Category Archives: what’s on your bedside table

The Monday Book: MAKE WAY FOR THE DUCKLINGS by Robert McCloskey

I grew up on this book. It’s the story of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, and since it was written in the 1940s, of course Mrs. Mallard took her husband’s last name. They set up house on an island in a lagoon off Boston Gardens. There, they are befriended by a policeman named Michael.

When Mr. Mallard flies off to visit upriver sites, he and Mrs. Mallard agree to meet in the gardens a week later, but to her surprise, Mrs. Mallard finds a huge stream of traffic between her and reuniting the children with their Egg Daddy.

Enter Michael, who sees the dilemma and radios for help. Soon four policeman, a patrol car, and numerous passersby form a cordon for the family, who are escorted in peace to the reunion. The family settles in the gardens so they don’t have to call out the city’s resources for future forays. You know, spending taxpayer money on journeys to recreational locations, that kind of thing.

I’m writing about this book today because it’s peaceful. Because Nancy Reagan gave Raisa Gorbachev a copy of the Boston Gardens bronze statue commemorating McCloskey’s ducklings to take back to the Soviet Union in the 1980s–another time when we were all afraid of each other. And because so many generations of children learned to read, learned to look after defenseless animals, and learned to value the small things because of this book.

If you’ve never read it, now’s a good time. If you have read it, now’s a good time to re-read it. Two wings up for Make Way for the Ducklings.

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Filed under book reviews, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table, writing, YA fiction

The Monday Book – Clapton’s Guitar

Clapton’s Guitar (Allen St. John)

Jack presents the Monday book today

As I’m a bit of a guitar freak, I looked forward to reading this and I wasn’t disappointed. However, I do have a few caveats –

First of all, despite the title, this isn’t a book about Eric Clapton – he makes no appearance. This book follows master guitar luthier Wayne Henderson as he builds two nearly identical guitars. One is being made speculatively for Clapton while the other is to auction off and raise money for Junior Appalachian Musicians (Jam). Jam was the brainchild of Henderson’s late partner Helen White and there are branches throughout Appalachia.

This brings me to my second issue with the book. There’s hardly a mention of White or JAM in the book, which strikes me as very strange. I have seen Wayne and Helen perform a good few times together and their individual activities were very much intertwined.  Perhaps she declined to be involved; I don’t know. I only know Henderson by reputation, whereas I had a friendly and mutually respecting connection with White through providing advice on tutor training for JAM. There’s no report in the book of how much went to JAM or whether any did.

I’m also not impressed with the way the author describes the various characters who hang out regularly at Henderson’s workshop. There was more than a hint of Appalachian stereotyping and condescension. For example, eating cold fast-food and the famous tail out of the box trick.

Aside from these issues, the book does describe wonderfully how Henderson puts these guitars together, where he gets his wood, the tools he uses and the sheer craftsmanship involved. This I found truly fascinating. I won’t give you a spoiler on whether Clapton bought the guitar.

The author is also a guitar freak, and he references many other excellent and well known luthiers, such as T. J. Thompson (I’m surprised he didn’t include Dana Bourgoise in Maine or Chris Bozung in Nashville.)

If your interest is in how a top notch luthier puts together a hand crafted guitar, then I can thoroughly recommend this book. Just ignore the ‘local color’ and wait for another volume that should be written about the life achievements of Helen White.

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Filed under book reviews, crafting, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table, writing