red balloon bookshop

Continuing our independent bookstore tour:

Things here are relaxed and quiet and calm and clean and happy.


A small, but important detail at this bookshop: the shelves are arranged in such a way that it is easy to keep track of kiddos. Because “sometimes it feels like bookshelves are arranged in such a way to best accommodate kidnappers,” said the paranoid Mama.

I love going to Red Balloon and letting my kids sit on the floor next to me with their own stack of books knowing that the floor is clean (enough). And I love not having to raise my voice to ask a question of one of the booksellers and then strain to hear a response (like I may have to do at a bookstore that rhymes with Mild Gumpus). I love the little chairs and tables just right for kiddos.


The staff has chops and are genuinely happy to talk books. At my last visit, they quickly retrieved a towering stack for me. And didn’t flinch when I only bought two of them.

almost like a tropical isle

After reading Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney about a million times, we finally made it to Como Park Conservatory.


Now, it is clear to my little reader what a conservatory is and why they are so glorious (especially in the dead of winter) and what Miss Rumphius meant when she said, “This is almost like a tropical isle,”  said Miss Rumphius. “But not quite.”

Also, I’m thinking that I should investigate whether lupines will grow in my zone. I think planting trees would be the most awesome way to make the world a more beautiful place (that and writing books), but lupines seem more manageable.

Beech Mt 026

I can’t exactly wander around in a swingy, colorful cape, my palms filled with saplings that I fling over glen and dale.

from daniel h. pink


“When facts become so widely available and instantly accessible, each one becomes less valuable. What begins to matter more is the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact.”


Baxter SP 044

I devoured ”Delancey” by Molly Wizenberg when it finally arrived after waiting for about a month in my place in the reserve line.

I shamelessly dog-eared quotes and recipes that I wanted to revisit. (I was out of sticky flags.) And then I dropped it in the return bag with every intention of retrieving it to make notes before I returned it. You can see where this is going. I didn’t take notes, try my favorite recipes.

I returned it.

And when I realized it, I panicked and got online and reserved it again. In the interim I made notes about the particular quotes and recipes I was interested in, having no idea of where they were in the book, thinking I’d have to skim/read the whole thing again. They read: “Kerouac, Madame Baker?, winter salad”

And then the book arrived and the most amazing thing occurred: the same copy, still dog-eared, was returned to my hands.

shotgun matisse

Designs 021

This post is supposed to be all about how we read some great Matisse picture book biographies, went to the Matisse exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, were deeply moved by the art, made Matisse-inspired art back at our kitchen table and blah, blah, blah.

But that didn’t happen.

We went to the Matisse exhibit and then somewhere in the first gallery, the inner tube in the wheel of the stroller that I was pushing EXPLODED. Have you ever heard an inner tube explode in an echoe-y gallery with 20ish-foot tall ceilings? It sounds a lot like a shotgun would sound, though I haven’t tested this. And to all the security guards working that day, it sounded like that as well.

So, once the inner tube exploded we were mobbed by security and in the blur of my tears (crying in public – yippee!) and transferring of copious gear and my giant baby into a small, wonky loaner stroller and weaving through the crowd with a stroller that mostly just splayed and didn’t do much strolling while making a quick trip to the museum shop where we discovered that ALL the Matisse postcards were sold out we left the museum as quickly as possible.

We didn’t see much Matisse. ahem.

Which is why it’s so great that, you know, BOOKS!

Because, odds are you didn’t make it to the Matisse exhibit either.

But hey, read “Colorful Dreamer” by Marjorie Blain Parker and “Henri’s Scissors” by Jeanette Winter and read about Matisse in “Discovering Great Artists” by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga (and do the art activity), ask your husband to overinflate your stroller tires until they explode and you can call it good.

lovely links: october 2014

riding a Willa Cather wave over here. Reading The Professor’s House, O Pioneers!, The Song of the Lark and have some reserves waiting for me at the library. I am in love with this woman’s writing. And I am so upset that most people are introduced to her via My Antonia, which is a fine book but not my favorite. I cannot get enough Cather. Last month I purchased a collection of her short stories as a Christmas stocking stuffer for myself and it is taking all my willpower to not read it now.

also reading: The Essential C.S. Lewis which is really great if you’ve been meaning to read more C.S. Lewis – beyond The Chronicles of Narnia, that is. Finished Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg (again and again). Also, Driftless by David Rhodes and am in the midst of Don Quixote by Cervantes. Finally finished reading all the Newbery winners.

and I just watched the movie Sweet Land. I know, I know, this is not a blog about movies. But, this is such a beautiful movie. It left me renewed but also wondering about a lot of things and resolving even more. And I think that there should be many, many more films like this. If there were, I’d actually go out to the movies again. It was based on the novel A Gravestone Made of Wheat by Will Weaver. (see? book connection!)

What Writers Can Learn From Goodnight Moon

To Lure Young Readers, Nonfiction Writers Sanitize and Simplify

A Quiz on Children’s Books You Can Do in the Car

have you heard that the AWP conference is going to be in Minneapolis this year?

from rachel field

Flagstaff 004

Something told the wild geese

It was time to go.

Though the fields lay golden

Something whispered, – “Snow.”

Leaves were green and stirring,

Berries, luster-glossed,

But beneath warm feathers

Something cautioned, – “Frost.”

All the sagging orchards

Steamed with amber spice,

But each wild breast stiffened

At remembered ice.

Something told the wild geese

It was time to fly,–

Summer sun was on their wings,

Winter in their cry.

mary jane’s grave

I visited Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter’s gravesite in St. Paul this summer. I was surprised that her gravestone was so simple, so spare.


There was no mention of her birthdate, no trumpeting of her accomplishments. I liked it. Its matter-of-factness seemed just right.



wild rumpus

This summer, I made a few pilgrimages to Wild Rumpus, that beloved independent bookstore in Minneapolis.


This place makes me want buy stacks of books, open my very own bo0kstore and get some pet chickens. Immediately. And maybe put some turquoise streaks in my hair to fit in with the booksellers.

It reminds me of the value of independent bookstores. (Warning, I’m about to get sappy.) It reminds me why Amazon is a failure when you are looking to discover and explore books. It reminds me why independent bookstores put Big Box stores to shame. It reminds me why having physical (not virtual!) gathering places to be around (and touch!) books is vital.

I read a lot about books: magazines devoted to reviewing and explaining them, blogs discussing them, etc. But it never fails that when I go into an actual bookstore I am startled to find so many gems that I had never even heard about or to explore a book that I had only read a description of.

I had an involved conversation with one of the bookkeepers about the best translation of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales (try the one translated by Tiina Nunnally), what she thought of Philip Pullman’s version of the Brothers Grimm stories (excellent) and we talked about the emergence of picture book biographies (brilliant). Where else could I have such a conversation?

When you go, let your kids walk through the purple, kid-sized door (it is jammed every time we go, but we wrangle it open because kid-sized doors are one of the delights of childhood and they are ALWAYS worth wrangling), chase some of their chickens or cats, enjoy the maze-like aisles, purchase a stack of books and buy some stickers (they have great stickers).

from martha graham

Box Canyon 040“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”