Book Review: 50 Wooden Crafts to Make With Kids

A Fair Trade Book (?)
Author: Ellen J. Hobart and Eva Shaw
Date: 1994
Publisher: Crown / Random House
Length: 96 pages
Illustrations: drawings by Pam Posey
Quote: “The crafts described in this book are for children from five to twelve as well as their older helpers.”
Children from five to twelve will need a good deal of help with these projects; the book doesn’t include templates, and most projects involve drilling and nailing.
Some of the projects are real kid stuff; five-year-olds can sand and paint building blocks almost as fast as their older helper can saw them, and there’s a model tugboat made by nailing a small piece of wood (the top deck) onto a larger piece of wood (the hull). Alphabet and number blocks are counted as two separate projects; sets of blocks that spell out names or messages are counted as additional projects, to bring the project count up to fifty.
Other projects include checkers and tic-tac-toe sets, plant stakes, breakfast trays, and cutting boards. More challenging projects include paper towel holders, scratching posts for cats, window boxes, benches, and a nifty little stool for adults to step on and/or small children to sit on.
There’s a “holiday” section that tries to be inclusive, with a menorah as well as Christmas trees and ornaments. Relatively few holidays are included. There’s a wooden version of the turkey traced around a child’s hand, and a suggestion (no template) about painting flag designs on boards. After making the window box you’ll have the idea of how to make a recycling bin for Earth Day, and after making the simple sailboat you might be inspired to construct sailing ships for Columbus Day, but you’ll have to design them yourself. Maybe that’s the point. Most of the projects seem likely to be made for Mothers or Fathers Day.
This tersely written little book would also be useful for adults who weren’t taught woodworking as children and want to begin with relatively safe, simple, and small projects. In addition to boats, blocks, and stilts, there are also instructions for party games, bird feeders, the window box, the bench, napkin holds, bookends, racks, trays, trivets, paper towel holders, key racks, candlesticks, and pencil holders.
For the very young, there’s one project for which money will replace working closely with an adult. The gift necklace is made by stringing together small bits of wood cut in fancy shapes. Craft stores and department stores sell all kinds of pre-cut, pre-painted wooden beads just so “poor little rich kids” can make gift necklaces for everyone whose name they know.
For the other projects readers will have to shape the wood all by themselves, which means adults need to be involved. These projects can offer the whole family many hours of constructive, creative pleasure, and perhaps even profit. Only basic woodworking tools like a saw, drill, hammer, sandpaper, one of those big fat pencils carpenters use for marking wood, and lots of nails, paint, and glue, will be necessary. Schools might find student-made wooden toys and furniture easier to sell than the cheap chocolates made for fundraising drives, or secondhand junk sold at bazaars.
50 Wooden Crafts to Make with Kids is recommended to all families, art teachers, and leaders of after-school, summer school, Vacation Bible School, Scout, and similar programs. If you have access to some cheap wood, these projects can be a real bargain.
Google shows nothing for Ellen J. Hobart; what it shows for Eva Shaw suggests that several people are using that name, but, if you buy this book online here, I’ll write to the publisher to find out which one should receive 10% of the total payment for the book. As usual, you send $5 per copy + $5 per package to either address in the lower left-hand corner of the page, for a total of $10, from which (even if you order four copies at once and send me only $25) Shaw and/or Hobart and/or a charity of their choice will receive $1.
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Book Review: Blessings

Happy Thanksgiving, Gentle Readers…

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Blessings

Author: Anna Quindlen

Author’s web site:

Date: 2002

Publisher: Ballantine / Random House

Length: 284 pages

Quote: “People love the idea of a place with a name.”

“Blessing” is a real family name, and it’s also the name of the fictional family who named the fictional estate where this story takes place after themselves.

In the first scene of Blessings, two irresponsible teenagers sneak out to the Blessing manor to abandon a newborn baby. Hoping their child will not be traced back to them, they slither away without guessing how the baby will bring the four people living at Blessings together.

The four people are Lydia Blessing, the last of the direct line; Nadine, the housekeeper; Jennifer, Nadine’s daughter who sometimes helps with the chores; and Skip, or Charles, the groundskeeper. At the beginning of the story none of them likes or trusts the others much. By the end they’ll be a family, and Nadine’s husband and Lydia’s daughter will be part of the family too.

Love is definitely the theme of this story….but it’s strictly family love. Although Skip has reasons to like two young women characters, Quindlen refuses to carry the plot far enough forward in time to show us Skip “in love.”

