Friday, September 22, 2017

Blue Bunny Update - International Rabbit Day!

Update on the update: This post came out in time for International Rabbit Day - September 23, 2017!  PARTY!
Whew!  That Bunny!  He wears me out.  Just last week, he got sent to Toy Jail (Or as Gramps says, Toy Hoosegow) for trying to steal D's striped socks.  I don't blame him.  They were some of the very best striped socks that I have ever seen.  And I am a huge fan of striped socks.

Luckily, he was allowed to keep his cell phone with him.  After all, he did not actually STEAL anything.  So D sent him as many photos of her socks as she could.  Just so he could see what he was missing.

Yesterday, school was off because of the holiday (Shana Tovah, everyone) so D and Little Blue Bunny and Gramps and I had a full day.

Here are the highlights:
Playing with Trolls and Troll house
Experiments (just mixing stuff together)
Building a playground just for Little Blue Bunny 
....with an actual swing set that stood on its own designed by D.  Maybe she'll be an engineer.

A walk to collect material for our Neighborhood Newsletter
Attempt by Little Blue Bunny to take over the Trolls' house
Tree house time for LBB and Trolls
More resting...hmm, I hope D isn't getting sick
Climbing on the backs of furniture and sliding down pillow mountains.  

But the most exciting event of all is the birth of a new member of the Squirrel family.  Like most births, there was a struggle and some tears.  But Mrs. Squirrel and D and I persevered and here she is,
Little Blue Bunny's younger sister.
We made her out of pompoms.  We used a low-temp glue gun but there was an accident (sigh) and some tears (that's the struggle and the tears of the birthing process, I guess) and aloe vera and ice and a rest and then... We got the Elmer's Gel Glue.  D designed her and she is pretty darn cute.  She doesn't have a name.  Suggestions?

Wait!  You have a question.  How is it that the Squirrel family has two bunnies in it?  Ahhhhh, that has troubled us for a long time.  For the longest while, we thought Little Blue Bunny was adopted but on a recent space trip, we visited Bunnyvania, a planet where only bunnies are born.  And we learned that Little Blue Bunny was born THERE!!  Yes, Mrs. and Mr. Squirrel were astrosquirrels in their younger years.

Yesterday, they took a quick trip back to Bunnyvania to have their baby - just so Little Blue Bunny would not feel so all alone.  I could not possibly make these things up all by myself.  I have D to help me.

And there it is!  A Little Blue Bunny update!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Genteel Romance - two reviews

Ahhh, the Georgians, Victorians, all those bygone societies, - they knew how to do romance - coy looks and simpering smiles, lighthearted banter followed by meaningful pauses - and oh, so many ways for intentions to be misconstrued and for young people to step out of line.

Cindy Anstey writes about young gentlewomen who don't quite fit the well-behaved mold of society.  In Duels and Deceptions, young Lydia has little to complain about - outside her loud drunk Uncle and his land agent.  These "gentlemen" seem determined to ruin the sizable estate that Lydia's father left her.  Life is as it should be - except for these two louts.  She has a perfectly acceptable future fiance, chosen for her by her late father.  She is well-to-do.  And she is in control.  She likes being in control.  Funny that, actually.  As soon as she marries, all control will resort to her husband.

Lydia writes to her father's lawyer to complain about her uncle, and a young law clerk, Mr. Robert Newton, arrives to investigate.  He is thoughtful, well-mannered, a member of the peerage - although a younger son so destined to work for a living - in short, a paragon among men.

When an awful crime is perpetrated against Lydia in an attempt to steal her fortune, it is Mr. Newton who is Lydia's hero.  Said awful crime eventually leads to other awful crimes, all related in the most genteel manner in this romantic adventure.
Really!!??  This guy??!!

If we hop in the time machine to the 21st century, we meet Tash Zelenka, avid young vlogger and web series producer.  Tash love the works of Leo Tolstoy with a pure and burning ardor.  So, she and her best friend, Jack (short for Jacqueline), Tash's sister, Klaudie and others, create a web series titled Unhappy Families, based loosely on Anna Karenina. And life is fun and good and creative and THEN the series goes VIRAL.

Tash Hearts Tolstoy is about family, friendship, fame and feelings, among other more confusing things.  Such as sex and why Tash isn't really interested.  She is interested in romance - very, very interested, especially with boys.  But the physical part?  Not so much.  Tash tells her best friends, Jack and Jack's older brother, Paul, all about this confusion before the book starts.  But it's such an odd revelation that misunderstandings simply ABOUND!!

Then there is FAME and how it impacts the eight teens and one 20-something that make the cast of Unhappy Families - the social media frenzy, the fangirls and the haters, and the cute boy vlogger who reaches out to Tash and offers friendship and...more?

FAMILY?  Well, there is illness and explosive disclosures and separation anxiety as Klaudie prepares to leave for college.  Who needs this??

And FRIENDS?  Tash misinterprets or doesn't even seem to CARE about the feelings and problems that her friends have.  She is so caught up in her passion for filming and the chaos that fame creates.

Unhappy Families is a web series about genteel romance - the kind of love that Tash is looking for - someone to lean into, someone to share the deepest and best feelings with, someone who makes her heart melt with happiness.   There are a couple of candidates in Tash Hearts Tolstoy.  But which one will understand Tash's singular sensibilities and accept them?  Ahh, and there is where we find genteel romance.

Pretty darn good relaxing reads, both of these.  I'd give Tash Hearts Tolstoy the edge, though, because of the modern vibe.  The social commentary in both is coated with clever dialogue, likeable characters and humor.  The books did make me think but they also made me happy.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Boynton Grew Up Quaker

Quel surpris!  Une Quaker amusant!  Sandra Boynton has been making us smile since her college days.  I remember when I first ran across her greeting cards.  My sisters and I were in a card store. (Remember those?  Once there were several in every town - not just the Hallmark(tm) shop.)  My sisters and I took turns saying, "Listen to this one!" and either groaning, laughing or sighing at the sentiments.

