FOREST CAPER Review!

A powerful story where animals fight for what they believe in!”

ANIMALS BREAKING BOUNDARIES

The Beautiful Treasure that Lives Within the Forest

An ordinary day in the forest home of Shelby F. Squirrel and his good friend, Petra, begins with a beautiful sun-kissed morning, complemented by the pleasing tunes of the melodious forest birds. Without warning, this glorious scene is suddenly disturbed when Shelby and Petra notice the presence of two strange men wandering through the forest with extensive curiosity and wonder. We were stricken with eagerness to understand what their purpose actually was, optimistic that their presence in the forest has good-willed intentions. But does it really?

Initially, the 2 men appear to be merely exploring the parameters of the forest territory in attempts to capture some fascinating, or perhaps intriguing, photographs of the life dwelling within it; however, Shelby and Petra are all too familiar with the forest and everything passing through, therefore, find their presence to be more than odd and peculiarly unusual. Shelby and Petra, being the daring adventurous flying squirrels they are, make the decision to follow the humans’ every move in an effort to find out more information. Ominous blue X’s appear on the trees a few days later. Shelby and Petra seek out the Wise Old Owl, one of the most dependable leaders of counsel in the forest!

Surprisingly, when Shelby informs the Wise Old Owl about the direful ordeal and the blue X’s, he too, is unsure of what, how, and why the men are in the forest, leading Shelby F. Squirrel to propose escalating the dilemma to Charlie, the friendly old farm horse. And boy, is Charlie a haystack of laughter, even though he is practically senile, slow in movement, and monotone in tonality and expression. Charlie, like the Wise Old Owl, also displays a gift for wisdom and knowledge, and they sure are in need of it!

When Charlie learns of the news, he can’t help but find the two men’s invasive presence a bit unnerving and makes it his personal responsibility to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity. But this calls for everyone’s eyes and ears to get involved, so they arrange for a meeting involving sundry animals at Charlie’s cousin’s farm where Goldie, a stunning caramel-colored Palomino has some helpful and devastating information to share. One thing we have found when it comes to Eleanor’s brilliant tactics in writing is how she manages to keep you on edge, masterly interweaving suspenseful foreshadowing effects in each chapter that ultimately produce rising action and valuable meaning – quite similar to many familiar classic Disney films and stories.

In this particular scene, Goldie is reluctant to tell her friends what she knows, afraid of breaking their poor innocent hearts. But after Marvin F. Mouse practically forces her to expose what she knows, she recalls seeing the same blue X’s once before where she used to live. She explains how it wasn’t too long after seeing the mysterious blue X’s that all of the beautiful trees were chopped down! Well, this certainly isn’t the news Shelby or any other animal in the forest or on the farm wants to hear. Even so, now that they know what they are possibly up against, they are determined to stop any threat or danger that could inflict harm upon their lives. At this point in the story, things are progressing rapidly!

Fueled with courage and audacity, Shelby, Rusty, Marvin F. Mouse, Goldie, Charlie, and several other farm animals make it their mission to organize the forest animals to help keep a close watch out for anything unusual– as Marvin F. Mouse courageously expels; “we need to be ready to fight for our homes if it comes to that!”. And indeed, the animals are more than prepared!

Considering the elements of storytelling, we believe it is a superb idea for Eleanor to display the emotional attachment the animals possess with the forest, as this is a realistic fact that enhances her story and encourages us to consider animals in a more humanized perspective. This aspect magnifies the pertinence of all animals’ natural habitat to their livelihood and well-being and also teaches a younger audience that even though animals are not human, they can still feel…and think! Very important! In essence, one thing you wouldn’t put past animals after reading this book (if you already have) is intelligence! And now it is time for all of the animals to show off their forest wits! This includes Sultan, the fearless and courageous rooster, and some other friends from the farm. Shelby explains everything that is happening to Sultan and his heart is instantly instilled with confidence when he hears the triumph and victory in Sultan’s voice, as he assuredly declares; We can’t let the forest be cut!” and “there are ways to keep that from happening!” Of course, at this point you can’t wait to find out – how??? What do the animals have strong and powerful enough to keep the powerful humans away? Well, their first ingenious strategy is to work jointly in attempts to stir up some serious commotion. Their goal is to produce enough madness to deter the humans from doing anything further to the forest, and in the words of Charlie; they are really declaring war!

