The SILOH Tanka Contest

Check out Kirsten Cliff's blog for the results of her SILOH Tanka Contest, including the wonderful top-placing poem by AndrĂ© Surridge. This year's theme: Winter Dreams.

Review: Harry and the Goblet of Fire

Title: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter #4)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: July 8th, 2000
Genre: Junior Fiction, Fantasy

On Harry Potter’s eleventh birthday he is whisked away from his horrible Aunt and Uncle and introduced to the magical world that exists hidden within the world he’s always known. Harry learns that his name and his lightening bolt scar are famous in the Wizarding World. Even more famous is Lord Voldemort, the person who turned Harry’s life around when he murdered his parents. Three years later, Harry is about to start his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Summers with the Dursleys are always unbearable, but Harry’s time at number 4 Privet Drive is cut short when he is able to spend the end of summer with his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Together with the Weasley family they go to the last game of the Quidditch World Cup. The excitement of the greatest game on earth is spoiled when Voldemort’s supporters are spotted nearby. Strange events have begun to occur in the Wizarding World and Harry can’t help but feel unsettled. Could Voldemort possibly be gaining strength to return to power? Harry is able to temporarily forget about Voldemort when term begins, and although a school year at Hogwarts is never without excitement, this year will prove to be unlike any other. But when Harry finds himself thrust into dangers that will require more bravery and skill than he has ever had to show, he feels like he is not entirely safe at Hogwarts. If Harry is to survive this year at Hogwarts, he will have to call on help from his friends while using all of his strengths to his advantage.

I will always have a special fondness for this book since it was the first Harry Potter book that was released while I was a fan. The first three books were already out when I started reading them, but this book I had to wait for. I also enjoy this book since it’s so different from the others, with the Quidditch World Cup, the Triwizard Tournament and the Yule Ball. This was the first of the Harry Potter books to be long book, and perhaps because of the length we learn a great deal in this book, and many moments in Goblet of Fire build up to the final book (such as Dumbledore’s ‘gleam of triumph.’) You could argue that this is the first book in the series that could be classified as YA instead of junior fiction. It is certainly darker, and we also see the characters start to have romantic attractions to other characters, although some of these were hinted about before. I’ve read this book at least 12 times (once a year) but likely more, and this time I listened to the beginning as a audio book. I think that Goblet of Fire is a very good example of a well done murder mystery. Of course, while reading we don’t exactly know that a murder is going to take place, but we do know early on that someone placed Harry’s name in the goblet of fire. Reading this with the knowledge of what happens is very interesting, and you can see all the subtle hints and things being built up to. I think that the plot was perfectly orchestrated and planned out. Someone once asked me if the Harry Potter books had flowery prose and wonderful similes, and they don’t. The writing isn’t poetic, but I don’t think anyone could argue with me when I say that J.K. Rowling is a great storyteller. Her world building is certainly amazing. In this book we learn more about the inner workings of the magical world, including the unforgiveable curses and how Harry’s parents were killed. While everyone loves the story and the magical world, one of the main reasons to keep reading the series is the characters. They are the reason I keep coming back and I loved seeing them grow and become the people they will be by the seventh book. One of my favourite little things about this book is Hermione’s passion for S.P.E.W, the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare. One thing that caught my attention this time: towards the end of the book, Snape confronts Fudge by showing him something. I want to keep this spoiler free, but I thought that moment was a sign of what his true allegiances are.

The movie adaptation is loved by a lot of people because it’s entertaining. I mean, there’s a ball and dragons! What’s not to love? However, of all the movies, this is the one I have the biggest problem with. I’m usually okay with things being kept out, but I cannot stand when the movies aren’t true to the characters. They will often take a clever line of Ron’s and give it to Hermione, and I can’t stand that. The most obvious thing I didn’t like was when Dumbledore asks Harry if he put his name in the Goblet of Fire, in a very un-Dumbledore-like manner. The scene in which Harry faces the dragon I find particularly annoying, since Harry acts like an idiot and needs Hermione to remind him to use his wand. This scene also makes Hogwarts look, if possible, even less safe than it actually is, since no one stops the dragon from running off with Harry and nearly killing him. I also hate Harry’s hesitation in the maze. The movie also doesn’t capture how well planned out the plot was. It was fun to watch, but I didn’t think it was a good adaptation.

This is a pivotal book in the series that shows signs of the series heading in a darker direction than people imagined when they read The Philosopher’s Stone. At the same time, we see love, humour and friendships tested and strengthened. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people are intimated by this book after reading the first three in the series, which are relatively short. This book is certainly thick, but I never felt like it dragged on. With the Quidditch World Cup and the three tasks in the Triwizard Tournament spread out throughout the book, there was plenty of excitement and suspense. It’s also a fairly quick read despite its bulk; when I first read it I was ten and I read it in three days (it was summer vacation though.) I think new fans of the series will enjoy the fourth book and seeing how the books mature with Harry. For long time lovers of the books, you can always count on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire being just as good as you remembered. For me, it’s comforting to know that whatever happens I’ll always be able to read this book and remember what it was like to be ten years old.


“Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”

#268: Into the Woods

We grow up with the comforting narratives of fairy tales. The frog becomes a prince. The glass slipper fits. Hansel and Gretel find their way out of the forest. It’s easy to be convinced that these are merely children’s stories, full of songs and happy endings without any bearing on an adult reality. Yet, upon closer examination, many of these stories are not very childlike at all. They are full of fear and shame and indecision, of violence, disappointment, and struggle. It was these components of fairy tales that Stephen Sondheim drew upon to construct what many consider his magnum opus, Into the Woods, a musical theater compendium of fractured fairy tales.

In his creation, elements of Rapunzel, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood are brought together. Characters from different stories run into each other; their own wishes and dreams quickly getting in each other’s way. The show’s multiple storylines are fascinating and the music, composed by Sondheim, is, by turns, light-hearted, heart-rending, and thrilling. The show plays with our traditional ideas of fairy tales and leaves many wondering if these beloved characters, and by proxy, ourselves, will actually make it out of the woods.

