Seed Savers – Unbroken

June 19, 2019 at 5:05 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

Title: Unbroken

Author: Sandra Smith https://authorssmith.com

Genre: Teen/ Young Adult

Length: 339 pages

“Had Smith been right? Was the U.S. headed for disaster?”

This line in Sandra Smith’s latest installment of the Seed Savers series made me laugh out loud. In Unbroken, Caleb Smith is a whistleblower who sent the government a 23-page letter regarding the impending doom of monocultures. In the real world, Sandra Smith has written a riveting series that gets kids thinking about where their food comes from, who controls the sources, and who should control the sources. This one line in the book could sum up the entire series.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading each of the Seed Savers books as they come out, in advance reader copy formats. I’ve seen characters grow, I’ve witnessed Smith’s writing change and develop, and I’ve gotten to be excited with her (via email) over the much anticipated dream covers.

This series has been with me as I raise my daughter and I’ve loved having it as a reminder of why we garden, forage, and go back to the dirt and the seeds every season. We would have always gardened, but Smith’s books took it up a notch. It has always kept me true to my desire to sit with my kid and show her how to harvest a seed from a plant, or even produce from the grocery store.

Much of Unbroken concerns an ever looming food shortage in a society where food is no longer grown. Because of food shortages in my own life, I can’t express enough how much the message of this book, seed saving being the key to ensuring the world can eat, moves me. Having tomatoes planted every summer makes a huge difference for a hungry family. Being able to harvest Creeping Cucumbers, wild garlic, dewberries, grapes and grape leaves, and plant indigenous seeds in my yard for easy access, makes it that much easier to get by when faced with an over stretched budget. The books also open the door to discussion about ethics and politics, and most of all, where our belief in God and our responsibility to be good stewards of the earth overlap.

Like the Harry Potter books, the series starts out geared toward one age level and evolves into something for an older crowd. I think this is good for young adult series so that kids can have characters who grow up with them. An eight year old could thoroughly enjoy Treasure, but I wouldn’t hand Unbroken (book five) to an elementary student. With that in mind, I only read the first few books out loud to my kiddo, and the rest of the series will come later. That simply means I’ll have the pleasure of enjoying Smith’s books twice.

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It’s a Keeper

November 7, 2015 at 1:06 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

keeper-front-revTitle: Keeper

Author: S. Smith

Genre: Middle Grade/ Young Adult Dystopian Fiction

Length: 200 pages

Many moons ago, it seems like forever now, S. Smith sent me a copy of Seed Savers, the first of her young adult series set in an America where growing your own food has become illegal.  Children were being taught about seeds and produce gardens in whispers; collecting, saving, and planting seeds a prison-worthy offense.

The story couldn’t have come at a better time for me.  It was the summer of 2012, I had a small daughter at home, my husband was out of work, and I had just started spending more time and care actively growing more of our groceries.  On top of that, I was beginning to learn how to forage and was focusing my daughter’s future education on as much regarding sustainability and self-sufficiency as possible.  I wanted taking care of ourselves to come as naturally as literature does for me.  I wanted finding edible grapes in the forest to be as simple as knowing that 2+2 = 4.  Then Seed Savers happened and it felt like the stars had begun to align.

Several books later (Seed Savers, Heirloom, and Lily), we finally have the fourth installment of S. Smith’s world.  The girls, Lily and Clare, have done a lot of growing up.  Siblings Dante and Clare have received a lot more education during their stay in Canada.  Rose is being indoctrinated… bad guys are getting closer and closer to turning everything upside down as rebels have begun starting riots in the street.  Soon, all four kids find themselves in Portland, Oregon, where Seed Savers headquarters has been stationed under a forested park in the city for years.

More and more, the series is resembling the fast paced action political drama of the Divergent series – without the killing, and with the added fun of things like Dandelion syrup being discussed.

Although I was sent an advanced reader’s copy of Keeper, I still made a point to pre-order a final copy for my kindle.  The book is a keeper in every format, and it’s just worth it to be as supportive as possible of this story, help it get told.  I’m looking forward to the day Smith gets a movie or mini-series deal.  Better yet, the homeschool mom in me votes for it to be a Netflix original.

