Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Newbery Reviews (with quilts!)

I read this Dover reprint edition
Previous Newberys have been set in other countries. This week the first is sort of in another country (Navajo territory); the others are firmly grounded in New England.

By Laura Adams Armer

Younger Brother is a Navajo boy who lives in the shadow of Waterless Mountain with his father, a silversmith, his mother, a weaver, Elder Brother, and Baby Sister. He knows from an early age that he will be a medicine man. His mentors and tutors are Uncle, himself a medicine man, and the Big Man,   the Anglo proprietor of the trading post who dispenses remedies on occasion. 

At times the story is rooted in the early 20th-century southwest:  YB helps a white teenager whose roadster has broken down. The boy is the son of archaeologists and he discovers a significant piece of pottery. YB and his parents journey by train (“fire horse”) to southern California and meet a filmmaker. Not all Indians are good – the horse thief Cut Finger tries to steal YB’s pony.

All the while the reader is aware of YB’s special status as an aspiring medicine man. He is in his world but he is not of that world.  (There is no mention of any playmates or friends.)  There is a dreamlike quality to parts of the story. 

My mental image of the territory in the story was influenced by many National Geographic articles and by the Santa Fe calendar art, reinforced by our visit to Goulding's Trading Post in Monument Valley back in 2009.

By Caroline Sherwin Bailey

I remember that I read this charming fantasy. In all likelihood I read it several times. That was many years ago and I had forgotten many (most) of the details.

Miss Hickory is a “country woman” with a hickory-nut head and and apple-wood-twig body. She lives in a tidy corncob house under a bush next to the Old Place, a farmhouse in New Hampshire. One day Crow informs her that Great-granny Brown is closing the house and the entire family will spend the winter in Boston. Miss Hickory won’t be able to spend the winter inside.   She is resourceful! She finds shelter in Robin’s  nest (abandoned for the season).  Besides the rascally Crow she has a wonderful group of friends: T. Willard-Brown the housecat; the scatterbrained Squirrel; Mrs. Hen Pheasant. There is a Christmas miracle when all the animals gather in the stable.   In March she takes to the air, riding on Crow’s back.  When the family returns in May Miss Hickory begins a new chapter in her life.

Miss Hickory is also an organizer!  Hen-Pheasant and the other hens complain about being deserted by the cock pheasants, who “live together in their club on the other side of the brush pile until spring.” “Then,” Miss Hickory told her, “you must do the same…. You must form a Ladies’ Aid Society.”
She explained, “The first thing that the Ladies’ Aid Society of Hillsborough does every autumn is to start making a bed quilt. They sew together pretty pieces of cloth that they have gathered and saved, flower pieces, plain pieces, but all colored. They meet at the Town Hall once a week to make their patched squares into one large quilt of many colors. Then they line it, stuff it, and quilt it on a frame. They sell their quilt in the spring at a church fair.”
                Hen-Pheasant’s slow-working mind reeled. Not a word of Miss Hickory’s good idea had she understood. “Sew! Patches! Ladies’ Aid!” she mumbled.
                Miss Hickory hurried over to the edge of the woods and was gone for a few minutes. She returned with some sharp green pine needles, and four straight and slender branches for a quilting frame. She then gathered four beautiful fallen leaves. A russet oak leaf, a yellow beach leaf, a red maple leaf, and a golden maple leaf. She laid them together in a pattern of patchwork before Hen-Pheasant and showed her how to sew them together with a pine needle and a thread of dried grass. It pleased Hen-Pheasant. She took a pine needle in one claw and began stitching the patch of leaves. Sewing seemed to come to her naturally.
                “Look up at the mountain,” Miss Hickory said, “for your pattern and colors, and your quilt will be the only one of its kind.”
                Hen-Pheasant looked up at Temple Mountain, glowing with its autumn leaves….She had never looked at it before, having always felt sorry for herself when the leaves began to turn. Even to glance at that beauty brightened her.
                Miss Hickory went on working briskly.  She tied the four branches together with strong grasses to make a square frame. “When you finish the patches and sew them together, tie it on this frame and sew it up and down, back and forth; that is called quilting. And oh, I forgot to tell you, the other thing that the Ladies’ Aid Society does is to eat. They have a big dinner on the days when they meet in the Town Hall to work on their quilt—“
                But Hen-Pheasant scarcely heard her. She had gathered herself a pile of corn over which she was clucking, singing a little tune of happiness, stitching a patch of leaves, pecking a kernel or two now and then. Hen-Pheasant did not see Miss Hickory go.
I can imagine a grandmother making up stories about a little girl’s twig doll.  Ruth Gannett’s lithograph illustrations with their soft graining are perfect for the story.   

