Stuff and Nonsense: March 2010


The Annotated Secret Garden

"Crocuses an' snowdrops an' daffydowndillys. Has tha' never seen them?"

I have owned several copies of The Secret Garden over the years, but my most beloved copy remains the Scholastic edition I bought with my allowance way back in elementary school. Every month, our teachers would hand out flimsy newsprint catalogs from Scholastic and those of us who were so minded (and had the dosh) could place orders. Not surprisingly, Scholastic made a tidy sum off me.

Alas, my Secret Garden, wrinkled and dog-eared as it was, gave up the ghost a few years back. While I thought about replacing it, I never found another edition I liked as well ... until I saw that an annotated edition was available. I was totally chuffed. I had greatly enjoyed The Annotated Christmas Carol and The Annotated Hobbit so I expected good things of The Annotated Secret Garden.

I was not wholly disappointed.

The Annotated Secret Garden is beautifully put together and rather lavishly illustrated with both black-and-white and full color illustrations from many different editions. It makes, I have no doubt, for an attractive looking gift. Certainly, when I received my copy, I spent a good amount of time going "oh, how pretty" and stroking its cover.

Alas, the text is not so attractive. I read annotated books out of a deep desire to know everything there is to know about the story behind (or within) the story. While The Secret Garden's annotations started off quite thickly and with lots of interesting insight (although, I dispute the annotation about Mary's first garden), they quickly petered out to random jottings of seemingly irrelevant factoids. I quickly became annoyed and the annotations began to detract from my pleasure of re-visiting an old friend.

Grr. Still, it is a very pretty edition and Gerzina's introduction provides an excellent overview of Burnett's life.

The Annotated Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett with annotations by Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina (W.W. Norton, 2007).


Blueberry Bread Goodness

While rummaging around in the freezer, I found two pints of blueberries and thought "muffins!" and then I thought "blueberry banana bread!," but my frozen bananas were a bit too fossilized even for banana bread so I made Betty Crocker's "Blueberry Oatmeal Bread," instead.

I substituted King Arthur Flour's whole grain white for the all-purpose flour and didn't notice any weirdness -- the bread was nice and moist with good texture.

Overall, a very simple, very tasty recipe. Repeatable.


Spring is Sprung!

The fields are snowbound no longer;
There are little blue lakes and flags of tenderest green.
The snow has been caught up into the sky--
So many white clouds--and the blue of the sky is cold.
Now the sun walks in the forest,
He touches the bows and stems with his golden fingers;
They shiver, and wake from slumber.
Over the barren branches he shakes his yellow curls.
Yet is the forest full of the sound of tears....
A wind dances over the fields.
Shrill and clear the sound of her waking laughter,
Yet the little blue lakes tremble
And the flags of tenderest green bend and quiver.

From "Very Early Spring" by Katherine Mansfield


"Sure, and everyone is Irish ..."

Sure, and everyone is Irish
On St. Patrick's Day.
The wearing of the green
Is the symbol of the way.

Leprechauns play jokes
On the unsuspecting one,
Merry is the jesting, and
Merry is the fun.

Sure, the 'tis the pity
That the spirit that's so gay,
On the Feast of St. Patrick
Lasts bit a day.

From The Ideals All Holidays Cookbook (Ideals Publishing, 1974)


Ash by Malinda Lo

It may not be your dream, Stepsister, but do not scoff at those who do dream of it.

After losing her mother and father, Ash becomes a servant in her stepmother’s home and is cruelly used. Seeing no future for herself and still rather desperately mourning her mother, Ash becomes entangled in the fairy realm … where it seems almost inevitable she should meet a fey who will tempt her to stay with him by promising to take away her sadness. And you think you know how the rest of the story goes now, don’t you?

Well, you’d be wrong! Hah.

Loved this novel. Thought it was scrumptious. Yummy. Poignant. Bittersweet. A lovely twist on Cinderalla and I am totally chuffed to find there is a sequel of sorts in the works -- Huntress, a companion novel, will be published in Spring 2011. Squee!

Then they took the last step together, and when she kissed her, her mouth as warm as summer, the taste of her sweet and clear, she knew, at last, that she was home.

Ash by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown Books, 2009)


"Once upon a time, there was a little wallaby ..."

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst (Simon & Schuster, 2009).

Cassie lives at an Arctic research station with her father. Her mother is dead – died when Cassie was a baby, and while her grandmother used to tell Cassie a fairy tale about her mother, Cassie knows that is was just well-intentioned nonsense. Or was it? For, on her eighteenth birthday, Cassie meets the Polar Bear King and he tells her the truth about her mother’s death …

Having adored other retellings of “East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon” and “Eros and Psyche,” I really expected to love Ice. Unfortunately, I found it a rather frustrating read -- I admit I am no romantic, but Cassie seemed to fall too easily in love with Bear and some of the choices Bear made for Cassie really unsettled me.

I think the part I like best was the middle stretch where Cassie wandered the world, trying to save Bear – and that is the part all other reviewers seem to complain about! That section was harrowing and gritty in the way I expect a good quest tale to be, while the first part (with its ice roses and magic tables) was too gooey and sweet. I just prefer Grimm to Disney, I guess!