Thursday, March 26, 2009

the once and future king

Over dinner at Noodles, I finished Stephanie Spinner's Damosel: in which the Lady of the Lake renders a frank and often startling account of her wondrous life and times. It was wonderful. It starts with Merlin asking the Lady of the Lake to make a sword for the young Arthur, a sword to help him become king. It tells Damosel's story and the story of Twixt, a dwarf who becomes an important part of the court at Camelot.

My fascination with Camelot began in junior high when my parents and I, on a very cold Saturday night, saw the movie, starring Richard Harris (the start of my admiration/crush on him), on an extremely cold winter night. The romance of it all really captivated my teenage heart, though I never could understand why Guinevere would choose Lancelot when she could have Richard Harris!!!! I soon was driving my parents insane with my incessant playing of the soundtrack, loudly and dramatically singing along. Next came the obsessive reading of T.H. White's The once and future king which I accepted as gospel truth about King Arthur. In ninth grade English, I made a speech about the book starting with, "Imagine Mr. Williams (my poor long-suffering English teacher whose father had been my father's best friend growing up) as Lancelot. Most think of Lancelot as handsome (Mr. Williams was positively preening) but, in truth, he was as ugly as a monster (Mr. Williams, who was not a handsome man, had the good grace to laugh) in the king's menagerie." My enthusiasm earned me an A on the project.

Next was toting around the massive volume of Marian Zimmer Bradley's The mists of Avalon. I carried it with me everywhere and, whenever I had a spare minute, I read, instantly transporting myself to that enchanted world.

As a children's librarian, I was thrilled to learn that kids are still fascinated by King Arthur. A few of the children's/young adult books about Camelot are:

The squire's tales by Gerald Morris, a multi-volume series of knights tales, told with great humor.

The young Merlin trilogy by Jane Yolen, Merlin's life told through a series of bird-like developments in his character.

The lost years of Merlin by T.A. Barron, a five volume telling of Merlin's progression from orphaned boy to wizard.

Knights of the Kitchen Table by Jon Scieszka, the Time Warp Trio visits Camelot, leaving chaos in their wake.

I know there are many more books about Camelot in my reading history, and, with luck, there will be many more. I never get tired of the well-loved story.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

you can go home again

With a free half hour on my hands last night, I settled down in my comfortable chair and started the long-remembered and long-awaited A touch of magic by Betty Cavanna. I was hooked from the first pages and it is just as enjoyable as it was in my junior high years! But, my goodness, how the world has changed! Would you ever see a female character described as "gay and capricious" in a modern book? There is such an air of innocence in the book and the language is just delicious. I can't wait to spend another part of the evening with Hannah Trent and the Shippen girls.

After so many years and so many memories, I am absolutely delighted (and more than a little relieved) that this book is so much fun to read. I wonder what else I can dredge up from my memory that will bring so much pleasure. I think it will have to be a book because watching the TV shows of my youth (I'm thinking of Here come the brides with Robert Brown, David Soul and the much-adored (by other girls...I was strictly a Robert Brown fan) Bobby Sherman) makes me cringe now. Some things are better left as happy memories.

Monday, March 16, 2009

What am I going to do with all of that fabric?

I've written of my obsessive love of fabric. Lately, I've been on a buying binge (for me, that is) for books with ideas for what to do with all my glorious fabric. After looking through these books, my head is so full of ideas that I don't know where to begin!

Even though I know that my little condo is too small for all of the quilts I would like to make, I did buy two books that are strictly quilts: Lots of scraps, it's time to quilt by Jeanne Stauffer and Diane Schmidt and Not your grandmother's log cabin by Sara Nephew and Marci Baker. Both are full of bright and unconventional quilt ideas, involving lots of color. Lots of new ideas for the boxes of polka dot fabric I've been hoarding.

Since I can't make all the quilts whirling around in my head (and I don't know enough people to give all of those quilts to as gifts), I also bought books for other projects: The perfect apron by Robert Merrett; Quilting in no time by Emma Hardy (this includes pillows, table runners and cloths, bags and more); Sew What! bags: 18 pattern-free projects you can customize to fit your needs by Lexie Barnes. Again, my mind is awhirl with all of the new possibilities.

So, if you are in the position to receive a gift from me, be warned: it will be homemade! (I'm way ahead of the curve on the other books--they don't have pictures posted on either Amazon or Barnes & Noble.)

Monday, March 9, 2009

oh, joy! oh, rapture!

Back when I was a young lass in the 9th grade at Osseo Junior High, all of the 9th grade girls were in a swoon over a young adult novel, a little romance about a young Quaker girl who was seamstress to the notorious Peggy Shippen (she later married Benedict Arnold, equally notorious). There was a waiting list, strictly enforced by Miss van Rissighum (probably incorrectly spelled since we all referred to her as Miss Van, which she thoroughly enjoyed) which allowed each reader only one week to read the book as many times as possible.

Fast forward to my librarian years and that book just wouldn't leave my memory. I asked all of the other librarians if they remembered it and, alas, nary a one did. I resigned myself to never knowing what the book was, never being able to request it and read it again to see if the magic was still there. Sigh.

Tonight, during a quiet moment at the reference desk, I did a google search for "Peggy Shippen young adult novel" and, buried, many pages from the beginning, there it was: A touch of magic by Betty Cavanna!!!!! I did a quick search of MNLink and, glory be!, Minneapolis Public Library still has a copy! Unfortunately, my card isn't registered with MNLink and I can't request it. I'll make a quick trip to a St. Paul Public Library and update my card and, at long last, the book will be mine!

Lesson learned: never give up.

I'll let you know if it is as wonderful in reality as it is in my memory.

Monday, March 2, 2009

a most glorious book

I was checking in a cart of brand new juvenile nonfiction books, grabbing the books that looked especially interesting for my nonfiction list on the library's web site. I saw a book on swords but decided not to take it, it looked blah. Later in the day, I read a review for the book and ran to the shelf to check it out.

Swords: an artist's devotion by Ben Boos is the most beautifully illustrated book I have ever seen. The text is divided by the people who use the swords: warriors, raiders, war maidens, villagers, soldiers and so on. Each "chapter" includes historical information about the user, drawings of the swords in use, drawings of the different parts of the sword, etc. Between each section is a two-page spread, in warm, rich colors, of different aspects of a sword: hilt, blade, scabbard and more. The pictures look so real, you can almost feel the chill of the metal, the weight of the sword in your hand. Check out the author/illustrator's blog page at -- you won't be disappointed.

I showed the book to an artist friend of mine (yes, BP, you are an artist!) and he was entranced. I know he will go to the library and check the book out just to carefully examine each drawing, marveling at the detail. I hope you will do the same!