Dobry (1935) vs. Caddie Woodlawn (1936)

So far, this was the hardest to judge.  I loved Dobry.  I had never read it and it filled me with joy and wonder.  The scene at Christmas with the Creche?  Holy moley.  You have to read it.  Being a student of wonderfully slow children’s books like The Yearling or Mountain Born, it fell perfectly in that camp. The camp of reminding you to slow down and look around.  The world is a remarkable place.


My wife read Caddie Woodlawn.  She called it adventurous and great.  With wonderful characters and a deep seeded perseverance.  How was it not going to put up a fight!  The only complaints that could be dragged out of this book was how it treated Native Americans (I know it is from a different time…) and what felt like an agenda behind the words.  It was felt and not a natural outcome of the story itself.


Even so, it was a great novel and put up a good fight… just not good enough.

Dobry wins.  I urge you to find this book and give it a read.  A wonderful, forgotten piece of literature.  I had to visit the amazing children’s literature department at the inimitable Western Washington University Library.


(Not) March Madness: The Newbery Bracket Challenge: Round 1

All things change and so is the Story Hunt.  What started… and I’d argue… finished as a great idea, needs to move on to greener pastures.  Perhaps the proper Story Hunt just wasn’t ready.  More likely, I wasn’t ready for the actual amount of time needed to keep such a thing going.  I have a job… two jobs… a family… a home… a large yard… and animals.  Someday we’ll visit it again.  Someday.

Until then, I present to you the Newbery Bracket Challenge.  My wife Talia and I have broken the Newbery Winners into groups of 16 and are reading through them all.  Each of us gets to read 8 out of the 16 and then we vote on which ones progress to the final round.  Along the way, I’ve been posting the results with some commentary on each book, on Instagram.  It’s been a blast.

Hop on over to Instagram: @stuffofstories to follow our progress.  As I’d forgotten that I could post here too, it’ll soon be posted as updates on this site as well.  Right now we’ve begun Round 2 so for now I’ll just post our first bracket and results.  I’m assuming that later on in the summer we’ll be doing something similar for Caldecotts with the kids.

Wanna follow along?  I’ll post the bracket of the next 16 in the next few days.  Think that one of our losers should have won?  Sound off!


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The Sinkhole (Nov. 30)

… Joseph helped us up from the last scaffolding and onto the platform.  We were ushered past the men in suits lying on the ground either holding their heads or muttering with the feet of Francis and Jacob pinning them down.  Joseph held the door open for each of us and we began our crawl back along the pathway.  My stomach was still in knots, but it had changed from the knots of panic to the knots that you get when you just hit the game winning home run.

Dad pushed the door in the tree open and we squinted again as light streamed in.  Once our eyes got used to it we could see the two guards that Joseph told us about.  They were laying on their sides, breathing, but looking like they’d been beat up pretty bad.  We stood in the middle of the park and looked around.  And then we started whooping!

“We found it! We found it!” my brother and I sing-songed.

“Yahoo!” shouted Frank.

Mom and Dad were hugging and shaking hands with Scott.

We danced, hugged, and shook hands for a while, congratulating each other on our adventure and that we were still alive.  It was soon after the celebration died down that the door in the tree opened again and one by one the men in suits were dragged out by Joseph and his friends.  They were piled together and we began to hear sirens in the distance.

“I called the police as soon as we began running to this spot,” Joseph explained.

“Smart,” Dad said. “I assume that you’ll help us tell the real story here?”

“Of course,” Joseph replied. “We’ve been waiting a long time for this moment.”

“And now they have attempted murder on their list I think,” Mom added.

“Yeah, I bet that won’t go well for them,” Frank chuckled.

The tiredness was settling in.  I’d been so wound up, scared, terrified, overjoyed, and so many more things for what felt like ages.  My body was ready to sleep for a long time even if my brain wanted to hear and see what happened next.  Especially with the police arriving.  But I didn’t end up having to be the one to say I was tired and wanted to go home.

“Mom?” said my brother.  He was standing at her side. “I want to go home.”

