Wednesday, September 19, 2018

MEET CAROLINE ARNOLD, Feature Article in Cheviot Living Magazine

Several months ago I was interviewed for an article in my neighborhood magazine, Cheviot Living, by local resident Gabrielle Michel. (The neighborhood where I live in Los Angeles is called Cheviot Hills, inspired by the hills on the border of Scotland and England of the same name.) Gabrielle did a great job and I thank publisher and editor Joe Schneider for featuring my work and introducing it to my neighbors. I met Joe last spring in conjunction with the Cheviot Art Crawl, an annual event in which artists who live in the area open their studios to the public. I plan to participate in the Art Crawl next spring.

Here is the text of the article:


Meet Cheviot resident and artist Caroline Arnold! Caroline grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and spent most summers at a small camp in northern Wisconsin. It was there that she began to develop a love for nature and the outdoors (which would ultimately become her muse for her art pieces and environmentally-conscious children’s books, of which she’s written over 170 to date). Caroline attended Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, where she majored in art and also studied English literature. Following that, she attended the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, and received her M.A. in art in 1968.


Caroline began writing books for children more than twenty-five years ago when her own children were small. She illustrated a few books and then worked with photographer Richard Hewett for many years creating photo essays about animals. The books she illustrates today are inspired by her experience working with Richard. They read like true stories, following the lives of animals from birth to finding independence, and teach simple themes to children about growing up. The books have also been a major avenue to showcase Caroline’s art creations of paper cut-out shapes.



Says Caroline about her paper cut-outs: “I rely heavily on the outside edges of each piece of paper because it’s those lines that define the shapes of the objects. I use flat colors so I depend on contrasting hues and a layering process to create depth. Thicker art stock paper, when layered, gives a nice, although minute, three-dimensionality that really brings the animals to life and allows them to `pop’ off the page.”



Caroline has found that for animals that live underground or underwater, are active at night, or live in remote locations, often a drawing is better than a photograph for showing their behavior.



Says Caroline about her books: “[these books] are intended for kids in early elementary school so the pictures have to be big and bold, with a poster-effect, and fill both pages, so when a teacher reads to her class, the students can see the images clearly from the back of the room.” While the stories themselves are full of information and can be found in school libraries, they are also good for pleasure reading and are available at book retailers.



Caroline’s favorite aspect about her art is the fact that it’s so scalable: while intended as book illustration, it can also be framed or made into prints to hang on a wall. She’s also used these images to create great greeting cards.



Caroline’s paintings and drawings have been exhibited in numerous galleries and competitive shows. Caroline plans on making her Cheviot Art Crawl debut in 2019. She lives with her husband, Art (name not coincidentally on purpose), who sometimes helps with photography for her books. Their children are grown and flew the nest long ago.



To visit her works, see:


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

THE BIGGEST BELL IN CHINA, published in Touchdown (The School Magazine in Australia)

I am pleased to announce that my story The Biggest Bell in China has just been published in the September issue of Touchdown, one of the publications of The School Magazine in Australia. The subject of the story is the giant bell commissioned by the great Ming emperor Yongle, which now hangs in the Great Bell Temple in Beijing. More than twenty feet tall, the bell itself is impressive, but the story of how it was made and moved to the temple is fascinating as an example of Chinese ingenuity and provides insight into the importance of bells in Chinese culture and history. The Great Bell of Beijing is a type of bell called a chung. A chung has no clapper; instead, it sounds when it is struck on the outside with a wooden post or mallet.
My visit to the Bell Temple to see the Great Bell

I was inspired to write this story after I visited the Great Bell Temple on a trip to Beijing more than twenty years ago. You can read more about my visit to the Great Bell and see some of my photographs at my June 30, 2014 post at my travel blog, The Intrepid Tourist.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

ANASAZI BEAN SOUP and a Visit to Mesa Verde, Colorado

Caroline and her brothers at Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde, Colorado
When I was fourteen years old my family went on an extended summer camping trip from our home in Minnesota to southern California. One of the highlights along the way was a visit to Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado. At that time, the campground was on top of the mesa, just a stone’s throw away from the visitor center and the ruins of Spruce Tree House. My brothers and I spent hours climbing the ladders and exploring the ruins. Inside the visitor center I loved peering at the dioramas with their tiny houses and people, and reading about the pottery, tools, and other items in the exhibit cases, trying to imagine what life was like when the Ancestral Puebloans had inhabited these mesas and canyons. In the evening, our family cooked our meal and ate it around the campfire, much as the Ancestral Puebloans must have done more than a thousand years ago.

Native Americans known as the Ancestral Puebloans [formerly called the Anasazi] lived at Mesa Verde between A.D. 550 and 1300. They left at a time when there was a long drought and never returned.  Their descendants are among the Native American people who live in the southwest today.
When I returned to Mesa Verde in 1990 with Richard Hewett to do the research and photography for our book, The Ancient Cliff Dwellers of Mesa Verde, I found the park just as fascinating as I had as a child.  The campground had been converted to a picnic area and as we ate our lunches there it brought back memories of my childhood visit.  Since then, many more ancient sites within the park had been discovered and excavated, and new research was offering new evidence to explain why the Ancestral Puebloans had abandoned their cliff side dwellings so suddenly.

One of my favorite parts of the park was a small garden plot near the visitor center where the park rangers were growing corn, squash, and beans, just as the Ancestral Puebloans had in prehistoric times.  I have always been fond of bean soup and I was delighted to discover in one of the gift shops a package of red beans with a recipe on the back for Anasazi bean soup. Although I doubt that the Ancestral Puebloans used ham hocks or lemon in their recipes, I can imagine that they might have put a chunk of deer meat and locally gathered flavorings into their beans as they cooked them over the fire.  In any case, as you eat this delicious soup, you can imagine that you are high on a Colorado mesa, gazing across the plain below.

Anasazi Bean Soup

1 package of red, pinto type, beans
2 quarts of water
1-2 ham hocks
Salt and pepper to taste
1 16 ounce can of tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1-1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
Juice of ½ lemon

Soak beans overnight.  Drain beans.  Add water, ham, salt and pepper.  Cook until beans are tender.  Add tomatoes, onion, garlic and chili powder and cook another half hour.  Add lemon juice before serving.  Enjoy!

The high elevation of Mesa Verde, which is about seven thousand feet above sea level, makes it slightly cooler in summer and wetter than the plain below.  Both the climate and rich soil made it a good place to grow crops.  Beans were added to the Anasazi diet during the period about A.D. 550-750, and were an important source of protein.  Anasazi beans were very much like today’s pinto beans.  The Anasazi ate them fresh and also dried them to be used later. [Page 25, The Ancient Cliff Dwellers of Mesa Verde by Caroline Arnold (Clarion Books, 1992)] Note: the term Ancestral Puebloan replaced Anasazi after my book was published.

Visit Mesa Verde: The National Park Service website for Mesa Verde has everything you need to know to plan a visit to the park including directions, maps, things to do, and links to information about camping and lodging.  There are also pages with downloadable activities for kids and for teachers.

This article was originally published in Stepping Into the Author's Kitchen by Sharron L. McElmeel (Libraries Unlimited)