Tuesday, February 27, 2018

SAOG - Secret Agents of Good

I found a secret message tucked inside the legs of my camel marionette.  It reads, "Love misstion
be kind and frenidly"  and it's signed with a kiss.

Sounds like an order from the Secret Agents of Good.  So here is your LOVE MISSION for the day.

Be kind and friendly.

Over and out!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Let's Not Forget Virginia Hamilton

Do you know a young read who wants to read a scary book, a haunted book, a fascinating book?  Give them Virginia Hamilton's The House of Dies Drear.  I found it un-put-down-able!  I also thought it was incredibly creepy.

That started me on a Virginia Hamilton kick that started with Zeely and ended, for me, with When Birds Could Talk & Bats Could Sing.  Hamilton kept on writing.

Her list of titles include picture books, folktales, fantasies and stories about African American families and young people.  Some stories, like The Planet of Junior Brown (one of my FAVORITES) show young people in incredibly stressed situations.  Some of her books addressed racism straight on.  She also wrote non-fiction, most notably biographies of African Americans such as Paul Robeson and W.E.B. Dubois and collected folktales of slave families, the Caribbean and Africa.

Hamilton died in 2004 but her award winning books continue to captivate, engage and instruct young readers.  Let's never forget Virginia Hamilton.


My grand daughter (D) is obsessed with surprise toys.   It began with the little Princess bags sold at the register in stores like Target. The customer never knew what small figurine was inside the bag when they bought it. D has moved on to collectible dolls all packaged exactly alike so that the child is "surprised" to see which doll her parents bought her. The Princess bags were somewhat affordable, - $3 or $4 a pop. The dolls run closer to $10 a pop. Is this why her parents work so hard?  

I see the appeal.  It's a little like scratch off lottery tickets.  Maybe this time, I'll get that special Dancing Cutie doll.  Maybe this time, I'll win big.  At least, the children still get a toy to keep.

Trading cards had the same allure.  This pack might have the rare picture of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.  Further back, kids collected in hopes of getting the card for their favorite sports player.  Some cards have risen in value.  Why?  Because some kids never grow up, I think.  They still hope to live, or find value, through their things.

What happens when a child's friends aren't lucky enough to own as many expensive toys?  What happens when a child can't enjoy the fizz of anticipation because her parents work hard but don't make as much money as other parents?  How do we protect little humans from equating owning things to happiness or worth?

Dan, (youngest brother and partner in crime), brainstormed a little bit last week.  His son, J, collects a lot of trading chips of Manga and Anime characters.  That's what is hot in Japan in the elementary school group.  Action figures and their vehicles and gadgets are what young boys collect.  They aren't cheap either.

What if, we asked, we packaged card decks that let kids make their own fun?  Each deck would contain cards with crafts or experiments or games that kids could play, make or do at home.  Each deck would also have a heavier card that could be turned into a character or a toy. A website would give points to each heavy card.  That's as far as we got.   Could the children collect points and win...what?  What?  It seems like a puny offering to counter sparkly dolls in carefully designed and crafted "surprise" packages.  Sigh.

In the meantime, parents work at jobs that they often dislike just so they can afford a "nice" house, a "good" car, and toys that clutter up that nice house and good car.

And other parents have to say "no" to their children because those parents make just enough to pay the rent or buy groceries.

Life isn't fair.   Fun should be free - or affordable.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Going Underground - Clayton Byrd Goes Underground

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia

Clayton Byrd just lost his grandfather, a blues musician/"magician".  Clayton's Mama, Ms. Byrd, just lost her father, a man who was never around for her.  Grief is a funny thing.  Ms. Byrd wants to clear her home of Cool Papa's influence.  The Blues were never good to her and her mother.  Clayton wants to hold tight to the best friend he ever had.

When Ms. Byrd takes away Clayton's blues harp, he fights back.  He skips school and heads out for the park where his grandfather and his friends played.  On the subway, he meets beatbox street - or it is train? - performers and is bullied into joining them.  Things only go down, down, down from there.

