Grilled Salmon and DEET

Lisa with apple in front of mountains

Demonstrating advanced trail food preparation

When my husband and I moved here from Chicago, I thought that I was finally coming into my element. Mountains, ocean – all the things the Midwest couldn’t provide. We had mastered what the flatland could offer us in regards to camping, so we were ready to up our game. For those of you lucky enough to have been born and raised in this lovely region, you know that my attitude was like thinking I was ready to play in the MLB because I batted cleanup in t-ball. Thankfully my husband was more experienced in these matters, and managed to keep up safe, dry, happy, and entertained in the wild. He’s since joined the Mountaineers and has been scrambling on the tops of mountains, while I have contented myself with scrambling eggs at camp and taking photos of mountains from the relative safety of familiar flat land.

Needless to say, I have some learning to do. I think I’m finally over the hump of thinking I’m always on the verge of being eaten by bears. Seeing a bear retreat in horror from my loud approach last weekend helped me realize that they don’t want to deal with me either. Now I’m going through the enjoyable process of checking out the library’s resources on all things outdoors. I know this isn’t a shock, but there is a lot here to get through.

Scout's Backpacking Cookbook

Not surprisingly, my first foray into outdoor ed. was the cooking section. It looks like I may be able to salvage that ill-conceived food dehydrator purchase from the kitchen gadget bone-yard after all. There are a ton of books in this area, so I quickly eliminated anything to do with RV or car camping (we’ve got that down). My favorite was The Scout’s Backpacking Cookbook, by Tim and Christine Conners. This book was packed with useful information about equipment, cooking techniques, meal planning, safety, ‘Leave No Trace’ cooking and camping, and recipes. There were also wonderful appendices that provided measurement advice, additional reading, and helpful websites.

Other picks:

The Trailside Cookbook by Don Philpott

Camp Cooking in the Wild by Mark Scriver

Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Washington CascadesWith the food taken care of, choosing a destination was my next priority. When we camp, we choose our destination based on a few different things. Weather is the most obvious determining factor; last weekend we went over the mountains to find the sun. On other trips we’ve selected sites because they were off pleasant drives, or offered a selection of excellent hikes. The Mountaineers Books has a fantastic series of Day Hiking titles that cover different regions of Washington and Oregon. My favorite book that I found about exploring Washignton was the Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Washington Cascades, by Allan May. May created a guide to geography, history (human and natural), and recreation in the Washington Cascades, all wrapped into a very enjoyable read.

Note: Sometimes published info about campgrounds, trails, and roads can be outdated. To be certain that you can actually get to where you’d like to go, call ahead to the ranger station in the area you’re planning to visit to make sure that everything is open.

The Backpacker's ManualLast, and certainly not least, I looked into info on safety and preparation. This is perhaps the largest section of outdoor materials we have because there is much to be said on the topic. For a beginner’s overview to all things backpacking, The Smart Guide to Hiking and Backpacking is a good place to start. More advanced advice on trip planning, cooking equipment, and more can be found in The Backpacker’s Field Manual, by Rick Curtis. I found some really helpful illustrations and ‘how to’s’ in Basic Illustrated Wilderness First Aid, but I strongly recommend attending some courses on the topic if you are serious about venturing into remote areas. If not, be sure to trek with someone who has.

Other titles that I found helpful tips in:

Hiking with Dogs by Linda B. Mullally

Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips by Mike Clelland

Making Camp: A Complete Guide for Hikers, Mountain Bikers, Paddlers & Skiers by Steve Howe, et al.

So there you have it – my newbie backpacker reading list. Come in and browse the shelves; there’s a lot more here for those who are more advanced than I am. As for me? I have a date with the food dehydrator – who doesn’t want to try powdered cheese?

