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Posts Tagged ‘Lois Lowry’

Yes, I find crows magical, and I am a fan. Whoa, whoa! OK, all you farmers out there – I see you throwing your hands up in the air with a loud and unified “OY!” But hear me out. Let’s look at these magnificent creatures from three standpoints – science, myth and magic, and personal experience.

First a little science. Did you know that crows and ravens (same family) and macaws have the highest brain to skull ratio of any bird on the planet? In fact, their brain to skull ratio is higher than in humans! This in part accounts for their high intelligence, not to mention they have been on the planet for 60-65 million years.  Crows also have a skill accorded to one of the most intelligent mammals on earth, the great apes, i.e. they create and use tools. Crows also will gather around one of their own when it has died to try and determine the cause of its death. They will  learn the facial configuration of a mean human and teach all other crows to know it as such and avoid that human. When a crow leaves its flock and joins another, it immediately acquires their “dialect” by taking on the characteristics of the most popular crows in that flock. No intellectual slouches, these crows. Learn more about them.

The magic. When I designed my own website a number of years ago, I drew the header for it myself. The header featured none other than the crow, and I have utilized that symbol for my blogs. Why?

Because in certain cultures and mythology, the crow is believed to be the symbol of magic and creativity, something near and dear to every artist’s soul. In some cultures the crow has been the symbol of evil and/or death, juxtaposed against the white of the dove and purity. I don’t see life in black and white terms, and for all their brilliance, I like the crow’s mythology in Native American terms and Crow Medicine. As such, Crow is a guide on the path to spirituality and enlightenment and is the keeper of sacred law. It is said that Crow has known the darkness and when they appear in our lives, may be guides through our own darkness on the path to enlightenment. Granted, these may be mythological ideas, but it can be said that all religious/spiritual beliefs are mythology, just different. I am not arguing that point, just drawn to the many inspiring aspects of the beautiful and intelligent crow.

Personal experience. I have a very deep back porch, and during the day, next to my back door, is a bowl of water and dry food for my neighbor’s cat. I’m working at my computer when I hear a rather loud caw. “That sounds mighty close,” I think. I look out the back door, and there is a good-sized crow pilfering the dry food. She sees me and flies away. Not 10 minutes later, I hear the caw again. I appear and she flies away. Shortly thereafter, out of the corner of my eye, I see a flash of black through the side door window. She has learned in only two incidents that her caw brings me to the door, and now flies in silently. Seeing me again, her next attempt was from a different angle that I could not easily see.

Another time, I hear muted crow noises and slip quietly and unseen to watch four of them on the porch. They are talking amongst themselves and jostling for position, pushing one another away from the cat food bowl. I take their verbiage to mean “Wait your turn” and “Get out of my way.”  It is likely a dominance issue. I knock on the window and they disappear, but I could have watched their antics for hours; they were quite amusing. Now, as a result of this, I have to bring in the dry food for a while.

Occasionally, I will see a crow on my walks or on the fence near the window where I work. I always say hello and am sometimes acknowledged with a look and a “caw”. When a crow -– or any animal – appears unexpectedly and/or repeatedly in my life, I may look into its possible meaning. In the case of a crow, I might be at a crossroads, looking for or ready for a change, and need to pull more on my own intuition. Even if that has nothing to do with the crow, when is it ever a bad idea?

One last thought .. there is so much amazing art regarding crows, among them gorgeous paintings by Susan Seddon-Boulet ( above left), but also in a favorite children’s book, Crow Call by Lois Lowry and revered illustrator, Bagram Ibatoulline.

The natural world is filled with wonder and beauty. Depending on the day, I could happily write about pangolins, pandas, or hammerhead sharks. Today, it’s crows.

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BookOfLife-DHarkness2There’s always a sense of being a bit lost after finishing a fabulous book, not to mention the third and final in a fabulous series. Here I am referring to Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life, the final in the All Souls Trilogy. But couple that with just having seen the movie, Lucy – well, what will I read or watch that will measure up to either of them?

I can tell you the movie it isn’t and that’s August: Osage County. Great cast, but maybe I’m just not in the mood for such a visually dark movie about family dysfunction, drug and alcohol addiction, and suicide. And that was the first 20 minutes. All that was needed to take it out of the DVD player.

Lucy-MovieI searched my many awaiting library sale books – I realized that after Diana Bishop in The Book of Life and Scarlett Johanson in Lucy, I needed to read about another brave heroine, as totally different as those two were. Probably neither this book series nor the movie is for everyone, but both amazed and captured me. (If interested this is a description of Lucy, but it does tell you how it ends, too, and here is Deborah Harkness’ website for more info on the All Souls Trilogy.)

After a search, I came up with Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry, whom I know as a brilliant writer in another venue, picture books. Its book jacket describes it as a companion to The Giver, but it is a story that also stands independent of that book. I’m hoping Kira is the heroine who will further capture my imagination.

p.s. Cheers to our small town library! Not only had our librarian remembered my interest in reading The Book of Life, but she e-mailed me the moment it came in to let me know. When I returned it, I asked if  The Giver by Lois Lowry might be there, and sure enough, it was. With the movie so close to opening, I expected there’d be a waiting list to read it, but this is  small town … and it has its advantages, this one of many.

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CrowCall-Lowry-Ibatoulline2While purchasing novels at ridiculously low prices at book sales is great, books featuring the work of outstanding illustrators simply must be bought new and treasured. In this category, I cannot say enough good things about Bagram Ibatoulline. He has become one of my favorite illustrators over the last few years.

In Crow Call by Lois Lowry, a Newbery Medal winner, Ibatoulline brings to life both the characters and the autumn quiet of the woods and fields of rural Pennsylvania. Liz is the shy daughter reconnecting with her father who’s been gone a long time to war.  They slowly re-establish their relationship with “Daddy” taking Liz out for a very special breakfast and then a trip to the woods where she calls the crows to wake up and come to her. Daddy has brought his gun to hunt, but easily sees where Liz’ heart is. The story itself is touching, but the illustrations are magnificent.

The feel of the woods and the trees, the capturing of the crows in flight, and the beauty in facial expression and body language of Liz and Daddy are just superb.   ScarecrowsDance-JYolenIbatoulline was born in Russia and is the illustrator of many acclaimed books, two of which will welcome Crow Call to my bookshelves, Scarecrow’s Dance and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Toulane. His illustration graces picture and middle grade books of all kinds from fairy tales to history to wonderful stories by some of our best modern day authors and poets.

If you are a fan of brilliant children’s book illustration, Bagram Ibatoulline will certainly inspire and delight you.

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