And so we did.


In the coming days and months, the stories were all rewritten about that time in the 1930s, about the mine collapse, about Richard Stansworth and how he wasn’t a bad guy, about John Mcleod who actually was a bad guy, about the Tribe having nothing to do with the collapse, and about the Mining Company who tried to cover it all up and make it go away so they could make more money.

The chamber was opened up and all of the treasures that were found were catalogued and placed in the Museum.  Many members of the Tribe made the journey from their new land to be a part of the dedication.  Joseph, Francis, and Jacob were all there.  Scott and Frank lead the team that brought each piece out from the chamber and were front and center along with my family when the red ribbon was cut and the public was welcomed into a new exhibit about a once lost, but now found part of Bellingham’s history.

The men in suits were all being held for trial.  A “laundry list of charges” is what Dad called it.  They were even going to be tried for the deaths of the men in the mining accident from so long ago.  They weren’t even really involved, but as they were so committed to the cause of protecting the Company they were being considered as co-conspirators.  We found out just after our adventure that John Mcleod, thee John Mcleod, had died six months prior to our adventure.  Undoubtedly, he escaped being charged as well.

For us?  Things were back to mostly normal.  We still had a sinkhole in the back yard, but the sides had all started to grow grass and it just looked like we kids tried digging to China and really got into it.  In the couple weeks after the adventure, we were interviewed by no less than twenty news papers, television news people, and a couple magazines.  We were the talk of the town.  All the questions you could imagine came flying at us all day long.  We helped with the collection of the artifacts as much as we could, but we had to work hard just to relax with so much going on.  It wasn’t until a month later that some new story about the clean up at the Port of Bellingham took over headlines.

After that, it became a great story to tell anyone who would listen.  Like you!


The Sinkhole (Nov. 29)

… Their faces were all lit like around a campfire telling stories.  This one was very real.  We stood a little below them as they finished their chuckles.

“You can’t block us in here, that’s murder!” Dad growled.

“Oh we certainly know,” the first said, “It’s oddly reminiscent of another time and place, don’t you think?”

“Absolutely,” said the third. “The irony is thick.”

Scott moved to the ladder, but one of the men moved quickly over and untied it from the platform and pushed it away.

As he pushed it back towards Scott and the rest of us, he looked the two museum men straight in the eye and said, “We buried men back then to keep this all secret.  What makes you think we won’t now?”

Mom squeezed my hand and marched to where the ladder used to be, “Human decency.  That’s why you evil, sneaky, greedy, loathsome men.  Human decency.  There is already enough evil in the world without you marching into our corner and killing…killing…”

She began to cry.  Dad was at her side the whole time and reached around her shoulders.

“Without killing children!” he shouted and finished her sentence.

The men looked unfazed.  My brother and I had moved behind Mom and Dad and were watching them watch us.  They seemed almost more like robots.  I looked at my brother and he was pale white.

“What matters is keeping the secrets of the past in the past,” said the fourth.  “Richard Stansworth was a good man, but in the end he was weighed down by people.  John, his son, was not.  He was willing to make the sacrifice of others in order to make sure that the business went into the right hands. When it went wrong, he suffered.  We are here to make sure that his memory is preserved by whatever means necessary.”

“So what are you going to do?” Frank asked.

“I think we’ll get rid of this pathway for beginners,” said the first, pointing back to the open doorway into the dirt, “After that? Who knows.”

It was at that moment that a shaft of light broke through the darkness from high up above.  We all held our arms in front of our eyes as the light continued to grow.  We could feel, even if we couldn’t see, that dirt was falling down into the chamber.  The men in suits were all calling out and shouting, “What’s going on?!”

As our eyes got used to the new light we could see way way up near the top of the chamber there was an opening.  An opening right over the top of the platform that the men were standing on.  From that opening ropes were let down and faster than a ninja, my brother and I would say later, came three men.  They were on the platform in seconds and were fighting with the men in suits.  The crawl through the path to get here had meant that the men hadn’t brought any weapons and the men that had come from above were great fighters.  Kicks, punches, holds, blocks.  It was like watching a kung fu movie.  It really was amazing.  Again, in only moments, the men from above had all five of the men in suits lying on the ground groaning in pain.  Only then did they look at us.

