer, and type of music. If you have any questions about the Historic Sheet Music Collection, please give a call to Information Services at Central Library: 503.988.5234.
How do you search for song titles in the Library Catalog? Use "quotes" around the song title; if there are too many titles in the search results, use MODIFY SEARCH to select MUSIC SCORES or CD.
Throughout the Library, you will find books that in some way pertain to style and form, for such unrelated topics as cooking, watercolor painting, writing, or building a fence. For architecture, often people come in to research a particular style, such as Craftsman style, to help them decide about colors, etc. for historic rennovation. From working at the Reference Desk in the Art and Music Room, I became aware of another type of book, more general and encyclopedic, about architectural style and form. Fascinating to look at, these books are primarily image-based, with drawings, photographs, and descriptions of the design of houses over spans of centuries, a single page for each style. The abstraction of these books, with their comparisons of architectural details, brings together variations in design that can be hard to find otherwise.
At the Reference Desk, these books come into use when someone comes in wanting a particular term for part of a building. Sometimes, when you are looking for something specific, one page is just about perfect.
Please let us know if we can help find architecture information for you: contact the Library.
I'll try pretty much any science fiction or fantasy book that falls into my hands... at least for the first 50 pages. That's the window an author has to hook me. Superheroes aren't quite my thing. I'll go to the summer blockbusters, sometimes, if the reviews are good. I didn't read that many comic books growing up so I probably missed the golden window to really learn to love superhero stories. So when I was lent a copy of Prepare to Die! by Paul Tobin, a Portland comic book writer, I wasn't sure it was going to pass my 50 page test. The news is that it passed with such flying colors that I immediately set aside the other books I was reading in favor of this one.
Partially set in a fictional Oregon town, the crux of the story boils down to what happens when a super villain says "Prepare to die!" and the hero asks "How long?"
Steve Clarke, aka Reaver, was a small-town boy when an accident caused him to become super-powered. The book is funny and frequently tragic: consider the post-traumatic-stress resulting from being a very young superhero who is trying to defeat super-villains who slaughter passers-by just for fun. Often crude, the tone fits the character and story perfectly.
I really hope this Portland comic book writer has another novel or three in him because I'm really eager to read him again. I'm glad I wasn't too picky to try it because, out of the last 100 or so novels I've read, I'd put this very character-driven novel in the top 5.
While my reading taste is pretty eclectic, until recently I hadn't read very much historical fiction. Perhaps it is thanks to those engaging YA historical novels I've listened to in the past few years that I'm dipping into this genre a little more.
It also helps if I find an author I like who bounces around genres. A couple of years ago my book group read The Sparrow. At the time, I said it was hard to believe this was Mary Doria Russell's first novel, and that the book was like Ursula LeGuin, only deeper. I know, hard to believe, deeper than Ursula? In this SF masterpiece, Jesuits make First Contact, because, well, Catholics go on missions. And you know how missionaries can get into trouble due to deep cultural misunderstandings? The sole survivor who returns to Earth must reveal his story that includes a brothel and a dead child, as well as recover from unimaginable trauma.
Since I loved this author's style, I'll happily read her other books. In Doc, Russell daringly covers a subject that has entered our cultural consciousness through many movies: Dr. John Henry Holliday, dentist. IMDB tells me there are 43 instances of the character Doc Holliday in movies and television since 1937. Along with Doc Holliday, in this book we get close to the Earp brothers, Wyatt, Morgan, and James, during their short time in Dodge City, before the famous OK Corral incident.
Despite all those occasions to encounter Doc as a character, I was surprised to learn there was a lot I did not know. John Holliday was born with a cleft palate, treated with surgery. He was a southern gentleman, and a search for relief from consumption drove him west. The tale is told as if from the view of a compassionate historian. The man was an alcoholic, but it was alcohol rather than laudanum that helped him relieve his consumptive cough without losing his sharp mental faculties he needed as a gambler. Faro was his game, not poker, usually. We're given the myth that was spread in the papers, like say how Doc shot and killed a man, and the often innocuous story (in which no one was shot) that spawned the myth. The author clearly is fond of Doc, and now I too have a soft spot for the man.
