26 Apr 2015
in blessings, nature, trees
Tags: fruit trees, Jewish blessings, nature, spring, trees
“Can we do it yet?” is a question we ask ourselves and each other. From the time–even before–trees blossom in the spring, the anticipation builds. Added to the physical reasons to enthusiastically greet the plethora of flora that accompany the balmy temperatures, there is a spiritual one.
I refer to the blessing that Jews make once a year. Upon seeing a fruit tree in bloom in the spring, we thank the Creator. “Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has made nothing lacking in His world, and created in it goodly creatures and goodly trees to give mankind pleasure.” It only takes a moment to show our gratitude for the magnificence of Creation. It’s a moment that can last an entire year.
26 Apr 2015
Tags: flowering quince tree, quince tree, spring, trees
Like so many in the Northeast, we wondered if spring was ever going to arrive. The roller-coaster ride of daily temperatures, punctuated by snow (and more snow), made us feel like Queen Elsa in the wonderful and popular movie Frozen had stamped her foot and initiated a winter that outlasted its welcome. The tulips that normally make an appearance in early February were nowhere to be seen. Trees which often show off their lovely blossoms before the calendar officially says spring remained flowerless.
But even the longest-lasting cold spells must give way the effects of longer days. Reminiscent of the delightful picture book Old Winter by Judith Benet Richardson, we at times felt that the chilly season personified must have taken offense at spring-deprived individuals’ complaints and holed himself up in a supermarket storage freezer (until Spring arrives and puts things right).
And then came a sight for sore winter-weary eyes. Tulip leaves pushed their way through the earth. They were followed by a (belated) sure sign of spring: our flowering quince tree began to bud. And the buds opened into the most exquisite pinkish-red blossoms. Before the phenomenon could become a happy memory, this warm-weather aficionado snapped a few pictures.
19 Apr 2015
in Books, children's books
Tags: children's books, classics, England, Frances Hodgson Burnett, historical fiction, self-discovery
Like so many bibliophiles, I delved into book after book in my childhood and teen years. Any genre would do. I enjoyed both Little Women and a beautifully illustrated Cinderella as a fifth grader. Edna Ferber caught my fancy in high school.
Given the wide variety of reading material I enjoyed during those years, it is surprising that a gem of a novel is not on my “read books” list. It was not until this year that I took it off my school library shelf and took it home. When I made myself comfy and opened the book to the first page, I was entranced. What is missing from the above-mentioned list is a tale that deserves its reputation as a classic.
The book is no other than The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. From the moment we meet Mary and journey with her from India to England, we are eager to know what is in store. As our heroine metamorphoses from a haughty, disagreeable child to a girl who for the first time discovers the beauty around her and finds a purpose to her life, the reader cannot help but cheer. The journey of discovery (and self-discovery) upon which Mary and those in her world embark makes this a novel that begs to be shared. Their story is as beautiful and uplifting as the garden that works its magic on all those who enter its domain.
18 Feb 2015
in change, seasons
Tags: Adar, joy, passage of time, Purim, seasons
Time flies when you’re having fun.
That overworked cliche was my first reaction when I realized I have not written a post in nearly six months. This half year has been an intense one. Between
- the enjoyable: our Florida daughter, her husband, and grandkids extended their summer stay into autumn
- the inspiring: the holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succos, and Chanukah were uplifting, as usual
- the mundane: although that’s not the right word to describe a job in which I interact with young people, share my love of books, broaden their horizons, and encourage creativity
- the unexpected: some freelance writing jobs seemed to have materialized from thin air when I was wondering if I’d ever make a financial go of the venture
- the challenging: finding specialists who accept our new health insurance and saying goodbye (in person or mentally) to doctors who have been part of my health care team for up to fifteen years
Suddenly, it’s no longer summer but in the middle of one of the most intense winters I can remember. (Or is it a sign of my age?)