In this chapter, we genuinely admire Eleanor’s savvy way of teaching her audience about the animals she is including in the story. For example, in one segment, Petra gives Shelby a lesson about skunks when she says to him; “The skunks aren’t afraid of us! They only spray if they are threatened”; indeed, a factual statement (if you aren’t already familiar with skunks and their natural defense mechanisms). It is the small, but major implementations such as this, that add great detail and an ‘educational’ touch to the story in an amazingly creative way, another classic signature of the author that captivates the reader(s)!

As we continue in the story, it is now time for the animals to put their plan into action! And with a pack of skunks prepared to release their harsh odor, expert robin dive-bombers above in the trees, furious flapping swans, busy, busy biting mice, and an army of various other animals, their chances are looking rather victorious!

The next day, when the 2 men return to the forest, they follow through with everything discussed in the meeting. Merry Robin manages to fluster the men while Billy Goat manages to knock one of them right on his behind! This sends the men racing back to their truck and away from the forest for the day! Their plan has proven to work. Whether or not they are gone for good remains a lingering question in the back of Shelby’s mind, but life, at least for the moment, resumes back to normality, giving them all the opportunity to observe, appreciate, and soak in the forest’s tranquil beauty! That is, until the truck makes a second appearance, and this time, instead of blue X’s, the men are spraying yellow X’s on the young tree trunks, which is nothing more than a signal for war time for the animals! So, as the men are spraying, Marvin and his relatives make their way through the bottom of the invaders’ jeans and gnaw away at their calves, causing the humans to flee right back to their truck – and boy, are they met with a vile and repugnant odor, thanks to the skunk volunteers!

It is important to note that Shelby really stands out in this book with distinct features of courage, leadership, and enthused passion, he was definitely our favorite character. Moreover, though the incident affects the animals, emotionally (rightfully so!), it is undeniable that their earnest teamwork is harmoniously uniting the entire forest, which we found to be fantastically powerful and inspirational! This particular theme/idea is a world-wide vision necessary to sustaining all forms of life. Great point to embed within the storyline, Eleanor!

Now, back to the action! Even though the men are gone, the animals can’t help but wonder what they are to face next if the humans return for a third time. And indeed, they return…this time with even more humans! Cameramen, a news anchor, and more people crowd the forest. Eyes grow big and shock is instant as the animals set sight on the “frightful monster wobbling precariously atop a huge flatbed truck”, and to make matters even worse, it is accompanied by a miniature version, too! First, cameras and humans, now a monstrous leviathan? What’s next? The mechanical Tyrannosaurus Rexes (tree-cutting machines) are surely bigger than the animals. So, the animal troops, being the bravehearts of the forest, proceed to execute their mission of sabotage, pouring their zealous hearts and minds into ruining the sinister machines as best they can. Apparently, the animals’ well thought-out schemes are only drawing the interest of the humans more, because with every victory accomplished, the TV News Crew and more humans return, seemingly with an even deeper interest than before! And when the men try to start up the Tyrannosaurus Rex, they find it deliberately ruined beyond measure and their means of transportation smothered in disgusting skunk slime! After witnessing the destruction, one of the people assertively admits that there is something definitely strange about the forest…and the animals that reside in it.

In this very moment, someone else notices the owls up above perfectly perched in the tree, almost as if they are spying on the entire scene! An even more concentrated focus on their surroundings forces all of them to behold the other farm animals lurking in the midst of trees and bushes! The very thought of this would be disconcerting, we imagine. Distraught and bewildered, one of the men collides with Billy, provoking him to charge straight for the frightened man! But before Billy can get the chance to attack, Shelby pleads for him to refrain, finally taking into account the advice of Charlie, who had previously expressed the fact that the animals should have confirmed, first, what the 2 men are actually up to before taking anything further; for in all reality, as much as they all felt threatened by the humans’ presence, none of them, not even the Old Wise Owl, was technically sure if the people’s intentions were good or bad.

With this in mind, they all agree to steer clear of the people and the mechanical gigantic Tyrannosaurus Rex until they see something that really gives them a reason to charge. And sure enough, the humans give them reason, and a good one at that! When the animals spot men with chainsaws uncaringly sawing away at trees, Billy doesn’t hesitate to send one of the tree-choppers flying right into the air! We couldn’t help but to find some humor in this! Furthermore, to intensify this, when the men run for escape, they’re confronted by many more furious animals of the farm and forest, driving them away. Mission accomplished, again!