Walking through the streets of Portland, it's interesting look at the variety of age and style of adjacent buildings. In many areas of the city architectural style from past to present shows the range of Portland's history for more than a century. If you are intrigued by the character of neighborhoods, and have changed over time, you might enjoy the Library's books about Portland architectural history and online resources that you can use from home.
Here are some starting points for both informal reading and research
Historic Resource Inventory:
Central Library 3rd Floor Humanities North Room Reference (Literature and History): The Historic Resource Inventory shows residential and commercial properties organized by neighborhood, with pictures, information, and bibliographies. Ask the reference staff at the Humanities North desk for assistance.
View Portland neighborhoods in diagrams from 1880 up to 1950; print out or save closeup images. Sanborn maps show the outlines of properties, with additional detail on a limited basis for residences, but with more detail for commercial buildings. The 1905 Sanborn maps are entirely of the Lewis and Clark Exposition, with considerable detail about the buildings and grounds.
Architectural Heritage Center:
A local nonprofit architectural preservation organization with many resources for architecture and local history. Take a look at their online map "mashup" project called TagWhat. View information and historical images for buildings in Portland, some with links to structures that existed in prior years but that were demolished to make way for new buildings.
Oregon Historical Society Library:
The Research Library houses more than 32,000 books, 25,000 maps, 12,500 linear feet of manuscripts, 4,000 serials titles, 6,000 vertical files, 18,000 reels of newspaper microfilm, 8.5 million feet of film and videotape, 10,000 oral history tapes, and more than 2.5 million photographs.
Portland City Archives:
The City of Portland's archival records provide important historical evidence of the development of city government since 1851. Significant research subjects documented by the collection include, but are not limited to, urban planning, parks, land use, public works, economic development, public safety and social issues. The collection includes reports and studies, correspondence and memoranda from city agencies, and elected officials, maps and plans, and nearly 750,000 photographic images of City projects and personnel.
For the purpose of the gorgeous and astounding book, Relics: Travels in Nature's Time Machine by Piotr Maskrecki, the author defines a relic in this way:
Relic: a creature or habitat that, while acted upon by evolution, remains remarkably similar to its earliest manifestations in the fossil record.
Do we have relics here in the U.S. of A.? Bunches. Among them, the Atlantic horseshoe crab. It lives on the eastern North American Coast and has been doing a mass spawning every Spring, like clockwork, for 440 million years.
Relics not found in the U.S. : Emerald and black mottled treerunnner: Its cache of eggs is normally stashed in elevated piles of leaves in the geographical area of Africa called the Guiana Shield. If the nest is disturbed by a predator near the end of the eggs' development, all the eggs will hatch at once, within seconds of each other, the infant lizards scattering in all directions.
The Atewa dinospider from West Africa is from an ancient group of arachnids that go back all the way to the Carboniferous period. When was that? Three-hundred million years ago. What's a dinospider look like? Think brown pipe cleaners--those fuzzy things you used in third grade art class.
And New Guinea....my goodness. You're amazing. A giant, newly discovered and as yet unnamed gliding frog (think flying squirrel) and an equally astonishing and also as yet unnamed tiny frog of the species Choerophryne, smaller than a human fingernail.
I'd go further into the spider arena but I know it's gonna freak out some of you. But I can't leave without mentioning the Goliath tarantula that weighs in over 150 grams--about a third of a pound--that the author of this book thought at first was a small mammal when he saw it scurrying across the forest floor. I'm not an arachnophobe but the picture of this bad boy was all it took for me to close the book.
Are you thinking about learning to play the piano, or returning to the piano after a long absence? If so, the library can help, with its collection of music books especially for beginners. Music scores these days often come with CDs and DVDs, that help make learning easier by providing examples and a duet part to play along with. Not a subsitute for a teacher, but a good starting point for both children and adults.
