Saturday, 18 October 2014

Some of the language is a little old fashioned, but I still want to read them all!

I'm beginning to wonder if my perfect job isn't the job for me. Don’t get me wrong I love every minute of it, but it hardly pays the bills. It’s my own fault. I spend more time reading than cataloguing but how can I resist when so many beautiful books pass through my hands.  I somehow have to limit the number I read, after all I am supposed to be listing them for sale, not keeping them for my own pleasure.

In How to Read a Novel (Profile Books, 2006), John Sutherland, suggests one trick for intelligent book browsing: turn to page 69 and read it. If you like what you read there, read the whole book. Sutherland in fact credits Marshall McLuhan, guru-author of Guttenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographical Man (University of Toronto Press, 1962) as the originator of this test.

With that in mind, I've picked eight random paragraphs from page 69 of eight books recently catalogued. I've no idea what to expect, but here goes; 

Compton Mackenzie The stairs that kept going down; Have you ever had a nightmare when you were being chased through a dark passage by something or somebody, and when your knees kept getting more and more jellified? If you have you will know what William and Winifred were feeling like when they made their way back along the dark bricked passage, trying to run on tip toes and trying not even to breathe too loudly. And this was not a nightmare from which they would wake up, frightened of course, but still in the safety of their own beds. This was real, horribly, hopelessly, hauntingly real.

Capt. W. E. Johns  Biggles in the cruise of the Condor; They strolled a few yards farther on, and suddenly Biggles paused in his stride and nudged Smyth in the ribs. Just beyond the jail was an open yard filled with wooden cases and several piles of dried palm fronds, which were evidently used as packing for the stacks of adobe bricks that stood at the far end of the yard. Biggles eyed it reflectively, and then, followed by Smythe, crossed over to it. A flimsy fence with a gate, which they quickly ascertained was locked, separated the yard from the road. He turned as a car pulled up a short distance away and a man alighted, lit a cigarette, and then disappeared into a private house. Biggles strolled idly towards the car, his eyes running over it swiftly. It was a Ford, and he noted the spare tin of petrol fastened to the running-board. 

Enid Blyton  The Valley of Adventure, now sold thank you for your interest 
They stared up into the trees, amazed to see green leaves waving above them. Then they turned their heads and saw one another. In a flash they remembered everything. “Couldn’t think where I was,” said Jack, and sat up. “Oh, Kiki, it’s you on my middle, is it? Do get off. Here, have some sunflower seeds and keep quiet, or you’ll wake the girls.” He put his hand in his pocket and took out some of the flat seeds that Kiki loved. She flew up to the bough above, cracking two in her beak. The boys began to talk quietly, so as not to disturb the girls, who were still sleeping peacefully.

Patricia Leitch Highland Pony Trek; “To be quite frank with you,” the Colonel said, “I’d rather see my land barred to everyone. It’s high time this maniac was caught and brought to justice. Been going on for a year now. A sheep here and a sheep there. All the time suspicion growing, innocent men being accused and ill feeling all round.”

Pat Smythe The Three Jays on holiday: From Avignon to the University town of Aix en Provence, the children gamely fought a losing battle against going to sleep. Darcy covered the last lap of the journey in record time, as he wanted to see a flying friend of his who lived in Aix and perhaps get him to have dinner with them. Jane, was encouraging his use of a few French words, in fact the four of them had a competition as to who could make the most French sounding sentence. 

Angela Brazil Three terms at Uplands: Time wore away, and at last came the eventful day when the two male members of the family started for the north. Claire, having waved a farewell to their taxi from the gate, returned to the house feeling decidedly flat. There seemed nothing particular to do. Her own packing was finished. She wandered about during the morning, and after dinner she decided to go and say good-bye to Honor Marshall, a girl who lived in a road near. She found her friend seated in a summer-house in the garden, and began to expatiate upon her own prospects at Uplands. 

Susan Price Ghost dance; The wind had dropped and it was a silent land she skimmed over, but with her shaman’s training she heard every sound there was: the hiss of her skies on the snow, the whining of the wind in the trees and the sharp knock of one branch against another, the sudden scream of a fox. She moved always towards the south, which she knew from the stars. Once, when the stars were covered, she asked the way of a blue fox, calling out, “Elder sister – which way to the city, the Czar’s city in the South?”