Clay is lucky to have a father (Mr. Miller) who wants, more than anything, to be present for his son.  Throughout the book, Mr. Miller tries to support his family even though Clay's mother wants ultimate control.

Let me tell you, I cringed at Ms. Byrd's attempts to get Clayton to stop falling asleep in school, or playing his harmonica by using punishments.  Any Mom you know ever do that kind of thing?  This one did.  And that control thing?  GUILTY AS CHARGED!!! 

So, though this book is written for kids, maybe it could be handed to control freak Moms on occasion.

Kids won't get that.  They will feel Ms. Byrd's unfairness.  They will understand that Clayton just can't explain what's going on inside him. 

Clay's adventure gone wrong will appeal to young readers, too.  So many of us got to "act out" and "break free" just by reading about others who could.

Here is another book about grieving, loss, and recovery from that pain.  The world is never the same again.  It's also a coming of age-ish story.  Good thing Clay has parents who love him and can change just a little when it's important.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Secret Agents of Good

Remember when we did that benefit concert for Puerto Rico?  I was a tad distracted back then but in a wonderful way.  I want to feel that way again - like I can make a difference - like I can do good.  Just like Little Blue Bunny's Secret Agents of Good initiative, I want to do good, secretly?   Well, maybe not so secretly.

But there are so many problems, so many areas of worry and concern, that I can't decide exactly what to do.  Please help.

Take the survey in the link below.  Let me know what YOU think is the next step to take.  Please.  Thank you.

Click here for the survey.   By the way, I just changed this survey so that you can answer it more than once.   That way, you can vote for more than one project.

Thanks, again.

Friday, February 9, 2018

LBB Reports - Snails Are Just My Speed

Little Blue Bunny here with another timely book report.

I like Kevin McCloskey because he wears an awesome hat. His hair and beard are white and Claus-y.  AND he writes and illustrates very interesting books about weird animals - like pigeons, fish, worms and SNAILS. (Also flamingos.)

Snails are fun to draw.  Snails are slugs with shells.  (Ha! Ha!  A snail asked a slug if the slug was running away from home!  Hahahaha! Slug humor is the best!)

Snails have LOTS of slippery slimy disgusting MUCUS! 

And snails are so slow that even WORMS move faster than snails.  In this book, we find out that slowness is not always so bad.  If I tell you any more about snails, you won't read the book.  That would be very bad - because the pictures are pretty great.

Nana got this book, Snails are Just My Speed, along with La Matadragones: Cuentas de Latinoamerica AND The Dragon Slayer: Folktales of Latin America, both by Jaime Hernandez - same book, different languages - from MY FAVORITE publisher TOON Books.   Then, she gave Snails Are Just My Speed to D.  D gets everything (grumble).

But I read it first, before Nana, before D - and before You! Mwhahahahahaha! 

Little Blue Bunny, signing off.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

In Tears

D told me, "It's just a book, Nana", when I mentioned that the book worried me.  It's the second book in the series and I don't like what the adventure is doing to one of the main characters.

Since he is the teenage form of a character created over 100 years ago, there is really no other direction in which he can go.  Still...

Ridley Pearson's "The Downward Spiral" left me with tears in my eyes.  The story of the Moriarty siblings, James and Moria, and James' odd roommate, Sherlock, is in no way over.  The end of this book leaves us with more questions than the book answers.  Good.  I need to read more of Moria's story.  At 12, Moria has lived through more drama, danger and desperation than most Senior Citizens - and all in one year.

In the first book, (I reviewed it rather lightly here), we suspect that the Moriarty family is involved in less than polite activities - especially when a tragedy reduces their numbers.  We see James being led down the narrow, gloom ridden secret passage to the family "business".  Read the book.

Back at Baskerville Academy, James is given "missions", more like "orders", by adults in high places.
Moria and Sherlock find a download of the family Bible and discover a portrait that could answer a lot of questions.

On Beacon Hill, the teens find a secret compartment in Moriarty the elder's desk with more cryptic Biblical quotes.  And eventually they find a secret room.