Lisa

Dogs Who Write

Pearl3

Here is a photo of my dog Pearl, reading the novel The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein which is this year’s pick for Everett Reads! The narrator of this book is a dog. There’s a long history of dogs as narrators of stories, starting with two by Jack London:

londonThe Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London. The Call of the Wild is the story of Buck, a dog stolen from his home and thrown into the brutal life of the Klondike to suffer hardship, bitter cold, and the mean lawlessness of men and dogs. White Fang concerns the adventures of an animal (part dog, part wolf) that was turned vicious by cruel abuse and is then transformed through the patience and affection of one man.

Jack London’s excellent ability as a storyteller and his deep understanding of nature and animals have made these among the world’s most favorite dog stories. They are both classic stories and well worth your reading time.

hankWe read the entire Hank the Cow Dog series out loud to our children. They are hilarious! Hank is the Head of Ranch Security, defending his Texan home along with his faithful deputy, Drover. In the first book of the series, The Original Adventures of Hank the Cow Dog, Hank turns from crime fighter to criminal after he is accused of murder, resigns his position, and joins a gang of outlaw coyotes.

We refer to this series often in our family. If someone doesn’t want to do a chore, we say, “Hank, my leg hurts! I can’t do it!” (That was always Drover’s excuse.) And often when the mailman comes, we break into this song: “Bark at the mailman! Give him your full load! He has no business walking down my road!” What a rich literary history our family shares because of Hank!

a dog'sPeter Mayle of A Year in Provence fame wrote a book narrated by his dog, Boy, –“a dog whose personality is made up of equal parts Boswell and Dr. Johnson, Mencken and A. A. Milne”. In A Dog’s Life, Boy is a master of eloquence and humor. If you need a bit of cheering up, this is the book to do it.

better marleyMarley and Me by John Grogan is the heartwarming story of a family in the making and the neurotic dog who taught them what really matters in life. As a dog owner, I’m left wondering if Marley just needed a good daily walk and some consistent training. If you liked the movie, you’ll like this book.

purposeThis next story is about a lovable dog’s search for his purpose over the course of several lives. More than just another charming dog story, A Dog’s Purpose touches on the universal quest for an answer to life’s most basic question: Why are we here?

Surprised to find himself reborn as a puppy after a tragically short life as a stray mutt, Bailey’s search for meaning in his new life leads him into the loving arms of 8-year-old Ethan. During their countless adventures Bailey joyously discovers how to be a good dog. But this life as a beloved family pet is not the end of Bailey’s journey. Reborn as a puppy yet again, Bailey wonders—will he ever find his purpose?

roamIn the book Roam, Nelson is a bright-eyed, inquisitive half beagle, half poodle. He lives with Katey and Don, newlyweds whose marriage is straining under the pressures of domesticity. There are few things Nelson likes better than to follow a scent, and one day he follows his nose and gets lost . . . very lost. Though he searches frantically for Katey—and she for him—Nelson can’t seem to find his way home, and he soon realizes that if he’s ever to see his great love again, he must make his way on his own and try to survive in the wild.

Over the course of eight years, Roam follows Nelson as he crosses the country searching for his family. For a time he rides shotgun with a truck driver named Thatcher, then he lives in the woods with a pack of wolves. Nelson has many adventures and believes that one day he’ll make it home . . . and maybe, just maybe, he will. . . .

rintintinAnd for an absolutely awesome dog read which is not written from a dog’s point of view, you simply must read Susan Orlean’s Rin Tin Tin; The Life and the Legend.

“He believed the dog was immortal.” So begins Susan Orlean’s sweeping and moving account of Rin Tin Tin’s journey from abandoned puppy to movie star and international icon. Covering almost one hundred years of history, from the dog’s improbable discovery on a World War I battlefield in 1918 to his tumultuous rise through Hollywood and beyond, Rin Tin Tin is a love story about the mutual devotion between one man and one dog. It is also an American story of reinvention and an exploration of our bond with animals.

I wonder what sort of book my dog Pearl would write if she were able to take pen to paper. It would definitely include squirrels, cats, other dogs, birds and a few good chase scenes!

Leslie

Long Live the Dog!

