Barbados’ North Point: Beyond Description

About a month ago, my husband and I took a trip to his birthplace. The visit was not for the purpose of a vacation, despite the incredible beauty and charm of this magical place. This is the second time in a row that we traveled to Barbados for something other than pleasure. Each time, I felt that we were the only ones on the plane who were flying there for neither vacation nor a return home. Last year’s visit, for my mother-in-law’s funeral, was marked by only sadness. This one had a sense of the bittersweet. Words cannot describe the emotions that flooded through me when we visited the historic cemetery.

However, even though I knew from the day we booked our flight that this was not going to be a vacation (although we were happy for a respite from the coldest and snowiest winter in recent memory), Barbados’ loveliness cannot be ignored. So, in the midst of doing what we came to do, my husband and I made the trek to one part of the island I had not yet seen: the wild and wonderful North Point.

Driving up the west coast, we had a close-up view of the gentle waves of the Caribbean. After a while, the most direct route to our destination took us away from the shoreline. When we reached the North Point, a very different sight greeted us. For at both the northern and southern tips of the island, the calm Caribbean meets the thunderous Atlantic. Parts of the eastern shore are a surfer’s delight, but not so the North Point. Waves pouring over the rocky formations and into caves that dot the cliff are a wonder to behold from a safe distance.Barbados5For hardier types, there is a chance to get up close and personal. The Animal Flower Cave, home to sea anemones, is an incredible spot. Even though we had considered descending into the Cave, one look at the steep steps made us content to walk along the path and take in the magnificence of the ocean–and stop for a memorable picnic lunch.

Barbados2When we finally left this magnificent place, both of us knew we had experienced something that is the stuff of beautiful memories. I’m not sure how many visitors make their way to the North Point, but it should be a part of every itinerary. I know that it’s going to be on mine on a future trip to this small island of tremendous wonders.


My First Bookmobile Experience

I got off the bookmobile not three hours ago. For the three and a half hours before being deposited near our house, I was in an amazing world. It was heartwarming to see kids from babies to teens (and their parents) braving the rain that started coming down hard as we began our route. Between shelving as many newly returned books as possible to make them available for the next contingent of eager readers, directing visitors to “their” sections, fielding questions and requests, and learning the routine, the time flew by–and suddenly there were no more stops. All that remained was to reshelve returnees so the bookmobile will once again be ready to roll. I can’t wait to get back on board.

Bookmobile Librarian?

If someone were to ask me what the next step in my career would be, I might humorously (or wishfully) respond with one word: retirement! That was before I learned of an opening for a bookmobile librarian. The brainchild of a co-director of an organization that operates a number of daycare centers and other community services, the library on wheels makes the rounds of the neighborhood where I live.

While I juggled my current schedule to accommodate that of the bookmobile in anticipation of being welcomed on board (pun intended), I began to think of this rather unexpected turn of events. Naturally, one thing that came to mind was Judy Sierra’s delightfully zany masterpiece, Wild About Books. What happens when a librarian drives her bookmobile into the zoo is guaranteed to tickle anyone’s funny bone.

Seriously, it is my husband’s and my wish that, in the very near future, I find myself on the book bus. Our income, which was significantly reduced when my full-time job was downsized to one day a week (but my readers have heard this story already!), will benefit. Perhaps we will be able to move closer to our eventual retirement goal.

As for the chance of the bookmobile winding up at the zoo? It’s good I won’t be the person driving.


Wisdom from Eva

If I were asked who my favorite author is, I would wonder if it is possible to name only one. Should the questioner persist, my response would have to be a writer who, from the first time she penned a story to the novels published after her passing, left a tremendous mark on the children’s and young adult literary world. Fantasy, historical fiction, modern-day tales all bear her trademark perfect blend of humor, drama, sentiment, and marvelously satisfying conclusions. Yes, Eva Ibbotson was an author par excellence.

Perhaps the best way to demonstrate her gift of language is to share some quotations from her books. So, without further ado, here are a few gems from the pen of Eva Ibbotson.

“Just because we’ve never done it doesn’t mean we can’t do it.”

“What are you afraid of then? Not being able to see, I think not seeing because you’re obsessed by something that blocks out the world.”

“It’s true that adventures are good for people even when they are very young. Adventures can get in a person’s blood even when he doesn’t remember having them.”

“Shadows are cool and peaceful places for those whose minds are overstocked with treasure.”

“You cannot stop the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can stop them nesting in your hair.”

“She was so intelligent that she could think herself into beauty. Intelligence…they don’t talk much, the poets, but when a woman is intelligent and passionate and good…”

“One can always bear what is right.”

There’s another way to enter Eva Ibbotson’s world. Open one of her books: The Secret of Platform 13, Journey to the River Sea, A Countess Below Stairs, One Dog and His Boy, The Reluctant Heiress, The Abominables…The choice is yours. You and anyone you share them with will be richer for the experience.

Handy Hints and Fun Facts: Things I’ve Learned as a Freelancer

When I began freelancing, I hoped to make some extra money to help fill the financial gap caused by the school’s reducing my position from full-time to one day a week. That goal hasn’t changed.

However, in the course of doing background research for articles requested by clients and those I’ve written in the hopes someone will purchase them, I’ve learned many interesting facts. Here are some that are, in my humble opinion, the most fascinating tidbits uncovered along the way.

