FROM THE EDITOR: Maine, in many ways, is a resource state. And we all know that children are our most precious resource. There is nothing more precious then, than Maine Children’s books. This issue of Printed Maine People begins with a special section gathering together reviews of the most current Maine Children’s books. Enjoy.
Nipper, I Love You, written and illustrated by Meg Plinth. (Sequin Cove Press, 2002) Reviewed by Anne Marie Crustle
“It’s early summer on the Maine Coast and young Stanley Witkins can’t wait to go swimming and snorkeling in the ocean that beckons at the feet of the Witkin family’s summer house. Down and up he dives and surfaces. He can hear his mother calling for him in the distance, It’s time for lunch. ‘One more dive,’ he yells. Stanley plunges down and his feet skim across the weeds on the bottom and then yank, his ankle is caught in the weeds. He can’t pull free! Stanley looks about wildly, barely noticing the lobster which comes ambling up. But then, to Stanley’s amazement, the lobster uses its sharp claws to cut him free from the weeds!” So starts Meg Plinth’s heartwarming new Maine picture book, Nipper, I Love You.
That night Stanley dreams of the crustacean which saved his life. He can see her vividly, a medium sized lobster with a very distinctive diamond shaped marking. The following week the Witkin family goes out for dinner at an area restaurant. Passing by the lobster tank Stanley is stunned to find a medium sized lobster with a distinctive diamond shape marking in the tank. “‘Nipper’,” he shouts. ‘Mom that’s the lobster that saved me.’”
Stanley talks his family into buying Nipper and taking her home. Setting Nipper up in a salt water tank inside an all terrain wheelbarrow Stanley and the lobster spend an idyllic summer together, sharing a unique friendship which only deepens when Stanley learns to communicate with Nipper by using his pointer and index fingers to mimic Nipper’s eye stalk movements.
In the fall, as Stanley returns to school during the day, Nipper begins to fret in his tank. One evening she calls Stanley over and tells him that, though she wouldn’t trade their summer together for anything, she misses the ocean bottom and her lobster friends. A heart wrenching final scene ensues as Stanley learns that the true meaning of friendship sometimes takes a catch and release form.
This warm and delightful Maine story is accentuated by Plinth’s crude but evocative crayon drawings. Sure to join Blueberries For Sal and Miss Rumphius as a classic Maine picture book, Nipper, I Love You is an unforgettable story which will recall youth to the aged and aging to the young.
Anne Marie Crustle writes and edits the monthly publication of Friends in the Sea, a non-profit corporation. She lives in Margaretboro, Maine with her two dogs and three kayaks.
Don't Look out Your Window—Horror Stories for Young Children by Sawyer
Nelson. (Wee Winkie Press, 2002). Reviewed by J Booth.
We live in a PC world. By PC I do not mean "Personal Computer" world.
I mean "Politically Correct" world, a world where certain things are simply
not said. Or done. And I won't go into what they are here, because that
would just be so, well, "un PC." But, if we are honest with ourselves, and
can get beyond current social conventions and expectations, being PC is often
a real drag. And, in our PC world, as much has been gained, so has much also
Take for instance, scaring children. When I was growing up in the
1950's, and when my parents were growing up, and their parents were growing
up, and probably back to caveman times, it was PC (Perfectly Correct) to
scare the pants off the little heathens. No one reported you to the
Department of Human Services if you told the kiddies that the Boogie Man
would get them if they didn't shape up, or no one recommended that they might
need $17,000 of rehabilitative psychotherapy if you scratched on their
windows on Halloween, or if you said, "Of course there's a monster under your
bed, and he'll get you if you get out of it just one more time tonight."
And, the fact was, the kid's LIKED to be scared. Think about your favorite
fairy tales----Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, The Snow Queen, Little Red
Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs---they all have evil monsters and hideous
villains. And, admit it, you loved them. As did I. And as did Sawyer
Nelson, the author of a new and terrific little book entitled Don't Look Out
Your Window---Horror Stories for Young Children.
The twelve tales told here are all original; no repeats of anything we
ever heard as kids. And all are refreshingly Politically Incorrect.
The first offering is "Shirley, the Vampire Paper Doll," a ghoulish story
about a little girl who gets a book of paper dolls from her grandmother for
Christmas. I won't spoil the surprise for you here, but, reader beware,
Shirley is no golden haired little dumpling, no matter how she may appear.
Another favorite is "The Toy Hearse," in which a boy, age five, inherits
an antique toy hearse from his great grandfather. Again, I won't spoil the
fun for you, but this one is sure to scare the kiddies--and you--half, if not
Especially choice is a tight Poe-esque little selection called "Ashes,
Ashes, We All Fall Down," about two London street urchin orphan twins, age
seven, who discover that, by simply uttering the words to a certain nursery
rhyme, they can infect their victims with the plague. It's macabre and
delicious, and sure to please the 6-8 set.