Boynton's cards made us breathless with laughter.

Needless to say, when her books showed up, I bought them for my son and eventually for the library at which I worked.

Her first book, "Hippos Go Berserk!" came out 40 years ago.  How is that even possible?  She was a mere child of - never mind. 
Boynton's books are all just the right size.  When "Philadelphia Chickens" came out, complete with music CD, I was thrilled!  The songs were silly, soulful and fun to sing!

Thanks to the Washington Post for writing this article celebrating 40 years of chubby animals with spunk and the woman who brought us so much joy.  (The title of this blogpost comes directly from the article.  I happen to like Quakers.)

"Hippo Birdie Two Ewes" to Sandra Boynton's Berserk Hippos!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Let's Not Forget - William Pène DuBois

Before Clifford, there was Otto, (my favorite Otto adventure is Otto and the Magic Potatoes), an enormous yellow dog with an insouciant adult owner.  Insouciant is the word that I'd give to a lot of William Pène du Bois' characters.  For instance, the hero of The Alligator Case is a cheeky youngster who "masquerades" as a bellhop, a waiter and other hotel staff to discover the truth about the alligators that plague his town.  The fact that he actually works at the hotel does nothing to dispel his air of sophistication.

Pène du Bois illustrated his books and several books by other authors.  He won the Newbery award in 1948 for The Twenty-One Balloons.  And he garnered Caldecott Honors for Bear Party and Lion.

Let's talk about Lion.   This creation story makes a great tell-and-draw story with a little preparation.  The Foreman of God's Creation workshop decides after all these years to design a new animal.  He has a wonderful name for the animal - LION.  His original design is small colorful and an odd combination of animal parts.  Feeling uneasy with the design, the Angel approaches one of the other designers and asks "In one word, what is wrong with LION?"

So the story goes, with the Foreman asking designers the same question until the answer is "Nothing".

The Foreman takes the final design to the Big Boss (I forget how Pène du Bois designates God) and even God has input into Lion's design.
The Foreman has some work to do, I think.

As much as I LOVE Lion,  Gentleman Bear is high on my list of Pène du Bois favorites.  Here is the opening.
..."Lord Billy Browne-Browne is an Englishman who lives mostly in London. He has spent the biggest part of his life with a teddy Bear. His bear's name is Bayard..."

A dignified beginning for the dignified story of a British peer and his dignified teddy bear. From boarding school to the 1936 Olympics, through marriage and into WWII, Billy Browne-Browne and Bayard are never separated.  The friends Billy makes in boarding school, the Teddy Bear Six, serve together in the RAF and their brave bears play a most important part in a flying mission.  Later, in the House of Lords, Bayard's wardrobe saves Lord Browne-Browne from having to speak.  And the whole story is illustrated by William Pène du Bois, himself.

I am grateful for many things.  Reading the books of William Pène Du Bois is one of those things.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Secret Agents of Good - Kindness

Someone dropped off the New York Times Book Review between my front doors today.  The page was opened to this review.

You Can’t Teach Kids Empathy, but These Picture Books Inspire It

I'd like to say a public THANK YOU to that Secret Agent of Good.

Little Blue Bunny and I are trying to think of SAOG activities for the Fall.  Our friend, Scootaloo, picks litter up in her neighborhood.  She wears gloves and has one of those long handled grabbers.  Scoot is almost six year old.

The kids in First Day School bake cookies for Young Friends who are attending college away from home and for other Friends in the hospital or Assisted Living Centers.

LBB made a list of stuff to do in a classroom or at home.  And I collected book lists and activity websites to spread the word. 
Secret Agent of Good Activity List

1.  Classroom Activity: Make a bingo card with kind acts on it... The first person to cross off a row or column gets to wear the Kindness crown or necklace or medal.

2. Hold the door for someone.

3. Ask someone to play with you.

3. Share a crayon, marker or pencil.

4. If someone is upset, say something nice,  "Do you need someone to sit with you?"  "Do you need help?"

5. Tell someone something nice about themselves.  "You have good ideas."  "You are funny."  "You are a great climber."  "I like the way you twirl."

6. Give someone a high five when they get the answer right.  This is especially important for kids who work harder at getting right answers.

7. Don't let anyone sit by themselves at lunch or in the playground.

8. School Activity - Ask someone you don't know very well what they like to do after school.  They might do something that's so cool.

9. Smile at someone.  Smile at grown-ups. (Don't talk to them much, though, unless you know them OR your grown-up is with you.)

10. Offer to carry something for someone - especially if they have several things to carry.

11. Let someone else go first in line or at the playground.

12. Make someone a picture, a card, a friendship bracelet...

13. Fist bump someone and smile while you do it.

14. Pick things up from the floor.

15. Help straighten up after crafts.

Some Books to Read to Get Inspired.

Brightly's list of kindness picture books.

 Candlewick's Classroom for August.  Great books (all from Candlewick) about Social Emotional Learning (self-awareness, social awareness, responsible decision making, relationship skills and self-management) or SEL. 

Activity Websites for Craft Ideas and More

Kindness Rocks are everywhere.  Look for them during your morning walks. Here is Mod Podge's take on this cool craft idea.

Cootie catchers used to be a playground torture device -  or a game to see what we'd be when we grew up.  Now you can use these folded paper toys to suggest kind things to do.  From Coffee Cups and Crayons, here are ideas on making a Kindness Cootie Catcher (or Fortune Teller, if you prefer).

Playworks offers 12 activities to encourage kindness in children.

List My Five - an educator's blog - offers five classroom activities that promote an atmosphere of kindness.

Random Acts of Kindness is a world wide effort to make everyone's life smoother by urging people to just do kind things.  They have a Kids' Activity Page.  Check it out.

Little Blue Bunny and his friends remind you to be kind and to become Secret Agents of Good.

Friday, September 1, 2017

It's Friday! - Marguerite DeAngeli

Let's get those old books off the shelf!  Today's author is a Newbery AND Caldecott winner.