Keeping the focus on family love does not, however, keep Quindlen from throwing in a male homosexual couple. This gratuitous piece of political correctness is too carefully contrived to be plausible, and serves to call attention to how carefully the whole story has been cast for maximum political correctness. If Quindlen’s purpose were merely to write a romance or a comedy, a p.c. cast would do no harm. Since she’s also trying to show us that a young man like Skip can be a good father, keeping the rest of the novel ultra-p.c. costs her some credibility; I feel that instead of reading a fictionalized version of something Quindlen’s actually seen, I’m reading a fictional propaganda piece where all the major pressure groups are “represented”–except Republicans.

This is unfortunate. We may never have met a young single man who enjoys being a foster father as much as Skip, or a rich old lady who’s as partial to young working-class people as Lydia, but we would have liked to believe that Quindlen has. We have, as the publisher promised in the blurbs on the jacket, heard real people talk like these characters. We’d like it if real people behaved like them, too.

Nevertheless, Blessings is a nice, cheerful, family-type story that seems appropriate for a post that’s scheduled to appear on Thanksgiving Day. Anna Quindlen is a living writer, which makes this a Fair Trade Book; if you send $5 per copy + $5 per package to either address in the lower left-hand corner of the screen, Quindlen or a charity of her choice will receive $1 per copy of her book. (If you wanted four copies, you’d send me $25 and Quindlen or her charity would get $4.)

Pumpkin image courtesy of Taliesin at Morguefile:


Book Review: Tales Too Ticklish to Tell

Title: Tales Too Ticklish to Tell

Author: Berke Breathed

Author’s current web site:

Date: 1988

Publisher: Little Brown & Company

ISBN: 0-316-10735-2

Length: 122 pages

Illustrations: cartoons

Quote: “The news is there is no news…it’s all old news. Today there was death, greed, hypocrisy and White House lies…nothing new there!”

This is another volume of the history of the fictional Bloom County, where middle school children and animals relate to the news in ways real children and animals probably never have done or will do. In Tales Too Ticklish to Tell we get the full story of what was going through the minds of Opus and Lola when they mutually cancelled their wedding at the altar, how Bill the Cat failed to defend himself against charges of wholesomeness and saw no alternative to becoming a televangelist, how Opus was run out of Bloom County after Bill preached about the evils of “penguin lust.” This is the first volume to contain the iconic full-color strips where the blonde “tonsil sucker” got to John’s brain, where Steve “shredded” Barbie with his imitation of Colonel Oliver North, and where warnings about the hazards of sniffing dandelions prompted Steve (followed by the animals) to get high on dandelion pollen.

In other sequences not available in the selective reprints, the regular characters in the cartoon strip go on strike and are replaced by adult human “management officials,” Oliver sees stars spelling out the message “Repent Oliver” (and observes that it’s difficult being an agnostic), Opus works as a garbage collector, and Cockleberry Cockroach challenges Milquetoast’s position as tap-dancing spokesman for the cockroach community.

Sequences that were anthologized include the one where Steve was kidnapped by Zygorthian raiders and “Gephardtized,” the one where the Zygorthians participated in a formal congressional investigation and charmed the population by looking like big-eyed puppies, and one of several where Opus worked at the Bloom County Beacon.

Tales Too Ticklish to Tell was a bestseller when new and is therefore easy to find online. You may find a better price from other online sellers; however, if you buy it here, it’s a Fair Trade Book. That means that, of the $5 per book + $5 per package you send to either address at the lower left-hand corner of the screen, Berkeley Breathed or a charity of his choice will receive $1. If you buy five copies (or one copy of each of the similar-sized original “Bloom County” paperback books), you send a total of $30 to either address, and Breathed or his charity will get $5. So, if you want these vintage books, buying them from this web site is a way to show respect and support for a living writer.

Needless to say, you can show even more respect and support by buying Breathed’s new books, for the full new-book price, directly from his web site; if you like good-natured comedy and goofy-looking animal cartoons, this is encouraged.

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Book Review: Little Town at the Crossroads

Book Review: Little Town at the Crossroads

Author: Maria D. Wilkes

Author’s web site:

Date: 1997

Publisher: Harper Collins

ISBN: 0-06-440651-2

Length: 343 pages

Quote: “Before Laura Ingalls Wilder ever penned the Little House books, she wrote to her aunt Martha Quiner Carpenter, asking her to ‘tell the story of those days’ when she and Laura’s mother, Caroline, were growing up in Brookfield, Wisconsin.”

