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Monday Book Review: “Country Matters,” “Back in the Garden with Dulcy,” “The Gardener,” “Rocket’s Mighty Words” and “Listen!”

December 16th, 2013

Two grown-up books and several kid books today, up for review:

First up: Michael Korda’s classic, “Country Matters.” I love the heck out of this book. “Have no fear, Roe is here!” I read this when it first came out, at my Mom’s recommendation, and we’ve both re-read it several times. It’s wiping-away-tears funny, especially if you love animals, old houses, and are surrounded by people who have “boundary issues.”

Speaking of comedy, this leads us to the best garden writer in the world… one Dulcy Mahar and the new book, “Back in the Garden with Dulcy” (Carpe Diem Books, Portland, Ore., $22.95, 262 pages). She was a lovely woman (we both wrote for The Oregonian, and I worked with her husband, Ted, too. He is a co-author on this title.) Dulcy was a delight, and in addition to being a gifted gardener, she was a funny, funny girl. And not just when she wrote about her Portland garden. I was lucky enough to tour her garden once and it was awe-inspiring, really. It’s a lovely space over in the Garthwick neighborhood, in Southeast. The book is a collection of Dulcy’s newspaper columns and includes memories from Ted. My friend (and my former editor) Peggy McMullen wrote the foreword. I miss Dulcy’s writing every week and am glad to have this book, a sweet reminder of a dear, classy lady.

It only makes sense to review the children’s book “The Gardener” next (Sunburst, Farrar Straus Giroux, 1997). It was written by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small. The pair also created “The Library” and “The Money Tree,” which are both so good, too. This Caldecott Honor book is a quietly powerful book that I like to read with my students, especially when we’re dreaming about community gardens. It’s set in 1935, and tells the story of Lydia Grace Finch, who travels to live with an uncle due to family circumstances. It’s a good choice for struggling readers, too. The text is written as letters, and the illustrations are elegant and grown-up.

The Rocket series, written by Tad Hills, is pretty adorable and just right for the littlest readers. (Schwartz & Wade Books, New York, 2013, $10.99, unpaged.) Rocket is an eager pup who wants to learn to read. The illustrations are colorful and sweet, and the main character is appealing.

“Love cannot be forced, love cannot be coaxed and teased. It comes out of Heaven, unasked and unsought.” — Pearl Buck

“Listen!” by Stephanie Tolan (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, New York, 2006, $16.89, 197 pages) is a good choice for kids who are struggling with loss. (Anyone who loves a good dog story will love this one, too.) The author wrote another favorite of mine, “Surviving the Applewhites,”  which is an awesome read about an unusual family and some cool, misunderstood kids.

“Listen!” is a tale of a girl who has recently lost her mother, and is spending her summer, mostly alone, trying to tame a feral dog. This is a quiet and moving book.

And here are some Nancy Drew titles, just for fun. I included these, dear readers, just because I wanted to. (Grosset & Dunlap, New York, $5.99, various lengths, generally around 180 pages.) Did you know that’s who I was named for? Nancy Drew? Allegedly.

The End.

“Great oaks from little acorns grow” — Latin proverb

Christmas Robin

(Photo by Steve Rawley)

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