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Morro has commented on (2) products.

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
Swallows and Amazons

Morro, June 23, 2011

"Swallows and Amazons" is a classic British children's novel that can be enjoyed by any age from 4 to 104! Loosley based on the author's own childhood adventures in the Lake District of northern England, this book (and several subsequent books in the ALMOST consistantly wonderful 12-book series) follows the imaginative sailing and camping adventures of six children and their two small sailboats, the Swallow and the Amazon, during summer holidays.

Although the ages of the children are not made explicitely known, the youngest is mentioned as being seven, and the eldest ones can be assumed to be in their early teens or late tweens. They are a group of polite, hardworking, cheerful, friendly characters who actually manage to seem like real children in spite of this (heh - don't worry, I'm a parent, I can joke). This is quiet adventuring - there is no violence to speak of, the plot conflicts are basically small, but somehow it is captivating and joyful and rollicking good fun nonetheless.

Ransome was also interested in writing children's books that would be in some way instructional, and so they are, without being overtly didactic. For example, clever readers will glean much small-craft sailing terminology and practise from it's pages, and will also learn rustic camping strategies, like how to make a simple tent that requires no staking, or the way to build a proper firepit. These "educational" insights are not plopped down lecture-style, but elegantly worked into the story so that they serve as a jumping off point for active minds, not a recipe book or scout manual.

Today's children (not to mention their parents), much deprived of the genuine outdoor pleasures of a simpler time (the book was written and takes place in the 1930's), can take inspiration from these adventures; my own 5-yr-old girl loves this book, and now delights in pretend sailing voyages, desert island life, and friendly pirates (yes, FRIENDLY pirates).

Point of interest: this fairly obscure (in America) book was also listed as #57 on the BBC's Top 100 Books to Read, as part of their "Best National Novel" hunt, in which novels of British origin were nomiated by ordinary people in the UK and rank ordered. I vote it as "Not To Be Missed" for parents, as well as for lovers of children's and young adult literature. But a word of warning, once you get started, you can't read just one! You'll soon find your shelf filled with the other eleven books in the series!
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Weeds of the Northern United States & Canada: A Guide for Identification
Weeds of the Northern United States & Canada: A Guide for Identification

Morro, June 22, 2011

This is by far and away the best weed book out there. It has full color photos on satin paper of all listed weeds in every stage of growth - seed, cotyledon, seedling, plant, flower, and fruit. It tells what the habitat and growing conditions of the weed are, gives detailed descriptions, tells of main concerns (poison, crop competition, nuisance, etc). Describes leaves, stems, flowers, roots...in short, tells you everything you want to know about each weed. It is fascinating just to page through, but it also has a weed "finder" in the beginning if you would like to start identifying your own weeds. You can locate them by flower, leaf shape, etc. Weeds are divided into botanical families (Lily family, Aster family, Grass family, etc) with a general description of the family at the beginning of each section. The only BAD part about this book is that it is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to find...and when you DO find it, the price is a bit steep (sometimes triple the cover price!). I am using a library copy now and boy, do I wish I could buy one of my very own. I would keep it under my pillow and sleep with it at night. Well, maybe not literally. But this is a FANTASTIC book. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in weeds, either just for fun or from an agricultural perspective, as it also contains detailed information on the problems each weed poses for farmers.
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