“The Rules of Magic” : Basic Human Truths

The Rules of Magic

One of the reasons that I attend several book clubs is for motivation to try new genres and authors. Although I’ve read some books in the past that would be considered paranormal, I don’t know that I would have chosen to read The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman unless it had been a book club pick. It isn’t AT ALL what I expected.

This book is a prequel to Practical Magic, for which there is also a movie that I’ve never seen. Possibly it was the picture on the movie ad that made me expect The Rules of Magic would be light, autumnal entertainment. Not so; in fact, tears came to my eyes countless times in the reading. Yes, the blurb DOES mention “loss,” but I just didn’t anticipate the feelings this book would evoke.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many paranormal elements to the story, especially as the children…Franny, Jet, and Vincent break more and more of their mother’s rules aimed at protecting them from their history and connections to magic. No walks in the moonlight, no black clothing,  and no cats, just to name a few! Once their mother and father allow them to visit their aunt, however, things really start to devolve. Over time, they eventually break most of the rules they’ve been taught, including warnings against falling in love.

Before I get to those “basic human truths,” or BHTs (not to be confused with that suspect additive, BHT :) I want to mention that Ms. Hoffman’s use of setting…both place and time is excellent. The Northeastern U.S. with its change of seasons affords wonderful atmosphere, and I felt a comfortable familiarity with the times in which the children grow up and try their hands at being adults, the 1960’s and 1970’s. Now, for those nuggets of humanity that even the witches and wizards in this book experience:

winter scene from Pixabay.jpg no attrib. req.

“…forgetting her loss would be worse than the loss itself.”  (p. 231)

“…when you truly love someone and they love you in return, you ruin your lives together.” (p. 254)

“I just do the best I can to face what life brings. That’s the secret, you know. That’s the way you change your fate.” (p. 258)

“Life is a mystery, and it should be so, for the sorrow that accompanies being human and the choices one will have to make are a burden, too heavy for most to know before their time comes.” (p. 266)

“It is simply the way of the world to lose everything you have ever loved. In this, we are like everyone else.” (p. 297)

“Well, we can’t really know our parents, can we?…Even for those with the sight, parents are unfathomable creatures.” (p. 331)

“But rules were never the point. It was finding out who you were.” (p. 365)

“Know that the only remedy for love is to love more.” (p. 366)

***

The book closes with unexpected developments and a new set of rules, one of which I know from my own life: “Always leave out seed for the birds when the first snow falls.” I thoroughly enjoyed this story and look forward to reading others by Alice Hoffman!

Hoffman, Alice. The Rules of Magic: A Novel (The Practical Magic Series Book 1). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

To end this post, I’m including a link to a lovely song, “A Case of You,” by Joni Mitchell taken from the soundtrack of the movie, “Practical Magic,” which I plan to watch, someday very soon. 

If you’ve read this book or others by the author, please share some of your thoughts in the comments!

 

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Don Freeman: the Winding Path to Children’s Bookshelves

Come One Come All Don Freeman cropped copty

I recently wrote about my “fantastic find” at a bookstore of a signed copy of Hattie the Backstage Bat by children’s author, Don Freeman, which also sports an original illustration! This made me curious to find out more about the person, himself. I learned that he had written an autobiography as a young man before he and his wife had become published in the world of children’s literature.

The book, Come One, Come All, tells about his somewhat unusual childhood in California and his very early dreams about moving to New York and becoming an artist. It recounts his later struggles in New York, during the Depression, first supporting himself by playing the cornet in dance bands. We follow Mr. Freeman as he finally squirrels away enough savings to take painting classes with the inspirational artist, John Sloan.

Eventually, Don Freeman seems to find his artistic niche behind the scenes in the world of the theater. Some of his articles and illustrations were published in newspapers such as the New York Herald Tribune, the New York Times, and PM, in addition to making appearances in publications such as Stage and Theater Magazine.