Don't, just don't...

Don’t, just don’t…

I’ve never seen nor read Old Yeller – I just know better. My mom preferred stapling the last couple pages of The Snowman together over having me be repeatedly disappointed that the boy’s wonderful new friend never got to stick around. Bambi didn’t get much airtime in our house, and All Dogs Go to Heaven still makes me feel betrayed (but seriously, shouldn’t the halos on the posters have tipped me off?). Alas, I was a sensitive child.

Taking all that into account, it should be no shock to my readers that I still try to avoid books and films where the non-human lead dies in the end. If you’re like me, just knowing that a book has a lovable (or not so lovable) dog in it tends to be a deterrent because you just know how that’s going to wind up. It doesn’t matter if it’s supposed to be a heartwarming death or a senseless one, we instinctively know to steer clear.

Thankfully there are books out there that buck the trend. The best way that I have found to avoid having my emotions brutally toyed with is to get into a series in which the dog happens to be the main character. To help you all out, here are a few series that I would recommend for other softies like me who wouldn’t flinch if the human protagonist got eaten by a tiger, but would cry their eyes out if the author dared to have Rex die peacefully of old age surrounded by a litter of loving offspring.

For kids and young adults:

Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell. Originally introduced in 1963, Clifford has lived to an amazing 213 dog years and shows no sign of decline. The Clifford empire has expanded from simple, delightful softcover books for young readers, to a range of television programming, movies, video games, and toys.

Harry the Dirty DogHarry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion. Harry was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. I’m happy to report that, like Clifford, Harry continues to live a long and productive book, DVD, and merchandise life.

Castaways of the Flying Dutchman* by Brian Jacques. This title gets an asterisk because technically the dog is already dead; that’s how the series begins (no real spoilers there). I won’t get into the details, but Ben and his dog companion Ned travel throughout the ages, irrevocably tied to the fate of the famously cursed ship, The Flying Dutchman. As they wander through time the duo get into a series of adventures, befriend an interesting cast of characters, and fight evil when they encounter it. Though these books can be a little bittersweet at times, because Ben and Ned are always forced to move on from their newly established lives, you know that they will not be parted from each other.

For Adults:

The Mrs. Murphy Mystery series, by Rita Mae Brown. I know some dog-loving purists may take issue with the fact that this series was co-authored by Brown’s cat, Sneaky Pie, and features two cat detectives, but hear me out. I personally love Tee Tucker, the lively crime-stopping corgi that plays a big role in all of Brown’s mysteries. I think if you gave the series a chance you’d root for Tee too.

A Fistful of CollarsThe Chet and Bernie Mystery series, by Spencer Quinn. For those who can’t stomach the idea of their dog hero sharing the spotlight with a couple of cats, there are Chet and Bernie. Failed K-9 cop Chet, the narrator, works with his human companion Bernie as a private eye. These books are full of suspense, humor, and a little bit of canine mischief, that all adds up to very enjoyable reading.

All of the above series have multiple volumes, so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting your dog hero fix with minimal heartbreak. That should keep your eyes busy and your tails wagging!

Lisa

A Mixed Bag of Picture Books

With the bleak weather of January behind us, I thought I’d share some new books for children. The first two cover difficult and sensitive, but necessary, subjects especially for children.

The Scar is the story of a child waking up to the news that his mother has died. It wasn’t an unexpected death but nevertheless has a profound effect on the child who decides that the windows of the house must be kept closed in order to keep the mother’s essence within. The father, coping with his own grief, is not much help. When the child falls and scrapes his knee, he is sure he hears his mother’s voice. He tells himself that as long as he has the scab and can make it bleed, he’ll hear her voice and be a little less sad.

Fortunately, the maternal grandmother arrives on the scene and teaches the father some of the mother’s habits, such as how to drizzle honey on toast. When the grandmother complains about the heat in the house and starts to open the windows, the child explodes with alarm and confronts her. She explains that his mother isn’t in the surrounding air but in the child’s heart.

