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An Interview With Erica Richardson

I’m so excited to share my interview with Erica Richardson, author of Luna’s Rescue! She offers insights into finding a balance between writing and parenting, what inspired her to write middle-grade books, and what readers have to look forward to as The Cottonwood Chronicles continue!

Have you entered the giveaway for a print copy of Luna’s Rescue?! There’s still time left! Head to my Instagram to enter, and I’ll announce the winner on Friday. This is an adventure you won’t want to miss out on 🙂

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Share with us a little bit about Luna’s Rescue and what inspired you to write it!

The transition to parenthood was a lot harder for me than I had expected (especially being a stay-home mom). Being a mother to my kids has been very natural in so many ways, but “staying home” has been a lot less natural! It’s a tricky balance because staying home with my kids is important to me and I really love being their primary care giver. I spent the first several years of motherhood searching for an outlet that would help me recharge, grow intellectually, and connect with other people. I did a lot of praying and searching to find something that would be a good fit for our family. One of the things I eventually tried was getting a pet! I have adored animals for as far back as I can remember. Long story short, we ended up getting a crested gecko, which I named Luna. Through some miraculous combination of having Luna in our home and reading some middle-grade books I’d gotten ahold of, I felt inspired that I could write a book. I had tried to write books when I was a teenager (Lord-of-the-Rings-never-ending-journey types of books), but I had never considered writing a book as an adult.

 The One and Only Ivan really inspired me because it was a beautiful story with a simple plot and loveable animal characters. There is something so pure about animals. Animals and children have that in common. I started getting ideas about the things Luna would do if she were to go on an adventure. From The One and Only Ivan and Hello, Universe, I learned that a storyline doesn’t have to be complicated to be beautiful and worth reading. That encouraged me.

I’m a writer—a long winded one—so I apologize for the long answer! But one more thing that might be useful to someone… I’ve dealt with some mental health issues throughout my life but couldn’t quite put my finger on what they were until several years into motherhood. I learned that I have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Before learning about my own diagnosis, I had never met or talked to anyone with OCD. I just thought of it as an adjective that people use when they describe themselves as very organized (which I now understand is a disservice to those who actually have the disorder). I now understand that OCD made college very challenging for me. I got great grades and excelled in my classes, but I would go through phases of intense anxiety where I would change my major again and again and again! It was very stressful. I have changed my major 7 or 8 times in school (probably more), which has made it very hard to finish! After leaving school to be home with kids, then going back to school, then having to stop due to health problems, my self-confidence took a pretty big blow. I started to feel like I couldn’t finish anything! I wanted to finish something or accomplish some kind of goal so badly! 

Writing children’s books has brought me so much peace in that sense because it is something that I can finish! Finishing my first book, Luna’s Rescue, left me in a bit of a shock. I kept thinking to myself, Did I REALLY finish? Is it done? Did I actually do it? I actually got really stressed out after publishing my book because I was convinced that I hadn’t really finished! I still haven’t fully processed the fact that I’ve finished and published books!

Anyways, it was such an answer to prayers to be led to writing—an outlet that I could focus on to channel my mind in a productive way, rather than letting my mind obsess over stressful, unproductive things. Writing has been a great blessing to me and definitely an answer to prayer.

What do you love most about writing for middle grade readers? What do you think makes middle-grade fantasy an important genre?

I’m 28 years old on the outside and 10 years old on the inside. Writing for young kids feels natural to me because I share the same interests and sense of humor as many of them. I’ve loved writing for a long time, but it has been so thrilling to finally have found a niche that really fits me.

I love that kids are honest. When I give my manuscript to my test readers, I know that the feedback they give will be honest. And when they say, “I loved it” or “I couldn’t put it down!” I know they are being genuine and not just being polite. It’s really rewarding.

I think that writing fantasy for middle-grade readers is important because these kids are in a very formative time of life. Whether or not they have access to books (and whether or not they enjoy those books) can have a big impact on their educations and reading throughout the rest of their lives. I also feel it’s important to teach good values and lessons in middle-grade literature. I want my readers to finish my books feeling entertained, but even more importantly, inspired. There are so many different messages being thrust at young people in today’s world. I feel honored to have the chance to share messages with young people through my books, and I take the responsibility of providing clean content with good moral lessons very seriously.

Do you have any advice for fellow writers who are balancing a writing career and parenthood? How have you seen motherhood and writing influence each other?

