The Country of the Pointed Firs
Sarah Orne Jewett
Illustrated with gentle pencil drawings throughout by Douglas Alvord
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This is one of the finest "young adult" books ever written! First published in 1896, The Country of the Pointed Firs was considered by Willa Cather to be one of the three novels most likely to achieve a permanent place in the canon of American literature: "I can think of no others that confront time and change so serenely… The young student of American literature in far distant years to come will take up this book and say 'a masterpiece!'" Long neglected and even ignored by criticism, this enduring classic by Sarah Orne Jewett now appears in a format worthy of its contents.
Set in the small coastal town of South Berwick, Maine, this is as much a series of small, intimate sketches as a sustained narrative. As F. O. Matthiessen pointed out, "in these loosely connected sketches, she has acquired a structure independent of plot. Her scaffolding is simply the unity of her vision." Her vision was of a gentle and generous people on a rugged and dangerous coast, of New England character and "characters" limned in colors of high summer and blue skies. Here, too, you will meet the people of Dunnet's landing; the women, who are probably the most unforgettable characters of her book; and Elijah Tilley (among the very few men in Jewett's cast) who, after the death of his wife, learns the skills of husband and wife, of farm and sea.
The black-and-white pencil drawings by Douglas Alvord are nothing short of spectacular. Closely observed and carefully rendered, they possess all of the haunting serenity of Jewett's landscapes. Faithfully reproduced and printed to the highest standards, this is destined to become a standard gift and reading book for everyone fascinated by New England, the rich history of its rockbound coast, and this magical author.
Beyond the Forest
The Story of Parsifal and the Grail
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This wonderful retelling is so multi-layered and engaging that it is appropriate for everyone ages 10 and up. It reads and tells like a breath of fresh air - very highly recommended!!!
The Grail Quest is an archetypal story of the journey of humanity and of each person. Parsifal's search for wholeness - passed down by generations of storytellers - is re-told vividly by Kelvin Hall.
There is a Parsifal in every one of us as we move from the innocence and naivete of forgetting, through courage and surrender, to love and redemption. Impaired by fear, bewilderment, loss and misunderstanding, we learn to trust the intuition of the heart as well as accepting the wisdom and support of others on the way.
This ancient story, told by Wolfram von Eschenbach in the Middle Ages, asks us why we hold back from asking the compassionate question. It shows how this can result in suffering, and that by engaging with the suffering of others, we acknowledge our own. This brings forth the possibility for renewal.
"The story of Parsifal is close to my heart, and Kelvin Hall's gift is to bring it closer to all our hearts in a language that can truly speak to us now."
- Jay Ramsay
Kelvin Hall was first told the Parsifal story by his future wife, Barbara. Storyteller at Ruskin Mill, Gloucestershire, he is well-known on the festival circuit. He won the Hodja Cup for Lying and Tall Stories at the Crick Crack Club.
The Fetching of Spring
A Fairy Tale for Adults
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The Fetching of Spring is a joyful, heartbreaking, action packed, contemplative, funny, whimsical, uplifting, and deeply serious fairy tale for grown ups by an author who has delighted children for years.
Much of the charm of this tale lies in the comedic tension between its fleet-footed telling, and the perilous quest of its stumbling hero. Its joy, on the other hand, is found in the author’s clear-eyed assessment of our modern condition and the demands it places on us for survival as human beings. That he couches all this so beautifully within the conventions of a classic fairy tale is nothing less than sublime.
Our story opens in a kingdom where there is just the right amount of corruption to render all those not wielding ill-gotten power either grouchy or very sleepy. Add to this the fact that the Golden Bird, the heart of the kingdom and source of its joy and prosperity, has been stolen (or so the king says) and our adventure begins. In order to appease his subjects, the king declares that someone must find and bring back the Golden Bird. He chooses the sleepiest person for the task, Tik-Tak, the baker’s son, equips him with a steed no one else wants, gives him a dull and rusty sword, and sends him off to do the good deed.
