A peace book for children!

port cover dec 29 jpgA Map and a Mule is the story of Queen Isabel of Portugal, a workaholic peacemaker of the late 13th and early 14th Centuries who prevented several battles, including one between her husband and their son (ah, the Middle Ages!). For ages 5 to 8. 22 pages, 14 illustrations, including a vintage map and the cover watercolor.  The picture here is a link to its Amazon listing.

And this is the entire interior:


From a reviewer:

” . . . most important is the idea of seeking peaceful solutions to disagreements. A Map and a Mule is a great little book with a great big message” – Wayne S. Walker, Home School Book Review.  http://homeschoolbookreviewblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/a-map-and-a-mule-a-peace-story-of-queen-isabel-of-portugal/

This post is the same as the permanent “page” tab above — that page is the rock-steady presence on this blog, whereas this post will get the headlines . . .


Autumn reading – “not unlike a gigantic gravestone” . . .

rmb coverOften in November I read a novel or short story to get myself into an autumn state of mind . . . I’m not sure why; I don’t do this for other seasons. For one thing, I think, I used to love autumn when I was a kid, and now as an adult I find that it often rushes by before I can take time to appreciate it; a book helps me notice the leaves, the faded goldfinches, and so on.

One such story is “Roger Malvin’s Burial” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Roger Malvin is a mortally wounded farmer walking home from a battle, accompanied by another, younger, likewise seriously wounded man, Reuben Bourne; Roger convinces Reuben to abandon him (Roger) in the wilderness (New England woods, circa 1725) so that Reuben himself can get the medical attention he needs.

The conversation between these two generous men, each prepared to sacrifice for the other, is the first part of the story; the second part is Reuben’s bitter lifelong guilt that results from the abandonment. The ending is tragedy worthy of Shakespeare.

And we have a giant slab of granite “not unlike a gigantic gravestone;” beds of oak leaves; and old trees groaning in fear.  It’s a perfect autumnal story — set in May, ahem.

Not to be read as a lesson in cultural awareness regarding Native Americans.

Oppressing my children with Latin

I often bore my children with Latin trivia. They might ask me what “purlieu” means, for example, and I’ll ramble on about divining the meaning from the Latin roots; that “lieu” means “place,” as they can guess from the Spanish word lugar, which they know (or should know); and they could also guess it from the word “lieutenant,” if they think about it, since a lieutenant literally takes (the Latin root behind “-tenant,” kids; think of Spanish tener) the place (the “lieu,” again) of someone.

My kids are sick of this already. But I envision them valuing my knowledge someday. My daughter and I will be riding a train somewhere, and there will be rain hitting the windows as we look out on the countryside; she will be a mature young adult, and we’ll be traveling to . . . somewhere impressive, maybe her internship at a renewable energy nonprofit in France, or something like that; and she’ll say that some challenge facing her is obvious; and I’ll agree that it is obvious, and I’ll make a wry little joke that it clearly is indeed standing in her way; from “ob,” in front of you or opposite you, and “vious,” the way, the path. But we’ll both know that she can surmount the challenge. And she will appreciate the way I illustrate the point through the etymology. We’ll gaze out the window together, two smart people making our way in the world.

Yeah, right. She’ll be on a plane reading a magazine, and I’ll be back home with my wife, wondering what we’ll do with ourselves now that the house is so quiet.

But anyway – how about that word “surmount?” Seems to be literally “climbing over” a “mountain,” doesn’t it . . .

Clement weather! (Just in time for the long weekend)

There is a terrific word used today by Philip Kennicott in the Washington Post: clement.  We hear about inclement weather all the time, but nice weather can indeed be termed clement (I looked it up).

“The approximately 150-foot-tall seasonal inflatable structure would be inflated during clement months for special events . . . “

The article is about a temporary dome that might be added to the Hirshhorn Museum.


On a related note, please do not add any nocuous comments to this post.

I’m still waiting for a description of someone who grew up with moderate challenges in a somewhat well-off town as having had a medium-scrabble upbringing.

Puzzle: What do these words have in common: mate, peck . . .

Picture 147. . . miss, pot, and blunder ?

This puzzle is the challenge used by Will Shortz this week on the NPR Weekend Edition Puzzle. Here it is, narrated — it’s the last bit of the segment:


I suggested it to the show a few weeks ago — of course Shortz knew the answer already, but decided to use it.

I’ve been collecting these for years.  I have a few more, also.

(N.B. the palm tree photo has nothing to do with it.  I just like palm trees.)

Once again overtaken by Walter the Farting Dog

port cover dec 29 jpgAnother chapter in my glorious march to writing success: If an Amazon customer searches books forpeace story for children,” my book about Queen Isabel of Portugal comes up (this morning anyway) at #35, three spaces behind . . . Walter the Farting Dog, by William Kotzwinkle.

Walter has long been a nemesis of mine — well, at least since December, when A Map came out. For some time his book came up in such a “peace story” search well ahead of mine; then Isabel dashed in front for awhile; now she has fallen behind again.

A Map and a Mule is a peace story because Isabel nipped at least one war and one battle in their buds, through diplomacy (which I don’t bore the kids with, don’t worry) and also by riding a mule onto a battlefield. And Walter the dog is an equally distinguished peacemaker, apparently.

You might ask: Does anyone really search “peace story for children”?  Yes, they do, judging by traffic to my other blog, my peace blog. Just ask Walter.

walter jpg

Special offer for Chinese military hackers

Hey comradpl coveres, thanks for hitting my blog — whether you’ve just pulled it up normally or are watching along via remote as I type this. (It’s probably the latter . . . I shouldn’t have opened that email from Jurgen Klinsmann with the “Eric I need your help with our formation vs. Honduras” subject line.)

Having a good morning so far? How was the air on the way to work today — was the meter up in the “Do Not Breathe” category, or higher again?

I know you’re anxious to read my books, and I’m sure you can get them online for free by using “the Party discount” (wink) somehow, but let me point you to the paperback versions, which are beautiful and come with that new-book smell. The cover of Pearl Lagoon is a genuine map of Nicaragua — a nation vitally important to the security of the U.S., which is why we’ve had to help shoot so many people there over the years — which is stored at the Library of Congress, to give you an idea of its importance. Plus, inside you’ll find references to Chinese influence in Bluefields dating back to the beginning of the last century. Well, reference singular, anyway.

(Bonus intelligence: When I lived there I went to a dinner party once, to which guests were to bring a dish and talk about it; and one of these Chinese-Nicaraguan gentlemen brought a dessert and said it was “sweet, like Nicaragua.” The other guests loved it. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, guys, I’m telling you.)

Also in Pearl Lagoon you will find vital information about reforms that have been made to the foreign service of the U.S. as recently as ninety or so years ago (the Rogers Act). You cannot buy information this good, my friends. Actually, you can — contact me by sending a text to my microwave time display, or whatever, and I’ll give you a 6.5% discount, or 7.8% for orders of 100,000 or more.