June 29, 2018

Digging up Bones

As a school librarian, there are often opportunities to get my hands on a book before final publication. These printed books are softcover uncorrected proofs that are not for sale and not to be catalogued into the library collection. They are called advance reading copies or ARCs.

For years, I have returned from AASL and ALA conferences with ARCs for my students. As a steward of public funds, I find they are a good way to test the waters for student interest in a title before spending precious budget dollars. But recently, with the advent of social media, ARCs are offered up to interested parties via Facebook, Instagram, websites, etc.

This summer, Turner Publishing offered ARCs of a November 2018 release of Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky and I jumped at the opportunity to read a YA novel published fairly locally.

I did a little digging on the author's website and found this quote by Sarah Glenn Marsh, author of the Reign of the Fallen Leaves series:

“Nerds and fashionistas alike can rejoice: Natalie is the unapologetically awesome heroine we’ve all been waiting for! Fresh and fun, this story is a love letter to paleontology, a great example of women in STEM, and a victory for anyone who’s ever wanted to change what they see in the mirror. I can’t say it enough: this book is a must-read!” 

Needless to say, I was looking forward to the arrival of my ARC.

Fittingly, I took it with me last weekend to read on my way to New Orleans for the annual conference of the American Library Association, and I was not disappointed.

Mammoth hits all the high points for someone such as myself purchasing for a teen audience. It's edgy, but not so edgy that I question its appropriateness for the audience I serve. It has romance, but not so much romance that it's a girl read, exclusively. It has adults who are role models and some who aren't, just like IRL.

In Mammoth, Baguchinsky has crafted an ensemble cast of young adult characters I recognize. They are not perfect, but they are not yet finished. They have lessons to learn and they learn them.

Unlike the artifacts of the creatures they are seeking, Baguchinsky's characters are not extinct, but very much alive. They are smart and driven––sometimes to a fault. The plot pitfalls send up some pretty glaring warning flares to the adult reader, but just as in life, the young characters in Mammoth often either don't recognize those warning signs or make the choice to discount them.

Mammoth has a strong STEM focus and Natalie Page is a strong female main character. I believe the book will resonate with my high school readers. Having once been a teen myself (It's true!) it still resonated with me.

I'll be pre-ordering the hardcover for my library for the fall. I can't help myself, I am digging Mammoth because it ROCKS!

June 18, 2018

And where he goes I'll follow, I'll follow, I'll follow

So far, summer vacation has been a steady stream of remodeling supervision and runs, doctor appointments (as a caregiver, I'm fine), and meetings, but with the reno work almost complete and the last big meeting of the summer, ALA Annual in New Orleans, happening this week, the hope is for a calmer July.

We've been off the trail the past couple weekends primarily because it's just too dangerously hot for old(ish) people walking long distances; however, a few days ago, an Instagram friend posted a picture of the Common Milkweed at Land Between the Lakes and I kicked myself because those pictures were still sitting in my camera. I promised myself a post today.

Before I show you the pretty stuff—I have to take a break for safety. The ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas are out in droves this summer, and they're packing heat: Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Zika, etc. and, most recently, the Alpha-Gal allergy caused by the bite of the Lone Star tick.

We experienced two hikes earlier this spring where the ticks were rampant and not deterred by our usual method of DEET spray before and during the hike. After some research, we decided to try pre-treating our gear to ward them off. The night before our hike, we prepared our clothes with a Permethrin spray in anticipation of heavy tick activity. Because, in its liquid state, Permethrin is dangerous to cats, we sprayed our clothes in the garage and left them to hang dry overnight. The Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent we used is pictured here. We bought ours from Amazon.

PROS: I am happy to report that we didn't find a single tick following our hike in pre-treated clothing. Also, I was not bothered by mosquitoes which usually eat me alive.

CONS: There aren't any. Well, perhaps, the fact that you are limited to hiking in the same clothing all summer, unless you want to douse everything for variety.

The spray is reported to last for 6 weeks or 6 washings.

The Honker Lake Trail is one of the Nature Station Trails near the KY/TN border at Land Between the Lakes and is one of our favorite haunts. The trail has just enough woods, water, and watchable wildlife to keep the hike fresh pretty much year-round AND the Elk and Bison Range is close by, an added bonus.

Two Saturdays ago we headed north for the recommended dosage. Before we even made it to the actual trail, we decided to take the short detour down to the canoe shed to check on the progress of the American Lotus or, as I like to refer to them, the Shower Head Lotus. The center of the bloom is an amazing structure that reminds me of a shower head. Well, it is still too early for blooms, but the lily pads are up and looking beautiful.

There are two spots on this trail where the Common Milkweed grows. One is at the very beginning (or end, depending on your choice) of the trail, the other is over near Lake Barkley about midway through the hike. These pictures are from both spots. Although it was not at its peak bloom, they are still among my favorite blooms due to their beautiful structure. They, along with Mountain Laurel and Passion Flower blooms, take my breath away.

If you follow me, you already know that I am a sucker for all sorts of fungi. I hate that I cannot be in the woods every day because that is what it takes to get the best shots of these little magical bits of nature just as they emerge from the ground and before they are nibbled, gnawed, and kicked. I was lucky enough to spot just a few on this hike.

Butterflies and moths are another favorite, although my luck at getting them to light seems never to be great. I did capture both a Tiger Swallowtail and  Spicebush Swallowtail on the milkweed above and was fortunate enough to catch a Luna Moth, a skipper, and a Zebra too stunned (or smitten by blooms) to notice me.

Also spotted a couple creatures along the way, but missed an extraordinary opportunity at Honker Bay when an Osprey came off a nest I had not noticed just over my head. I waited a long time for it to return, but finally decided it just wasn't my day. Again, I'm not a birder, just a hiker who enjoys birds.

Maybe we'll head somewhere cooler in a few weeks. For now, we're just trying to stay smart and safe by staying out of the heat–except for yard work.

We had a great hike on a glorious day. And, yes, after 39 years, I'd still follow him anywhere.

Until next time, be well and take good care,

Mona B

"I needed a mountain to rest my eyes against."                                                                           -E...