Friday, April 12, 2024

Wilma's Words to Save the Water

Of Words and Water: The Story of Wilma Dykeman--Writer, Historian, Environmentalist
by Shannon Hitchcock; illus. by Sophie Page
32 pages; ages 6-9
‎ Reycraft Books, 2024

theme: Rivers, environment, biography

Born in the Blue Ridge Mountains near the French Broad River, Wilma Dykeman was an only child. Her first words were – “Water coming down.”

Using lyrical language, Shannon Hitchcock tells the tale of an environmentalist who deserves to be better known. An only child, Wilma spent her days exploring ponds and meadows and the creek that ran nearby. She earned a scholarship to college, and after marrying she returned to the Blue Ridge Mountains and the river of her home. She traveled up and down the river, collecting stories about the people who lived there and noticed the pollution that killed the trout and threatened peoples’ livelihoods. Wilma wrote a book about the people living along the river, and a publisher accepted the book. On one condition: she remove what she wrote about water pollution. Wilma refused. She wanted to inspire people to clean up the water and believed that  factories and businesses could coexist with clean water.

When her book was published – about seven years before Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring – people paid attention. 
What I like about this book: I always love a good story about someone working to make this world a better place to live, whether you’re a fish or a person. Her motto was “Be good to the earth, fair to other people, and use words to fight injustice.” Good words to live by whether you live near a stream or in the middle of a city.

I also adore Sophie Page’s artwork. She uses clay, paper, fabric, and wire in her pictures which give them a three-dimensional quality. Blues and greens run through nearly all of the double-page spreads … almost like a river connecting them.

Shannon graciously answered Two Questions:

Me: Why Wilma? What drew you to her story?
Shannon: This book is part of the storytellers’ series I've been writing for Reycraft. In that series we're looking at all the different ways human beings have shared stories. We started with oral storytelling, moved on to sharing stories through music, then story quilts. After that I started searching for an Appalachian author, somebody who shared stories through the written word. Wilma was born in Asheville where I now live, and after seeing an exhibition about her in my local library I thought she would be a good subject. So I started my research.

Me: There is something special about canoeing or rafting down a river: the smell, the sounds, the way the air feels different than on shore. Have you traveled down the French Broad (or maybe another) river? 

Shannon: No, I haven't traveled down the French Broad. The closest I have come is traveling down the Yadkin River on an inner tube! 
Me: Tubing down a river sounds like a relaxing way to spend a hot summer day! Thanks for joining us here on the blog. And for folks who are interested, I had a longer conversation with Shannon a couple years ago about "writing from a sense of place." You can read that over at the GROG blog.

Beyond the Books:

Spend some time near a river – or even in a boat on a river. What do you see? Listen: what sounds do you hear? Does the air smell or feel different the closer you get to a river? Write or draw your observations.

If you have a stream or creek or river nearby, visit it at different times of the year. How does it change? Besides you, what other animals hang out at the river?

Create a mixed-media picture that shows something of the world around you. Some materials to use: different kinds of paper (store bags, giftwrap, origami, construction); fabric; natural materials; clay or play-dough; paint, pencil charcoal, or ink.

Today we’re joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Explore Outdoors ~ Lichens and Moss

 There's something about lichens that enchants me. I love the idea of cooperative housing (fungi and algae living together) and how they are such pioneers. Lichens grow on rocks and tombstones and old picnic tables and even trunks and limbs of trees. Here are some I saw over the past week. Granted, the moss is pretty cool, too!

What kinds of lichen have you found lately?

Friday, April 5, 2024

A Farm is a Farm...


Outdoor Farm, Indoor Farm   
by Lindsay H. Metcalf; illus by Xin Li 
32 pages; ages 5-9
Astra Young Readers, 2024

theme: farming, comparison, rhyme

 Outdoors, indoors, big or bitty, through the seasons, country, city … Farms are farms no matter where. What’s the recipe they share?

This fun-to-read, rhyming book follows two farm kids through the seasons. One lives on an outdoor farm, where “field meets sky.” One works with their parents on the indoors farm, where trays are stacked on shelves that reach floor to ceiling. Where outdoor crops get sun and rain, indoor crops get mist and artificial light.

What I like about this book: I like the way pen-pal letters bookend the story. And I really like the compare-and-contrast structure of the book. Readers are introduced to two very different ways of growing fresh vegetables. And there’s back matter! Lindsay Metcalf talks about why farms are changing and shares more information about planting, growing, and harvesting on the two types of farms. There are also links to activities, such as how to grow your own hydroponic crop in a bottle.

Xin Li gallery

Being a gardener, I knew I had to ask Lindsay a couple or three questions.

Me: How did the idea of writing about indoor gardens come to you?

Lindsay: A video came to my attention about AeroFarms, a vertical, aeroponic farm in a large New Jersey warehouse. I immediately wanted to write about them in some capacity and made a note in my ideas file. Then, when Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words contest came up that spring, I decided my entry would compare and contrast that vertical farm outdoor family farm I’d grown up on in north-central Kansas. My dad and brothers still raise corn, soybeans, milo, and sometimes wheat.

Me: I love the compare/contrast structure - and the seasonal arc. Can you talk about how you came to that structure? 

Lindsay: The compare/contrast element was present from the very first draft. At that time, I was calling the two farms “old farm” and “new farm,” but I decided that language pitted them against each other, when really, I wanted to showcase the innovation and adaptation in both types of farms. The seasonal structure came after several drafts. I realized I needed an arc that tied both farms together. The seasons were a natural fit.

Me: Do you grow veggies? If so, do you have an outdoor garden or an indoor garden?

Lindsay: I do, although not particularly well. We have a couple of small outdoor plots here at home that I’ve been building up with compost for the last few years. Last year we grew several varieties of tomatoes, cilantro, basil, okra, and cantaloupe. My dad keeps a large garden at his farm, usually with potatoes, onions, cucumbers, lettuce, bush beans, and several other things, including a perennial failed stand of carrots. Sometimes I help with that garden as well. I also have a tiny indoor garden that I am planning to set up in the next week or so.

Thank you, Lindsay. Now let’s go do some activities that take us…

Beyond the Books:

Visit a farm. If you don’t live near farms, contact your local cooperative extension office and ask where you could visit a farm. You might find a berry farm or a dairy farm, a veggie farm or a tree farm… or maybe an indoor farm!

Grow your own carrots in recycled water bottles. Cut the bottles off at the shoulder and poke holes in the bottom for drainage. Fill with potting soil. Plant a few seeds – you’ll thin to one strong seedling eventually. Put the carrot water-bottle-planters in the sun on your porch or balcony and make sure they have water. Add a bit of compost every week or so. Carrots usually take 50-60 days to mature. I check to see how big their shoulders are.

Support your local farmers! Visit farm markets and buy some vegetables to make a fresh salad or lunch snacks.

Lindsay is a member of #STEAMTeam2024. You can find out more about her at her website.

Today we’re joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Explore Outdoors ~ Look Closely to Find Spring


 Spring has sprung, they say. And sure, a couple of daffodils have bloomed. But for the most part, my yard is boring...

It looks bare and brown with a bit of moss here and there and scraggly tufts of grass and lots of dead leaves.

But look closer...

... lots of teensy mustards blooming. You can tell they're mustard flowers because they have four petals. These are growing in thin soil over rocky ground and I think they are one of the rock cresses. 

What's growing in your lawn?