Friday, March 27, 2009

A Quest to Our Human Roots

By Richard “Chip” Schrader
Book Review Editor
The Young Adult novel is an oft-overlooked genre among adult readers, even though they are frequently on critics’ short list for the year’s best fiction. Young Adult literature is defined by having a main character between the ages of about 13 to 18. This definition gives great leeway for content and reading levels, and the “YA” label is highly deceptive.
“Catcher in the Rye,” “The Golden Compass” and authors like Walter Dean Myers, James Patterson, and Neil Gaiman have contributed to this form of literature. It is as important, provocative and challenging as Adult fiction, and is treated as seriously.
Local author, R.I. Miller is a recent contributor to the Young Adult genre with his novel “The Touch of Bark, the Feel of Stone”. The story follows a misfit 13-year-old member of an indigenous tribe named Racken. With a deceased father who drowned making his spirit eternally “wander beneath the sea,” and a mother who is a great tribal healer, Racken wants to escape his vision dreams and become a hunter.
Angry with his mother for passing on her gift of intuition, Racken goes on a journey with Mathen, a sage spirit speaker to learn more deeply the blessings of what he considers his curse. As their journey progresses, the magical wolves that lead Racken and his rivalry with Thaypen all lend to the lessons he must learn if he truly is the chosen one Mathen seeks.
Told from a first person point of view, Miller nicely adapts his language to fit the narrator’s age without downplaying Racken’s intelligence. The descriptions focus more on Racken‘s internal life and the people around him, rather than the picturesque expanse on which he embarks with the other travelers. This element also lends to the introversion of the child seeking manhood from within.
The details are sparse to make the reading seem light, but each word must be savored in order to fully visualize the tapestry Miller has woven. It reads like a poem where every word counts, and has greater weight and value due to scarcity.
On a deeper level, this novel is about equating the value of the feminine power of intuition and insight with the masculine powers of physical strength and observation. It is about balance and harmony, and the deeper yearning for an understanding of human nature as Racken’s hands become “used to the touch of bark and the feel of stone.”
This is a book to pass on to younger readers after finishing, or to read together at a bonfire. Battling tribes, rough terrain, strange people and creatures all find their way into these pages. The narration has a campfire feel of vision quests, translated into a form that has become in modern times the coming of age novel.
All of the action, mysticism and folktales in this book make it impossible to put down. Highly recommended for anybody looking for a good story that brings the reader back to nature.
Photo caption: The book jacket of “The Touch of Bark, the Feel of Stone” by R.I. Miller. (Courtesy photo)

York High School Coach Named
Coach of the Year in New England

By Larry Favinger
Staff Columnist
Rick Clark has been coaching basketball at York High School for 38 years, the last 27 of them as head coach of the girls varsity program,
In the recently completed season, the Wildcats compiled a 20-1 record, losing the state championship game to Eastern Maine Champion Waterville High School. It was Waterville’s 66th straight victory and the school’s third straight state title.
Prior to the title game, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association named Coach Clark District I High School Coach of the Year. District I includes all New England States.
He has seen many changes over the years he has been coaching. When he began coaching girl’s basketball there were jumps balls every time a held ball was called, the ball was bigger and there was no three-point shot, just to name a few.
“I like it if I have three-point shooters and don’t like it if I don’t,” Coach Clark said this week, sitting in his homeroom at York High School.
As to the change making a held ball alternate possession, he remembered he had some tall girls and set plays for those jump ball situations. “We got 10, 12 points a game on those,” he said.
There have been changes in the girls over those years as well.
One of those changes is the amount of time spent on the game outside the high school season. Early in his career when the last game was played, the players put away the basketball, picking it up again when the pre-season rolled around.
“They rarely touched the basketball in between (seasons),” he said. “That is not the case today. Either in organized or unorganized ways, they’re shooting baskets in the back yard, doing ball handling drills and so on. They have more skills if they’re working on the right stuff.”
There is also a difference conditioning wise, he said, “Because in all sports we’re allowing girls to live up to their potential. They are much stronger.”
Coach Clark, a graduate of Wells High School, one of York’s neighboring rivals, came to York when he graduated from the University of Maine Orono as a teacher and a coach and has been at York ever since.
Over his tenure as coach the Wildcats have won four Western Maine Class B titles and one state championship, that coming in 1992. His overall regular season record as varsity girl’s coach is 338-148. In that span the Wildcats have had only five sub-.500 seasons.
Coach Clark’s teams have qualified for the Western Maine Class B tournament in 25 of his 27 years.
Coach Clark coached the girl’s jayvee team when Kathy Dunn was head coach for five years before taking the head-coaching job in 1982-83 when he led the varsity to the Western Maine finals.
He has also coached the boy’s jayvee team for three years when John Griffin was head coach and the girl’s jayvees for five years when Kathy Dunn was the varsity coach.
He has also coached the York High varsity boys and a women’s semi-pro team, Lesswing Hardware that included several outstanding women players.
Clark said some people wondered how he could go from coaching boys to girls but it as no problem for him. “I love the game,” he said. “I love the sport. I love working with kids.”
He credits the overall success of the program to those coaching the younger girls and the interest of parents. His approach to the game at all levels is to have fun, have fun, have fun.
Among those who have worked at that level are Rick Contera, Kevin Wyatt and Mona Blais. Clark’s jayvee coach is Steven Freeman.
“They are a critical piece of the chain,” Clark said, as is the York Recreation Department and the Police Department with the annual Charlie Brown Tournament.
“If you’re not having fun it’s not worth it,” Clark said of playing the game at all levels. He said he and his team “hated to lose that game” to Waterville in the state final but “we gave everything we had and everyone knew it, what fun it was to be involved in that week” when only two Class B girl’s teams in the state had a game remaining.
Clark focuses on the defensive side of the ball a great deal, something he learned early in his career as a jayvee coach. His team doesn’t always play the same, but defense is vital part of every Wildcat team.
There’s also sportsmanship involved no matter the level, no matter win or lose.
York’s team has won five sportsmanship banners over the years, two more than any other program, something of which the coach is very proud.
“I’ve never had a player get a technical foul for unsportsmanlike conduct,” he said.
In 27 yeas of coaching that’s really the bottom line.
Photo caption: York High School Coach, Rick Clark, has been named Coach of the Year in New England. (Courtesy photo)