Learning to Play the Piano
Are you a kid who wants to learn to make your own books? Are you a grown-up who wants to make books with your kid friend? Making books isn’t as intimidating as it looks, especially if you’ve got a great how-to book to help you get started! Here are my favorites:
In Print! by Joe Rhatigan has instructions for 40 different publishing projects for kids -- everything from a make-it-yourself audioboook to instructions for starting a writers’ group or workshop to getting your work published in a magazine. This book has it all!
Pop-ups and moveable books that fold out or turn into a sculpture when you open them sometimes look complicated, but actually they can be really great projects for a beginner! Gwen Diehn shows you the basics in Making Books That Fly, Fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist, and Turn. That’s a long title, but you really know what the book is about now, right?
If you want to go totally D.I.Y. and make a zine -- that’s a book or pamphlet you make and distribute all yourself -- you definitely want to check out Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine?, by Mark Todd and Esther Pearl Watson. It covers everything: zine history, tools and methods for making your own zine, why you might want to write a zine, photocopier tricks, promoting your zine, and more.
Are you more of an artistic than a literary bent? Perhaps comics are your thing? If so, the book for you is definitely Drawing Words & Writing Pictures: Making Comics: Manga, Graphic Novels, and Beyond, by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. It’s an everything guide for comics creators, covering basics like layout and lettering and extra credit topics like how to reproduce your comic so you can distribute lots of copies.
Questions? Let us know if we can help you find the how-to book (or any other book) that's just right for you.
A former boyfriend of mine was a great cook, and I was only allowed in the kitchen when it was time to do the dishes. This worked well for me, as I like to eat tasty food without putting in a lot of effort, and I don't mind plunging my hands in warm, sudsy water. I was finally eating some meals that had more than five ingredients! So after we broke up, I went back to my standard fare of spinach salads and heat and eat entrees. To say I had no interest in spending hours cooking something that would take only minutes to consume would be a vast understatement. I had better things to do with my life.
Giulia Melucci's dating experience, chronicled in I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti was the exact opposite of mine: she loves to cook and prepared some pretty yummy dishes for the parade of boyfriends that began when she was in her early twenties. Yummy things (recipes are included) like "Risotto with Intricately Layered Hearts", "Pear Cake for Friends with Benefits", "Salmon with Lemon-Tarragon Butter", "Morning After Pumpkin Bread" and the one that I'm going to try out on my boyfriend: "Lachlan's Rigatoni with Eggplant".
Because, you see, I'm now with someone who actually enjoys it when I prepare meals (he helps, too, and also recently fixed the best grilled cheese sandwich I have ever eaten), and I've discovered how much fun it is to cook for someone besides myself. Guilia got that from the beginning and, with the exception of one guy who was lukewarm on the whole food thing, her boyfriends all seemed happy with her culinary skills. Never happy enough, alas, to give her the one thing she craved: a marriage proposal. We meet Ethan who, after three years, was given an ultimatum and declined to offer a lifetime together; Mitch Smith who, not very many years after they broke up ("I didn't want a girlfriend or whatever."); ended up marrying someone else, and Lachlan, a Scotsman who was passionate…about food. As we leave Giulia, she's still unwed but doesn't seem too downhearted. Optimism, like cooking, seems to come easy to her.
With the availability of the Oregonian in searchable pdf format from 1861-1987, Multnomah County Library cardholders can piece together the unpublished history of music events and musicians in our city. Search for reviews of concerts, names of musicians, bands, composers, or whatever is of interest to you, and save articles by sending them to your email address, print articles, or download.
As an entirely random example, here is what Portlanders thought of Aaron Copland's performance of his 1926 Piano Concerto (referred to as the Jazz Concerto) in the Sunday Oregonian review in August, 1930: "There was applause enough to cover up the hissing which came from the stands."
Articles from the Oregonian cover the entire span of years from 1860 through articles published yesterday, available from home, school, or office with your Multnomah County Library card and pin number:
1860-1987 Oregon Historical Archive
Please call us if you would like any assistance in using the Oregonian:
Central Library Information Services
The library has a large collection of books about sewing. Jen Winn, sewing enthusiast and on-call staff person most often at Hollywood, has enhanced the book collection with this list of some of her best sewing picks from the Web.
