Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Todd Wilkinson, author of LAST STAND

Entrepreneur and media mogul Ted Turner has commanded global attention for his dramatic personality, his founding of CNN, his marriage to Jane Fonda, and his company’s merger with Time Warner. But his green resume has gone largely ignored, even while his role as a pioneering eco-capitalist means more to Turner than any other aspect of his legacy. He currently owns more than two million acres of private land, and his bison herd exceeds 55,000 head, the largest in history. In 1997, Turner donated $1 billion to help save the UN, and he has recorded dozens of other firsts with regard to wildlife conservation, fighting nukes, and assisting the poor. He calls global warming the most dire threat facing humanity, and says that the tycoons of the future will be minted in the development of green, alternative renewable energy.

Last Stand, written by veteran journalist Todd Wilkinson, goes behind the scenes into Turner’s private life, exploring the man’s accomplishments and his motivations, showing the world a fascinating and flawed, fully three-dimensional character. From barnstorming the country with T. Boone Pickens on behalf of green energy to a pivotal night when he considered suicide, Turner is not the man the public believes him to be. Through Turner’s eyes, the reader is asked to consider another way of thinking about the environment, our obligations to help others in need, and the grave challenges threatening the survival of civilization.

Find out more about Todd Wilkinson, and listen to the program, on the radio or online.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Children's Book Review: 'Mary Wrightly, So Politely' by Shirin Yim Bridges

Mary Wrightly, So Politely
by Shirin Yim Bridges
illustrated by Maria Monescillo
Harcourt Children's Books, 2013

Mary Wrightly speaks in a very soft voice. She always says please and thank you. She apologizes, even when other people are at fault. But when she's looking for the perfect gift for her baby brother, and others snatch her first few choices away, she finally learns to stand up for herself (for her brother's sake).

Maria Monescillo's smudgy pastel-like illustrations of characters with broad faces and delicate features capture Mary's self-effacing manner perfectly. Even the font size is small, throughout this book, except when Mary (and her brother) raise their voices. The images reflect Mary's view of the world, focused on stuffed animals while surrounded by people in a busy department store as her mother chats with a friend.

The first-grade students that I read this story to liked that Mary was polite, but were also glad when she spoke up to claim the toy that she was eyeing for her brother. They laughed at the baby's surprising squeal of joy at the end of the book when he receives his gift (and asked me to read it again and again).

This delightful story beautifully illustrates that it's possible to be both assertive and polite, especially if you're doing it for someone you love.

Shirin Yim Bridges writes books for children and is the founder of the nonfiction press Goosebottom Books. Her first picture book, Ruby's Wish, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, received the Ezra Jack Keats New Author Award. Shirin lives in Northern California and speaks in a polite, quiet voice.

Maria Monescillo has worked as an animator as well as a children's book illustrator. Among her picture books is Myra Wolfe's Charlotte Jane Battles Bedtime, which Kirkus Reviews called "downright refreshing." Maria lives in Norway with her family where she, so politely, makes wooden puppets.

Renée Vaillancourt McGrath has worked at Montana Public Radio as a program host since 2002. Her background is in librarianship and she currently works as a freelance editor, blogger, and website developer. Check out more of her book reviews at

Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday Poems: "Swallows Nesting" -- by Kim-An Lieberman

That spring, as I hauled boxes into the new house,
a pair of swallows started building their nest
at the entryway tucked just beneath the eaves.
A fascination at first, watching their erratic swoop
toward the trees and then the quick veering
back with beaks full of scraggy twig. They played, too,
around and around the clear pond next door,
skimming their stomachs along the surface.

Coming home at night, I would glance up
and see them perched smugly in the overhang,
flanking the near-finished nest and plainly ignoring
my regular traffic. Good neighbors enough.
But then droppings began to splatter the windows,
the welcome mat. My first houseguest assaulted
by a volley of indignant screeching. Half a cookie
pecked to crumbs, as the grocery bags reste
just a few short minutes on the doorstep.

Finally, splotches of white on my favorite shoes.
I knocked down the nest with a garden rake,
muttering under my breath. The birds darted out
squalling alarms, flapping an elliptical partrol
but gradually realizing they had no fort to defend.
For a time, they hovered, with intermittent prattling.
Then wingbeats, then silence, and I was alone.

