Category Archives: Books

The Red Dory – A Long Island Book

The Red Dory –  a Long Island Book

by Chris McDuffie

It is not only the new books in our library which are interesting. I signed out The Red Dory by Hazel Wilson recently because I knew its author had spent a lot of time in her family’s cottage next to ours in Beach Cove, the one now owned by her grand nephew Greg Brown. Hazel Wilson published about 20 books, mostly for young readers, and The Red Dory was her first, published in 1939. It presents the summer adventures of a boy, Donald, living with his grandparents on Long Island.

In this book Wilson changed the name of Long Island to Pine Island, but there is no doubt as to the real location when she talks of Harbor de Grace where Donald lives, catching a lobster thief off the Stepping Stones, and taking summer people fishing off Outer Green Island.

Pasted in the back of the library’s copy there is a note from Hazel Wilson to a Mrs. Hewey which says, “The old captain in the book is partly modelled after Captain Ben Woodbury, whom I knew as a child. None of the happenings are really true, but his character was kind and dignified as I made Captain Eben in my book.”

The “happenings” (like the day a swordfish takes Donald and his red dory for a “Nantucket sleigh ride”) are things she may have made up to appeal to her young readers, but the book is so rich in details about the lean circumstances of a fishing family on Long Island in the 1930s that I think anyone who loves Long Island, as Hazel Wilson did, will find this a fascinating read.

There’s another Hazel Wilson book at the library, Island Summer, and again it is set on Pine Island (Long Island to those of us in the know). That’s going to be my next read.

The Maine Garden Journal

For those of you who missed the talk at the beginning of this summer’s Long Island garden tour by Lisa Colburn, you will have another opportunity upcoming, at Portland Public Library’s Local Author’s Lecture Series on Friday, August 31st, at noon. Lisa’s book is subtitled: Insider  secrets  from  Maine  people  who  love  to  put  their  hands  in  the  dirt.

For more information on Lisa and her book, check out her website:


Expansion project records – documenting our history

10 years ago our library was in the midst of a major expansion project, which allowed us to move our tiny library collection from the cramped and dark basement area of the school, into a glorious new space full of light and color. Thanks to the hard work of the building committee, ably led by our current library director, Nancy Jordan, this space, which not only includes a library, but also an art gallery, meeting space, multi-purpose room, meeting room, and computer room, is now open 7 days a week. Architect Frank Oliva designed our beautiful new building, which was completed in 2004. spring on Long Island 9

Nancy Jordan recently donated the records of the project to the Long Island Historical Society, and they are now processed and available for researchers. This collection (1.5 linear ft.) is an excellent documentation of a construction project, and includes correspondence, documents, invoices, newspaper clippings, photographs, and minutes. Major parts of the collection are regarding not only the construction, but the fundraising and grants applied for. It’s truly evidence of what can be done with a lot of determination and fortitude.

One man’s trash…

Where do you find your books? I’m not techy enough to go the download route, or Kindle or Nook. I tend to use more traditional means – the “brick and mortar” bookstore (although my husband prefers Amazon), especially the local bookstore (as opposed to chains). Of course I mostly acquire books through the library: our own Long Island library, the Portland Public Library (one block from where I work), or other libraries in downtown Portland: Maine Charitable Mechanics Association and the Maine Irish Heritage Center library.

But my favorite place to acquire books is at used book sales, either ongoing sales, such as the one we have at the Long Island Community Library, or a room at the Portland Public Library that is set up for book sales, or annual events, such as Art & Soul, or the Friends of the Portland Public Library sale (this year held at Catherine McAuley High School). Here you can find great bargains, and bring home armloads of books for not much cash. I’ve also been successful finding cheap books at yard sales. I’ve even had good luck with books on the side of the road or left at the ferry landing in banana boxes. My house is evidence of these great finds – now to just find the time to read them!

So, all of you out there in blog land (I know there’s a few): where do you find the best treasures?


Okay, who here likes pastries? Well, after “sampling” two of the offerings in our library, both in film and book format, I decided that I like eating pastries more than making them.

In the documentary film, “Kings of Pastry,” French pastry chefs compete for the coveted Meilleurs Ouvriers de France award. The amazing sculptures they create are true artistry (although you wouldn’t be tempted to take a bite), and you will be on the edge of your seat as they carry the delicate and fragile looking concoctions from room to room. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

In Dalia Jurgensen’s “Spiced: a pastry chef’s true stories of trials by fire, after-hours exploits, and what really goes on in the kitchen,” you will also mostly realize what a lot of hard work it is to be a pastry chef. This somewhat racy memoir will leave you a bit tired and breathless.

So, at the end of the day, I’ll stick to my day job, and leave the pastry making to the experts. And as I reach for a napolean I will appreciate what it takes to make these confections, and relish every bite.


Little Gale Gumbo

Here is a plug for a friend of mine speaking at the Portland Public Library in a week. Erika grew up in Maine, and her mother is a dear friend of mine.

Wednesday, June 27 Erika Marks, author of Little Gale Gumbo
Erika Marks’ debut women’s fiction novel, Little Gale Gumbo, is about a woman and her daughters who leave a difficult past in New Orleans to start over in a small Maine town where they open a Creole restaurant.  Hoping for a fresh start, Camille and her daughters, Dahlia and Josie, leave their lives in New Orleans and move to Little Gale, Maine.  On the small island the locals are skeptical of the trio, but twenty-five years later Camille’s café becomes an island staple.  All seems right in their world, including Camille’s relationship with a local man, Ben.  But tragedy soon strikes and Ben is left fighting for his life.  Dahlia and Josie, along with Ben’s son, Matthew, must do everything they can to protect Ben and confront long-held secrets and unrequited loves that will test them as a family.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Erika Marks lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her family.  Visit her online at and follow her on Twitter @erikamarksauthr.