Firstly, my kids inspire me! They are full of creativity, light, and—putting a shameless plug in for Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel here—wonder! My kids are examples to me every day of seeing the wonder and beauty in the world. They see it in everything—bubbles, macaroni and cheese, playing in the grass, etc!

As far as advice… If any of you figure out how to balance a writing career and parenting, please contact me and tell me your secret! Honestly, trying to find a balance is one of the constant challenges of mortal life, in my opinion. 

A few thoughts are: 

1.) Let your kids be involved (to an extent!) with your writing process. My kids respond better to me being on my computer when I explain to them what I’m doing. I’ll tell them what book I’m working on, what the storyline is, and about the characters. I’ll talk through what I’m doing as I design covers. They especially like seeing the covers being made. As far as the actual writing, they lose interest pretty quickly, but they are more likely to be satisfied with giving me time and space if I give them a chance to hear about what I’m doing than if they just see me on the computer and have no idea what I’m doing on it. (My kids are all too young to be able to read, by the way.)

2.) For me, as a stay-home mom, it can be so ridiculously hard to respect myself, my time, and my space. I’ll fight down a dragon if it calls my kid a rude name, but if my kid disrespects me, it can be easy to just take it and shrug it off. I’ve learned that for my well-being, and the well-being of my whole family, I need to take care of myself. I have to set healthy boundaries and teach my kids to respect me. So, on that note, it’s so important that as parents who are also writers, we are able to teach our children healthy boundaries. Setting boundaries makes life so much better. My kids need to know that there is time for me to be totally present with them, and that there is time for me to be able to work on my writing. Before learning that, I often felt that my kids had to have my undivided attention ALL. THE. TIME. …That left me feeling like an oatmeal-brained zombie who then felt excessive amounts of guilt for not being a great mom (because I HAD NO ENERGY OR SPARK!) It’s so important that parents, especially stay-home moms, recognize that their personal pursuits are of value. Being a writer has made me a better mom. And my kids need that healthy, happy mom! So, I need to keep up my writing, which will in turn keep me feeling healthier and more balanced, which will enable me to be a great mom.

What are you reading right now?

Right now, I am reading The Last Rabbit by Shelley Moore Thomas. The Trebors by Caroline C. Barney is on top of my current reads pile. And Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel will be leaping straight to the top of my reading pile once I receive my copy! Looking forward to it! (The word “carousel” is surprisingly hard to spell!)

You’re currently working on your next book! What do readers have to look forward to as The Cottonwood Chronicles continue?

This is really exciting, but I actually just recently finished Hoover’s Horn, which is the second book in The Cottonwood Chronicles (Luna’s Rescue being the first). I’m in the very final stages of having this book ready for publication. The readers of The Cottonwood Chronicles have a wild ride ahead of them. They can definitely look forward to going on some unexpected adventures and meeting some very unique, lovable characters, including a garden gnome named Terracotta Glaze who is a very restless spirit.

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You can purchase Luna’s Rescue and Hoover’s Horn on Amazon! And make sure to check out Erica’s story, Lisa’s Ugly Glasses 🙂

Want to follow along on all of Erica’s writing adventures? 🙂 Head to her Instagram so you won’t miss out on any exciting updates!

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Thank you again to all of the wonderful authors who have joined me for excerpts, interviews, and giveaways (Oh my!) over the last few weeks! It has been such a delight to get to know all of you and share your stories with readers! I can’t wait to see all the wonders God does through the words you write over the years to come 🙂

Do you have a favorite author you’d like to see featured on the blog? Please let me know! I’m always looking for recommendations!

Hoping your weekend is full of good books,

Alexandria

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Book Review: The Reindeer Girl

Today, I get to share with you all one of the most charming and meaningful children’s stories I’ve read in some time. It was an absolute delight to read, and I can’t recommend it enough! Check out my full review below.

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Lotta is on her very first visit to Norway and can’t decide if she is more excited to meet her Oldemor (great-grandmother), Erika, for the first time or to catch a glimpse of the reindeer that color her great-grandma’s stories with so much wonder and excitement.

But it just so happens that neither one disappoints, for one evening, just before Christmas, Lotta dozes off to the sound of another story and wakes to find herself in an altogether different, but just as enchanting world. Only there will she discover whether or not she truly carries the heart of a reindeer girl within her.