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The Skinny on Landscaping

June 24, 2014 at 2:05 pm (Education, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I wrote an article for a website that didn’t get used.  It happens sometimes, no biggie.  But this particular article is one that I did a great deal of researching before I wrote and actually talked to professionals that I know personally.  So, I want to share the blogger’s version (which means I’ve dressed it down and added my two cents where I otherwise would have held my tongue a bit).

The Skinny on Landscaping and Outdoor Projects

(DIY vs. The Contractor on the most common outdoor ventures)

Everyone loves a good do it yourself project. Pinterest and the TLC channel have made them more popular than ever. Home Depot and Lowe’s are certainly your helpful neighborhood DIY Home Project instigators and dare I mention the keeping up with the Joneses mentality amidst a major recession.

However, there are projects that are just not do it yourself friendly and with all the handy books, websites, and television channels, it’s hard to know which are for you and which warrant a good old fashioned contractor – especially when we’re dealing with our lawn and garden.

Re-Sodding Your Grass

before sod

Actual “before” photo of our front yard.

Landscaping is the most commonly chosen as a do it yourself renovation. Ironically, people hire companies to mow their lawns, weed their gardens, and trim their hedges, but when it comes to things like re-sodding their grass, more often than not, they opt to do it themselves.

Despite the process being fairly simple, though, most landscapers will encourage customers (and friends) to hire out a company. You might assume it is so they can get more business, but they are honestly advising this in your best interest. A landscaper can get grass at a discounted rate, already has the equipment on hand, and are experienced and efficient.

Tito Ortega of Ortega Lawn Care recommends calling your local landscaper for any grass project

“over a full pallet. For what someone pays for a pallet of grass, soil, and renting tools they don’t have, I charge more or less the same and all they have to do is pick up the phone. And I provide a warranty, plus informational packets on how to care for it properly.”

I had his help when I resod my own lawn after an extensive plumbing project in my front yard and can vouch for his sentiments. The process is easy, sure, but we still had to rent tools. I had to pay regular Joe Schmo prices for my grass – instead of fabulous bulk prices that businesses have access to. Over all I felt all sorts of useful, my grass is beautiful, but I didn’t really save any money by doing it myself.

Pruning Trees and Shrubs

A lot of people prune their own trees and shrubs, but Gardener Joe in Washington State of PangeaGardenscapes.com encourages tree owners to call a professional. Many do-it-yourself sites, such as http://www.diyornot.com, propose the opposite, reporting that even after you purchase the sheers and appropriate tools you’ll still save 56% on just the first pruning.

Yet, Gardener Joe has some advice concerning that:

“Many people try to keep plants small which never works. A plant is programmed to grow to a mature height. Many times people buy a plant not understanding the maturity of said plant. Also topping a tree and some shrubs are a no-no. I belong to plant amnesty and if you check out plant amnesty.org it has many examples of different plants. So in my business I offer garden coaching services. I show how to prune and why. As well as my garden class I give once a month at our local library.”

So if you arplantamnestye going to trim your own trees and shrubs, do the research and know your plant. Otherwise, spend the extra dime to call a professional who can teach you about what you have in your yard so you can help your plants live long, healthy lives for the expense you’ve already put into having them there in the first place.   Many people prematurely kill off plants that would have lasted for generations by cutting them back too far and not giving them the appropriate room to grow.   Homeowners who plan to stay in the same place for thirty plus years should be very conscientious of this issue, otherwise they’ll find themselves spending thousands more over the lifetime of the property than they would if they spent a little bit up front consulting someone.  For more tips, follow Joe’s Facebook Page.

We trim our own shrubs, but not our own trees. The danger factor isn’t worth the risk when you’re talking about limbs falling from the heavens onto things like your car or the roof of your house. Even with the shrubs, I see Gardener Joe’s point. We did some research into ours and learned how to take care of the shrubs we inherited with our house – when the old owners came by for a visit they gasped, “We could never get them to bloom like that when we were here.” According to a lot of professional landscapers and truly green thumb kind of people, many people think they are over or under watering when really they are trimming the hedges incorrectly. Save yourself the cost of new plants every few years and have a professional teach you how to do it right – whether that professional is from the pages of a book or has been hired to come out and talk to you by appointment.

