Chadwick author has new 'Journey' Books: Priscilla Cummings, known for her popular Chadwick the Crab books, has written a novel for kids 10 and older that is earning praise.

Sunday Snapshots

October 05, 1997|By Sandra Crockett

Priscilla Cummings has a title no one else can claim.

"I am Chadwick's mother," says the children's author. Chadwick is a crab, a character that Cummings created. She has written four books about the personable Chesapeake Bay crustacean who lives in Shady Creek. And she has had three other picture books published over the years featuring other animals.

Yet it's the popular Chadwick books that Cummings is best-known for and that have kept her busy since 1986, the year the first one was published. All these books were intended for children between the ages of 4 and 10.

Now Cummings has ventured into uncharted waters with a new book. "Autumn Journey" (Cobblehill Books/Dutton, $14.99) is a 128-page book with chapters and without pictures, geared for children age 10 and up.

"It was something different," says the wife and mother of two, who lives in Annapolis. "I wanted to do something new because of the challenge."

Cummings, who grew up on a dairy farm in western Massachusetts surrounded by animals, did use something familiar in her first novel. One of the main characters in the novel is an animal -- a Canada goose.

"The story line starts with a goose," says Cummings, who spent time researching Canada geese before she began writing.

The book's other main character is a boy from Baltimore who goes with his family to live in Pennsylvania after his father loses his job. The city boy happily accompanies his grandfather on a hunting trip until he realizes he is not prepared to actually kill any geese. He ends up feeling devastated when he does shoot a goose and learns that the animal is still alive. He decides to nurse the goose back to health.

"Will stared at the crippled bird thinking that if it died, everything else would fall down too, like dominoes, one bad thing toppling into another," Cummings writes.

Kirkus Reviews calls "Autumn Journey" "A beautifully told, uplifting story about the power and strength of family." Publishers Weekly says, "The writing is eloquent."

Cummings, a former newspaper reporter and magazine writer, says it is not just a story about a bird. "It becomes more of a story about the young boy," she says. "But actually it is both their stories." On Christmas Day 1995, Ginny Bower hid her thinning hair beneath a Santa Claus cap. All day long, even as she prepared the Christmas dinner, she kept that hat on, and no one in her family even noticed.

But she noticed, and she was sick of it. Caps, hats, wiglets, barrettes -- you name it, Bower had used it to disguise the hair loss that started in her 30s. She had heard of Rogaine, the then-prescription drug that promised to help men and women with her problem, but she wasn't interested in going the prescription route.

Then Rogaine became available over the counter, and Bower tried it after consulting a dermatologist. Pleased with the results, Bower told her family and friends. She then told the manufacturer, who made her officially what she was already becoming informally -- a Rogaine ambassador.

One of three such ambassadors from the Baltimore area, Bower does not enjoy diplomatic immunity. If she gets a parking ticket, she still has to pay it. But the Lutherville woman is nevertheless thrilled at the company's decision to recognize her as a spokeswoman. The way she sees it, it was a big risk -- on Rogaine's part. She didn't have any problem telling the world what the product had done for her, but she didn't think she fit the Rogaine demographic.

"I thought it was brave of them, because of my age," says Bower, 67, but much younger-looking, thanks to her strawberry-blond hair and a figure kept slim by her devotion to line dancing.

Growing up in lower Charles Village, Bower had great hair -- thick, naturally curly, with auburn highlights. But after she'd had three children, her hair began to thin. Bad hair days turned into bad scalp days, with husband Bob responsible for alerting her to any bare spots in the back.

Some people might be glad for a cure, but reluctant to speak of it. Not Bower, who is as much a Rogaine apostle as she is ambassador. Sitting in her antiques-filled living room, she consults her notes for her talking points.

Price. "It costs $30 for a can, which lasts a month, but you never have to pay that much. There are always coupons," she says.

Application. "It takes only a few minutes, twice a day." And she demonstrates, pulling out the stopper and showing how one applies it to the scalp.

Finally, what's the difference between the Rogaine in the blue container and the Rogaine in the pink container. "None!" she says, laughing.

She shows a photograph of her bed, filled with the paraphernalia she once used to camouflage her wispy hair. No need for the wiglets anymore. But she still wears hats. Now that she doesn't have to wear them all the time, she realizes she likes the way they look on her.

Laura Lippmann

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