It is rare indeed to find a children’s story woven with such enchantment and wonder that both adults and children alike will find themselves reluctant to put it down. Filled to the brim with charming illustrations and rich information about Norwegian and Sami culture, The Reindeer Girl will not only sweep you away on a magical adventure, but will also leave you with a fresh appreciation for wildlife and the precious stories our grandparents and great-grandparents have to tell us, if only we’d curl up by the fire and listen.

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

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Holly Webb has penned so many fantastic stories! After you read The Reindeer Girl, here are some more enchanting tales for you to explore with your whole family:

  1. Emily Feather and the Starlit Staircase
  2. The Girl of Glass
  3. The Hounds of Penhallow Hall
  4. The Silver Pony
  5. Frost

You can explore more stories for yourself and learn more about Holly on her website, Facebook, or Instagram!

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Next week, I’ll be sharing more about our upcoming release, Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel. I can’t wait to share this wintry adventure with you all!

Until then,

Alexandria

Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: The Final Installment

Here we are, at the end of an adventure I never expected to take (those are always the best kind, aren’t they?). Chip’s story completely surprised me, but I’m so thankful I got to be the one to tell it. If you have ever felt alone, unseen, or unheard, I hope this story is a friend to you and that it will remind you that you have a Father in Heaven Who is absolutely captivated by each and every one of your prayers.

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It seemed to Chip that he had been adventuring through Almea for an age, for so much had happened on their search for Abaline. A part of him expected the journey back to feel just as long, yet, before Chip knew it, they were facing the river that the young fox, Wilfred, had helped them cross.

With Beauregard’s help, Chip crossed first this time. He waited with no small amount of sadness as Alfeus and Beauregard bickered their way across the river, for he knew that his time with these wonderful friends was coming to an end.

Chip could not fathom being apart from them, but this was their home, and, no matter how much he loved Almea, Chip’s home lay somewhere beyond the hollow of a tree inhabited by a certain persevering owl.

Alfeus and Beauregard were halfway to the shore now, and in the time remaining to Chip, his thoughts drifted to Nesbit, to stories told by candlelight and the comforting rumble of Romulus’ voice.

But, perhaps most of all, Chip thought of the warmth of his own burrow and the pleasure in sharing a meal with Mama and Papa.

This was what he missed most of all, and as his friends reached him at last, Chip found himself with more of a longing for home, though leaving Alfeus and Beauregard would still be bittersweet.

At that instant, a somewhat bedraggled chipmunk marched straight past him, clearly determined to distance himself from a certain beaver.

“Give me Wilfred any day!” Alfeus hurrumphed as he carried on, entirely unconcerned with whether his companions were following or not.

“You know, Chip,” Beauregard said as they watched their disgruntled friend, “I’d pray for him to be less cantankerous, but I do believe that, if he were, he’d be just a little less Alfeus, if you know what I mean.”

“Yes, Beauregard, I know exactly what you mean,” Chip answered as they trailed after their friend.

“He’s got spunk, our Alfeus,” Beauregard said with a fond chuckle.

“And we love him more for it,” Chip replied.

“Aye, that we do.” After a moment, the beaver continued, “He’ll miss you, you know.”

Chip looked over at Beauregard, surprised, but warmed, by his words. “Do you really think so?”

“Oh, yes. In fact, I suspect your leaving is what’s making him especially persnickety today.”

Chip had no time to answer, for, at just that moment, a joyous yip met their ears, and a flash of brilliant copper raced towards them.

“Wilfred!” Chip cried.

“Chip! Alfeus! You’re back!” the young fox breathlessly answered as he reached them.

Then, looking quizzically at the beaver, he asked, “Beauregard? How did you get mixed up in all this?”

“Examine any dangerous endeavor, Wilfred,” Alfeus cut in, “and you are certain to find Beauregard’s paw prints all over it.”

Beauregard’s chest puffed up. “I take that as the highest of compliments, Alfeus, and thank you.”

A low grumble was Alfeus’ only reply.

Turning to Chip, Wilfred asked, “Are you heading for The Entrance?”

Chip frowned. “Do you mean the tree?”

Wilfred nodded. “Come on! I’ll keep you company, at least part of the way.”

They were just beginning to carry on when, suddenly, Wilfred stopped, staring at Chip. “Chip, where’s your satchel?”

Dread swelled inside our young rabbit friend.

Leah’s satchel.