If you're looking for information or inspiration from vintage pattern envelopes, Vintage Pattern Wiki is the place to go. If you've ever bought a grab bag of patterns at an estate slae or thrift store, you know what I'm talking about. It's not always easy to find details on old patterns, but the Vintage Pattern Wiki is a great place to start.
Contributed by Jen Winn from Hollywood Branch Library.
"In our era, more than some others, writers must buck up and take care of themselves" says Susan Bell in The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself. If you are writing the Great American Novel or just want to improve your style, study this book. Full of examples, graceful writing and thoughts from published authors, The Artful Edit is entertaining.
Bell illustrates her points by studying the well-known masterpiece, The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald, and illustrating Fitzgerald's collaboration with the marvelous editor, Max Perkins. More about Max in a moment.
She says, "Fitzgerald, too, was a master of the squared-off paragraph. He began and ended many with a startling mix of style, philosophy, and itch -- the itch that can only be scratched by moving to the next paragraph..."
That "itch" has just the right touch, as does 'free-fiddle" in the following observation of the author Luc Sante, "At the end of a work, he allows himself free-fiddle with words but not structure." I like Bell's way with words: "If you've written a bird's nest, then, untangle your ideas. Separate them into a few sentences. One small sentence, written well, can tell more than an expansive one that's gangly."
There are many ways to edit and the book is filled with examples of how different authors approach the process. For example, Michael Ondaatje says, "Having a concept of what the book is exactly about before you begin it is a tremendous limitation, because no idea is going to be as intricate and complicated as what you will discover in that process of writing it." Continuing he says, "I always write the beginning at the end. It's the last thing I write because then I know what the book is about."
I was so taken with the collaboration between Max Perkins and F. Scott Fitzgerald that I was inspired to read more about the famous editor. I found a lovely book of family letters collected by Max's five daughters and published as The Family Letters of Maxwell Perkins complete with his clever illustrations; also a biography, Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg.
Berg says of Perkins, "Beginning with Fitzgerald and continuing with each new writer he took on, he slowly altered the traditional notion of the editor's role. He sought out authors who were not just "safe," conventional in style and bland in content, but who spoke in a new voice about the new values of the postwar world. In this way, as an editor he did more than reflect the standards of his age; he consciously influenced and changed them by the new talents he published."
Max not only edited Fitzgerald, but also Ernest Hemingway and Tom Wolfe among others. He even conjured up new plots or offered ideas for his authors to develop.Max's greatest gift was summed up by his longtime friend, Elizabeth Lemmon, in a letter to Max's wife after his death, "I have known people who were considered pillars of strength and loved to be leaned on, but Max poured strength into people and made them stand on their own feet."
After reading the story of Max and Tom Wolfe, I must now read Wolfe's autobiographical novels. Isn't it great when one book leads to another? So many books, so little time.
When I decided I wanted to dust off my childhood knitting skills and learn to knit socks, my mother gave me one of the greatest presents a knitter can get -- a copy of the all-around practical guide, Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book. This 1930s-era gem has instructions for all manner of knitting basics (different ways to form knit and purl stitches, pattern-drafting how-to, basic patterns for gloves and mittens and socks, different ways to wind yarn into a ball, and so on) as well as a lively history of knitting down the ages and some sections on sophisticated topics like beaded knitting and Shetland shawls. If you must limit yourself to just one knitting book, this is the one you should have.
But who can limit themselves to just one book? Mary Thomas teaches knitters how to design their own projects, and any knitter doing design work needs a guide to stitch patterns. The most complete, most beautifully presented, most clearly explained series of knitting stitch patterns is definitely Barbara Walker’s four collections of stitch patterns gathered through extensive research and correspondence with knitters. Just about every stitch you might ever want is contained in these four volumes: from ribbing to edging, from cables to mosaic patterns, from simple knit/purl patterns to elegant lace. And every one has clear, cogent instructions and a helpful photograph of the finished result.