Building a Fence

You may need to call a contractor for planting new grass and trimming trees, but you’re probably looking for what you can do yourself. It’s far more cost efficient for you to mow your own lawn and weed your own garden, but the other best DIY option for outdoors is to build your own fence. Everyone should get that experience in before they die and it’s definitely worth the savings on your wallet.

Most landscapers and handymen will charge you roughly 30% more than the cost of materials. That’s about the difference of an $800 fence and a $1200 fence, just to have someone else do it. Though quality work might be worth that, there’s nothing worse than looking out at a fence you paid too much for that doesn’t look quite the way you’d like.

My husband was extremely busy with work the year after Ike and the hurricane had taken down our whole side fence. We hired sP1000295omeone to take care of it because we had three dogs and needed it up sooner rather than later. We shopped around, we called the most affordable handyman, he had good reviews online. My husband still complains about that fence. We overspent and the fence boards are spaced too far apart. It drives us crazy. Last year, when a tree took down another section in the opposite corner of the lot, we built it ourselves.

The most cost efficient of fencing options is a neighbor friendly fence, where each neighbor takes on the cost of the panels that face their yard and each section alternates. I’m especially partial to these because I had one growing up. It makes the most economical and hospitable sense. Get to know your neighbors, be old-school, built it together.

No matter what your project, remember to research materials and processes, be realistic about your abilities and your time, and call around for multiple quotes. Weigh the expense up front against the lifetime expense of the plants or space in question, and plan carefully.

Of course, this is primarily a book blog, so I have to share my favorite DIY Landscaping books, which are pretty much gardening specific because I’m a gardener.

The Complete Book of Practical Gardening
Small Gardens
Square Foot Gardening by M. Bartholomew
Low Maintenance Gardening
Herbs and the Kitchen Garden by Kim Hurst

To read articles that DO get used by Money-fax.com, check out my Freelance Writer page and follow the links.

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Earth Day Reading With Little People

April 17, 2014 at 11:33 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The Weekly Low Down on Kids Books – selected by The Kiddo

Holiday reading with preschoolers can actually be quite fun.  Although most people are doing a lot of Easter books, we’ve spent our focus on nature, enjoying spring, and covering the catechism this week.  Easter bunnies and egg hunting a thing on hold for now.

P1010643

Our daily go to during any season tends to be Cat in the Hat Learning Library and Magic School Bus books.  We love these.  They are highly educational and should be included in any homeschool student’s arsenal.  Kiddo goes back and forth on which of the two she likes best.  (A lot of times it’s Cat in the Hat Learning Library before bed and during day light hours it’s all about Magic School Bus.)

Life Cycles books are also great to read through when seedlings are popping out of the ground and butterflies are flitting from flower to flower.  It’s nice to read through the book and then step out into nature and see how much we can find in the woods that resembles what we’ve just read.

Because it’s Earth Day season (the actual day is April 22nd, which falls on a Tuesday this year), we’ve been reading up on conservation and organic gardening.  Of course, that also means that I’m letting my three year old water my tomatoes and walk in my garden.  It’s a learning experience for her and a letting go experience for me.

That’s why the woods being by the house is best for us.  It’s where I can really let her go and frolic and be herself.

P1010626

When we get to the open fields she gets to pick as many flowers as she wants.

P1010629Whether you want to make it part of your normal routine or you’re just celebrating Earth Day, check out kiddo’s favorite books and find a good outdoor park this weekend.  The fresh air and sunshine is amazing.

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A Homeschool Mom Meets Seed Savers

November 14, 2013 at 4:02 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

blog-tour

Click to follow the tour and visit the next blog.

The thing about homeschooling – the awesome thing – is that plans are made, expectations logged, and as a parent you do a lot of letting go of both of those things as your child sort of takes over.