Marguerite DeAngeli!  She won the Newbery Award in the year I was born, 1950, for The Door in the Wall  - the story of Robin who deals with a sudden illness that cripples his legs destroying his chance to become a knight.   He manages to live with his infirmity and even turn it to his advantage when he uses his crutches as a disguise to go for help when his Lord's castle is besieged. Pretty cool, huh?

DeAngeli's books dealt with children from many diverse backgrounds.  Her book Bright April, follows April Bright, a little black girl in Philadelphia, as she grows up.  This book may have been the first children's book to deal with racial prejudice. 

Many of DeAngeli's books are set in Pennsylvania.  The Underground Railroad shows up in the Philadelphia Quaker story, Thee, HannahPeople who live in Pennsylvania Dutch country embrace Yonnie Wondernose.  And Yonnie is the younger brother of one of DeAngeli's earliest characters, Henner's Lydia.

Up the Hill shows a young Pennsylvania coal miner struggling to become an artist.

DeAngeli was a prolific illustrator, winning two Caldecott honors, one for Yonnie Wondernose and one for her Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes.

 In the spirit of her time, Marguerite DeAngeli gently showed her readers children like themselves, who lived in different times and with different expectations.   With over 25 books to her credit as an author/illustrator and over 30 books and articles as an illustrator, let's hope that Marguerite DeAngeli will not be forgotten.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Sweepstakes! Love the World - Todd Parr

Love Todd Parr!  His uber-colorful books open the door for small readers to all sorts of ideas - about family, people, likes and dislikes - and most importantly, kindness.

You can win a copy of his new book Love the World by clicking through here.  This is a publisher's sweepstakes so read the rules carefully. 

I do this because I love you.

Friday, August 25, 2017

H. M. Hoover - Let's Not Forget Friday

I think about Orvis every now and then.  When I use hot glue to create fashions for a grandchild's toy, I remember the retired space travelers creating clothes for the two main characters - not counting Orvis - and warning them that the glue was not quite dry.

I remember details of Orvis' self-propelled journey to the dump and then his surprising mutiny.

I remember children who were homesick for space while on Earth since a space station had been their only home - and children who tired of space travel.  How two of these children - one yearning for space and the other trying to avoid returning there - join forces with the run-away robot is a wonderful yarn.

Orvis is just one of H. M. Hoover's sci-fi books that I have read and re-read. 

Although I recognize the social commentary that is central to almost all science fiction, it was Hoover's books that showed me how a rousing good story in a distant time and place, absent of "magic" but redolent with the possibilities of alternate life forms, could shed light on the issues of today.

Inequities between the haves and the have-nots, as in Away is a Strange Place to Be; the assumption of human superiority over other life forms, as in The Lost Star, are only two of the issues dealt with in Hoover's books.

Loneliness, family structure, oppression, and exclusion - all of these things may have been the germ that fueled her stories.  The stories themselves had me and young readers returning to the shelves again and again.

Hoover hasn't published a book since 1996.

Fantasy has long outstripped sci-fi in popularity.  Hoover's books have disappeared from a lot of library shelves.  (Orvis remains on my local library shelves, though.  Huzzah!)

Twenty plus books keep H. M. Hoover's reputation alive.  I won't forget!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

BOOM! BOOMBOX at Skokie Public Library

Check out the Show Me Librarian blog over in the right hand blogroll.  That librarian and team have some awesome ideas...  Like this one

I wonder how this would work on coffee filters instead of fabric.  Hmmm, crafty time!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

3 Books - 3 Reviews

NetGalley sent me three e-galleys to read; The Wonderling by Mira Bartok, The Explorer by Katherine Rundell, and The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken.  I finished Prosper's story today.

 I haven't figured out how to download e-galleys onto my tablet so I have to use my first-generation Nook to read them.  This usually isn't much of a problem.  Today, though, when I got to the end of The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding, I thought my old Nook was broken.  I kept trying to get to the next page.  Poke.  Poke.  NO. NEXT. PAGE.  Nope.  Not there.

This is NOT Prosper!
Prosper is the descendant of Honor Redding, the founder of Redhood, a small prosperous village near Cape Cod.  His family dominates everything there.  He, however, doesn't do well in anything.  His twin sister, Prudence, is clever, well-liked and has recently been cured of a life-threatening heart ailment.  Prosper has been tricked, bullied, punished by everyone he has ever met, except his parents and his sister.  The only thing he does well is draw and his family sees no profit in that.

On the night of the Redhood's Founder's Day, the entire Redding family gathers at Grandmother's house.  This year, however, they have something special in store for Prosper and Prue - something in the forbidden basement, something that involves an old book, a fire and a sharp silver blade. 

The rest of the book takes place in Salem, MA.  Around Halloween.  Mostly at night.   There better be a sequel, and soon. 'Nuff said.

The Wonderling by Mira Bartok follows a small orphaned fox "groundling" from a dismal Dickensian
What's with all the foxes?
poor house type orphanage to a town where groundlings are oppressed and mistreated.  An equally Dickensian character takes our hero, who has no name but the one his only friend gave him - Arthur -, under his "wing".  (The character is a rat groundling - no wings.)

Arthur discovers the orphan mistress's evil plan and must fight to save groundlings, humans, EVERYONE from a horrible fate - the death of music and dreams.  Luckily, he meets a lot of heroic groundlings and humans - some are just adorable  - who want to help him. 

Bartok's language is almost poetic as she describes the forest, the city, and the dismal orphanage and the underground dungeons that the groundlings end up in. 
A sequel is in order.

Katherine Rundell never disappoints me.  In The Explorer, four children are stranded in the Amazon Jungle when the pilot of the plane has a heart attack.  Except for Lila and her little brother Max, they are strangers, all sent to Manaus for various reasons.  Fred, the oldest and eventually the leader, is visiting a cousin of his widowed father.  Con, a blonde belle, appears to be the spoiled brat of wealthy parents.  Lila and Max's parents are research scientists sending the children to the city where they will be educated, safely.  Ha!

