Illustration from “It’s Not the Stone That Brings You Strength: Myths Discovered, Unraveled, and Retold.”
Illustration from “It’s Not the Stone That Brings You Strength: Myths Discovered, Unraveled, and Retold.” Turner Hale

High school students’ anthology

Writing about a new anthology by Boston high school students, “Wicked” author Gregory Maguire celebrates the power of myths to transport readers. “I like characters who fly, whether they do it on broomsticks or with home-made wings,” he says in the introduction to “It’s Not the Stone that Brings You Strength: Myths Discovered, Unraveled, and Retold.” “I like characters who fly by dint of their self-understanding and their courage.”

In this book, he adds, “you will find stories that take flight.” Many of them are written by immigrants, students for whom English is a second language. Some explore myths from their homelands. In Haiti, for example, it is said that you will be shunned in society if someone sweeps a broom across your feet. That myth prompts Jennyfer Frederico, 17, to reflect on the lengths to which people will go to be accepted. She writes, “Why do people try so hard to fit in when we are born to stand out?”

“It’s Not the Stone” is the 10th volume of writing by students to be published by 826 Boston, a nonprofit tutoring center, over the past six years. By coaching students to polish their essays and poems for publication, the tutors aim to improve the students’ skills and desire to write. Bringing Maguire, Junot Díaz, and other well-known writers into the effort keeps the students motivated through rounds of rewriting and editing.


Edwin Gonzalez, whose writing was published in 826’s very first book, “I Wish They Would Have Asked Me,” has cited a talk by Díaz as particularly inspiring. Executive director Daniel Johnson proudly notes that Gonzalez, a recent graduate of Brandeis University who is still committed to the craft of writing, recently joined the staff of 826 Boston.

Sanctuary magazine closes

Sanctuary, the nature magazine published by the Massachusetts Audubon Society for the past 34 years, is no more. The society, in a cost-cutting move, has killed the magazine.


What I always turned to first was the one-page essay by founding editor John Hanson Mitchell. He intertwined his close observations of nature and his views on the state of the planet without sounding shrill. Now Mitchell is reading through the 200 essays he wrote to select about 50 to appear in the first of what will be an annual publication. The anthology of selections from Sanctuary’s long run is to be mailed to society members.

In an e-mail, Mitchell mentioned antidevelopment essays as well as those about turtles, eels, and his own adventures as among the most popular. Readers’ all-time favorites included “an essay about two old farmers, one about eating wild fare, the loss of free play among children, and an extended essay I wrote as a pseudo-deposition for a trial of humanity by the animal kingdom (with the fox as prosecuting attorney). That one was performed as a school play, was reprinted in a few newsletters, and was even used as a church service.”

Coming out

■  “The Invisible Soldiers: How America Outsourced Our Security” by Ann Hagedorn (Simon & Schuster)

 “Football: Great Writing About the National Sport” edited by John Schulian (Library of America)

■  “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload” by Daniel J. Levitin (Dutton)

Pick of the week

Karin Schott of Devaney Doak & Garrett Booksellers in Farmington, Maine, recommends “Conversion” by Katherine Howe (Putnam): “Howe returns to the themes of her wonderful 2009 ‘Physick Book of Deliverance Dane’ (Hyperion) and re-imagines them in this crossover work of fiction, which explores the Salem witch trials in a modern setting where history has come full circle.”


Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com.