I personally planned on going full force into the alphabet and phonics, drill numbers and be sure my three year old was the smartest on the block.  At age two she already knew all the states on the U.S. map south of the Mason Dixon line.

Kiddo, God, and the universe, had other plans.  And I like them.

With the help of S. Smith’s Seed Savers series, some extreme budgeting issues (I’ve been the poorest person I know for the last twelve months), and Merriweather’s fabulous foraging site (see the links on the right), we’ve pretty much spent our ‘school days’ in the woods.

It all started many, many moons ago (as I like to say to my kiddo when telling stories)… somehow I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Seed Savers: Treasure from S. Smith by mail.  I remember reading some of it out loud, but then giving up and devouring it all alone.  I gave up because I wanted to read it faster, I wanted it all to myself, not because Kiddo was anything but cooperative.

P1000450What resulted is a long standing admiration for S. Smith, requests for her to participate in Earth Day 2013 (which she graciously accepted from 3000 miles away) and taking Kiddo to said Earth Day celebration.  Before Seed Savers, I was already on a mission to be more self-sufficient and have my own garden, but Seed Savers really solidified that need in my heart.  Instead of *wanting* to do it, I got my butt in gear and did it.  This shift in my mentality eased over into the preferences of my daughter.

She loved the Earth Day celebration.  She got to plant seeds with volunteers from the Mercer Arboretum.  She got to watch me raffle off S. Smith’s first two books (Treasure & Lily), and it was all over – these Fall plans I had noted during my pregnancy were half out the window.  Without hearing the entire Seed Savers story, Kiddo fell in love with seeds.  S. Smith’s words are so powerful they radiate into every aspect of our house just by sitting on the shelf.

We have seen and read The Lorax more times than I can count.  On her third birthday her great-grandmother gave her spending money and she spent it at Good Books in the Woods on two Cat in the Hat Learning Library books.  One is on Rainforests and the other on Seed Planting.

P1000435We spend our days looking for birds on the trails, foraging for produce, growing our own bell peppers and okra, and now reading Heirloom as we tromp through the woods.

However, you don’t have to be a mom, a conservative, a homeschooler, a toddler, or a hippie to enjoy the Seed Savers Series.  Seed Savers, including the latest – Heirloom – is full of courageous characters, a rich adventure, and exciting philosophical food for thought.

What started out as a really unique young adult dystopian society concept on Smith’s part, has evolved into something more than we initially bargained for.  The story is more complex than I anticipated. The effect on our lives has more reach.  Smith has matured as a writer along with the growth of her characters.  I’m a little disappointed that the stories will, at some point, come to an end…

If you don’t believe me, find out for yourself.

Purchase the Seed Savers Series from Amazon

Visit the Author’s Website: http://authorssmith.com

Go Like Her on Facebook: http://facebook.com/AuthorSSmith

Follow S. Smith on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AuthorSSmith

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The Long-Awaited Lily

November 25, 2012 at 9:49 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Well, it felt like a long time, because I was so anxious for it.  In reality, Smith is quite the efficient authoress.

Title: Seed Savers Volume 2 “Lily”

Author: S. Smith

I read the first installment of Seed Savers early this last summer. I loved it. I was so excited to find a new “undiscovered” young adult author and immediately blogged about it.  Illegal gardening, fresh produce, dystopian society, kids on the run… how much more exciting could it possibly get? Way more, that’s how much.

With the arrival of Lily, I expected to get “the further adventures of Clare and Dante,” but what I got was much more.  Lily, a side character in the first book, Treasure, tries to continue the mission of saving seeds in her hometown after the disappearance of Clare and Dante.  Rather than getting “Treasure” all over again, a common fault in sequels in general, Lily is a book all its own and full of secrets, secrets, and more secrets.  Not only was Lily hiding plants from Dante and Clare, she has a past she wasn’t even aware of, a past that could change everything.

Smith succeeded, again, in writing a fantastic and educational adventure that I cannot wait to share with my nieces and nephews, and later with my daughter.  It is so fun and refreshing to read something new, something real, that doesn’t have anything to do with vampires, werewolves, or zombies.  Although there is a time and place for such fantasy fiction for young adults, it’s nice to know that there are authors out there that have something more on the brain than the latest (recurring) fad that has swept the nation and the world.