Yet even in the frigid, snowy reality that is this winter, there is a bright spot on the horizon–and it has nothing to do with whether the groundhog saw his shadow. For Jews the world over, the beginning of the month of Adar (Thursday, February 19 this year) is a happy reminder of good times to come. On this day, we are enjoined to increase in joy in anticipation of the holiday of Purim, the happiest festive day on the Jewish calendar. As kids (and adults) acquire costumes, we prepare attractive gifts of food to give friends and family, and people from preschoolers to senior citizens learn about the particulars of holiday observance, the feeling of happy anticipation grows.
So take a moment every day to think about the reasons there are to rejoice. And then: Be happy. It’s Adar!
29 Aug 2014
in book reviews, Books, children's books, historical fiction, teachers
Tags: Books, children, children's books, England, fairy tale adaptions, fairy tales, family, feral children, governesses, humorous books, Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Lunar Chronicles, Marissa Meyer, Maryrose Wood, mysteries, princes, princesses, Reading, science fiction, young adult books
This summer has been one for the books. We’ve been privileged to have all our grandchildren here for part of the season, and the Floridians are spending the entire summer in the old homestead. I’m not sure I want to think about how it will feel when they return south. It’s one more reason to feel my usual letdown as summer begins to fade into autumn. (Although, with Accuweather predicting highs topping 90 over the Labor Day weekend, we’re definitely not bidding summer 2014 goodbye quite yet.)
Speaking of a summer for the books, there are some written works I’ve encountered that have provided hours of delight. (There were even some mornings that I waited for the sky to lighten enough for me to read without needing to get up to turn on the light.) Allow me to share a few of these wonderful books with you.
15-year-old Penelope Lumley is a graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. The school’s star pupil is offered a position as governess to three unusual children at Ashton Place, owned by one of the wealthiest landowners in England. It appears her students have had an unusual upbringing: they were raised by wolves and discovered in the estate’s forest. It takes all of Penelope’s ingenuity, determination, and talent to transform these wild young people into proper members of society. Readers are sure to delight in the adventures and misadventures of the governess and her pupils as they uncover and endeavor to solve mysterious occurrences in this entertaining series.
A magical tale by a debut novelist. Star Wars meets traditional fairy tales in this mesmerizing series.The first volume introduces the reader to Cinder, an unusual teen who is both a renowned mechanic and a denigrated member of society. As the heroine learns more of her past, she realizes that thwarting a major threat to her homeland (and the world) is a responsibility resting on her shoulders. When Cinder’s story joins that of Scarlet and Cress, the reader meets people who are not what they seem and becomes involved with the growing group of heroes as they make discoveries and face decisions that affect the future of their world. Can a group of teenagers, with the help of a renowned doctor and some fascinating droids, save the day? Stay tuned for the next installments in the saga of Cinder and her friends as they appear in 2015.
If summer has brought such literary treasures to light, imagine what autumn can bring.
27 Apr 2014
in book reviews, Books, fantasies, fictional characters, young adult books
Tags: Books, fairies, family, fantasy, fantasy series, friendship, Jennifer A. Nielsen, kings, Michelle Harrison, princes, Reading, royalty, series, trilogy, young adult books
I’m suffering from withdrawal. It’s not the first time, and it probably won’t be the last. No, I haven’t decided to eliminate caffeine or sugar from my diet and my body is staging a protest. This withdrawal is of a different sort, one that any avid reader can understand. For this morning (for the second time in as many weeks), I finished a trilogy that I can only describe as blockbuster.
When I reluctantly turned the last page of The Shadow Throne, the finale of Jennifer A. Nielsen’s beyond wonderful Ascendance Trilogy, there was some consolation. The third novel of the 13 Treasures Trilogy by Michelle Harrison awaited me. And even though a reader may wonder about the probability of completing two unforgettable series one after the other, 13 Secrets did not disappoint. So, after observing Sage’s metamorphosis from streetwise orphan to dedicated monarch, and cheering for the young royal and those dear to him every step of the way, I was privileged to continue the saga of another set of beloved characters. Rowan, a heroine in every sense of the word, takes her place among the most memorable young people in contemporary fiction. Her journey of discovery and acceptance, undertaken with courage and devotion (with a little help from her friends), wins her a favored place on many a bookshelf.
There is now a pleasant task awaiting me: penning reviews of all these unforgettable stories. Those that are not already on my site, http://bookandagarden.com, will be there soon.