In the morning, grown remorseful for my victory,
I hammered wooden boxes into nearby trees
as a peace offering. But the swallows did not return
that spring, or the next. My living continued,
a parade of empty houses and uncharted cities,
each time the landscape rebuilding itself around me.
In the calmer years I wonder after them,
my fork-tails, my rudders in the turning wind.


KIM-AN LIEBERMAN is a writer of Vietnamese and Jewish American descent, born in Rhode Island and raised in the Pacific Northwest. She studied interdisciplinary humanities at the University of Washington before earning a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley. Her debut collection of poetry, Breaking the Map, was published in 2008 by Blue Begonia Press. Her poems and essays have also appeared in Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, Quarterly West, ZYZZYVA, CALYX, Threepenny Review, and the anthology Asian America.Net: Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Cyberspace.

A recipient of awards from the Jack Straw Writers Program and the Mellon Foundation for the Humanities, as well as a finalist for the 2009 Stranger Genius Awards, Kim-An has been a featured reader at venues including Richard Hugo House, Seattle Public Libraries, Skagit River Poetry Festival, Portland's Wordstock Festival, the San Francisco International Poetry Festival, and the Asian American Writers' Workshop in New York. She has also spent many years in the classroom, teaching writing and literature at every level from kindergarten through college.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mardell Hogan Plainfeather, co-author of 'The Woman Who Loved Mankind: Lillian bullshows Hogan

The oldest living Crow at the dawn of the twenty-first century, Lillian Bullshows Hogan (1905–2003) grew up on the Crow reservation in rural Montana. The Woman Who Loved Mankind is a collection of the stories that make up her long and remarkable life, as well as the stories of her parents, part of the last generation of Crow born to nomadic ways.

As a child Hogan had a miniature teepee, a fast horse, and a medicine necklace of green beads. She learned traditional arts and food gathering from her mother and experienced the bitterness of Indian boarding school. She grew up to be a complex, hard-working Native woman who drove a car, maintained a bank account, and read the local English paper, but spoke Crow as her first language. She practiced beadwork, tanned hides, honored clan relatives in generous giveaways, and often visited the last of the old chiefs and berdaches with her family. She married in the traditional Crow way and was a proud member of the Tobacco and Sacred Pipe societies, but was also a devoted Christian who helped establish the Church of God on her reservation.

Warm, funny, heartbreaking, and filled with information on Crow life, Hogan’s story was told to her daughter, Mardell Hogan Plainfeather, and to Barbara Loeb, a scholar and longtime friend of the family who recorded her words, staying true to Hogan’s expressive speaking rhythms with its echoes of traditional Crow storytelling.

Find out more about Mardell Hogan Plainfeather and Barbara Loeb, and listen to the program, on the radio or online.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Children's Book Review: 'Hattie Ever After' by Kirby Larson

Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson
Delacorte Press, 2013

After Kirby Larson wrote the Newbery Honor-winning Hattie Big Sky she had no intention of writing a sequel. But when readers started asking what happened to Hattie next, the author found herself wondering as well.

In Hattie Ever After, Hattie Inez Brooks joins up with a vaudeville troupe to leave Great Falls and seek her fortune in the San Francisco. She repeatedly rebuffs her beloved Charlie's advances in the pursuit of her dream to be a big-city reporter. She forms friendships (and even a hint of another romantic intrigue), has adventures, and solves mysteries in her slow but persistent climb from newspaper cleaning woman to researcher to reporter in spite of the barriers against women in the workplace in 1919.

Hattie Ever After has an air of nostalgic innocence that many parents wish existed in some of the more realist contemporary young adult fiction. While Hattie travels alone, faces sexism, and is betrayed by friends, she is never in any serious danger, and her long-distance relationship with Charlie never exceeds a quick stolen kiss.

Her rapid rise in the men's world of newspaper reporting makes it look easier than it must have been for many women during that period. But it is interesting to catch a glimpse of what life in early 20th century America must have been like. The author includes a note at the end of the book about her research process and describes which scenes were inspired by real-life events.