By Jean Lee Latham

Nathaniel Bowditch grew up in a seafaring family in the seafaring town of Salem, Massachusetts in the last years of the 18th century. At age 12 he was indentured to a ship’s chandler. He proved to be a fast learner and a mathematical prodigy.  After fulfilling the 9-year apprenticeship he went to sea as a supercargo (the cargo manager who bought and sold good to carry on the return voyage) and the navigator.  He corrected the British maritime navigation books and when he was still in his 20’s he wrote The American Practical Navigator to teach all seamen how to reckon. It is still a standard text for sailors.

I’d been aware of Bowditch (in no small part from knowing the title of this book for all these years), but I hadn’t known about his significance in maritime history.  I learned a lot about navigation, too.  This is a briskly-written historical novel (plucky hero, plucky new nation; American wunderkind finds errors in British calculations; hopes raised, hopes dashed, hearts broken, hearts mended).

Illustrator John O’Hara Cosgrave II is a long-time favorite.  Here is more about him.

Monday, July 27, 2015

DWM: finishes, pillowcases, and advice taken

Thank you, everyone who offered advice about borders for the scrappy stars quilt.  I did cave in and buy more dark blue fabric. In the meantime I found an idea for a pieced border. I haven't started it yet -- you'll need to tune in next week.

Cindy and her daughter Jeannie came over to pick up the pillowcases that I made. Cindy generously paid more than I asked. She gave me the leftover fabric, which weighed 4.5 lbs (18 yards).  They also brought more fabric from which I made four pillowcases and the cover for a dog bed.

I finished the bookshelf quilt for my friend Pat who is retiring July 31.  This is the fourth bookshelf quilt I've made this year and, if I calculate correctly, #36 in all.  I've made them for library staff getting their MLS degrees, retiring library trustees, the ALA Executive Board (during my term, 2004-07), and now for colleagues who are retiring.  I have gotten a lot of use out of the pattern, which is by Christine Thresh (

I created this 78 x 78 batik top in May, 2014. I basted it six months ago (the backing is a never-used Ralph Lauren flat sheet, a garage sale find for $2).  I finally quilted it this week.  Hooray for a finish!

I'm linking up with other quiltmakers at Patchwork Times.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Newbery Reviews

by Eric P. Kelly 

1461: unrest in Ukraine* forces the Charnetski family to flee their estate and find refuge in Krakow. Joseph's father becomes the trumpeter in the church tower, playing the Hejnal every hour. (It's still done; look on YouTube here.) There are good guys (scholars and alchemists), iffy guys (necromancers -- a great vocabulary word), bad guys (foreign thugs), and a devastating fire. There's a treasure to guard. It's an exciting tale. 

I was glad that this edition of Trumpeter had an introduction (from 1966) to provide context, though further online research provides evidence that the author may have created the legend of the "unfinished tune." 

What really, really bothers me is that the family brings the treasure hidden in a pumpkin. A hollowed-out shell is indeed a good hiding place. BUT pumpkins are native to North America. How did a pumpkin get to a farm in Ukraine in 1461? Has no one else noticed this anachronism in the 87 years since the book was published?**

*In the book it's "the Ukraine," but the "the" is incorrect.
**Yes, at least one person has: here 

DOBRY (1935)
by Monica Shannon

A snapshot of life in a Bulgarian farming village, presumably just after WWI. Dobry lives with his widowed mother and his grandfather. They expect that he will continue the family tradition and be a farmer, but he discovers a passion for art. His break from expectations is paralleled by the changes in society (there are hints of the larger world outside the village). The story is disjointed -- suddenly it is "four years later," and Dobry is an adolescent. Grandfather is a great raconteur who needs little encouragement tell a tale, the taller the better. 