And this is the book Maria D. Wilkes made out of the story Aunt Martha told. Laura Ingalls’ mother and sister make friends with a German immigrant girl who spells English words correctly but pronounces the letters “Ah-bay-tsay-day-ay,” and so on, so she can’t be given credit in spelling bees. Laura’s Uncle Henry brings in passenger pigeons to cook into pigeon pies. Woodchucks attack the garden just in time to win the children the right to keep a dog, even though their widowed mother hasn’t felt able to afford to feed a dog. There’s a Maple Syrup Festival and an Independence Day parade.

Apart from being illustrated by Dan Andreasen rather than Garth Williams, this book is much like the original Little House books, with memories of how people used to do everyday work told as vividly as memories of special events. Elementary school readers should be able to enjoy it; if they’re interested in old crafts and old songs, they may enjoy rereading it every year.

Although there are those who think the original “Little House” series (Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, The First Four Years, and some would add On the Way Home, West from Home, and Young Pioneers) was sufficient unto itself, the descendants of Ma and Pa Ingalls preserved enough other family letters and souvenirs to have inspired storybooks about Laura’s mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother as little girls. A certain sense of authenticity has of course been sacrificed: these are reconstructions, not memoirs. Children, however, affirm on Amazon that the additions to the “Little House” collection others have made after Rose Wilder Lane’s lifetime are still good reads.

Maria D. Wilkes, who has outed herself as being known in real life as Maria DiVincenzo, is alive and maintains an historical research web site. Therefore Little Town at the Crossroads is a Fair Trade Book. If you buy it here, for $5 per book + $5 per package, I’ll send Wilkes or a charity of her choice $1 per book sold. That’s more than some Amazon sellers are asking, but if you order four books for a total of $25, you may be ahead financially to buy the books here–and if they’re all by Maria D. Wilkes, she or her charity will receive $4. Payments may be sent to either of the addresses in the lower left-hand corner of the screen.

Here, for Google + purposes, is our Morguefile Book Review Cat:

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Book Review: Colo(u)r Right Dress Right

Book Review: Color Right Dress Right (US), Colour Right Dress Right (UK)

Author:  Liz E. London & Anne H. Adams

Date: 1985

Publisher: Dorling Kindersley (UK), Crown (US)

ISBN: 0-517-55869-6

Length: 96 pages

Illustrations: many color photos

Quote: “Women are instinctively attracted to the colors that most become them.”

The colors that “most become” women have changed with the fashions. The colors agreed to be a woman’s “best” in 1984 might have been agreed to be her  “worst” in 1954. So, is it true that people (not always only women) are attracted to their “best” colors? Often it is; most of us do agree that colors work together to produce certain effects, whether the effect is to emphasize warm or cool tones by combining them, as in 1984 fashion photos, or to “balance” warm and cool tones, as in 1954 fashion photos.

Men who see the full color spectrum, incidentally, relate to color theory in the same way women do, although they’re less likely to talk about it. The gender difference is that a substantial minority of men don’t see as many different colors as the average person does. When bright colors are in fashion for men, these guys can be recognized by the peculiar combinations they wear—orange-red and purplish-red may look like the same shade of brown to them, and green may look like gray. There is undoubtedly a connection between this fact and the fact that, around the time a full spectrum of dyed colors became available in clothing, fashion decreed that only black, white, gray, and blue were suitable colors for men’s business or evening clothes.

Color Right Dress Right came out about the same time Alive with Color and Color Me Beautiful did. Its presupposition that all readers would be women could be considered an advantage or a disadvantage.

Another disadvantage is that, as of 1985, both Carole Jackson’s Winter/Spring/Summer/Autumn and Leatrice Eiseman’s Sunrise/Sunset/Sunlight color classifications were taken. The authors bump along with more literal and traditional descriptions of complexion types. Basically they advise women to choose the same colors Color Me Beautiful recommended. They don’t call a pale ash-blonde reader “a Summer” or “a Sunrise,” but they do advise her to choose soft white, cool pastel colors, beige or grey.

Then they proceed through brief discussions of cosmetic effects, hair styles, figure types, and clothing styles. Being influenced by 1980s fashions, they consistently approve and disapprove of the same effects discussed in Color Me Beautiful, but in less detail.

