Wednesday, September 16, 2009

same author, different poem

So much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

So much depends upon the simple things in life. Our lives are not held together by the goals of fame, money, and power. What keeps us going is the little things in life - for me it is reading a good book, the smell of rain, sleeping in and then getting a coffee with my husband, spending hours in a bookstore. What holds this whole world together is the astounding beauty of that red wheelbarrow, glazed with rainwater, beside the white chickens.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

so sweet and so cold

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
(This is just to say by William Carlos Williams)
100 Essential American Poems by Leslie M. Pockell

"It looked like iced apple juice, with a green straw and a paper parasol stuck through a maraschino cherry."

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

I like this old poem about the stolen plums and this quote from The Lightning Thief. The apple juice quote is so vivid and has the same imagery as the plums. There is also some kind of treachery involved in both - the stealing of the plums and the apple juice not tasting like it is supposed to.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Children's books part 3

Classic Fairy Tales by Scott Gustafson

This is THE BEST book of fairy tales for children, simply because the illustrations inside are so rich. The cover doesn't do the book justice. You have to open the book to appreciate how lush and gorgeous the illustrations really are.

I also like the fairy tales in this book because they aren't watered down. All of the bad things happen that are supposed to happen but things turn out for the best in the end. There is a naive innocence even in the scary parts. The wolf eats Little Red Riding Hood and when rescued by the woodcutter, Little Red Riding Hood jumps out saying, "Oh dear, how frightened I have been! It is so dark inside the wolf."

I like what Jim Trelease has to say about fairy tales. "The fairy tale confirms what the child has been thinking all along - that it is a cold, cruel world out there and it's waiting to eat him alive. Now, if that were all the fairy tale said, it would have died out long ago. But it goes one step further. It addresses itself to the child's sense of courage and adventure. The tale advises the child: Take your courage in hand and go out to meet the world head on."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Children's books part 2

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran

Roxaboxen celebrates the imagination of children who, no matter the time or place, can create whole worlds out of what they find around them--here, rocks and boxes, cacti and sand. Marian and her friends find a "special place" in the desert where in time-honored fashion, they play the games that will prepare them for their grown-up lives. The rules are simple: you make them up as you go along according to the whim of the day or the personality of the residents. In Roxaboxen, "Marian was mayor, of course; that was just the way she was. Nobody minded." The rules don't even have to be consistent--as long as they make sense. Speeding was not allowed by car but "ah, if you had a horse, you could go as fast as the wind . . . All you needed for a horse was a stick and some kind of bridle."

The real beauty of the story is that it is true. The author's grandmother recalls fondly playing in their imaginary town of Roxaboxen when she was a little girl. The author even tracked down other children who played in Roxaboxen to get their memories into the story.

This book is part of the Five in a Row curriculum. They have put together a remarkable list of books. Some of them are out of print or otherwise hard to find, but they are great collector's items if you come across them.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

A father and his four children--a toddler, a preschool boy and two older girls--go on the traditional bear hunt based on the old camp chant: "We're going to catch a big one. / What a beautiful day! / We're not scared. / Oh-oh! Grass! / Long, wavy grass. / We can't go over it. / We can't go under it. / Oh, no! / We've got to go through it!" The family skids down a grassy slope, swishes across a river, sludges through mud and, of course, finally sees the bear, who chases them all back to their home. It's a fantastic journey--was it real or imagined?--with the family's actions (and interaction) adding to the trip a goodnatured, jolly mood.

The rhythm of this book is great. It's easy to memorize and then you can "act it out" with young children and they love playing the game of looking for the bear. Here is a video of Michael Rosen acting out the story and you can get an idea of how the book is almost like a song.

Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban

Frances loves nothing better than jam and bread, and turns up her nose at other kinds of food. Then her mother starts giving Frances jam and bread for breakfast, lunch and dinner. "What I am/is sick of Jam," Frances sings to herself. That's the end of Frances's jam-only days, as she discovers, in her own winsome way, that variety really is the spice of mealtimes.

I adore Frances' description at the end of what she is having for lunch. "I have a thermos bottle with cream of tomato soup. And a lobster-salad sandwich on thin slices of white bread. I have celery, carrot sticks, and black olives, and a little cardboard shaker of salt for the celery. And two plums and a tiny basket of cherries. And vanilla pudding with chocolate sprinkles and a spoon to eat it with."

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Children's books part 1

I love collecting children's books. My favorites are usually either magical in a quiet way (like Owl Moon and A Lot of Otters) or have a rollicking rhyme to them (like Jamberry and A House is a House for Me). These are some of my favorites. I will review more throughout the long weekend!

Koala Lou by Mem Fox
Koala Lou is loved by everyone, but it is her mother who loves her most of all. She often tells her daughter, "Koala Lou, I DO love you." As the family grows and her mother gets busier, Koala Lou yearns to hear those words again. She sets out to win the Bush Olympics as a way to gain her mother's attention.

You can hear the author read the book aloud right here.

Mem Fox also wrote Reading Magic where she talks about how to read to kids. "There's no exact way of reading aloud, other than to be as expressive as possible... The ups and downs of our voices and our pauses and points of emphasis are like magic."

A Lot of Otters by Barbara Helen Berger

The first page shows a toddler walking with a book; the baby climbs into a box at the title page; at the opening of the real story, the child begins reading the book, about ``Mother Moon'' looking for her child, her ``moonlet.'' What the child sees on the picture-book page is the scene readers see; from there, the events are nonstop: The toddler drops the book, and an otter spots it from underwater. That otter reads the book aloud to a group of otters treading water, including one who floats on her back with her baby lying upon her like a fuzzy teddy bear. The moon-mother's tears fall into the sea, turning into stars--a folktale element that allows for lovely compositions as the otters dive for the stars. Mother and moonlet--who turns out to be the toddler--are reunited.

I love otters. This book has such a serene, dreamlike quality to it and the illustrations are beautiful.

A Little House Birthday by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I like these Little House picture books because they take the stories right out of the books. The illustrations are so much like the illustrations Garth Williams produced for the original Little House books. These books are great for preschoolers who are just a little young for the "real" books.

Friday, September 4, 2009

R.I.P Challenge

It's my favorite time of the year! Fall is just plain magical. Everything transforms into a fairy tale with the pumpkins and leaves and hazy weather and dark, cold nights. And... it's my second year doing the R.I.P. challenge!

I'm not sure what books I'll be reading and I probably won't start the challenge until October.

So far, I have an old, black, hardbound copy of Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon. It even came with that addicting old musty-book smell. I'm excited to see what everyone is reading.

Here is a link to the challenge.