Stocking-stuffer books for kids

Dr. Suess rendered old-school nursery rhymes practically obsolete with his reinvented use of rhyming verse, and although these four books lack the good Doctor’s edginess, they nonetheless package life lessons for children in delightful rhymes that make them great holiday gifts for kids and grandkids.


By Judy Dykstra-Brown

Sock TalkSock Talk is a Christmas book of rhyming verse that recounts the tale of a young girl whose aging maiden aunt insists on giving her the mundane Christmas gift of socks year after year.   When the child at last musters up the courage to confront her aunt about the practice, the result is predictably unpredictable.  This book contains sixteen illustrations by San Juan Cosalá artist Isidro Xilonzóchitl. Most are colorful full pages rendered in a style that evokes memories of illustrations from children’s books of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s.

The story that teaches children two important lessons.  One is that that there’s more to things than meets the eye, and the other is that a gift horse is not to be looked in the mouth.

The book’s dedication to the author’s niece amusingly hints that the author herself was at one time the sock-giver.

Available not only as an e-book, but as a large-print paperback, it’s a book that begs to be read aloud.  The author recommends it for children aged 6 to 10.

Find it here on Amazon.

Sunup SundownSunup Sundown is the second in the author’s growing series of children’s books.  Like the first, it is a book of rhyming verse, and is also illustrated by local artist Isidro Xilonzochitl.  It’s the story of a day in childhood life filled with descriptions of encounters with the very real animals found both on grandma and grandpa’s farm and in the zoo, as well as animals imagined in storybooks.

It begins with the wake-up greeting “Wake up, wake up, my buttercup, my flutterdown and flutterup, my painter and my cutterup, your sleepy time is done.”

It ends as a bedtime lullaby.   “Humpa, humpa, haravan, the camels in their caravan and puppies on the spare divan are falling fast asleep . . . like the foxes in their lairs, with the fleas down in their hairs. . . . Like your playmates, your teacher, and every living creature.”

It’s a book that young children will enjoy, and that parents will enjoy reading to them.

Find it here on Amazon.


By John Thomas Dodds

A Long Journey HomeA narrative poem, The Journey Home is the story of young Thomas and the urge he feels to explore the world beyond his front door.  He sets off with backpack, and along the way encounters new companions, experiences, and ideas, some of which bring happiness and others which raise fears and doubts.

Each of the fanciful characters he meets teaches him a valuable lesson.  He learns from Grandfather Time teaches him that, “Everything happens for a reason, and in its own time.” The twin apparitions of Danger and Delight show him that “There are two sides to everything,” and that he can choose to follow either darkness or light.   Mr. Crane tells the boy that he has to choose his own path by following his heart as well as his brain.

These encounters plant a recurring question in Thomas’s mind that is finally answered by the Lady with the angel voice, who awakens him to the understanding that life “is all about love,” and that love is always with him, even when he thinks that he is alone.

The author recommends it for children aged 7-10 years.

Find it here on Amazon.

A Sneaky TwitchThe Sneaky Twitch of an Itch is a poem that engages children’s’ imagination by presenting the paradox of something which is as intangible as it is undeniably real.  No one can deny that an itch exists, and yet an itch cannot be captured or chased away.  Sneaky’s impish behavior teaches not only the importance of cleanliness and personal hygiene, but the value of caring relationships.

The author recommends it for nursery school aged children.

Find it here on Amazon.

Browse our complete Author’s Gallery by genre here.

(Posted by Antonio Ramblés.)

LCS acknowledgement

 

 

 

 

Ajijic’s Grand Dame Neill James

Neill James photo 04
Author/Philanthropist Neill James

Most who live on Lake Chapala’s north shore – and particularly those who frequent the Lake Chapala Society – have heard the name Neill James, but many are unaware of the accomplishments of this extraordinary woman, or the full scope of her contributions to the community.

James was an author, philanthropist, and entrepreneur.  She was also a fearless adventurer who shrugged off the staid social conventions and gender stereotypes of a dawning twentieth century.

Born on a cotton plantation in Grenada, Mississippi in 1895, James earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1918, and – following a brief and childless marriage – began to travel extensively.

Neill James photo 01
Author/Philanthropist Neill James

She was employed at the American embassies in Tokyo (1924-1927) and Berlin (1928-1929), and her work and travel allowed her to meet many celebrities of the day, including Amelia Earhart.  Her travels took her to the South Seas (1931-32), and Lapland (1937-38).

Her plans to return to Asia and travel throughout the Orient changed when James encountered the Ainu people of northern Hokkaido in Japan and became enchanted with their culture.  She lived among them for an extended time, all the while taking photographs and keeping a diary of her experience.

James left Japan just before December 7, 1941 and headed for Mexico, where she was badly injured while hiking the slopes of  Michoacán’s Paricutin volcano during an unexpected eruption. She was brought to Ajijic for a year of recuperation, during which she drew upon her travel journals to complete the “Petticoat Vagabond” series of books on which she had begun work in 1937:

Dust On My Heart coverPetticoat Vagabond among the Nomads (1939)
White Reindeer (1940)
Petticoat Vagabond: In Ainu Land (1942)
Petticoat Vagabonds: Up and Down The World in Asia (1942)
Dust On My Heart (1946)

Dust on My Heart records James’ journeys throughout  Mexico, and includes a chapter on Ajijic that provides rare insight into life in Ajijic during the 1940’s that is well worth the read.