Readers interested in the heady atmosphere of New York leading into the early 1950’s will find this to be a very interesting window into that period. The book ends happily with Don and Lydia, a young woman he had met earlier in California, getting married. We say goodbye to them as they are both experiencing their first tastes of professional success. What really grabs me about this well-written and charmingly illustrated book is that they had no inkling at the time how successful and admired they would later become in the realm of children’s literature.

This 244-page book was not a simple one to find! A few copies were available through Amazon or eBay for hundreds of dollars, each. That wasn’t going to happen, as much as I wanted to read it. Hurrah for WorldCat, the inter-library option, and I did find the book listed there!

The copy that I borrowed was through a university’s library and has been rebound, so no longer wears the interesting, illustrated cover shown above. No matter, since this copy DOES have something else that I find to be so intriguing. Tucked into the back is what I imagine to be the original card! This chronicles check-out dates in the 50’s through 60’s and being “mended” in the early 70’s. The borrowers’ names have been blacked-out, as shown, below. I love those old library cards and treasure a few used books in my personal collection that contain these. Digital means of book management are efficient, but sometimes I feel sad that we’ve lost a certain sense of history in the transition.

library card 2 001

Meatless Monday: Tomato Onion Tart with Olive Oil Crust

This recipe from Marcy Gaston (MS, RD, LN) at Food and Nutrition Magazine looks so yummy…you may want to give it a try! She blogs at cookingsustainably.com  ~Becky

A fully baked Tomato Onion Tart with Olive Oil Crust shot from above.

Photo: Marcy Gaston, MS, RD, LN

Looking for another way to eat tomatoes since they’re in season and ready to be served? Of course, you can always opt for the classic BLT. Heck, I like bacon as much as the next person, but sometimes you need to give tomatoes a holiday from bacon (or vice versa). This is also a perfect recipe for a brunch or light dinner.  It isn’t heavy and if served with a nice salad, it will make a complete meal.

The catch? You have to use fresh, ripe tomatoes. You know those heirloom varieties sold at the farmer’s market? Yeah, those. Buy some and use them for this recipe. It will make a huge difference in the end product.

Now, if you look at the title, you’ll see I mention an olive oil crust. Yes, instead of butter, I made the tart pastry with olive oil and yogurt. Why? Well, I like butter. Trust me. Butter is my friend and I’m always happy to use it. But sometimes I like to see if anything else can replace butter. Nothing is a great substitute for butter, let’s be honest. The tart pastry is not flaky; it’s mealy. BUT it tastes great and works really well in this recipe. I do not suggest using this tart pastry for pies. It just won’t taste right and you’ll be frustrated. But this is a savory tart and it works.

Tomato Onion Tart with Olive Oil Crust

Ingredients

Olive Oil Tart Pastry:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 13 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 13 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt

Tart

  • 1 sweet yellow onion, sliced thin
  • ¼ cup Kalamata olives (or your favorite olive), pitted and roughly chopped
  • ½ pound fontina cheese, sliced into ¼-inch slices
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 to 4 medium to large tomatoes, sliced
  • Parmesan cheese for sprinkling
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  2. In a bowl, sift together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. In a small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (olive oil, water, and yogurt). Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix until combined. If mixture is too dry, add a little water. If it’s too wet, add a little flour. It should come together like a regular pastry dough (slightly soft but not sticky or crumbly).
  3. Flour the counter and roll the dough into a circle bigger than your tart pan. My tart pan is 11 inches, so I rolled the dough into a 12-inch circle. The tart pastry should be about 1814-inch thick. You don’t want it too thick. The pastry might break apart, and that’s perfectly OK. It’s a tart pastry, the most unruly and forgiving of all pastries.
  4. Transfer the pastry to the tart pan and tuck the dough into the pan. If it breaks apart, just fill in the holes with the extra dough. Press any of the overhang against the top of the pan. Make sure the sides are enforced well with dough.
  5. Slide the tart pan onto a baking sheet. Bake for 6 to 10 minutes. Basically, you are giving the crust a head start in baking.
  6. Remove the tart from the oven and fill it with the tart ingredients. First, layer the onion and olives on the bottom of the pan. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Place the sliced cheese on top of the onions. Drizzle with olive oil. Top with sliced tomatoes. Drizzle with a little more olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper and sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese.
  7. Return to the oven and bake for 45 minutes.
  8. Remove and allow to cool slightly before serving. Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Talking with Kids about A Culture of World Peace