It must be theater week here at 365 South Bend because in addition to LangLab's fantastic theatrical offerings, the South Bend Civic Theater, which we have featured many times before, is currently producing their version of Sondheim’s Into the Woods.  The Civic is a community treasure, and this show is a highlight of their current season. Into the Woodswill run through August 12th at the Civic and features local talent in both its actors and its crew. Take a(nother) night to experience the joy of live theater and a dark twist on “happy endings”.

For more information, showtimes, and ticket information visit the South Bend Civic Theater website here.

Review: Briar Rose

Title: Briar Rose
Author: Jane Yolen
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication Date: August 31st 1988
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Fairy Tale Retellings

Becca’s grandmother, Gemma, has always been a mystery to her family. While they know she left Europe after World War II for the United States, they don’t even know her birth name or who Becca’s grandfather was. The one thing Gemma does talk about from her old life is the story of Sleeping Beauty. After Gemma’s death, Becca finds herself wanting answers about her family’s past. Old mementos lead Becca to Chelmo, a concentration camp in Poland. As she searches for the pieces of Gemma’s past, Becca tries to find the connection to the story she loved so much. Becca has heard about Briar Rose and the dark fairy’s curse so many times she knows the story by heart. As she uncovers the story of the past, she learns that life isn’t a fairy tale.

This book was not what I was expecting. I’ve read one other book by Jane Yolen called Armageddon Summer, which she co-wrote with Bruce Coville. I was sort of expecting something closer to The Book Thief with a fairy tale twist. However, this isn’t exactly a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Instead, it’s about a twenty-three year old journalist who goes looking for answers about her recently deceased Jewish grandmother. On her deathbed, the old woman says that the story is really about her. Becca uses the few clues she has to piece together some of the details of her grandmother’s past, going as far as Poland for answers. There were a lot of flaws in this book, but its greatest strength was the emotional effect it has after reading it. While actually reading it wasn’t enjoyable, after I finished I felt like the overall effect worked. What made it a not very enjoyable read was the fact that the story was slow moving and I felt detached from the lifeless characters. However, I did like how the story of Sleeping Beauty was incorporated into Briar Rose and how things were resolved. Like any Holocaust story, this isn’t a light book you can read looking for entertainment. Briar Rose was definitely well researched and original, full of emotion and the worst parts of the 20th century.


“Stories," he'd said, his voice low and almost husky, "we are made up of stories. And even the one's that seem the most like lies can be our deepest hidden truths.”

Radio tuned; the heartbreak

radio tuned
to Texas country,
its lonesome cowboys—
my nondescript accent
briefly switches to twang

red lights, June 2012

the heartache
in those country tunes—
whole cornfields died
before my own heart
would grow back again

—red lights, June 2012

#267: TheatreLanglab's 24 Hour Play

Today features a special guest post by Yael, a west coast-turned-midwesterner who understands all things theater and theatre...

If you think you have to go to Chicago to see eclectic theatre, think again. TheatreLanglab is once again at “play”, in their home near the South Bend Farmer’s Market. Langlab itself inspires invention. What was once an abandoned factory building has become a local hotspot for the arts, education, and community organizations. TheatreLanglab did its first 24-hour production, The Jacket (see video below), at the Lab last summer and will head back into their gigantic playground at the end of July for another round of raucous fun.
 This year’s farcical tragicomedy is called Burned! It’s a loose adaptation of Frisch’s The Firebugsand is about what happens when politeness usurps honesty in a city threatened by arsonists. The catch is that TheatreLanglab will create the entire play in 24 hours: they’ll stay up late to design lights, costumes, sets, and sound. They’ll play, workshop, rehearse and attempt to memorize lines overnight. And then they’ll share their artistic handiwork, in whatever form it takes, with an audience. For one night only. The event, more about process than product, will be suitable for all children (although not crafted for those under 10) with a suggested donation of $10 at the door. 

Burned! will serve as the first fundraiser for ULTREIA, a new independent non-profit established to support the arts and arts education in South Bend. ULTREIA, meaning ‘onward’ or ‘forward’, will sponsor more art with the money it raises at this performance - a win-win for patrons and for the city.

Langlab will also mark the closing of its first gallery exhibition, Cuba Inside/Out, on July 29. This thoughtful show, with stunning photographs of Havana and Santiago de Cuba by local artist Christopher Stackowicz, wrestles with theatre in Cuba and the drama of everyday Cuban street life.  The gallery will be open for its final night of viewing and a small reception will follow the performance of Burned!Where else in town can you enjoy a boisterous performance, intriguing photos, and a social gathering all in one evening out? 


TheatreLanglab concocts play in 24 hours:
Burned! A morality play without a moral.

Sunday night, July 29 at 7:30 p.m.
$10 suggested donation

Langlab South Bend
1302 High Street
South Bend, IN 46601

Review: Chasing Vermeer

Title: Chasing Vermeer
Author: Blue Balliett
Illustrator: Brett Helquist
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Publication Date: June 1st, 2004
Genre: Junior Fiction, Mystery

One night, three identical letters are sent to three unrelated individuals from an anonymous sender, asking for their assistance in righting some wrongs. The writer seems to know these individuals well enough to assume that they’ll help them, but if they show the letter to the police they will be in danger. Meanwhile in Chicago, sixth graders Petra and Calder admire their teacher, who challenges their minds and teaches them to ask questions. When Petra finds an interesting book that tells her that there are no coincidences, she applies that idea to her own life. A lot of peculiar things have begun to happen, and the one thing they seem to have in common is the painting “A Lady Writing” by Johannes Vermeer. When the painting goes missing on its way to the Chicago Institute of Art, Petra and Calder are among the many interested people. As Petra and Calder try to piece together the mystery behind the stolen painting, they will have to take things in to their own hands, even if they’re only eleven years old.

I was really looking forward to this mystery, focusing on a missing Vermeer painting. This book got a fair bit of hype when it came out nearly eight years ago, but I never got around to reading it at the time. Illustrated by Brett Helquist, of A Series of Unfortunate Events fame, I loved the idea of codes being included throughout the story and in the illustrations. The opening reminded me of Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game, and I loved the cipher Calder uses to communicate with his friend in New York. All of these things seemed to foreshadow a great mystery, but things seemed to fizzle by the time I was midway through. The characters weren’t entirely convincing, and overall the promising aspects of the plot just didn’t work together. While I kept reading to find out what happened with hopes that my mind would be changed, the ending was unsatisfying. For a mystery, a clever conclusion that ties everything together is pretty important, and Chasing Vermeer was lacking that. Overall, this story failed to impress me and make me want more. To me, a good mystery should have excitement and an “Aha!” moment where everything clicks. Mystery lovers should probably pass on this one, despite how promising it seems.


