The quickening pollen

This artwork was copied from an old book catalog leftover from my days as a librarian.  I was unable to find out who the owner of the image might be.

This artwork was copied from an old book catalog leftover from my days as a librarian.
I was unable to find out who the owner of the image might be.

“Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.”
James Russell Lowell

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, the term “quickening pollen” might not sound like a good thing. But in the sense that Lowell intended it, the concept is quite exciting.

Suppose you could somehow time travel to have tea with Charles Dickens, or Jane Austen, or C. S. Lewis (my three personal favorites) or, for that matter, with an unknown diarist of a bygone era who could tell you what life was REALLY like back then? Would you pass up the chance? You are in luck. You can have tea anytime with any of the great or ordinary minds throughout history who left a bit of themselves behind for us in their words.

From Euripides to Einstein, from Sophocles to Steinbeck, countless fascinating people are available, with stories to tell and lessons to impart. And in the here and now, our opportunities to tap into other worlds through reading have never been more abundant. Books come in several formats, and everyday people all over the world now share their experiences via blogging and online publishing.

Wherever you are, the air is swarming with the excitement of minds connecting with each other over vast geographical distances and centuries of time. Head to a nearby hive via your local or online bookstore or library for some intellectual cross-pollination. Then buzz back over here and share what you’ve picked up.  As always, thanks for BEEing here!


  1. Ah, my favorite subject, books. 🙂 I liked this way of looking at it. Thankfully, no allergies. 🙂 Hope you are doing well.

    • Hi Marlene! It’s always a joy to hear from you. I am doing OK. Staying WAY busy with school, but it’s a good kind of busy. Dealing with various medical crises among loved ones is not as much fun, but I’m still thankful that everything is going as well as it is right now. Hope you’ve had a nice weekend.

  2. Ann

    Julia, once again thank you for a place to retreat from the turmoil of the world. I read mostly fiction and have a copy of every novel written by Agatha Christie! Not a great intellectual challenge ut soothing and interesting. I see my mother is Jane Marple.

    An interesting nonfiction book I read recently is ‘Seven Years in Tibet’. Fascinating true story of an Austrian mountain climber caught in British India at the outbreak of WWII. Without giving away too much of the story, he escapes India and traveles by foot to Tibet. He meets and spends time with the current Dali Lama.

    • Ann, thanks for the recommendation– I had heard of that book, but didn’t realize the plot line. It does sound interesting, and I always enjoy nonfiction historical accounts, as well as memoirs and stories inspired by actual events.

      I like Agatha Christie too, but haven’t read her in years. It would be great fun to have a mother like Jane Marple. Did you ever read the Mrs. Pollifax books? I think the author was Dorothy Gilman. I totally loved them and I hope one day to take up where I left off in that series.

  3. Sheila

    Julia, I’m so glad that you still had that catalog, if for no other reason than to share with us. 🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝What a great illustration! Our granddaughter, Brighton, nicknamed “Bee”, will love this, too. 🐝 She has just moved to Wilmington to start first year of college, so she may want it poster size! We had Bristol relatives for the weekend….much fun! I need to take up my reading again. These months of remodeling and renovation have left so little time for ANYTHING. I’m so overdue for a cool Verandah day with a good book! 📚 My prayers include your family, and strength for you, my friend! 💛

    • Sheila, remodeling is such a hassle and stressor that I sometimes wonder whether everything looks so much better to us partly because we are so relieved to have it DONE!! Take that well-deserved book break for sure. I’m bringing blueberries to the Verandah next time we meet. They are really good right now. My nephew went to school in Wilmington. Must have been the same college; surely there isn’t more than one there? At least she’ll be close to the sea! Hope you’re having a great week.

  4. Judy from Pennsylvania

    Last week I began trying once weekly to read bedtime stories via FaceTime to my 4 yr. old grandson who lives in another state. I only have a couple of books here at home and so will need to go to the local library this week for more. He’s an active little boy who likes Spiderman, trucks, football and trains. I was wondering if you might have any suggestions for books?

    • Judy, what a great idea! I don’t know how well the pictures would convey over FaceTime, though. Ideally it would be best if each of you had a copy of the book and could turn the pages together. Generally speaking, when choosing read-aloud books, it’s good to aim too high rather than too low, in terms of comprehension. Kids get bored more easily with a book that’s below their ability level, whereas they will often “stretch” to a higher level. Repetition and rhymes (if the rhyming is done well, which it often is NOT) are big hits with preschool kids. I totally love the Frog and Toad series (by Arnold Lobel) for beginning readers. If your grandson will sit still for them, the stories are humorous and charming. Then when he does begin to read, he may have the words memorized and can sight read them. I’m a big believer in a combination of whole language and phonetic approaches to learning to read. Other picture book authors I love are Maurice Sendak (all his books are good, not just the Wild Things), Marc Brown, Tomie DePaola, Ruth Heller, Allen Say, Jane Yolen to name just a few off the top of my head. I haven’t worked as a youth services librarian since 2003, so I’m unacquainted with most of the recent authors. Any of the Caldecott Medal winners are good choices. If he still likes trains at Christmas (or even if he doesn’t), you simply must read him The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg; a wonderfully evocative tale of Santa magic. If you haven’t already read The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, you might enjoy it; it’s a classic on the topic.

      • Judy from Pennsylvania

        Thank you Julia! Before seeing your reply, I went to our local library and found a dizzying array of books for young children, and I came home with several that I picked at random. Now I can go back armed with the list I copied down from your note, and I can bring home another armful of books to read to him in the coming weeks. He’s been delighted to have Grandma read a bedtime story to him, and he excitedly shows me his nighttime toys and stuffed animals. On his end of it though, he only can see things through an iPhone and so I need to encourage my son to hook us up to his regular computer screen. We’re still working on some of the details but it’s a fun project!

        • Don’t you just love the public library??!! What a gold mine. I used to check out dozens of picture books which I kept in our car trunk to use as incentives for Matt, who was totally book-crazy in preschool and kindergarten. He would do just about anything on his task list if I would reward him with another picture book to read. It was a perfect set up because it cost nothing, honed his already sharp reading skills, and there was an endless supply– plus I had so much fun going through them that I decided to go to library school (which I started when Matt was in 2nd grade). I am very, very glad you are enjoying this precious opportunity. Grady isn’t much for Skype or I’d be doing the same thing with him, but I have had some fun times reading to him and I hope I’ll be reading to Owen soon, too.

  5. Mike Bertoglio

    I am reading a book by Harold Kushner” Jewish thought for Christians.” He is such a great writer i.e “When Bad things Happen to good people,” And “When all you have ever wanted is not enough.” He is a Rabbi who cut back on his everyday corporal concerns in the synagogue to reach a wider audience in writing. So he has.

    • Mike, I haven’t read any of his books, but Jeff read When Bad Thinks Happen to Good People many years ago, and really liked it. I had not heard of the one you mention, but it does sound like a good one. I’ve read excerpts from his writing, and he is very good.

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