Review of Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson

When I was in elementary school in Denver, Colorado, there was a book high on the top shelf of the school library that kept catching my eye. The book’s title was my name. How intriguing! I saw it year after year, but I couldn’t reach it, and anyway it looked too thick and grown-up to me. After I left elementary school, from time to time, I would run across the book. I got the impression that it was an overly historical book and very dull. Nevertheless, I’d often think, “One day I’m going to read that.”

Fast forward almost twenty years and I was now living in San Diego, California. One of the places a co-worker had taken me was called Old Town, a historical part of San Diego that included an area called “Ramona’s Marriage Place”. (Here is a photo of me there in 1981.) One day I was browsing around at the public library…and there it was! Helen Hunt Jackson’s book, Ramona. Well within reach now, and no time like the present, I checked it out. I was surprised to find out that it was considered a classic American novel. And to my amazement, this historical novel was set right THERE…in the San Diego area!


This novel tells the story of Ramona, a half-native woman from a wealthy Spanish family, who meets Alessandro, one of the Native American shepherds near her home. They develop a friendship which turns into love, marriage, devotion and tragedy because of discrimination against her husband.

Helen Hunt Jackson delves into some politically incorrect territory for that time in history. In October of 1879, she learned about the plight of the Native Americans and the mistreatment they received from the government. Sympathizing with their cause, she toured many of their impoverished communities, and wrote articles and a book to publicize their struggles. In 1883 the plot of a novel came to her suddenly one morning, and she began writing.

Of course I highly recommend this classic novel. The inside flap of my 1912 edition says

For over a half century Helen Jackson’s romantic story of Spanish and Indian life in California has been widely read until it has become an American classic. Originally published in 1884, “Ramona” has been issued in various editions, with a total of 135 printings. The Atlantic Monthly has termed the story “one of the most artistic creations of American literature,” while the late Charles Dudley Warner [an American essayist, novelist, and friend of Mark Twain] called it “one of the most charming creations of modern fiction.” Born in 1831, Mrs. Jackson was an ardent champion of the Indians to the end of her useful life, in 1885. “Ramona” has been three times produced as a motion picture, been played on the stage, adapted for a pageant and may eventually be utilized for a grand opera.”

More of my personal connection

I have always had an interest and a special place in my heart for the Native Americans, so of course I loved this book with its focus on these people. That, along with the fact that it was a romance based on actual history, including characters living out their faith, made it nearly the perfect book. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that the tragedy in the story was softened by an unexpected ending of kindness.

The book inspired the Ramona Pageant, which is still performed in the hills of Hemet, California. It is said to be California’s Official Outdoor Play and the longest continuously running outdoor drama in the United States. The original “Ramona” movie came out in 1928, and was remade in 1936, starring Don Ameche and Loretta Young. I’d always known that my grandmother named me after the song, but when I found out that the song was created for the movie based on the book that I loved, I was beyond excited!

While I was growing up, many teachers and other adults sang the first few lines of the song to me, and I finally found a copy of the entire song online. It just so happens that I love it; it is a very sweet, flowing love song. I love the references to nature–hills, mountains, babbing brook, kissing the sky, meeting by the waterfall–and hearing the church “mission bells above”.

One year our family toured southern California and we stayed overnight in the town of Ramona, northeast of San Diego. The town was named to capitalize on the popularity of the fictional character from the best selling novel. I made sure we stopped in Temecula, one of the towns mentioned in the novel (much to my family’s disappointment!), where I purchased a book called The Annotated Ramona and a little Spanish maiden figurine as a memento. The book opened up the whole historical side of the book to me, as well as a biography of the author. I learned that later in her life she moved to Colorado, my home state. Magical!

Here is a postcard a friend in California recently sent me. Notice in the far lower right corner it says, “The Real Ramona”. I’m not sure what that means, exactly, but it is clearly quite an old photograph. Very intriguing.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little bit of my history, and will check out this wonderful book. It’s a gem!


My Favorite Books of 2017

Here are the books I enjoyed reading the most in the past year. They fall into various categories of fiction and non-fiction, old and new, and are listed in the order that I read them. The only thing they all have in common are that they are generally positive and upbeat!

I Remember Nothing by Norah Ephron © 2010 – some quite humorous essays

The Man of the Desert by Grace Livingston Hill ©1914 – inspiring characters, excellent Christian romance

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (fiction) by Siri James © 2008 – absolutely incredibly awesome.

