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Posts Tagged ‘Susan Jeffers’

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“This we know: All things are connected like the blood that unites us.  We did not weave the web of life.  We are merely a strand in it.  Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”

Attributed to Chief Seattle.

Cover image from Susan Jeffer’s “Brother Eagle, Sister Sky”.

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The dusting is done, the wise men are back in the box with the carolers and the nutcracker, the ornaments and the stars. Oh, a few wreaths are still hanging, for wreaths embrace all seasons, don’t you agree? I’ll admit to a few books still out, hopeful that I will pick them up and read them still, but, for the most part, the house is settled down . . .

. . . or so I thought as I settled myself down only to be rather rudely “goosed” by the extension wand from the vacuum cleaner. It was  hidden in the folds of the couch.

After a few grumbles, then a giggle, for I know who left it there, I got to thinking of Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, by Rachel Field.

Do you know the story? It is charming adventure for young readers. I used to have the original issue like the one shown above, but can’t seem to find it. There is an updated, which I did find. While it is altered a bit, it is still a delightful story.

Hitty is a wooden doll, made especially out of ash for Clarissa, who lives in Maine. When Clarissa and her family set sail for foreign lands, Hitty embarks upon all sorts of adventures, which she tell us about in her diary of her first one hundred years. She falls off of a boat and is rescued, becomes the doll of a missionary’s child, is the prize of a tribal chief, meets Mr. Lincoln, and on and on until she becomes what is akin to a National Treasure. She even lives in a basket with a snake charmer, then the daughter of missionary whose name is Thankful.

Thankful, embarrassed that her doll isn’t as fancy as the dolls of other girls, stuffs Hitty into the “sofa innards”, where Hitty languishes for 15 years before she is finally rescued.

I thought about Hitty being stuffed into a sofa for so very long as I put the vacuum wand back where it belonged. How sad that would be for a little wood doll to be stuck with nothing but the lint and the sofa change.

Then, being me, I wondered if there was anything else stuck in our sofa, like some M&M’s or some peanuts.

I think I’ll just go and rock for awhile and imagine what adventures this little doll could go on.

Have you found any treasures stuffed in your sofa lately?

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The Nutcracker

Susan Jeffers' illustrations of The Nutcracker

When I was teaching first grade, a lifetime ago it now seems, a friend and colleague took me to see The Nutcracker. It was a birthday present and my first time of seeing this ballet live. Gemma knew it was something I longed to see and she surprised me with tickets. We went to an afternoon matinée after school recessed for Christmas vacation. We drove downtown to the Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place where the ballet was staged especially for children for 31 years.  The Nutcracker was then, and still is, most often performed here in the most magical month of December. The audience that afternoon was filled with little girls, all dressed in holiday finery, and little girls at heart like Gemma and me. The curtain rose and I was transported with Clara and her nutcracker, the army of mice and Herr Drosselmeyer, and the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. I can close my eyes and hear Tchaikovsky’s music and be brought right back to my seat, stage right, a few seats from the aisle, about one third of the way back and I have never forgotten Gemma’s kind gift to me.

You will not be surprised to learn I have a wonderful children’s book about the Nutcracker, nor would you be surprised to learn that it is illustrated by one of my favorites, Susan Jeffers. She also illustrated The Song of Hiawatha and Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, among many other picture books.

I have a nutcracker. He is red and getting old and he stands this year on the mantle, guarding Jeffer’s Clara, who sits on an easel next to him. I wondered as I placed them there, together, if they would come alive at night and dance around the living room. I won’t mind if they do, as long as there are no mice involved. 

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The Song of Hiawatha

Dark behind it rose the forest,

Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,

Rose the firs with cones upon them;

Bright before it beat the water,

Beat the clear and sunny water,

Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.

from The Song of Hiawatha by Longfellow

Last spring, I wrote about Susan Jeffer’s beautifully illustrated book of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha. My good friend Janet recalled visiting Minnehaha Falls when she was a child and coming home to reread the poem. At the time, I mentioned it to Katy, hoping we could see it sometime when we came up to visit.

On Friday, looking for another park in Minneapolis on the computer, Minnehaha Falls appeared and Katy asked if that was the park I said I’d like to see.  I’d forgotten it, but, yes, I did and it was in the vicinity of where we were headed, so, off we went.

What a beautiful day it was; warm and sunny and filled with the colors of Autumn. We wandered around, looking for the falls, for the statue of Hiawatha, for the “clear and sunny water” and as we headed toward a bench so Kezzie could be fed, I turned around and there it was, the statue of Hiawatha carrying Minnehaha.

We rested and we walked and we marveled at the waterfall and at the beauty surrounding us. The park is wonderful with miles of trails for walkers and bicyclists, and a gated dog run along the river. Minnehaha  Park is right in Minneapolis.

Close to the falls is circular garden dedicated to the poem. A flower-filled fountain, plantings, and benches are within and it is surrounded by some of Longfellow’s words and etchings on the stones.

Longfellow never visited the falls.

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Book cover for Hiawatha, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Pictures by Susan Jeffers

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,

By the shining Big-Sea-Water,

From The Song of Hiawatha

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1855

As long as I was writing about Longfellow in yesterday’s post, I thought I would share a book I enjoy  that illustrates a small section of Longfellow’s poem about the boyhood of Hiawatha. The actual poem is quite long, covering 141 pages in my collection of poems and writings of Longfellow. I need to sit down and read the entire poem, aloud. Poems, to me, are so lyrical and I like to read them aloud. How about you?

I always think of The Song of Hiawatha during the autumn months. I suppose this is because of the time of year I first heard about Hiawatha and the shores of Gitche Gumee as a young school girl.

Hiawatha is illustrated by a favorite children’s illustrator of mine, Susan Jeffers, who I wrote about here. It is a lovely book to introduce children to this wonderful, epic poem and Jeffers’s artwork captures the spirit of the words. The front and back end papers of the book evocatively captures the feeling of this long, narrative poem, as well as the dedication page.

I think that this would be a great book to sit and read to a young child or an aging parent or grandparent, perhaps around a campfire, after a long hike in the woods, while camping, or on a visit to a national park.

At the door on summer evenings

Sat the little Hiawatha

Heard the whispering of the pine-trees,

Heard the lapping of the waters,

Sounds of music, words of wonder:

Maybe I’ll just sit in my reading chair and enjoy Susan Jeffers’s Hiawatha myself for a while.


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