The “makeover” chapter is a real hoot. Although only four pages are devoted to makeovers, the familiar phenomenon in which fashion experts ruin a plain, decent look can be observed. A model described as “busy mother of five” has a nice easy-care hairstyle and one-piece dress; the only real problem with her “Before” picture is that it’s taken with bright light casting weird shadows on her face. In the “After” picture the hair’s been dried out and broken off, full lips that needed no exaggeration have been turned into pale liver, the simple dress has been replaced by five pieces stacked in four layers, and the woman looks as if she’s gained fifty pounds. (And, can a “busy mother of five” find time to match lots of pieces of clothes? I can’t, and I don’t even have children.)

That was what 1980s fashion, apart from the color effects, was all about: dressing like coltish Diana Spencer and/or like gaunt Nancy Reagan, in styles designed to flatter their peculiar bodies, meant that most of us looked fat. Two of the other makeover victims also look fat in the “After” pictures. The fourth, the only one young and thin enough to model fashions in the U.S., wouldn’t look fat in anything, but her teenybopper look has been upgraded to a college look, rather than the grown-up, businesslike look we’re told she wanted.

It doesn’t have to be this bad, of course. Using the general guidelines in the book and looking in the mirror as you go along can help you avoid becoming as much of a fashion victim as the “makeover” survivors. There are years when women have to choose between buying clothes that make us look fat, and wearing clothes that make us look out of fashion; this book happened to be written during one of them. Apart from that, the fashionable sense of color hasn’t changed, so this book can still be used as a shopping guide, although Color Me Beautiful contains more patches of colors you can match.

Alternatively, if you want to use Color Right Dress Right as a guide to costuming characters for a book, play, or video about the 1980s, it’s a nice, short, simple, mostly pictorial guide. Accurate? Very. For this purpose it’s highly recommended.

A person, or persons, called Anne H. Adams is or are active in cyberspace, and this book is recent enough that there’s no reason to doubt that London and Adams are still alive, so let’s call this a Fair Trade Book. If and when you buy it here, I’ll make an effort to track down London and/or Adams and send $1 for each book you buy to one of them or to a charity of her choice. As usual, send $5 per book + $5 per package to either address in the lower left-hand corner of the screen; you could probably get five copies of this slim book into a package for a total of $30, but I’d still send $5 to the writers and/or their charities–in the case of $5, parcelling out $1 to each.

Morguefile book review cat:

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Book Review: Answers to Life’s Problems

Book Review: Answers to Life’s Problems

Author: Billy Graham

Date: 1960-1988

Publisher: Chicago Tribune / Word / Grason

ISBN: 0-8499-0642-3 (Grason, 1988)

Length: 306 pages plus 6 pages of index material

Quote: “For nearly thirty years I have been writing a newspaper column called ‘My Answer’…My answers are based on what the Bible says.”

My copy of Answers to Life’s Problems was published in the year Billy Graham turned seventy. At the time when I wrote this review, more than twenty years later, the voice of twentieth-century American Protestantism was still alive and still, occasionally, preaching. Some people who buy books from me feel that this fact alone represents some sort of supernatural seal of approval on Graham’s work.

Graham may also be the best known American Protestant minister whose public career has not been marred by scandal. Although the position of this blog is that anyone can choose to avoid the tacky little sins that have discredited so many other preachers, the extravagances and adulteries and desperate bids for attention, I’ll agree that any of us who manage to avoid public displays of tackiness during public careers as long as Graham’s will have had some sort of supernatural help.

Not every Protestant will agree with every one of the interpretations of the Bible that shape this book, but as a general rule, if you want to know what most Protestant ministers would say about a given issue, Answers to Life’s Problems is a good book to consult. There is a great deal of plain common sense in this book; there is remarkably little divisive doctrine.

In fact, so closely does this book reflect the consensus of Protestant opinion that, if you are a Protestant of a certain age, you may feel that this book has little new to tell you. You may find yourself anticipating what Graham was going to tell each respondent and feeling that, in many cases, if you’d memorized the Scripture reference you would have told a young person the same thing.

Then again, if you’ve never given much thought to some of these questions, Answers to Life’s Problems may be a good reference to consult before giving advice.

Most of the common questions that touch on the practice of Christian religion are covered in this book. A few of the answers have a censorious tone, but even in those cases, contrasting the tone of Graham’s answers over time is a valuable study of how we can learn to express firmly held opinions in a modest and compassionate way.

Some of Graham’s Answers to Life’s Problems may surprise Christian-phobics who might imagine that the book would be full of fire and brimstone, judgment and doom. Respondents considering abortion are advised not to consider it. On the other hand, respondents confessing past abortions are advised to trust God’s forgiving love.

