Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Weekly Book Report

Maximillian Fly

In an effort to keep track of what I read, I will attempt to produce a weekly book report.

In the past week or so, I have read:

Mac B., Kid Spy #2 The Impossible Crime. by Mac Barnett. We, adult readers of mysteries of all sorts, will figure out the culprit pretty darn early. But keep reading because these books are hilarious. The Queen calls on Mac B. to stand guard over the Crown Jewels yet again, along with a grumpy Beefeater. (Tower of London guard - but you knew that, right?)

Maximillian Fly by Angie Sage. Shades of The Metamophosis by Kafka here. Well, not really. Maximillian Fly is a human. He explains that in the first few pages. But, he looks and acts like a six foot tall roach. The reason for this is explained much later in this book about a tyrannical future earth where people are "protected" by a dome from the sickness that has killed so many humans. Listen to an audio excerpt here.

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart.   Coyote and her father, Rodeo, live in a big yellow school bus. They go where they want and they stay as long - or as short - as they like. They didn't always live like this. Coyote makes no secret of the fact that they belonged to a larger family once. When change threatens Coyote's hometown and her most precious memories, she has to find a way to trick Rodeo into returning to a place where they once had - and then lost - everything. They pick up other travelers on their journey who help Coyote as she tries to go home. Freedom, outliers, fun and lots of sadness. 

Roll With It by Jamie Summer.     When Ellie's grandfather starts acting erratically, she and her mom move into her grandparents' trailer.  It's a bit tight for Ellie's wheelchair but they manage. Ellie has all the "new kid" anxieties doubled by the "kid in the wheelchair" anxieties. Her cerebral palsy make it hard for her to walk - though she can, but not very well or for very long - but inside Ellie is any middle grade girl dealing with granpa troubles. Thank goodness she can bake. This is a lifter-upper of a book.

Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee.    Mila is perplexed. A "group hug" feels more like a grope. Then, more boys are paying attention to her and she can't understand it.  A playground game called Command, that Mila refuses to play, feeds into a round of harrassments. And no one, not even Mila's best friends, are taking her complaints seriously.  #MeToo hits middle school. This book is a necessary read because sometimes grown-ups need to know what's going on and so do kids.

A Good Kind of Trouble Lisa Moore Ramée.  Shayla truly believes that nothing will change her or her friendships, even in middle school.  When a police officer is exonerated in the shooting of an unarmed black man who was running away, Shayla is forced to pay attention to the undercurrents of racism all around her. Shayla's own assumptions about other students based on their looks opens her eyes and Shayla decides to stand up for what is right. Lots of good stuff in this #BlackLivesMatter book. Friendships bend but don't break. Shayla navigates a boy's crush on her and she learns about what it means to be on a team.    
Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga. Jude and her mother have to move from war torn Syria leaving behind Baba and big brother, Issa. Life in Cincinnati is so different and luxurious from  their small home on the seashore. Adjusting to a new language and trying to fit in with her cousin and classmates takes courage. Again, changes in her life and dealing with middle school judgey-ness, make Jude's trials approachable and real. Hopefully, this book will be shared with kids who need to adjust to changes like this - either their own or someone else's.      

And I expect to finish Max and the Midknights by Lincoln Peirce tonight - with the stuffies.  This book is so much fun! I thought of the classic Adam of the Road when I started it. But this is no historically correct adventure of a young bard. This is a romp through all the medieval tropes with Bad Kings and witches and giants and wizards and dragons and - well, you name it, it's in here.  43084550. sx318

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Little Blue Bunny Update: Part 2. Kitchen hijinks!

LBB was down but not out. Maybe getting the LOLs to organize to protest failed but how about asking for help in a baking escapade.

(At this point, D twirled around and said, “He always makes a mess of the kitchen when we’re gone.” True.)

His plan was to make a fake apple pie (click for actual recipe) using round snack crackers.

He got about 12 of the dolls to climb the stairs. They had to climb on each other’s shoulders and then pull up the ones left behind.

Luckily, toys don’t get tired so soon a pile of them gathered in the kitchen.  They dragged the broom over to the counter then shinnied up the broom handle. On the counter they made a pyramid so they could reach the cupboard. They handed down the ingredients as LBB shouted them out.

“Crackers, cinnamon, flours, sugar!” He sounded like a boss!

Coconut Cutie was reading the labels and when she found a box marked with a big S, she handed it down.

The toys got to work making a pie crust. Stuffy Cam videos do NOT transfer to people computers very well but watching them try to roll out the crust was hilarious. They finally dumped the crust into the pan and jumped on it to spread it out.