“We knew you’d be here,” said the Tallest.  “When you listen to the ground as much as we do, you can hear when our storehouses have been entered.”

We all looked at each other.

“Then that means…” Scott murmured.

“Yes, we are part of the Tribe that once hid these things here in the hopes that only those who should find them, would find them,” the man said.

“Remarkable,” said Frank.

The dam burst on my brother’s silence, “They were going to lock us in here and leave us to die in here and they were going to take all of this and probably sell it for a ton of money and try to make sure that none of the old stories would come out in the paper or on the news or anything and they were going to just leave us down here and you came and you kicked those guys butts and it was awesome.”

He trailed off and we all laughed just a little as it seemed as though we were saved.  Scott and Frank made introductions and let the man know that they worked for the museum and knew the true story of what happened.  Mom and Dad introduced themselves and us kids and we told him about how we got involved.  The sinkhole, the man Markus, the clues.

The man introduced himself as Joseph, and his two companions as Francis and Jacob. They were the tribal members who were trained to carry on a long standing job of listening to the ground for those who made entry to this place.  Though they were miles away, they could come quickly.  And quickly they had come when they had heard the noises.  They knew something was wrong with the slick black car parked outside of the park and the two other men who stood guarding the entrance to the tunnel.  Back when they placed their belongings down here, they had dug a back up entry should it ever be needed.  It was from above and needed some digging out before they could make it through.  Once they made their hole it was a quick drop down on ropes and a short fight.

“I have trained for this day for a very long time,” Joseph said.  “My people will be thrilled to know that it was in fact the right people who have found and will retrieve these artifacts. We promised long ago to return when these things were found and the truth was ready to be brought into the light.  I believe that now, it will be.”

One of the men in suits groaned again, “Great.  Just great.”

The Sinkhole (Nov. 28)

… There were hundreds of other scaffolds like the one we were standing on.  Hundreds.  Wooden ladders lead to each of them and once you climbed down a level, it looked like you might be able to walk around the circle of the chamber we were in and look at each item one by one.  Headdresses, tools, pottery, paintings, knives, nets, everything was there.

When the tribe left, they must have left with only what they needed to move on to the next place. This was a proper treasure.  A treasury of an entire people group.  We climbed down the first of many ladders, Dad helping each of us as we moved rung by rung.  Exclamations rang out at each level as Scott or Frank noted something else significant they’d found.

By the time we reached the bottom, they were breathless from excitement.  We were too, but from all the climbing.  It was pitch dark without the flashlights and I’d started to feel pretty finished with being this far underground for this long.

I whispered to Dad, “I’m getting a little scared down here, can we go now?”

“I think it’s the right time, we can’t carry all of this back up,” he replied.

I walked over to Mom as Dad gave her the nod we all knew as, “Time to go.”

“Scott? Frank? We’re going to head home.  This adventure hasn’t ended, but we are going to need a lot more than our hands to get this stuff out of here and to a museum.  What do you say, let’s leave and make plans for what happens next?”

We could see their faces sink a little, but even they acknowledged that it was too long to be underground and was time to get back to the surface and make plans.  Climbing up the ladders from one platform to the next, we each grabbed an item or two and tucked them into pockets.  An arrowhead, a small dish.

Nearing the top we heard scuffling.  The sounds of muffled voices and whispers.

“Oh no,” I said.

“They’re here,” said Frank.

Standing on the platform just below the topmost, we looked up in despair and anger as the door we’d come through moments before was pushed open and five men in suits, all holding flashlights, came through to stand on the top platform.

Their flashlights shown around the room for much less time until settling on our little group.

“We told you to let it lie,” said the first.

“We told you that anything you found in your little cave belonged to us,” said the second.

