Whew, this week’s blog title was a mouthful. I needed a gator’s gaping maw to say all that!
(Definite book spoilers lie ahead.)
I’m reading books faster than I can chat about them on the blog, but the other soon-to-be-two books aren’t fantasy, so they’ll get their own lightning-bolt look in another post.
And, before I get started, I found the hippie house of my dreams! Who wants to give me 1.5 million dollars? (Yes, it really is that much!) But maybe we can start a writer’s commune where we ignore each other as we huddle over our microwaved meals and our books. Unless, of course, we steal each other’s bookmarks, then, watch out for our old stink-eyed glares!
Speaking of stink-eyes, I have an especially fierce one reserved for Florida’s developers, and the politicians that cater to them. And, believe me, I know all about their antics and tactics firsthand. (I was born and raised in Florida.)
Like the time a local county commissioner was determined to build a brand-new stadium to house/attract the Baltimore Orioles, and nothing, not even the tree with a pair of nesting bald eagles, was going to get in the county commissioner’s way. (I tried to locate the original news article, but did not find the correct one, so I had to relate the circumstances from memory.)
And so, even though the Heart Stone Chronicles is described as a read for “upper middle grade and the young at heart” by a reviewer on Amazon, it was a deeply personal read for me. Because the main character, teenaged Abby Forester, is having to take a stand against not only the menacing pressure of a local developer when she inherits a parcel of magical swamp land (But what swamp land ISN’T magical, I ask?!?!?!) as well as pressure from her new friends and other locals to sell up the land for a housing development. (As if Florida needs any more of those either, right? Or cheaply and hurriedly built gaudy McMansions, speaking of vile housing developments.)
The worst part in addition to the continued destruction of Florida’s shrinking wildlife areas is when beautiful 100+ year old oaks are cut down. It was supposed to be illegal, but nobody seems to care, and the perpetrator just pays the fine.
I did, though. My heart broke so much while I was living there. I tried to fight it in my own way, but it seems money will always win in Florida. What the development didn’t take care of, the newcomers to Florida took care of with their slavish devotion to Roundup and pesticide-laden green lawns. The local extension department even fully embraced Round-up. Even in a newly established, so-called “wetlands restoration” of someplace called Celery Fields was subjected to extensive Roundup spraying. I witnessed this myself. A golf cart with tanks on the back and a big sprayer was driving up and down and around the lake watering every square inch of the so-called “wetlands” with what was in the tanks (the tanks were even labeled “Roundup”. I called the county and even contacted the Sarasota Audubon Society.
I don’t think I even heard back from the county, as memory serves, but I did speak by phone with a spokesperson from the Sarasota Audubon Society and the spokesperson was in full support of the Roundup spraying as necessary maintenance for the Celery Fields site. https://www.sarasotaaudubon.org/the-celery-fields/
For myself, It was awful to see egrets and herons and other like birds wading and feeding in the areas that had just been liberally doused with Roundup.
So, in light of my above experiences, Colleen M. Chesebro’s book became my own “Heart Stone” read. Because in her book, the evil developer doesn’t win by virtue of money and his greased-palm political allies. Chesebro’s “swamp fairies” are protected, and, as I imagined, so are all the other swamp wildlife and trees and waterways.
I can close my eyes and pretend that none of the trees I loved as a child were cut down. I can pretend that majestically regal alligators don’t lose their tails to poachers. I can pretend that the terrible day never happened where the residents of Oaks Club in Venice, Florida intentionally shot fireworks into island bird rookeries. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2306348/Oaks-Club-Residents-private-country-club-shooting-fireworks-rookeries-scare-protected-birds.html
I can pretend that none of the animals who were here first are losing their homes and their habitats because there are little checks on Florida’s rampaging developments.
I can pretend that Colleen M. Chesebro’s swamp fairies are real.
In fact, I can believe that her fairies are real. Because the Heart Stone Chronicles are inspired by her real-life encounter with a swamp fairy.
I can believe in the possibility, even as a skeptic, because I’ve seen something similar in Vermont and I have not found a way to discount what it was that I saw. Yet, anyway. Feel free to ask me about my fairy-ish sighting, even if you want to try to debunk it yourself.
In any case, Abby Forester wins out, and the swamp is turned into a protected wetlands site. One that is, hopefully, not doused with pesticides and Roundup that even park rangers seem to love to utilize.
But, in addition to the environmental theme within the book, there’s a strong social message in there. Some might argue that the messages about drug use (Abby’s father became an addict) and other elements are not appropriate for kids, but I strongly disagree. As if such things like that and contact with Department of Children and Families and blended families or whatever the term is aren’t something many kids today have to deal with in their daily lives. Heck, even back in the 1990s, there were elementary-school aged drug dealers (recruited by an older brother or sister or relative in their lives) or they had stolen drugs from a family member’s medicine cabinet to sell or trade. So I like that the main character has to navigate a similar situation. It handles the material well, and I believe it is a book that is current and relatable to younger readers, especially given that Abby not only finds a positive living environment, but has her own agency, knows/discovers her own mind, and makes her own decisions accordingly without succumbing to peer pressure and societal pressure.
And, of course, we all know that fairies exist! So, it’s totally okay to believe in fairies and unicorns and mythical creatures and whatever else the hell you want to! Because if there’s no magic-made-real in this world, how can we find the hope and strength and creative vision to change things and make a difference for the better? To create a life and a world WE want to live in? Am I right or am I right? (I’m right!)
Here’s the links to Colleen M. Chesebro’s websites and book-buying options!
Author Website: https://colleenchesebro.com/
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16254415.Colleen_M_Chesebro