In the years which followed, Ms. James became a beloved benefactress of her adopted Ajijic.

Dust On My Heart - back dust cover Q
James in her garden of exotic plants

She collected rare plants during her travels, and when her attempt to import Japanese mulberry trees in the hope of breeding silkworms was doomed by blight, she converted the silk looms to weave cotton instead, and Ajiic’s community of weavers was born.

A woman of inherited means, James employed her wealth to launch projects focused on improving the daily lives of local people, and on helping them to help themselves.

She sponsored the digging of the area’s first deep water wells, helped to develop a water purification system, and promoted the installation of electricity and phone service.

Neill James photo 03
Author/Philanthropist Neill James

She founded libraries in Chapala and Ajijic, and offered classes in a wide range of academic and artistic disciplines, including art classes for children that the Lake Chapala Society perpetuates to this day.

She encouraged the most talented among her students to pursue art as a career by supplying them with materials, engaging an art teacher, and providing a venue for the sale of their work.  She paid university tuition for the most talented, and several of her original students, including Jesus Lopez Vega and his brother Antonio, still live and paint in Ajijic today.

In 1955 she was among a group who decided that Lakeside needed an organization devoted to the needs of the expat community.  In her final years she donated her home and the grounds upon which it sits to the Lake Chapala Society, but continued to live there until her death in 1994 at the age of 99.  Its gardens still contain over 200 varieties of plants gathered during her travels.

Neill James photo 02
Author/Philanthropist Neill James

James was honored by installation in the American Biographical Society’s Hall of Fame and named to the International Who’s Who of Intellectuals. She is also the recipient of more than 40 citations acknowledging her contributions to the arts.

 

Only one of Ms. James’ books – Dust On My Heart – is available on Amazon.  Find it here.

Read more about Lake Chapala’s literary legacy here.

Check out the complete listing of RiberasAuthors by genre here.

Posted by Antonio Ramblés.

LCS acknowledgement

Three poets’ takes on Mexico

Three Lake Chapala poets have devoted much of their talent to sharing their love of life in Mexico.  Each writes in a very different style, but each manages to capture in his vignettes of daily life not only images familiar to anyone who lives here, but a sense of place that escapes the camera lens.  These poets manage to say what  we often feel about what we see Mexico, but are unable to express.


Three of Bill Frayer’s four volumes of poetry are devoted almost exclusively to this pursuit, and here are excerpts from each:

Frayer - MigrationMexican Street (from Migration)

Living in the heat
of the Mexican street
I step out into the sun
and smell the carnitas
and peanuts roasting.
and Rosa, Rosa next door
who sells her botanas every night
and watches my basura
every morning
keeping the dogs away,
stands smiling
with her missing teeth
and greasy apron,
but always smiling…

Frayer - Sacred LakeForeigner Walking (from Sacred Lake)

As I navigate the uneven stones
Of our Rio Zula
Past a dark-skinned boy
Drinking Coke and mixing sad
Into cement.  “Hola,” I offer.
And he responds more lyrically.
Mangos fallen to the street
In the overnight rain
A flat-face madre
Picks them up, bruised and unripe alike
Into a faded nylon mesh bag.
Another beautiful “Buenos Dias”
Enunciated slowly, carefully
With a slight smile…

Frayer - Agave BloodAgave Blood (from Agave Blood)

I watch as they squeeze
The baked agave heart
To extract the sweet nectar
Which will become
A fine anejo
How did the Aztecs discover
The secret of this blue  cactus
Which would blunt their senses
Perhaps, and make sense
Of their blood sacrifice?
For this tequila os
The story of all Mexico,
The beauty and the tragedy.

Find these three books and others by Bill – along with his reviews – here on Amazon.


DoddsJohn Thomas Dodds has written novels and children’s books, but poetry is most prominent among his body of work.

In A Stroll Through The Village of Ajijic, he devotes an entire volume to loving verses about his adopted home.

 

… I am captured under the delicate brilliance of a canopy of bougainvillea the color of my lovers’ lips.
Momentarily and alien on another planet.
Nothing grows that seemingly hasn’t been here forever, with a fragrance of life so delightful as to buffer the external myth of having been trapped in a never ending ascension of regret.

Find this book and others by John – along with his reviews – here on Amazon.


41-vnsNynCLThe late James Tipton introduced many local poets to the short form verse of Japanese tanka, and his book Washing Dishes In  The Ancient Village packs deep insight into a sparse and meticulously crafted phrases.  Here are four selections:

Behind the barred window
the proud mother
holds up her laughing baby

The cart hauling hay
for the horse
pulling the cart

Dirt road at dusk
everything alive whispers
slow down

So close to Heaven
we could smell
the empanadas!

Find this book and others by Jim – along with his reviews – here on Amazon.

Check out the complete listing of RiberasAuthors by genre here.


Posted by Antonio Ramblés

LCS acknowledgement