What follows is a masterful quest story that takes our hero (and thereby ourselves) from a cozy place by the fire and places him, often dazed and misguided, on the path to rescue the Golden Bird. Tik-Tak’s travels take him into two neighboring kingdoms, once joyous but now bereft, through the land of Erce-Ma (you have to meet her to understand), and out into the desert where he happens upon a much better steed. From there his path leads downward, and he bumbles his way into the realms of un-humanness that, simply put, are nearly unbearable to witness (though we all see them everyday). But from there Tik-Tak meets with success by finding the Golden Bird and begins the perilous climb upward. Finally, he restores all that was lost in the three upper kingdoms and finds both purpose and true happiness for himself.
The Fetching of Spring is wonderful reading of the very best sort: a story strong and true, told with joy and wonder, clarity and hope. This one is not to be missed.
The Boy with Green Thumbs
Beautiful, sensitive illustrations in soft pencil drawings
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Here is a story that is not only heartfelt, healing and beautiful, but would make an excellent reader for Waldorf Grade 5!
When eight-year-old Tistou is sent home from school his parents decide he shall learn from real life instead, and where better to start than gardening? With Moustache the dreamy gardener, Tistou discovers a remarkable gift – that he has green thumbs! Everything he touches sprouts beautiful plants. Now Tistou has lots to do. With the power of flowers he can change everything: prisons, slums, hospitals – even war.
"Tistou's name deserves to be on the lips of anyone who cares about the future of our Earth."
- Ashley Ramsden, Storyteller
The Early Years
Prequel to the Auragole Quartet
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Meekelorr dreamed of his father for the first time since starting his school years. He had put those dreams and his father’s request behind a locked door years ago.
And now here was Edorr, ephemeral and mournful, once again asking Meekelorr to form an army when he was old enough. Meekelorr was staring up at his father as he had all those years ago. Watching Meekelorr also was the warrior figure that Meekelorr now knew was called the Defender God.
“I want you and your soldiers to go out into the Deep Earth and help those who cannot help themselves. I want you to set your army against the evil men in our world, those who prey on the weak.”
“No.” Meekelorr looked beyond his father to the figure, who was watching him with impassive eyes. “If you want an army to fight for you, ask him. That’s his task,” Meekelorr said, and gestured at the Defender God.
“I ask this of you.”
“You are only angry. But the anger will disappear.”
Edorr disappeared. The Defender God disappeared. And Meekelorr wept.
Auragole of the Mountains
Book One of the Auragole Quartet
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Shirley Latessa has created a terrific fantasy saga that is unlike any other I've ever read. We enter a world that has been shattered by 500 years of warfare, where most people live lives of fear in semi-tribal conditions, and only a very few have been sheltered enough to remember what it is to be fully human. Into this torn world comes a youth upon whose actions the destiny of humanity will turn.
Auragole has been raised in isolation, away from the soldiers and roaming gangs, away from regional superstitions and laws; but, also away from any knowledge of, much less belief in, the spiritual world and the gods. When he emerges from his remote valley and encounters the world of people outside it, he arrives as a free human being. It is what he makes of his freedom, how he chooses to shape himself, that will determine whether he will aid the cause of humanity, or become its doom.
Auragole of the Mountains follows Auragole as he leaves the valley of his birth for the first time and encounters both friends and enemies in the wider world. He and his friends come at last to the Valley of Agavia, where a small group of people have preserved the knowledge of the gods and where it is known that the Last Battle, the battle against the Nethergod will be fought, and fought soon. The the future of all humanity will be determined by the victor. As Auragole leaves Agavia, it is still very uncertain which course he will choose and what role he will play in the Last Battle.
The author tells me she created The Auragole Quartet with teenagers in mind. I agree that teens are likely to love these stories. I would like to add that I believe adults will, too -- I was barely able to put my copy down once I started reading. This is the first fantasy fiction I've read that has some real substance to it, that seriously considers some of the most pressing questions we humans face. Very, very highly recommended.