“The greatest art belongs to the world. Do not be intimidated by the experts. Trust your instincts. Do not be afraid to go against what you were taught, or what you were told to see or believe. Every person, every set of eyes, has the right to the truth.”

I step right through

I step right through
a mad swarm of love bugs,
until now
unsure of my status
as a superhero

—Simply Haiku, Winter 2009

And there were masses of them, in the thousands, that summer during construction. Inside, they mostly were dead—heaped throughout the future living and dining rooms, in the AC floor registers, filling (and nearly discoloring) the brand-new tub. But outside they swarmed for weeks. It wasn't long before I stopped bothering to shield myself from them as I walked up the steps, bare-armed and bare-legged, to the side entrance of the house.

I had no idea then that those little bugs were harbingers of things to come over the next three or so years.

Review: An Abundance of Katherines

Title: An Abundance of Katherines
Author: John Green
Publisher: Speak
Publication Date: September 21st, 2006
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

Former child prodigy Colin Singleton has just graduated from high school and been dumped for the 19th time by a girl named Katherine. Colin has fallen into a cycle: dating girls named Katherine and then being dumped by them. Katherine XIX and Colin dated for a nearly a year before she broke up with him, just like every other Katherine before her. Colin remembers everything and is especially good with languages and anagrams. But the fact is that Colin is a former prodigy, not a genius. While prodigies are especially good at learning things, it’s geniuses that create things and do the things that prodigies learn about. In Colin’s mind, his quest to do something important with his life and his love for girls named Katherine are intertwined; he wants to know that he matters. Colin is looking for what’s missing in his life and being dumped by Katherine has made the missing piece inside of him feel bigger than ever. With his best friend Hassan, Colin goes on a road trip to help him forget about everything that’s bothering him. An impromptu stop in Tennessee to see the grave of Archduke Ferdinand leads Hassan and Colin to find a job working in a town called Gutshot, where they meet Lindsey Lee Wells. When Colin has the revelation that relationships can be broken down into a science, he begins working on a theorem that will predict the outcome of any relationship. Colin has never done anything original in his life and his only hope is his theorem. But does he really need to do something important in life to feel whole?

This was my second time reading An Abundance of Katherines, John Green’s second novel. It also happens to be the least popular of his books; it isn’t as life changing as The Fault In Our Stars, as funny as Will Grayson, Will Grayson, as thought provoking and fast paced as Paper Towns or as poignant as Looking For Alaska. I think one of the main reasons people dislike this book is because of Colin. I mean, no one really likes to hang out with the kid who just got his heart broken and is a pathetic mess, you just do it because you feel obligated. In all honesty, Colin was an unlikable character but I found him very realistic. And who says that characters in books always have to be likeable; people in reality certainly aren’t. Katherine the Best tells Colin that he is both “too smart and too dumb” for her, and he writes this off as a “ridiculous, idiotic and oxymoronic” reason for breaking up with him. But the fact is, she’s spot on. Colin is ridiculously good at replaying information, but he is just plain dumb when it comes to being in relationships, whether romantic or not. People say that girls who are very beautiful and are constantly being told so become insecure because their self worth is tied to their physical appearance. Colin is exactly like that, except with his intelligence. That’s why he needs to feel like he matters and while this need is what tore apart his relationship with most of the Katherines, he still thinks it’s the answer to his problems and how he’s going to win back Katherine XIX. Despite all of this, I still liked reading about Colin, even with all the obsessing and selfishness. I suppose in a way so many people are like Colin in wanting to know that they matter. The most popular quotation from this book is “What is the point of being alive if you don't at least try to do something remarkable?” I see this quote all the time on the Internet, presumably because people can relate to it. Of course, the whole point of this book is that Colin was wrong: you don’t have to do something remarkable with your life.

Another reasons this book isn’t as popular is because some people find the whole concept original, but rather unlikely. A nerdy boy has happened to date nineteen different girls named Katherine? I actually found it unlikely that a guy like Colin could find that many girlfriends at all, let alone only ones named Katherine. If you can get past this, then I think you can enjoy An Abundance of Katherines. It’s very insightful and I liked how Colin’s back-story played out. I’ve heard people call this book boring, but I never felt that way about it. Back in December I had this book on a list of great books for nerds, and I still stand by that. The only thing more abundant than Katherines in this book is facts. There’s even footnotes, and personally I loved all the information given, even if Hassan doesn’t think it’s interesting. The math in this book is also what earned An Abundance of Katherines a place on my list, but you don’t have to know anything about math to enjoy this book (although it does go further into depth about it in the appendix.) Rereading this book, so many things stood out to me. As in any John Green book, there were plenty of perceptive observations and I also enjoyed the novel’s themes. The secondary characters were as great as usual in John’s books; Lindsey Lee Wells who is basically a chameleon, and Hassan, a lazy, Judge Judy loving, overweight, Muslim boy. Just like he does in every one of his books, John Green has a written a smart novel about being a teen. While well written, I do agree with the majority people about this book being my least favourite of his novels. Of course, they’re all so good that that doesn’t mean much. While I wouldn’t recommend this as your first introduction to John’s writing, a lot of fans of his books just pass on reading An Abundance of Katherines like it’s the first series of the new Doctor Who. I would recommend giving both a shot if you’re a fan. Unique and intelligent, An Abundance of Katherines exemplifies so many of the reasons I read YA fiction.


“How do you just stop being terrified of getting left behind and ending up by yourself forever and not meaning anything to the world?”