Pre-teen girls and conservative parents will likely fall for Hattie's all-American ambition to succeed in her career while still holding out hope for a happily-ever after with her high school sweetheart.

Kirby Larson is a two-time New York Times bestselling author and has also partnered with her dear friend Mary Nethery to write award-winning nonfiction picture books, including Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival. Kirby is hard at work on her next historical novel. Learn more about her at or read her blog at

Renée Vaillancourt McGrath has worked at Montana Public Radio as a program host since 2002. Her background is in librarianship and she currently works as a freelance editor, blogger, and website developer. Check out more of her book reviews at

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday Poems: "Morning Ghetto Oakland Pow Wow" -- by Luke Warm Water

Parking street, doors locked
double check locks
my office job is in the 'hood
walking a couple of blocks into work
new SUV tricked drives by
shine chrome rimmed
glides into a red light stop
Black power bass speakers thumping
rolling a rhythmic drum beat
felt through flesh
hot weather already Paleteros (Popsicle)
push cart Mexicano vendor
row of bells on the handle
ringing in my ear jingling
as he strolls through the intersection
of Fruitvale Ave. & International Blvd.

Combination of thumping bass
and ringing bells
bring me back to a memory
inhale deep the inner city
my brain rewinds images of
Pahin sinte Wacipip (Porcupine Pow Wow)
back in the day almost lost
I can still recall the images
of a young Pine Ridge woman
jingle dress dancer
her dance is healing
with raised hand eagle feather fan
on the honor beats
of a thunderous Lakota drum

The SUV and vendor sounds disappear with distance
as the stoplight changes color
I continue walking toward work
in a city of concrete and hope.


Luke Warm Water is a member of the Lakota Tribe of American Indians, a self-taught poet born in Rapid City, South Dakota, and raised in an urban Indian neighborhood. "Morning Ghetto Oakland Pow Wow" was published in his collection titled City Tree of Concrete & Hope.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review: Vampires in the Lemon Grove, by Karen Russell

This review by Jenny Shank was previously published in the Dallas News.

Karen Russell’s imagination is turbocharged, so amped that at age 31 she’s already publishing her third inventive book, Vampires in the Lemon Grove. Her second story collection follows her rollicking 2011 novel Swamplandia!, about a family running an alligator-packed tourist attraction in the Everglades.

Swamplandia! was a finalist for last year’s Pulitzer Prize in fiction, infamously not awarded to any book. But there’s no need to cry for Russell. Judging from the skill and range she displays in these eight surprising stories, plenty of accolades await her.

Turning to each subsequent story in this collection feels like trading in a known quantity for whatever happens to be behind Curtain No. 3. Anything might happen — Presidents Eisenhower and Hayes might be reincarnated as horses, seagulls might alter the future or you could be in for a trip to a tailgating party in the Antarctic where you’ll be urged to root for perennial loser Team Krill over Yankees-like Team Whale (“It must be real tough, you cetaceous [expletives], to support the best team in the league”). In each story, Russell creates an entirely new world from scratch.

In the enchanting title story, Russell conjures a vampire named Clyde, whom most people mistake for “a small, kindly Italian grandfather.” He spends his days hanging out at Santa Francesca’s Lemon Grove in Italy, waiting for his wife, Magreb, to change back from a bat. “Human marriages amuse me,” he thinks, “the brevity of the commitment and all the ceremony that surrounds it.” After his “early years on the blood,” when Clyde met Magreb she convinced him that attacking people does nothing to relieve hunger. Still, these vampire vegetarians are left with an unquenchable thirst. For the moment, lemons offer some relief. The magic of this story is how Russell makes these undead vampires feel human.