Author Sawyer Nelson, himself a retired child psychologist, says,
"Children need to feel fear early in life so that they may learn to
overcome it. That was why I wrote this book, actually. I wanted to leave
something behind me of lasting value to help children."
So, parents, throw your PC-edness out the window for the time being, and
run---don't walk--- to your local bookstore, and buy this book today. Do it
for your kids. You'll be glad you did.
J Booth lives in Bangor, Maine in a house he says is haunted. In his spare
time, he is an amateur ghostbuster.
(Editor’s note: PMP would like to thank J. Booth for taking on the review of Don’t Look Out Your Window on such short notice. We had originally assigned Don’t Look Out Your Window to one of our regular reviewers, Diane Findergall. A copy of a nearly completed review was found on Diane’s computer screen by the emergency medical technicians who answered her distress call. Unfortunately, they arrived too late. We had planned to publish Diane's review posthumously, as a tribute to both Diane and the efficacy of Don’t Look Out Your Wind, however a macabre incident which occurred during the typesetting of Diane’s fragmentary review convinced us to immediately expunge her review from living memory.)
Let’s Go to the Dump, by Mildred Canonfild (Rumpageous Press, 2002)
Reviewed by Florence Ingersombey
The joys of childhood are delightful in a way all their own. Delightful childhood experiences range from the universal to the particular to the regional. The first taste of ice cream, backyard rambles with the gang, reading your very own first book by yourself, some joys are everyone’s.
Some childhood joys are peculiar to Maine, however. In Let’s Go to the Dump Mildred Canonfild brings to life the fun, excitement and learning that Maine children bounce, run, carry, sort, and dodge, (i.e. overloaded Ford 150's,) around the dump each weekend. Canonfild specializes in writing picture books filled with the sort of bouncing, hopping childhood rhymes, of nonsense and sense interwoven on the palate of a joyful tapestry, that makes young readers spring from the couch and run and scream like crazy around the room.
“Klip klap sump
It’s fun to go to the dump
Tin Cans, Aluminum Cans
Let’s sort all our cans
Snip snap stans
I can toss them in with my hands
Look at the pretty view
And the burn pile burning too
Flip flap flier
Let’s throw on a tire
let’s break bottles of wine
Klip klap sump
It’s fun to go to the Dump
Rump slump jump
I never want to leave the Dump”
Canonfild’s delightfully frenetic quatrains are accompanied by the delightfully baroque drawings of Art Tatelthorne, a talented, convicted art forger whose probation terms stipulated illustrating original childrens books. The wonder and delight which Tatelthorne evokes demonstrates to his readers, as well as to his parole board, that the artist has embraced his return to society. Let’s Go to the Dump is a marvelous picture book which will delight the young, the old, and everyone in between.
Florence Ingersombey is a retired parole officer with an interest in the literary arts. She lives in Canton and is editing an anthology, Released to Release: A Collection of Poems and Stories by the Paroled.
The Bear in the Basement, by Jeremy McGredney. (Bilganderry Press, 2002).
Reviewed by Stensin Houghtin, M.A.
The manner in which classical themes and narrative structures sometimes compose themselves through authors with no appreciable classical background is really quite remarkable. Take for example the juvenile narrative which has most recently passed my desk for review, The Bear in the Basement. The Bear in the Basement, by juvenile fiction veteran Jeremy McGredney, tells a simple tale whose simplicity is imbued with tragic pathos due to what can only be an intuitive infusion of Aristotelian sensibility.
Intuitive indeed! For classical erudition has been evident nowhere in McGredney’s previous juvenile novels such as Cherry Tomato Summer, The Missing Coyote Pelt, and Slow Boat to China, Maine. The Bear in the Basement is set in the backwoods town of Sample, Maine which is home to the Greeley family. The Greeleys are concerned to find that the idyllic countryside surrounding their home is being shattered by the notorious Spinniger and Son Extraction Company, which has been dynamiting area caves and rock formations looking for amethyst deposits. On a cold January afternoon young Sam Greeley hears the now all too familiar rumble of a dynamite explosion just beyond the edge of his property line. This time however the explosion is followed by a sudden roar and the sound of running men. Sam is shocked to find that the miners have destroyed the winter refuge of a rare Maine brown bear.
The bear, clearly confused by this sudden discommoding, staggers about plainly seeking help. Sam, realizing that no cave is safe from the Spinnigers, takes the bear by the paw and leads him to the family basement, wrapping him in blankets which the drowsy but appreciative bear gladly accepts. All that winter the bear slumbered, slumbered until the concerns of Sam’s mother were gradually laid to rest.