Adding a five-year-old to what might be just a kids-against-nature survival story is a great idea.  Max complicates everything, from learning to build fires, to finding food.  He also notices something that leads them all to make the most astonishing discovery.

The discovery leads them to a most enchanting place, inhabited by a frightening, baffling secret. 

The book has that lightness that Rundell brings to everything, - a joy, and a fear that is infused with excitement and determination!  And then, there is a teensy weensy bit of inspiration tossed in there for good measure.  You might even cheer at the end.  I did.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Let's Not Forget - Diana Wynne Jones

The summer before I turned nine I didn't get to the library nearly enough. I read the books my parents had saved from their childhood since we were not really book buying people. (Hint: we couldn't go very many places since child #6 was an infant. It's hard to travel with five rangy kids and an infant. Also, buy books? That's why we have libraries. 'Nuff said.) And I read ONE book* 22 times.

I still re-read books but more than three times? Ha! There are too many books in the world for that!  EXCEPT.... for The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones. 19 times and counting.  Every so often, I remember that scene in World (I forget which world it was.  Is it time to re-read the book?) when Christopher must stand firm and haughty in order to save Tacroy's life. And I ask myself, "What did he say? How did that scene go?" Because, that scene is truly wonderful. Every detail means something.
Proud and haughty!

Fantasy lovers everywhere; raise your water bottles high in praise and remembrance of Diana Wynne Jones.  Her plots are so complex that re-reading is never a waste of time. She was the almost first fantasy author I ever read that moved fantasy into the modern world. (I keep forgetting Edward Eager's books and E. Nesbit's Sand Fairy.) OK, so Dianna Wynne Jones was the first fantasy author that I NOTICED had moved fantasy into the modern world.  Witch WeekThe Homeward Bounders! Howl's Moving CastleThe exclamation marks are mine, not part of the titles.  I could read them ALL again. 

Four (or more) books follow the career of Christopher Chant, Chrestomanci.  One, my favorite, (see above) shows how he became the administrator of all magic in his world - a job his arrogant nature is not well-suited for. He plays pivotal parts in the The Magicians of Caprona  and Charmed Life. In Witch Week, Chant arrives to smooth out magic gone awry - still a pivotal part but you don't get a feel for his personality.  I only read Conrad's Fate once but Chrestomanci had influence there as well.

Oh, the Goddess!  And those Milly books! Yes.  Just thinking about her books makes me break out in happy memories. 

She left this world in 2011.  We might find her impression as a time ghost in Time City (A Tale of Time City), should we be lucky enough to travel there. 

*That 22 times-read book was Little Men by Louisa May Alcott. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Secret Agents of Good - Booklists

Little Blue Bunny does not watch the news.  If he did, he'd be very sad this week. People all over the world are hurting and killing other people for no good reason.  (The details make my heart ache too much to go into.)

How can I explain all this to a Little Blue Bunny who only wants to be a Secret Agent of Good?  I can't.  I can only say what Mr. Rogers quoted his mother as saying.  "Look for the Helpers, Little Blue Bunny."
Can that Panda be a helper?

I can also share lists of books on the fight for equal rights, on kindness, and on diversity.  Here are those lists.

In December of 2016, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch posted an article titled 1. "New Books for Young Readers Tackle Kindness and Friendship.  THIS LIST IS AWESOME.  The list is a wild mix of stories, history, slice-of-life, coming-of-age,  novels, graphic novels that tackle every aspect of kindness.  From something as ordinary as the day to day life of a cowboy, to different species combining resources to survive the wild, to learning how to fit in,  every title increases the readers understanding of the complexity of human problems and the simplicity of being kind.  LOVE 💖
(Warning: You might have to fill out a short survey to read the entire article.  My survey was on what kind of cheese sauce I buy.)

Social Justice Books put together 2. this 2017 summer reading list for readers of all ages.  The titles are 2016 and 2017 copyrights.  Check out the other booklists on this website. There are dozens of lists.

Brightly offers a list of 3. "Books To Help Kids Understand the Fight for Racial Equality".  The list is a good place to start.  From picture books, through memoirs the list traces voting rights, the "separate and equal" myth, and biographies of influential rights workers.  This list is too short.  Add to it, please.

NNSTOY (Nation Network of State Teachers of the Year) produced a lovely illustrated and annotated 4. booklist on Social Justice.  The list is 42 pages long and covers racism, sexism, different abilities, gender bias, abuse, slavery, war, apartheid, the Holocaust, religious freedom.  Print it out and carry it with you the next you take your children to the library.

Today's Parent (a Canadian parenting magazine) offers 5. 12 Kids' Books That Combat Anti-Semitism.  This slide show offers short descriptions of 12 books that explain Jewish holidays, culture and most importantly, history.  Books about the Holocaust and more recent acts of anti-semitism (although not all that recent) allow children of all faiths to see models of kindness and character.

The Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin developed this bibliography of children's books on social justice in 2003 and updated it twice, most recently in 2016. 6. 50 Books about Peace and Social Justice.

Back in November, less than a week after my birthday, the day after the 2016 elections (sigh),  I put together this little list of booklists about diversity.  Diversity and Stuff.  

Little Blue Bunny and I will continue to spread joy and kindness where we can.  You are loved.  Pass it on.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Let's Not Forget - Edward Ardizzone

He was seven.  I was a librarian.  I brought home Sarah and Simon and No Red Paint. We became enamored with the stories and the art of Edward Ardizzone.

The plight of the hard working and deserving artist (semi-autobiographical?  Who knows?), the kind, well-behaved and selfless children - a brother and sister who do not fight! - and the gruff uncle who sees the error of his ways - all the makings of a Victorian melodrama are found in a book published in 1965.

Most of Ardizzone's books follow this template.  His Tim and Ginger books always cast Tim as the hero, although he is often misunderstood.  Ginger falls prey to foolishness and sometimes cowardice.  Still, he manages to redeem himself with an act of bravery, kindness, cleverness or all three!  There is nothing but the very best kind of honor among Ardizzone's heroes - honesty, humility and respect.