Artanas Katchamakoff's illustrations are inconsistent -- lithographs in a Soviet (or Eastern European) 'brutish' style but also lighter line drawings of episodes from the story.  (And the caption for one of them is incorrect -- an error perpetuated for 80 years?)

I read a 1964 reprint of the 1934 original. Perhaps subsequent editions have notes and references to provide more context. 

by Elizabeth Forman Lewis  

Set in the provincial city of Chungking in the 1920's, a time of social change and political unrest throughout China, this is the story of Young Fu, apprenticed to a coppersmith. He survives temptations, bandits, thieves, and unscrupulous coworkers.  I got a better understanding of the milieu that gave rise to communism.  

I read a 2007 edition that has two prefaces -- by Katherine Paterson and Pearl S. Buck, both of whom lived in China about the time of the story. There are also helpful endnotes that explain the traditional customs and compare them to Mao-era and current times. 

I enjoyed this more now than I would have had I read it when I was in grade school, I think.

This is the original cover, with illustrations by Kurt Wiese.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Quilt show photos

 Here are a few photos from the Batavia quilt show this past weekend.   I do not have the names of any of the quiltmakers.

Talking Turkey, a Bonnie Hunter pattern

Jamestown Landing, another Bonnie Hunter pattern

Beautiful quilting

Tiny HSTs
This is my kind of scrappy
Patchwork of the Crosses 

More of my kind of scrappy!
I gave this my "viewer's choice" vote. Love the fussy-cut "ghastly" print and the hexies. Border swirls are appliques. 

I am collecting design ideas. A New York Beauty is on my slate for the coming year (you can see the slate in my previous post).

DWM: a quilt show, a clean slate, new projects, and border quandary

On Saturday my sister treated me to the   Batavia Quilt Show  I took a number of photos -- I'll compose a separate post to include them once I

We were luncheon hosts after church yesterday.  Stevens sliced a ham.  I made salads (three-bean; macaroni; brown rice; cukes-in-sour-cream), a batch of brownies, and rhubarb bundt cake.  The cukes and the cake were completely consumed. We gave the leftover ham, buns, and brownies to a family (many kids). The remaining salads were just as good at suppertime.

Since we are more than halfway through the year I thought it was time to edit the list of projects on the dry-erase board next to the sewing table.


I made 11 pillowcases from the fabric that Cindy brought me ten days ago. There's a lot of fabric left. We're settling up this week.....I have to say that Ole, the 1991-model Viking Husqvarna serger, did an admirable job finishing the seams.

A new project: bookshelf quilt #36 (or thereabouts) for my friend (and ALA roommate) who's retiring at the end of July.

Tumblers are Bonnie Hunter's  2015 challenge . I had not intended to join, but look what I found on a shelf in the Deep Stash .   Now I'm thinking about tumblers for the next 30's bin bust project....

And once the tumblers are finished I can try this template set.

I got both of these packages on clearance ($5 each) about ten years ago. I haven't used either one.

And finally, to my design wall.  The blocks as set are approx. 58 x 58. What should I do about the border?
* I am trying not to buy more fabric.
*There are two dark blues -- the stars and the setting triangles are different fabrics.
***I do not have enough of either of these dark blues for even a skinny border.
* I am trying not to buy more fabric.
* The print on the left has a dark purple background. The print on the right is too dark and the wrong scale for the stars.

I'm linking up with Judy's Patchwork Times and Beth's Love Laugh Quilt .

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Newbery Reviews

Elizabeth George Speare

Palestine  during the Roman occupation.  Daniel bar Jamin is an 18-year-old Galilean living with a band of rebels  who seek to overthrow the invaders and restore Jewish rule and justice.  He encounters a charismatic rabbi, Jesus, whose radical approach to bringing about the kingdom of God upsets every notion Daniel holds.  Speare’s context is the social/historical setting rather than the Sunday school/theological setting, showing us what everyday life was like. 
  (I question a conversation between Daniel and a Roman soldier.  One spoke Aramaic and the other spoke Latin. How did they understand one another?  I also noted a misprint (“soldeir” for “soldier”) and wonder if that error is perpetuated in subsequent editions. [The library copy is 13th printing, acquired in 1975.])