Frances Cowen The secret of Grange Farm; Now for the quarry. She stood in the road taking her bearings. It lay, she remembered, due east from the farm but only about ten minutes’ walk through the fields. In fact the quarry was on their land, and, in the old forgotten days, when Napoleon had threatened our shores, the owners of the farm had made quite an income out of it. Nicky had taken her there and helped her down to the old workings, chipped off part of the chalk, and shown her the fossils embedded in it.  She decided to by-pass the farm, and to cross the fields, and so down to the cup-like valley which formed the quarry. Presently she found it so dark that she had to use her torch to find the little track she only just remembered, but, even as she did so, a faint flow showed in the sky as the moon rose slowly beyond scudding clouds.

So there you have it, some of the language is a little old fashioned, but I still want to read them all! How about you, if you’re not convinced, why not try a similar experiment, I would love to hear how you get on…


Just before I go – do you remember the Lottie Holiday Adventure StoryWriting Competition as featured on my blog in August?  Four-year-old  Evie from Perth, Western Australia wrote a quirky and adventurous tale about the discovery of a T-Rex dinosaur bone. The story was selected ahead of other entrants from countries including the USA, UK, Australia and UAE, and wins Evie a selection of ten books from the Lottie Pinterest folder ‘Great Books for Girls’ (that boys can read too!), in addition to exclusive new Lottie products before they hit the shelves.  Well done Evie!

One last thing, while I was looking around the Internet for clues about how others decide on their next read I came across this little pearl of wisdom written by Nancy Pearl (sorry I couldn’t resist the pun!) – “One of my strongest beliefs is that no one should ever finish a book they’re not enjoying. Reading should be a joy. So, you can all apply my Rule of Fifty to your reading list. Give a book fifty pages if you’re under fifty years old. If you don’t like it, give it away, return it, whatever and then read something else. If you’re over fifty, subtract your age from 100 and that’s how many pages you should read …"
You know what that means, right? When you turn one hundred, you can judge a book by its cover.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Daydream Believer, Darlene Foster

Hello readers of March House Books. I am delighted to be a guest author on one of my favourite blog sites!

For as long as I can remember, I have needed to be around people. They energize and inspire me. When there are no people around; I simply make some up. It all started when I was a young child living on a ranch in the Canadian prairies. Surrounded by never ending sunshine, a huge blue sky and tons of wide open spaces to wander around, I lacked someone to converse with. My parents were busy working hard, and who wants to talk to little brothers. I named my teddy bears, gave them personalities and created adventures for Ted, Teddy, Toostie and Elvis, in my head. It wasn't long until I began to make up other imaginary characters and situations. My parents called me a daydreamer, and I guess I was. 

Elvis, Ted, Teddy, & Tootsie

Once I learned to read, I felt like I had reached nirvana. In between the pages of a book lived entire worlds of people for me to meet. I read everything I could get my hands on. I would beg my hardworking dad to stop what he was doing and take me to the library in the city, thirty miles away, to get more books.

Darlene on her dad's truck

My grade three teacher, Miss Roll, recognized my thirst for travel and adventure, and my ability to make up stories. She encouraged me to read at higher levels, to write my story ideas down and to travel to other countries someday. She read to us from The Bobbsey Twins adventure books and I loved them. I so wanted to be like the Bobbsey Twins and travel all over the world. She presented me with a copy of The Bobbsey Twins in Mexico at the end of the school year for being an outstanding student. I treasured that book and still have it!

         Darlene and Miss Roll                        Bobbsey Twins (Darlene's original copy)

Not surprising, years later, I traveled to interesting places and eventually wrote down some of my stories. My writing took me back to my early days wandering around my dad’s ranch, sitting on a large stone in the middle of the prairies, making up characters in my head and giving them problems to solve and adventures to experience. I thought I had a boring life back then, but now I realize those where the seeds planted that eventually helped me become a published author. The opportunity to daydream was a gift.

