Monday, November 26, 2007

T - 4 and counting...

Advent is almost here! You can countdown to the big day (if you are so inclined) in a crafty, arty way here starting Saturday.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Haiku Monday

Snow, wonderful snow
Better appreciated

Without a schedule.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

a summer sorority

I don't have any sisters; I'm the oldest of 3 with 2 younger brothers. (In case you don't like sums.) I always wanted a sister, preferably a twin. Ok, not something that can be accomplished after the fact, but one can wish. I'm in awe of those women who grew up in families of females. They seem to have some innate knowledge that is lost on me. My mother grew up with 2 sisters yet she is surprisingly "un-girly." I know I was a conundrum to her--I loved curls in my hair, dresses, and dolls. At seventeen, I found a salon that did manicures, made an appointment, walked to it and spent my babysitting money on a real manicure. And now? Now I am the mother of two rapacious boys. The only reason I'm not outnumbered is because the cats are all girls. So, imagine my delight when I discovered The Penderwicks, a debut novel for middle grade readers that garnered the National Book Award in 2005. The four motherless Penderwick sisters (a smart one, a responsible one, a dreamy one, and a little one) spend summer vacation in the Berkshires with their father. There they meet a lonely boy, a truly awful adult and have wonderful adventures. How could anyone resist a family that has MOPS (Meeting of Penderwick Sisters), MOOPS (Meeting of Older Penderwick Sisters) and naturally gives spokesmenship and authority to the OAP (Oldest Available Penderwick)? An obvious choice for summer reading, the Penderwicks would be a great family to hang with on cold, dreary November days. Red curtained window seats not mandatory.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Time for Bed

Little brother has rediscovered Mem Fox's Time for Bed which was the bedtime story for many months over a year ago. It is a sweet book although he is convinced that the child at the end is sad. I'm assuming the illustrator (Jane Dyer) was going for sleepy but then again little brother considers falling asleep to be a major tragedy these days.

Time for bed, little mother, little mother.
You're so tired that you couldn't do other.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

J 294.52 (The Ramayana)

It all started because I wanted to read something scary without necessarily reading something "Halloween-y." It was the week before Halloween and the library shelves had slim pickings for anyone wanting a genuine Halloween story. So....I brought home Linda Ashman's The Essential Worldwide Monster Guide illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner David Small. In rhyme, the author describes 13 mythical beasts from around the world. At our house, Ravana, demon king of the Rakshasas quickly became the favorite. With his ten heads and 20 arms, what little boy could resist him? Next thing I know, big brother is on the phone to Nana asking her to accompany him to India. "Just to look, Nana." Because, of course, Ravana is far too dangerous to approach."Now Nana, if we see Ravana and I say let's go, what are you going to do? Good. Let's practice. Let's go! Now, what do you do! Very good!" We watched Alfonso Cuaron's version of A Little Princess which frames Sara Crewe's story with portions of the Ramayana, drawing parallels between the two. (I'll admit that the movie is truer to the Shirley Temple movie of 1939 than to the original book, but Cuaron is a genius. His use of color and imagery take both this movie and the third Harry Potter movie to another level. But I digress.)

The next step was a trip to the library for books on India, the Ramayana, and maps (to figure out how to get there, of course). I am always up for the teachable moment, so off we went. I can recommend Hanuman: based on Valmiki's Ramayana retold by Erik Jendresesn and Joshua M. Greene for a child-friendly but detailed retelling of the story; little brother prefers Jessica Souhami's Rama and the Demon King, a simpler retelling with bold shadow puppet style illustrations. The Hindu festival of Diwali was this past week -- a great time to introduce this ancient story to your eager readers.

NB: Big brother has decided to be Ravana for Halloween next year. Feel free to contact me if you have any idea how to fit 9 more heads on a first grader's shoulders!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

a heretofore unknown treasure

Carol Carrick's books Patrick's Dinosaurs and What Happened to Patrick's Dinosaurs are over 20 years old. Illustrated by her husband, Donald, they were classroom standards back when I was getting my teaching certification in the early 90's. I wasn't familiar with his Harald books--Harald and the Giant Knight and Harald and the Great Stag until yesterday, actually. They are lovely. Harald, a young boy living in feudal Britain, learns the truth about knights and hunting. Harald and his family are brave, resourceful people. There is enough suspense and action to keep a little boy engaged and yet put forth a message that his more pacifist-minded mother can appreciate. One doesn't have to be a knight to be brave; knights are not always noble. Sometimes killing another living being is a sin against nature (stag or mockingbird).