Elizabeth Coatsworth

This is a charming tale about a Japanese artist who lives in poverty with his housekeeper and a calico cat.  The artist receives the commission of a lifetime: to depict the death of the Buddha, a painting that will hang in the village temple.  He begins with the Buddha and adds all the animals who came to receive his blessing: an elephant, a horse, a buffalo, a deer, a monkey . . . but not a cat, because in legend the cat had refused to accept the Buddha’s teachings.  When the little calico patiently and persistently persuades the artist to include a cat who looks like him, a miracle occurs. 

With 63 pages, this is surely the shortest Newbery winner, but one of the most thought-provoking.

Dhan Ghopal Mukerji

Based on his own experience  in  Calcutta in the early 20th century, Mukerji writes about a Brahmin boy and his pet pigeon, Gay-Neck.  Mukerji’s friend Ghond, the animal trainer, took Gay-Neck to the Western front in WWI. The plucky pigeon carried vital information over the lines.    

This Newbery winner does not wear as well as others, partly because of the title. Mukerji  anthropomorphizes the pigeons, referring to nesting pairs as “husband and wife” and the offspring as “children,”  and telling part of the story in Gay-Neck’s voice.  (I looked it up, and learned that pigeons do mate for the long term. ) 

The strongly graphic black-and-white illustrations by Boris Artzybasheff range from elephants and snakes in the jungle to a WWI aerial firefight.

Mukerji did not have a very happy life. His father sent him to Japan and then to the U.S. for education. As a student at Berkeley and Stanford he was part of a dissident group seeking to liberate India from British rule. He wrote some 20 books, more than half for children, and was one of the first Indian writers of popular reading in the U.S. He committed suicide in 1936. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Midweek update

HeartStrings, 2015:  July edition.
Add 8 yards (strips + foundation fabric) to the "stash used" tally!

I made five pillowcases last evening. There are prints for five or six more, with enough yardage to make duplicates.

I've done some tidying and sorting -- brochures and flyers from ALA, superseded files -- here is the center desk drawer after purging. (I've had the ruler on the left since 2nd grade.)

Two meetings today (AAUW budget committee + Chamber of Commerce board).

Sunday, July 12, 2015

DWM: several projects in the works

 It was a week of starts rather than finishes.

One of my favorite color combinations is purple and lime.  I found a box with a good quantity of 2" lime strips, most of them cut width-of-fabric. I do not remember what project I had in mind but they are great for my July HeartStrings blocks.  I had enough of one dark purple print for the center strips. The lime strips have been augmented by other greens. The purple strips range from blue-purple to red-purple.

 I am making the blocks in batches of 6 and have 30 done as of Sunday evening.  There are no corners on the blocks yet because I don't know if I will use purple, lime, or both.

Red is the color for this month's Rainbow Scrap Challenge. Here is my bubble block.

Several years ago I made pillowcases for the AAUW holiday auctions. Cindy and her daughter Jeannie won a number of them. Jeannie starts college this fall and Cindy brought over this stack of fabric for new pillowcases. (She also brought a couple of the old ones, which have been used and washed a lot.  I was surprised at how well the quilting cotton fabric held up.) And yes, she will pay me. She admitted that sewing is not her thing.

I'm enjoying making these 8" star blocks.  The 16-patch centers began as a leaders-and-enders project but I soon used up all the twosies/foursies, etc., that I had sewn.  I am using the four-at-a-time method for the flying geese. What a snap! (And no cutaway triangles to deal with. Trust me, I have hundreds of those.)

I'm linking up with Rainbow Scrap Challenge , Patchwork Times , and Love Laugh Quilt .