The New Year © 1968, by the amazing Pearl S. Buck, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature – characters of strength and integrity – a perfect marriage is rocked by a letter from 12-year-old Korean son of wartime romance

Refuse to Choose: A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything that you Love by Barbara Sher © 2006 – thank you Barbara for saying that scanners are unique and intelligent and valued!

The Year Without a Purchase by Scott Dannemiller © 2015. Hilarious! And it does have some good solid advice and thoughts for people addicted to buying.

Venetia by Georgette Heyer © 1958. Humorous Victorian romance – one of her very best!

The Sojourner © 1958 by Marjorie Rawlings, author of Pulitzer Prize-winning The Yearling – wonderful, I reviewed this here.

Selected Stories by P.G. Wodehouse © 1958 – even the author’s foreword is funny, every story is laugh-out-loud hilarious (to me, anyway!).

Charmed Particles: A Novel by Chrissy Kolaya ©2015 – a theoretical physicist, his wife and daughter assimilating into suburban America, the last great gentleman explorer and his politician wife and their precocious daughter; all living near the superconductor supercollider in Illinois. Fascinating on so many levels, I couldn’t put it down (a debut novel—wow!).

WWII poster, U.S. Office of War Information–still relevant!


And for a few more, here is my post from last year: Positive Uplifting Humorous Reads

What are YOUR favorites?

Happy New Year of Reading in 2018!



Thanks to ulleo at pixabay for the creative commons photo of book heart

Thunder and Lightning and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

While listening to a radio program which mentioned Santa’s reindeer in the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, something occurred to my mom about Donner and Blitzen. In her native German language, donner means thunder, and blitzen means lightning. We were both curious to know if the creator of the song chose these names because of these meanings.

Well!  What fun we had on the phone, her asking questions and me surfing the Internet to find the answers. The first link I landed on said that the song came from the book.

Book? Rudolph was a book before it was a song? Now I’m really interested! Who wrote the book, and when?

In 1939, Robert L. May, an ad man for Montgomery Ward retail store, was asked by his boss to write a little story that could be made into one of the booklets that the department store gave away to their customers at Christmas time. He created Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in a rhyming story poem.

May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, wrote the lyrics and melody for a song based on the character in the book. He borrowed most of the reindeer names from the classic 1823 poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” (more commonly known as “Twas the Night before Christmas”) written by Major Henry Livingston, Jr. or Clement Moore.

And now we come to the answer to our original question. According to,

The 1823 poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” refers to “Dunder” and “Blixem”…Dutch names written into the poem by Livingston.

Only in later versions, modified by Moore in 1844, were the two names changed to German: Donder (close to Donner, thunder) and Blitzen (lightning), to better rhyme with “Vixen.”

Finally, for some reason, in the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” Johnny Marks turned “Donder” into “Donner.” Whether he made the change because he knew German or because it just sounded better is uncertain. In any event, there is certainly some logic in using German Donner and Blitzen (thunder and lightning) for the names.

Since 1950 or so, the two reindeer names have been Donner and Blitzen in both “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and the “A Visit from Saint Nicholas.”

So, Mom, now we know! Here are some other fun links to check out:

The video of the 1948 Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer film, including some stanzas from the original story poem by Robert.L.May

The touching story from the December 22, 1975 Gettysburg Times newspaper, “Robert May Tells How Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Came Into Being”  (Part 2)

An NPR webpage with audio of their interview with Robert L. May’s granddaughter in which she reads the poem. The webpage includes images of the original color sketches for the book drawn by Robert May’s friend in the art department, Denver Gillen.

Happy New Year everybody!

He Lifts his Voice, the Earth Melts

One of my mom’s favorite verses of scripture is Psalm 46:6, so I decided that for Christmas I would make her a poster of the scripture that she could hang on her wall.

I added my visual interpretation of the verse, using pictures that displayed the chaos and terrors of today’s world in contrast with the calm and strength in God Almighty, the highest authority in the universe.


My interpretation of the last line is that many people’s hearts are raging, hardened and cold, toward others and toward God. But when God speaks, when we hear the truth, and when we know who He is that is speaking, that ice melts. Then He gives us a “new heart” that can hear him speak and submits to his perfect government of our lives and our world.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

I also believe that the word-picture of the earth melting is related to the breaking, or melting, of the power of sin, which is what Jesus accomplished in dying on the cross.

Notice that the scripture says He will put his spirit in those who trust him, and “move you to follow” His decrees and laws. Instead of waiting for us to get it together and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, he enables us to follow him.


If you like the poster, you can download it below for free, as my little Christmas gift to you!