Seed Savers is about using your brain, questioning the world around you and how it should be, becoming a better person, and making the world a better place.  These are things every kid should be encouraged to do.  And for the adults reading these books, it reminds us that many kids want to when they are given the chance.

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Weekly Low Down on Kids Books 6/26/12

June 27, 2012 at 12:51 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

One Watermelon Seed by Celia Barker Lottridge and Karen Patkau is a breath of fresh air in the world of children’s counting books – almost literally.  All about planting a garden and counting first the number of seeds planted for each plant type and then the number of items harvested from each plant, One Watermelon Seed not only teaches counting from 1 to 10 and counting by tens, a kid can also learn what certain plants look like.  See not just a tomato plant, but enjoy a look at the tomato and its inside as well.  I loved it, Ayla loved it (she’s really into numbers and counting right now), and over all its a winner.

One Watermelon Seed reminded me of another recent favorite:Seed Savers: Treasure.  If you are a mom of kids in various age groups, I recommend using both these books (Seed Savers for middle grade students, One Watermelon Seed for small children learning to count and identify plants) as introductions to the world of botany.  Both books are great for creating interest in starting a back yard garden, and would be a great way to get your kids exciting about being involved in the gardening life.

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Interview with S. Smith

June 15, 2012 at 4:07 am (Interviews) (, , , , , , , )

I’m excited to share with you all an interview with S. Smith, author of Seed Savers.  The book is my top favorite pick for young adults this week, this month, this year, and possibly this decade.  The interview may contain some spoilers.

1.       This is quite a political statement, was that your intention?

Not so much.  I think it was more about my love of good food.  Seed Savers is a love story starring home-grown food.  I love food—growing, harvesting, cooking, eating, and sharing it.  And I think a lot of people these days maybe are missing out on that.  I grew up on a small family farm and we always just ate what we grew, putting the fruit and veggies up for the winter and enjoying the goodness of how much better everything tasted than the “store kind.”  Sure, politics obviously comes into the book, but it’s much more than that.

2.      I read on your blog that Senate Bill S510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, inspired the story line.  But what made you choose to tell the story through the eyes of children for children, instead of writing a piece more geared towards adults?

Actually, although I mention Senate Bill S510 as being the idea behind my story, I believe I wrote Seed Savers prior to hearing about it.  I started writing Seed Savers in April of 2010, and most of the internet frenzy on the bill came out after that.  I think a friend told me about the bill after reading a draft of my story—it’s hard for me to remember exactly.  The inspiration for the book and the reason I wrote for children is covered in the blog titled “How It All Started”(May 2012).

3.       There are many documentaries floating around about the habits of companies similarly described in the history of your futuristic world.  Have you seen any of them? If so, which ones did you consider the most inspirational or informative? (I’d like to watch them.)

Here in Salem we enjoy the Salem Progressive Film Series, which is a “volunteer organization dedicated to educating and raising awareness of important current events.”  They bring in great documentaries and speakers once a month.  I have enjoyed going to many of these.  I’ve watched movies on water, dirt, food, urban gardening, MONSANTO, etc.  As mentioned in the “How It All Started” blog, Food, Inc. truly was a part of the inspiration for my book.

4.       You must be a gardener! What are your favorite household ‘crops’? (Mine are lemon balm and rosemary  – for the smell, of course.)

Oh my gosh.  Well I do live right in the center of town, so I only have a very limited amount of space for my own little garden, but I do love growing tomatoes—I’ve been starting my own from seed for about the last four years—and yes, the fresh herbs are wonderful (cilantro, basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, parsely, dill, oregano….).  I also have strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and one boysenberry bush.

5.       The lupines are a symbol of safety for the children during their flee from oppression to knowledge and fruitfulness (both literally and figuratively).  Why the lupine? Does it hold special significance for you?

Well, I think that’s covered in the book.  Mt. St. Helens is sort of in our backyard here in Oregon, so we get a lot of coverage about whatever is going on up there.  I either heard on t.v. or read somewhere that lupines were the first plant life to come back after the devastation of the volcanic eruption and I jotted it down to use in my book.  I still have the scrap of paper on which I wrote it down.

