Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jo Deurbrouck, author of 'Anything Worth Doing'

In Anything Worth Doing, Jo Deurbrouck tells the unforgettable true story of larger-than-life whitewater raft guides Clancy Reece and Jon Barker, two men who share a love of wild rivers and an unbending will to live life on their terms, no matter the cost.

Clancy’s motto, ‘Anything worth doing is worth overdoing,’ leads them into a decade of beautiful — and beautifully strange — river adventures. Then, on June 8, 1996, in pursuit of a 24-hour speed record they intend to share only with a handful of friends, the men launch Clancy’s handmade dory, his proudest possession, onto Idaho’s renowned Salmon River at peak flood of an extreme high water year. This time the odds catch up with them.

Anything Worth Doing is a 2012 National Outdoor Book Award winner.

Find out more about Jo Deurbrock and listen to the program, on the radio or online.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Children's Book Review: 'Miss Sally Ann and the Panther' retold by Bobbi Miller

Miss Sally Ann and the Panther
retold by Bobbi Miller
Illustrated by Megan Lloyd

In the spirit of Paul Bunyan comes the tall tale of Miss Sally Ann and The Panther. Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind ropes a hurricane and ties it to her spinning wheel to out-spin the steam mill. She knits a shawl with one hand, while the other milks the cow, churns the butter and bakes buttermilk bread. Before going to bed she blows out the moonlight and sings the wolves to sleep.

One morning, while she's out in the woods gathering onions, she encounters Fireeyes the Panther. As Sally Ann admires the panther's black coat, the panther admires the bearskin coat that Sally Ann is wearing, and they both begin to fight for what they want. They wrestle throughout the night until both have to grudgingly admit to the other's fighting skills. They smile at each other and call a truce.

The panther follows Sally Anne home and the two become friends. Fireeyes uses his claws to help her plow the garden and his tail to brush the chimney clean. Sally Ann wraps the panther in her bear skin coat at night before she blows out the moon and they both sing the wolves to sleep.

Miss Sally Ann is a character in the Davy Crockett legends (two sources are cited in the book), and it's refreshing to read a wild west tale that focuses on the strength of a woman. I would have liked to have seen more emphasis on Sally Ann and the panther's exaggerated skills and strengths and less of the story devoted to the power struggle between the two however (which goes on for several pages and doesn't include much of the larger-than-life characteristics that make the rest of the story so engaging). I also found it difficult to pronounce some of the invented superlatives that the author uses (such as “terrifiacious” and “thunderferous”) when reading the book aloud to a first grade class. 

The students didn't seem to mind, however. They commented on the colorful illustrations which capture the characters' expressions, and the evocative name of the panther. They also liked that the wrestling match culminated in Sally Ann and the panther becoming friends at the end. Overall, Miss Sally Ann and The Panther is a fast-paced, action-packed book story that children are likely to enjoy.

Bobbi Miller is a children's book author who has five degrees in writing, two at the graduate level. She loves exploring the American landscape and spinning tall tales. In the spirit of Miss Sally Ann, Bobbi lives in an 1830s reproduction log cabin. Learn more at

Megan Lloyd has illustrated more than forty books for children, including Betsy Ross by Becky White. Megan lives on a farm in central Pennsylvania with her husband. Visit 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, January 28, 2013

Monday Poems: "Oh God" -- by Michelle Tea

spilling water from my back,
you call and i come.
that exhausted walk to reach you
breathless and no i didn’t run
to see you, i’ve been smoking
too much, same thing.

another awkward hug in the car
as my face smashes your cheek
that i can feel it leaving now
is the saddest, a beautiful eruption
you could have picked it off the tree
and chowed

but you weren’t hungry.
feeling it dying away all day
much worse than the straining
against the leash, another gorgeous
thing that should not have happened,
gone again.