The lonely prairies

Do I believe in daydreams? You bet! I don’t think anything has changed. Kids (and adults) still need time to daydream in order to exercise their mind and create. And they need to be surrounded by books, lots of books. My hope is some will read my books and become inspired.

Neil Gaiman said, As an author, I’ve never forgotten how to daydream.

Darlene Foster is a writer of children’s stories, an employment counsellor, an ESL tutor, a wife, mother and grandmother. She loves travel, reading, shoes, cooking, music, chocolate, walking on the beach and making new friends.  Her grandson calls her “super-mega-woman-supreme”.  She was brought up on a ranch in southern Alberta, Canada, where she dreamt of traveling the world and meeting interesting people.  She lives on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada with her husband Paul and their black cat Monkey. She has authored a series of travel-adventure books, Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting, Amanda in England – The Missing Novel and most recently Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone. Readers from seven to seventy enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. Darlene still daydreams!

Her books are available on Amazon


Thank you so much Darlene, this was such an enjoyable read, and I loved seeing all your photographs. I’m sure readers of my blog will enjoy this every bit as much as I did. Barbara 

Friday, 3 October 2014

Frankie goes home - the true story of a lucky dog.

As many of you already know Terry (my husband) is a freelance photographer.  He is usually out and about photographing sporting events or fetes but a few weeks ago he was asked to cover something completely different.  This is the headline that subsequently appeared in the press

A runaway dog has been dubbed a real-life 'Littlest Hobo' after covering an epic 120 miles across five counties during two months on the run. 

and this is the story, with thanks to Terry Fisher for the photograph and to the Western Daily Press & Western Gazette for the words.

Rescue dog Frankie slipped his lead on his very first walk with his new owner James Brooks, 56, who posted an appeal on a lost dog website.

Over the following weeks the Labrador-cross was spotted in 14 towns and villages across Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, West Berkshire, Somerset and Dorset.

The three-year-old was finally captured after taking refuge in a cowshed after being bitten by a badger. Bedraggled Frankie was battered, bruised and emaciated following his adventure but is now on the road to recovery after being reunited with James.

His epic tale mirrors the popular Littlest Hobo TV series of the 1960s, 70s and 80s where stray Hobo the German Shepherd travelled from town to town despite attempts to adopt him.

Mr Brooks said: "We were only able to track him down thanks to talking to people to spread the word, people phoning me and messages on the website."He crossed five counties during his time away. He has certainly got a great story to tell, if only he could talk."He was in pretty bad shape when we got the call from the vets to say they thought they had our dog, but it certainly shows he is a strong one.

"I don't think there is any doubt that he will be able to enjoy long walks."

Mr Brooks, his wife Emma and daughter Becky, 16, adopted Frankie from a rescue home in Derby, on June 27, as a companion for their black Labrador Jay. But when Mr Brooks tried to introduce the two pets, Frankie – who had anxiety issues – slipped his lead and darted into a field near their home in Stanford in the Vale, in the Cotswolds.

The family spotted him in nearby villages over the following days but were unable to catch the frightened dog, and posted an appeal on Sightings immediately flooded in from Wicklesham, Faringdon, Longcot and Woolstone in Oxfordshire, before a horse rider spotted him in Upper Lambourn in West Berkshire.

The daring pet – which has distinctive horizontal ears – was next spotted by builders in Baydon, Wiltshire, who fed him sandwiches. He crossed main roads and farms until he was seen in Lambourn, West Berkshire, rifling through a skip in mid-July.

Miraculously the Labrador-German shepherd cross even returned home at the end of the month, but ran off before baffled Mr Brooks was able to catch him. "I was sitting in the garden and I heard the metal gate rattle," said Mr Brooks. "I went to look and I couldn't believe it – there he was running off. "We even cooked sausages in the garden to see if we could tempt him back."

The trail went cold for three weeks before, incredibly, a report came in from Bruton, Somerset, to say a very skinny Frankie has been spotted on August 14. Five days later a dairy farmer found him cowering in a shed in nearby Sherborne, Dorset, and took him to a vet, who diagnosed Frankie with blood poisoning after a badger or fox bite to the cheek.

