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Book Bag


By the Hitchcock Center for the Environment

Levellers Press


A little less than four years ago, the Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst began a biweekly column in the Gazette called “Earth Matters: Notes on the Nature of the Valley.” The columns, contributed by a diverse group of writers including Hitchcock Center staff and board members, environmental educators and others, explored an equally broad group of subjects, from fauna and flora to agriculture and local geology.

Now Levellers Press, also of Amherst, has collected over 90 of those columns and added a wealth of photographs, most by Hitchcock Center photographer Rebecca Reid, that nicely illustrate the pieces. For instance, it’s hard not to chuckle at the picture of the beaver, looking straight at the camera, that now accompanies Elizabeth Farnsworth’s July 2012 column about her new neighbor — the one who tends to chop down a lot of trees.

In the new collection, the essays are grouped chronologically within eight chapters that are based on subject matter. That subject matter can be pretty eclectic, Hitchcock Center board member and editor Michael Dover notes, moving weekly from insects to trees to where you might best cop an outdoor nap in these parts.

The Hitchcock Center’s mission is about building a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the environment, a subject Dover addresses in a column he penned in June 2009. He writes about sharing a back-roads walk in Leverett with a clutch of guinea fowl. It’s something that never could have happened had he been driving, he notes, leaving him “glad for the opportunity to meet the world on its own terms.”


By Jessica Lynn Curtis

Tristan Publishing


Three-year-old Jessie has a special love for her grandfather, whom she calls “Papa.” He’s the one who carries her around the house he shares with her and Jessie’s parents; he teaches Jessie the words for the new things she’s discovering, plays catch with her, and charts her height with small marks against the garage door frame.

But one day Papa has to go to the hospital — and he doesn’t come back. Jessie’s parents have to tell their heartbroken daughter that Papa has gone to live in a place called Heaven.

Jessie’s attempt to understand where her grandfather has gone is at the heart of “Papa’s New Home,” by Holyoke writer Jessica Lynn Curtis. The story, colorfully illustrated by Steve Harmon, aims to deliver a message of hope for a child who has lost a loved one. It was inspired by the loss of Curtis’ own grandfather.

In her tale, Jessie, who’s been having terrible nightmares since Papa went away, gets a visit from him one night — a shimmering version of the elderly man, who seems “like he was made of light.” He takes his granddaughter on a visit to Heaven, a place of great beauty and vivid colors where Jessie also meets her great-grandparents and great-uncle, people she never knew.

After Papa takes Jessie back to her bedroom, he explains that he’ll always be with her “even when you can’t see me. ... You can talk to me, and I’ll hear you. And ... if you listen not just with your ears, but with your heart, you’ll be able to hear me, too.”

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