Book Reviews

Fish Won’t Let Me Sleep by James Babb

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Jim Babb had we worried in the first few chapters of his book, Fish Won’t Let Me Sleep, as he wrote about his obsession with Atlantic salmon, “the fish of 10,000 casts.” I know, I know. Atlantic salmon are so hard to catch that the common description is “the fish of 1,000 casts.” For Babb, sometimes, it’s 10,000 casts. Yet he confessed to being obsessed with Atlantic salmon.

I’ve only caught one Atlantic salmon in my life, when I was brook trout fishing on the Leaf River in far northern Quebec. I fished for them once in the Penobscot River in Bangor, in the 1970s, caught nothing, and moved on.  So I was afraid Jim’s new book was going to focus on a fish I quickly lost interest in.

This Maine farmer tells us how to improve wildlife habitat on our own land

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 A subtitle on John Twomey’s interesting and informative book, Retiring To, Not From, reports that it includes, “Intimate details of life on a remote farm in Maine.” And that is certainly true.

The level of detail about farming will be of interest to anyone who grows vegetables and fruit, but what intrigued me was John’s explanations of how he has improved wildlife habitat on the Montville farm of he and his partner Leigh, since retiring there in 2009. This former U. Mass. Professor is, to put it mildly, really into farming and wildlife!

From pruning hundreds of apple trees to planting thousands of white and chestnut oaks to mowing his fields and brushy areas in a way that most benefits wildlife, John gives us lots of great ideas about how all of us who care about Maine’s wildlife from birds to deer, can help them survive and thrive here.

We should be so lucky as to celebrate our birthday on a Maine island!

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 The mail plane from the mainland hasn’t arrived for days, due to bad weather, and young Riley is getting very anxious, awaiting a birthday package from his grandmother. “If we lived on the mainland then I’d get to have a normal birthday,” he tells his Mom, “with a bunch of kids my age and presents from a toy store.”

Well, yes, there is that, but life on an island is idyllic, although it might be hard to convince Riley of that. He doesn’t even have milk for his cereal, because they are all out and won’t get more until the plane arrives.

As time goes by, Riley’s neighbors step up to make sure he enjoys all that island life offers, from a night swim in the dark when there was phosphorescence in the water, to walking on a deserted beach and finding a perfect moon shell. Riley spends time with a local lobster lady, a phone line worker, and Harv, a local guy who is seen painting a truck bright colors.

Everything you want to know about vernal pools and estuaries – in wonderful childrens’ books

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 The Secret Pool and The Secret Bay by Kimberly Ridley are cleverly written and beautifully illustrated books, with poetic stories that appeal to younger kids, factual sidebars for older kids, and additional information that is both interesting and informative.

The Secret Pool, which won many awards, was published by Tilbury House in Thomaston in 2013. It’s all about vernal pools, those special habitats that are so important to so many critters, from spotted salamanders to wood frogs. I loved this description of wood frogs in the sidebar to the story: “Wood frogs survive the winter in an amazing way. They crawl under the leaves and freeze into frogsicles.” Yummy!

I enjoy hearing the wood frogs in the early spring. Follow their calls and you may find your own vernal pool. We have several vernal pools in my Mount Vernon neighborhood, including one big one in my woodlot, and I thought I knew a lot about them until I read this book. The book is actually an excellent guide for a walk around the forest in your neighborhood.

Flyfisher’s Guide to New England by Lou Zambello

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 Lou Zambello’s new fly fishing guide is astonishing, covering 650 rivers and streams and 500 lakes and ponds throughout New England. As Lou notes in the introduction: “What is included are the best and most popular (not always the same thing) fisheries… (and) lesser known waters that we have fished.”

The best part of the book, Flyfisher’s Guide to New England, for me is that it brought back many wonderful fishing memories. Yes, I have fished in quite a few of the Maine waters featured in this book. And while Lou gave away many of my favorite waters, I am grateful he didn’t include some of my very favorite places, all of which I would put in a category of “lesser known waters.”

Great review by Paul Reynolds of my Maine Sporting Camps book

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 Maine Sporting Camps

 

By V. Paul Reynolds

 

 

Widow-Maker will keep you up at night!

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 Paul Doiron is an awesome story teller, and no more so than in his new novel, Widow-Maker. And all of his novels have a bit more interest for those of us who love the outdoors, because his main character, Mike Bowditch, is a Maine game warden.

Somehow Paul, former editor of Down East magazine, has mastered the art of dialogue. And it is an art form. Great dialogue makes his stories race by, and his plots keep you up at night. Well, most of the time. I was nearing the end of Widow-Maker while Linda and I were at our camp in the north woods, when she said, “You know, it’s 10 pm.”

Yikes! I usually go to be at 8:30. But I only had 40 pages to go in the novel, and boy, it was a tough decision to set the book down and go to bed. But I did, and what a great way to finish the book, with my morning coffee, looking out the camp window at Sourdnahunk Lake and a beautiful sunny day.

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