Daphne Du Maurier’s Cornwall

A year ago we were in Cornwall, visiting Daphne Du Maurier sites. Led by our friend Jane, a Du Maurier scholar, we visited places that influenced Du Maurier’s novels. In Helford we searched for “Frenchman’s Creek,” a tale set in the time of Charles II and which includes love affairs, smuggling, and all sorts of swashbuckling adventures. In Fowey we walked on to a car ferry which took us across the River Fowey to Boddinick, where we could view from a distance (and later over a fence) Daphne’s home, “Ferryside,” where her son Kits now lives. This beautiful white house with blue shutters is perched on the edge of the water, and has the figurehead of the ship, Jane Slade, on one of the corners of the house. Jane Slade is the inspiration for the character of Janet Coombe of Du Maurier’s first novel, “The Loving Spirit.” Written in 1929, this novel tells the story of the four generations of the Coombe family of boatbuilders. We could see the boatyard that the Slades owned in the distance in Polruan.

Hiking through the nearby hills we came across a stone monument to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, a writer friend of Daphne’s, for whom she carried on the writing of “Castle Dor,” in 1959, a decade after Quiller-Couch died. Along the way we veered off the hike to visit the church at Lanteglos, where Daphne married her husband, Tommy “Boy” Browning, in 1932. We wandered in the churchyard, in search of the gravestone of Jane Slade. In the 14th century stone church was just one small mention of the wedding of Daphne and Tommy, amidst its long and storied history.

One evening we dined at “Sam’s at the Beach” in Polkerris, in an old converted lifeboat station. On the wall we saw the name Rashleigh on the Fowey lifeboat sign – this name is prevalent in this area. Du Maurier based her book, “My Cousin Rachel,” on the Rashleigh name, and called her main character, “Philip Ashley.” Menabilly, the house that Daphne Du Maurier rented for a few years, is on the Rashleigh estate. This house was the setting for her most well known novel, “Rebecca” – renamed Manderley in the book, which is set in the early 20th century, as well as “The King’s General,” set during the time of the English Civil War (1642-1646)

I wish I had read these novels when I was a teenager, as they would have stirred my imagination and filled my world with romanticism. Alas, most of these I read 30 years later, but found them just as intriguing and entertaining. Especially when combined with physically visiting the places – what could be more delightful!

Captains Courageous! A good fishing tale

One of the things I like best about belonging to a book group is reading books that ordinarily I wouldn’t pluck off the shelf. My book group at the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association just gathered to discuss “Captains Courageous” by Rudyard Kipling. I wish I had read this years ago, when I was involved in the “Fish tales” exhibit at the Long Island Historical Society, as it gives great information about the late 19th century methods of fishing off the Grand Banks, in the form of a rollicking good tale. Who can ever forget Kipling’s description of Harvey, the main character, seeing all the fishing schooners lined up on the banks? This classic coming of age story, written in 1897, also includes what is called “a classic of railway literature” – a journey by rail from San Diego to Boston.

The Long Island Community Library has this wonderful tale, both in audio and print form. Be sure to check it out – it will impress you with its authentic voice and descriptions.

Game wardens in Maine literature

There seems to be a spate of Maine literature regarding game wardens these days. Most recently is John Ford’s Suddenly, the cider didn’t taste so good” (2012) which relates tales of 20 years of a game warden’s career. Of the fiction genre, Paul Doiron’s “The Poacher’s son” (2010) and later “Trespasser” (2011) feature a game warden as protagonist. Kate Braestrup’s “Here if you need me” (2007) shines with wit and humor but with underlying depth of seriousness about the chaplain’s life in working with game wardens and the families of victims who need their services. But despite all these recent additions to the game warden offerings, this is not a new idea to write about. There are many other books about Maine game wardens. Some of my favorites were written by Maine women writers, such as Helen Hamlin and Louise Dickinson Rich, in the 1940s – both women were married to game wardens, who took them into the wilds of Maine to live. We are fortunate in Maine to have about 75 years of Maine literature that takes us “into the woods.”

A Literary Barn Raising for Maine Author Cynthia Thayer

WE TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN: A Literary Barn Raising for Maine Author Cynthia Thayer will be held at Longfellow Books on Friday, June 1 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. There will be a gaggle of well-known authors on hand to sign their books and Longfellow Books will donate 100% of all proceeds above cost to Cynthia and Darthia Farm. Here are just some of the authors who will be with us for this special First Friday event: Liza Bakewell, Crash Barry, Brock Clarke, Melissa Coleman, Ron Currie Jr, Phillip Hoose, Shonna Milliken Humphrey, Maria Padian, Elizabeth Peavey, Caitlin Shetterly, Betsy Sholl, Monica Wood, and Colin Woodard.

This is a fundraiser for Maine author Cynthia Thayer, whose home, Darthia Farm in Gouldsboro, suffered a horrendous fire this past week destroying the entire barn, killing nearly 100 animals and burning Cynthia as she tried to rescue her sheep. Readers know Cynthia as the author of Strong for Potatoes, A Certain Slant of Light, and A Brief Lunacy but she is also a dedicated farmer and Darthia Farm is the life and livelihood of the Thayer family. Darthia Farm is a MOFGA member farm with a community supported agriculture (CSA) program and a busy farm store.