The next day, the men return, but only to collect their mechanical monster machines. None of the animals has seen the TV truck or the humans since the last dramatic spectacle occurred. Could it be true? That the forest is actually back to normal, at last? Well, we won’t speak too soon…because it isn’t too long before the TV truck, with a fleet of vehicles following behind, returns to the forest. The anxiety, panic, and dread flooding both Petra’s and Shelby’s hearts is unbelievable, but in the blink of an eye becomes vigorously shadowed by the all too familiar laugh of Charlie.

As Shelby inches closer to the area of chattering and noise where he hears Charlie, not only does he (and the other animals) discover Charlie, safe and comfortable with the crowd, but also several other farm animals right along with the farmer! Instant relief falls upon them and we are just as relieved as Shelby when the story reveals there was no harm or damage to be done in the forest.

The story unfolds that the true reason for the intense commotion and uprising in the forest was due to the hazardous decision to begin cutting down the trees, and the opposition conservancy groups expressed in reaction to this objectionable plan. Thankfully, the uproar of the people along with the media and news coverage prevents this from happening. So, with confirmation that the forest is safe, the animals can finally enjoy a peace of mind -and a peaceful night!

Author Eleanor Lawrie finishes this remarkable animal escapade with an exceptional scene that pays tribute to the great flying squirrels, like Shelby and Petra, by having humans implant a post board into the ground looking towards the road for all those passing by to see! But what the sign actually says is the best part! Shelby and friends gather round this wondrous post with curious eyes, mesmerized at the inscribed letters that read, “Flying Squirrel Sanctuary”, simply wonderful!

In summary, it is nearly impossible to deny the delight one receives from reading the extraordinary adventures of Shelby F. Squirrel and friends, by Author Eleanor Lawrie! Her work consistently evokes admiration and the concrete detail and sheer layers that she carefully uses to interconnect each chapter to the next are flawless! It is also extremely relevant for us to note the impeccable presentation which she distributes in her writing, effectively stirring up emotions by use of invigorating power words, lucid and realistic descriptions, well-established characters with real personalities, and influencing narration; for Eleanor proves to be efficient in executing storytelling strategies that ensure an engaging experience for children! We would recommend this book to all and hope that everyone has a chance to enjoy this active, amusing, entertaining, and intellectual read, as our audience has! This story of teamwork, hope, and courage will inspire you to do more than just stand up for what you believe in, it motivates you to be prepared, brave, and take action! And that is exactly what Shelby F. Squirrel and his amazing forest friends do! Way to go and kudos!

****What a great story for animal lovers and also environmentalists!****

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Taste of BOOK 3

First, just to explain the characters for you: Nikita is a Whippet/Lab mix who has become friends with the forest dwellers. She is a very special dog and there will chapters devoted to her, and some of her particular talents. Virginia is a white Flying Squirrel whose family has very recently moved into the Flying Squirrel Sanctuary. And she has disappeared! Shelby and Petra are mates as are Darby and Peter F Squirrel. Marvin is a Field Mouse and is Shelby’s BFF. The rest, I hope, are self-explanatory because of their names, just a few of the many friends in the neighbouring forest and farm.

Excerpt from Book #3 in the Shelby F Squirrel Series of books for children, and photo of the real Nikita, the inspiration for the character in the book:

 

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Chapter 6

Nikita raced through the trees, tongue hanging out. She reached Shelby’s nest tree feeling exhausted. It seemed like nobody was home. Calling up to him and Petra produced no response.

Then Rosie Robin flitted by Nikita’s nose, alighted beside her and explained, “I’ve been looking for Shelby! Petra’s having her babies! If you see him, send him right home! NOW!” And she darted off upward to be with Petra.

Nikita turned and started walking in a widening circle to find Shelby, but almost immediately spotted him soaring toward home, so she went back to be among the first to congratulate the new parents.

In that short time, it was all over! Shelby darted into the nest as Rosie flew out with the news.

“Two babies, both girls!” she trilled, almost beside herself with the excitement of it. “Petra says their names are Mimi and Pip.

“Nikita, let’s start telling everyone!”

“Okay, why don’t you tell the Wise Old Owl first? I’ll go find Marvin!!”

Nikita forgot why she had rushed through the trees to find Shelby in the first place.

