John Flanagan’s strengths are dramatic action, innovative conflict, and complex male characters who breathe and sweat. This fantasy adventure trilogy with a Middle Ages setting combines humor, intelligent language and complex characters to propagate a fast-paced, engaging tale awash with daring plot twists. Although mostly promoting good morals, the level of violence over these first three volumes escalates beyond what some will feel is appropriate for ten-year-olds who will read all three. There are plans for four more books.
In The Outcasts, volume 1 of the trilogy, sixteen-year-old boys are divided into teams to train as Skandian warriors. Most are excited at the prospect, read more »
Today, October 8 is Leif Eriksson Day in the U.S. About 1,000 A.D., Leif and his men sailed from Greenland to what is now L’Anse Aux Meadows in northern Newfoundland, Canada. He beat Columbus by nearly 500 years to be verifiably the first European to set foot in North America, where he built an outpost.
The sculpture was created by Alexander Stirling Calder, father of Alexander “Sandy” Calder read more »
During a Community Residency in at Fowler Dune Shack on the Cape Cod National Seashore, Deb Carey pointed out this survivor organism to me. When the dune eroded, most of this high bush blueberry’s roots were exposed, yet it survived and bears fruit. I was impressed. read more »
As part of my research for a historical novel about Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir, we went in search of one of the places she traveled to in the early 1,000s. It was more than intriguing.
Leif Eiriksson discovered something big around 1,000 A.D. You can still see the footprints of his longhouses at L’Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland, Canada. He and his men are thought to be the first Europeans to build in North America.
But scholars argue about exactly where his Vínland is, which is puzzling. Maybe they don’t have a GPS?
His sod longhouse at Leifsbudir, which means Leif’s booths (tents) – his ironic name for these buildings with six foot thick walls – was at least twice the size of his father’s house in Greenland. You know his father… Eirik the Red, pioneer of Greenland. Leif obviously inherited his father’s place-naming humor. Gudrid, the m.c. of my YA novel, was Leif’s sister-in-law and went to Leifsbudir a couple of years after he did. It is easy to imagine her there. The small spindle whorl found by archeologists might actually have been hers.
The nearby peat bog provided the blocks of sod stacked over a framework of timber from the nearby forest, which is the same form of construction in Iceland and Greenland at the time. Clayton Colbourne, who grew up in the contemporary village of L’Anse aux Meadows and as a kid played on what were thought to be Indian mounds until archeologists arrived, helped build the reconstructions. It was laborious.
Inside, Egill Egilsson (aka Wade Hillier) played a lyre based on one from a Víking site in Sutton Hoo, then a flute with a single hole that elicited a lovely, lively melody, and lastly a small whistle made from a pig or sheep bone. He also had a wooden panpipe for use in a pinch. A local woman meanwhile did some mending by the longfire on one of the sleeping benches that lined the two long walls.
The blacksmith whose shop is next door showed the type of iron ore that the Norse dug from the nearby bog and a bar of smelted iron, a piece of which he then forged into a nail. In true Viking fashion, he did not bother with gloves while working the metal. Perhaps the Norse uncovered the ore while cutting the peat blocks they used for construction? The process of smelting the small, surprisingly lightweight, lumps of ore into useable iron involves felling lots of trees to make the charcoal that was used for firing up the forge. The paired bellows keep the temperature high enough that the blacksmith can work the purified iron into a nail or other item. Leif’s men made 100-200 nails in this way to repair an accident with one of their boats.
The views the Norse saw surrounding Leifsbudir are reminiscent of places in Iceland and Greenland, only better. There is plenty of fog, rain and high winds at times, and yes there are icebergs; this one is 175 feet tall by 600 feet long and grounded in 420 feet of water. But there was longer daylight and warmer temperatures in winter, and millions of flowers – irises, harebells, pitcher plants, baked apple (cloudberries), partridgeberries and some cotton grass. Dense forests called tuckamore grew near the shore and more mixed deciduous and evergreens read more »
On May 24th, after going to a magical book launch party on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, I did a post about the book Willow’s Walkabout: A Children’s Guide to Boston by Sheila S. Cunningham and illustrated by Kathie Kelleher. Kathie, who is an endlessly fascinating and read more »
For a number of years I have been collecting children’s picturebooks from other countries when I travel or friends and relatives do. It is good to be aware of the visual voices from other lands, so now and then I will post images of a few. The first entry in this series was read more »
Willow’s Walkabout: A Children’s Guide to Boston had a fabulous launch at the Agonquin Club on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston recently. This picturebook, written by Sheila S. Cunningham and illustrated by my friend Kathie Kelleher, is about a wallaby named Willow who goes on a walkabout from the Stone Zoo in Stoneham, MA to explore the major attractions in nearby, lovely Boston. She is well organized, making an read more »
Yesterday Egils and I transported my just-finished sculpture to the Barn Gallery in Ogunquit, Maine for the Invited New England Sculptors exhibit. Lindley Briggs has been curator for the show each summer for a number of years and I have been fortunate that she has the patience to include my work in the sculpture courtyard each year. She has a large wall panel of her own in the exhibit and there are also works by Antoinette Prien Schultz, Gary Rathmell, Michael Alfano, John Weidman, Nancy Sander, and a number of other good sculptors. These works range in scale from small to fairly large and include bronze, steel, clay, fiberglass, and other media. Within the gallery is an extensive group show that includes both 2D and 3D works by many known regional artists.
The opening reception was Saturday May 26, 5-8, but you have the entire summer and beginning of autumn to see these sculptures and more. Then afterwards you can go for a walk along the Marginal way, then have a lobster dinner at one of the many nearby restaurants. Art, the ocean, and fine food – what more can anyone desire?
History does begin with yesterday, after all. Nineteen seventy one, when cigarette ads were banned from TV, The Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar topped the charts, and Clockwork Orange and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory were playing at the movies, does not seem so very long ago. Then again, gasoline was forty cents a gallon.
During the book launch party for Susan Carlton’s new Love & Haight, which is about a seventeen-year-old, a smattering of colorful 1971 San Francisco hippies, love of several varieties, and an abortion that needs to happen, Susan was asked what kind of research did she have to do for this historical novel? I was helped by the fantastic librarians at the San Francisco History Center, she said, who brought out cardboard boxes of their Hippies Collection for me to use! She had a blast going over posters, scrapbooks, song lyrics and other memorabilia of the Flower Power, free love era. Her parents pitched in, sharing their Technicolor memories of read more »
goldfinches at our feeder today something in the next yard startled them. They spurted up and away in various directions. One unfortunate flew toward me and hit the glass of the atrium door, bang! She landed a foot away, wings and tail splayed on the new snow, each feather arrayed in perfect order. She was sitting up, looking to the left, breathing rapidly. But she was motionless.
I waited. She did not move. I went to find Egils and his camera. She still hadn’t moved. So, I went outside and picked her up. She did not struggle. I cupped my hands around her and brought her in where it was warm. A goldfinch weighs almost nothing. She was smaller than a sparrow. One feather was loose and dangled over her eye. She seemed comfortable in the warmth of my hands, almost sleepy.
After ten minutes or so, she looked more alert, though still calm. I brought her back outside and lifted my hand from above her. She sat, nested in my palm. Some noise startled her. She flew off, toward the trees.