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Welcome to PenHead.org, an oasis of uninformed analysis in a desert of educated guesswork. What is a penhead? Do you fancy yourself a writer? Enjoy a good read? Then you may already be a penhead yourself!

We are your source for original stories, the occasional interview with our favorite authors, book and play reviews, recommendations (of current and forgotten finds), and more.

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Friendship: It comes in a myriad of shapes and sizes. No one friendship serves as a template for all the rest, and no one's experience of friendship is exactly like anybody else's. So, what is it that makes a good friend? Common interests? Common philosophies? Or is the foundation of friendship something more difficult to put a finger on? The answer is, of course, Yes, yes, and yes.

George and Martha by James Marshall is a thin book of short stories on friendship, each with a lesson to be taught. The first, Split Pea Soup, revolves around pots upon pots of the green broth which Martha loves to make, and George eats out of politeness, until the day Martha discovers he isn't passionate about it. She's not passionate about eating it either, and by story's end George has learned a lesson in honesty. In the second story, The Flying Machine, George learns friends don't need to impress each other to maintain friendship. Just simply being there is all it takes . . . more >

I Like You, written by Sandol Stoddard Warburg with illustrations by Jacqueline Chwast, might be the best story ever written on friendship without a plot. Throughout, the reader is dropped in fly-on-the-wall style to witness various friendships in action. It's a convention that works well for Warburg, and offers an opportunity for Chwast to flaunt her artistic creativity, which she takes full advantage of.

Some friendships portrayed we're used to seeing; others, not at all. There are alligators embracing each other; a clown befriended by an elephant; a boy and his cat hollering their heads off; and angels hugging demons. I believe I even saw Trotsky and Lenin on one of the pages.

By describing qualities of friendship, Warburg defines it. Friendship is everything we see the friends in I Like You doing. It's about the good days of friendship, "I like you because / You know where I'm ticklish / And you don't tickle me there . . ." and the bad, "And I like you because / When I am feeling sad / You don't always cheer . . . more >

Judith Viorst is a giant in the world of children's books. Her titles (Macmillan Publishing) include: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day ($8.99); Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday ($8.99); If I Were in Charge of the World . . . and other worries ($9.99); I'll Fix Anthony ($8.99); My Mama Says There Aren't Any Zombies, Ghosts, Vampires, Creatures, Demons, Monsters, Fiends, Goblins, or Things ($7.99); Sunday Morning ($7.99); and The Tenth Good Thing About Barney ($7.99). As suggested by their titles, Viorst writes stories relevant to kids, often to help them face their fears. That said, Rosie and Michael is not one of those stories.

Rosie and Michael is about a friendship between a boy and a girl. It examines the dynamics of that friendship without pigeon-holing the characters into preset roles. In Viorst's hands, Rosie is free to be a tom-boy; Michael is allowed to show sensitivity. Like Sandol Stoddard Warburg's book I Like You (Houghton Mifflin), it is a book that defines friendship by putting it on full display. Whereas Warburg's book offers a plethora of friendships, Viorst's explores just one: that between . . . more >

In 1962, Seattle hosted the World's Fair: Century 21. Opening the twenty-first of April, my family was one of the first in the neighborhood to take advantage of its nearness to home. My father, an aerospace engineer, had high expectations for the event which showcased the latest advances in technology. My mother, a frustrated artist, was excited for the exhibits that were to be on hand depicting the evolution of art since the Renaissance. In the graceful upward sweep of the Space Needle - the fair's centerpiece - and the princess arches of the science pavilion, both had their expectations met. Although I was just a year old at the time, over the years I've heard so many stories of our visit, they feel like memories of my own.

Art Since 1950: American and International, Seattle World's Fair Fine Arts Pavilion, April 21 - October 21, 1962 is one of three publications cataloging the art exhibited at the 1962 World's Fair. By their very nature, catalogs tend to be dry, statistic-weighted documents. That said, Art Since . . . more >

Like its companion, Art Since 1950: American and International, Seattle World's Fair Fine Arts Pavilion, April 21 - October 21, 1962, the catalog for Century 21's Masterpieces of Art exhibit is informative both visually and textually. Where Art Since 1950 dropped the ball on text, Masterpieces of Art: Seattle World's Fair Fine Arts Pavilion, April 21 to September 4, 1962 picks it up. Whereas Art Since 1950 furnishes only the most minimal details on the artists (place of birth and expositions they've participated in), Masterpieces of Art provides a nice bio on each and every artist exhibited, including places of residence with the where and how their painting was affected by regional influences, including religion dominated art movements.