There is also a ridiculous amount of independence and an unbelievable amount of quick-thinking and heroism.  That's the third H!  Honesty, humility and heroism!

If you look at the body of Ardizzone's work, he illustrated the work of a great many fine children's authors and other authors as well, Dylan Thomas and Charles Dickens among them.

Ardizzone won the very first Kate Greenaway prize in 1956, the British equivalent of the Caldecott Medal, for his book Tim All Alone.

5 odd memes in children's books

Hamsters.  Piano Hamster, notwithstanding, the presence of so many hamsters in children's books makes me very suspicious.  Are our children's minds being prepared for a cute tubby rodent takeover??? AAAAAAAAAHHH!  Hamster Princess, Hamstersaurus Rex.
Which one is the hamster?

Cystic Fibrosis.  All chronic illnesses are distressing.  Being born with something that threatens to end your life earlier than ever wished adds urgency and angst to your normally care-free childhood days.  Raina Telgemeier's Ghosts and Caleb and Kit, both deal with major characters who suffer from cystic fibrosis. 

Parentified children - This one is not new.  But it showing up more and more.  When parents become overwhelemd with anxiety, work stress, depression or illness, the children start to take on caretaking duties.  Children as young as seven serve as organizers and cooks. None of these children are quite so young. Caleb and Kit; Mrs. Bixby's Last Day; See You in the Cosmos

Lying - not new, either.  We tell lies to protect ourselves, to deflect blame, to hide, to manipulate and to gain power. Lying is so very prevalent these days. - We Were Liars, The Lie Tree

Wishing on trees.  This is a great idea.  We should all treasure our trees.  If superstition makes us take better care of oxygen producing plants, I say, Huzzah!  Wishing Day seriesThe Wishtree.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Her Right Foot

I never stood at the base of the Statue of Library but millions of people have.  One person noticed that her right foot is caught in the act of stepping.  One person noticed.  One person wondered.  A book was born.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Secret Agents of Good Training

Little Blue Bunny wants to be a spy.  But, he doesn't want to lie, or steal, or hurt people.  Sometimes spies have to do those things.  Oh, the moral dilemmas a little bunny can find himself in!
Secret Hideout?

No worries!  He will be a Secret Agent of Good!  He will secretly learn ways to secretly help his neighbors and friends, on the sly (which means secretly).

But first he has to TRAIN:  All spies (or SAOG, Secret Agents of Good) must be very good at observation, memory and being inconspicuous.

Training Session #1:  Observing things with your eyes.

Game #1: Spies play this game all the time.  Put 6 or more items on a tray.  Study the tray for 15 seconds.  That's not very long.  The trainer takes the tray away and removes one or more items.  Now, the SAOG trainee must remember what was taken from the tray.
Variation:  The trainer ADDS something to the tray.  The trainee must notice what was added.

Don't look in there!
Game #2: The trainer places objects around a room or yard.  The objects should NOT be hidden in or behind anything.  The trainee has a list of the items and walks around the area until she finds them.  Then she reports to the trainer where each item is. 
Variation:  The trainee doesn't have a list.  The items are things that do NOT belong in the room they are placed in.  For example, pots in the living.  Sofa cushions in the yard. 
- OK, this is harder, especially in Little Blue Bunny's house where things routinely are out of place.
Variation #2:  The trainee studies the room.  Then the Trainer adds something in plain sight, or moves things around.  The trainee returns and finds the changes. 

Training Session #2:  Observing things with your ears.

Game #1.  The trainer stands behind the trainee and uses different items to make noises.  The trainee must guess what they are.

Game #2:  The trainee is blind folded.  The trainer calls from different places in the space.  The trainee has to point in the direction the sound comes from.

Game #3:  The trainer claps a rhythm and the trainee has to copy the rhythm.

Game #4:  The trainer stands out of sight and says the same phrase in different voices; sad, happy, angry, surprised, shy, scared.  The trainee must identify the emotion.  This is tricky! The trainer better be very good at expressing emotions with her voice.

LBB plans with other SAOG.

There are other ways of observing things.  Scent is one.  Touch is another way of observing things.

When you have passed these two trainings, Little Blue Bunny will be back with training on scent and touch.

What Good will you do once you complete your Secret Agents of Good Training?  Little Blue Bunny wants some ideas.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Let's NEVER Forget - Lloyd Alexander

“In whatever guise — our own daily nightmares of war, intolerance, inhumanity; or the struggles of an Assistant Pig-Keeper against the Lord of Death — the problems are agonizingly familiar,” he (Lloyd Alexander) said in his Newbery acceptance speech in 1969. “And an openness to compassion, love and mercy is as essential to us here and now as it is to any inhabitant of an imaginary kingdom.” (From Lloyd Alexander's obituary in the New York Times, May 19th, 2007.)

The Prydain Chronicles are Alexander's most famous books.  Based loosely on - or inspired by - The Mabinogion, the huge Welsh mythology, the books follow the fate of an Assistant Pig-Keeper, Taran, as he fights for survival against a growing evil.  The final book, The High King, won Alexander his Newbery Award.

My favorite series by Lloyd Alexander was the Vesper Holly series.  17-year-old Vesper leads her guardian on a merry chase through several continents, hunting down the research that Vesper's late father left undone;  and barely escaping the clutches of the evil Dr. Helvetious at every turn.  Raiders of the Lost Ark was still very popular when the Vesper Holly books were published.  Indiana Jones had NOTHING on Vesper Holly. 

If you want insight into Lloyd Alexander's boyhood, you might read The Gawgon and the Boy.   Alexander claimed that it was not autobiographical.  Still, I suspect the Boy shares a lot with the young Alexander.