Russell manages the same feat with monsters of her own invention in “Reeling for the Empire,” in which young women in Japan are signed up by a “Recruitment Agent” to work at a silk mill. He gives each woman a foul potion that gradually transforms her into a silkworm, her belly full of thread, compelled to spin silk for her captors in exchange for the mulberry leaves she now craves. This story, part horror, part fantasy, part literary fiction, reaches its climax when one cunning silkworm worker stages a thrilling insurrection.
Tales of deprivation, drought and hardship on the American frontier are often horrifying, but Russell pushes the pioneer narrative toward outright horror in the skillful “Proving Up,” set in the tallgrass prairie of Nebraska. It revolves around a fascinating detail: To earn the title to their land, each family must improve their acreage, including adding a glass window to their sod dugouts. Glass is an unaffordable luxury, so the community shares one window, delivered by horse to each family who needs it to show the inspector. The families in Russell’s story, however, face more than just the hardship of drought and cruel weather, and must contend with a malevolent figure.

In “The New Veterans,” a massage therapist working with an Iraq war veteran whose back is tattooed with the scene of his friend’s death finds she can manipulate the images in the tattoo and draw some of the soldier’s memories and mental anguish into herself.

The voice of the narrator in “The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis” doesn’t seem as though it belongs to a tough 14-year-old New Jersey boy named Larry Rubio — it sounds more like that of a brainy, award-winning novelist. But the other voices in the collection are so varied and convincing that it’s easy to forgive one slip.
Russell’s fantasies are compelling because they enhance reality — highlighting the deprivations caused by poverty, war or just being different — through her extraordinary metaphors. Although Russell digs deep into serious themes, her keen humor, joy and wonder remain in the foreground so that while the stories have a moral core, it’s secondary to sheer entertainment.

Jenny Shank’s first novel, The Ringer, won the High Plains Book Award.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Karen Russell
(Knopf, $24.95)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Martin Etchart, author of 'The Last Shepherd'

Mathieu Etchiberri wants nothing more than to leave his family’s Arizona sheep ranch and go to college, but his father insists that he take over the ranch instead. Then his father is killed in an accident, and Matt discovers that he is not the heir to the ranch. So he travels to the French Pyrenees from which his father and grandparents came to settle the questions about his legacy. Instead, he discovers a vast Basque family and a mystery that drove his father to America and still festers in the mountain village. As Matt resolves the mystery of his family, he also discovers his Basque roots and learns the nature of love of family, responsibility, and the tension between individual desires and the needs of a community. Matt’s journey to manhood takes place in a vividly depicted landscape populated by lively, memorable characters.

The Last Shepherd is the powerful story of a young man’s search for an identity that encompasses two cultures and one complex, scattered family.

“This is a beautiful and compelling novel. Its focus on Basque culture, while compelling and authoritative and interesting in itself, also serves as a thematic underpinning for the larger questions that concern the novel. The writing is beautiful throughout, evocative of landscape and weather and animal life. One of the best novels I have read in several years.”
-- Mary Clearman Blew, author of Jackalope Dreams

Find out more about Martin Etchart, and listen to the program, on the radio or online.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Children's Book Review: 'Miss Moore Thought Otherwise' by Jan Pinborough

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children by Jan Pinborough
illustrated by Debby Atwell
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2013

As a former librarian (and one time children's librarian) I was, of course, excited to see the subtitle to Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children. Still, I approached this book with some trepidation, knowing how challenging it can be to make nonfiction books interesting to young children.

Jan Pinborogh hit on the right formula to approach this story, however. Framing Anne Carroll Moore as a feminist and free-thinker, her daring contrariness is the theme that holds the book together and infuses it with excitement.
In the 1870s many people thought a girl should stay inside and do quiet things such as sewing and embroidery. But Annie thought otherwise... 
Back then, an unmarried girl like Annie might keep house for her parents, or perhaps become a teacher or missionary. But Annie thought otherwise... 
Some people thought [New York City] was a dangerous place for a young woman to live on her own. But Annie thought otherwise... 
… many librarians did not let children touch the books, for fear that they would smudge their pages or break their spines. They thought if children were allowed to take books home, they would surely forget to bring hem back. But Miss Moore thought otherwise...
And so Annie Moore created a pledge for children to sign promising that they would care for the books and obey the rules of the library. She took down the “silence” signs and began to tell stories. She replaced dull books with exciting ones, wrote book reviews and created book lists to help people find good books for children.

Then she went on to plan the first Central Children's Room at the New York Public Library with its colorful decorations, child-sized furniture, window seats and special entrance. She hosted reading clubs, invited musicians, storytellers, and authors, and even introduced the children of New York to the king and queen of Belgium.