Marvin was drowsing just inside his burrow entrance. He liked to get a little air and sunlight and take a nap occasionally in that healthy warmth. If he was caught doing that, he found it embarrassing, because he thought it made him look old.

Nikita saw right through his pretentions. “Oh, hi Nikita, I was just about to leave. What’s up?” he said with a slight yawn. Nikita smiled and humoured him with her reply.

“What a lucky coincidence, Marv,” she replied, “I’ve come to tell you that Petra had her babies!!”

That woke him up! He started running, but Nikita caught up and said, “For heaven’s sake, hop on my back, silly! I can get you there a lot faster!”

On the way they passed the burrow where the skunk family now lived and the tree where Molly and Polly Raccoon had their nest. The skunks were sleeping as was their habit during the day, but were happy to be wakened with such lovely news.

Molly and Polly first headed to tell their parents, Ringtail and Lottie, then dashed toward Shelby’s tree, where there was a crowd building.

Petra’s beaming smile greeted them when they climbed up to the nest. The babies were so tiny!

Shelby was crouched in the corner in absolute awe.

“But they have no fur!” he said in a shocked whisper. “And their eyes are shut!”

“Oh, for goodness’ sake, Shelby! That’s how baby flying squirrels always look when they’re newborns!” said Petra, gently chiding him. “They’re fine, look how hungry they are!” Mimi and Pip were nursing lustily as Petra lay back looking so contented Shelby though his heart would burst with happiness.

“You need to attend to all the friends who have come to see our new babies,” Petra said softly. “I’m fine, and I’ll visit with anyone who can make it up here.”

She looked closer into his eyes and added, “And you better get used to the way our babies look! Their eyes will be closed for quite a while. It’s perfectly normal. I’ll be nursing them for 8 weeks, then soon after that we’ll be teaching them to fly. Just think how much easier it will be with both of us to do that, than is was for our mothers! I don’t know how they managed totally on their own!”

It had all happened so fast that even her mother and Shelby’s were just arriving. They breathlessly appeared at the nest hole, and soon all three were chattering happily. The babies were sleeping by the time they made room for Rosie and Marvin to peek in.

Petra nudged them carefully into a little bundle and turned to chat with her happy friends.

Both her mother and Shelby’s were ecstatic to see the babies. Soon is was obvious that they would compete for time spent with the little ones.

That’s when Darby poked her nose into the middle of the group and said loudly, “Well, I’m next, everyone. Peter and I are soon going to parents too!”

She showed her round belly proudly, looking like she might burst with pleasure. Peter arrived and echoed his joy. That’s when Nikita started barking loudly, interrupting the celebratory party that was going on.

“What on earth is the matter, Nikita?” Rosie flew down to ask her. “Goodness me, calm down. This is a happy occasion!”

“Rosie, I can’t believe I forgot why I was headed over here in the first place! There’s a truck parked at the forest edge. And I got the scent right away. Rosie, we have to follow that truck and see whether it has something to do with Virginia disappearing!” Nikita was totally upset by now. She hadn’t ever become sidetracked when trying to get a job done. Rosie could see the disbelief on her face and felt instantly sorry for her.

“Nikita, don’t be so mad at yourself! We’ll get organized right now! I’ll go and get a couple of the owls. They need to know about Petra’s babies too. I just can see the huffy reaction we’ll get to be this late with the news!” And off she flew on her mission, while Nikita heaved a sigh of relief.

 

(Note: There’s a lot going on in the Flying Squirrel Sanctuary, as this little sample shows. This is just a first draft, but it gives you some idea of the action that is being  packed into the story.)

Latest 5 STAR REVIEW!!

If you’ve ever underestimated a flying squirrel,

this book will surely change your mind!” – Realistic Poetry International

A Flying Squirrel with No Limits

There’s A Lesson For Every Story

This fantastic children’s book shares twenty-four fun and valuable adventures of Shelby F. Squirrel, who is the main character. These humorous and imaginative episodes inspire learning and make reading fun and lively for a bright youthful audience who is unafraid to journey with a furry, fast, and flying playful creature!

Firstly, we must note how the stories include important lessons that are excellent for children and young people (especially our children audience who absolutely loved the book!).

