9.13.2007

Swallows and Amazons Forever!

I 'd have to say, in response to Franny's blog, that if I were able to pick books to bring on a desert island, it seems most prudent to bring along picks from one of my favourite genres, the juvenile adventure. The seminal series of this genre would have to be Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons, as well as Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie. What makes these series so great (and so particularly handy) is how they spend so much time describing how to do things. Swallows chronicles the Walker children and their boat (the Swallow) as they sail on one of the northern lakes in England, possibly Windermere. They spend the summer on an island, and do battle with the mighty Amazons, two girls who live across the lake. They declare a truce and spend the rest of the summer camping, whittling, spying, and eating pemmican, whatever that is. There's loads of unintelligble sailing jargon, all tacking and jibs & hoisting main sails. It is enormously satisfying in much the same manner as Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows & E. Nesbit's The Railway Children.
The Islanders
When we were moving to Scotland, I was bemoaning to Eleven that I didn't have anything to read on the plane. She turned up at my door with a real gem, one of those "Where have you been all my life?" sort of things, (like Sufjan Stevens and Nutella.) I'm talking about Roland Pertwee's The Islanders, set in the West Country (Devon?) of southern England, sometime soon after the first World War. A generous, slightly eccentric old man gives a teen age boy and his two friends the run of an island on a river, somewhere on his massive estate. They can live there and come and go as they please, but they have to live by their wits, and by the work of their hands. What ensues is a book full of adventure, and much practical instruction, perfect for the next time I need to hunt my dinner with a rifle, lash logs together to make a raft, ride out with the neighborhood Hunt, or outwit the Gypsy kids that are poaching fish. It is such a cozy and satisfying read, as I said to Eleven, it was like eating lots of toast with a big mug of sweet milky black tea. **fake Scottish burr** Och aye! Verra verra cozy. I wanted to curl up in it. Unfortunately, it's pretty hard to find, but I always ask for it when I'm at good bookstores. ( Recent attempts include: Bell's Book's- Palo Alto, The Linden Tree-Los Altos Hills; but I struck out, alas.) I suppose I could try searching for it out in cyber space, but I like having a quest. Many things are very easy, these days; it feels good to have something that I can't instantly access. If you run across a copy of it, I'll pay you handsomely for it! At any rate, check out Arthur Ransome's wiki entry, because it is fascinating. A surprising tale full Russian expatriates, smuggled diamonds and MI5 British Intelligence.
Little House
I add Little House books because of their endless & interesting descriptions. Pa making a door for their log cabin, Alonzo and his sister during the harvest on the family farm, all of her books describe life at that time with such vivid and yet practical prose. I found her detailed descriptions of tasks oddly absorbing when I first read them, and I used to imagine that I was with Laura and Mary in their earthen home in On the Banks of Plum Creek.

All these books rank high on my list of cozy literature...I mean, sure I want adventure-but do I have to go outside?!!

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Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.