I’m particularly favorably impressed with Graham’s courage to print what was becoming bait for terrorist-style violence in the 1980s. Clearly and unequivocally he told a “gay” correspondent: “Homosexual behavior is wrong in God’s eyes, but [God] still loves you.” This is congruent with his advice to others tempted by the sins of the flesh. Nobody is told that carnal indulgence is unpardonable; nobody is told that it’s okay. Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more.”

Far be it from me to suggest that homosexuality is worse than the careless procreation of unwanted babies, the false promises, the sadistic little “mind games” and the physical cruelty, to which heterosexuals are tempted. In some cases it may be less bad. A church where the Bible is sincerely and seriously read will have to welcome homosexuals in precisely the same way it welcomes adulterers, embezzlers, tax cheats, Sabbath breakers, and all the rest of us…without giving the claim that “gay is just as good as straight” any more credence than it would give a claim that “drunk is just as good as sober.”

Moral standards are not brickbats to throw at people’s heads; they are the solid brick foundations of healthy, happy lives. Answers to Life’s Problems is an excellent description of how these foundations are built.

Middle-aged Christians who read this book will find room to expand and update some passages. Because each question and answer originally had to fit into the space of a newspaper column, even though some of the questions suggest situations that call for in-depth counselling, it would be possible for several of Graham’s answers to be expanded into full-length books. It’s even been done. For example, Gary Chapman’s study of The Five Love Languages adds a great deal to Graham’s advice to a “desperate housewife” on pages 43-44.

Some of us may even think of a question that’s not addressed in this book. Anthony Campolo once claimed to have identified Twenty Hot Potatoes That Christians Are Afraid to Touch. Graham does discuss racism in Answers to Life’s Problems (he’s against it), but he offers no further advice for those trying to integrate a church dominated by a different ethnic group.

Anyway, Answers to Life’s Problems is an excellent basic book about the Christian life. It is particularly recommended to two types of readers. One is the teacher, preacher, counsellor, or evangelical Christian who needs a quick roundup of the basic Protestant positions on questions like cheating in business, what to pray about, and whether pets go to Heaven. The basics, with plenty of Bible quotes, are all there.

The other is the person who wonders what Christianity has to say to him or her, perhaps on a subject this person wouldn’t want to discuss with a client or co-worker. If you want to know whether Christian counselling can help you, this book will provide a good general idea of where Christian counselling is likely to lead.

Answers to Life’s Problems sold well and is easy to find secondhand. Billy Graham is alive and directing a staff (including some of his children) to continue writing and even Twittering in his name, although questions were raised, even when “My Answers” was a newspaper column, about the extent to which Graham actually wrote (or even dictated) “his” answers versus supervising the people who did. Therefore, Answers to Life’s Problems is a Fair Trade Book. Send $5 per copy + $5 per package to either address at the lower left side of the screen. We count this as $10 per book, although you could order four copies at one time and pay only $25 total, and will send $1 per book to Graham or a charity of his choice. (Yes, if you ordered four copies for $25, Graham or his charity would get $4.)

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Book Review: Barbie

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Barbie: Four Decades of Fashion, Fantasy, and Fun

Author: Marco Tosa

Author’s publicity page: (he’s also on Linked In and E-Bay)

Translator: Linda M. Eklund

Date: 1997 (Italian), 1998 (English)

Publisher: Arnoldo Mondadori Editore (Italian), Harry N. Abrams (U.S.)

ISBN: 0-8109-4008-6 (English)

Length: 152 pages

Illustrations: lots of color photos

Quote: “Barbie lovers…do not judge her for disappointing their fantasies, but rather cling to the pleasant illusoriness of her trademark shocking pink world.”

Nothing quite like the American Barbie dolls existed before 1959. However, “fashion dolls”–patterns of fashionable clothes with stuffed forms underneath–existed before the realistic “baby dolls” of the early twentieth century. Many of these dolls were hardly built to survive being played with, but Tosa supplies a photo of a jointed, adult-proportioned doll buried with a little girl in a Roman tomb.

Barbie dolls got much of their distinctive look from a novelty action-figure doll, “Lilli,” based on a German cartoon character. The cartoon was not meant to entertain children. During the postwar years when many people in Europe were skinny, Lilli was distinctly plump, because she had a lot of boyfriends. It remained for an American tourist, Ruth Handler, to think of marketing dolls as curvaceous and sophisticated as Lilli to little girls. Her husband Elliot Handler, and his partner Harold Mattson, formed the Mattel toy company, and the busty but wholesome teen fashion model became their best-selling toy.