This room of theirs

this room of theirs
a mishmash of themes
and colors,
photos of us kids
anchoring the decades

A Hundred Gourds, June 2012

That day when we must begin going through decades of stuff and moving our parents to a different place may not be so far away.

photo copyright of Robert Curtis

I've Got a Friend in Her / The Beauty of the Handwritten

Whenever I go to the mailbox, even if I'm not expecting anything, I feel a twinge of excitement that maybe, just maybe, there will be a handwritten letter there addressed to me.
In our world of Facebook and email, this rarely happens.
Goodness knows, I rarely write handwritten letters of my own.
The electronic equivalent is just so much easier and faster.

I think that's why handwritten things mean so much to me.
They rarely happen.
They take more time.
They take more effort.

The other day I got the most exquisite note in the mail from my friend Jessica.
When I saw it among the weekly grocery ads and credit card offers, my breath caught.

A postage stamp with wings showing the post office had given its stamp of approval.
An envelope with substantial texture and weight.
Her tidy, slender longhand written with a fine ink pen.
This envelope was not like the others.

I sorted through my thoughts, wondering if there was anyone Jess could be throwing a bridal shower for.
Didn't want to get my hopes up that she had sent something just for me.

And then I opened it.
Slid my index finger underneath the glued flap and slowly peeled it from the envelope body.

My eyes went wide.
Brown paper, and an earthy, nature-y note card that could only have been chosen by a true Washingtonian.
This note was true blue, through and through.

The message was quick and to the point.
But so thoughtful.
So perfectly targeted for me.

And there was a gift, too.
The brown paper was branded with the familiar logo of my favorite Seattle landmark: Starbucks.
Though I don't drink coffee, Jess knows that she and I share a love for that little shop.
Yes, locations may be strewn throughout the world, but our hometown coffee shop has been the place for many friend reunions, pre-football-game hot chocolate purchases, and Saturday morning breakfast stops.
Away from home, the warm smell of coffee beans hugs me with nostalgia and welcomes me in.

She knows me.
She thought of me.
And she took the time to show me.

So, my friends, my challenge to you is to pull out your ink pens, rolls of stamps, and fancy note cards you've been saving for a special occasion, and write to someone you love.

Write to them about how you admire them or how they've changed your life.
Or just to say Hi, I thought of you today.

I promise, it will absolutely send them soaring.
Thank you, Jess, for the encouragement I needed to sit a little straighter and smile a little brighter.
You're the best.

Books By City: New York

Earlier this year I spent a couple of days in New York City. There are a number of great books that take place in New York that exemplify what the City That Never Sleeps truly is. Whether you live there, have visited or dream of going, these books will keep you up all night reading about the City That Never Sleeps.

For The Young Readers
  • This Is New York by Miroslav Sasek. First published in 1960, this book introduces young readers to New York with bright illustrations that have a charming and retro feel. This book is part of a series focusing on major cities of the world, like London, Paris and Rome.
  • E is for Empire: A New York Alphabet by Ann E. Berg and illustrated by Maureen K. Brookfield. This book takes the reader on a tour of New York, letter by letter. Using rhymes, this book explains the history and culture of New York City. 
For Pre-Teens
  • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. Fifty years apart, two children, Rose and Ben both head to New York City looking for something they need. Told in text and drawings, the beautiful illustrations add a great deal to the story, just as they did in Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret. With Rose's story told through drawings and Ben's through words, these two stories slowly intertwine as Ben and Rose find themselves in the Museum of American Natural History. Although not in the way they first imagined, they both find what they were looking for. You can read my review here
  • From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. In the original book about children living in a museum, Claudia and Jamie Kincaid run away from their suburban home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Armed with instrument cases filled with clothes, the children try to learn as much about the museum as they can, only to become fascinated by a mysterious new statue. You can read my review here
For Teens
  • Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. While all of the books co-written by this team could fit on this list, Dash & Lily takes its main characters on a Christmas time chase through New York. Dash and Lily meet by chance when Dash books up Lily's notebook on a shelf at the Strand, challenging him to take part in a series of dares. As they get to know each by leaving the notebook for the other to find, they both wonder if the chemistry to feel on the page could be real. This book features not only the Strand, but also Macy's, FAO Schwarz and Times Square. Definitely a good book to read if you want to be excited about visiting NYC. You can read my review here
  • Where She Went by Gayle Forman. While I'd only recommend this book to those who read If I Stay, this is a book that come people even prefer to the original. It has been three years since Mia's accident, and since then her and Adam's lives have gone done completely different paths, with only music in common. Mia is a Juilliard graduate and budding cello star, while Adam's band's success has made him the star of the tabloids. When Adam goes to Mia's concert, she wants to spend her last day in New York with her former love. As she takes him on a quick tour of her favourite places in the city, from the Staten Island ferry to the bowling alley in the Port Authority, Adam and Mia begin to feel as if they had never been apart. You can read my review here
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. Francie Nolan is a young girl growing up in Brooklyn in 1912. Her family struggles with poverty, Francie delves into her imagination and the books that she reads. As her family goes through adversity, Francie realizes that her family is like the Tree of Heaven that grows nearby her house, in the way that no matter what happens, it still grows. 
For Adults 
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Oskar Schell is a nine-year-old boy living in Manhattan’s Upper West Side with his mother and his Grandma. His father died a year ago on September 11th, and Oskar's family is still overwhelmed with grief. When Oskar finds an old key among his father’s possessions, he sets out to find the owner of the key that is his last connection with his father. Oskar has one clue, and finding the key owner will take him through all five boroughs of New York over an eight-month period. You can read the full review here
  • The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald. During the Jazz Age, Nick Carraway has just moved to Long Island to start his career. Next door to him lives Jay Gatsby, a mysterious man who holds parties that are attended by most people. Gatsby was once in love with Nick's cousin Daisy, who is now married to Tom Buchanan. Gatsby has come from nothing and become a self made millionaire. Taking place partly in New York city, The Great Gatsby is seen as the Great American novel. Read it now before the movie comes out in December. 
  • Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. After Holden Caulfield is expelled from boarding school, he heads home to New York before his family discovers he's no longer in school. As Holden struggles with what is going to happen to him next, he wishes he could protect children like his little sister Phoebe. 