Her approach to children's services influenced libraries across the world. And after she retired, she continued to travel across the country consulting on library services to children. I, of course, found all of this to be quite inspiring.

But the moment of truth came when I sat down to read it to my children. They sat, rapt, as I read, admiring the colorful folk art paintings of Debby Atwell. When I finished, they spoke over each other, exclaiming how cool it was that the author turned nonfiction into an exciting story, and that one girl turned libraries into great places for kids. They liked that the children's room in the New York Public Library had its own entrance and that children got to borrow library books for the first time. They also commented on how the illustrations looked like a cross between crayons and paint.

Overall, Miss Moore Thought Otherwise is a winner for parents, librarians, and children alike!

Jan Pinborough spent many delightful hours in the New York Public Library, poring over letters in the Anne Carroll Moore Collection. She remembers the children's library from her childhood and the magical sense of walking into a space that felt like her very own. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her family. This is her first children's book. Visit her websites: and

Debby Atwell is the author-illustrator of Barn, River, and other Houghton Mifflin picture books. Reviewers have described her vibrant folk art paintings as "charming," "compelling," and "brimming with patriotism and hope." While researching this book, Debby felt as though she could see the first Children's Room alive and filled with children and light. Ms. Atwell lives in Waldoboro, Maine, with her family - not far from Anne Carroll Moore's hometown of Limerick, Maine.

Renée Vaillancourt McGrath has worked at Montana Public Radio as a program host since 2002. Her background is in librarianship and she currently works as a freelance editor, blogger, and website developer. Check out more of her book reviews at

Monday, March 11, 2013

Monday Poems: "The Book of Failed Descriptions" -- by Tod Marshall

Myth is prison, a palace,
truth without fact.

Myth is birth and pleasure, teeth and death,
              sharp shiver of that which is broken.

Myth is patriarchal and worn,
              full of fratricide and rape.

Myth is a garden, makes good television,
              the scandal of animals
              and people
              coupling beneath the stars.

Myth is crow eating roadkill and dodging the occasional cars,
              a pile of guts and bones.

Myth is carrying the body back to the den.

                            –Close your eyes and count to ten.

“In language, there are always two.”

The Iliad
stolen from Thoreau’s cabin,
the only thing taken
during those years.
Remember, too, The Aenied
(we all have lived
through times of war)
and that passage
a friend said to know well,
“Learn fortitude and toil from me, my son,
Ache of true toil. Good fortune learn from others.”


Ultrasound images of my heart.
That it moves and moves
and then moves again,
plump muscle
shuddering, laboring
to make up for one bad valve.

Spots in the ocean
where nothing lives
and yet there is movement,
water moving.

I stand in the river
fishing and watching an osprey
slide through the air
ten feet above the water.

I hear those wings.


Eleven years of loving
can’t just vanish. I have photographs.
I have facts. “Hapy Birthday
Dady” scribbled on a card.

              How easy to sit at a desk
              and not see the full moon
              through the window.

              Roy Sullivan, Virginia Park Ranger,
              struck by lightning seven times,
              kills himself after being dumped by a lover.

              “Present fears are less than horrible imaginings.”

A friend asks, “Why are you hiding in myth?”


I gather a lock of his hair,
a scrap of T-shirt, a baby tooth,
his tiny spoon, a diaper pin with a blue plastic stork,
the quilted blanket, his first steps,
hands clutching my fingers, the long night
when his fever rose to 104˚,
his split lip at age six when he jumped with outspread
arms, the first shoe, a locket with a toddler photo,
first day of school, first finger painting,
the green cardboard sculpture
like something shaped by Breton, T-ball
games, the flopping trout he squeezed too hard,
his first broken bone, his fear when he felt
my trembling hands trying to tell him
something about the sun.


Trout with a slashed back
where talons tore dorsal flesh
and the flesh slipped
from an osprey’s grip
to a lucky landing
in the creek’s waiting water,
thrashing and calming,
lingering beneath a deep cutbank,
and weeks later,
taking my elk hair caddis
and leaping
completely out of the water.