Quickly, his mind raced through all their adventures and travels, but, for all he tried, Chip could not remember the last time he’d had it. “I don’t know,” he cried, greatly distressed. “Romulus and Leah will be so angry with me for losing it!”

“Now, Chip,” Beauregard interjected, “you’ve been through harrowing adventures in your time here, and they’ll understand, Leah especially. And it’ll all come right in the end. Someone’s bound to find it.”

And, indeed, someone had.

But never mind about that for now.

For a moment, Chip desperately wanted to argue, to insist that they must go in search of the satchel so that he might return it.

But then, he thought of the gift he’d been given – one that was beginning to make a bit more sense – and of Abaline’s warning.

Be careful what you do with this gift.

He couldn’t go back.

It wasn’t the right time.

And Chip found himself content to wait until it was.

With that decided, the company continued on, talking animatedly the entire time about their adventures and what they’d discovered at the end of them. Chip was only too happy to answer Wilfred’s questions about Abaline and was truly pleased when the young fox immediately understood what made their discovery the truest kind of treasure.

Day was only just beginning to settle into dusk when they came upon a rather familiar hazelnut tree.

“Home!” Alfeus cried. “Home, and my beloved hazelnuts! Or, rather, what’s left of them,” he concluded with a pointed stare in Beauregard’s direction.

But the beaver was unruffled by his friend’s thinly-veiled accusation, and he only said, “I wouldn’t be too quick to fuss about those hazelnuts or my young rabbit friends.” He then gestured off to the left where the most enormous leaf Chip had ever seen was being dragged by four familiar bunnies.

Roger, Roderick, Eloise, and Fred stopped just in front of the flabbergasted chipmunk, who, for once, had nothing to say. Lying in front of him was a positively monstrous pile of beautiful, fresh hazelnuts, the likes of which he’d only dreamed about.

Tentatively, he reached out and took one, bringing it close and inhaling deeply, as if to assure himself they were real.

Once satisfied, he turned to face the four rabbits and finally managed to splutter, “Th-thank you. Thank you! This will see me through three winters, at least! Probably more! I can hardly believe… however did you manage it?” he asked.

But the rabbits only laughed mischievously amongst themselves. “We’ll tell you about it some time,” one of them promised, and then they were off, giggling and chasing each other through the forest.

Alfeus was still staring at the hazelnuts when Chip quietly said, “Well, I best be going, everyone.”

A bit of the joy left Alfeus, but he handled it admirably. “I shall accompany you every step of the way, my friend. Though I will have to hide my hazelnuts first.”

“Never you mind about that, Alfeus,” Beauregard said. “I will guard them until you return.”

Alfeus beamed, then looked to Wilfred, who said, a bit reluctantly, “I can’t. My dad will expect me home before it gets much darker.”

“That’s all right, Wilfred. I understand,” Chip replied, though he was disappointed that he must say goodbye to two friends already.

Wilfred came forward, nudging Chip affectionately. “You’ll come back, though, won’t you?”

Chip smiled. “I hope so.”

“Maybe I’ll join you for your next adventure,” Wilfred said with a fierce grin, and then he was gone, bounding away like a flash of fire in the starlight.

Chip wasted not a moment before hopping towards the beaver, who placed a comforting paw on Chip’s shoulder. “Oh, Chip,” Beauregard said with a sigh. “Almea is going to be a less adventurous place without you in it. Still, we never know when an opportunity to return might present itself. And you know just where to find me.”

Chip huddled close a moment more before returning to Alfeus’ side. “Thank you for everything, Beauregard. We might never have found Abaline if not for you.”

“Oh, don’t mention it, Chip. Accompanying you and Alfy was my joy.”

With goodbyes exchanged, Chip and Alfeus began the final stretch of their journey.

Chip only looked back once and Beauregard, with a final wave, called, “Safe travels, my friend!”

Starlight was the only light to speak of as they made their way to the tree where Chip’s adventures in Almea had begun.

Neither could bring themselves to speak, but Chip was content to soak in these last minutes with Alfeus in silence.

Still, the time together proved to be all too short.

They stood at the foot of the tree, both unsure what to say.

At last, Alfeus said, “Oh, come here,” and the two friends embraced, finding some measure of relief that their sadness at parting ways was shared.

After a moment, they stepped apart. “Of all the friends I made in Almea, Alfeus, I’m thankful you were the first.”

An embarrassed, “Oh,” was all Alfeus could muster, though he was clearly pleased by Chip’s thoughtful words.

