Gracie’s Special Reading List…“The Railway Carriage Child” by Wendy Fletcher

The Railroad Carriage Child

“Gracie’s Special Reading List” is for self-published or independently published books, often by authors who have sites here at WordPress. (This particular book is more for adult readers, but my chickens did enjoy the parts which I shared with them.)

Trains are like chickens. They both bring up memories of bygone days. When I meet someone and they find out I have chickens in my backyard, so often they will tell me about their own connection to chickens. Either they or a relative had backyard chickens when they were growing up. Just as many people have “a chicken story” to tell, many also have “a train story” to tell.

When I was growing up, the grandfather of a classmate owned a restaurant named The Virginia Diner. It started as a discarded railroad car and was added on to over the years. To eat at a table in the actual original car is still considered something special.

“Something special” also describes this book by Wendy Fletcher who grew up in a house made from two discarded Victorian railway carriages. Her unique voice as an author comes through beautifully on each page, and while reading, it is often easy to be carried away to a different time and place.

Although describes as a memoir, this book feels most like a conversation you might have with someone while rocking on their front porch. You hardly notice you have been transported to the past in Oxfordshire, England. Specific details are woven in when needed, and I never felt like I had received a huge “data dump” before the real story began. Instead, I was quickly immersed in a fascinating life with details added when helpful. I was always eager to read more, and yet I did not want the story to end.

“What is not to like about this book? There are chickens on the second page! You don’t get that with every book. Even the dedication page was interesting. Part of it read, ‘To Ian Bridge who met the ghost of Granny.’ That caught my attention. Especially since it is getting close to Halloween and we are having a ‘Scariest Halloween Costume Contest’ this year.” – Gracie

“I thought it was fascinating how they turned railroad cars into a house for people to live in. I wonder if anyone ever thought of doing that for chickens. It might not be a bad idea. Chickens like having fun houses too, you know!” – Bessie

“My favorite part was when Wendy’s mother would dress Wendy all in white, just like my feathers, and then Wendy and her father would go for a walk. Wendy loved to explore everywhere, and that was just like me! And sometimes when I go exploring, my white feathers get messy too. Like just this past Sunday when I got out and had fun being chased around the back yard. Nobody realized I knew exactly what I was doing. But I was grateful for being rescued, just like Wendy. – Pearl

“The wonderful photographs, particularly the one on the cover, were my favorite part. They really helped me imagine the story much better. I also liked the glossary at the end of the book. It explained words that were unique to the part of England where Wendy lives. Someone should maybe put a glossary of words in Chicken and English in our next book. (Hint. Hint.)” – Emily

“Wendy is a wonderful writer. It’s not easy for me to imagine what a person’s life is like, mostly because I am a chicken. So I only really know what a chicken’s life is like. But Wendy did a very nice job of making me feel like I was right there in her neighborhood with her.” – Amelia

“The Railway Carriage Child” is available through Amazon in the UK for roughly $20.00 U.S. This includes the cost of the book and shipping across the Atlantic. (Amazon Prime in the U.S. does not apply.) After the first few chapters, I felt I already had my money’s worth. This book is that good.

Wendy is one of several writers in the same writing group named The Whittlesey Wordsmiths, and many have websites. You can find Wendy at “Wendy Wordsmith” and her writing friends Cathy at “Writing Wrinkles” and Phil at “Fenland Phil’s Blog”. Take some time to visit their writing websites because I think you will enjoy them.

The Whittlesey Wordsmiths have also published an anthology of short stories and poems titled “Where The Wild Winds Blow.”

Cathy Cade, who first introduced me to these other authors through her “Writing Wrinkles” blog, has her own book titled “A Year Before Christmas” which just may be the next book on “Gracie’s Special Reading List”!

Just so you know, “My Life With Gracie” isn’t getting anything from sharing any of these books with you. We don’t collect anything if you click the Amazon UK links here. Some websites work that way, but for us, it’s about supporting independent writers even when it’s not what we write! Best wishes to all of the Whittlesey Wordsmiths!

Conversations With Amelia…The Downtown Lights

The Downtown Lights

I was up on the roof looking for the spot under the back porch eaves where I suspected squirrels were getting into the attic. That was when I heard the sweetest of sweet sounds.

“Hello, Amelia,” I said without turning around.

“How did you know it was me?”

“From the strong wing flappings I heard and the light sound of your feet as you landed on this old metal roof. You are the most excellent flyer of all.”

“Did you know you left the top run door open even though the bottom one is closed?”

“Yes.”

“It sounds like you did that on purpose.”

“Maybe.”

“So why would you do that?”

“Because I wanted to have some time just with you, away from the others.”

“What if something had gotten in?”

“Gracie wouldn’t let that happen. And you know Emily is always first to sound the alarm. I listen. Even up here on the roof where they can’t see me, I listen.”

“It’s very nice up here.”

