Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Look at all the Ducks!

There are ducks at work. Many ducks! They are paired up and living along the banks of Lyons Creek which runs along the southern edge of Lake Forest Park Town Center, where I work.

I went for a walk on my break the other day and found myself standing in this little piece of nature surrounded by a parking lot and Bothell Way NE, a very busy four lane street, watching real, live, Make Way for Ducklings ducks paddling in the stream, quacking and waddling and doing very ducky stuff.

The hens (is that the correct term?) are the exact color of the winter affected weeds and blackberry canes and appear on the scene like the Indians in Bev Doolittle's art. And the drakes, ah, they are so handsome and glossy, all color and sheen, little curly tail feathers flipping up over their backs, protective of the ladies.

I forget how little nature it takes to make me feel that things will be okay. This little creek, over the past almost year I have been at Third Place Books, has overflowed its banks and flooded the street (the first time I saw that was last May-and it has happened many times since) and has gone down to almost a trickle in the late summer. There is something grounding about watching the world go on around you, ducklings hatching, creeks overflowing, raccoons fishing, just going on on its own. This particular world doesn't revolve around me.

Michael Perry, the author of Truck, has a couple of sentences in not-yet-published Coop, that expresses beautifully the idea that we are a part of everything, not the reason for it, but a part of it: The frozen air is bell-jar still. The sky is deep black, the stars pressing down brilliantly all around, and I am reminded that we are not beneath the constellations, but among them. MMM. Now, that's good writin'.

Books read this week: Big Splash, by Jack D. Ferraiolo. Amulet Press, ages 10 and up. A noir-ish (think Guy Noir for the younger set), pulp-styled mystery, nominated for the teen Poe Awards. Fun, not necessarily my favorite of the teen nominations, but good. Our hero, Matt Stevens, is on the case: Who soaked Nikki "Fingers" Finnegan's pants with water, immediately launching her into the "outs", the lowest caste of their middle school? There are some pretty funny scenes and some classic writing a la Dashiell Hammett.

11 Birthdays, by Wendy Mass. Scholastic, 10 and up. Wendy Mass is one of my very favorite authors and I think you should add her to your repertoire. She has written across across all age groups and has a little something for everyone. 11 Birthdays is about two kids, born on the same day, and a curse that spans the generations. When they are born, an old woman who is also present at the hospital, mentions that they should spend every birthday together. The parents nod and say mm hmm and that seems to be the end of it. The kids do spend their birthdays together and are seldom apart until their 10th birthdays, when something cruel is said and overhead, thus ending the friendship. Until the next year, when on their 11th birthdays, they are doomed to relive the day until they can get it right. Funny, sweet, with a great feel for middle school, 11 Birthdays is really good.

Please read a Wendy Mass book. My favorites are Every Soul a Star, A Mango-Shaped Space, Leap Day (another birthday book!), and Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. These are published by Little Brown and Company and all are great for 11 and up. Let me know what you think of them!

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