6.       Seed Savers is reminiscent of titles like The Giver and Invitation to the Game.  Do you often read dystopian society literature? What are your favorites?

The Giver is one of my favorites.  I also really love Fahrenheit 451 and The House of the Scorpion.

7.       Your book is peppered with verses from the Bible as well as symbols regarding Mother Earth.  Do you mind me asking about your religious beliefs? What’s your life’s mission statement? (This is something I find particularly fascinating about writers in general, how C.S. Lewis’ beliefs seeped into The Chronicles of Narnia, the infrastructure of Orson Scott Card’s science fiction and that of Mormonism, and so on…)

“To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly…” 🙂  I am a Christian, but more importantly, I had to be true to my characters.  I didn’t want flat characters, and children at that age often do go to church and have strong beliefs.  My two favorite books, Peace Like a River and The Secret Life of Bees, both have spiritual themes running through them.  And let’s not forget that Twilight begins with a quote from Genesis.

I certainly hope the book can be viewed for all of its layers and not dismissed on account of some Bible verses.

8.       When can we expect Book Two in your series?  Have you written the whole series and just timing their releases or are you writing as you go? (I’m dying for the next installment already!)

Thanks! Book two, Lily, will probably be out sometime in August.  It is completed and in the editorial process right now.  Treasure will be available on Kindle devices soon (in process right now).  I have not written the entire series yet, but do have a brief outline.  I am currently about one quarter of the way through the first draft of book three.

9.       The kids do a lot of traveling as they run away from home to Canada, in the last third of the book.  Do you enjoy travel? Have you been to Canada? What are your favorite things about both your hometown and your favorite place to visit?

Is this a spoiler?  Yes, I enjoy traveling a lot, but as I get older, I dislike flying more and more.  I have been to Canada, but only British Columbia, not Quebec.

Oregon has often been referred to as “the Eden at the end of the Oregon Trail,” and for good reason.  It is very green here, and we have gorgeous lakes, rivers, and forests.  I live in the Willamette Valley, so when I go to a place without mountains in the horizon, it’s a bit disconcerting.

My favorite place to visit is Logan Pass on the Continental Divide at Glacier National Park in Montana.  Even though I live in a valley, I absolutely love standing on the top of high places and looking down.  🙂

10.   Is there anything you’d like to share about yourself or your work to your readers and fans that hasn’t already been discussed?

I think Seed Savers is very timely in regard to topics such as the urban garden movement, food deserts, childhood obesity, school gardens, etc. The science teacher at my school (who also has a gardening class) was very much of a help and encouragement to me as I was writing the story.  We like the idea of kids having a novel to read in science or gardening class for that literacy tie-in.  In regard to my writing process, I don’t always know what my characters are going to do next.  They often surprise me as much as they might surprise you (perhaps even more so!) 🙂

Thank you for interview!

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Seed Savers – a series to be treasured

June 8, 2012 at 1:00 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I haven’t been this in love with a young adult series since Harry Potter.  I haven’t been this in love with an individual young adult book since Lois Lowry’s The Giver, unless you count How To Buy A Love Of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson (but her book, though it features a group of teens, is not really for young adults as far as I’m concerned.) I plucked it out of my mailbox, opened it, and read it in one sitting… 221 pages of exciting young adult goodness!  I devoured it, and it was delicious.  Book One of Seed Savers, titled Treasure, is no misnomer.  This book is truly a treasure!

Author S. Smith has written the latest and greatest of young adult dystopian society novels.  In the spirit of the previously mentioned Lowry novel and and Monica Hughes’ Invitation to the Game, Smith has given us solid middle grade tale featuring a new (and somewhat real) futuristic threat – illegal gardening.  It’s yet another great pre-cursor to students preparing to read Orwell’s 1984.  Educators everywhere should be aware of this rising star in children’s literature.