This concept is extremely important to consider when writing children’s literature, because in doing so, the reader(s) can successfully benefit from the best of both worlds, which usually involves both intellect and entertainment. Moreover, this is a book in which readers can actively get involved, as most episodes provoke meaningful relevant questions and incite a variety of common core values, morals, & principles distinct to humans, that are identifiable and also relatable to the masses.

We were really surprised to find the that the creative storyline taught us a lot about squirrels, both indirectly and directly. And Shelby’s no ordinary squirrel, nope! He is a nocturnal flying squirrel who has the power to glide high in the sky, and he’s not alone. It is him, his twin sister, Darby, and their mother who takes care of them and does her best to keep them out of trouble.

But Shelby’s adventures are not merely limited to only the forest. The stories of his life are packed with energizing animation and lots of unexpected fun! They cleverly include realistic depictions of emotions, portraying instances of bravery, happiness, curiosity, wonder, love, innocence, happiness, worry, and even fear, like in the story “Shelby In The Dark”.

Now, it’s time for Mother F. Squirrel to teach another lesson, and this time, it’s a flying one! Butwhen she tells Shelby that it is time for him to learn how to fly in the night under the full moon, he is finally forced to confront his hidden fear of ‘ the dark’. Nonetheless, while he is up in the tree resisting the urge to fly, he suddenly comes face-to-face with a Wise Old Owl (with very strange eyes!) who tells Shelby that he can fly and that he can see in the dark. Right after the owl tells him this, he flies, and he does it very well!

It is an exciting moment when this happens and you feel proud for Shelby. The story about his night flying lesson teaches young people to believe in themselves and to be brave when facing fears. It also shows how some people (or creatures, like the wise owl) appear in your life to help you overcome certain problems that seem really big at first, but are actually not so bad once confronted. We were all happy that Shelby met the old wise owl and was finally able to fly in the dark!

Did you know that awesome flying squirrels like Shelby go to school? We sure didn’t before reading this book – and before you gasp in disbelief, it turns out that Shelby isn’t the actual student in this episode. Instead, he ends up right in the middle of some schoolchildren after wandering off to follow the aroma of peanuts. And after eating too many he falls asleep, only to wake up bewildered and lost, distracted by the sound of children’s voices. This is the moment when we realize why the name of this episode is called “Shelby Goes to School”. His wild chase for peanuts had led him straight to a school where he is surrounded by young children. What an adventure!

Luckily, a nice crossing-guard finds him and leads him back to the forest where he is relieved to see his mother and sister again. The key lesson in this story is important to all children: always pay attention to your surroundings and be cautious of wandering too far from home, especially without your parents!

When we read the title “ Shelby Goes Camping”, we thought it was a bit funny since he and his family already lived in the forest. After reading all of the adventures Shelby has had so far, it is safe to say that he will have a lot of fun…or get into a really big mess! And sure enough, a mess it is! He meets a new friend, Marvin F. Mouse, who takes Shelby on a tour, showing him all of the ‘human’ stuff used for camping. Everything is smooth and dandy until the mouse convinces Shelby to enjoy some of the sweet oats from the humans’ food, and when Shelby does, the bag tumbles over, causing humans to walk right over to where they are – but thanks to speed and Shelby’s ability to fly, they make a clean and successful getaway!

Shelby gets into a lot of trouble, as you can see, but is awesomely fun!

Above all, the author cleverly implements key concepts that instill and reiterate traditional core values to help distinguish right from wrong, magnify family and friendship, and explore the depths of fun and adventure. Author Eleanor Lawrie’s collection of Shelby adventures is truly a classic and should be a television series, as it would be very successful! It is a great book for families, children, and even adults, if you enjoy reading animated children’s fiction! Through intense energy and vivid imagination, author Lawrie skillfully illustrates a series of episodes that provide an exceptional reading experience every single time you turn the page; and with refreshing detailed accounts of Shelby’s extraordinary life, you will never grow bored and will easily grow attached to Shelby, his family, and friends!

It is our honor to present this book with a 5 Star rating! Author Eleanor Lawrie knows how to tailor a story just for children.

At Realistic Poetry International, we believe that there is no better way to receive pure honest feedback other than obtaining real thoughts, opinions, and feedback from the actual source, which this book was specifically intended for, children. With that being said, the basis of this review was developed and written with the inclusion of direct feedback and thoughts originating from a small group of children, ages ranging from 8-10 years old.

SHELBY Book # 3, a Snippet

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A third book in my SHELBY F SQUIRREL series!!

