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9 april 2014

Imagine my delight a few years ago when I found tree ear fungus growing on a dead limb of the old pecan tree that shades our house. Or rather, if you can imagine delight at such an event, you are what Cynthia Bertelsen, in her global history of the mushroom, calls "mycophilic." Many people aren't mycophilic. Mycophobes think that every fungus must be by definition inedible – possibly intolerable, certainly disgusting.     read more

5 april 2014

The narrator/protagonist of Kirby Larson's Hattie Big Sky is sixteen years old, an astonishing development for a 21st-century children's novel, let alone one that won a Newbery Honor.     read more

4 april 2014

Half of Eric Schlosser's book Command and Control is a white-knuckle narrative of an accident at an Arkansas nuclear-missile base in 1980. One serviceman died in the explosion of a Titan II missile; several others were badly hurt; but the state of Arkansas is still there, as I can attest. And that result is rather amazing.     read more

30 march 2014

Like Jennifer Holm's later Newbery Honor book Turtle in Paradise, her 2007 Honor novel Penny from Heaven features a just-preadolescent narrator torn between families: a drab New Jersey maternal home and an exotic, organic, gusto-enriched extended paternal family … also in New Jersey, in this book, but a world apart in cultural terms.     read more