But before either could say anything more, a great whoosh of air sounded above them. A moment later, Nesbit landed in the grass beside Alfeus and Chip, who was overjoyed to see his old friend.

“Well, young Chip,” Nesbit said, “have you persevered?”

Chip laughed fondly. “Yes, Nesbit, I have.”

“Very good. Time to be going then?”

Chip didn’t answer, instead looking at Alfeus.

“We’ll see each other soon, my friend. It’s time for you to go home,” the chipmunk said gently.

Chip nodded, tears filling his eyes. “Goodbye, Alfeus.”

“Goodbye for now, Chip.”

And then, quick as a blink, our young rabbit friend was swept up as Nesbit flew up amongst the branches, through the tree’s hollow, and back to Everleaf Forest.

For a moment, Chip could not believe he was home, yet all the familiar sights and sounds, not to mention the wonderful scent of clover, reassured him that he was.

With Nesbit already asleep, Chip had the clearing to himself, and he stayed there in the quiet for a while, soaking in all he’d learned.

For ages, he’d wondered if his prayers mattered and if they were heard.

In the end, he’d found even better.

His tears were the diamonds of Heaven, his prayers carefully preserved.

He was reassured now that, like perfume carefully bottled, like rose leaves lovingly pressed between the pages of a favorite book, were his prayers to the Father.

His purpose – and ours – is to go and tell those who are still longing to know.

When he had set out, he had never expected to find truth so glorious or peace so sound.

Chip looked up at the sky, smiling once and giving thanks before turning for home.

His father, Joshua Raddish, met him at the door.

“Papa, I –“ Chip began, but his father held up a paw.

“Nesbit and Romulus already fessed up.”

“I’m sorry, Papa,” Chip said.

“You could have told me.”

“You might have stopped me.”

Joshua looked at his son kindly. “I might have gone with you.”

Something, Chip supposed, to keep in mind for next time.

The End

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I hope you enjoyed the journey just as much as I did. And, remember, you can revisit past installments of Chip any time!

Next week, Author Spotlight Month begins on 21:25 Books! I’ll be featuring H.A. Pruitt’s novel, Anelthalien, along with a special author interview at the end of the week. You won’t want to miss it!

Until then,

Alexandria

Book Review: Night Night, Norman

Today, I get to share a delightful storybook that just released today, Night Night, Norman.

This is one worth picking up and enjoying with your family. You can read my full review below.

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Open up this enchanting storybook and take a stroll to Green Apple Barn, where a curious horse named Norman is about to set off on an adventure.

Norman’s whole world revolves around a little girl, Elle, who is his family and greatest friend.

She tenderly feeds and grooms him and always makes sure to reward Norman with his favorite treat: fresh, deliciously tart green apples.

But when their time together comes to an end each day, where does Ellie go?

Norman is determined to find out, and all sorts of shenanigans are sure to ensue when he does, from tumbling over furniture to uncovering the most delicious of treats in the kitchen.

But when all is said and done, will Norman succeed in finding Elle?

You’ll have to wait until night falls at Green Apple barn and see for yourself.

Accompanied by beautiful illustrations by Romi Caron, Night Night, Norman is a tale full of whimsy and fun that is sure to delight children and adults alike as they follow this most loveable of horses on his nighttime adventure.

And, if you’d like to create your own adventures for Norman, you can learn how to draw him at the back of the book!

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You can follow Marie Dimitrova on Instagram.

And be sure to head to Marie’s website to see photos of the real-life Norman who inspired this story and learn to create even more original horse artwork!

You can also connect with the illustrator, Romi Caron, on Facebook.

Book Review: The One with the Scraggly Beard

This week, I’m thrilled to share The One with the Scraggly Beard by Elizabeth Withey with you. This illustrated children’s story is well worth the read. Though the words are few, they are rich and sure to stay with you for a long time to come.

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Sometimes, the right words for a book this wonderful come slowly. The story’s events are seen through the eyes of a young boy who is overflowing with questions about someone he calls The One with the Scraggly Beard, a homeless man who sleeps beneath a nearby bridge.

Readers might expect a little boy to be full of questions, but what sets him apart is his ability to really see someone whose life is so unlike his own, while also possessing the innocent courage it takes to understand that they aren’t so very different from one another after all.

Elizabeth Withey and illustrator, Lynn Scurfield, have bravely crafted a story that will fill readers with the longing to recapture all that’s best about a child’s heart and the willingness to ask the hard questions and truly see painful realities.