#266: Rose Quest Organic Food Store

The South Bend Tribune recently lauded what they termed the “hipster appeal” of South Bend defining the hipster aesthetic as an affinity for “vintage and thrift-store-inspired fashions, fixed-gear bicycles…strong coffee, craft beers and local food.” The piece in the Tribune encouraged young Chicagoans to relocate to South Bend because of the ability to live the “hipster” life at a lower price than neighborhoods with a similar appeal in Chicago. They’re right. South Bend is affordable and offers many, underrated cultural amenities of the style that are currently in vogue. I would like to argue that there’s even more that South Bend has to offer than just an alternate version of trendy urban life.  Unlike in hipster 'hoods like Brooklyn, Wicker Park and the whole of Austin, TX and Portland, OR, you won’t get lost in South Bend's scene.  You have the ability to know the entirety of the local area, and your presence and your contributions to the community hold weight.  There are no masses to follow here (except on ND football game days).  South Bend's approachable size allows for discovery as well as community involvement.  Such a lifestyle goes beyond any trends.

And now on to the local find of the day! Speaking of hipsters, one of their affinities is for “local food”. To that I would add “organic food”. Organic food, for those not intimately familiar, is food that has not been grown or processed in any synthetic way. No pesticides. No fertilizers. No chemical additives. Many stores carry organic (next to their non-organic selections) and many local farmers do as well (just ask when you’re at the Farmer’s Market). But in the event that you would like an all-organic selection of produce and miscellaneous dry goods, there’s a store in Mishawaka just for you! Rose Quest Organic Food Store is one part of the Rose Quest Nutrition Centre. The owner of the Nutrition Centre curates a small and delightful selection of all-organic food housed in a Victorian style home on Lincolnway East as you’re headed to Osceola. We popped in one day early in June and walked out with some organic avocados and strawberries. If you sign up for their email newsletter, you can receive emails indicating when certain items go on sale and what type of produce is in season. While the store might not be able to supply all of your grocery needs, it happily fills a small niche within the local food scene of the area.

410 Lincolnway East
(574) 259-5653

Mon/Tues/Fri         8:00am-5:00pm
Sat                          9:00am-noon

For more information visit the website here.

#265: Dari Fair

Even after a big meal, I always say, there's room for ice cream.  And in the hot summer months, it's always time for ice cream.  With all this room and time for ice cream, it's good to know all the options available.  It took me too long to add this place to my list of stops, but I highly recommend Dari Fair for  your ice cream fix.

Dari Fair offers an incredible variety of food, not just ice cream.  It opens for breakfast in the morning with typical drive-in fare.  As for dairy side of the menu, there are over 100 flavors available, many novelty treats (eg. homemade brownie and cookie ice cream sandwiches), and my personal favorite, "razzles."  In my long life of ice cream consumption, I have never ever found a place that offers puppy chow (or Muddy-Buddies, for the southerners) as a mix-in.  This alone made me a fan of Dari Fair.

They also offer something not found at every ice cream stand -- a strong local flavor.  Dari Fair regularly hosts blood drive vehicles in the parking lot, and signs for local camps and events are plastered alongside the menu.  Don't expect anything fancy here -- there's a handful of picnic tables and a shaded side patio, handwritten notes on the menus, and a crowded jumble of food and machines inside -- but during this sticky and sweaty summer, perhaps it will hit the sweet spot.

When: Seven days a week - 4:30 am-10:00 pm (except for Mondays, when it opens at 11:00 am)
Where: 4012 Lincolnway East (Mishawaka/Elkhart side of town)
Website: - frequently feature specials/coupons on Facebook
I hope the pina colada really doesn't come out that color green.

"razzles" : soft serve with mix-in (see: Dairy Queen Blizzard)

Off the highway

off the highway
Old Potato Road
etched through the pines
like some kind of secret
no one ever told me

—Eucalypt, Issue 12, May 2012

When we first came across that road, on the drive to Round Rock, the inevitable question arose: "Where's New Potato Road?" We've looked and, not too surprisingly, have never found it.

Review: Matilda

Title: Matilda
Author: Roald Dahl
Illustrator: Quentin Blake
Publisher: Puffin
Publication Date: 1988
Genre: Junior Fiction, Fantasy

Most parents have an idealized view of their child and think that they are the greatest thing to ever happen to the planet. If there was ever a child worthy of such praise, it’s Matilda Wormwood, who taught herself everything she knows and she knows quite a lot. But oddly enough, Mr and Mrs Wormwood think very little of Matilda and tell her so as often as possible. While Matilda's home life is frustrating, she’s found that she can get by well enough if she occasionally teaches her parents a lesson. Nothing humbles an adult more than having their hat glued to their head or their hair bleached, with no one to blame but themselves. By the time Matilda reaches the age of five and a half and starts school, she’s already an expert at dealing with troublesome adults. Matilda’s teacher is Ms. Honey, the most darling woman in the world. However, the headmistress, Ms. Trunchbull, makes Matilda’s parents look perfectly pleasant. Known to throw children out of third story windows by their pigtails, everyone in school fears Ms. Trunchbull. Matilda might just be the smartest person in her whole school, including the teachers. If there’s anyone who can put a stop to the Trunchbull’s reign of terror it’s Matilda, but how will she do it?

I guess this book could be every parent or teacher’s worst nightmare: when children fight back. This was a reread for me and also the first time I’ve read a Roald Dahl book since I was a kid. I have to say that I think Matilda is my favourite of his, although that could change as I reread more of them. The movie adaptation (which I would recommend) came out just as I was starting the first grade (like Matilda in the movie) and I imagine I read the book around the same time. I’ve always loved both the book and the movie and reading Matilda again was like spending the day with an old (and extremely funny) friend. This book shines with Roald Dahl’s typical humour and style. An excellent read for book enthusiasts, this book’s protagonist is a five-year-old genius who reads anything she can get her hands on and does extraordinary things with her mind. This book reminds me of how I used to see the world. When Lavender and Matilda are talking to Hortensia and realize that school is like a war, that’s basically how I felt as a kid. Everything was exciting and extreme. The empty house across the street was surely haunted or possibly lived in by murderers. A stern teacher had to be a monster that tortured children by ripping out their teeth. In Matilda’s case, everything is actually true, and that’s exactly why no would believe her if she were to tell anyone about the Trunchbull. It’s all so ridiculous and outlandish that it would have to be made up. I can see a lot of adults being a bit disturbed by this book and others by Roald Dahl, since no one wants there kids getting back at them with pranks every time they have a time out. Speaking as a former child who loved this book, I knew enough to see that Matilda’s parents and the Trunchbull were extreme cases. I loved the mischief and excitement and how it was a little girl who saved the day in the end. There’s just something about Roald Dahl’s book that make them special: you can’t compare them to anything else. The worlds in his books are full of wicked adults and kids who always win in the end, and I love it.