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Mid-year stash report, and a new flimsy

 June:   fabric acquired: 8-7/8; cost $33
           fabric used: 14-5/8
January-June:  fabric acquired 55-1/8; cost $250
           fabric used: 147-1/4
Net decrease: 92-1/8

(I bought two yards in June (at Britex).  The other 6-7/8 came from Libby, who offered a giveaway that I won, and another online quiltmaker who swapped fabric for a book.) 

I plan to make 48 Heartstrings blocks each month in 2015, enough for a standard-sized 54 x 72 HS quilt.  I didn't make any in June so I am doubling up in July. The current challenge is to use light strings for the block centers. I pulled out solids, a fabric genre I don't often use (how have I accumulated such a quantity of them?) and here's the result.  [Fabric used:  8 yards, counting the 10x10 foundation squares.]

Monday, July 6, 2015

Two weeks on the coast, part IV (quilting update)

Note: this is the last of my four-part travelog. Click on "older posts" for the entire account.

The ALA Biblioquilters contribute quilts to the Exhibits Round Table silent auction. Proceeds fund library school scholarships. This year our efforts raised $2050.

I donated Celtic Solstice.

The necktie hexies have been my takealong handwork since 2008.  The assembled rosettes are getting pretty bulky. I need to come up with another project for future travels.

Now, finally:  a link to Judy's Design Wall Monday and Beth's Love Laugh Quilt.

Two weeks on the coast, part III

I'm Attending Badge
 This was the 12th time that the ALA Annual Conference has been in San Francisco (the first was 1891). It was my fifth SF Annual (87, 92, 97, 01, 15).   Though it's a popular city for attendees, it's a very expensive convention site.

My conference schedule reflected my retiree status: other than two committee obligations, I didn't have to go to any programs to get the library's money's worth.  I am the United for Libraries liaison to the Freedom to Read Foundation. That group met from 9-noon and 1-3 on Thursday.  I continue to serve on the University Press Books for High School and Public Libraries Committee and was on the panel for the Best of the Best booktalk on Sunday. (Here is a photo of the books I got this year. This is the brief version of the book I reviewed for the program, Gasa Gasa Girl Goes to Camp.) 

Getting read for the exhibits (Thursday).

The Executive Board Survivors had a group dinner on Thursday. The Retired Members Round Table took a sunset dinner cruise on SF Bay on Friday.

On the cruise boat:  June and I have been friends since we were psychology lab partners at Mizzou (fall semester, 1970). She retired from UMC libraries last year.

It was too overcast to see the sunset.  As someone joked, I had to take a picture of this bridge because it hasn't been photographed enough.

I spent a shift as a vendor -- a volunteer at the Road Scholar booth.  RS staffer Claire and RS volunteer Ann were convince I knew half the people who walked by.

On Sunday June and I went to the 9 a.m. service at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church. What radical hospitality! Glide is an historic church known for its social activism. It was right across the street from my hotel.

We had to negotiate the Pride Parade (1 million spectators). Despite the crowds, it was perfectly safe to walk to and from the convention center.

Sunday evening: Newbery-Caldecott banquet. My roommate Pat and I were joined by Karina. This was her first ALA and I was delighted that she cold be my guest at the banquet.

View from the 46th floor (pre-banquet reception).

My church's United Methodist Women help support the Mary Elizabeth Inn  founded by Lizzie Glide (as in Glide Memorial UMC). I visited this century-old women's shelter. The facilities manager graciously provided a complete tour.

A trip to SF would not be complete without a trip to  Britex . I still have a piece of Italian linen I bought there in 1987.  They don't have much quilting fabric, but I got 2 yards of typeface prints for my growing collection.

The conference ended on Tuesday with the inaugural brunch.  Pat and I headed from there to the de Young museum to see the J. M. W. Turner exhibit.
I saw the movie ("Mr. Turner") in December. The catalog for this exhibit was one of my University Press books. Seeing the paintings in person was the perfect finishing touch.

Pat and I had dinner in Chinatown on our last night. Here's my fortune. I was grateful that it did not affect my travel plans the next day.

Conference swag!  I shipped two boxes (24 and 32 lbs) via FedEx.  I got home Wednesday. The boxes came on Friday.

Next post: an ALA quilting update.