5 Things I Know About Lloyd Alexander

1.  He died a mere two weeks after his wife died.
2.  He never saw either of his parents read a book.
3.  He went to Haverford but only attended for a term.
4.  He claimed that he modeled the character, Fflewdur Fflam, on himself - his appearance and his propensity for breaking things.
5.  He died before his final book was published, The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio.

Lloyd Alexander was an American treasure - and a proud Philadelphian, to boot.  Huzzah!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Viva, Rose!

Rose (Viva, Rose!) has a secret about where her brother, Abraham, has gone.  (Hint: he lied.)  When she tries to deliver a letter to someone who can reach Abraham, she is abducted by guerillas working with Pancho Villa.  For the next several days, Rose becomes a reluctant member of the Villistas. 

The Good:
1. Rose learns to ride a horse!  This was something she never did before and she loved it - until she fell off.
2. Rose gets a lesson in being less judgmental.  The rebels are rough and wild but their cause is just.
3.  Rose learns that she is brave, independent and resourceful.  YAY!

The Bad:
1.  Dorotea, the General's spoiled "niece" (probably his daughter).  Rose, who is small for her age, becomes a forced friend to the much younger Dorotea.  (Once you get past her headstrong nature, Dorotea is actually kind of sweet.)
2.  Pico, Dorotea's cosseted dog.  He bites.
3.  The food.  The rebels eat a lot of javelina, wild pig, which Rose can not eat.
4.   The fear and loneliness.  Rose's attempts to get back to El Paso usually come to naught.

There is No Ugly, just a little slowness at the take-off.

 From Rose's testy relationship with her mother, to little Dorotea, to a Pesach meal that substitutes tortillas for matzoh, to the American reporter, barnstormers, and sharp shooters that attach themselves to the camp, this story is a fun introduction to the Mexican revolution led by Pancho Villa.

The author's note at the end of the book gives some surprising insight to the origins of this novel.  Read it.

PS.  The set up reminded me of Bandit's Moon by Sid Fleischman.  Younger sisters look for older brothers and get abducted/captured by Mexican "outlaws".  The time periods and political atmosphere are completely different. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Let's Not Forget - Make-Do Stories

One of the things I loved about Robbie Branscum's stories is that the main characters were well-versed at making-do.   Not a single Robbie Branscum title can be found in the four libraries in my area consortium.  I'm not surprised.  Her work was geographically specific to the folks living in the woods of Arkansas. Her last book was published decades ago.  I hope we don't forget her.

Making-do stories - books about poorer people who manage to create what they need from what they have - appeal on so many levels.

1. Lots of modern families are secret make-do families. The obsession with "life hacks" is experiential proof of that. Think of left-overs, hand-me-downs, re-engineered bicycles and toys.  The books show modern readers families who have to make-do with less. 

2.  We learn from them.  Who knew you could make a sling from thread scraps and a stick?  I'm sure I'll never need to know how to do that but what if?  Right?

3.  Make-do stories are on a par with the survival shows that are so popular on reality TV.  We read and wonder, how will they fix that?  How will they survive?

4.  These stories inspire us.  When the Five Little Peppers manage to surprise their mother with a birthday cake and decorations made from scrap paper, it makes the reader wonder why she ever made a fuss over not getting a new whatever on HER birthday.  And if the reader is a child, he might also wonder if his own mother would like a birthday surprise.  Surprise!

5. Make-do stories encourage pride in being inventive!  They also encourage perseverance and independence.

Here are some of my favorite "making-do" stories.  (I don't think that making-do is an actual subject heading, btw.)

Ike and Mama series by Carol Snyder.  In the tenements of New York, during the early 1900s, Isaac lives with his mother and father and faces the difficulties that come with making-do.  The stories reflect the diversity of the tenements and the untrammeled hope that immigrants had.

Five Little Peppers
The Moffats
Little Women
A Certain Small Shepherd

I will add more when I run across them.

Way too busy

...until now.  Since the 4th of July, I have told stories, taught storytelling, told more stories - done more storytelling workshops, performed musical storytimes with Dan, practiced for all the afore-mentioned events, and babysat.  And, honestly?  When I had time to sit, I read.  (Also, a wedding and a funeral.) 
I rock the socks with my old squeezebox.  Too busy to take an in focus photo.

Here is a glimpse into my to-do list for August:

1.  Jack and the Beanstalk Storytelling Performance at Allentown Public Library on August 2nd at 6 pm.  Expect "growing" beanstalks, giggling performers, silliness and a cow!

2.  Teen Storytelling Workshop Performance, August 8th at 7 pm at the Emmaus Public Library.  This workshop has been so much fun.  Come out and cheer! for the young tellers - oh, and me and Sue Monroe, the awesome-est Youth Librarian west of Allentown.

3.  Star Gazing Stories at the Trexler Game Preserve on August 12th around 8: 30 pm.  Maybe later!  An astronomer will be there to help the campers find and follow the Perseid Meteor Shower.  S'mores will happen.  Contact the Wildlands Conservancy about this event.

Here is what I HOPE to do in August (hahahahaha!):

1.  Practice my accordion every day.
2.  Write down the music for the songs I "made up" this year.  (I am very nervous about time signatures.)
3.  Move my sizable photo collection to disc or drive by category.  (This will take years!)
4.  Send off "Little Aliens" to a publisher.
5.  Read six books, including Viva, Rose, Lock and Key, The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding, The Wonderling, and The Story of Freginald.  The sixth book is anybody's guess.  I hope to read MORE than six books.  We will see.

Now, I expect YOU to hold ME accountable.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Let's Not Forget - Double "E" Authors

Today we tip our hats to three double "E" authors,  - Edward Eager, Elizabeth Enright, Eleanor Estes.  Old-fashioned, magical, a taste of a simpler time - here are three authors that I thoroughly enjoy.