Here is the first part of Chapter 1:

CHAPTER 1

Sunlight poured into the nest hole as Shelby F. Squirrel reluctantly stirred from a deep sleep. It was the middle of March, trees were still bare, and the snow was fast disappearing. The air was fresh, with a definite feel of Spring just around the corner. He rubbed his eyes and blinked.

Petra was already up, busy tidying the corner where winter supplies were stashed.

“How are you?” Shelby asked as he yawned, always concerned for her. She had told him there would soon be babies in their little home.

“I’m fine, fit as a fiddle!” she answered with a bright smile. Petra felt like the luckiest flying squirrel in the whole world. Unlike other females about to become mothers, her man was still with her. Shelby wanted to be there for her and their babies, and he was looking foward to being a father. He told her it was about time someone changed things. Deserting her was out of the question.                                         

* * * *

“Quick! There’s a call for help from someone,” cried Rosie Robin. She arrived breathless at the nest where Shelby and Petra lived. Suddenly Shelby was wide awake.

“Who? Where?” Petra wanted to know.

Shelby just said, “Let’s go!”

Rosie led the way. At a far edge of the forest, beside a field stubbled with remnants of last year’s corn, they found a pair of flying squirrels they hadn’t met before.

“I’m Red,” said the bigger of the two, “and this is my mate, Sal. We’re missing one of our children!” Red was large for a flying squirrel and his coat had a hint of a reddish tone. His face was pinched with worry.

“She’s lost, we don’t know what happened!” said Sal, who was close to a full-blown panic attack. She was smaller, with typical gray predominating her thick fur. Petra moved closer to Sal to try and calm her, and the two males went a short distance away to talk. Rosie stayed with Petra and Sal, making soft chirpy sounds as she shook her head sadly.

A smaller form snuggled close to his mother. Sal introduced them to her son, Edward . He looked very glum, and Sal explained how much he missed his sister.

Just out of hearing range of the ladies, Shelby said, “Hello, Red, I apologize for not making you and your family welcome! We try to be more friendly than that here.”

“Oh my, don’t worry,” Red replied. “We’ve only been here three days! Let me explain.

“Our two children are almost a year old. Edward has fur like mine but Virginia’s is white! A lot of the animals where we were living weren’t nice to Virginia. They laughed and pointed and played tricks on her. She used to cry herself to sleep every night! Edward couldn’t even cheer her up. Now he blames himself for letting her get lost.

“Everybody we’ve met here has been very kind, and Virginia was beginning to respond. Then yesterday she just disappeared!”

Sal had joined them by now, “We’re so worried and we don’t know where to begin!” she wailed. Petra and Rosie had not managed to calm her at all. They stayed where they were looking at each other with grim expressions, talking softly, trying to find a way to help.

Red told them they had last seen Virginia around noon the day before. She had ventured out on her own, and actually Red and Sal had felt relieved to see her do so. Hiding in the nest wasn’t healthy for a young squirrel. She needed to get out.

But she had never come home, and they had searched and called her name until they were near exhaustion. Asking for help was admitting defeat, but this was their child!

Meet My Daughter, KIRA BRAUN

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This is the BIO from Kira’s website: http://kirabraunsoprano.instantencore.com/web/bio.aspx

I grew up in a family full of musicians and artists, and have been a singer ever since I can remember.  My father, William (Bill) Richard Braun went to Opera School and subsequently sang many comprimario roles with the Canadian Opera Company, and his brother Victor was a world-renowned Baritone.   My mother, Eleanor (Braun) Lawrie, was with the Hamilton Philharmonic, and subsequently the Niagara Symphony, as Principal Flute.  How very fortunate, to have such musical roots.     I would be remiss not to mention how much I admire my talented cousins, Russell and Adi Braun…I have big footsteps to follow….  and this feeds my desire to learn as much as I can and to improve more and more each year.

The CCOC was where it all started; I will never forget being part of the 1975 production of “I Pagliacci” with the Canadian Opera Company.  It ignited a passion in me!

in-pagliacci

My Choral background is steeped in Church Music, from Trinity United Church Choir (Lloyd Bradshaw, Toronto) to The Ridley Singers (Michael Tansley, St. Catharines), St Thomas Anglican Church Choir (David Marsden, St Catharines), Knox Presbyterian Church Choir (Ken Hutton, St Catharines), and most recently, 5 years in The Orpheus Choir of Toronto under the brilliant baton of Robert Cooper.