Art History for Dummies
Like Art Since 1950, Masterpieces contains only six color plates, leaving to the imagination what the likes of Monet or Picasso look like in color. French painter Georges Seurat's portfolio (Le Chehut, 1889) suffers dearly in black and white. The whole point of developing the painting style that he did (an expressionist style called pointillism) was to give his paintings greater intensity of color and luminosity. We're told it was . . . more >

The Third catalog of the 1962 World's Fair Art Pavilion focuses on the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest. By far the best of the set, Northwest Coast Indian Art: Seattle World's Fair Fine Arts Pavilion, April 21 - October 21, 1962 is packed with information on tribal customs and the art at the center of its life and ritual. The exhibit was curated by Erna Gunther, PhD., director of the Washington State Museum, University of Washington. Under her guidance, pieces were selected for the exhibit not only for their visual impact but for the narrative they told about the people they once belonged to, both in their day-to-day routines and in the religious rites and pageantry they subscribed to. The University of Washington has the largest collection of Native artifacts on the west coast, so there was no shortage of material to choose from.

The tribes of the Pacific Northwest coast lived very differently from their inland cousins. Their environment provided an abundance of food and wealth which didn't require them to be nomadic in order to procure. They did travel though, and evidence points to heavy trading between the various tribes of the coast. For this reason . . . more >

America's national park system is immense. A labyrinth of over 335 properties comprised of national monuments (129), national historic parks (57), national historic sites (85), national parks (64, including Gettysburg National Military Park), it is the gold standard of park systems. Established in 1872 by an act of Congress, Yellowstone National Park remains the crown jewel of the National Park Service. Since then, many parks have been added, some since removed, and others redesignated. In 1932, the Glacier/Waterton Lakes International Peace Park was created, a first of its kind. Straddling the US/Canada border, the park is a combination of two national parks, Glacier (US) and Waterton Lakes (Canada), and holds the unique distinction of designation as a UNESCO Biosphere Preserve (1976), as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1995) and most recently as an International Dark Sky Park (2017). If Yellowstone is the National Park Service's crown jewel, the designation of Glacier/Waterton Lakes as an International Peace Park is its crowning achievement in cross-border . . . more >

Ruins of the Southwest is a Sierra Press Wish You Were Here Postcard Book containing sixteen captivating full-color images of the American Southwest. Each page is a perforated postcard that focuses on a different ruin, with a description of the site, its builders, and location. Of the sixteen sites, seven are in Arizona; four each are in Colorado and New Mexico; and one is in Utah. Mostly located on protected lands as national monuments, four are within national park boundaries, and three belong to national historic parks. As a region, the Southwest has the greatest concentration of federally protected areas in the . . . more >

    The place I call home never leaves me. I am rooted to it. I I think it is the same with all life, but some living things are more rooted than others. With people, I have found, some embrace adventure and make new roots far away, or swept by wind-storms, transplant themselves and throw down roots in unlikely places. We are not that different from the trees.
              -Phil Zuckerman, Publisher's Note, A Wind-storm in the Forests, 2014
Excerpted from John Muir's The Mountains of California, first published in 1894, A Wind-storm in the Forests focuses on a storm the author found himself caught up by in December, 1874. He describes the experience as "beautiful and exhilarating." Muir was in the midst of exploring a tributary of the Yuba River in the Sierra Nevadas when it occurred. Rather than hunker down and shelter in place, he embraced the storm, seeking ever higher vistas from which to experience it, 'til finally settling on the tallest Douglas Spruce within a group of them "growing close together like a tuft of grass . . . more >

Western Publishing Co. publishes a series of guides on our natural world. These Golden Guides cover various topics by experts in their fields (geology, ornithology, botany, etc.), accompanied by full-color illustrations for easy identification. Trees: A Guide to Familiar American Trees, by Herbert S. Zim, PhD, ScD and Alexander C. Martin PhD, is one such guide.

First Published in 1952, Trees is enlightening not only for the tree identification it provides (143 North American species), but also for its notes on what the wood of a particular species is suited to. In 1952, the plastics industry was still emerging, and many items that are now mass-produced from petroleum, were not as yet. It's a historical perspective - though by default - lacking in most modern tree . . . more >


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