Half Magic (Tales of Magic, #1)In the mid 1960s, I picked up Half Magic by Edward Eager ( 1911- 1964) and discovered magic that was NOT consigned to the long ago and the far away.  The magic coin that four children find only grants half of each wish -  a desert-but-NOT-an-island, a-cat-who-talks-but-can't-be-understood, and a trip home for their mother that only gets her half way home.  The children lived in a recognizable relatively modern (to me) world.  I was hooked.  Quirky and fun, Eager's novels have stood the test of time.
NOTE:  I had already discovered E. Nesbit (an E author but NOT a double E) and her "magic in the modern world" novels.  HER modern world was my long ago and far away world so, to me, Edward Eager's books were a revelation.

This cover is the first edition, drawn by the author.
Elizabeth Enright.  I found The Saturdays when my son was young.  We read the entire Melendy family series in a swoop.  Years later, I borrowed an audio book of Gone Away Lake - what an adventure.  Enright's children are not run-of-the-mill children.  They are slightly precocious, or brighter than most, or somewhat talented, or overly shy.  Each character has something about them that makes them appealing to young readers.  Their adventures are the leaving-the-house-without-telling-anyone type of adventures, with unexpected rewards and appropriate repercussions.  Or in the case of A Spiderweb for Two, adventures created by a loving older sibling for the younger ones left at home.  Love!!!💕
Enright won a Newbery Medal for Thimble Summer, written in 1939 and a Newbery Honor Award for Gone-away Lake.

Eleanor Estes  - Much to our neighbors chagrin, my son and his friends decided to build a museum on the front porch.  They include artifacts left over from a nearby construction site, and dug up in the garden.  It was lovely and fun and kids from blocks away stopped by to see what the boys dug up.  I wonder, (chin tapping ensues) where my son got that idea.  FROM THE MOFFATS, another lovely free-range family with a wonderful parent.   It is toss-up - for me - whether Rufus M.  (in which Rufus gets his first library card - more hearts here!💞) or The Moffat Museum is the best book in the series.
We can't forget Estes' awards, a Newbery for Ginger Pye and Caldecott honors for The Hundred Dresses, illustrated by Louis Slobdokin and the aforementioned Moffat titles.  The Hundred Dresses is a heart wrenching story of how a child is laughed at because of her poverty and how the main character just sits by and watches.  The book is often held up as a opening into a discussion of bullying. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Chopped! for Kids' Crafts. Challenge me!

School bus ?  Stone Henge?  Castle Greyskull? Dinosaur?

So, here's my idea.  Someone sends someone - me or even you - a box of random recyclables of the sort that we use for children's crafts.  Cardboard tubes, jar lids, paper plates, paper bags, straws, small plastic bottles, corks, string, milk cartons etc.  Surprise me!

The second part of the challenge is this. The recipient will record the process of opening the box and MUST come up with a children's crafts that uses the stuff in the box.  The recipient makes something and records the finished product. The challeng-ee can even record their attempts.    To do this right, all participants should reference sites and books that are used to find ideas.  Recording COULD be video, but photos are good.

What do you think?

This might make a good program for tweens and teens.  Make unboxing videos with your book club.  You can even use a book theme.  For instance, they have to use the items in the box as resources in a Hunger Games challenge.  Or, the items in the box must be used to create a character or item from a popular series.  Don't just think adventure or fantasy series, either.

The best thing is that the person putting the box together just throws things in.  It's up to the opener to be creative.  OH!  I love it. 

Nothing perishable or hazardous.
The unboxer can add or use the following items: scissors, hole punch, glue, tape, color-adding technology (crayons, markers, colored pencils or paints) string or yarn or ribbons, rubber bands, fabric scraps, and scrap paper.  Googly eyes or pompoms? Not sure about the googly eyes or pompoms.

If you want to challenge me, just send me a list of the random items.  I will box - and unbox - them myself. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ooh! I WANT One!

It's a tea dragon.  The leaves sprouting from its branch-like horns can be brewed as tea.  This is BRILLIANT!   The genius behind this idea - and the graphic novel that stars these little (insert cooing, baby smooching noises here) creatures - is Katie O'Neill, the Kiwi artist who also created Princess Princess Ever After.

Click here to find out how you might win a copy of Tea Dragon Society (it is also a web comic) and a copy of Princess Princess Ever After.  Thanks, Diamond Book Distributors, for bringing these books to the USA.

Shelf Awareness - my favorite site for scoping out new books - posted this on their Maximum Shelf edition for today.  How could I NOT share THIS little (unintelligible coochy-coo noises) sweetie with all of you??

  My heart is melting!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

6 Things I Did Last Week

1.  Moravian Academy Reader's Theater workshops!  15 kids, paper hats, original scripts - all based on Jack tales.  Why, oh why, didn't I take photos?
A meager showing of the awesome hats.  The rest went home with the makers.

2. Took over the Universe.  Trixie, evil genius, and Grumpy Girl (me), captured the entire Universe.  Why stop at the world, am I right?
3. Froze chard for winter use.  So much chard!
4. Read the following books; Geekerella, Magpie Murders, I Hate Everyone But You, Caleb and Kit.
5. Bought an action camera and almost immediately regretted it.  I. Will. Learn. How. To. Use. This.
6.  Went to a wedding and saw the bride vanquish the groom in a sword fight.  Beat that!! 

I also lost my high school roommate and foster sister to ovarian cancer, and gained a great-niece.  Life goes on.

Reviews will follow but here's the nutshell.  Geekerella 👍, Magpie Murders 👍. The other two get possible thumbs ups but require discussion.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Let's Not Forget - Artemis Fowl

Is it too early to "remember" Artemis Fowl?  A coworker brought Artemis out for a young reader who wanted fantasy AND adventure all rolled into one.  And I remembered the total rush of WOW! that I experienced when I read the first book.  (BTW, what happened to the movie plans?)

Artemis is your typical evil- genius- with- a- soul.  Heir to a multi-million dollar criminal empire, Artemis must save his father from kidnappers.  His mother is lost in a haze of depression.  Their money is inaccessible to Artemis so he decides to steal a hoard of fairy gold.