Should you find that designing your own projects really suits your style, you must run, not walk, to the last of my Three Queens of Knitting, Elizabeth Zimmermann. Begin your exploration of Zimmermann’s brilliance with the pocket-sized Knitter’s Almanac, a collection of twelve projects for each of the twelve months of the year. You’ll find detailed instructions for each, but Zimmerman also lays out her pattern design logic and explains the math of sizing patterns up and down to fit different figures or suit alternate yarn. Even if you merely read the Knitter’s Almanac, but never make any of the projects, you will close the book a better, smarter knitter!
What’s next after you’ve gotten to know the Three Queens of Knitting? It’s up to you! But rest assured, you can always find more books, dvds, and magazines for knitters at the library.
Questions? Ask the Librarian! We'd be glad to help you find the right knitting book, or help answer your other craft questions!
Who likes the post-apocalypse? How about when it happens right here in Multnomah County? Etiquette for an Apocalypse by Anne Mendel is the funniest book you’ll ever hear described as “a mystery-thriller set in northwest Portland after environmental disasters cause the collapse of of civilization as we know it.”
No, there aren’t any zombies for Sophie (the heroine) to battle, and who needs ‘em? Shady characters may be aiming to take over what’s left of the world, while an even shadier character may be engaged in serial killings. (Or is it the other way around?)
This is a perfect summer read if you want to 1) laugh, 2) turn pages one after the other not able to put the book down, and 3) get inspired to stockpile toilet paper, duct tape and big black garbage bags.
Dystopia has never been so much fun.
You may have heard of Polk's city directories, but there are other companies that published city AND rural directories. These are commercial products, so were developed to help businesses.
The earliest Portland City Directory was published by S.J. McCormick in 1863. It included information on new buildings and newcomers, on fires, city improvements, locations of fire stations and alarms. It also included the names of the men who lived in the city -- and the names of some women. (Primarily those who owned a business, had an occupation, or were unmarried, living outside of the parental home.)
Businesses paid to be listed in the Directory; some purchased highly detailed advertisements, while other smaller businesses like neighborhood general stores simply listed their name and location.
Another important value to business beyond advertising, was the list of residents in the city. If someone wanted to rent or buy services from a business, the Directory could be checked to find out if the person lived locally, and where; in later years a check of earlier directories under the name, would let the business know how long they lived in the City, what their occupation was, and whether they moved often. All information that helped a business decide whether to extend credit to a customer, to hire someone to do a job, to lease or sell to a person.
The best way to find these kind of directories in the library catalog is to search using the name of the city or the county and the word "Directories" as a subject keyword search; eg, Wasco Directories. Eugene Directories, Baker Directories.
It's summer - regress a little! Have a Popsicle (root beer and white licorice were the best flavors). Swing on the monkey bars. Revisit some of the books you loved as a child. The best ones will be just as good as you remembered, and offer fresh pleasures to an adult perspective.
George Bernard Shaw famously said that youth is wasted on the young; maybe some great kids' books are wasted on young readers. Two classics, The Yearling and National Velvet, were originally written for adults - but since their main characters are children, they were marketed, unimaginatively, as books for children. How many kids tossed them aside after a chapter or two? Years or even decades later, though, they're worth a second look.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Enid Bagnold both loved their home landscapes, the scrub woods of central Florida and the chalk cliffs of the English coast, which they evoke with such detailed vitality that the land itself becomes a vivid character in their books. Both stories are superficially about animals: The Yearling's title refers to an orphaned fawn adopted as a pet by a poor farming family, and National Velvet follows a horse-crazy village girl as she trains up a runaway piebald to be a steeplechaser.
While the animals and gorgeous settings are appealing, what's so moving and worthwhile in both books is their true common theme, which is how the deep, wordless bonds of community and family guide, ground, and sometimes confound us. These poignant books will reward and satisfy parents of sensitive misfit children, adults who were themselves those children, and everyone who's felt the ties which bind us so fiercely to people who don't always understand us very well.
Which children's books do you still like to read? Tell us in the comments!