The collection Tosa photographed for this book features mostly early Barbie dolls, whose resemblance to Lilli was strong. Definitely more sexy than pretty, these dolls had “flirty eyes” that glanced off to the side when the dolls were locked into display stands. Like real models, they were supposed to be wearing flesh-colored body stockings (which, in real life, protect a model’s clothes from contact with sweaty skin), so anatomical features, including toes, were always covered even when the dolls weren’t dressed.

Although Barbie’s waist and thighs were always thin, she was never meant to model anorexia. She was meant to be displayed in elaborate costumes, often many-layered costumes. When clothes were layered around her tapered waist, she acquired the proportions of a large, well-fed woman. Early Barbie outfits were often inspired by European haute couture, and often featured realistically detailed rolled waistbands, belts, and pockets, which added width and depth to Barbie’s figure.

Tosa includes many sketches from the 1960 and 1961 Barbie costume catalogues, often shown in contrast with photos of what the costumes really looked like. In the catalogue Barbie often looked slim, sometimes like a girl with a 34” rather than a 42” bust measurement; sometimes she wore glasses, and her shoes were often sketched as fashionable “flats.” In the round she was top-heavy at best, and her feet were made to lock into high-heeled shoes.

Noting Barbie’s resemblance to pleasingly plump Marilyn Monroe, Tosa empathizes, “It wasn’t easy to dress such an explosive body.” Somehow, on those lipsticked, flirty-eyed Barbies, sweater-and-skirt, blouse-and-jumper school outfits, or the “Barbie-Q” dress with the chef’s hat and apron, just didn’t look the same. Tosa discusses two major commercial influences on Barbie’s wardrobe; her nice-girl looks were inspired by the costumes of Doris Day and June Allyson, while her “evening” fashions showed the European influences of Dior, Givenchy, Chanel, Courreges, Pucci, and Balenciaga.

Barbie has had lots of different jobs. Modelling was clearly only student labor for the world’s busiest doll. Between 1959 and 1997 Barbie had been a registered nurse (before self-demoting to a “Candy Striper” volunteer, to accompany a novel), astronaut, surgeon, Olympic athlete, veterinarian, teacher, rock star, Army officer, police officer, pediatrician, dentist, scuba diver, firefighter, paleontologist, and baseball player. She also ran for President—in 1992, when she probably collected a few write-in votes against Bill Clinton. Barbie has served in every branch of the U.S. military service, has been a stewardess on two airlines, and performed on several TV shows. Tosa doesn’t even count the movie roles on her impossible résumé (Barbie played both Dorothy and Glinda in The Wizard of Oz). In educationese, it’s all meant to help kids act out any and all of their “career” fantasies. In more practical terms, it sells a lot of doll outfits.

Barbie is also a world traveller who collects period costumes from many countries. Unlike most travellers, she changes her face and complexion to suit the country she visits. Japanese Barbie had slightly almond-shaped eyes, high cheekbones, and a tan, and learned to smile with her mouth closed. Indian and Malaysian Barbie had big round brown eyes. Jamaican Barbie had a dark-chocolate complexion and a huge puff of curly hair.

Lilli was, of course, blonde. Marilyn Monroe was blonde. It’s hard to think of Barbie as anything but blonde, but in fact Barbie has had every color and texture of hair that could be imagined. Even in 1959 there were dark-haired Barbies. In the 1960s there were red- and brown-haired Barbies, and Barbies with brown or tan skin tones. There was a grey-haired “Barbie’s Mother” (I owned one). By the 1980s Barbie even had feminist cousins who wore low-heeled or flat shoes.

Tosa doesn’t discuss the mechanical innovations built into more recent Barbie bodies. He cites M.G. Lord’s Forever Barbie, which does. Some Barbies “talk” when a string is pulled, some raise their arms or step forward when a panel is pressed…and then there was the tasteless “Growing Up Skipper.” Tosa gets some points, from me, for not confusing these mechanical effects built into a toy with any statement about actual living women—nobody has reported that any child seriously tried to help a twelve-year-old girl grow faster by twisting her arm, or punch their mother’s back in to help her walk.

Adults conjecture that little girls think they’re supposed to grow up to look like Barbie. I suspect that more little girls think they’re supposed to look like some unlikely but not impossible living woman, of whom they recognize Barbie as a caricature. The party line that shrills that Barbie’s tapered waist made some N.O.W. members insecure, and therefore must have been among the influences that made their daughters insecure, does not give an accurate picture of all the possible ways little girls relate to dolls.