A high school vocal music class with the wonderful Theresa (Monaghan) Pothier was a terrific learning ground, with two great opportunities to lead our Musicals as Yum-Yum in the Mikado and Nellie in South Pacific.

From there I also participated with Garden City Productions, in “Ragtime to Riches” and “Gershwin First Person” with Tom Inglis and Ross Inglis on duelling pianos.  These two shows were choreographed by the fantastic Diane Nyland-Proctor.

columbus-concert-band-june-2016

I have sung various Church Solos and weddings and would love to do more of this.  In particular, I aspire to sing Oratorio works, and to become more involved in the Opera community, something that is already happening!

2013 found me preparing for my first operatic lead role, as Frasquita in Toronto City Opera’s February 2014 production of Carmen ~ it was a dream come true!

A lucky event re-introduced me to Peter Krochak, a fantastic pianist who also studied voice with Mrs. Pothier.   We were destined to work together and since 2014 have released 3 CD’s!  We hope you will listen to our ‘Beautiful Memories’, a rendition of Maurice Ravel’s “5 Greek Folksongs”, sung in Greek, and ‘Exult, Rejoice!’ featuring Mozart’s “Exsultate, Jubilate” and 5 selections of Schubert Lieder, including the famous “Gretchen am Spinnrade”, both done in 2014.   In 2015, we were pleased to release (and perform) another CD entitled ‘Of Love and Nature’, a compilation of Art Songs by Faure, Rachmaninoff, and Schubert, this time featuring “The Shepherd on the Rock”, along with Carlos Melendez on Clarinet.

It is such a pleasure to work with Peter, as his beautiful piano accompaniment is always sensitive to timing and so very musical in his interpretation.   Thanks also to Brahm Goldhamer who spent many hours with me preparing ~ as our Artistic Advisor!

In November of 2014 I sang my debut as a soloist in two Cantatas, appearing with Choralis Camerata in St. Catharines.  The works, fittingly chosen for St. Cecilia’s Day, were Britten’s ‘A Ceremony of Carols’ and Bach’s ‘Wachet Auf’.  In 2016, as guest soloist with the same group in Charpentier’s Midnight Mass for Christmas and Rutter’s Gloria, I was also thrilled to sing Mozart’s Alleliua accompanied by strings, in this case an excellent quartet. This fine choir, directed and conducted David Braun (no relation),  performs to full houses and deservedly so!

In February of 2015 I performed my role debut as Oscar in Verdi’s ‘Un Ballo in Maschera’ with Opera by Request, and have since also performed the role of Barbarina in ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’, with Toronto Summer Opera Workshop, as well as the role of La Suora Infermiera in ‘Suor Angelica’, with Oshawa Opera.   2016:  I have just completed my first appearance with a full orchestra, with Tryptych Opera and Cathedral Bluffs Symphony Orchestra for their fully staged production of Gianni Schicchi, in which I sang the role of Nella.
After an exciting summer of 2016 in which I visited Busseto, Italy with Operavision Academy and had an opportunity to sing for Maestro Richard Bonynge, I am so very thrilled for what is coming next in 2016 and into 2017!

Now What?

I have a need to put a few words here, if for no other reason than to get them out of my brain.

My whole being is in shock after last week, Nov 8. And I’m not even in the USA.

Do we not remember what war, hate, division, and non-acceptance have done to people all through history?

And every bit of it was the result of hate or distrust of another person’s or country’s religion, ethnicity, a fear of anything new or different, coupled with an overall lack of kind, humane love to all creatures.

The other factor is simply that power corrupts. It could be said that a person entering into office intends to be the epitome of goodness and benevolence, but the ego turns all those intentions sour and what takes over is sheer greed, elimination of any possible usurpers, and absolute tyranny.

History repeats itself. It’s a frightening thought right now, and much too close for comfort.

You Mean Little Old Me?

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You Mean Little Old Me?

It’s pretty exciting to hear myself say, “I’m an author!” while I hand someone my business card. Can it actually be true? Who gave me such an illustrious title, anyway? Maybe it happened once I printed the cards; in any event it crept up on me. But I like it, it’s new, and it’s fun. I think.

I began writing for pure recreation, and to fill my retirement. It should still be fun!