Click here for the JPEG image

Click here for the PDF image


Merry Christmas, and I wish you a wonderful 2018!

P.S. Here are some of my other Christmas posts you might like!

Not a Normal Rockwell Christmas

I bring you Great News!

The Bells Still Ring Peace

Snail-mailing kindness and hope

Although I love being able to text and email, there is really nothing like a card or letter to hold in your hand and a handwritten message inside. (I guess the only thing better is being there in person, but it isn’t always possible, right?)

I have been greatly inspired and encouraged to revive my enjoyment of sending snail mail cards and letters by my friend Barb who blogs at I met her in the collectible books section of a used book sale that raises funds for literacy. We browsed through a fascinating old book together, and when we realized that we both blogged, we started following each others posts.

I enthusiastically joined her last year when she invited readers to send encouraging snail-mail letters to the struggling members of a First Nations band in northern Ontario.  Recently Barb shared some great pen-pal sites with me, and now I am again in awe of her creative compassion as I read her most recent post, “Send a Christmas card to someone who is homeless“.

I am sending at least one card, and I am using Barb’s Resources page for help in composing messages. I hope you’ll been inspired to send one, or have the children in your life send a card (here are Samples of Cards sent by children). They’d love your card to be sent by November 30th, or at the latest have it in the mail by December 10th.

I am thankful for Barb’s compassionate heart and her practical ways of making others’ lives better, and I hope you’ll pass this along!

Thanks everybody!

Fall Book Sale in Calgary – November 2nd to 4th, 2017

Specializing in used children’s books, a big selection of quality books, including children’s books, classics, Christmas and Christian books, are available at this sale!

Prices start at ONLY $2 PER BOOK

Calg READS girl rdg

Last fall, I happened upon this sale sponsored by Used Book Treasures, and loved it. I bought 3 gems, including two unique Christmas books written by classic authors, for only $3 each.

You’ll find picture books, young reader books, historical fiction, science, chapter books, Usborne and much more!

Come and browse!

The Lutheran Church of our Savior

in southeast Calgary

at 8831 Fairmont Drive SE


Thursday November 2nd, 2017 – 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Friday November 3rd, 2017 – 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Saturday November 4th, 2017 – 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

If you need more information,

email or call (403) 254-2686.

Children reading on couch

Treat yourself to a nice browse-through and see what treasures you find!  Do some Christmas shopping and find great gifts for all ages, especially kids.

Home-schoolers, you don’t want to miss this one!

Here are some of my treasures from last year, excellent books by excellent authors:




Maybe I’ll see you there!

Book review of The Sojourner by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

If you had offered me a book with a rather off-putting cover drawing about a family who endured the hardships of trying to make a living on a farm in the late 1800’s, I’d have probably declined. That’s been done in various scenarios, and sounds depressing. I’d have preferred something with more pizzazz and originality.

But when I found this book on the shelf of a thrift store, I discovered some key information to change my mind. It was published in 1953, the author’s name was familiar, she had won a Pulitzer Prize, and it was $2.50 that would go toward a good cause. Seemed like a good bet, and a good book to bring home. And was it ever.

The story centers around Ase, whose brother Ben is the apple of his mother’s eye. After his father dies, Ben leaves the farm to seek fortune and adventure. Their mother grieves his loss, and will not believe that he went on his own volition. She never pretends to have any affection for Ase, but he nevertheless devotes himself to her care and making a success of their farm. He marries energetic trickster Nellie and they start a family. He is a thoughtful philosophical dreamer, yet too responsible to let his own longings interfere with his duties.

Ase is wise, yet timid and unable to articulate what is in his huge heart and his keen mind, so others find him an easy target, including his own children. He opens his home to those down on their luck, and finds true friendship in unlikely places. Through hopeful and sad events, despite all the years that go by without any word of  him, Ase never stops hoping for the return of his brother.

From page one The Sojourner was too gripping to put down, and I didn’t want to miss one single word. Each character in turn was introduced in a few pages to make you feel as if you had known them for a lifetime. Each had their own strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and failures. The intense commitment of the farming community to their livelihood and to one another show the stoicism and dedication that built the powerful American society of the early twentieth century.

Reading it was a quiet experience. I don’t just mean that I read it in silence; it also calmed my mind. The longer I read, the more I joined this family miles away from the nearest neighbor, and enjoyed the restful evenings without electricity, as though I could hear the silent breeze rustling the grass in their distant field. All of these combined to make a quality story of depth, common yet uncommon humanity, spiritual truth, and a satisfying outcome.

