Natural Materials Make Welcoming Homes for Fairies, Pixies, Elves, and Gnomes

Rebecca O’Connell, a librarian, is the author of Baby Party (2015) and Baby Parade (2013).

Baby ParadeBaby Party

She lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband, son, two cats, and a big dog. O’Connell talks about fairy tales in this week’s edition of Friday reads!

 

I like walking with my dog, Bear, in a little wooded area near my house; there’s green space within the city. Bear is looking for woodchucks and squirrels. I am looking for sticks, catkins, pine cones, acorns, pebbles, or other building materials—construction supplies for fairy houses.

rebecca bear

Fairy houses are tiny houses (or schools or castles or libraries…) for the hidden folk.

The Hidden Folk

The structures are made of natural materials. We leave them outside (or, sometimes, in a window) in the hope that someone will find this welcoming shelter and move in.

I love to pore over the photos of fairy houses in the books by Barry and Tracy Kane:

Fairy Houses...Everywhere!Fairy Houses and Beyond!

 

Fairy Houses … Everywhere! (left)

Fairy Houses and Beyond! (right)

 

 

Fairy Houses...Unbelievable!Fairy Homes & Gardens

and Fairy Houses…Unbelievable! (left)

And this new one by Barbara Purchia and E. Ashley Rooney, Fairy Homes and Gardens (right), which includes the poem “The Fairy Dew Drop” by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I page through the photo books for inspiration. Seeing what can be made from petals and shells and seed pods and bark makes me want to construct something. The possibilities are endless, as can be seen in page after page in the books or on Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Facebook page, for example.

The wee people for whom we build can be tricky or friendly. They can be shy or sociable. Usually, they will respond to kindness with kindness. I keep that in mind as I gather materials for their cozy nooks or luxurious mansions. I think about The Tomten and the Fox by Astrid Lindgren. That is where I learned about the tradition of leaving a bowl of milk out for the Tomten. (Putting up a little house is like leaving out a bowl of milk, right?)

The Tomten and the Fox

When I picture the soon-to-move-in wee little neighbors, I picture the flower fairies of Cicely Mary Barker. Aren’t they beautiful? Wouldn’t you set your mind to making the most comfortable home possible for them to enjoy?

My Garden of Flower Fairies 1The Complete Book of the Flower FairiesA Treasury of Flower Fairies 3

 

 

 

I like to learn about who the wee people are, their habits, their preferences – all the better to recognize and welcome them. The poems in Fairies, Trolls & Goblins Galore, complied by Dilys Evans, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers are a fine introduction to (or reminder of) our hidden neighbors.

 

Natural Materials Make Welcoming Homes for Fairies, Pixies, Elves, and Gnomes

#Fridayreads: A photographer found

Happy Friday everyone! Our lovely publicity coordinator, Tracie Schneider, talks about a fascinating book she recently read entitled Vivian Maier: A Photographer Found.

vivian maier book cover

Vivian Maier lived a relatively quiet life working as nanny for several affluent families on the North Shore. In her spare time, she would wander the streets of Chicago and shoot on her Rolleiflex camera capturing the extraordinary in the everyday ordinary. Nearly all of the 150,000 images captured were left undeveloped and packed away in boxes collecting dust for years at a local storage locker until they were auctioned off and landed in the hands of historical preservationist, John Maloof, for under $400.

vivian1

©Vivian Maier

At first, he had absolutely no idea what to do with them. He had originally purchased the negatives for his upcoming Portage Park historical book, but nothing seemed to fit, so, her boxes remained in a closet. Vivian’s work began to soon take life years later after John revisited the boxes and began scanning her images and revealing them to photo enthusiasts on Flickr.

vivian2

©Vivian Maier

The art community finally got a glimpse into the world of Vivian Maier—the eccentric mystery woman that always hid behind the camera.

Admirers demanded more. Who was this woman? And why did she conceal her talent from the world? This book explores the oddities and quirky behavior that consumed the painfully private, Vivian Maier, that hindered her ability to become a successful street photographer while alive.

vivian3

©Vivian Maier

Even after extensive research, very little is known about her. She had no family, or close friends. She often would use fake names, and it appears she may have even pulled a Madonna by rocking a fake accent even though records indicate that she was born and raised in NYC. What we do know is that she was incredibly tall and lanky. She liked wearing men’s shoes and big, oversized coats. She enjoyed getting lost in large cities and always had a camera strapped around her neck.

vivian4

©Vivian Maier

Grown-ups didn’t quite understand her, but kids adored her for her sense of adventure and zest for life. She was the Mary Poppins of the North Shore, and she had the natural ability to freeze moments that would normally be overlooked by busy city dwellers. Here’s a link to a documentary about her: http://www.vivianmaier.com/film-finding-vivian-maier/.

vivian5

©Vivian Maier

I really enjoyed this book! Not only did it feature some of Vivian’s most praised work, but it also reminded me to slow down a bit and stop ordering grilled cheese for lunch three days a week. When life gets a little hectic, it’s so easy to get lost in our daily routine that “moments” are often overlooked. Vivian’s work encourages you to break away from autopilot mode, and wake up to the beauty surrounding us.