Read this one aloud with your children. Your family won’t soon forget it, for The One with the Scraggly Beard is one of those rare books that will simultaneously leave your hearts broken for the hurting and put the pieces back together with the hope that, one day, as love and empathy flourish, the pain of all those sleeping under bridges tonight will be healed.

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You can connect with Elizabeth Withey on Twitter and Lynn Scurfield on Instagram

And for more wonderful stories, connect with Orca Books on Facebook

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This weekend, the next installment of Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves will be available! If you’d like to catch up on past installments, you can do that here.

Until then,

Alexandria

Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Four

Here we go on the next installment! I had a blast writing it, and I hope you enjoy it, too!

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Speaking of places untold, Chip halted just outside of Romulus’ burrow, faced with the uncomfortable realization that he hadn’t the slightest idea where to begin his search for Abaline. But that couldn’t daunt him for long, and quick as a blink, Chip was across the clearing and sneaking into his home.

Some foodstuffs were hurriedly placed in a satchel gifted to him by Romulus, and then Chip returned to the clearing, lifting his quivering nose to breathe in the crisp night air.

A sudden breeze swept softly around and behind Chip, rustling his fur as it carried on its unhurried way, seeming to beckon Chip to follow.

Naturally, he did, and all that was familiar was left behind to wait for his return.

Moonlight illuminated Chip’s way through the forest, and his heart fluttered a little less for the way it kept the darkness from making monsters appear in familiar places.

He travelled some distance before he caught a whiff of flowers and wandered a little ways from the path to satisfy his curiosity and rumbling stomach. The food in his satchel would keep long enough for him to enjoy this scrumptious treat.

Sure enough, a clump of wildflowers waited for the young rabbit just beyond a towering oak, and Chip sat in the midst of their perfume for several minutes, happily munching away.

Satisfied now, he stayed where he was, enjoying the sheltering feel of tall grass and leafy blooms. There was one gathering of wildflowers that he had refused to munch on. The delicately unfurling petals ranged from richest purple to palest butter yellow.

They seemed to glitter in the starlight, and Chip was too enchanted to spoil the sight by eating them.

It was a much-treasured moment of peace until the shadow passed over him.

His whole body went rigid, poised to bound away to safety if he needed to. The whole forest went quiet and still; even the moonlight seemed to shine a little less brilliantly in suspense.

Chip could see nothing, and the shadow seemed to have passed. He was just feeling brave enough to go in search of better shelter when an immense, winged figure landed in front of him and blocked his escape.

Fear left him frozen, but no sooner had terror gripped him than a familiar voice spoke. “Must you travel so confounded fast, young Chip? Really! And without a word of thanks for putting the notion of Abaline into your head… however incidentally,” Nesbit said with an indignant sniff.

“Oh, Nesbit,” Chip cried in relief, “I’ve never been so happy to see you!”

The owl arched his brow, trying to decide whether he should feel flattered or insulted. “Yes, well, never mind that,” he hastily replied. “I gather that Romulus Took has been spinning his usual tales. If you’d only woken me, I could have spared you all that time.”

“How?” Chip asked, almost before Nesbit was finished speaking.

But the great owl was in a generous mood and said nothing. “Romulus’ stories are all well and good, but he certainly cannot tell you the road to take, whereas I,” he said with a satisfied ruffling of his feathers, “can show you.”

Chip felt a thrill of excitement rush through him, but still, he frowned, thinking back to the story he’d been told. “Romulus said his Aunt Leah found the treasure in a forest a long ways from here. Have you been there?”

Nesbit smiled. “I think you’ll find her meaning was different from what you might expect.”

Chip opened his mouth to speak, but Nesbit, wisely anticipating a barrage of questions, held up a wing to stop the inquisitive little character. “Now, if you can quell your excitement for a time, I’ll take you back to my tree, and we’ll get you on your way.”

“Go back home? But that’s not what Leah said at all! She said –.”

“Yes, so you said. But wonder’s tucked into all sorts of corners in this world, young Chip. Now, will you believe me long enough so that I can show you?”

Uncertain though he was, Chip knew the only thing for it was to follow, so off he went, running beneath Nesbit’s shadow through the night.

It was a short time later when they arrived at the familiar clearing. Chip looked around carefully before passing the last line of trees, making sure that no one was stirring.

Only one person was watching, but Chip failed to see her.