Following the motivations, decisions and outcomes in each of their journeys was illuminating. It makes me feel like I understand those in my little circle, and people all around the world, even more. It is the kind of book I keep hoping to discover in contemporary fiction and rarely seem to find. (Please enlighten me if you have found otherwise, I’d love to find some great contemporary fiction!) And the wonderful thing is that in learning more about her, I have discovered nine more novels of hers to read.

Marjorie Rawlings’ classic novel is a great example of why I comb the vintage book sections and why I trust the classic authors of fifty or more years ago. Tell me: where else can you get a heartwarming, inspiring experience every evening for three weeks…all for the grand total of two-and-a-half dollars?

Sustainability Alberta Style

Alberta was formally declared a province of Canada on September 1, 1905. To celebrate the 112th birthday tomorrow of my province, and to celebrate the publication this month of my book, Respect Our World: Sustainability, I thought I’d share some of the ways that Albertans work toward sustainability. I admire the leadership Alberta has taken with innovative steps to a better environment for Canada.


Micro-generation is the production of electricity on a small scale by individual home owners and small businesses, using renewable and alternative energy sources. They typically use solar and wind energy, but may use other sources of energy including biomass, microcogeneration, geothermal sources, and fuel cells.

The micro­generation regulation was recently revised to make it easier for Albertans to generate electricity for their own electricity needs.

The Climate Leadership Plan

The Climate Leadership Plan is a made-in-Alberta strategy to reduce carbon emissions while diversifying the economy and creating jobs. The Canadian government announced that provinces must enact an emissions reduction plan or pay a carbon tax in 2018, and this is a launch of a strategy designed specifically for Alberta’s own unique economy.


Alberta is taking a leading role in promoting energy efficiency, resource conservation and environmental measures through the growth of Alberta Green Building Technologies and Products industry, with the hope that one day many of these green technologies and products will be mandatory in the construction of new buildings.

Four corporations—Bio Solutions, Energy and Environment Solutions, Health Solutions and Technology Futures – were consolidated into one innovation powerhouse, Alberta Innovates. Through it, ideas and technologies created by Albertans receive support, and innovators, businesses and researchers can now easily tap into their collective assets – cross sectoral knowledge and expertise, funding, networks and research facilities.

The Book

I found a lot of inspiration in these initiatives and many more that I ran across while writing the book. If you have kids or are a teacher, I hope you’ll check out Respect Our World: Sustainability!

Goodnight Poems of Eugene Field

A while back I was browsing the shelves of antiquarian books at Fair’s Fair on 9th Avenue, and ran across a beautiful set of books, The Works of Eugene Field. Two volumes particularly caught my eye, A Little Book of Profitable Tales and A Little Book of Western Verse, and I perused wonderful pieces such as “The First Christmas Tree”, “Winken Blinken and Nod” and “Little Boy Blue”.

These were only being sold as a set, and I wasn’t interested in paying the asking price of one hundred dollars, so I went home to see if I could find them in electronic form.


Sure enough, I could read some of A Little Book of Western Verse on the Internet Archive BookReader, and download many of Eugene Field’s beautiful works for free from I have been reading Western Verse today on my Kindle.

How have I missed this author up until now? Eugene Field started publishing poetry in 1789. He wrote imaginative, gentle rhyming verses for children and adults, perfect for a peaceful bedtime read. “Mother and Child” is about a rose, falling in love with the dewdrop that lands on its petals. “The Divine Lullaby” is about hearing God’s voice in the ocean, the wind, snow and bells, saying “Sleep well, my child.”

This world needs these beautiful words, and I hope many rediscover Eugene Field’s remarkable talent. Here are a few lines from several more.

From “Winken, Blinken and Nod”, one of his most well-known works:

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night

Sailed off in a wooden shoe —

Sailed on a river of crystal light,

Into a sea of dew.

From the peaceful poem “In the Firelight”:

The firelight shadows fluttering go.

And as the shadows round me creep,

A childish treble breaks the gloom,

And softly from a further room

Comes, “Now I lay me down to sleep.”

One of Field’s most well-known poems is “Little Boy Blue”, but it’s not the one that I learned as a child. Here is the first verse:

The little toy dog is covered with dust,

But sturdy and stanch he stands;

And the little toy soldier is red with rust,

And his musket molds in his hands.

Time was when the little toy dog was new

And the soldier was passing fair,

And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue

Kissed them and put them there.


