Friday, September 29, 2017

Atonement - Let's Not Forget Eric A. Kimmel

Tonight begins one of Judaism's High Holy Days, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  What I know about Yom Kippur I have gleaned from children's books, since I was raised a Christian.  Most notably, the books of Eric A. Kimmel helped me understand the practice of seeking forgiveness and atoning for one's misbehavior.  Christians seek forgiveness, too, with rituals like Lent, Advent, and the sacrament of Penance.  Atonement just seems bigger on Yom Kippur.

To learn more about how Yom Kippur is observed, check out Printable Guide to Yom Kippur 2017.  

In 2016, Pjlibrary, an organization that sends free books to Jewish children came out with a booklist about forgiveness.   My favorite book on this list is Kimmel's Gershon's Monster.

 Since I mentioned Eric  A. Kimmel, I want to celebrate him in this Friday's Let's Not Forget!

He's still out there, gathering folklore and presenting it to children in engaging original ways. His earliest books dealt with Middle Eastern, Russian, Middle European and Jewish folklore.  He then moved on the tales of Greek Mythology, and to the stories told about Anansi.  Ukrainian tales, retellings of classic literature such as Don Quixote and Moby Dick, original tales that feature different parts of the world and of American history (The Erie Canal Pirates, anyone?), -  there doesn't seem to be any portion of folklore, mythology or fable that Eric A. Kimmel can't embellish for young readers. His books highlight cultures from all over the world. 

I loved the holidays when Kimmel could be counted on to retell or create holiday stories that came from world traditions.  ALL the holidays!  Almost EVERY year!
Hmm, I wonder where Eric A. Kimmel got the idea for this character?

Visit his website to hear him read some of his more recent books, to ask him a question, to visit his blog and more.

 Hurray for Eric A. Kimmel! 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Let's Not Forget - Betsy Byars

Oh! Oh! Oh!  Betsy Byars!  Over 60 books to her credit, Byars is an American treasure.  She has the talent and the perseverance to pare her prose down to the essential emotion or description.  In one of her Blossom families she describes a boy as someone who "Loved having too much to do."  I remember; it was in The Blossoms and the Green Phantom.   I knew exactly how Junior Blossom felt.  I saw his shining face and his excitement and Byars didn't even have to say "His face shone with excitement."  Sometimes, I read a Byars-written sentence and I am struck dumb with awe. 

My first ever Betsy Byars book was The Cartoonist.   How the author got into that boy's head, I'll never know.  No matter, I went on to read The 18th Emergency and I was launched.  I read every book she wrote - well, almost - from that day to this.

Enough fangirling.  She won a Newbery for The Summer of the Swans.  She won the National Book Award for The Night Swimmers.  AND get this.  She won an Edgar for Wanted...Mud Blossom.  What?!?  What about Herculeah Jones?

Please offer Betsy Byars books to young readers who need books about kids dealing with the real world.  The technology has changed since the 1970s, but the problems kids deal with are the same - finding a place for their passions, dealing with difficult people, dealing with being difficult people - those things are universal.

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.