Have you ever walked a puppy through your neighborhood? It’s like being pregnant in a grocery store—people who never looked twice at you suddenly stop and make conversation. Neighbors you’ve passed on the sidewalk for years ask, “May I pet him?” and you say yes, of course, because they are already petting him. There are poop bags and chewed shoes and “good grief, what should we do with him now?” but there is also that tractor beam effect on strangers and the perpetual excuse to stop and chat.

After a year and change of the pandemic, I’ll take any excuse to stop and chat.

Because that’s it: that’s why I stopped posting a few weeks ago. We got ourselves a blue heeler puppy and named him Hondo, and while there were other pots on the stove (including but not limited to a sizeable construction project in our yard), that was the one hogging three of the burners. He is delightful and a whole lot of mischievous fun. I’ll be back as soon as I can figure out how to photograph books without his “assistance,” and I’m excited to be back: I have, oh, dozens of books to share with you, all of them delightful.

But since I don’t have a full review for you today, I leave you with some bonus odds and ends:

If you can find yourself a copy of The Battle for Castle Cockatrice, by Gerald Durrell (yes, that Gerald Durrell), grab it! It’s a gem of a book, one that made us all giggle many times as we read. It was one of the best books we’ve read aloud together in a long time.

Hannah Anderson’s Turning of Days is lovely. Just lovely.

I recently read this new edition of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness with a handful of friends, and wow—that’s the way to meet this book for the first time. Karen Swallow Prior’s introduction and guidance through this difficult book was fantastic!

I am a little amazed at how James Herriott’s Treasury for Children continues to enthrall our entire family after over a decade of reading and re-reading his stories. If you’ve never read it, please: do.