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Archive for January 27th, 2015

as an oak cover

by Sam Juliano

“I am as constant as the northern star”       -William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

There is a deep elegiac undercurrent running through G. Brian Karas’ As An Oak Tree Grows, a quietly affecting story of a towering canopy that lives for better than two-hundred years.  In the tradition of Virginia Lee Burton’s beloved Caldecott Medal winning The Little House, there is a human aspect to the seemingly symbolic specter that bears witness to the many changes that are wrought on what begins as a clearing in the woods, progressing to a small town and then to a populated hamlet near a river.  Much like Burton’s book, everything and anything changes around the centerpiece, while technological advancements and population increases alter the landscape, with nothing but the tree achieving any measure of permanence.  What never changes is the appreciation for the giant oak by generations who find different ways to make this indomitable presence an integral part of their lives.

It all begins when the young son of early New World settlers plants an acorn in the ground in early spring.  Later in the year and oak tree sprouts and begin the annual ritual of shedding leaves in the fall and growing new ones in the spring.  By 1800 the boy has grown up and moved on, leaving farmers to develop the land, though the oak tree was left alone to expand.  Though branches break during winter it lives on, as the area around it continues to broaden from 1825-1850.  A few decades later the area suffers from a mini-drought that forces the oak tree’s roots to expand, searching for life-sustaining water, as the symptoms include wilted leaves.   (more…)

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blizzard cover

by Sam Juliano

As I sit down to pen my review of John Rocco’s wildly popular picture book Blizzard, a swirling snowstorm is setting in on the northeastern New Jersey outside of Manhattan, where my family and I reside.  While the projected numbers may not quite equal the 1978 super storm Rocco chronicles, this is a major event that will have people digging out for days, not to mention all the severe travel restrictions that lie ahead.  Nightmare scenarios that include late-arriving plows, the inability to drive to a store for food and supplies, and the effects of cabin fever are part of the blizzard experience.  Always a fun time for the kids, who see the arrival of snowflakes as a passport to scholastic absence, it is that relatively rare time to ride sleds, throw snowballs and build snowmen and igloos with reckless abandon.  It is a time when nature plays the role of the great equalizer, neutralizing parental authority, as a result of the communal task at hand.  The arrival of a blizzard brings on a divergent but amenable mix: excitement, consternation, uncertainty and claustrophobia, though the perceptions of kids widely differ from that of the more responsible adults.  One thing is certain: whatever plans one had in place are all left on the back burner when a blizzard strikes.  The priorities are down to one. (more…)

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