What “moments” have you stopped to cherish today? Let us know in the comments!

 

#Fridayreads: A photographer found

#FridayReads: T. Jefferson Parker’s FULL MEASURE

Director of Sales & Marketing Mike Spradlin tell us why he loves T. Jefferson Parker’s latest thriller! 

I have been a fervent fan of novelist T. Jefferson Parker since I read his first book Laguna Heat, back in the late ’80s. I believe he is the best thriller writer in America today. His stories are complex but relatable. His heroes and heroines are almost always tragically flawed in some way (which makes them all the more interesting). And his writing is so deeply moving, one feels almost as if you are reading an epic poem instead of a novel.

Laguna Heat

In his latest book Full Measure, Parker takes his talent a giant leap forward. While there is crime, death, and shattered life in Full Measure, the focus of the story is on the victims and their families. As always, he delivers a taut, crisp morality play that makes you think, and fills you with hope and despair (sometimes in the same sentence!). But in the end, he gives you a greater understanding of the human condition.

Full Measure

Full Measure is primarily a story about family. Patrick and Ted Norris are two brothers whose lives have taken different paths. Growing up on an avocado farm in Fallbrook, California, Patrick and Ted share idyllic childhoods in many ways. Yet like all of Parker’s characters, they soon learn the idyll is a myth. Ted, born with mild birth defects in his legs and feet, is never able to measure up to his demanding farmer father. Patrick is consumed by wanderlust and joins the Marines when he graduates from high school. The story begins with Patrick returning from his deployment to Afghanistan.

Once home, he discovers an ugly truth. There are always wars, just different kinds. The kind where you know who and where your enemies are, even if they are there in the darkness, and the other kind, where people you once knew, whom you thought you could trust, are only reflections of the people you left behind. Where sometimes the enemy is sitting right next to you. And it is impossible to not be scarred by them both.

Patrick returns home to find the family farm on the brink of collapse after a fire, set by an arsonist, has burned through Fallbrook. Inevitably, he is drawn into a web of lies, deceit and intrigue all the while dealing with his own post traumatic stress over the men he served with, whom he could not save. His life’s dream is nearly within his grasp when he uncovers a horrible secret about his family that forces him to give it up to save them.

When Ted begins behaving strangely, including hanging out with questionable characters, Patrick, like all good brothers, must step in and save Ted from himself. All the while the arson investigation draws nearer and nearer. Until Patrick discovers a horrible truth that could destroy his family and everything he holds most dear.

I loved reading Full Measure. I hated finishing it for precisely the same reason. Because it was a great book. And now I have to wait until Parker writes another.

#FridayReads: T. Jefferson Parker’s FULL MEASURE

#FridayReads: J. K. Rowling picks

Albert Whitman’s Associate Editor Kristin Zelazko  joins us for this week’s #FridayReads! Take it away, Kristin! 

I resisted at first. No, that’s not true. I resisted for a very long time. But then I landed a job in children’s publishing and wanted to do some research. My sister’s eyes lit up when I asked to borrow her copy. She had been reiterating the merits of the series to me for years. Despite her praise, despite my love for all things British, I thought muggle was a stupid word.

But somewhere between the cupboard under the stairs and the hut-on-the-rock, my heart melted. I had become a Harry Potter fan. Now, every year around this time, I long to visit the Three Broomsticks for a butter beer, ideally with a cozy sprinkle of snow falling outside and a book to keep me company. Since the Harry Potter series wrapped up years ago and Hogsmeade does not really exist, I turned to The Silkworm, the follow-up to The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith—aka J. K. Rowling—for company this holiday season.

KZ AW pic 1

 

The Silkworm is not like a warm mug of butter beer. It will not spread holiday cheer. There’s some grisly gore in there. Rowling wants you know this is not a story for children.

KZ AW  pic 2

I’m not much of a mystery reader because grisly gore makes me lightheaded. But then I wasn’t much of a fantasy reader when I picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. So I wouldn’t trust anyone but Rowling to navigate the genre of contemporary crime fiction with. Or rather, I only read it because I love J. K. Rowling. The Silkworm centers on the disappearance of an eccentric writer prone to wearing theatrical capes and PI Cormoran Strike’s search to find him.

The eccentric writer’s latest manuscript has been leaked, complete with some very unflattering portrayals of London’s literary community—and a highly sensational ending. Even more sensational is Cormoran’s discovery of the novelist’s body…in an imitation of the manuscript’s highly sensational ending. Oh my.

This is a murder-mystery to be sure, and a page-turning one at that, but it’s really just a vehicle for what Rowling does best. She deftly fleshes out a cast of characters who are all utterly flawed. (Her realistic portrayal of young wizards—ha!—is what I love best about the Harry Potter series.) The characters of The Silkworm are so believably human almost everyone is a plausible suspect.

Without giving too much away, the clues are there all along. Once I finished the book, I found myself rereading much of it for the things I missed the first time.

KZ AW pic 3

In short, I liked it very much. Enough so that I’ve forgiven J. K. Rowling for the end of The Casual Vacancy. And for the word muggle.

#FridayReads: J. K. Rowling picks