Please check out this awesome book “All Are Welcome” by Alexandra Penfold — in this reblog from Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal!    ~Becky

International Day of Peace, Sep. 21, 2018 All Are Welcome Alexandra Penfold, Author Suzanne Kaufman, Illustrator Knopf Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Jul. 10, 2018 Pages: 44 Suitable for Ages: 4-8 Themes: Diversity, Inclusiveness, Classroom, School, Friendship Opening: Pencils sharpened in their case. / Bells are ringing, let’s make haste. / School’s beginning, dreams to […]

via All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold — Children’s Books Heal

Fantastic Find at the Bookstore #1

hattie

Many of us are in agreement that we love bookstores. My favorite establishments are those that also offer used books and assorted vintage goodies, such as magazines, music and other miscellany. Although not widely traveled, I have wonderful memories of great bookshops spread from Duluth, MN, to Williamsburg, VA, with many in Michigan and Canada sandwiched in between.

As you can well imagine, I’ve made memorable “finds” in those visits. These items tend to fall into two groups: something specific I was looking for, or a totally unexpected piece. The coup that I will relate today definitely falls into the “unexpected” category.

Prior to my recent move to Texas, I had also lived and worked in this state for some years when my children were young. Before heading back to my home state of Michigan, I began studies toward earning elementary education certification and fulfilling my quest to become a teacher. Denton, Texas, being the home of two universities, is a logical place for a used bookstore, of course. Recycled Books, Records, & CD’s , at the time I lived there, was already bursting its seams at a small location, and is today housed in a larger spot within a former opera house in the picturesque town square.

That day, I had at least one of my daughters with me, and we were just scanning the small children’s section. An author’s name on a hardcover picture book caught my eye…Don Freeman of Corduroy fame. The title, Hattie the Backstage Bat, wasn’t familiar to me, so I decided to take a look. It was a former library edition, in good shape, with no tears or other visual damage. I then looked toward the front of the book to notice that it had belonged to the local, Emily Fowler Library, and at one time been sold out of the library’s used bookshop, before ending up at Recycled Books and priced at $1.50. Turning the page, I was astounded to discover this:

Don Freeman jpeg 001 (2)

I can just imagine Mr. Freeman visiting the library during the year following publication of this book, meeting the eager listeners, and producing this original drawing for them right on the spot. Yes, Hattie’s blue hat did get a little smudged, and unfortunately an uninformed or overworked library worker  stamped “discard” in the middle of her left wing. I love it, just the same, and will treasure this book always! As an added bonus, the story is charming, and I shared it (along with other Don Freeman titles) with countless children during my years in the classroom.

In doing a little more research on this author, who died in 1978, I find on a lovely website, run by his son, that he was not only an author and illustrator of children’s books, but also a painter and lithographer who “vividly portrayed the street life and theater world of New York City in the 1930s and 40s.” That site contains a wealth of information and images, so you may want to take a few minutes out of your day for a visit.

What is your favorite “find” from a bookstore?

~Becky

 

September 4 – National Wildlife Day – Guest Post by Author Marsha Diane Arnold — Reblog from Celebrate Picture Books!

About the Holiday: National Wildlife Day was established in 2005 by author and pet lifestyle expert Colleen Paige in memory of conservationist Steve Irwin. The day promotes awareness of the importance of conservation of animals, habitats, and the environment worldwide and offers education on the number of endangered and threatened species across the globe. To […]

via September 4 – National Wildlife Day – Guest Post by Author Marsha Diane Arnold —

Grilling on Meatless Monday: Mushroom Burgers!

mushroom

You CAN enjoy the pleasures of grilling without the meat. Just throw the largest Portobello mushrooms you can find on the grill and let them absorb those delicious smoky flavors. These mushroom sliders can even use dinner rolls for the buns!

Source: Mini Mushroom Burgers – Meatless Monday