I was at a craft fair this past weekend in Clayton, Ga where I sold art and jewelry. I also brought a stack of Acorn and Button books. My goal was to sell at least 10. I sold 9 which is pretty close. I’m happy.
In my search for books on imagination, I came across a very unusual picture book titled The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Allsburg. I found The Mysteries of Harris Burrdick to be both intriguing and a little unsettling.
The book was published in 1984 and is comprised of 14 illustrations with captions. Chris Van Allsburg gives his own account of discovering the illustrations in the book’s Introduction:
“I first saw the drawings in this book a year ago, in the house of a man named Peter Wenders. Though Mr. Wenders is retired now, he once worked for a children's book publisher, choosing the stories and pictures that would be turned into books.
Thirty years ago a man called at Peter Wenders' office, introducing himself as Harris Burdick. Mr. Burdick explained that he had written fourteen stories and had drawn many pictures for each one. He'd brought with him just one drawing from each story, to see if Wenders liked his work.
Peter Wenders was fascinated by the drawings. He told Burdick he would like to read the stories that went with them as soon as possible. The artist agreed to bring the stories the next morning. He left the fourteen drawings with Wenders. But he did not return the next day. Or the day after that. Harris Burdick was never heard from again. Over the years, Wenders tried to find out who Burdick was and what had happened to him, but he discovered nothing. To this day, Harris Burdick remains a complete mystery.”
Below are six out of the fourteen illustrations from the book. Over the years, teachers have used these as writing prompts for their students. The illustrations have a whimsical yet somber feel to them. Some feel slightly ominous. I think the paradoxical nature of the work makes it interesting. I find the captions brilliant. Talk about hooks! Suffice it to say the book is not intended for younger children. It’s a great resource for middle grade children on up.
In any case, here they are.
Acorn and Button had definite reactions to some of the illustrations. Button found Another Place, Another Time fascinating. He thought the merging of railroad track and water ingenious. He wanted to pack his bags immediately and head out to that ‘land of answers.’
Acorn didn’t care for the Uninvited Guests with the turning doorknob, but he liked the spelling caterpillars in Oscar and Alphonse.
I’m interested in your thoughts. Have you heard of this book before? What kind of feelings do the illustrations provoke? Do the captions make you want to read more? Let me know.
The Importance of Imagination
Recently, my eight year-old grand-niece drew a picture of Acorn and Button. I was pretty thrilled with the work. Belle made good use of her imagination.
Here Acorn is dancing on a rain cloud. I love this. Acorn is someone who probably wouldn’t stay indoors during a rain, but would dance on the cloud instead. Belle gets Acorn.
And here is Button sporting a new look - blond hair! Lol!
My dad always said that one of the greatest things you can ever have is a good imagination. He was right. Kids need time to dream and imagine. So do adults. That’s the way we keep the spark alive.
There are several children’s books about imagination that I’ll post in next week’s newsletter, but here’s one to start you off.
Imagine That is a story about a little girl (Olive) and her stuffed owl friend (Hoot). In the story they try to figure out why Hoot’s imagination has stopped working. During their search, Hoot says,
“Why is it, when my imagination is the thing that’s broken, it’s my heart that hurts the most?”
There's a real sense of loss when the spark of imagination goes out. The Hope lies in rekindling it again.
Acorn Health Benefits
Did you know that acorns in a diet provide health benefits?
Acorn nuts used to be an important dietary staple in many early cultures, as they were widely available and served many of the same dietary needs as grains do today. In fact, acorns are still used in some cultures in specialty dishes, most notably by Korean and Native Americans.
You can eat raw acorns, but they are bitter in taste and are tough to metabolize because of the tannins in them. Too many tannins are toxic. You can boil or soak the nuts in water which helps to make the acorns eatable.
Health Benefits of Acorns:
1. May Aid in Skin Care
After you soak or boil the nuts in water, the rich tannin water can be topically applied to the skin in order to soothe burns and rashes.
2. May Help Improve Digestion
Like most nuts, acorns have a significant amount of fiber, which may make them ideal for improving your digestive health.
3. May Help Prevent Diabetes.
One of the most important benefits of acorns is their ability to regulate blood sugar levels in the body, thus preventing hazards that can lead to diabetes. A study by the Journal of Ethnopharmacology showed that the acorn seed extract had various healing effects on complications caused by diabetes.
4. May Help Protect Heart HealthAcorns can be a good alternative for people wanting to cut down on their overall fat content. These nuts have five times more unsaturated fats as compared to saturated fats.
5. May Help Boost Energy LevelsThe high level of complex carbohydrates, found in acorns, provides long-lasting energy reserves when consumed.
6. May Help Keep Bones HealthyThe impressive mix of minerals found in acorns, which includes phosphorus, potassium, and calcium, helps boost bone health and prevent the onset of osteoporosis. Calcium is one of the most important minerals for bone mineral density and is found in high concentrations within an acorn.
7. May Improve MetabolismOak nuts are packed with B vitamins, including niacin, thiamine, and riboflavin, which are very important for regulating metabolism.
8. May Help Promote HealingAcorns are a rich source of proteins, which are key components of a healthy lifestyle. They are very important for the creation of new tissues and cells, repair damaged areas, and rapid healing following an injury.
