Category Archives: Books

Rereading: ROCK HOUNDS by Evelyn Sibley Lampman

Ed Herrick and his friend Duane have exciting plans for the summer. They’re rock collectors, and will be returning to a dedicated science camp in the Oregon desert to find more specimens for their collections, where they had a fine time last year. The arrival of Ed’s cousin Priscilla to stay with his family for the summer doesn’t bother him, even though they take an instant dislike to each other, because he’ll be leaving for camp soon. Then Ed’s mother finds out she has to go away herself to care for Ed’s grandmother, and the only place for Priscilla is at the same camp. Ed is disgusted, and Priscilla isn’t happy about this either. She puts on a brave front, but isn’t much interested in science or rocks. When they arrive at camp, though, Priscilla finds a new friend in Ginny, a girl her own age who is also a rock hound, and gradually Priscilla comes around, even through the anger and disdain of Ed, and begins to enjoy herself. Then things get more serious when Priscilla discovers a strange Indian boy hiding out in a nearby canyon with his horse, who demands she bring him food every day from the camp. Priscilla has to agree before he’ll let her go, and then her life becomes complicated. Meanwhile, Ed has his own problems, and is teased by the other campers until only Priscilla will be friendly to him. Does she dare reveal her secret?

A fun read. Ed’s dislike of girls is played up a bit much, but the story moves right along, and is subtly educational as well as entertaining. Recommended if you can find it.

Rock Hounds by Evelyn Sibley Lampman

Rereading: THE SHIP THAT FLEW by Hilda Lewis

The four Grant children: Peter, Sheila, Humphrey, and Sandy (Alexandra) live in an English town next to the ocean and near a seaside resort town, Radcliff, where they seldom go in the tourist season. But one day Peter, the oldest, has to go there on his own by bus for a dentist appointment, and afterwards he wanders into a dark, narrow street he’s never seen before and enters a little shop, where a model ship in the window has caught his eye. The proprietor, an old man with an eye patch, offers to sell the marvelous Viking-style carved wooden ship for “all the money you have and a bit over.” Peter gives the man every coin he has, which includes tuppence he owes his father, and the boat goes carefully into his pocket. Peter no longer has bus fare, so he decides to cut across the sandy bay to get home, but he’s caught by the tide, and wishes he could get home. He feels movement in his pocket, takes the ship out, and it grows large enough for him to step inside. Then it slowly and majestically flies out of the bay and brings Peter to his own lawn. Delighted, Peter steps out, and the ship shrinks back to pocket size. Soon all four children are having adventures on the ship, which can grow to any size needed and travel in time as well as space. It not only takes them to Egypt of their time, but to visit ancient Egypt, the Viking gods, and England’s own past.

I liked this book when I first read it, and it holds up pretty well, but is not as interesting as the best books of E. Nesbit, which were clearly the model, and the children are not as interesting as Nesbit’s children. For me the best part is when they bring a princess they meet in the time of William the Conqueror back to their present time in the ship, and see how she reacts to their own 1930s England (the book was first published in 1939). The illustrations by Nora Lavrin are somewhat like those of Pauline Baynes, but not as good. Still, an enjoyable story and available in a recent reprint.

The Ship That Flew by Hilda Lewis

Rereading: FREDDY THE DETECTIVE by Walter R. Brooks

Cover and illustrations by Kurt Wiese

From 1927 to 1958, Walter R. Brooks wrote a series of humorous adventure stories featuring the talking animals of the Bean Farm in upstate New York. This is the third one, and it set the format for most of the ones that followed, focusing on Freddy the Pig, a smart animal willing to take up any new plan or idea, a poet, a writer, and a natural leader. Jinx the cat is his frequent side-kick and protector, and his friends include Mrs. Wiggins the cow. Those three form a detective agency at the farm after Freddy reads some Sherlock Holmes stories. Before long they have real cases to work on, including the theft of a toy train from the Bean farmhouse, which they discover is being used by Simon the rat and his family to steal grain from the barn, as a sort of armored car where Jinx can’t get at them. Freddy also discovers some human robbers living in a remote house in the woods, but his biggest case is one where Jinx is accused of killing a crow. The book ends with a classic courtroom drama that’s both funny and clever.

The Bean animals (and others they meet) can talk, and are essentially humans in animal form, though in the early books like this one, they don’t talk to humans, making Freddy’s detective work against the human criminals more difficult. The books are full of social commentary and wise insights into human nature disguised as animal behavior. I loved the entire series, and will gradually reread them all. My copy of this book is the Overlook Press facsimile edition from 1998, Overlook reprinted the full series. I recommend them highly.

Freddy the Detective by Walter R Brooks

Rereading: IT’S LIKE THIS, CAT by Emily Neville

I first read this when it was published in 1963, or perhaps the year after when it won the Newbery Medal. I liked animal stories, and stories about New York City, and this covered both.

Dave Mitchell is fourteen and lives with his parents in Manhattan near Gramercy Park. His father is a lawyer, but they aren’t wealthy, and seem very middle class. Dave is always fighting with his dad, causing his mother to have asthma attacks, so when that happens, he goes out on the street, spending time with his school friend Nick, or an older woman, Kate, who keeps a number of cats in her apartment, considering them her family. Dave is taken with a young tom cat at Kate’s and agrees to take him home, even though his parents might not like it. He keeps Cat (as he names him) in his room when not outside, and while his father is against it, he doesn’t forbid it. Some of the book is about Dave and Cat, some is about Dave’s adventures in the city, like going to the Fulton Fish Market, and to Coney Island with Nick, where they meet some girls. Dave isn’t thrilled about that, but one of the girls, Mary, seems nice, and they meet again other times. Meanwhile, Dave tries to bring Cat on the family’s summer vacation, and he escapes from the car on the Long Island Expressway in a traffic jam. Despite his father’s scornful laughter, Dave jumps out too, and he and Cat make their way home. Then Cat is getting into fights, and has to be treated at the vet, who tells Dave the best way to keep Cat alive is to have him neutered. Dave isn’t sure he wants to do that.

This was just as interesting and fun to read as I remembered, a fine book, and worthy of the Newbery. Recommended.

It’s Like This Cat by Emily Neville

Rereading: THE ENORMOUS EGG by Oliver Butterworth

A charming story written in 1956, full of humor and appeal, especially for dinosaur fans. Nate Twitchell is twelve, and lives with his parents and sister in a small, rural New Hampshire town where nothing much exciting happens. At least until Nate finds one of their hens sitting on an enormous egg that seems different from any hen’s egg, it has a somewhat soft and leathery feel. Nate befriends Dr. Ziemer, a paleontologist from Washington D.C. who is vacationing on a nearby farm, and when Dr. Ziemer sees the egg, he gets quite excited, and tells Nate to monitor it carefully. At first it seems the hen will never get it hatched, but after six weeks, an amazing creature emerges. Dr. Ziemer believes it’s a baby Triceratops dinosaur. How it came to be born millions of years after the dinosaurs went extinct is a mystery, but he and Nate are thrilled. Dr. Ziemer has a hard time convincing his fellow scientists to take him seriously. When they do and begin to arrive, everyone agrees the dinosaur, which Nate names Uncle Beazley, is the real thing. Soon reporters and the curious gather to see this wonder, and Nate has to deal with all kinds of offers for his discovery, but Nate and Uncle Beazley like each other and want to stay together. As the dinosaur continues to grow, that becomes more difficult.

Great story, wonderful illustrations by Louis Darling, highly recommended.

The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth