Recently Read: You Could Make This Place Beautiful, by Maggie Smith

You Could Make This Place Beautiful, by Maggie Smith

Poet Maggie Smith explores the disintegration of her marriage and her renewed commitment to herself in lyrical vignettes that shine, hard and clear as jewels.

I think this book is for: anyone wishing to explore love, grief, and healing through a series of nuanced, self-reflective vignettes.

memorable: the layers of symbolism threaded throughout the writing, the process of recovering your sense of self.

confusing or jarring: some of the repetition.

cw: divorce, adultery, miscarriage, postpartum depression.

Illinois Pollinators

A monarch butterfly on a milkweed bloom.
Photo by Ron Bird on

Via the Northern Illinois Native Plant Gardeners group on Facebook, the Illinois Extension has a new site for pollinator gardens.

“Illinois Pollinators,, is a free website devoted to everything pollinators. From different types of pollinator species to the step-by-step process of starting a pollinator garden or attractive habitat, the site is a one-stop resource for those looking to make an impact on the pollinator population.”

Braasch, Jenna. “Discover How to Increase Illinois Pollinators through Thoughtful Garden Design on Website.Illinois Extension: College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences.

Bexley Arboretum

Reading You Could Make This Place Beautiful: A Memoir by Maggie Smith, and she mentions that at one point she and her husband moved to Bexley, Ohio, “being the only city in the country designated as an arboretum. So many trees, some of them pines. So many pinecones.”

Bexley, Ohio neighborhood in Spring with a tree-lined street.
Bexley street in spring, Mah Jong, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

With 14,000 street trees of more than 130 species, in 2013 Bexley became the first city in the United States to be designated as a municipal arboretum. Since then there have been others, including Mt. Lebanon PA, Village of Homewood IL, Montgomery IL, and Oak Park IL.

I haven’t read much further in the book yet so I don’t know if Maggie Smith liked living there, or maybe there were too many pine cones.

Recently Read: The House Witch by Delemhach

The book over illustration showing a hearth with a pot on the fire surrounded by drying herbs and onions, and a fluffy black cat sitting to the side.

The House Witch, book 1 of 3 from The House Witch series, by Delemhach.

A heartwarming and humorous blend of fantasy, romance, and mystery featuring a witch with domestic powers and the royal household he serves… dinner.

I think this book is for: anyone who enjoys a long, deep swim in a medieval world with modern sensibilities, centered on hearth, home, and found family.

memorable: the main character facing angry or rude characters with compassion.

confusing or jarring: the main character is a gifted cook but only others react to the results, he isn’t shown enjoying creating food with his senses; a lot of the humor for me didn’t feel natural, especially the main character constantly insisting he isn’t gay.

content warning: swearing, childhood trauma, alcoholism, dangerous drinking game, sexual harassment (with redemption).

Ladybird Nature Books

The book opened to a page with an illustration of ringed plovers on a beach.
What to Look For in Summer: A Ladybird Nature Book

Recently, while looking for books similar to the Golden Nature Guides, I came across the Ladybird Nature Books from England. I picked up a copy of What to Look for in Summer from ebay and am really enjoying the illustrations by C. F. Tunnicliffe. I like seeing what’s common between the U.S. Midwest and England, and the differences.

Love this bit of trivia on the printing size:

The pocket-sized hardback Ladybird [book] measured roughly four-and-a-half by seven inches (11.5 cm by 18 cm). Early books used a standard 56-page format, chosen because a complete book could be printed on one large standard sheet of paper, a quad crown, 40 inches by 30 inches, which was then folded and cut to size without waste paper. It was an economical way of producing books, enabling the books to be retailed at a low price which, for almost thirty years, remained at two shillings and sixpence (12.5p). Ladybird Books, Wikipedia

I have strong memories of poring over the pages of the Golden Nature Guides books I had: Trees and Weather. The series has been updated but seem to be the same subjects with the same kind of information.

Donate your zines to libraries

Send us your zines! Want to help start a new zine library? Donate your zines to the zine pavilion! We’ll share them with libraries across the U.S. to help them start their own zine collections. Send your zines to the Woodbridge Illinois public library by June 20th 2023.
Send your zines to be displayed at the A.L.A. Conference

“During the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference, we staff a dedicated space on the conference exhibit floor that is all about zines. We display hundreds of donated zines to give an idea of the wide range of topics & formats of zines and we bring in zinesters from the local community to sell their own work. We usually have events including a zine reading and workshops as well. Our goal is to inform library workers about how they might incorporate zines into their libraries and share the many resources available to help.”