Yep.  He's Irish - in Ireland - where caches of fairy gold are rumored to abound.  Oh, Artemis, you know not what you are about to unleash.  Those "little folk" live in the 21st century and they have the technology to prove it.

Gosh, I L.O.V.E. these books.  It is time to re-read them.

Eoin Colfer has a several other books to his credit.  He has just started a new series, W.A.R.P., that features a time traveler from the Victoria era who is swept up into an intelligence nightmare.  Be still, my reader's heart.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

How Does He DO That?

Chronicle Books presents "How to Draw A Maze" by Sean C. Jackson, the author of "From Here to There".  And it's amazing.  (See what I did there?)

I've been away.  Did you miss me?  I've read some awesome books. More later.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Hattifant Minion Card

I love to craft even though my results are less than perfect.  My dream life would be equal parts reading, crafting, and being outside in all weathers (preferably sheltered).  (Note:  I did not mention eating because that would just be embarrassing.)

I subscribe to Hattifant, a marvelous paper engineering site.  Every few days, I get a link to a new download for a paper toy or ornament or coloring page.  I don't always take advantage of these offers.  The videos are often enough.

Here is the latest.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth, everyone!  🎆🎇

Enjoy the fireworks and be careful with those sparklers! If the excitement gets too much for you...if you look around and wonder how we got where we are - good or bad - here's a book to read.

The Fragile Flag by Jane Langton.   The president wants to build a bomb - a huge world-ending bomb.  To garner support, his administration runs an essay contest in the schools.  Then, the president and his government try to redesign the flag, adding sparkles and glitz. 

In Concord, Massachusetts, Georgie Hall and her cousins decide to carry an old cherished flag, one said to infuse the viewer with patriotic visions, from their home to Washington D.C. on foot.  Even though they gather followers on the way, they also meet challenges. They wonder if their protest will have any effect at all.

Published in 1984, toward the end of the Cold War, this book might sound dated in its political setting (historical fiction!).  In 2002, Kathleen Karr, another favorite author, wrote that the book was not "appropriate for our political climate".  She wrote her critique right after 9/11 and might have been referring to our, at that time, friendly relationship with Russia.  Things had changed since 1984 but the pendulum kept swinging.

Personally, the danger of patriotic fervor turning into nationalistic insanity is all too real.  This book's message is true.  Read it and let me know how you feel.

More on Jane Langton, here.

Over at literacious, Laura has put together a Revolutionary War reading list for your middle grade - and older - readers.  Enjoy.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Let's Not Forget - The Green Book

First published in 1981, The Green Book tells the story of the last colonists to leave a dying Earth and rocket towards an unknown planet.
My favorite edition!

The most appalling privation they suffer is that each colonist, adult or child, can bring with them only ONE book.  When Pattie's book is shown to be an empty notebook, the other colonists are appalled.  The only entertainment they have is reading.  Musical instruments were too unnecessary to be loaded on the ship.  Paper is too precious to be wasted on drawing.

Technology has changed a lot since 1981.  The science of this book may feel dated.  But the tension of trying to make a new life on a planet that is similar to our own, and still so alien, is the main thrust of the story.  Once the colonists start making a life on the planet that they call Shine, all old world technology is moot.

The voice is that of one of the children in Pattie's family.  One is never sure, until the very end, which child is telling the story.  The point of view seems to shift among the siblings and that adds to the suspense.

Shine appears to be uninhabited and then, in a most magical scene, the denizens of Shine arise.

As I write, I keep remembering small details that delight me.  The colonists discover that the sap of the trees is edible through the children's play rhyme.  (NOTE TO SELF:  research the political and social significance of children's play rhymes.) The children end up leading in this book in so many ways.

This is a gentle tale, a cautionary tale.  The death of Earth has been caused by extreme pollution.  Shine is clean and clear and almost purely crystalline in comparison.  And yet, if they cannot produce their own food, the colonists may not survive.

 (Thanks to Chavivah (Cyndi) Simen for reminding me of this awesome book.)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

LBB...One More Time

(His name is Little Blue Bunny.  D says he is 8 years old now because she wants him to get a cell phone soon.)

It gets harder and harder to find trouble that Little Blue Bunny has NOT gotten in to.

Flooded the Squirrel family abode?  Done that!
Messed up his parent's closet?  Check!
Turned fairy princesses into flowers?  Duh! Of course!
Climbed the Eiffel tower?  At least twice.
Scaled a volcano?  Yep.
Kidnapped various toys with the help of various other toys? Ho hum.  It's been done.

He got trapped on an amusement park ride.
He joined the pirates.
He swung from a ceiling fan.
I think he bungled up Project Runway: Toy Edition at least once.
He ran away from home.
He ate too much cake and threw up.
He stepped on everyone's toes at the Ball.
He teases his sisters and his older brother.
He causes Mammy Mammoth to have conniptions almost weekly.
Poor Mammy!

His favorite escapade of all is climbing.

So, yesterday, Little Blue Bunny decided to climb the lamp connected to the lamp table.  The bottom of the lamp table is Little Blue Bunny's room and it's also where we store the board games.  The top of the table is Lila's room.  She's a teenager and likes to be near the phone.

D warned him not to do it.

"I know how to climb." He scoffed.  (He's a good scoffer.) Off he went, higher and higher.  He got to the bend in the lamp's arm and slid close to the base of the bulb.

D covered her mouth.  "No!" she breathed.  Then, she turned stern.  (Whoa, no one does stern like D!) "You will burn yourself, you silly bunny."

D reached over and took Little Blue Bunny and made him climb up the inside of the lamp shade - away from the bulb.

Just then!!  The front door opened and in walked Daddy to take D home.  Startled, Little Blue Bunny lost his grip, bounced off the bulb, and landed on top of Lila who never even noticed because she was texting someone on her domino phone.

Nana took care of the rascal.  D gathered her things and Daddy heard about her day and talked to Gramps.

But before she left, D took Nana aside and whispered what Little Blue Bunny should do the next time we play with him.

It's a good one!  Honestly, I can't wait.