There is an attempted jewel heist; an almost tragic winter sailing outing; beatings, kidnaps and unfortunate "accidents".  At the center of it all is James.

Too proud to ask forgiveness for the mistakes he makes, too stiff-necked to make light of his frailties, James dooms himself to a future of evil doing.  OK.  I can put up with that.  He's a teenager.  How many of us learned to take ourselves less seriously when we were 14?  Also, he's predestined to be a bad guy.  Arthur Conan Doyle hath made it so.

The way adults manipulate him angers me.  By the time they are done, he has more black marks against him.  His father would never have wanted this - or would he?

See what I mean by questions?

Moria tells the story.  And the tears that rose to my eyes as I closed the book?  I cannot tell if they are for Moria and her worry about her brother or for James and his narrowing choices.

Friday, February 2, 2018

State of the Bun-ion Address

When we are down to about 45 minutes left of our afternoon, D and I MUST find a way for Little Blue Bunny to - you know - get in trouble. (No, seriously, if I mention the imminence of her parents' arrival, she jumps up.  "Quick, Little Blue Bunny has to get in trouble.")

He was not cooperating.  I think that's because he was in the Christmas Room with his sisters and he was full of the Christmas spirit.
The Christmas Room. This is a picture from long ago.

Then, D discovered that the fuzz from the pompoms she cut up earlier in the afternoon made a perfect wig for Little Blue Bunny.  He looked like (Dumdum DUM!!!) the President.

We looked at each other and we knew!!  Little Blue Bunny was going to take over the White House.

 But first, he needed a disguise.  D got to work making him a black jacket-y thing.  I tried to make a bow tie but, really, has this President ever worn a bow tie? So I quit.  We created the scenario.

Little Blue bunny sat behind the desk in the Oval Office, (A box on the table), when the Pres came into the room, (played by Fiddle-Fi-Fee, a fiddler puppet, who also has reddish hair).  Pres/Fiddle thought LBB was the cutest WH pet ever.
I like this picture so much I put it in twice.

"And I know pets.  I know pets better than any president alive today.  Everyone tells me how well I understand pets.  And this bunny will make the GREATEST White House pet of all times."

He fell for LBB's plan, hook line and carrot.  LBB skipped - or hopped - out of the Oval Office and down the halls of the White House with Pres/Fiddle in hot pursuit.  Finally, LBB dodged into a closet (Ok, a kitchen cabinet.  Our house doesn't have many closets.) The Pres/Fiddle followed and LBB dodged him, slammed the door and locked Pres/Fiddle inside.

Heh heh heh heh heh!

Little Blue Bunny was right on time to make the State of the Bunion Address to the assembly of Congress animals.  He had to stand on the jack-in-the-box for his podium.  But first, he marched into the room to the sounds of Snoopy playing Christmas music on the piano (an electronic music box that I haven't put away yet.)

Little Blue Bunny is not the greatest speaker so here are the important points of his speech.

Little Blue Bunny's State of the Bunion Address.

1.  The State of the Bunion is very painful.  It will be some time before America is back on its feet.

2.  It is time to get rid of the residents of this country who are violent, dishonest, unkind, lazy, selfish and wasteful  These residents MUST GO.

3.  So, beginning NOW, all humans will be deported from the Bunited States of America.  Here are the reasons:

a.  Bunnies are soft, cuddly, peace-loving creatures who never hurt anyone.
b.  People hurt or kill everyone - animals and people.  They lie, steal, cheat, destroy, poison, - they are just plain bad.
c.  ERGO, people must go and bunnies must stay.

Well, the assembled Congress animals LOVED his speech until one of the humans in the group - probably me but it might have been Gramps - said, "Did the president shrink?"

The Pres/Fiddle got out of the cabinet just in time for Mommy to show up and Little Blue Bunny to scamper out of the Capital and home to the dining room.

BTW, the Congress has decided not to deport all humans, until further investigation of Little Blue Bunny's charges.