“Matilda said, "Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it's unbelievable.”

Bursts of Epiphany

It's one of those days when my insides are trying to lift my outsides off the floor and into the sky.
The sky is cloudy, which always helps (call me crazy), and Baby Girl has been asleep for two hours.
I don't have much time.

Ideas swirl through my brain, begging for attention.
But which should come first?
I climbed a waterfall with my husband this week--for our anniversary--and ever since, I've been obsessed with the remembrance that I am adventurous.
I used to live for the feeling of rocks beneath my fingers as I scaled a cliff.
For the feeling of water splashing my bare feet and of deep breaths filling my lungs after a run.
Almost four months have past since I became a mother, a year since I became pregnant.
My life has been different, and for a while, I've let myself go a little.
For a while, I've listened to my fears, my reasons not to, my excuses, more than I've listened to my real self.

I am Claire.

My breaths are short, my heart pounding as I snatch at swirling thoughts.
What have I realized?

I have my own style. And I like it. No need to cruelly compare myself to the beautiful people I see.
I am also beautiful.
But I should still put on makeup every day. It just helps me.
Take the time to get ready. First thing in the morning, decide to feel good about myself that day. Every day.

Sleep is good. Having an infant child under my watch makes for many nights with little sleep.
But she is growing older and sleeping longer and so should I.
She and I slept until 11 today and I am not ashamed. We have both been in such good moods because of it.

I love to take pictures. Just because I am not profesh doesn't mean I can't take pics.
Capture these moments.
Or else.

Record these moments on paper, too. Paper and pen are tangible to me.
They make for tangible memories. The sweetest memories of my life.

Talk to people. Invite them over, visit them, bring them food.
I've spent so much of my life holding myself back from speaking.
But I've always been surrounded by people. I'm not anymore.
So I must seek them out instead. And always speak up when I want to.
But there's nothing wrong with being the one who listens.

Take time for myself.
Take time for myself.
Take time for myself.

Stay creative. Explore my creativity every day.
Take Addie along for the ride. Teach her to love what I love.
She is more capable than I think.

Be on constant alert for the depressive beast. The one who constricts, confines, suffocates the life out of me.

Yes, Claire. Your life is hard.
It's supposed to be.
Recognizing that doesn't mean you're complaining;
it just means you matter enough for the devil to come after you. Laugh in his face.
It's just like in yoga: Force yourself to smile through the hard parts and it instantly becomes easier.
Keep your face soft and your core strong.

Read books. Write books.

Don't give up on growing things. Someday you will keep a plant alive.
And it will prosper and give fruit.
Until then, continue learning.

Never feel bad about the things I did not do; always feel good about the things I did do.
Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and think of what could go right.

Be in the trees, the grass, the water.
Plan it out if you have to.
Embrace both the sun and the rain, the heat and the cold.
And everything in between.

At night, when I'm lying in bed, reflect on the day.
Notice what I learned.
Go to sleep knowing that tomorrow will be even better than today.
And then make it that way.

Summer Wine Walk Teaser

Tonight is a summer DTSB Wine Walk. We have already highlighted the holiday walk, but I thought I would share a few snapshots from the June walk to show you what you might be in for.

This month, the wines featured are primarily from France, in celebration of Bastille Day. Bon fete!

For more information about cost and participating restaurants, click here.
Tippecanoe's bar takes you back to the Golden Age.  Between its high classiness factor and its heavy appetizers (steak??), this is a good place to begin drinking. 
Sunny Italy, although crowded, is informal and a great place to linger and catch up with friends.
To everyone's delight, yes, the SB Chocolate Company DID pair their chocolates with the featured wines.
Ending the night on the river at the Emporium.

Never thought

never thought
a life could grow to be
this unadorned,
my daily pot of oatmeal
steaming on the stove

—Modern English Tanka, Autumn 2008; 
Take Five, 2009

Never thought I'd be wanting that routine back, but after a long stretch of semichaotic living I believe I do. Time to simplify again and even get a wee bit organized. . .while still keeping the infusions of fresh ginger (per the previous poem)?

Review: Winter Town

Title: Winter Town
Writer and Illustrator: Stephen Emond
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: December 5th, 2011
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

Evan and Lucy were childhood best friends, but after Lucy’s parents divorced when they were twelve she moved from New England to Georgia with her mom. Every winter break Lucy returns to visit her dad, although she spends most of her time with Evan. The winter of senior year, Lucy is distinctively different. It’s not just her dark hair and makeup and the new nose ring; it’s also how she’s reclusive and seems far away. There is definitely something Lucy’s not telling Evan, but the Old Lucy is still hidden behind the new exterior. Together, Lucy and Evan start working on a comic together, based on their childhood adventures. Even though they started out in the same place, Lucy and Evan couldn’t be further apart, and not just geographically. While Evan works hard and claims to want the life that has been laid out for him, Lucy feels like she’s cut off certain roads. He’s a Beatles fan, she loves the Beach Boys. He’s cautious and does what he’s supposed to, she takes risks. Together, Evan and Lucy remind each other of who they used to be.

Winter Town’s beautiful cover caught my eye, and the fact that it has comics and illustrations throughout the novel made me want to read it. This book is pretty interesting, told from Evan’s perspective for the first half of the novel and Lucy’s for the remainder. Illustrations of places, items and characters appear, as well as the comics that Lucy and Evan make together. These illustrations don’t have quite as substantial a role in the storytelling as The Invention of Hugo Cabret, but they add a lot to the story. The plot is fairly simple, but I enjoyed hearing stories about Evan and Lucy growing up and seeing their everyday adventures. The writing was essentially well done, but for some reason I felt like something was missing. Maybe the style was too detached? The characters felt very realistic; I swear I’ve known so many people who were exactly like Evan and were living for someone else. I loved Tim, Marshall and Gram. At first Evan annoyed me a bit, but eventually I was able to connect with him. For me, his art helped me appreciate him as a character and understand him more. Lucy is the messed up teenage girl we probably all have met at one time or another, and even when I didn’t like the things she was doing I loved her character. Partly due to the illustrations, the setting was vivid and memorable. I think the writer perfectly captured being in your last year of high school and having to make choices about who you are and what you want. Winter Town captures beginnings and ends in winter in a creative way that makes this book unlike anything else.