Dog Breath is a tribute to a deceased dog who just might have been the worst dog ever. He escaped whenever the door opened a crack and when he returned he would smell like rotten cheese and need a bath. He also stole food, once a whole turkey, as well as anything else that he could pull off the kitchen table. Yes, he was probably the worst dog in the universe, but he’ll be remembered with affection and love.

Scrawny Cat is the tale of a lost cat who knows his name is not “Get out of here” even though that’s what he hears most of the time. He finds refuge in a dinghy just as a storm rolls in. As he huddles under the dinghy seat the rope tying the dinghy to the dock snaps and the boat rolls away from shore. After the storm, the dinghy washes up on a sandy beach. A woman comes down to see what the storm has washed in. Will she also tell the scrawny cat to “Get out of here?”

In The Flyaway Blanket, Jake is helping his Momma hang up his special blanket on the laundry line. He doesn’t want to let go of his “extra soft from so much love” blanket, but his Momma tells him it will be dry in no time, so they sit and wait in the sun. But then a wind comes up and snatches Jake’s blanket which flies high into the sky. Will it ever return?

Dad gives Douglas a brand new woolly hat in Don’t Worry, Douglas! and tells him to take care of it. Douglas’s hat, however, gets caught in a branch and unravels. What is Douglas to do? Other animals try to help him but the best advice comes from Rabbit, who suggests Douglas tell his dad just what happened.

In Pirates & Princesses, Ivy and Fletch have been best friends since they were babies. They do everything together, but when they both start kindergarten things change. All the boys play together as pirates and all the girls play together as princesses, but these games aren’t as much fun without your best friend. How will Ivy and Fletch reclaim their friendship?

Solomon Crocodile does not play well with others. He is considered a pest by all the animals in the swamp. Will he ever find someone to play with?
Finally, two new concept books: Small Medium Large deals with the concept of size from itty-bitty to colossal, while Into the Outdoors covers the prepositional world as a happy family spends time in the great outdoors.

These are just a few of the hundreds of new titles to be found in our library’s collection. Contact your friendly and helpful Youth Services Librarian for more new titles.

Suzanne

Gone to the Dogs

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.  –Groucho Marx *

book coverA popular stereotype about librarians is that we’re all cat people. Books like Dewey: the Small Town Library Cat that Touched the World do little to disabuse people of this notion.

I’ve got nothing against cats, but I’m a dog person. I even like reading about dogs. Luckily, there are many wonderful dog-centric books, both fiction and non-fiction at the library. Here are a few of my recent favorites:

book coverThe Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst is an odd and oddly captivating story. When Paul’s wife falls from a tree and dies, the only witness is their Rhodesian Ridgeback Lorelei. In his grief, Paul tries to teach Lorelei to speak so he can learn whether her death was an accident or suicide.    

book coverThe Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewsi follows the plot of Hamlet, but in Wisconsin and with a mute protagonist and his family’s special (fictional) breed of Sawtelle dogs. You don’t have to be a dog lover or a Shakespeare lover to be drawn into this thrilling family saga.

book coverIn Travels with Charley: in Search of America novelist John Steinbeck chronicles his 1960 cross country road trip with his beloved French poodle, Charley, and his truck, Rocinante. I fell in love with old Charley and with Steinbeck’s eloquent account of his journey across the changing American landscape.

book coverIn Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment, an elderly couple puts their Manhattan apartment on the market the same weekend that their beloved daschund Dorothy undergoes emergency surgery all while living in a city that is paralyzed by fear of a possible terrorist attack. There are many lovely, quiet moments amidst the drama.

book coverI picked up Temple Grandin’s Animals Make Us Human for the dogs. But Grandin’s unique perspective as an autistic researcher and her insights into the emotional and psychological lives of animals were so fascinating, I stayed for the cats, horses, and other animals she explores in this book.

Have you read any doggone good books lately?

Mindy

* This quote, and many more, can be found here.