Chickpeas might be nature’s perfect food. High in fiber, antioxidants, vital vitamins and minerals, they are proven warriors in the fight again diabetes, heart disease, digestive ailments, weight problems, toxicity from nitrites in processed meats and wine, and so much more.

Some land turtle shells can carry 200 times their weight. In one encounter with an alligator, the big reptile gave up after 15 minutes and went to look for an easier meal.

Flying fish can sail through the air for twenty feet at speeds of forty miles an hour.

Reading improves creativity and decision-making ability and enhances memory, according to numerous studies. In addition, turning off the TV and the computer and curling up with a good book is an ideal way to stave off bedtime sleeplessness. But you probably already know that.

If you use a slow cooker, toaster oven, or microwave, you cut CO2 emissions to a small fraction of that given off by the big oven.

A laptop uses 1/4 of the electricity of a personal computer. Be sure to turn it off when you’re finished for the day.

Even your flooring can be green. Linoleum is made of all natural ingredients and lead- and cadmium-free pigments. (If green doesn’t match your decor, it’s available in many colors and patterns.)

The first commercial flight took off from St. Petersburg, Florida, and flew across the bay to Tampa and returned. The round trip took an hour and a half. Since a train needed 4-12 hours and a car required 20 hours to travel around the bay, it was a big time-saver.

If you want to shed some pounds or get in shape, go to the zoo. As you stroll and look at the critters, you’re walking off that extra weight and using those muscles. Even leisurely, start-and-stop walking does the job.

Next time conversation lags at the dinner table or a gathering of friends, try one of these tidbits.

Now it’s time for me to go back to my first joy: reading an enticing book.

Kids R Authors (and Illustrators)

Every November, my school library jumps on the Picture Book Month bandwagon. I highlight gems in this genre via bulletin board and displays. Classes visiting the library are introduced to a variety of picture books, and children hopefully leave my domain with a greater appreciation of this wonderful literary form. I enthusiastically share incomparable books such as Patti Lovell’s  Molly Lou Melon stories, the Other Side of the Story fractured fairy tales, and Snow by Uri Shulevitz.

However, this year I was not content to merely promote published works. Remembering the enthusiasm generated a previous school year when students were encouraged to write and illustrate their own picture books, this librarian decided to repeat the project. I envisioned it being similar to the earlier venture, in which the participants received a certificate and a prize.

When I approached our new principal (who doubles as a first grade teacher) with the idea, she waxed enthusiastic.  After a bit of brainstorming, this wonderful educator came up with the idea of a “publishing party” for all the authors and illustrators and their classmates. In short, the entire elementary school would celebrate. So, with our cook baking dozens of cupcakes, the date was set for the big event: January 6, 2014. Each grade would visit the library on that day for a publishing party.

The whole school. Coming to the library in one day. Before I had a chance to think about the possibility of really pulling this off, I got into action. Knowing that the authors and illustrators would like to take home a memento of the event, I designed and printed certificates to give each one. After marathon sessions of cutting them out, reading the picture books the children submitted, and planning the details of each party, it was time to celebrate.

The initial class was none other than our principal’s first grade group. The kids, no doubt encouraged by their teacher, were beyond enthusiastic. I read a few of their books, the children dug into the cupcakes, and–wonder of wonders–there was actually time for them to return and borrow library books. As the happy youngsters left the library, with authors and illustrators clutching their certificates, there was no time to congratulate myself. It was recess (with its onslaught of eager readers), and the second party would commence shortly afterwards.

To my delight, the next party was as successful as the first. And the next. However, before party #3 began, a fifth grader came into the library. I had not planned on her class having a party, as there was only fifth grade picture book, and her teacher had never brought her students to the library. But here was this girl, asking what time the class should come. There was one available time slot–immediately following the next gathering. Unsure whether the fifth graders would show, I began planning as soon as the happy fourth graders departed.

It was a good thing, for history was made: this teacher’s fifth grade class visited the library. With only one picture book to share, there was an opportunity to invite the rest of the kids to become authors and illustrators. I took advantage of the presence of this group in the library, and gave students library cards so they could borrow some fantastic books. I like to think this teacher was impressed by the visit, and that she will be back.

However, there was no opportunity to celebrate the success. There was one more party. This last but not least group of partygoers turned out to be the most boisterous. When their celebration came to an end, it hit me. I actually pulled it off. Five successful parties in six hours.

Now I can rest on my laurels. At least, until the next time I come up with an idea for a schoolwide project.

Child’s Play

Last week, I received an unexpected package. When I opened the box, what should be inside but some picture books published by a company called Child’s Play. I did not recall requesting any review copies in the recent past, so they were a pleasant surprise. (I have a feeling the books were sent my way by a fellow librarian and online book reviewer.)

When I read through the promotional materials and began to look at the books themselves, I began to understand why this publisher is named Child’s Play. Their offerings touch on, with simplicity and sometimes humor, situations that occur in many young children’s lives.

The first one I read, Momo and Snap Are Not Friends by Airlie Anderson, is a funny story about two critters–a monkey and an alligator–who meet and immediately enter into a contest of wills. I call this an almost-wordless book because the only text is the hilarious sounds made by the characters.

Then followed The Acrobat by Alborozo, a simply told story about a circus performer who nobody notices because they are watching other acts. When the unhappy acrobat leaves to find an audience that will appreciate him, something wonderful happens.

My reviews of these gems are on my site, Take a look, and then share both with a young child in your world. And watch for my comments on the rest of the books.

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