Cute Acorn Craft
Here is an acorn craft that children can do. You can find other activities by looking through past newsletters in the archive.
This craft was taken from toysinthedryer.com. The website has some great activities for kids.
To make these cute little birds, you’ll need:
1) Cut round eyes out of white paper and use the black marker to make dots on the eyes
2) Cut a small beak out of orange paper
3) Cut wings out of what ever color you want
4) A toothpick works perfect to spread the glue over the tiny eyes, wings, and beak
5) Once assembled and dry, glue the owls onto a twig for display
That’s it! Pretty simple. Gluing googly eyes on the owls would be a fun alternative to the paper.
Acorn likes this project. He likes owls. They don’t eat acorns.
Signs Of Spring
The first signs of spring are here. Trees are budding - cherry trees, red maple and dogwood. The dogwood that hangs over my creek is getting ready to burst with dazzling, white blooms.
Early flowers open their faces to the sun. Crocus and yellow daffodils are among the first.
Peeper frogs chirp at dusk. I don’t hear them where I live in North Carolina, but I used to hear them a lot in upstate New York. My neighbor then was an old-timer who said the peepers had to freeze 3 times before spring truly arrived.
The butterflies return. The mourning cloak butterflies here start floating around the yard. They wait to nestle in the butterfly bushes when they bloom.
Finally, a sign of spring in North Carolina is the blue tail skink. This small lizard moves slowly when it first appears as though it’s groggy from a long nap. But the sun soon warms it and it becomes super fast, darting in and out of places to hide. Skink like to bask in the sun on rocks or on the floor of our back porch.
The blue tail skink is so interesting, he may make it into an Acorn and Button story.
Anyway, those are some of my favorite signs of spring! What are yours?
All Kinds Of Buttons
One afternoon Button showed his Big Book of Buttons to Acorn. In the book were buttons of all types, made with all kinds of materials. Some were painted and some were enameled. Others were fashioned out of wood, ceramic, glass, seashell, and even thread.
As they turned the pages, Acorn said, “I never knew there were so many beautiful buttons.”
Button nodded his head but didn’t comment.
When they got to the end of the book, Button let out a deep sigh.
”Is something wrong?” Acorn asked.
Button waved his hand.
“All these magnificent buttons exist,” he replied with a frown, “and I am just a plain, black button.”
”But you are a button with personality,” said Acorn, “and a sword!”
At that Button drew his needle and strutted a bit. “Quite right, Acorn, quite right.”
Light On A Mountain
I live between two mountains, north and south. As the sun sets, it lights up the top of the northern mountain. Every day I walk the long driveway to the mailbox to get my mail. When I turn around and walk back to the house, the sunlit mountain is in front of me. The view often gives me a mixed feeling of comfort and longing. I’m grateful for that mountain and I’m grateful for the light too. But I’m also grateful for the longing… for something more… something worth searching out and believing in even if I don’t see or experience it now.
That kind of believing is not hard for Acorn. Believing in goodness and possibility is like breathing to him. He’s rarely rocked by difficult circumstances or things happening around him. He keeps it simple and hopeful, moment by moment.
I’m trying to be more like Acorn.
You know I like little things. I came across this DIY project on how to make candles with acorn caps. They don’t burn long - 10 to 20 minutes, but they look pretty cute.
How to make the candles:
Remove the caps gently from the acorns.
Melt some beeswax or some scraps from old candles.
Secure the caps in sand, or in this case, pellets.
Pour the wax into the caps with a plastic cup.
Insert the wicks while the wax is still warm.
There you have it - mini candles.
Acorn loves this project! He and Button made some candles for Cattail’s birthday. It was a big hit!
Flying and Other Misadventures
I’m sorry this newsletter arrives a little late this week. I’ve been busy with writing activities. First, let me thank those who have written book reviews! It’s so appreciated!
Secondly, we’ve had a bit of a mishap here. Acorn and Button have been begging to fly on the drone and I finally relented.
When the drone went down, my heart almost stopped! But things didn’t go as badly as feared. Acorn was untouched in the accident. Button suffered a slight scratch on his forehead but that can be buffed out. Unfortunately his needle was broken in half. No worries, that will be easily replaced. Soon after landing (?), they both wanted to rush home. Perhaps to recover from the shock or maybe to write about the event in their diaries? I’m not sure. We’ll see.
Burrs and Humor
A favorite book of mine is Sticky Burr, the Deadly Peril, by John Lechner. It’s about burrs who live in a forest called Burrwood. Sticky Burr is the main character. He’s nice and enjoys painting and playing his ukulele. That is something villainous Scurvy Burr cannot stand! Scurvy Burr likes to make trouble and keep things as prickly as he can.
This book is a fun read for kids and adults. It’s clever and hilarious in places.
Of course I see the appeal in a community of burrs and I wonder what might happen if Button met Scurvy Burr. Button is smooth and hairless so Scurvy wouldn’t be able to stick to him or jab him. He might find other ways to torment Button - like maybe playing tricks on him…
Oddly enough, Button recently wrote an entry in his journal…
You can browse past Acorn and Button newsletters here.