Auragole of the Way
Book Two of the Auragole Quartet
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Where Auragole of the Mountains told a story woven around dire but straightforward issues of survival, and thus had a semblance of simplicity, in Auragole of the Way Auragole encounters not just other people, but diverse societies. As he does so, the fabric of the story takes on a rich pattern and a complexity that echo his multi-layered experience. This richness makes for compelling, satisfying reading -- I surprised myself by finishing Auragole of the Way in about half the time it took me to read Auragole of the Mountains.
Auragole of the Way picks up where Auragole of the Mountains left off -- Auragole has chosen to keep his commitment to see his friends to the city of Mattlemead, where they hope to find a cure for one of their party whose life is threatened by illness. In so choosing, he declines Agavia's offer of deep training toward a personal awareness of the gods.
Almost immediately, disaster and death strike Auragole's little band and his course is irrevocably changed. Hiding, fighting, and running for his life, Auragole eventually comes upon the mountain camps of the only soldiers who fight on behalf of human freedom and love, and who prepare for the Last Battle. It is here that he decides to go to the aid of a friend rather than follow orders he considers not his affair. But, what he thought he saw proves to be very different from reality , and he nearly pays for his error with his life.
Yet, even as chaotic war is waged all around him, he also discovers art and beauty in the form of True-Singing. A True-Singer is trained to sing so that the listener hears the voice within whatever of nature the singer embodies. Such song is achingly beautiful and deeply healing -- and it becomes Auragole's chosen calling. Out of the depths of his error, he discovers his teacher. Auragole of the Way closes as Auragole follows his teacher to Mattlemead where he will pursue the art of True-Singing.
Auragole of Mattelmead
Book Three of the Auragole Quartet
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Auragole comes to Mattelmead City - opulent, cosmopolitan, richly artistic and deeply decadent. For a person of Auragole's innocence and interests, failing to experience all that Mattelmead holds would be unimaginable. The question, of course, is what these experiences will make of him - or will he make something of them?
Auragole's stay in Mattelmead City is told with fascinating detail; the currents along which Mattelmead carries Auragole travel at increasingly bracing speeds, the outcome never certain. Will Auragole be ready for the Last Battle?
The Last Battle
Book Four of the Auragole Quartet
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The Last Battle has begun -- and it's outcome hinges on Auragole's choice; and upon Auragole's wisdom.
After the dizzying opulance of Mattlemead, followed by a dance of reversals and recoveries of astonishing order, Auragole comes again to Agavi. It is there his heart calls him, there he wants to be. But amid the battle preparations he soon discovers that even knowing what his heart wants is not enough -- not enough to know what to do, where to go, how to respond. Not enough to be sure. And the whole world waits upon his deed.
* * *
Shirley Latessa's final novel of The Auragole Quartet brings us to a seat-of-your-chair ending, one that will keep you turning pages right through to the remarkable ending. Having followed Auragole's entire journey, I have to take my hat off to Shirley -- she has told a great story that in many ways we all live, asked all the questions we ask and then some, and brought her characters to a truly heroic finish, the measure of which I don't think any reader will guess before the end. This is wonderful reading -- and a tale told from a vista seldom revealed in literature.
Eighteen Days Till Home
Eighteen Days Till Home is just the sort of novel I like -- it's an engaging story that beckons you to turn just one more page and keeps you coming back as often as possible; at the same time, woven into its well-written and entertaining text is an invitation into realms much deeper than the surface of the tale, realms of soul and angels, of life and death, of love.
In short, it's a practically-perfect novel: great reading without being mere entertainment.
Here's a synopsis of the story:
Unable to reconcile herself to the deaths of her husband and her eldest daughter, poet Elizabeth Layton is teetering on the edge of an emotional abyss. To keep her from excessive mourning, her sister and brother pressure Elizabeth into going on a museum sponsored trip to the Aegean. This becomes a journey of healing, self-discovery and spiritual awakening. Against a background of ancient and exotic settings, Elizabeth meets Paul, a fellow traveler and lifelong student of Anthroposophy, who helps her understand her life in ways she never imagined; and Eric, who brings with him the challenges of love.
"Remember your name . . . !"
