Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winterberries and Apple Blossoms

I recently picked up a copy of Nan Forler's new picture book, Winterberries and Apple Blossoms: Reflections and Flavors of a Mennonite Year, published by Tundra Books, as a Christmas present for my goddaughter and her siblings. This book is particularly special as it features the lovely paintings of Peter Etril Snyder.

The book follows a year in the life of Naomi, a Mennonite girl, with a poem and painting for every month. These reflect beautifully the Mennonites' simple lifestyle, closeness to nature and sense of community. As a bonus, twelve traditional recipes, one for each month, are featured at the end of the book. Living reasonably close to a Mennonite community, I can pop over to the local Farmer's Market to purchase their baked goods, but these recipes, including yummy treats like Strawberry-Rhubarb Custard Crisp, will be especially useful for those not so fortunately situated.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Dragon Turn by Shane Peacock

Kate and I are both huge fans of Shane Peacocks’ award-winning Boy Sherlock Holmes series, which started with The Eye of the Crow. Each book has been suspenseful and true to the world created by Arthur Conan Doyle. A big strength of the series has been the development of the young Sherlock Holmes, with entirely plausible explanations of how and why the character had evolved into the familiar detective we know from Doyle’s classic novels.

Perhaps it is because the first four novels had been so strong that I find The Dragon Turn somewhat of a disappointment. Of course, this means that the latest in the series is merely a good story rather than an exceptional one. The Dragon Turn is about two rival magicians and the disappearance of the woman that had been married to both of them in turn. As before, Irene Doyle and the Lestrades, father and son, play significant roles in the story. The plot is, as usual, exciting and fast-paced, but I missed the exploration of Sherlock’s character and history that was more prominent in the earlier books.

This is not Shane Peacock’s best, but still, the series is well worth reading, for both those well acquainted with the Sherlock Holmes character and those meeting him for the first time.