“It’s different now, Evan and Lucy both thought.”

#264: Movies on the Gridiron - The Dark Side of Oz

Today is a First Friday, which means Downtown South Bend (and Goshen, but more on that next month) is all that DTSB normally is but more.  Its stores and art galleries are open later (until 9 PM), and free food and wine is available at many of them.  There are street performers and music playing, odd sights of carriages and clowns and zombies and BMX bikers.  There is always something unusual to see or do.
I'd say the highlight of this month's FF is an outdoor movie screening on the College Football Hall of Fame.  Tonight, there will be a free screening of The Wizard of Oz around 9:30 PM in this 'living on the edge...of E.S.T.' town.  This movie is obviously family-friendly, but if you want to add a twist to a film that you might have watched innumerable times, try it Pink Floyd style.  

Grab a lawn chair and your ipod/walkman and start playing The Dark Side of the Moon album as soon on the third roar of the MGM lion, and you will be amazed at how the visuals of the movie seem to match the music.  If you don't believe me (which I wouldn't blame you for), check out this article about  The Dark Side of Oz/Dark Side of the Rainbow or start watching:

Restaurant Week is still continuing, so I recommend fueling up on a good meal or one of the cocktail specials beforehand.  ArtPost is having an event that celebrates street art of all forms that looks AWESOME, so check that out too.  Finally, Marigold's is celebrating its two-year anniversary, so Happy Anniversary to them!  For details on all events happening, check out

Into steaming tea

into steaming tea
I release curls
of fresh ginger. . .
one in a while, my life
borders on exotic

Modern English Tanka, Summer 2007

photo copyright of Robert Curtis


Review: Howl's Moving Castle

Title: Howl’s Moving Castle (Howls #1)
Author: Diana Wynn Jones
Publisher: HarperTrophy
Publication Date: 1986
Genre: Junior Fiction, Fantasy

Sophie is the oldest of three sisters and everyone knows that that means she will never live a life of good fortune. After her father’s death, she is to stay and help at the family hat shop while her sister Lettie works at a bakery and Martha becomes a witch’s assistant. It is a dangerous time for the village, with Howl’s moving castle near by. Howl is rumored to eat beautiful girl’s hearts, and is supposed to be nearly as bad as the Witch of the Waste. Although it’s not what Sophie wished for, she has gotten used to her life as a Hatter’s assistant and is even quite good at it. But a run in with the Witch of the Waste leaves Sophie cursed to become an old woman even though she’s only eighteen. When Sophie ends up at Howl’s castle, she makes a deal with a fire demon and becomes Howl’s new cleaning lady. As she learns more about the real Howl and his magical castle, she discovers a power within her she didn’t know she had.

I see Diana Wynn Jones’ books everywhere but this is the first one I actually read. A reader called Alice actually recommended it to me and I’m glad she did! Right away I fell in love with the enchanting style of story telling, that instantly reminded me of fairy tales. The magical world Jones created was creative and just utterly fantastic. With a moving castle, Seven-League books, sisters that switch places and faces, and the mysterious Wizard Howl, the world building in this book was wonderful. The plot felt a bit slow moving, but there a lot of layers to the story that made it interesting. The characters were flawed and realistic, and while I don’t love Howl like many girls apparently do, I thought that he was a great character. Jones got the idea for the book from a reader who requested she write a book called The Moving Castle, but even with that prompt I could never have thought of anything like this. Set in a vivid magical world, the book seems like an obvious choice for Hayao Miyazaki, who made it into a film in 2004. There were many differences, but I loved both in their own right. One of the most original fantasy books I’ve read in a while, Howl’s Moving Castle is a book that can take you anywhere, just like the doors in the castle itself.


“I think we ought to live happily ever after.”


What does a tea website have to do with my writing blog? Not very much. But my sister, who took all these tests to become some type of certified tea specialist, is assisting a friend with K'Tizo Tea, a new venture. So, if you're a lover or liker of tea, as I am, check it out. (And if you happen to live in the Chicago area, note that I believe there may be plans for a shop in the suburbs. They also sometimes have booths at local farmers markets.) I may know what I'll be receiving for my birthday and Christmas

Speaking of tea, it's so hot here now, iced tea is sounding kind of good.

Next: a tea poem.

P.S. Happy Fourth to those in the U.S.!

#263: How to Celebrate Independence in the Bend

With the fourth of July right around the corner, you might be in the mood to celebrate.  The beauty of this holiday is that it celebrates independence, so you should do whatever you want, within the confines of the law, of course.  (Although, Thomas Jefferson did say, "A little rebellion now and then is a good thing.")  Whether you choose to grill out with family, sleep in until noon and avoid the sun at all costs, consider it within your civil rights.

If you want to do something a bit more traditional/out-of-the-ordinary, here are few suggestions -- feel free to leave your own!
  • Baseball game at Coveleski stadium: Celebrate America with its Favorite Pastime.   Happening tonight. Perk: You can buy hot dogs and beer and burgers and all the cookout favorites with none of the prep time involved.  Double perk: FIREWORKS that have not been canceled!
  • Listen to patriotic music:  There were several opportunities this past weekend, but there are several performances in the coming days that give you a chance to break out the lawn chairs or blankets.
    • Volunteers of the U.S. Army Field Band on the Irish Green at Notre Dame  - 7 p.m. tonight.  Perk: It's servicemen play patriotic tunes.
    • Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra - 9 p.m. tonight at Lions Pavilion Park (New Buffalo, MI) and 9 p.m. Wednesday at Shadowland Pavilion (St. Joseph, MI).  Perk: There are fireworks afterward.  Double perk: the beach is close by!
  • Eat a lot (of pancakes): The South Bend-Elkhart Audubon Society Sanctuary is hosting a pancake breakfast from 7:30-10 a.m. Wednesday at the wildlife sanctuary (59395 Clover Road, Mishawaka).  Please bring your own serving utensils and a 'free-will' donation.  Perk: Unlike fireworks, this event will not hurt those with sensitive ears.  Double perk: Patriotically, they will be serving BLUEberry pancakes. 
  • Bring out your inner farmer: The St. Joseph County 4-H has been going on for the past week and continues through this one.  You can see the multitude of exhibits, including the popular duck races, and fair rides are only $1.00 on Wednesday.  Midway opens at 2:00pm.  At 7pm, Doug Church/"The Voice of Elvis" performs.