“We told you that you would be prosecuted if you didn’t give information to us,” said the third.

“None of this will see the light of day,” said the fourth.

“What do you think gentlemen? I’m not sure they should see the light of day,” said the fifth.

I grabbed Mom’s hand and held tight.

The Sinkhole (Nov. 27)

… We knew the voices.  They’d been talking with Dad earlier in the day and threatened to kick us out of our home.  Now they were here at the park and would obviously be looking for us.  Like any bad guy, they hadn’t done any of the work to solve the clues, they were just going to try to figure out where we were and tag along.

The door was small enough that crawling was the only way in.  Frank was the last one, holding his flashlight, and pulling as much of the ivy back into place.  We hoped that it would be enough.

The door in the tree lead to a small low ceilinged path that wound down in the dark for about a hundred feet.  The ground was soft and we could hear the slow drip of water from somewhere.  Hands and knees, hands and knees all the way down until it seemed like the path stopped.  Dad was at the front with his headlamp and he knocked on yet another door.  A larger door with a small leather strap hanging from the top.

He pulled the strap down hoping that it would slide out and instead we heard a click and the door swung inward.

“Cool,” said my brother.

“Watch your step,” said Dad. “There’s a platform inside here, but I can’t see much else.”

Scott and Frank, all the way down, had been muttering under their breaths, “Incredible.  Amazing.  Wonderful.”

We climbed through the door and found that there was enough space for each of us to stand.  The platform was big enough for us all to stand without touching and must have been quite a ways below the tree.  Shining flashlights upward, we could see the roots of other trees that had wound their way down into this cave.  The roof of the cave was full of these roots and Frank quickly stated that it was perhaps the perfect, no, the only place for this cave to be.  Overtime, the roof would be held up by further intertwining roots keeping things safe.

Only now did we shine our flashlights down, down into the open air below us.  The platform was at the very top of what looked like scaffolding that was set up all the way to the bottom hundreds of feet below.  My brother found a rock in his pocket and dropped it.  It took a long time to hit the bottom.  As we fanned out our flashlight beams it felt like the air was sucked out of the room.  Scott and Frank gasped.  Mom made a little peeping noise.  Dad smiled and muffled a whoop.  My brother and I looked at each other and said, “Awesome.”

The Sinkhole (Nov. 26)

… Standing at the entrance on the Mcleod side, the woods did in fact look different.  The trail into the park sloped down and away around a corner.  The afternoon was getting along and the light was shifting.  We walked down the trail for less than ten minutes before we saw it.  The old oak.  It was massive.  It boggled all of our minds how we could have missed it the first time around.  However, it was quite easy to miss if you were on the wrong side.  It had been covered with ivy for years and more recently someone had discarded some bamboo and it had grown up and around on the other side of the oak.

The oak was thick enough that it took four of us to wrap around it.  Each of us stood at its base and looked out on the rest of the park.  We’d found the oak and I knew what we were all thinking at this point.

What now?

Dad was the one who spoke up, “Now we just have to figure out ‘old oak to the entrance.'”

“What about the 1533 feet part?” Frank asked.

“I think that we just figured that part out,” Mom said. “I would bet that from the entrance of the park to this oak, we have traversed exactly 1533 feet.”

We looked back the way we came, it was a slow trail downward to where this oak stood.  1533 feet down.

“Thank goodness it didn’t mean digging that deep,” Dad smiled. “Now, look around everyone, there’s an entrance here somewhere.  An entrance to a crazy treasure.”

My brother and I lit up and we started running around the oak.  Everyone else bent down to look for anything out of the ordinary.  Not that we would have been able to see anything after 80 years, but anything could be a clue at this point.  Nothing, nothing at all.  That was what we were finding again.  Stomping, digging, poking, prodding.  We’d done it all.  My brother and I went back to running around the oak.  On the fifth trip around the tree I slipped and fell into the tree, smacking my head on some of the ivy, and bashing my hand into the trunk which let out a hollow thump.

Mom stood up and looked back at us.

“That is not how a tree sounds,” she said.