Little girls’ imaginations are less limited by visual effects than some adults think. If I wanted to play mother or teacher, I had no trouble casting my Barbie dolls as children (including the grey-haired one–she was the daring teenager who’d had her hair highlighted with silver, and was likely to do just about anything). More often, during the years when I played with dolls, I used them as action figures… and in fact some of my dolls can’t be passed on to the next generation because they were too badly damaged while living in real tree houses and swimming in real streams. The ones that survived that phase became the human figures in a world of miniature models, eventually dressmaking dummies with heads. A book about Barbie that recognized all these possibilities would be an interesting novelty. Tosa, unfortunately, did not write that book.

The book he’s written basically says “Look at my collection.” He’s a collector; his most active web site is E-Bay. Nevertheless, if you enjoyed playing with Barbie, if images from 1960s Barbie-clothes catalogues would be a nostalgia trip for you, Tosa’s Barbie will take you on that trip. Recommended to all who collect, repair, or dress dolls.

Although this is a big, glossy, expensive-looking sort of book, thanks to Amazon we can offer it for the standard $5 per book + $5 per package, and you could probably fit at least one other book into the package. Out of this total of $10 we’ll send Tosa or a charity of his choice $1 per book if you buy this book from this site.

Ativa at Morguefile contributed this photo of a Barbie doll of the vintage in which Tosa specializes:


Book Review: Prize Country Quilts

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Prize Country Quilts

Author: Mary Elizabeth Johnson (Huff)

Date: 1977

Publisher: Oxmoor House

ISBN: 0-8487-0444-4

Length: 230 pages including index

Illustrations: many full-color photos

Quote: “The people who entered Progressive Farmer magazine’s ‘Joys of Country Living’ Heritage Quilt Block Contest provided…this book of brand-new quilt designs.”

That’s what makes this quilting book special. Some designs are traditional, symmetrical, geometric arrangements, like “Stars and Stirrups” (eight-pointed stars interspersed with half-rings” or “Proud Pine” (yet another stylized tree shape for your collection). Some, like “East Tennessee Farm” and “Our Heritage the Church,” portray landscapes. Then there are a few new, ambitious flower designs; “Jack in the Pulpit” mimics the plant’s asymmetrically curved shapes, and “Summer Leaves” seem traced from real oak leaves.

Some of the designs call for specific colors that would have been hard to find in 1877. “Abundance” relies for its effect on fabrics dyed in the colors of real, fresh vegetables, which are not achievable with vegetable dyes and were neither cheap nor abundant in the nineteenth century. Other designs, like “Lindbergh’s Night Flight” and “Bicentennial,” obviously refer to events of the twentieth century.

Other designs, like “Starflower,” “Wildflower,” and “Sunshine and Stained Glass,” are such natural variations on the (approximately 500) canonical Traditional Quilt Patterns that only people who are familiar with the traditional patterns would notice that these are new variations.

Templates allow every reader to reproduce each pattern, and each pattern is introduced with a few remarks by its designer.

Prize Country Quilts is a pattern book with minimal narrative. If you just want to read about other people’s quilts, this is not the book for you. If you’d rather spend your time planning, cutting, and stitching than reading, you will love Prize Country Quilts.

Mary Elizabeth Johnson, later Mary Elizabeth Johnson Huff, does not seem to be active in cyberspace; Google found two online articles by her, the latest one from 2003. However, in the absence of conflicting evidence, we’ll assume that she’s retired. If you buy this book from this site, by sending $5 per book + $5 per package to either address at the lower left side of the screen, we’ll send $1 per book to Mary Elizabeth Johnson Huff or a charity of her choice.

Just for a change from the cat image, here’s a Morguefile quilt image…


Book Review: A Creative Companion

A Fair Trade Book

Title: A Creative Companion

Author: SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy)

Author’s web site:

Date: 1991

Publisher: Celestial Arts

ISBN: 0-89087-651-7

Length: 80 pages

Illustrations: drawings on almost every page, some in color

Quote: “It is good to read this book lying down, because that is how it was written.”

Like other SARK books, this one is a collection of calligraphy and cartoons, plus poems, quotes, a few photos, an occasional story. SARK lives in, for, with, and of creativity. Her brooks are wacky, goofy, intimate, inspiring, and fun guides for fellow artists.

This one tells us how to shake loose our creative blocks and build castles with them. You’ve probably heard of unblocking yourself by working with your less dominant hand, talking to someone much older or younger than you, or taking a long brisk walk. These techniques work, and SARK tells us about them, but she knows goofier ones too.

