scrounge: /skrounj/ informal verb: to actively seek [books] from any available source
When I recently came across a copy of Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie, I remembered it from the PBS show Reading Rainbow -- none of the details, but I knew it was a story about a father who asked his daughter to keep the lighthouse lights burning while he was away.
It turns out this is based on a true story that took place in my home state of Maine in 1856. Not only did Abbie have to keep the lights burning by herself for weeks while the storm raged and her father was unable to return to Matinicus Rock, but she also had to tend to her sick mother, feed (and rescue!) her chickens, and help her three sisters as they managed the household.
I still find this story moving even though it's written in reader style with fairly short, choppy sentences. Most of all, I love the story of Abbie's courage, and the simple father-daughter moment at the very end.
Scrounged From: A homeschool book sale
Authors: Peter Roop, Connie Roop
Illustrator: Peter Hanson
Content Advisory: A bit of peril when Abbie is almost hit by a giant wave.
For Day 13 of our Christmas Books series, we're featuring a book called The Christmas Ladder that is actually a short story in Kindle format, but is also personal because it was written by our neice (and she illustrated the cover as well), Annie Louise Twitchell, and is based on a true story from Professor Puzzler's family history.
In the story, Reverend Snow's young family does not have enough money for a Christmas tree, but he uses a little New Englander ingenuity to come up with a solution that works just as well.
This would be a lovely family read-aloud in the days leading up to Christmas!
Scrounged From: Amazon (Kindle)
Author: Annie Twitchell
Content Advisory: None
Anyone who's lived in New England for more than a few years will be able to tell you about "that" storm. It may not be the same one for everyone, depending on which state or region they're in and how long they've lived there, but of all our storm stories, we'll all have one that stands out from the rest. Mine is The Ice Storm of '98, when we lost power for a week and had to go live with my grandparents because they had a woodstove.
For John Rocco, who grew up in Rhode Island, "that" storm was "the infamous blizzard of '78" which dropped forty inches of snow on parts of New England, complete with wind speeds of fifty miles per hour.
Blizzard focuses on his experience as a young boy during this storm that left his family snowbound for a week before plows could get to them. We can sense his childlike excitement and curiosity at this new phenomenon, as he attempts to sled in snow nearly over his head, and later sits by the fire reading "Arctic Survival."
When the family begins to get stir crazy, and worse, runs out of milk to make hot cocoa with, young John comes to the rescue with a pair of tennis rackets for snow shoes to bravely traverse the way to the store.
This is a book that New-England-raised children can certainly appreciate, and highlights that sense of ingenuity that many of us in the "frozen north" have had to tap into as a matter of survival!
Scrounged From: Our local library
Author/illustrator: John Rocco
Content Advisory: None
Artist Dahlov Ipcar died this past February, but today would have been her 100th birthday. In addition to a long career as an artist, she spent most of her life farming in the state of Maine (my home state).
Since I lack any familiarity with the "art world" in general, I probably would not have known much about her work if it had not been for her delightfully illustrated board books published by Islandport Press, which we first discovered when my oldest child was a baby.
After reading one, it became easier to spot her distinctive style when I saw it elsewhere, since her work is celebrated in many places in the state.
I love her use of color and joyful depictions of animals (both wild and domestic). Here are some of her books we've enjoyed the most:
1. Farmyard Numbers was our introduction to Ipcar's art. It's a simple one-to-ten counting board book featuring favorite farm animals, and gentle rhyming text. Several of the illustrations in this book are cropped from larger scenes in Ipcar's earlier, longer book about the trials and joys of farm life called Hardscrabble Harvest.
2. Farmyard Alphabet continues with the farming theme (which Ipcar had quite a lot of experience with). Short rhyming lines show us a different aspect of farm life for each letter -- Q for quilt, T for tractor ("that does everything"), E for eggs, J "is for jars, of jellies and jams," etc.
3. The Cat at Night is a wonderful look at the difference between what a cat can see at night and what a person can see. The pages alternate between dark silhouetted scenes and brighter versions of the same scene, showing how the cat knows where to go even when it's dark to us. My children enjoyed trying to find the cat on the silhouetted pages.
4. Dahlov Ipcar's Maine Alphabet board book is a beautiful celebration of the state that was her home for most of her life. From the coast to the woods (L for lobster and M for moose, of course), this is a lovely rhyming romp through the great state of Maine.
5. I love the different color combinations in Wild Animal Alphabet -- so many earth tones and golds paired with vibrant blues and greens. Once again, the illustrations are accompanied with rhyming text that's "short and sweet" enough to hold the attention of toddlers. From ibex to quail to "zebra, who always comes last," this is a lovely and fun look at wild animals (including a few doing nontypical things like the kangaroo beating on drums).
The Circus Ship was my five-year-old son's "graduation" book from Maine's Raising Readers program. I can see why it made a good choice -- not only is author/illustrator Chris Van Dusen a Mainer, but Maine gets a mention in the book as well.
The story itself is loosely inspired by an actual event, described in the end notes of the book, in which a ship containing a few exotic animals (and a lot of people) sunk off the coast of Maine in 1836. That tragedy is given a more optimistic and heart-warming twist here, in which the "receiving town" learns to accommodate the fifteen animals that show up on their beach after the ship sinks, and even help to hide them when their cartoonish-villain owner wants them back.
Even though the illustrations here often have a cartoonish feel, I didn't find them cheesy -- there is still a lot of attention to detail and color nuances that flesh them out. The story is written in verse as well, which adds a degree of fun to an already fun story.
Both my kids and I enjoyed this one, especially near the end when we have to try and find all of the animals hiding in one picture.
Scrounged From: My son's doctor's office
Author/Illustrator: Chris Van Dusen
Content Advisory: None