*     *     *     *      * 

Michelle Tea is an author, poet, activist and co-founder of the Sister Spit spoken word tour. Her works explore issues of race, class, feminism, queer culture and sex work. She also co-writes the weekly astrology column Double Team Psychic Dream

Her publications include The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of One Girl in America (1998), Rose of No Man's Land (2006), and The Beautiful: Collected Poems (2003). She has won a Lambda Literary Award and was Zale Writer-in-Residence at Tulane University. She lives in San Francisco. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pauls Toutonghi, author of 'Evel Knievel Days'

Khosi Saqr has always felt a bit out of place in Butte, Montana, hometown of motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel.  Half-Egyptian, full of nervous habits, raised by a single mother, owner of a name that no one can pronounce -- Khosi has never quite managed to fit in. But when a mysterious stranger arrives in town (and Khosi's longtime love uses Butte's annual festival, Evel Knievel Days, as a time to announce her impending marriage to someone else), Khosi takes his first daredevil like risk, and travels to Egypt to find his father -- and a connection to his heritage.

What he discovers, in Cairo, is much more startling than he'd imagined it could be. The city is a thrilling mix of contradictions -- and locating his father turns out to be the easy part. Through mistaken identity, delicious food, and near tragedy, Khosi and his parents rediscover what it means to be connected to each other, to a family, and to a culture.

The timely story of a young man searching for his roots, and along the way finding his identity, Evel Knievel Days is Khosi’s charming and funny journey to learn where he came from, and who he is.

Find out more about Pauls Toutonghi and listen to the program, on the radio or online.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Children's Book Review: 'Cheer Up, Mouse!' by Jed Henry

Cheer Up, Mouse! by Jed Henry
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012

Mouse is having a bad day. His animal friends can tell by the way he hangs his head and wanders off on his own. One by one, each animal uses his own unique skills to try and cheer up their friend: Crow lifts him in the air; Frog pulls him into the water; Rabbit bounces him around; Mole takes him underground; Bluebirds carry him up into a tree; Badger gives him some food; and Hedgehog rolls him down the hill. But still, Mouse is standing alone and looking sad... until Chipmunk goes (literally) out on a limb to offer Mouse a hug. The other animals gather round in curiosity, and when they see Chipmunk and Mouse smile at each other, they all join in a group hug.

The language is sparse and playful and the story is primarily told through Jed Henry's wonderful illustrations. The animals, though portrayed realistically, have remarkably expressive faces that convey their concern for their friend who is feeling down and their inventive determination to cheer him up.

The first grade students that I read this story to were riveted by it, erupting into cheers of “Awesome!” and “Great!” when I came to the end. They commented on the color of the illustrations, the animals' movements, and the fact that there were no words on the pages in which Chipmunk gives Mouse a hug. (Because, of course, no words were needed.)

Jed Henry has always had an affinity for animals. As a child, he preferred zoos to museums, and Shark Week was more fun than Christmas. Now that he's mostly grown up, Jed still loves animals. His favorite critters are his two little girls, who are about as wild as they come. Jed lives by the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Provo, Utah.

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, January 21, 2013

Monday Poems: "The Second Inaugural" -- by Barbara Claire Freeman

Dear Necessity, the magnitude
            and difficulty of the trust to which the voice
                        of my country has called arises from the recent
tempest, adopted by the Spanish to name
            the storms they encountered in New Times
                        Roman. These reflections, bracketed
by floods, have forced themselves
            so strongly on my mind that I fear
                        Hurakan, who commands winds
from the east. In the night there is a coming
            and going of people, but where are the former
                        ties? Although the wounds of many
of you have begun to fester,
            there are none under the waters, there are
                        none. In this conflict all I dare aver
is that it has been my faithful study
            to collect a duty from a just appreciation
                        of every street lamp in Philadelphia. If I
have violated willingly or silently
            the injunction thereof, I may
                        (besides incurring constitutional punishment) be subject
            to the upbraiding of all who are now
                        witnesses of this present solemnity. I did
not say, “In this chapter begins your future, it cannot be put out by fire.”

*     *     *     *     *

Barbara Claire Freeman is a literary critic, literature professor and poet whose work includes The Feminine Sublime: Gender and Excess in Women’s Fiction (1998), among other works of literary theory and criticism, and the poetry collection Incivilities (2009). Her poems have won the Boston Review/Discovery Prize and the Language Exchange Prize. 

