Wednesday, November 4, 2015

HERE is what I know...

I've had the book, I KNOW HERE, written by Laurel Croza, illustrated by Matt James and published by Groundwood Books in 2010, on my bookshelf for a while. We're in the midst of book awards time across this country right now and I recently received an email from the Canadian Children's Book Centre about the nominations for the 2015 TD Children's Literature Book Awards. One of the finalists, FROM THERE TO HERE, which is the sequel to I KNOW HERE, is a nominee for the Marilyn Baillie Award for Best Picture Book. So, this was a little reminder to revisit that book on my shelf which received an abundance of  honourable mentions, has been a part of many best book lists and won numerous awards.

And deservedly...the book has such a poetic feel - the descriptive language, the movement in the words, the imagery, the repetition throughout. And in all of what the little girl knows of her HERE, the reader gains an understanding of how this family lives - what the climate and terrain and community and surroundings are like, and, what is important to this narrator. 

The illustrations have such a texture and bite to them. They seem like a relief map that I could run my fingers over and feel every nook and cranny, of raised hills, and gutted, grooved low points, the bark of the trees, the fur of the animals, the gravelly road. I love how it seems so windy all the time - the girl's hair blowing on almost every page. I can almost feel that wind in my own hair, blowing on my face. And a sky that seems ever-changing, endlessly moving as the girl is anticipating and preparing for her own change, a move, a new direction.  And there's that page with those noses. UP, UP in the air...and the red star on the map which marks the girl's new home. The primary-coloured, naif-like illustrations that support the words are so whimsical and strong, in their colour, shape and form.

I don't know the girl's HERE, but I know mine. And my HERE includes pine trees, too. As well as oak trees, linden, tulip and alder. Plants, shrubs, vines such as lilacs, hydrangea, clematis. And perennials of hollyhocks, lavender, cornflowers - bachelor buttons, as my mother named them. I know the dog across the way barking during the day. And a coyote, I think, late in the night. I know birdsong and the sound of crickets chirping. I don't know all the things this child knows. No moose or wolf or forest fire. But I know rabbits and deer. And I, too, have travelled in a tiny plane but in northern Ontario not Saskatchewan. And I've even watched TV outdoors in a small village. And tobogganing? Yes!

Some things in common. Others not. I know roads but not the road this child knows. And I know living in a trailer but only when on vacation. I know forests and creeks and beaver dams. I know of many things she knows - some experiences we do have in common though many years would separate us. So, it's about making connections. The girl wonders, "Have people in Toronto seen what I've seen?" For educators of Grades 2, 3 and 4, there's an excellent reading guide at Groundwood Books to support consideration of some of these issues and more. And children could relate and compare experiences, make connections, explore their own HEREI KNOW HERE would also be a just the right book for parents or caregivers to share with a child when looking forward, with eagerness and likely some hesitation, to a move.

I love the part of the book when the girl describes what she'll take to remember her HERE. She chooses to draw a picture of everything she knows HERE, fold it up and take it with her. Taking with us what we can when circumstances change. Taking with us physical things, yes, but mostly memories of sounds, smells, sights. Leaving other things behind. All those special and unique thoughts and feelings, needing a place - somewhere to keep those impressions, affections close. 

And I'm wondering...what will life be like in Toronto for this young girl and her family? What a different HERE from what Toronto will be - to where the dark-haired girl and her family are moving. Dealing with change, moving, leaving old friends, meeting new - a common event which many children have experienced or may about to...time to read FROM THERE TO HERE and discover the girl's new HERE. 

Everyone has their own HERE. And mine includes apple trees in an orchard aged one hundred years and more - with apples of red and yellow; some still on branches, many on the ground, others in baskets waiting to be made into applesauce, jelly, cider or just eaten as is. 

This apple orchard, for us here and now, is something new and it stirs a variety of emotions - excitement, nostalgia, a sense of calm. It's a pleasure to go out into the yard and gather apples from the trees. The pace slows while gathering. Almost all the apples we find are gnarly and blemished and misshapen, but they are crisp, tart and fresh.

So then apples to bake, since it's fall...with winter on its way.

Something earthy, simple to put together. Pancakes. And for an added sweetness - Roasted Apples Slices. And the great thing about pancakes? They're good at anytime of the day. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. 

Oh, and a bit of a nod, a gesture to the young girl's new home, her new adventure...a star, in the centre of each apple slice - roasted to become mellow and sweet - to partner with the pancakes.

Inspiration:  From a grocery store flyer dating back to 1996!
 About 12 pancakes depending on size

1 cup (250 ml) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp (15 ml) sugar
1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2 ml) baking soda
1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt

1 egg
1 cup (250 ml) milk
2 tbsp butter (melted)

Neutral-tasting cooking oil or butter

1.  Whisk together the first five ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.

2.  Pour milk into a separate small bowl, beat the egg and add it to the milk. Melt butter and add it to this mixture.

3.  Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and combine gently until the pancake batter is blended but still slightly lumpy. Let it stand for about 10 minutes.

4.  Prepare a hot griddle or pan. Brush the griddle or pan with cooking oil and/or a swirl of butter. Ladle batter in a circle about 3" (8 cm) in diameter. 

(For wolf paw pancakes, pour a circle of batter about 3" (8 cm) in diameter. Add 4 small circles, a bit bigger than the size of a quarter, side by side along the upper edge of the circle. Or use your imagination and create your own shapes!)

5.  Cook the pancakes until tiny bubbles form and the underside is brown; flip and cook until edges are dry.

6.  Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup or honey, a spread wild blueberry jam, a scatter of berries. Or starry roasted apple slices.

Starry Roasted Apples Slices
Inspiration:  Bon Appetit Magazine October 2015

3 firm apples, scrubbed, thinly sliced crosswise (to reveal the star within!) into 1/4 inch (6 mm) rounds, seeds removed
2 tbsp (30ml) apple cider vinegar
2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup (80 ml) pure maple syrup, plus more for serving
4 tbsp unsalted butter

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.

2.  Toss apples, vinegar, vanilla, salt and 1/3 cup maple syrup in a shallow 3-qt (3-lt) baking dish. Dot surface with butter. 

3.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake until apples soften and have released their juices, 30 - 35 minutes. Remove foil, baste apples with juices and roast until apples are tender and curled around the edges, about 20 - 25 minutes. There should be a thin layer of liquid covering the bottom of the dish.

4. Stack or layer the pancakes and apple slices. Serve with sour cream or crème fraîche and a pour of maple syrup.

Here...and now.

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