Scott, Frank, and Dad stood up, came over, and began peeling back the ivy to reveal a small door in the base of the oak tree.  The ivy had worn its way in and around the door almost making it part of the tree.  It took quite a bit of pulling and prying with the shovel to get it open.  When it opened there was a burst of smells that came rolling out, dirt, mold, dust, and something else way way in the back.  Something like the smells we’d smell when going down the soap aisle at the store, but also not really.

We stood looking in the hole and no one wanted to speak.

Scott finally did, his eyes wide, gasping, “We found it.  I don’t believe it.”

Scott may have interrupted all of our surprise and joy, but the sound of car doors and the voices of men turned our joy into urgency and worry.

The Sinkhole (Nov. 25)

… The parade made its way down the sidewalk, across the street and into the small greenspace the city called Maplewood Mcleod Park.  We stood at the entrance to the park on the Maplewood side and reworked our clues.  The clues that Scott and Frank had found in Richard Stansworth’s diary were pretty generic and unless we’d lived around that time I think we probably wouldn’t have gotten very far.  The clues that the Tribe had left Richard were all about nature and knowing where certain landmarks were at the time.  We didn’t have the luxury of knowing those landmarks.  However, Markus the trapped miner had worked out some of the harder bits for us.  I certainly could be wrong about starting at the park.  We hadn’t even had time to work out whether or not Maplewood and Mcleod were roads or paths or even there at all back then.  But we were out of time.  The treasure needed to be found and found by the right people.  The Company was out for the treasure as well and would only keep it shut up and away from light of day so that the crimes of old wouldn’t come back out.

Mom read them aloud one at a time.

“Bellingham Mining Company and Richard Stansworth know that I know,” she started.

“That one’s easy,” I said. “Markus had figured things out and had figured out that the people involved with this whole thing were after him too.  He just assumed it was Richard and not his son John.”

“It was and will still be after this unless I am taken,” Mom read again.

“I’ll take this one,” said Frank. “I think he’s talking about the treasure.  It will still be there unless Markus is captured.  It almost sounds like he knew he’d die down there.”

“Chilling to think,” Dad shuddered.

“John Mcleod lived on Maplewood in the woods,” Mom added the third clue.

“This is what made me think that it might be here at Maplewood Mcleod Park.  It’s in the woods and both of those words are in the sentence.  I’m not sure if John Mcleod did live here or not,” I said.

“It’s a good start though kid,” Scott said.

Mom read the last one, “1533 feet down, the old oak to the entrance.”

“The way to the entrance, obviously, but is it underground?  Is it on the ground?” Scott asked.

“I think whatever we do,” Dad said, “We should start from right here.  Just because.  We know what an oak looks like and there can only be so many oaks in the park here.  My personal opinion, I think we’re going to have to dig.  Maybe a lot.  I’m hoping not 1533 feet.”

“Let’s start where I’m standing,” my brother got his first words in.

We all stood around his place and looked into the woods.  There were no oak trees in sight, but we began out walk into the trees.  Fir, maple, cedar, and on and on.  Bamboo even, but no oak tree.  We wandered around for what felt like hours and there wasn’t even an oak leaf on the ground. It was in hour three of combing the Maplewood side of the woods when Frank had a genius idea.

“Are we on the wrong side of the park?” he said.

“What do you mean?” Dad asked.

“I mean, the woods isn’t big and we’ve been over most of it, but we’re coming at everything from the Maplewood side.  Perhaps it’s just easier to see things from the Mcleod side,” he said. “Either way, I need to look at anything differently.  I’m tired of this.”

“Makes sense.  Let’s give it a go,” Mom said. “Anyway, the clue starts with Mcleod and then Maplewood.  Maybe that was supposed to be a tip off.”

So to the other side of the woods we went.

The Sinkhole (Nov. 24)

(First of all, this is a short one, as it’s Thanksgiving.  And a Happy one to you and yours.)