The detailed history of how this society came to be is part of its unique twist.  Most dystopian society stories don’t spend a lot time telling you how it got this way, just that it did and people didn’t notice, the path somewhat alluded to but not specific.  Smith helps point out the steps leading up to this future with factoids that suspciously resemble things that are happening in both the farmlands and corporate America.  From living organism patents made legal in the 1980’s to genetically engineered seedlings, Smith spells out just exactly how this future (though a little outlandish in a society newly obsessed with being eco-friendly in its marketing) could quite possibly go from where it is now to the kind of United States described in the book (corporations and the government in bed with each other making trouble for the little people – Banks, anyone?… in combination with the idea that a government can make a plant illegal – marijuana comes to mind).  Yet, she does this effortlessly, without killing the flow of the story.

I personally love social commentary presented through the art of fiction.  (You like this too? Check out this site: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/371512?uid=3739920&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=56242603693).  I find it compelling and quite frankly the best way to address particular situations that when written about in a nonfiction format becomes an irate rant.  I love the way it personalizes events and characters in a book so quickly, in a way that the average story cannot do.  Get under the skin of an art fanatic… make it impossible for art to be appreciated, collected, loved (if you’re not a reader, check out the movie Equilibrium, then again, if you’re not a reader what’s up with you reading my blog? What brought you here? Leave me a comment.) Tug at the heartstrings of a gardener… attack the very core of their being by telling them in this reality, they can’t have one.

Needless to say, I loved it.  S. Smith, you are brilliant, my dear, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.  This one is going on loan to my nieces and nephews, is getting short listed on my very long list of required reading for my daughter who will one day be homeschooled.  It will be the fun fiction to parallel our botany classes that week, the friendly reminder of why she will be taught to tend her own garden, and perhaps raise a chicken.

Buy Your Copy of Seed Savers Today!

Visit the author’s website here: http://authorssmith.com/

Want to start your own garden (before its too late!), check out Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening tutorial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5Lu-7FIj_g

Also for fun, check out this blog: http://www.thisgardenisillegal.com/

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Celebrating Earth Day, April 22nd

April 18, 2012 at 2:41 am (Events, Reviews, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

While gathering up promotional items for Half Price Books Earth Day Celebration Goodie Bags (Humble Location), one of the participating business owners described me as “earthy” to one of his associates.  I’ve worked for a company I hear people refer to as “hippie” in nature for five years now, but I never thought of myself as being a hippie myself… I always just thought of myself as bookish.  But I suppose working with people so dedicated to reusing and recycling, some of it had to sink into my being in an observable way.

Since I’m so “earthy,” I thought I’d share a little bit about what I do as part of my daily routine.  I’m not out to save the world, just out to minimize my footprint when its convenient to do so.

1. Recycle cans.  Its as easy as dropping your can items into a separate trash container.  Sometimes loading them up and dropping them off at a recycling center is a hassle, that’s where nieces and nephews come in handy.  Most kids will jump at the chance to earn some spare change (I know I LOVED collecting and selling crushed cans as a kid), so even if you don’t haul them off yourself, its probably pretty easy to find someone willing (and eager) to do it for you.

2. Reusable shopping bags.  I don’t have a recycle pick up in my neighborhood.  So rather than acquire a mountainous number of plastic bags I am too lazy to deliver to a recycling dispenser, I just use reusable ones instead.  It saves me a lot of grief and guilt, and is surprisingly simple once you get in the habit of keeping a stash of them in your car.  My favorites are Pat’s Bags at Half Price Books.  They are $1.98, made of recycled water bottles, and have cute art designed by one of the store’s founders Pat Anderson.

3. Dump coffee grounds and egg shells in the garden.  Instead of dumping my coffee grounds and egg shells in the trash, I make sure to mix it into my garden soil.  Coffee grounds help keep nutrients in the soil, fight off diseases your plants can get, and keeps the garden soil looking dark and fresh.  More specific information about coffee grounds can be found on this blog: http://groundtoground.org/2011/08/28/coffee-grounds-for-your-garden/. Egg shells are more specifically good for your vegetable garden, so I crush those up and put them with my tomatoes.  More specific information on eggs shells in your garden can be found here:  http://www.allotments.ie/?p=515.