“Lying down” and “naps” are mentioned often, for a reason. Sleep deprivation is known to cause that “blocked” feeling. On the other hand, when creative people give our bodies the rest they need, they reward us with inspiring dreams.

When you’re rested, alert, and ready to write or draw, A Creative Companion offers lots of simple, affordable brain teasers to get you started. Some pages are left partly blank to encourage you to answer questions and fill in decorations. Five pages contain scaled-down versions of SARK’s original calligraphy posters; some of the black-and-white pages are suitable for photocopying, enlarging, and embellishing so that you become SARK’s “creative companion” in finishing the posters. (Attention any plagiarists who know how to read: SARK’s style is quite distinctive—if you tried selling these posters as your own, they’d be recognized.)

There are some artistic problems A Creative Companion won’t help you solve, such as thinking of something fresh or original to say on a topic a commercial sponsor has requested…but these techniques will go a long way.

SARK is alive and well and fundraising to help pay for expenses related to her partner’s cancer treatment. If you can possibly afford it, buy her books (this one and as many others as possible) new from to show respect. A Creative Companion is widely available secondhand, so I can resell clean used copies as Fair Trade Books for the usual $5 per book + $5 per package, from which SARK or a charity of her choice will receive $1. But check first; you might find as good a price there.

Book review cat, courtesy of Morguefile:

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Book Review: Welcome Holy Spirit

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Welcome Holy Spirit

Author: Garrie Fraser Williams

Date: 1994

Publisher: Review & Herald Publishing Association

ISBN: 0-8280-0852-3

Length: 365 one-page devotions, 6-page scripture index

Quote: “Spend a year studying everything in the Bible on the Holy Spirit.”

More than 365 Bible passages mention the Holy Spirit. Williams has considered some verses that appear close together as one passage, and some as more than one, to get 365 one-page commentaries. The passages appear in the same order they appear in the Bible. Like most writers who choose Review & Herald Publishing, Williams is a Seventh-Day Adventist minister writing primarily for other Seventh-Day Adventists, to whom this orderly sequence will be natural and easy to follow.

He doesn’t try to address all denominations impartially. There’s what might be called a mainstream view of the Holy Spirit, and what might be called the charismatic view. Adventists take the mainstream view, and Williams writes within that view throughout his book. He does, however, refer to the history and literature of other Christian denominations.

He also makes some typically S.D.A. mistakes. On page 54 Williams cites, as an example of “satanic attack,” the following incident: “A pastor who became depressed was asked, ‘Why don’t you practice what you preach?’” It’s not unusual, Williams continues, for Christian people to find themselves, “for no fault of their own, the objects of insult, suspicion, and ridicule.” It is not unusual for those people, later, to ask their verbal abusers why they don’t practice what they preach. It is unusual in mainstream society, yet quintessentially typical of verbally abusive Adventists, for verbal abusers to call this natural consequence of their actions a “satanic attack.”

Further internal evidence suggests to me that Williams may have been the pastor who received that particular “satanic attack,” or prophetic message, depending on how we look at it. On page 87 William shares what “a pastor” learned from a bout with depression as a symptom of a physical disease. “‘I went in bitterness, int he heat of my spirit; but the hand of the Lord was strong upon me.’—Ezekiel 3:14, NKJV. God’s Spirit does not operate in our lives on the basis of our feelings but rather in response to our willingness.”

There speaks a man who has found the same Great Key Principle I’ve found in depression-as-symptom: Fix facts first; feelings follow. If Williams has never cured or recovered from a depressing disease, and watched the depression, which Positive Thinking never helped, just melt away, he has at least learned something from someone who has.

This book is recommended to mature Christians who know how to read the religious writings of our fellow mortals, comparing each idea against reason and revelation, taking the good ones and leaving the bad ones. Welcome Holy Spirit is the earnest effort of an ordinary fallible mortal. He has taken the trouble to assemble 365 Bible texts that are worth reading comparatively, as a set, whether you bother to read his commentary or not. If you read only the Scripture at the top of each page, this will be an enlightening book for any Christian.

Williams is alive and well; he even has an e-book, also about the Holy Spirit, available on Scribd. Therefore this early work of his is a Fair Trade Book. If you send $5 per book + $5 per package to salolianigodagewi @ yahoo, which we count as a total of $10 even if you order four books and send a total of $25, we’ll send $1 per book to Garrie Fraser Williams or a charity of his choice.

Here, for Google + purposes, is our Book Review Cat from Morguefile:

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