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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer Reading

contributed by Stephanie Bearce

Books are my life. I read them, I write them, I dream about them, and sometimes I even drool over them. They are the ink in the blood of my veins.  I've loved books from the time my mother started reading to me.  I remember nap times when mom would read the Raggedy Ann books, and I would drift to sleep thinking about the camel with wrinkled knees, and dolls who could really talk.

As soon as I could read on my own, my mother made sure I had weekly trips to the Dwight Library.  It was there I met the girl detectives; Trixie Beldon, and Nancy Drew.  I learned about frontier life with Laura Ingalls Wilder and traveled to far off worlds with Meg in a Wrinkle in Time

My favorite reading season was summer.  During the school year I was limited to two books a week.  My parents knew that if they allowed me any more than that I would never do any homework.  But in the summer I could check out as many books as I wanted.  I was book rich.

As soon as I got home from the library I would look over my precious stack of stories.  Which would I read first?  I would carefully select the honored title and head to my favorite tree.  Sitting in the branches with the breeze rustling the leaves, I would take off on an adventure far far away from my Kansas farm.  Who needed fancy vacations when I could explore haunted houses, travel to far off planets and live in imaginary kingdoms.

Summertime reading is still sweet to me.  On cooler days I like to sit outside in the shade with a cold drink and read the latest novel.  My favorite books are mysteries.  I guess I'm forever a Nancy Drew Wannabe.  I LOVE Elizabeth Peters books, and I highly recommend them to anyone who likes their mystery with a large dose of humor. I'm also a fan of Susan Wittig Albert, Donna Andrews, Carolyn Haines, and Jan Burke.

But I also adore classic books.  I mean who doesn't love Jane Austen?  I can't tell you how many times I've cheered for Mr. Darcy and laughed at poor confused Emma.  Summer is a perfect time to visit Mansfield Park and the English countryside. 

If you want a wonderful satirical laugh there is always P.G. Wodehouse.  His bumbling rich boy, Bertie Wooster, and Jeeves, the butler who save his skin, are dear old friends of mine.

As a writer of books for children, I also keep up on what kids are reading.  The Percy Jackson series is a riotous adventure that will keep both boys and girls glued to the pages.

Two of my favorite authors have published very fun books for children.  Jeanie Ransom's Picture book, What Really Happened to Humpty, is fun for both children and their adult readers.  I think my mom would have loved reading it aloud to us kids. 

And Kristin Nitz has fulfilled modern girl's detective daydreams with her book, Suspect. It has everything a girl detective needs, including a surprise ending and a little bit of romance.

Oh yes, summer is the season for reading.  In these hot lazy days treat yourself to a trip to the library or your favorite bookstore.  My favorite is Main Street Books  Ask your bookseller or librarian for their recommendations.  Then take home a pile of adventures and savor them with a cold glass of tea.  It may be the best vacation you'll ever take.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Secret Garden

contributed by Stephanie Bearce

One of my favorite childhood stories was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  I wanted to be Mary so I could roam the halls of an ancient mansion and   run through the misty moors of the English countryside.  Most of all I wanted to discover a rusty old key to a hidden garden.  I loved the idea of having a special little world full of flowers and birds where I could dream, and read, and plan.
But there were no ancient mansions in Council Grove, Kansas and the fields were  full of wheat and not English heather.  I did try looking for a lost key in the hay barn, but all I found an old horse shoe.  And the closest I came to a hidden garden was a blanket under a cedar tree. 

But lo and behold my childhood dreams have been fulfilled by none other than my wonderful parents.  With their incredible gardening skills and my dad's constant watering, their backyard has become an amazing secret garden.

Nestled in the Kansas Flint Hills, my parents have nurtured a magical green space where Koi fish play and fairy houses hide in a rose garden. 

I love to visit and relax next to the bubbling water.  My sisters and I sit in the wicker chairs and flip through magazines, or gossip about old school mates.  My dad always takes me on a tour of the garden so I can see new plantings and admire the current blooms.

Prairie coneflowers wave in the breeze and daisies nod their heads.  Squirrels fight over corn kernels and an occasional deer stops to drink in the pond.  The geraniums and ferns live happily in old kettles and tins, and the play house waits for young visitors.

When my daughter was little she lived in the play house.  She would have slept there if we had let her.  In first grade she wrote an “essay” about her favorite place.  It was, of course, Grandma and Grandpa's garden.

The garden is not just a show place.  It was made for family living.  It hosts BB-Q's, family reunions, and senior high photo shoots.  We love to tease my nieces about the time they played t-ball with Grandma's glass gazing ball.  It has since been replaced with an unbreakable titanium version.

Someday I hope to build my own secret garden where fairies can dance in hollyhock dresses and elves can hide under deep green leaves.  For now I comfort myself with a glowing daylily collection and coreopsis that flirt with the sun.

And I still search for secret gardens.  Sometimes I catch glimpses of them in backyards or on window sills.  Because as Frances Hodgson Burnett said...
“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”