On the far bank, a muskrat
struggles and does a melodramatic gangster fall
into the creek where it splashes
and sinks. “Rattlesnake,”
my friend says, and I nod
and stare at where the ripple
swirls into the current

and think about sinking bones.


The court acknowledges the petitioner’s long involvement with
____________’s like and sincerely hopes that the parties involved
will have the generosity and wisdom to honor that relationship.

Do not blame the wind
that scatters apple blossoms
ruthlessly. Allow that flowers
desire farewell blessings
before their time has come. 


Fishing in the desert creek
a few days after the hearing,
I find bones, steer skulls
with round sockets for horns,
and step near three rattlesnakes,
almost grab a fourth
when climbing a steep bank.
The snakes were sluggish, though,
late spring when the temperatures
in the desert dipped into the thirties
at night. Only one rattled,
and the rain of the previous days
made the fishing terrible, water brown
and swift. I didn’t get a bite
and drove home, bought
a bucket of fried chicken,
and ate in front of the television
his clothes still hanging in a closet.


There is no
end to the hours
when cedars and peaks
scratch the sky’s belly.
No garden,
but sometimes, wildflowers.
Sometimes, fish hold against
the river’s current
then dart with a silvery
flash downstream.
Sometimes, deer
on the other shore
stand still
for a moment,
then hunch toward
their grazing.


A birthday party and he’ll have nothing to do with the inflatable  castles rented and set up on the lawn, only wants to run all afternoon, playing chase, tag-like game where I growl and laugh and lumber around the playground, his giggling, both of us laughing and roaring, and I catch him and he gets away and climbs to the top of the jungle gym where he looks at me with worry, and I know that the game is on break, that this is real, and I walk beneath him and he doesn’t pause. He jumps into my arms, and I catch him.


Ready or not
                here I come—

A feather floats downstream,

the rings of a ripple smooth.

Love is possible. The heron

hunts in the shallows with slow

deliberate steps, startles

from the creek, and rises.

Sunlight warms basalt walls

fields of sage, and Hawthorne

groves, here, where tumble-

weeds rove for home.

*     *     *     *     *

Poet Tod Marshall is the author of two collections—Dare Say (2002) and The Tangled Line (2009)—as well as editor of a collection of interviews with contemporary poets called Range of the Possible and an anthology of poems from those poets, Range of Voices (2005). He lives in Spokane, Washington, where he teaches at Gonzaga University.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey

A review by Jenny Shank - From the March 04, 2013 issue of High Country News

The Snow Child
Eowyn Ivey
416 pages, softcover: $14.99.
Reagan Arthur Books, 2012.

Eowyn Ivey's surefooted and captivating debut novel, The Snow Child, begins in 1920, as Mabel and Jack, middle-aged homesteaders in Alaska, try to rough it through their second winter there. They'd moved West to escape painful memories of their only child, stillborn 10 years earlier, and the crush of nearby family that reminded them of their loss. The brutal Alaskan winters batter them with isolation and relentless cold, and they nearly starve. Eventually, with the help of friendly neighbors, the new landscape helps Mabel and Jack remember why they loved each other in the first place, and in a fit of playfulness, they build a snowman, shaping it like a girl and dressing it with a red scarf.

The snow girl vanishes, and Mabel and Jack begin to catch glimpses of a child in the woods, "a red scarf at the neck, and white hair trailing down the back. Slight. Quick. A little girl. Running at the edge of the forest. Then disappearing into the trees." They leave gifts for the girl, who approaches them cautiously. Her name is Faina, and she gradually becomes a mysterious, seasonal daughter to them, eating at their table, accompanying them on chores, and always disappearing into the wilderness at the first signs of snowmelt.

The Russian fairy tale of the Snow Maiden ("Snegurochka") inspired Ivey, and she weaves it throughout The Snow Child, as Mabel consults the different versions of the story to try to account for the behavior of their surrogate child. Ivey takes a fantastical premise and runs with it, playing it two ways, creating a novel that is both realistic and magical.

Jack discovers that Faina was the child of a local drunk who died in the wilderness, leaving her to grow up alone and feral. Yet no one else has ever seen her, and there are odd parallels between the girl's life and the folktale Mabel pores over; for instance, both Faina and the Snow Maiden have a red fox as a companion.