One day, early in spring, Sam comes home from school to find the house in a shambles, furniture upturned, curtains shredded, the kitchen in a tumult. Rushing to the basement Sam finds his worst fears confirmed: the bear was gone. Sam, distraught at the thought of confronting his parents, sagged his way into the kitchen. On the table, to Sam’s astonishment, in a rough untutored hand, was a note from the bear.
“Dear kind boy,
How my heart churns at the shame of haiving returnd your kindnes with my rampage. How sory I am for eating your fish in the tank upstars. I awok in a ferocous state, knowing not what I diid. I can never forgiv myself nor should you forgiv me. I can never repay your kindnes to me. But thank you. Know that I walk the forests galled to the quick with the thought of my shame. Your friend. Gambollo the Bear.”
Sam, touched deeply by the bear’s remorse, ran out the door to find the bear and forgive him. Out in the woods Sam is overtaken by a sudden spring snowstorm. Lost, shivering, and with a broken leg Sam faces certain death until a familiar brown shape lumbers out of the snow...
Bear in the Basement is a tale of fatalism and redemption whose ursine hero steps forth to the reader as though straight from the annals of a Greek Tragedy. The rotundite cylindricism, so commended by Aristotle, and so marked in McGredney’s narrative structure, is not to be found in so pure a form outside the works of Euripides. The rhetorical flourishes found in McGredney’s dialogue bear distinctive characteristics found only in the orations of Demosthenes and Dinarchus.
How can we explain McGredney’s transformation from the Juvenile hack who wrote The Sour Ball Conspiracy, to the sublime tragedian who penned The Bear in the Basement? Dare I venture an explanation? Yet the dead hand teaches best, and for those who can discover it awaits a rare redemptive treat.
Stensin Houghtin, M.A.., abruptly retired from his Classical Studies position at Malthus State University after a two month tenure. He lives in Pawbridge, Maine.
Forgotten Children's Games, by Marti Glibfleish, M.S.W.; 189 pages; (Heart Press 2002). Reviewed by Sheri Org, M.S.W.
Gen-Xer's out there in our reading audience, this one's for you! We all love to laugh, right? We also want to improve ourselves at the same time, right? Kind of like chuckling over Dave Barry's latest while tightening the abs on the StairMaster, okay? Same thing.
This spanking new manual down-memory-lane-plus-advice is that delightful combo of humor cum serious self-help, by the author, Marti, who claims to be a "young Baby Boomer." That is such an honest thing to say, and what I'm thinking, as your reviewer here, that if we just sit down together, hold hands in a kind of circle, and tell the truth, how much the world could so quickly just move forward. Marti's book has the same aim.
Here are collected together at last all the fun, time-honored games of a normal childhood that seem as lost to any modern electronic lifestyle for kiddies as jacks, marbles, hopscotch, inflatable balls, jump-ropes, checkers, eating straight from a cold can of Franco-America, and raiding the cookie jar. Know what I mean? Ring a bell? Must have done that stuff for fun in the Dark Ages, right? Wrong! The games in this book were still being played as recently as 25 to 27 years ago. Marti brings back all these memories, sometimes even a tear or two, but basically he's recommending these games for the kids today who no longer seem to be kids.
The format is short illustrated chapters all beginning "How To..." Here's a sample of the familiar games we'll all remember. How to play doctor. How to drive the family car out of the breezeway. How to make oatmeal extra fun by adding 1 bottle of Flintstone chewable vitamins plus 1 entire bottle of cherry flavored Robitussin with codeine. How to fake a gagging fit. How to pen a note saying you've run away from home. How to dial Child Protective Services. How to "find" a 20-dollar bill in Mom's wallet. How to use Dad's skill-saw to fix your new electric train set. How to lock yourself in the bathroom. How to boil chocolate surprises for the entire family. How to take your own temperature. How to locate magazines and other adult items. How to use the arm of the hi-fi to make Dad's opera collection sound like The Chipmunks. How to toss a hissy fit while riding in the supermarket cart. And many more treasured delights that we'll all recall. (Wouldn't it be just great if Oprah picked this timely hit for her Great Hits List? Sure would get my vote!
Whoa! you might say!! Better hide this self-help manual in the bedtable drawer and swallow the key! Definitely, this is not a book for the kids, for sure, but for those of you who haven't had what we might call a "kidhood." It's all done in the spirit of good therapeutic fun, though. On a serious note, it's written for all these young adults today who seem to have missed just being kids, pure and simple. What I mean is, so many of them grew up in a culture of soy milk instant puddings, multi-cultural preschool readers, Ph. D. supervised play groups, no packets of free peanuts on plane trips, and that once a week family forum discussing why it's possibly not okay to put the cat in the toilet, with democratic vote-casting at the end.
