BOOKS: Treasures from Townsend Publishing

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1993:

Treasures from Townsend Publishing
(12 Greenleaf Drive, Exeter, NH 03833)
Nana’s Adoption Farm, by Tryntje Horn,
illus. by Dana Lacroix. 1992. Hardcover. $16.95.
Wintertime Cat, by Era Zistel. Paper. $5.95.
Orphan, by Era Zistel, illustrated
by Christine Knight Coombs. 1990. Paper. $11.95.
Christopher, by Era Zistel, illustrated by
Judee Donahue. 1991. Paper. $11.95.
Separate Lifetimes, by Irving Townsend.
1986 and 1990. Paper. $11.95.
The Less Expensive Spre a d, by Irving
Townsend. 1990. Paper. $11.95.

Lovingly and lavishly designed for treasuring,
Nana’s Adoption Farm by Tryntje Horn is about a haven for
farm animals created by an aging woman and her decrepit
dog. Children will find the story both reassuring and an
inspiring reminder of the work to be done in the real world
to make it a kind place. Dana Lacroix has hand-lettered the
text, and filled every page to the very edge with cozy,
detailed folk art illustrations, rich with warm harvest col-
ors. Proceeds go to the Nana Foundation, which cares for
neglected animals. This is a book for every stocking come
Christmas, and for you, right now, to sit down with over a
cuppa and “go home” through dreams and time to some half-
remembered, half-fantasized personal Nana’s kitchen.
Era Zistel gives us a trio of choices for children.
Wintertime Cat is a collection of black-and-white photos of a
romping feline, which are captioned very simply, providing
easy reading or listening for toddlers to eight-year-olds.
Her Orphan and A Cat Named Christopher are less
limited in the ages to which they will appeal. Both they are
mostly text with nice line drawings spinkled through.
Orphan deals with the hazards of life a little raccoon
encounters, when following his mother’s death he must
adjust first to the loving but strange nurturance of a human
household, and then to reclamation of his own wild identity
in maturity, hovering between the two so-alien environ-
ments while his human foster parents endure the anxiety of
being unable to do more than look on and wait and wonder
what fate will deal their orphan in his danger-filled natural
habitat. Christopher gives a cat’s eye view of such matters
as why a cherished cat would leave his home and try to fend
for himself in a cold, enormous world. Again, there is pain
inherent in being a small creature alive in an environment
humans have adapted to their own needs, which operates in
ways incomprehensible to a cat––and there is pain for
humans who invest their love in so vulnerable a creature.
Both of these books have a happier ending than most simi-
larly honest and accurate accounts of relationships between
people and animals, and Zistel pours in a generous measure
of the joys to be found in such relationships.
Now, what has Townsend to offer adults on your
Christmas shopping list? Two I think would be ideal to take
your holiday hostess as gifts her entire family could enjoy
are Separate Lifetimes, Irving Townsend’s stories about all
the animals who grace his various lifestages, and The Less
Expensive Spread, his narration of the transition he made
from Eastern businessman addicted to the rural charm of
New England to greenhorn rancher and ultimately Old Hand
on a small “spread” near Solvang, California. His horse sto-
ries in particular stay with me, because Townsend can see in
some spavined old mount the qualities I would have thought
more likely in a knightly rider. His romantic view of a horse
as something more than transportation is nothing compared
to his problem-creating inability to behold beefsteak on the
hoof in his carefully raised calves. Townsend must gradual-
ly convert his tax man to an appreciation of the finer things
in life apart from their deductible status. His style is gentle,
reflective, that of a longtime welcome neighbor come to
while away the afternoon yarning with you. Townsend
allows no hints of the darker troubles in his life to shadow
these pages, but shares with us the respite he found in enjoy-
ment of nature, children, beasts, and the bucolic life of the
country gentleman. Well, he does tell us just what it is like
to jockey an oversized recreational vehicle, and makes a few
rueful confessions of trying and erring…
––Phyllis Clifton
[Phyllis Clifton is a retired schoolteacher living in rural
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