Posts tagged ‘character’

FLASHBACKS

Horse and Dog Adventures in Early California: Short Stories and Poems by Ransom A. Wilcox

Edited by Karl Beckstrand

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This kindle book was promoted as a free e book. For some reason, I was drawn to it, and I am very glad that I picked it up. The book is largely autobiographical. It tells the story of Ransom A. Wilcox who was born a Canadian, the sixth of seventh children. Because he was a sickly child, the family relocated to northern California where they farmed, fished, hunted and struggled to make a living.

Wilcox is a gifted writer. He has the ability to draw you into his story with a combination of simple language and homespun charm. The stories have a bit of everything, adventure, melancholy, joy and a sense of pride. The book consists of short stories and poems. They cover such scenes as Ransom’s hard work being rewarded with his very own horse, and his dramatic escape from a wild boar by climbing a pole that he cleverly stuck in the ground. There is a touching scene with the family dog named Old Blue.

Many of his poems are included. The subjects range from those dealing with family like “To A Granddaughter” and “My Little Girl”, a group that talks about nature like “To The Redwoods!” and “Quiet Waters,” and some that talk about personal issues like “Character,” “Friendship,” and “Immortality.” These are not complicated verses; they are written with both common sense and pathos.

The editor says that the work is for all ages. I think that children age ten and up would be able to handle independent reading. Local dialect make it an authentic read. The few black and white photographs included of family and surroundings fit perfectly with the mood of the story. It is classified as a multicultural book by the publisher, Premio Books. Teachers might want to consider using the book as part of a study unit on American life in the early twentieth century. The kindle as well as a paperback version is available on Amazon. I find it difficult to explain why I like this book so much, but I recommend that you give it a try.

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A PRINCESS WITH PIZAZZ!

Sir Princess Petra: The Pen Pieyu Adventures

Written by Diane Mae Robinson

SirPrincessPetrapicAs the story opens, we meet Princess Petra who is about to celebrate her birthday on the ninth day of the ninth month on the ninth year. According to royal custom, she may request anything she wishes as a birthday gift. Petra addresses her parents and informs them that she is tired of the usual gifts of jewelry and clothes. This year she wants to become a royal knight. Her father, King Longstride cannot find anything disallowing her request in the royal rulebook. However, she must choose and successfully accomplish one of three acts of royal bravery: capture a crocodile and make his skin into a royal leather chair, quiet the howling dragon named Snarls who lives in the Forest of Doom, or eat a roomful of raw onions! The princess dislikes onions and is friendly with the kingdom’s crocodile, so she quickly decides on quieting the dragon.

Princess Petra departs the castle in a suit of armor made of pots and pans because all the royal armor is too big for her. Her weapon looks more like a cake knife than a sword. The poor princess soon meets adversity. During her adventures, she must figure out how to stop the dragon from howling and keeping the royal family awake, cope with a witch in the bog, and deal with an army of knights from a neighboring kingdom who want to challenge her. This princess has brains and common sense along with her beauty. She does not win her battles with force and bullying; Petra is a good judge of character and human nature! (even if some of those characters are not technically human)  She has a wonderful sense of humor and can turn adversity into advantage.

Petra provides an outstanding role model for young boys and girls for she has many lessons of courage, friendship and character to teach them. She and the other quirky characters in this book possess a delightful sense of humor. The black and white pencil drawings are soft and subtle complementing the quick moving text of this short chapter book which could be read in one sitting as a read aloud or in chapters for discussion in a classroom setting. Looking forward to reading more of The Pen Pieyu Adventures from this talented new author.

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PRESIDENTIAL PHANTOMS

Haunted Presidents:Ghosts in the Lives of the Chief Executive

Written by Charles A. Stansfield, Jr.

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This book presents portraits of the lives of the first forty presidents in US history and the possibility of hauntings or paranormal events associated with them and their families. While the author has written other books on the paranormal, he has also taught and written books on cultural and regional geography. Here he has ventured into the world of history as well, and while I have not double checked all the historical background which is sketchy in spots, it appears to be fairly well researched.

In his introduction, Stansfield informs the reader that ghosts are bipartisan and universal. Because the presidents are in a unique position to influence history, it makes sense that they might become restless spirits unable to leave our world. According to public opinion polls ten to forty percent of Americans believe they personally have had contact with a deceased person. Obviously some presidents have had more influence than others and it is the same with ghosts or the likelihood of ghost stories being associated with them.

Stansfield believes the relative degree of interest in a presidential ghost story is related to what he calls the “Three C’s.” These are character, charisma and circumstances. Presidents like Lincoln, Washington and Theodore Roosevelt have strong character that embody virtues like courage, perseverance and integrity. First ladies such as Dolley Madison and Jackie Kennedy possessed extraordinary charisma. Circumstances in one’s life often influence the legends like the strong influence in spiritualism displayed by Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary. President Woodrow Wilson was driven to despair because he was unable to succeed in achieving his dream of world peace.

The place where ghosts appear is usually based on a location that was especially significant to that person’s life. One example is the funeral route of Lincoln’s final train ride. Another is the Key West Cottage where Harry Truman and his wife often stayed. The White House is probably our country’s most famous haunted house. One of the most unusual stories is that of the demon cat which appears in the basement and crypt of the Capitol building. At first it seems to be a kitten, but soon evolves into a huge, snarling cat. Believers claim that this cat materialized shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassination of JFK, and the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Ghosts of past White House Staff open and close doors and lights. Even Winston Churchill and a British Queen have reported seeing the ghost of Abraham Lincoln in his former bedroom.

Whether you are a skeptic or not, you will enjoy reading about tidbits of historical information like the fact that Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were sure they saw UFO’s and the fact that George Washington appeared on a horse with a flaming sword at the Battle of Gettysburg to encourage the Union forces on to victory. The ghost of John Adams is said to haunt the former Supreme Court chamber in the Capitol building where he defended fifty three Africans who revolted against their slave captors on the Amistad and sailed to an American port seeking freedom and return to Africa.

The book can be read in chronological order or used as a reference to a certain period of history. Its story line is appropriate for young adult and adult audiences. Classroom teachers might want to use the paranormal aspect to encourage more interest in presidential facts and historical events. Certainly an interesting way to view American history.

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