Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Belted Kingfisher

Either I have been very unobservant for the last 20 years, which is possible, or I have never seen this bird before. On our nightly walk along the Mississippi River we have noticed lots more wildlife. For the past two nights we have seen a distinctive looking bird and it seems to have a raucous call. Some research in my bird guide led me to discover that this bird is the Belted Kingfisher. For more information, you can visit the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Although the picture most similar to the birds we saw can be seen at Another good site for sound and video and tons of information - click here. The University of Michigan's Animal Diversity Web also provides good information as does Field Guide to Birds of North America. Keep your eyes open and be alert, you too may see something that is new to you!

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Book Without Words: A Fable of Medieval Magic

This novel by Avi begins in "1046, on a cold winter's night, when a fog, thick as wool and dank as a dead man's hand, crept up from the River Scrogg ..." You will meet the aged alchemist, Thorston; his talking raven Odo; and his servant girl Sybil. Has Thorston found the key to immortality? What is it that Brother Wilfrid knows about this book without words? He must warn Sybil of the danger she faces. Each time Thorston "dies", he returns to life younger -- soon he will be as young as Sybil, 13.

There are lots of twists and turns in the plot of this fairly short novel, about 200 pages. Some of the people mentioned in the book were real and others are fictional. The descriptons are vivid and the action will keep your interest for the length of the book.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Search for Belle Prater

Belle Prater’s Boy, the Newbery Honor Book by Ruth White, introduces readers to small-town Appalachia of the 1950s. This appeals to me because the 50s are an integral part of my childhood memories – though I did not grow up in Appalachia, I did grow up in a small town in Illinois. This sequel takes place about a year after Belle Prater’s disappearance.

Woodrow, Belle’s son, and his cousin Gypsy Arbutus Leemaster and a new girl Cassie Caulborne help each other search for what each is looking for. They decide to take a bus to Bluefield to search for Woodrow’s mother. On the bus they meet Joseph, an African American boy, who is also searching for a lost parent. This friendship introduces the characters to prejudice as it existed in the 1950s. After some adventures the characters develop their friendships and resolve their own dilemmas.

I found this book comfortable and a very pleasant reading experience. I was able to connect to taking a bus trip alone to a city -- something my friends and I did when we were thirteen.