She teaches creative writing in the Rhetoric Department at the University of California, Berkeley.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Charles Finn, author of 'Wild Delicate Seconds: 29 Wildlife Encounters

In twenty-nine micro-essays that border on prose poems, Charles Finn captures chance encounters with the everyday—and not so everyday—animals, birds, and insects of North America.

There are no maulings or fantastic escapes in Finn’s narratives—only stillness and attentiveness to beauty. With profundity, humor, grace, and compassion, Finn pays homage to the creatures that share our world—from black bears to bumble bees, mountain lions to muskrats—and, in doing so, touches on what it means to be human.

Wild Delicate Seconds:29 Wildlife Encounters will appeal to both trained and casual wildlife observers; to birders, hikers, conservationists, ecologists, and naturalists; and to readers of American nature writers such as Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Barry Lopez, Annie Dillard, and Mary Oliver.

"Wild Delicate Seconds is an exquisite read, full of small surprises with big heartbeats. Finn's stories are warbler-sized. They cut through the air of the mind like flames."  —Gretel Ehrlich, author of The Solace of Open Spaces and The Future of Ice

"These brief meditations are as beautiful for what they donʼt say as for what they do. Charles Finn does not pad, overreach, or over-emote. His precision accounts of wildlife encounters summon awe, wonder, and magnificence when those feelings are authentically present, but just as readily summon comedy if the encounter was, as Edward Hoagland once put it, 'like meeting a fantastically dressed mute on the road.' These are not fleeting glances: they are full-on full-bodied face-to-face invocations of the way animals and birds 'speak out by saying precisely nothing,' uncannily propelling us into 'the exact place where the world begins.'"  —David James Duncan, author of The Brothers K and My Story as Told by Water

You can hear Charles Finn talk about and read from Wild Delicate Seconds on the following public radio stations, or listen online.
 Find out more about Charles Finn.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Young Adult Book Review: 'Road Trip' by Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen

Road Trip by Gary Paulsen
and Jim Paulsen
Wendy Lamb Books, 2013

Gary Paulsen's latest book was written with the help of his son Jim, a sculptor. The Paulsen family shares a love of dogs, and after Jim told Gary about his latest dog rescue, Gary wrote the first chapter of a story about a father and a son rescuing a homeless dog. He emailed it to Jim, and received another chapter in response. The father-son writing team continued in this fashion until the manuscript was complete, then handed it over to their editor to "tie together".

If I interpreted the Author's Note correctly, Gary Paulsen, well-known for his children's and young adult books about animals and wilderness, wrote the bulk of the story, while Jim wrote alternating short chapters from the family dog's perspective. The narrator of the main story is Ben, a fourteen-year-old who sets off on a road trip with his father to rescue a Border Collie that Ben hopes to call his own.

Ben's Dad hopes that the trip will provide an opportunity for him to bond with his son after he has quit his corporate job to start a risky business flipping houses. In a panic, Ben calls a friend to come along, and they pick up several other travelers along the way. The trip turns into an adventure with a little bit of danger and a whole lot of healing taking place en route.

The chances of several strangers being willing to tag along without notice on a two-day trip are about the same as the likelihood that a police officer would agree to drag race the motley crew after stopping them for speeding (which also happens in the book). Nonetheless, the characters are likeable, and the story moves along at a clip pace.

This isn't one of Paulsen's best works (my eight-year old daughter wasn't engaged enough by the first few chapters to continue reading to the end), but it will likely find a following with pre-teen boys who will appreciate it for being a fun and easy read.

Gary Paulsen is the distinguished author of many critically acclaimed books for young people, including three Newbery Honor Books. He won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for his lifetime achievement in young adult literature. He divides his time between his home in Alaska, his ranch in New Mexico, and his sailboat on the Pacific Ocean. You can visit him on the web at

Jim Paulsen is a sculptor and former elementary school teacher. He lives with his wife and two children in Minnesota. Road Trip is his first book.

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