“Come, come, Chip, we haven’t got all blasted night,” Nesbit complained.

Chip fought back a chuckle, knowing that the owl was impatient to get back to sleep.

Soon enough, they both stood at the foot of the tree that Nesbit had claimed for his own many years ago.

“Now what?” Chip asked unceremoniously.

The owl looked indignant as he tapped a claw against the grassy earth. “Now what?” Nesbit let out a long-suffering sigh before the muttering began. “Why, thank you, Nesbit. How lucky I am, Nesbit, to live in the particular clearing where only a certain owl knows the one way to the treasure I’m seeking. Now what, indeed!” he snapped, and then his eyes flashed dangerously. “This is what!”

And before Chip could even utter a cry, he’d been swept up (carefully) in the owl’s claws, and the ground was a long ways away indeed.

In a mercifully short time, Chip was placed on Nesbit’s usual perch, and the owl settled in beside him. Chip curled up as tightly as he could, certain that if he relaxed for even the slightest moment, he was sure to fall.

Nesbit let out a hearty laugh. “A little less eager now, are we?” Then, more kindly, “Nothing to fear here, Chip, despite appearances. I will not let you fall.”

Chip barely managed a nod. “What are we doing all the way up here, Nesbit?” Our young rabbit cast a sidelong glance at his friend. “And when can we go back down?”

Chuckling softly, Nesbit replied, “You’ll be off this branch soon enough, lad. But you must hop along into the hollow. There, I promise you, you’ll see a sight fit to cure the worst of fears.”

Chip took a deep breath, forcing his eyes to stay open as he crept along the branch, his little body still shaking. Though the bravery of a moment felt like a lifetime, Chip did, indeed, make it to the opening in the tree, and he hopped inside at Nesbit’s encouragement.

The inside was warm and dark, but Chip failed to notice anything spectacular. “It’s just dark, Nesbit.”

“Give the light a moment, if you please.”

Without any further explanation, Nesbit  blocked the entryway with his wings, so that not even the moonlight could illuminate this secret space.

Nothing happened at first, and Chip was just about to ask what he should be looking for, but then a slight shimmer appeared on the far wall of the hollow.

He moved forward carefully, looking back at Nesbit only once. The owl gestured for him to keep watching.

The glow grew in intensity, amber in color, almost like a reflection of Nesbit’s eyes. The closer Chip came, the more brilliant and far-reaching the light became, until Chip had no choice but to close his eyes.

When once he opened them, a sight greeted him unlike any he’d ever seen.

Another opening had appeared on the other side of the tree, and beyond it, hills rolled away like a green sea to a forested expanse, while just beneath, a river busily flowed. The whole land was golden with the rising sun.

The little rabbit was awed, but the feeling could only keep him still for a moment.

Eagerly, Chip allowed Nesbit to carry him to the ground, and after a brief farewell, Chip started on his way. He had a longing in his heart, and if there was a treasure that could satisfy it, he would find it.

~

Not long after Chip left the clearing, a bent figure left the cover of the trees and made her way to Romulus’ burrow. She was old for a badger, and her steps were slow, but still, she managed to navigate the twists and turns until she came upon Romulus seated comfortably amidst his candlelight and trinkets.

“Aunt Leah!” Romulus cried, delighted to see a long-missed member of his family. “What are you doing here?”

“Here to stay, Romulus, if you’ll have me,” Aunt Leah replied with a worn smile. “I’m afraid my days of adventuring are behind me, whether I like it or not.”

“You’re welcome here, always,” Romulus assured, holding tightly to her frail, trembling paws.

Suddenly, Leah let out a raspy laugh. “That young rabbit ruffles old Nesbit’s feathers like I’ve never seen!”

“You have no idea, Aunt Leah,” Romulus said, joining in her laughter.

She smiled, but then her look turned shrewd. “Was that my old satchel I saw round that rabbit’s neck?”

“Did he take it?” Romulus asked. “I was hoping he would. I thought it might earn him a few friends along the way.”

“And enemies,” Aunt Leah replied, and her words were a whisper.

*

Until next time,

Alexandria

P.S. The watercolor painting of the rabbit is courtesy of Dana Fox’s wonderful book, Watercolor With Me: In the Forest. If you’ve ever wanted to give watercolor painting a try, I really recommend this book. I’ve been enjoying learning to paint so much, and it’s been such a stress reliever in this hectic time.