Now, however, the question has been raised about a writer’s responsibilities, and that has sent my brain into a sort of frenzied overdrive. And dimly, as if emerging through the mist on the edge of a forest, some sobering facts are coming into focus. I do take my writing seriously, and I do take responsibility for what I write! I admit that came as a revelation of sorts, and to describe those duties and obligations throws me another challenge, but it’s one that I wish to embark upon, even if only for my own satisfaction.

One lesson coming home to me more clearly every day is the importance of developing and nurturing a strong support system of other writers, to learn from their vast pool of experience and knowledge. I’ve found a real gold mine in RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB. This group, often seen in social media as #RRBC, has the largest membership, most impressive management and varied activities of any similar groups or organizations I’ve come across to date. This is the website:

HTTP://ravereviewsbynonniejules.wordpress.com/nonnies-blog-reviews/

Here’s where you can sign up:

HTTP://ravereviewsbynonniejules.wordpress.com/join-here/

As for the responsibilities of authors, the FIRST thought that springs to mind is that a writer must capture the reader’s interest from the first sentence, or at least the first page. SECONDLY, the plot needs to develop with enough speed to stay fascinating, but not so quickly as to lose a poor hapless reader’s grasp of what is happening.

THIRD item, and none of this is necessarily in order of importance, every book has to be believable. That applies even to the wildest fantasy; your readers must be able to feel the possibility of the tale actually happening, somewhere, sometime.

Number FOUR any story with a semblance of normal human existence, whether it be romance or thriller, is better if supported by real facts, even in passing. If you are in London get some fog in there, Big Ben bonging the hour, or taxis.

Also, so FIFTH condition if you’re still counting, would be characters who seem alive, feel real, and have sensible conversations that sound spontaneous and natural. And since reading is a form of entertainment, the added ingredients to present a full picture can include humour, satire, sarcasm, irony and a whole palette of analogies, descriptions, colour and pathos of every kind. Thus we have reached the SIXTH item for our list of responsibilities: paint the picture, tell the story, and never, never let it be a recitation of events that are as dull as dishwater.

SEVEN: If one is writing non-fiction, there is a monumental burden of responsibility. Hours beyond hours of intense digging for truth, facts, or opinions, and then listing a comprehensive bibliography all become necessary if a reader is going to take it seriously. In many cases, writers of non-fiction are very highly educated in the special field they may be writing about, another form of responsibility accepted and acted upon. Non-fiction will never by my forte. I’m far too lazy!

How responsible do I, as a writer of children’s books, have to be? I can’t profess to making a conscious or conscientious choice, but I feel I’ve balanced some nature facts with the whimsy of a child’s imagination (EIGHT). The Wise Old Owl being a mentor and friend to Shelby is one digression. Out there in nature that Owl would simply eat Shelby up for a tidy snack between meals. To defend this far-fetched relationship I argue poetic license (NINE). Where would the fun be without some ideas that defy Mother Nature? Also by portraying such a kindly-uncle figure I hope to reinforce in children the value of seeking and following the good advice and loving support offered by friends, family and teachers (TEN).

I do feel it’s important to include at least one unfriendly confrontation (ELEVEN), so I created a mean crow who bullies Shelby and nearly knocks him off a pole, at a crucial time during a rush for safety while crossing a road. Life isn’t all peaches and cream as Shelby may have hoped.

Another point of responsibility is to have the story take off and arch toward a finale (TWELVE). This happens in each story in my first book, ‘The Complete Adventures of SHELBY F. SQUIRREL and Friends’, a series of separate tales. But at the same time, during the 24 stories there is a larger arch that pulls us along, following Shelby as he stumbles and trips his way through 2 years of learning experiences that leave him considerably more grown up than in Chapter One, ‘SHELBY’S FLYING LESSON’. In my second book, ‘The Great FOREST CAPER’, the arch builds all the way through to a finale in the last chapter.

I would be hugely remiss to omit mention of correct spelling, proper grammar, and precise punctuation. Dreary as it may seem, that’s what makes a good book readable. Oops, THIRTEEN.

Oh, and by the way, this long (and I hope not-too-boring) list is really based on my experiences as a reader. The duties and/or responsibilities required for any job are seldom observed or analyzed by the worker, but are always clear as crystal to the boss and the customers. Maybe we should call this one FOURTEEN for good luck!

Eleanor Lawrie, Sept 27, 2016

http://www.flutesandflyingsquirrels.com

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