4. All natural cleaning products. This habit benefits me two fold: I am allergic to everything, and its better for the environment. I am a huge fan of homemade mixes (using baking soda, vinegar, and essential oils), Seventh Generation, and J.R. Watson.  As for my personal hygene, I love soap from Connie’s Bath Shack in Old Town Spring – http://conniesbathshack.com/.

5. Reuseable water bottles. I have reuseable water bottles galore from all the Earth Day Celebrations of Half Price Past. I don’t buy plastic water bottles in packs at the store, I diligently refill my Half Price Books bottles.  Water bottles are a simple, yet awesome thing of genius, and you can get them anywhere, I think even Starbucks sells them.

As you can see, that’s not a lot, but I think it makes a big difference.

But, this is a book blog, so I’ll get to the bookish parts.

I love this very green ad from hpb.com!

Half Price Books loves to celebrate Earth Day, and in working there for five years, I can proudly say it was my favorite time of the year in the four and half years I worked in the store.  The displays are full of my favorite color (green), the nature and gardening sections become a little more prominent, people seem more interested in buying books to read outside under trees in parks… I love that.  Smack dab in the middle of Spring, people just seem cheerier in general, and with Mother’s Day around the corner, and lawn projects in the works, I always felt like I had a better chance to help people out.  One year, I even got to participate in a tree planting for Trees for Houston.  Half Price Books sent a group of volunteers to the planting, as part of my working hours, to plant trees! That was an all out blast.

Visit your local Half Price Books on Earth Day, they just might be doing something cool that day.  But even if there’s not too much out of the ordinary happening, its good to get your books reused!  One of my favorite HPB purchases is actually featured in that ad to the left, Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods.  I wrote a short review for it two years ago, after reading it on Earth Day 2010:

A Walk in the Woods makes me desperately want to go hiking. This was my first Bryson, I find the author surprisingly witty and fun, although perhaps a bit truthfully cruel in the beginning. I have to admit, prior to reading this I knew very little about the Appalachian Trail – it was a trail I had heard of but didn’t really have a clue about its length (Georgia to Maine, 2200 miles), its fame, or its history. This is the perfect blend of traveling memoir and a true survival/ adventure story, and I was completely captured by the weather conditions, the terrain, the fellow hikers, and the long nights in cold shelters. Its definitely an adventure I’d like to take, even if it means I only finish 39% of the trail like Bryson himself.

Another little favorite of mine is Don’t Throw It Out: Recycle, Renew, And Reuse to Make Things Last by Lori Baird and the Editors of Yankee Magazine.  I picked this one up at Half Price Books too… yes, I’m a bit of a Half Price nut, I shop other places too, but HPB is my main hang out.  Don’t Throw It Out is great because its half useful and half hilarious.  There are some really handy tips, and some things I find ridiculous that I would never do.  It makes for both an awesome reference book, and a conversation starter for your coffee table.  Its got “more than a thousand ways to maximize the value of everything you own – from furniture and fishing reels, to cell phones and ceiling fans, to iPods and earrings.

Also, one of my most recent purchases, is Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-shirt by Megan Nicolay.  Its all in the title, take your old t-shirts that you would normally donate to Goodwill in order to go buy new clothes, and make new clothes out of them.  Now this, you may not immediately think of as earth friendly, but any time you are reusing something you already have to make it something you’ll use more, you’re being earth friendly.  (Its what I was raised to call being a “good steward of your resources.”)

So whether you pop into a used bookstore and pick up some new resources, ride your bicycle that day, take a gander in the public park or local arboretum, or start a new earth friendly habit… be a good steward of your resources and respect your world, take a moment, sniff the roses, and celebrate Earth Day!

*Disclaimer: Although I am currently an extremely part-time, work from home, employee for Half Price Books (about 20-30 hours a month to organize events like booksignings, raffles, and other fun stuff), this blog is purely my own.  What I say here is always of my own volition, and is not backed or on behalf of the company.  This is my personal blog of all my personal interests.  Those personal interests just often include everything HPB as its a huge part of my world.

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