Statue of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod in Washington Park, Denver, Colorado. Assumed to be by Matt Wright.

Statue of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod in Washington Park, Denver, Colorado, by Matt Wright.

In “Christmas Treasure” a father asks his beloved little son what he would like from Santa Claus:

And then he named this little toy,

while in his round and mournful eyes

there came a look of sweet surprise,

that spake his quiet, trustful joy…

he lisped his evening prayer

…with childish grace;

Then, toddling to the chimney-place,

he hung this little stocking there.

From “Norse Lullaby”:

The sky is dark and the hills are white

As the storm-king speeds from the north to-night,

And this is the song the storm-king sings,

As over the world his cloak he flings:

“Sleep, sleep, little one, sleep;”

From “The Twenty-Third Psalm”:

My Shepherd is the Lord my God,—

There is no want I know;

His flock He leads in verdant meads,

Where tranquil waters flow.

This next one shares memories of a carefree childhood wandering among nature’s tranquil creatures and greenery, from “Long Ago”:

I once knew all the birds that came

And nested in our orchard trees;

For every flower I had a name—

My friends were woodchucks, toads, and bees;

I knew where thrived in yonder glen

What plants would soothe a stone-bruised toe—

Oh, I was very learned then;

But that was very long ago!

The love of a parent, from “Some Time”:

Last night, my darling, as you slept,

I thought I heard you sigh,

And to your little crib I crept,

And watched a space thereby;

And then I stooped and kissed your brow,

For oh! I love you so—

You are too young to know it now,

But some time you shall know!

Here is the sweetest little story poem of a father, finally resting with a book after a long day, from “At The Door”:

I thought myself indeed secure,

So fast the door, so firm the lock;

But, lo! he toddling comes to lure

My parent ear with timorous knock.

…then as the father takes his laughing darling in his arms, he ponders the end of his own life, when he is knocking on heaven’s gate. He hopes his heavenly father will unlock that door in the same way, and welcome him with the same joy!

And although not a lullaby, I had to include this humorous little ditty, from his poem “The Bibliomaniac’s Prayer”:

Keep me, I pray, in wisdom’s way

That I may truths eternal seek;

I need protecting care to-day,—

My purse is light, my flesh is weak…

Let my temptation be a book,

Which I shall purchase, hold, and keep,

Whereon when other men shall look,

They’ll wail to know I got it cheap.

(I guess that means I’m a bibliomaniac!  Any others out there?  You?)

Spending an hour reading his poetry was such a calming experience because Field’s word pictures take you into the sweet, quiet experiences he writes about. I will keep these handy for the end of a hectic day!

Thank you, Eugene Field!


[And thank you to these who generously provided images: TheVintagePrincipal for the image of The Works of Eugene Field, Keri S. Hathaway for the image of the statue , Wikimedia/Internet Archive Book Images for the image from The Golden Staircase-Poems and Verses for Children , Sue Clark on Flickr for the image of Teeny Weeny , and Wikimedia for the image of Eugene Field ]

August 1st publishing date for my book Respect Our World: Sustainabililty!

I’m so excited I can hardly stand it.

What a surprise I had yesterday, when I noticed stores are posting my children’s educational book for pre-order!

It all started last summer…

  • I received my usual copy of the Children’s Writer newsletter, produced by the Institute of Children’s Literature (see my post about ICL here)
  • The newsletter mentioned a book producer looking for authors to work on projects.
  • Since I’d been planning to check out non-traditional publishing opportunities, I looked into it.
  • I sent my writing resume to Red Line Editorial.
  • In early December I received an email from Red Line, inviting me to work on a project, their series of books called To Be Canadian.
  • I accepted, and said I’d like to work on the one about Sustainability.
  • I spent most of my school’s Christmas holiday researching and contacting experts.
  • It was a VERY tight schedule, rather exhausting, but I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having!
  • I wrote evenings and weekends during January, and edited and rewrote during February.
  • They accepted my manuscript, noting that they planned to publish the series in the fall.
  • I proceeded to wonder for the next few months if they were really going to publish it the way I wrote it, if it will say my name anywhere, what it will look like.
  • I couldn’t really believe I’d be the author of a children’s book.

But it’s true!

Here are a couple websites that show the series, Beech Street Books (the publisher), and McNalley-Robinson.

And yes, my name is on the cover. Whew.

If you have an inkling to pursue this kind of work-for-hire educational writing opportunity, I recommend checking out Red Line’s website , and Evelyn Christenson’s website, which lists many other educational publishers.



Thank you for the HAPPY image!