Tuesday, August 17, 2010

National Thrift Shop Day!!!!!

I had to include a tribute to the place where my love of books really took off as a child. Nothing breeds a book glutton like being able to indulge, and second-hand stores are the only way a person of reasonable means - or their child - can afford to indulge like that. I wallowed in books as a child, happy only with a pile of reading material. It's still the way I prefer to read - several at a time, drifting between books whose spines are cracked mercilessly, page numbers committed to memory.

My most recent thrift shop purchase was on Sunday, at a charity thrift shop in a typically New Jersey location - by the side of an industrial highway flanked on one side by the outskirts of a ragged little city and on the other by horse farms. I walked in, spotted a slew of horse magazines and spent the next hour groveling happily in the shelves. I emerged with a stack of The Blood-Horse from 2009, a few Practical Horsemen from 2001, and Hemi: A Mule by Barbara Brenner (1973), which I'd never heard of and which is adorable.

It's funny, but even though thrift shops are the ultimate recycling method, outside of vintage clothing, shopping at them has never quite caught on even with the more crunchy people; thrift shops are still mostly for and about new immigrants and poor people. But what's better than people rehoming used but useful objects, saving money and landfill space?

Extraneous vintage comment

I grew up wearing hand-me-downs, and I really prefer new clothes, no matter how cute vintage is. I do appreciate a nice book about vintage, though, and recently came across a memoir Alligators, Old Mink & New Money which is very enjoyable. And I did find a flawless silk skirt for $6 at a Goodwill last month. Used or no, silk has a home with me.

Find a local thrift shop
Goodwill Industries
Habitat For Humanity ReStores
Saint Vincent de Paul Society
Salvation Army Thrift Shops

Also, hospitals, children's homes and churches often have thrift shops attached.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Odds 'n Ends

Jim's eyes stuck out as much as those of the Sawhorse, and he stared at the creature with his ears erect and his long head drawn back until it rested against his arched neck.

In this comical position the two horses circled slowly around each other for a while, each being unable to realize what the singular thing might be which it now beheld for the first time. Then Jim exclaimed:

"For goodness sake, what sort of a being are you?"

"I'm a Sawhorse," replied the other.

Anyone using Google today will have noticed the Wizard Of Oz banner, commemorating the film's 71st birthday. Although they certainly do not qualify as horsey books, they do feature some equine characters (some more, some less), as with Jim the cab-horse and the Saw Horse in Dorothy And The Wizard Of Oz.

Baum, a prolific author, wrote an entire series of books set in Oz. To be exact, he created an entire series. After his death, the series was continued by Ruth Plumly Thompson. Among her books were The Giant Horse Of Oz (1928) and The Wishing Horse Of Oz (1935). The giant horse was a typically strange Oz creation, an immense wooden horse brought to life, but the wishing horse is an actual (if magical) animal.

The World Equestrian Games in Kentucky will feature not only country singers like Blake Shelton but opera star Denyce Graves. I may have to take back my harsh words.

And finally, a clip of a Ringling Bros. Circus horse act, as a prelude to an upcoming review of a memoir by one of the circus's veterinarians. This clip isn't the clearest, but there's something about that bold rush into the spotlit ring which just sums up the appeal of animals in the circus.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Paint The Wind (2007)

I'm having some technical difficulties with my computer, which has quite reasonably refused to deal with my digital photo addiction until I give it more memory. So this review goes on sans cover image, which grieves me, but you can see the cover here.

Paint The Wind
Pam Munoz Ryan, il. Sterling Hundley (cover)
2007, Scholastic Press

"I have a grandfather and he lives with his brother and sister... but they're actually hillbillies with no education and they live like pigs in an uncivilized land. Oh, and they don't appreciate culture and are extremely crass and unsavory."

Maya, a squelched child, has lived most of her living memory with her father's mother in Pasadena. Her grandmother's grief and bitterness over losing her son early has led to the negative impression she's conveyed to Maya. When she dies, Maya is shipped off to Wyoming to live with her mother's long-forgotten family, the Limners.

She slowly turned in a circle and looked up at an endless and cavernous sky. There was far more heaven above her than there was earth below, and the horizon seemed worlds away. Without a white wall to define her boundaries, how would she ever know when she disappeared from someone's view?

Maya's learned to be silent and cunning under the autocratic rule of her grandmother; she flinches from the hearty, emotional welcome of the Limners, and lies fluidly to manipulate her circumstances. When she's sent off to a camp to spend time with her aunt Vi and spoiled cousin Payton, she employs her usual sly tactics to strike back after Payton throws a firecracker at her. Her tactics indirectly causes a horse to be hurt, and drives a wedge between Maya and Vi.

Slowly, things improve as Maya learns to ride and enjoy it, and learns about Artemisia, the mare her mother loved who was stolen away by a wild stallion. When Maya sees the chance to recapture the mare, she seizes it - and becomes involved in a natural disaster that could kill her.

The title is a fanciful expression of the allure of the wild horses and, no doubt, their threatened existence in reality. The title, cover art and comments about 'ghost horses' hint at a fantastic element which does not exist; the book therefore flirts with but never truly grasps hold at the supernatural. It is firmly in place, in love with Wyoming, and its heroine. The character of Maya is well done, but the supporting cast is under served and the relationships seem rushed. The initial segments set in Pasadena establish Maya strongly, but weaken and shorten the vital Wyoming sections.

Horse-wise, I have my reservations. The author is at pains to provide horsey details, and there is a great deal of horse information, including some convincing (if awfully quick) scenes of Maya learning to ride. But it doesn't feel as natural as the rest of the book. According to her website, Munoz Ryan hadn't been into horses until she began writing this book. She fell in love with riding, and her lesson horse Smokey is featured on her website.

Overall, I think it's a very high-quality work of children's fiction, but a not overly impressive horse book. And I actually don't mind. Maya is a subtle, interesting character, and her story is entirely sufficient.

Artemisia - brown and white pinto mare
Klee -
Wyeth - Artemisia's 2-year-old colt
Sargent - Palomino stallion
Russell - bay ranch gelding
Catlin - bay ranch gelding
Homer - bay ranch gelding
Audubon - dun ranch gelding
Seltzer - blue roan ranch gelding
Wilson - sorrel ranch gelding
Georgia - wild mare
Mary - 2-year-old wild palomino mare
Remington - black wild stallion with white blaze and stockings
Golly - dog

Author website
Scholastic interview
McBookWords - the artists who inspired the horse names above
Illustrator Sterling Hundley's website

Other horse books
Riding Freedom