For more unconventional heroes, be sure to get your hands on Jane Yolen's anthology, Mightier than the Sword: world folktales for strong boys. It starts off with an open letter to her grandsons, explaining that swords are not the only weapons and that bravado is really not what it means to be brave.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Haiku Monday

The last tomatoes.
Smooth skins slip away, reveal
Seeds, flesh; stew and freeze.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thumb in the thumb's place

fingers all together. That's what we do in mitten weather! It's cold enough here for mittens and gloves, especially in the mornings or if one is having an extended outdoor experience. Imagine my chagrin when I discovered that big brother has NO gloves or mittens that fit. What a mother! (not to mention a mother who KNITS) So I am madly knitting a pair of knucks for him and will follow that up with a pair of mittens. I did finally put the thumb on little brothers mini-fetchings ("now I am a ninja!") but the sweet baboo's knucks are suffering from the glove version of second-sock syndrome.

In the meantime, we can all enjoy some mitten stories without delving into the whole Christmas thing. What ever happened to Thanksgiving? But I digress. I can whole-heartedly recommend The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen. A woman notices a child at the bus stop with no mittens and a tradition is born. If you like the idea of gifts on trees unrelated to that conifer-driven holdiay, see if you can get your hands on a copy of The Cookie Tree (out-of-print) by Jay Williams, fairy tale spinner extraordinaire. Louis Slobodkin's Too Many Mittens, although also sadly out of print, is another book worth the trip to the library or second-hand bookseller. Who can resist the clothesline full of red mittens? A Canadian contribution to the cause is Norman's Snowball by Hazel Hutchins from Annick Press. This is a perennial favorite at storytime as Norman loses his mittens, hat, scarf, and snowsuit while playing in the snow with his older sister. Kids giggle as they notice what Norman has not--his clothes are part of his enormous snowball!

Back to the knitting! See you tomorrow.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I'm not good, but I have good intentions*

(*with apologies to Lyle Lovett)

So much for the grand plan to blog every day for the rest of November; I've missed 2 days in a row, but will continue to strive towards that goal.

If you are Winnie-the-Pooh fans, as we are, you will enjoy Blackstone Audio's recording of The House at Pooh Corner read by Peter Dennis.
The audio is fabulous and the narrator very British; Owl sounds rather like a career military man from the Empire, wot wot. Piglet actually snuffles like a pig every other sentence or so! What a change from the unrecognizable pink confection he has become on the Disney Channel. It reminds me of a record we had when I was a kid with Jack Gilford performing the hums of Pooh. My boys are growing up--they would much rather listen to this than the lullaby CD we've been listening to every night since they were born. Little brother wants to know how to get to the 100 "Nacre" Woods. If I knew, believe me, we'd be there. My mother read the original Pooh stories to me as a child. In fact, my brother's childhood nickname, Roo, comes from my pretending to be Kanga and him being my baby Roo. Big brother has being making up rather Pooh-like hums his whole life. The most recent one occurring on the way back to his school building (we have one elementary school divided into 3 discreet parts in 2 separate buildings on one campus) from the annual fall book fair. "My momma said she'd go to the book fair with me and she did! I'm so happy! My momma came to school like she said!"

When we spend time in the mountains, we always play at least one round of Pooh Sticks on the bridge over the river. So far, only sticks have made it off the bridge.

I hope to be here again tomorrow, despite being a woman of very little brain these days.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


or fear of Bean Thirteen. Matthew McEllicott has written a fun-filled mathematical tale, something I thought couldn't be created. But then, I used to have nightmares with numbers chasing me and ended up with a C on my junior year Regents exam in math, much to the chagrin of my father who was head of my high school's math department. I am philosophically and artistically opposed to didactic stories that are created for the sole purpose of explaining mathematical concepts within the framework of what can be only loosely termed a story. Until now, the best exception I knew was The Doorbell Rang, where cookies must be continually redistributed to satisfy a growing audience. Bean Thirteen ups the ante by providing a appropriately healthier alternative. Two pop-eyed bugs, Flora and Ralph, are picking beans for dinner. Despite Ralph's warnings, Flora insists on picking one more--bean thirteen. Back home, they cannot divide the beans into 2 equal piles. Gracious Flora offers the odd bean to Ralph who exclaims that, "I'm not eating it and you can't make me!" Because, of course, thirteen is bad luck. Flora the peacemaker starts inviting friends over for dinner to help solve the dilemma. Without spelling it out or mucking up the illustrations with equations, the reader discovers that 13 simply cannot be divided evenly. Finally, in a tizzy, Ralph spills the beans which amazingly leads to a satisfying ending for all. Of course, the mystery does remain: Who ate bean thirteen?