Finally, this amusing but useful book will put a tiny smile on everyone's face. The moral is: lighten up! Gen-Xer's! Discover in these pages the happy carefree childhood you never had, right? Something to think about, seriously.
Both the author, Marti Glibfleish, and the reviewer, Sherri Org, have therapy practices in N. Yarmouth, ME, where both specialize in treating premature adults. Sherri writes that sometimes it can take an entire 50 minutes to get a Gen-Xer to manage a small, rueful smirk. And, she adds, "this is like so sad!"
How to Scare Your Neighbor, Good! by Ted H. Smyth; (Boy Zone Press, 2002)
(recommended for ages 9 to 21) Illustrated. Reviewed by Irving P. Horhumph
In the mail today, a killer juvenile book, the first by ex-con Ted H. Smyth. If that boy doesn't do afternoon sports, clubs, lessons, detention, that kind of thing, then he'll be looking for something to do, and he'll be amused with doing all the great after-school activities that Mr. Smyth (tongue in cheek? maybe, but then again, maybe not!) outlines in this back-pocket-sized, spiral bound manual. Smyth gives his hungry young reader a varied menu of all manner of mean, nasty, cheap, and just plain fun things to try. A few quotes should give you the gist of it: "Warm up your neighbor by knocking on his door and then hiding in the bushes. Do this 3 times. The 4th time, tie a pitbull on a long leash to the door knob, knock again and run like hell. Guaranteed!"
And what kid wouldn't be delighted to try this one? "Gain access to the neighbor's garden shed. Hide a set moustrap in his bag of potting soil. Brilliant!" Or, another tip: "Obtain a canister of dry ice. Put it under your neighbor's car (or truck or van) with the lid off on Monday morning, early. Fantastic!" Or, my
favorite: "Pretend to be selling candy bars for the Eagle Scouts. When the neighbor's wife leaves the kitchen to go get her purse, quickly scoop out her goldfish from the fish bowl on the counter, put it in the garbage disposal, and replace it with a fish-shaped piece of orange peel! Knockout! Plus you get to keep the money to buy more candy bars!"
Well, I've got to wipe my eyes, here. There's never a dull moment with Ted H. Smyth, and any boy will love this book. According to the dust jacket blurb, it took Mr. Smyth only 7 years of solitary to obtain his G.E.D., and considering that, he does pretty good as a prose stylist. This is a sinister, cruel, depraved, and possibly useful book, that will do the trick to keep your lad off the streets. Plus, it's a whole heck of a lot of laughs!
Irving Horhumph is an expert on juvenile taste in good books. He was once a juvenile himself, he humorously tells us, plus has trained many boys in Eagle Scouts over the years. He lives in N. Weld, and enjoys gardening, especially his vast hosta collection.
And in other book news, this delicious last minute review just came in.
The Smelt Elegies: by Caleb Stuart Bean; (3 vol.; privately printed)
Reviewed by Jayne M. Whoollychesterre
Tears of a Smelt
Angel Smelt, Daemon Smelt: A Verse Vision
Smelt Loves, in many ways the happiest of the three volumes, reverses center and margin, plunging us into a fanciful social world of underwater flirtation, parties, "schools" and the like, culminating in a mass courtship ritual at once thrilling, romantic, and, I must blush to report, intensely erotic. Intrigued? Read the book.
I cannot begin to do justice to the final volume in all its cryptic glory. Gnostic is the word I think, perhaps. Much of it, Bean reports, came to him in a vision upon awakening in his ice house to find himself plunged into the darkness, his lantern out, his limbs numb with cold. Bean began writing feverishly, but much of his writing proved illegible later, and other needs forced him to break off from his work and leave the icehouse for a minute or two. In the intervening moments the visionary gleam fled. One can only imagine the greatness that was lost from the greatness of the fragments we do have. Intrigued? Xerox copies of The Smelt Elegies are available from Mr. Bean and he reports, with his characteristic modesty, that several publishers have the manuscript "under review."
Jayne M. Whoollychesterre is a full time lover of books, authors, and wordsmiths old and new. She divides her time between reading, the textile arts, and part-time volunteering at th
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Winter Simpson, Editor
Karen Petrillo, Assistant Editor
Scott Palaver, Graphic Design
Nancy Snowcorn, Advisor
Minda Wathers, Technical Consultant
Sam Asterpin, Proofreader
Printed Maine People is funded in part by the Regional Core Points Grants For The Printed Arts, a private agency.
Contributors to this issue included: Anne Marie Crustle, J. Booth, Florence Ingersombey, Stensin Houghtin, Sheri Org, Ted H. Smyth, Jayne M. Whoollychesterre, Diane Findergall.
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