George Smith's blog

Every middle-schooler (and you too) should read this novel

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                 Susan Ross’s book is a “middle grade novel” but I thoroughly enjoyed it myself, and I am a very long way from middle school. Kiki and Jacques, a Holiday House Book, delivers a very important and timely message.

              The story features the arrival of Somali refugees to a Maine town dominated by Franco Americans. A young middle schooler, Jacques, who is involved in a difficult family situation, takes an interest in a Somali girl whose brother, a great soccer player, becomes a rival of Jacques on the playing field.

It’s not a beagle. It’s a Pekingese!

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 Author Leah Haney dedicated her wonderful kid’s book, Muffin’s House, to “every kid who ever fell in love with a dog.” Yup. That would include me.

Well, truth be told, I have loved several dogs in my lifetime. I’m looking at a painting my Dad did of Gypsy Lou, an English setter that pointed the first pheasant I ever shot. We raised, trained, and sold setters, but we kept Gypsy, and she was the best of hunting companions.

I can still see her pointing, in that cornfield at the end of Maranacook Lake, and the pheasant taking off as I raised my shotgun, Dad right beside me, and the pheasant falling to the ground after I shot.

Here are some important places to get info on Lyme disease

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 My wife Linda had two embedded ticks recently, both of which we removed almost immediately. One was a wood tick and one was a deer tick. But one of the spots, three days later, swelled up, so she visited the doctor yesterday and got a mild antibiotic. Lyme disease is a constant threat these days, and to put it mildly, every tick worries us.

The April edition of Maine Woodlands, a publication of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine (SWOAM), contains a great article by Jeanne Siviski titled, “It’s Tick Season. Get to Know Your Adversary.” Jeanne reports that, “The 5- to 14-year old age group, and those over 65, have been most vulnerable” to Lyme disease. Yikes! I’m in one of those groups.

Jeanne notes that deer ticks has a dark brown scutum, or shield, on their back near the head, a telltale sign. “If the deer tick is infected with the Lyme bacteria,” she reports, “it takes 24 to 48 hours to contract Lyme disease. This is why doing daily tick checks is vital.” We do those at our house.

Lots of folks working to expand Maine woods economy

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 The 2016 “Maine Woods Destination Rally” was an interesting and informative event, featuring national speakers and lots of encouraging information about the rural/woods Maine economy. I took 9 pages of notes and could write a dozen columns about it, but here are some of the highlights.

Mike Wilson directs the Maine Woods Consortium, the sponsor of the event, and began by telling us about the Northern Forest Center, in which all of the Northeastern states work together to expand the rural economy. Mike noted that “infrastructure is important” as well as high quality experiences. This year they’ve launched the Maine Woods Discovery Tour, a collaborative media effort in four regions.

Joseph Souza writes another winning novel.

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 Joe Souza has a great imagination, and his new novel, Need To Find You, proves it.  It’s so fast paced that you won’t want to set it aside. I did, after reading just a few chapters, because I had a busy schedule that week, and then I had to start over because I’d forgotten some of the characters and plot twists in a couple of days. You’re going to need to pay attention when you read this one!

There’s plenty of murder and mayhem in this novel, as there is in Joe’s first novel, The Reawakening, which I also enjoyed and which won the 2013 Maine Literary Award for Speculative Fiction. A Portland resident, Joe has written another potential award winner with his new novel.

Did coyotes kill those hikers on the Appalachian Trail in Maine?

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                 Did coyotes kill those two hikers on the Appalachian Trail in Maine? Well maybe they did. And maybe they didn’t. But a lot of people think they did. And you’ll have to read Paul Doiron’s new novel, The Precipice, to find out if they are right.

                If you’ve never read one of Paul Doiron’s novels, you are in for a summer of fun, because he just added novel number six to his group of engagingly fast reads of stories featuring a Maine game warden. And while I enjoyed every one of Paul’s novels, I do think he is getting better and better.

Lower moose densities may reduce deaths by ticks

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 It’s not a certainty, but it seems like a steep decline in the population of moose will reduce the loss of moose from ticks. That’s not particularly good news, if you like to see or hunt moose, but that’s the way it will probably go.

The Associated Press recently reported that, in New Hampshire, nearly 75 percent of the moose calves they tagged this previous winter died from ticks. “In the battle between ticks and moose, the blood-sucking insects seem to have the upper hand,” noted the reporter. A New Hampshire wildlife biologist said, “It doesn’t bode well for moose in the long term if we continue to have these short winters.”

The AP report stated that, “ticks are dependent on a combination of short winters and moose density.” And the New Hampshire biologist stated that, “As our moose numbers decline, the ticks will decline, as well. What we don’t know is what point will things level off.”

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