Ivey's prose has the lulling quality of a fairy tale, and the native Alaskan's portraits of the state's fierce winters and singular inhabitants are convincing enough to make readers believe in Faina. At one point, Mabel thinks, "To believe, perhaps you had to cease looking for explanations and instead hold the little thing in your hands as long as you were able before it slipped like water between your fingers."

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Kate Davis, photographer and author of 'Bald Eagle Nest'

What's inside Bald Eagle Nest: story of survival in photos?

> More than 100 beautiful color photographs of Bald Eagles in flight and in the nest

> The story of a family of Bald Eagles that raised four chicks to adulthood

> Photographs that illustrate feeding behavior, hunting, mating flight, behavior of chicks in the nest, brooding and grooming, and learning to fly

This unique book follows one Bald Eagle nest during a nesting season in which a pair of eagles managed to raise all four of their chicks to adulthood — a very rare feat. With spectacular images, Kate Davis shows feeding behavior, hunting, mating flight, the behavior of chicks in the nest, brooding and grooming, and the chicks' process of learning to fly. This is a close-up look at the lives of these once-endangered birds.

Find out more about Kate Davis, and listen to the program, on the radio or online.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Children's Book Review: 'Ball' by Mary Sullivan

Ball by Mary Sullivan
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Children, 2013

We all know that we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I have to admit that I let out a little squeal of delight when I saw the cover illustration of Ball by Mary Sullivan. The combination of the vintage color scheme with the modern cartoon-dog and his timeless look of fixation on the ball won me over before I even opened this book.

In flipping through it, I discovered that it is basically a clever variation on the wordless picture book. While not entirely wordless, there is only one word, repeated throughout the book (as reflected in the witty byline: Word and pictures by Mary Sullivan).

The cartoon-like illustrations tell the story of a dog, eager for his girl to wake up and throw the ball for him. The girl does so, several times, while getting ready for school, and then leaves for the day. The dog, alone with his ball, seeks out the meditating mother, the infant in a baby seat, and even the family cat, but no one wants to play ball with him. The dog makes a few attempts to play with the ball by himself before drifting off to sleep (and dreams, of course, of playing with the ball). He awakens to the anticipation of his girl returning from school to play ball with him again.

Words cannot describe how entertaining this story is. I read it with my six and nine year old daughters and we laughed aloud at how well the author/illustrator captures the dog's recognizable obsession with his favorite toy. When I was finished reading the book, the girls took turns reading it aloud to each other (which was great practice with punctuation for the first grader, who is just learning to read). Then the third grader went off to write a one-word story of her own.

I loved this book. Buy it. Read it to your kids. I guarantee you'll have a ball!

Mary Sullivan has been drawing for as long as she can remember. Her childhood home was full of music, art, and poetry. Mary lives in Austin, Texas. She spends her days drawing, writing, and searching for places in the sun to dream. You can find her online at

Renée Vaillancourt McGrath has worked at Montana Public Radio as a program host since 2002. Her background is in librarianship and she currently works as a freelance editor, blogger, and website developer. Check out more of her book reviews at

Monday, March 4, 2013

Monday Poems: "March" -- by Richard Kenney

Sky a shook poncho.
Roof wrung. Mind a luna moth
Caught in a banjo.

This weather’s witty
Peek-a-boo. A study in

Blues! Blooms! The yodel
Of   the chimney in night wind.
That flat daffodil.

With absurd hauteur
New tulips dab their shadows
In water-mutter.

Boys are such oxen.
Girls! — sepal-shudder, shadow-
Waver. Equinox.

Plums on the Quad did
Blossom all at once, taking
Down the power grid.

*     *     *     *     *

Richard Kenney is the author of three previous books of poetry: The Evolution of the Flightless Bird (1984), which received the Yale Younger Poets Prize, Orrery (1985), and The Invention of the Zero (1993). In 1987 he received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship.

His most recent publication, One-Strand River: Poems1994-2007, was released after a 14-year hiatus from publishing. He is currently professor of English at the University of Washington and lives with his family in Port Townsend, Washington.