LBB mixed the filling ingredients and poured them over the cracker pieces.
Then they put the pie on a dish towel, gathered the corners together, and lowered it to the oven shelf. Four of the dolls and Franklin slid the dish towel from under the pie pan.
Then they scurried out of the oven. The broom handle helped them close the oven door.

LBB hopped on the controls and 30 minutes later the pie was done.

When it was cool, they put it on the floor and everyone gathered around. Fancy got the first taste. It smelled all cinnamon -y and yummy.

Photo of Mock Apple Pie I by Carmela Sagendorf

Fancy took a bite. And...

"YUCK!. Bleach!"

LBB hopped up and took a taste. He spit it right out.

He scrambled up the broomstick to the counter where he looked at all the ingredients.

"Where’s the sugar?" He squeaked.  "Why is this empty box of salt here?"

The dolls all laughed at his funny face. 

Coconut Cutie’s mouth looked like an “O”. “I thought it was sugar. It looks like sugar.”

Little Blue Bunny fell over in disappointment.

He and Franklin spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning up the kitchen before Daddy got home. The dolls slid down the stairs back to the playroom to avoid any more work.

Little Blue Bunny wiped his forehead with his ears. "I learned a good lesson." he sighed. "Always check your ingredients."

Franklin nodded. They sat on the bottom step by the front door and just thought.

“Do you have any other ideas for fun?” Franklin asked. He knew LBB would come up with something amazing.

“My next idea is the best one yet!” Little Blue Bunny gave an excited hop.

They heard a car pull into the driveway.

“Quick!” The bunnies hopped up the stairs to D’s bedroom just as Daddy came in through the basement door...

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Little Blue Bunny Update, Part 1.

LBB update

D went to Chile to visit her mother’s huge extended family for a week. She is home now. She demanded to know what Little Blue Bunny did while she was gone.

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “He was at your house most of the time because I was sick.”

D looked at me and rolled her eyes. “Make it up, Nana," she told me.

So, here is what my hidden Stuffy Cams revealed.

Little Blue Bunny tried hard to “organize” the LOL(tm) dolls. His explanation is that, “D will like having her dolls all lined up, I know.”

 But Franklin and LBB were caught on Stuffy Cam arguing about making troops out of the dolls.

“She has a lot of dolls,” LBB told Franklin. "They could get a lot of stuff done. We could march on the living room and demand more rights for toys.”

Franklin just sighed as he listened. When LBB stopped talking, Franklin pointed out that toys have it pretty easy.

“We don’t have to work. We are never hungry. What do we really need, Little Blue?” Franklin tried to be reasonable.

“We need POWER!” LBB yelled. “We never get to do anything on our own.”

“Um, what about right now?” Franklin pointed out.

“I want more power than just doing things when people are not around.”

LBB got a lot of dolls to come hear his plans. They were not impressed by his power speech.

“He just wants US to do the work of marching and chanting.” Rocker shouted.

“Yes,” Fancy nodded. “What’s in it for us?”
Image result for lol dolls Fancy

“I’ll show you what’s in it for you.” Little Blue Bunny said sweetly. “Just follow me.”

Fancy went with LBB into the laundry room. LBB put a handkerchief over Fancy's head and tied her up.

“Mwahahaha!” Little Blue Bunny shouted as he ran back into the playroom. “If you ever want to see Fancy again, you will do as I say.”

The dolls just laughed.

“It’s not funny.” LBB said. “I kidnapped her.” …

Fancy walked out from behind him.

“Bunnies tie really bad knots.” she said with a smirk.

Little Blue Bunny was down but not out. He had another plan...

Thursday, February 13, 2020


On Sunday, February 16th at 2 pm. I will tell and sing and play with anyone of any age who wants to learn about being a Proud Earthling! At Godfrey Daniels - info below!
I wrote a song for this event AND an action rhyme.  I am posting the lyrics to the song below.

HOWEVER, I also chose some great stories and there will be a game and discussion and a secret (sort of ) club.

We are all earthlings.
The Earth is our home.
We love the lands, the skies and the seas
The sun and the rain, the snow and the breeze.

We are all earthlings.
The Earth is our home.
We share this home with rabbits and bears
the fish in the seas, and, birds in the air.

We are all Earthlings
We cherish this place.
We’re a family of Earthlings
On a ball out in space.

We are all Earthlings
The Earth is our home
We love the deserts, the jungles and towns,
The mountains and swamps, and the mud, rich and brown

We are all Earthlings
The Earth is our home.
We share this world with gators and bees,
the crawlers on land and the climbers in trees.

We are all Earthlings
We cherish this place.
We’re a family of Earthlings
On a ball out in space.