Shibboleth is Alan Whitehead's first novel, written with a love for both anthroposophy and a riveting good story. It has proved to be one of the most enjoyable, as well as thought-provoking, books I've read in ages. Alan's ability to engage, enliven and make new the old is drawn into full play in this story of intrigue, survival and renewal.
Out of the darkest of beginnings, the destruction of a family by the Gestapo in wartime Germany, the author weaves a tale of triumphant survival. When the Gestapo arrive after an exquisite performance of violin and voice by extraordinary musicians who happen also to be Jewish, the very young daughter is left with only her father's violin as a token of her family. She is also left with the admonition to "remember your name," to remember her sacred Jewish name.
By the time she is a young adult, ready to pursue against all odds a career in dancing, she has carried her father's violin with her, but forgotten all about her sacred name. It is her journey back to her origins, her father and toward who she really is that leads us into realms sparkling with spiritual light against what are often some of the darkest moments imaginable. Ultimately, it is the light that prevails, forcing the darkness into the distant background.
Along the way, we meet characters to love, as well as some we can all be grateful we do not live next door to. Alan's warmth and humor pepper the pages, making this journey one you'll remember with a smile.
The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Translation by Thomas Carlyle
Illustrated by David Newbatt
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A true fairy story is a work of art. At Michaelmas in 1795, there appeared a series of stories ending with a Fairy Tale, "The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily." This tale tells of a magical transformation, one that, when the time is ripe, can be experienced by every human being. The author of these stories was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the creation of this Fairy Tale was to have far reaching consequences.
This new edition of The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily is the inspiration of artist David Newbatt, who wanted to bring together the original English translation by Thomas Carlyle with a series of pictures. The marriage of Carlyle's flowing English with Newbatts beautiful pastel paintings reveals the seven-fold process that unfolds within Goethe's Fairy Tale. It is a process of inner development and personal transformation, a path both ancient and modern.
Together with the translation by Thomas Carlyle and the series of seven pictures by David Newbatt, the book includes an extensive introduction by Tom Raines.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Retold in Modern Prose by Jessie L. Weston
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I think that Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the deepest and finest stories in all of English literature -- the sort of story that you can return to again and again in your mind, and always come away with a new bit of insight about life, and groups and the nature of love and honor.
The story begins when a gigantic stranger clad in green bursts in on King Arthur's New Year's feast to issue a fearsome challenge to the knights of the Round Table: Any of the assembled knights may strike off the stranger's head - but that knight must be willing to receive a similar blow from teh Green Knight in one year's time. Only the gallant Gawain volunteers to uphold the dignity of Camelot. Sir Gawain the the Green Knight recounts Gawain's adventures as he seeks to fulfill his pledge to the Green Knight
The tale dates from the 14th Century or earlier and blends older pre-Christian symbols and understandings with Christian ethics and the Divine Feminine, celebrating the virtue of forgiveness. It also raises some fascinating questions about the role of human imperfection within a group, implying within the story that there can be no real acceptance by a group without such imperfection becoming visible. This is an amazing story!
This modern prose version of the Middle English poem makes it accessible, whether you are a teacher or parent wishing to learn the story to tell to 6th graders, or would like to have your high school or college students read it themselves. Of course, there's nothing wrong with buying a copy just to enjoy yourself, too.
I Heard the Owl Call My Name
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This is a wonderful story, written out of a true knowledge, of a young newly-ordained vicar who arrives in the village of Kingcome and enters into the Native culture of totems and potlatch. Because he has an open heart, he is able to really meet the people he was sent to serve. They, in turn, share with him the wealth of their relationship with the world about them and through love, all are transformed.
The Mists of Avalon
Marion Zimmer Bradley
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This remarkable retelling of the Arthurian Legend from the point of view of the women in the story is not just a wonderful and engaging tale with characters alive and multifaceted. It is also a masterful interpretation of the event of the meeting of Ninth Century European Christianity with the Celtic religion and the Divine Feminine. The encounter between these two very different ways of seeing the world is told with both an intimate depth and respect. To read it is to learn much about the human heart, human consciousness and our ability (and lack thereof) to really step into another's shoes. Beautifully written, told with sensitivity and wise understanding. Highly recommended.