Books For Fans of John Green

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is Top Ten Books For Fans of a Specific Author, and I chose John Green. I chose John Green because 1. I like his books, 2. I know a lot of people who read my blog like his books and 3. The other day I was thinking about how no one else writes like him. I found writing this list to be a bit of a challenge, but these books either have similar elements as John Green's books or could just be enjoyed by anyone who likes his books.

1. I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak. From the writer of The Book Thief, I picked this book because of the original plot-line. Ed Kennedy is nineteen and already feels like a failure. He works as a cabbie and has a unrequited crush on his best friend Audrey. Everything changes when Ed stops a bank robbery, and soon afterwards the first ace arrives in the mail and he becomes the messenger. Without knowing who's behind his mission, Ed keeps receiving cards that tell him what do next, whether it's simply helping someone or even teaching them a lesson.

2. It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. I chose this book because it's an honest and humorous look into the life of an smart teenage boy. Craig Gilner goes to a good high school in New York and feels so much pressure to succeed in life. When he feels like he can't take it anymore, someone at a suicide hotline tells him to check himself into the hospital instead of killing himself. There, Craig finally separates himself from the things that bring him stress and looks within himself to find a way to get better. 

3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. A fairly obvious choice, since "I swear we were infinite" is the only thing more quoted in the YA world than "I was drizzle and she was a hurricane." Through letters to a stranger, Charlie tells the story of his life in the school year of 1991. Full of honesty and simplistic truths, Charlie struggles with growing up and finding his place in school. Charlie is a wallflower and prefers to watch from the sidelines instead of getting up to dance. In his letters, he explains how strange and beautiful life is. You can read my review here

4. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I'm sure a lot of male fans of John Green won't give this book a chance, but I'm not usually a fan of books with the words "french kiss" in the title and I still loved this book. John Green himself recommended it in this video. A romance book set in Paris, you don't actually have to like romance books to like Anna and the French Kiss. It has great characters and a really believable and well developed central relationship. You can read my review here
 5. Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. If you liked Will Grayson, Will Grayson then you might enjoy this book that is also written partly by David Levithan. This book has great characters that are smart and interesting and the plot is full of fun and adventure. Just as Christmas is coming to New York, Dash finds a red notebook among the shelves of The Strand, challenging him to a series of dares. Through leaving the notebook for the other person to find, Dash and Lily get to know each other and start to wonder if the chemistry between them is only on paper. You can read my review here.
 6. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler. By the writer of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Min has just broken up with Ed. Like after most breakups, she drops a box with all the things that remind her of him at his doorstep. With the items is a long letters detailing how each items explains why they broke up. As Min remembers their relationship and its ultimate undoing, she does so with biting honesty. You can read my review here.
 7. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith. Another book that was recommended by John! You can see the video here. Like John says, it's thoughtful and romantic, with smart characters. When Hadley misses her flight from JFK to Heathrow for her Dad's wedding, it seems like nothing else could go wrong. But Hadley's perspective changes when she meets Oliver on her flight, a British boy who might be able to change Hadley's cynical conclusions about relationships. You can read my review here.

8. Winter Town by Stephen Emond. Evan and Lucy have been best friends forever, even after Lucy moved to Georgia with her mom after her parents divorced. For the past five years she's spent winter vacation with her dad, but mostly with Evan. When she returns the winter of their senior year, Lucy is clearly different. Not only is she dressed dramatically differently, with black hair and makeup and a nose ring, but she also seems far away and distracted. Have Evan and Lucy grown too far apart to still be friends, or could this winter just be the beginning for them? Stephen Emond also did the illustrations, which are in comic style. 

9. The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks by E. Lockhart. While I'm not saying this book is exactly like Looking for Alaska, there are some similarities that could help it appeal to fans of LfA. There's a smart protagonist, pranks and a boarding school. This is the story of Frankie's transformation from overlooked freshmen to pranking mastermind. When Frankie returns from summer holidays as a sophomore and a better looking version of who she was in freshmen year, she begins to date Matthew, who is smart and good looking. When she learns that he is a member of the school's secret society, she poses as the club's leader to orchestrate pranks on the student body. You can read my review here

10. The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson. It doesn't seem right to leave M.J. off this list. This was the first book I read by Maureen Johnson, and it might be my favourite. Nina Bermudez has been best friends with Avery and Mel for what feels like forever, and they even earned the nicknamed the Bermudez Triangle. When Nina goes to spend the summer at a pre-college program, she comes back to find that things feel a little off between Avery and Mel. When she finds them kissing, everything changes between these three best friends. With Maureen Johnson's typical humour, The Bermudez Triangle looks at three friends as their friendship is put to the test.

11. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.  Junior has spent his whole life living on the Spokane Indian Reservation, but things change when he decides to go to the public school outside of the reservation. Junior might be smart but at the same time things aren't easy for him, since he has epilepsy, a stutter, a lisp and has little money. And it's definitely not easy being the only Native American at his new school, excluding the school maskot. All the same, Junior is a budding cartoonist and through his drawings he looks at his life with humour. It feels like people on the reserve don't get to live their dreams, and Junior wants to change that for himself.

12. Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley. This one is a new addition to the list. In this debut novel, Cullen Witter's hometown of Lily Arkansas is shaken both by the suspected reappearance of an apparently extinct woodpecker and the disappearance of Cullen's younger brother. While the Woodpecker mania infecting his town originally was amusing, now it's distracting everyone in town and in the media from focusing on Gabriel's disappearance. This book had a well thought out plot and unique characters and was very insightful.