Staff at Kingston Veterinary Group nursed him back to health – thanks to donations from local animal lovers – and were able to track down Mr Brooks through the lost dog website.

The family took him home last Thursday and he settled in immediately "We are taking him for longer and longer walks and he is putting on much-needed weight. Of course, we have now had him chipped."

I'm so pleased the story had a happy ending – how different it could have been.  Thinking about Frankie and dogs in general inspired me to share a few pretty book covers with you. I hope you enjoy looking at them.

All featured books are available (unless sold) at March House Books

We've been enjoying some beautiful autumn days in the UK but on the other side of the world, it’s the beginning of spring.

Here are two spring time photographs of our gorgeous granddaughters enjoy the sunshine. They are just getting over a nasty bout of flu so it’s nice to see them looking so well.

Zoe Rose

Lilly Grace 

Photograph's courtesy of our daughter in law Karen Fisher, you can see more of her work at; Family Tree Photography

Have a wonderful weekend, thank you for your visit. I look forward to coming over to say hello to you all.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Guest Post; Martha Mans and Gordon

Hello March House Books readers. Let me introduce myself. My name is Martha Mans and I am a fine artist. I have been painting in watercolour and oil all my life.  And what does this have to do with children’s books you might ask.

Well, as a child I loved to read and I especially was fond of looking at the illustrations. Being a very visual child I loved the magic that the illustrator created with their drawings and paintings.

As a mother I loved to read to my children and watch them light up as I read the stories and point to the illustrations and talk to me about them. One of their greatest joys was to go to bookstores with me and choose books that I could read to them and eventually they could read for themselves.

As an artist I have been lucky to go to some wonderful places to paint.

Such is the case of the beautiful Medano/Zapata Ranch in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, where I have the privilege of being invited to paint each year. It is home of a herd of over 2500 American bison. Most of the time you can't get close to these magnificent American icons so when a little bison was found alone out on the range and needed to be rescued everyone on the ranch couldn't stay away and talked of nothing else. One of the ranch hands gave him the name Gordon. 

Pictures from Zapata Ranch

I was immediately intrigued. As I've said before, I'm an artist and I suppose that is why the book started taking shape with paintings of Gordon. Sometime later when I began thinking about a story for a little bison it came to me that this little bison didn't know what he was because he was not with a herd and there was no other bison around to teach him. He couldn't go back into the herd, it would be impossible to get them to accept him. So he had to go on a journey of self discovery and find a place where he fit in and could be happy. This is how “Gordon”, my first attempt at a children’s book, was born.

The Medano/Zapata Ranch is protected by the Nature Conservancy and dedicated to preserving the animals and their habitat. So, in developing the story it was great fun to discover animals that were indigenous to the land and have them meet Gordon. Through them he would learn about the ranch and find out eventually who he is.

I loved drawing and painting Gordon but I had to learn something about baby bison first. I soon discovered that baby bison are born sometime between April and June. A very young bison is reddish in color and is called a calf. They are also known as “red dogs”. It is easy to pick them out from the adult bison, who have dark brown coats. The baby bison stays close to its mother for about one year and she protects and teaches it many things to help it survive. Around September it’s coat begins to turn darker brown, it’s shoulder hump begins to appear and it’s horns begin to grow. It begins to eat grass and plants. The young bison continues to grow for three or four more years, until it becomes an adult. 

It’s scary to think how close we came to no longer having this awesome animal around today. The herds that once numbered in the millions were reduced to fewer than one thousand by the late 1800s. Due to many people who worked hard the herds have grown back to where the bison are no longer in danger of becoming extinct.

So if you do travel west during the summer months take the time to look for the red colored babies in a bison herd. Have fun watching them run, jump and play as all baby animals do and give thanks that this magnificent animal is still here and once again roams parts of the west.

Also remember you can visit the real Gordon at the Zapata Ranch like I did this earlier this year.

PS: I’d like to thank Barbara for letting me share this story on her blog. Hope you enjoyed it!

You can find out more about "Gordon" at: Gordon the bison

or buy the book at

Thank you so much Martha your illustrations are beautiful.   I would love to visit Gordon and the other animals at the Zapata Ranch one day. Barbara

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