We are all Earthlings
The Earth is our home                                  by Karen Maurer, 2020

I just finished the action rhyme after reading about the ways people greet each other around the world. To be totally factual, most people accept a bow or a handshake. But whenever possible, native
people's traditions should be respected.  The story behind Tibet's odd greeting is wonderful! (See below!)

Here is my beta version of How Do People Say Hello? It may change before Sunday, who knows?

(Children pair off. In each verse, they act out how people greet each other. In flu season, you may want to skip or "air play" New Zealand and Oman. I am doing this with a teddy bear since I have a cold.)

 (Repeat this first verse between the others. Children can wave to each other during this verse or greet other people in the way they just learned about.)

What do people do to say hello?
How do people say hello?

In America, you take
your friend’s hand
and give a shake
That’s what people do to say hello.

In  far off Tibet, some monks
will stick out their tongues
That’s what people do to say hello.*

In Japan, bowing is polite
When you meet both day and night
That’s what people do to say hello

In New Zealand, touch together
foreheads and noses*
That’s what Kiwis do to say their helloes-es.
That's what people do to say hello.

In the deserts of Oman,
Men touch noses when they can*
That’s what people do to say hello.

The Masai like to jump.
Some people do fist bumps.
A hug, a wave, a fast hand jive
A smile, a slap, a quick high five.

People do so many things to say hello
So many things to do to say hello!          Karen Maurer 2020

Okay for the asterisks.
#1. In the 6th century, Tibet had a horrible king, cruel and nasty. He had a black tongue. Tibetans stick out their tongues to assure people they greet that they have no relationship to that nasty king. Reincarnation plays a part in this greeting but young children might not get it.

#2. This greeting is called hongi and is very sweet. Eyes can be open or closed.  Also, Kiwi is a slang phrase for someone who lives in New Zealand because kiwi birds are native to New Zealand.

#3. Touching noses appears to be an Arab tradition. Since men and women have very separate roles, I only found this greeting listed as involving men.

NOT AN ASTERISK: Inuits (sometimes called Eskimos) do NOT rub noses. They touch their nose and upper lip to a person's forehead and breathe in. First one person does it, then the other.

I love Earthlings. We are awesome!

Update: I found the info about greetings on these websites:

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Sunday Selfie - Fight Delight? Nah.

Yesterday, as I ran errands, I caught snatches of a radio essay on "delight". It made me smile.

The idea of "delight" is far from our minds in the dark of winter. In fact, most mornings when I wake up, delight is the last thing I consider. First, I groan because it is later than I hoped. Then I sneer because it is earlier than I want it to be. (Figure that one out.) Then I stretch and discover that the joints and parts that hurt last night still hurt this morning. Some mornings, I refuse to get out of bed, yet.

But I always do rise and shuffle through the day. Delight can catch me then, unawares. Oh, but not if I am wary.  I fight the delight because no one can make me feel - or do - anything I don't want to do.

Except...I do want to be delighted.  Even in my battle against surprising happiness, I do things that surprise me with happiness. I should just give in.

Bill Staines, after his performance at Godfrey Daniels.
 Last night is a case in point. Now, I know the name Bill Staines. He wrote a song called "Place in the Choir" that was turned into a picture book in the '90s. Then Kadir Nelson (Kadir Nelson!) illustrated the song in 2009. We sang the song around campfires in the 80s, I think.
Kadir Nelson' version.

The older book!

I know that Bill Staines has written some great songs, covered by some very well-known singers. I had never been to a Bill Staines performance, though.

I volunteered to work the counter at a place that delights me in so many ways, Godfrey Daniels, the Lehigh Valley's original listening room.  Because, why not? I mean, Bill Staines is FAMOUS!! and if I volunteer I get to see the performance for free. (Hint! Lehigh Valley peeps! It's worth the scrambling before the show and at the break to be a volunteer. The caveat is this; you will end up purchasing tickets for other shows because so many folk legends play this club.)

Delight. It hit me square in the eardrum and in the eyes - delight in music so smooth and so sweet that worries roll off your shoulders. Delight - to see and hear people of so many different ages singing together. It was like a tent meeting of kindness - delight.

His songs are about rivers, home, old dogs, bridges, rodeos, road trips, children, memories, love, loss, hope - these are the building blocks of delight. 

Today, the weather is meh! and my head aches. I could take a walk so I could complain about the wet weather and the damp. Or play foolish games on the computer, or nap.

Instead I think  that I will put my new Bill Staines CD on while I make a home cooked meal and feel delight in my home, in warmth, in coziness and in the talent of an American folk singer.

When delight jumps out, invite it in.  Put on some music. Make some soup. Set your mopey self free.