“Yes, I know. The world looks very different up here, doesn’t it?”

“It does. And I like having the nice view without the steady wing flapping to stay up this high.”

“Tell me something, Amelia.”

“Yes?”

“Would you stay up here with me until the sun goes down and the city lights come on? I’d like to look at the downtown lights and the stars from up here with you.”

“We can do that. I think I would like that. I won’t be able to fly down safely in the dark.”

“I will carry you. I brought up my tool bucket.”

“The one with the rope?”

“Yes, the one I use to bring up my tools and lower them down again.”

“You think of everything.”

“Not really, but I’m glad you think so.”

She helped me find the hole under the eaves. Then after she was quite sure there were no squirrels in the attic, she watched as I nailed a board over the hole.

While she surveyed all that could be seen up and down the street and around the neighborhood, I lay down on my back and looked up at the clouds as they passed overhead. With the angle of the roof, it was a perfect view.

I suddenly felt sad for Amelia and the others because chickens can’t lay on their backs like this. Even though we were in the same place and Amelia was right beside me, we couldn’t see the same way.

But Amelia flew up higher and perched on top of the kitchen chimney, as high up on the house as there was to perch, and that was something I couldn’t do.

I think she may have felt sad for me not being able to have the same view she had because she said, “I wish you could see the way I see.”

“I do too, Amelia. Your eyes are pure and innocent, and I love you for that.”

Then we stayed up there just like that for the longest time without speaking. Sometimes it is that way. You can say a lot without saying anything at all.

From the roof, I heard the other chickens making their way up their ladder and into the coop for the night. Emily and Gracie had a brief argument over who was going to roost where.

“They always do that,” commented Amelia.

“Is that why you always go up last and take whatever space is left?”

“Partly. But I also have the best eyesight, and I don’t want to miss anything. I’ve always wondered about the glow in the sky when it gets dark.”

“Yes, the downtown lights. You will see them for yourself tonight.”

Then all was quiet up where we were and below too except for the sound of an occasional passing car.

“It all feels so beautiful,” she said.

“Yes. The stars are coming out now. They make patterns and pictures in the sky. If you learn them you will always know where you are. You will never be lost.”

We watched as the panorama of lights unveiled itself around us and above us.

“I feel so small and alone,” she said.

I got up and moved over to stand where she was still perched on the kitchen chimney. This one spot high above the world below was the only place I felt we had ever been eye-to-eye. Suddenly I was very grateful to whoever had unknowingly built this chimney at exactly this most perfect height.

“It’s alright,” I told her, as she turned to find my eyes. “And it will be alright. Just look at the downtown lights and the stars above with me, Amelia.”

I can’t really say I know for sure what she saw after the light from the setting sun had been replaced by the light of the stars. It was long past the time she would have gone up to join the others in the coop for the night.

“It all looks so beautiful from this place here with you,” she said.

She may have seen nothing through her own eyes and everything through my eyes. I don’t know. I didn’t ask. But I felt I was seeing the world through her eyes for a moment, and it all truly did look so beautiful.

Perhaps it is not so much what we see but who we see it with.

The Downtown Lights

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! This is one of the few stories I’ve shared where the final sentence was written first and then everything else was written later as a way to get to the final sentences. The illustration is perhaps the most realistic I’ve done for any stories. Amelia has helped me to see and to think in different ways.

Family Photo Friday!

Family Photo Friday

Today’s Family Photo is of Amelia, and particularly Amelia’s right eye rather close up! She is examining the camera very carefully while having her picture taken. Like almost every other chicken, Amelia is very curious. I believe the curiosity comes from trying to determine if something new can be classified as “food” or “not food yet.”

One of the most fascinating things about any chicken’s eyes are the tiny feathers which surround them. (You may remember Emily’s eyes weren’t quite right in a recent drawing I made of her.) Even these tiniest of tiny feathers still carry the distinct markings of light and dark which identify them as belonging to Amelia.

You will notice this is her right eye, and that does make a difference, at least for chickens. It would not have been so easy to get a closeup photograph of Amelia’s left eye, and here’s why. A chicken’s eyes develop differently before they hatch. The right eye is nearsighted and best for seeing things close up, like my camera. The left eye is farsighted and best for seeing things far away, and so she naturally examined my camera with her right eye.

Chickens can also use each of their eyes independently, so while the right eye may be examining your face, their left eye may be looking far away for potential danger. (Maybe everyone should have a chicken to guard their backyard!) Their eyes also have a double cone structure which helps them to track objects, like crickets and other insects. These special features serve them very well except they lack night vision which we have. It’s why they head up to their coop for the night as soon as the light gets dim.

All of this brings me to the reason why I’ve selected a picture of Amelia’s eye for this week’s Family Photo Friday. Our story post tomorrow will be about seeing.

For today, I hope we will all see just as Amelia sees: honestly, fearlessly, and clearly.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!