… We grabbed shovels from the shed in the backyard and every flashlight we had.  If we could get to where the treasure was, who knew if we were supposed to dig or find a secret entrance to get in.  I hoped that it was a secret entrance like in the Indiana Jones movies.  That would be awesome.  Scott and Frank had some things in their car that we put in our packs: rope, tape, a couple swiss army knives, and another flashlight.  My brother and I changed out of what we were wearing and got into our grubbiest clothes and I grabbed my baseball bat because, well, I’m not sure, but I felt like I should have something.

When Mom asked why the baseball bat, the best I could come up with was, “It’s my walking stick.”

I sort of said it like a question back to her and she raised her eyebrows, but didn’t ask about it anymore.

We were ready in less than 20 minutes.  It looked like we were going on a very strange hike.  We sort of were, but unfortunately, we still really didn’t have much of a sure idea of where we were going.  I gave my best guess and the urgency of the situation made everyone else just run with it.  I only hoped that my instinct was right.  The park was right down from our house and we must have looked like the most ridiculous parade walking down the sidewalk on our way.  Dad in front with an old hard hat with a light on it and a back pack and shovel.  Scott taking up the rear trying extremely hard to keep a hold of six flashlights and a bundle of rope.

The Sinkhole (Nov. 23)

… It wasn’t moments after the men had left before Scott and Frank showed up.  They sped down the street and stopped in front of our house, Frank leaping from the passenger side as soon as the car slowed enough.  We could see they were out of breath even from the car ride let alone the dash across the lawn.  The four of us moved towards them as they came.  We were already worried, angry, and a little freaked out before, but the looks on the two men’s faces as they came made everything feel a little bit worse.

When we caught up to each other, they had to stop and catch their breaths.  Frank had his hands on his knees while Scott had just decided he’d sit down.  Dad put his hand on Frank’s shoulder and tried to stay as calm as he could.

“What’s going on Frank?” Dad’s mouth was a thin line.

Frank caught his breath enough to start, “They know.  They all know.  And not just that the cave was open and that there was a man down there, but they know the story of the man and his clues.”

“But why don’t they know that already? The man and the clues, the truth about the mine collapse, why was it all such a secret?” Mom asked.

“The museum had kept Richard Stansworth’s journal under lock and key for decades now and the only one’s who knew the truth about the mine collapse were those who were dedicated to finding the Tribal artifacts and at the right time bringing the events of years ago into the proper light,” Scott said. “The apology was quiet at the time.  No one outside of those immediately affected were to know.  The mining company did their job in minimizing the disaster that it could have been.”

“So the question now is how did whoever ‘they’ are find out?” Dad asked.

“The ‘They’ we’re talking about is still the mining company.  They may not mine for coal, but after a few name changes over the years, everyone seemed to forget that the Bellingham Energy Corporation was once the Bellingham Mining Company.  Some of the heads of business are the children of those once running the original company.” Scott replied.

Frank’s face turned red and angry, “How they found out is all thanks to that buffoon Jonathan.” He growled and punched the ground. “He’d been on at the museum helping for a while on weekends.  How could we have known that he was a spy.  Straight from the enemy!”

Scott’s face was red, but from shame, “I thought he was a friend.  He was enthusiastic about everything at the museum and when Frank and I talked to him about helping with this project he jumped at the chance.  It was nice to have someone else love history as much as I do. But I was wrong.”

“So they know everything now?” I chimed in.

“Yes,” Scott hung his head.  “They know the truth, they know that there is evidence their company covered up what really amounted to murder, they know that there is treasure hidden, they know there are clues to find it.”

Frank looked at us all with wide eyes, “And most of all, they know you have the piece of paper with the clues on it.  They know you have it and they will stop at nothing to get it.”

“Stop at nothing like, say, threaten you, force you out of your home, and declare that all items found in and around the cave are their property, and if they aren’t turned over that person or persons could be fined or jailed?” Dad growled.

“That sounds like exactly what I mean,” Frank nodded.

I looked at my brother and he looked at me.

“Then we don’t have much time,” I said. “Let’s find that treasure!”