Saturday, September 29, 2012

A New Author

S. has written her first book, (dictated to Grandma).
The Reader's Digest version:

"He's happy."
"She's happy on her motorcycle, I don't know why."
"They are happy, too!"

"He's sad because he has a booboo."

"The bunny is happy because she has a pink dress on."
At this point in reading, I was happy to see that she not only recognizes other people/animal/radishes' feelings, but can attribute reasons to those feelings.

"Kitties don't talk."
And at this point, I snorted. I can just see the exasperated look she must have given Grandma when asked, "And what is the kitty saying?"

"Apples don't talk. Apples are for eating." Unlike radishes. Grandma is woefully undereducated, but S. is patiently setting her straight.

"Dogs can't talk. Ladies can talk."
"That guy is feeding the lady some food."
Okay, I think Grandma gets it, now.

"That girl is licking ice cream. Ice cream is good. I want some ice cream."
A rather big hint, but Grandma didn't catch it. Further education obviously needed: stay tuned for the sequel!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cast Iron and Pinon

Daddy made an awesome find this weekend:
Doesn't look like much here, but with a little lot of sanding and a repaint, it now looks like this:
Have I mentioned we spend well over $1,000 on propane every winter? Have I mentioned that I really don't like spending $1,000 on propane? I can't wait to get this into the house and start cooking on it, heating the house at the same time. The plan was, when M. got off work, we would fire it up outside to roast marshmallows and make sure everything worked okay. (Don't you love sentences that start with, "The plan was..." ?)
After lunch, S. was taking her nap, and L. was not. C. was getting squirrely. I decided to take everyone out to collect firewood, while Daddy stayed inside with S. And, as soon as I decided that, the pager went off.
With M. gone, I had to stay home with the kids. The more I listened to the radio traffic, the more I wished I could have been on this run as well, but finally S. woke up and we could all go outside as planned. Got a good pile of fallen limbs together, and we were heading inside to start supper when I heard C. say, "I'll get it out." I turned to see him aiming his finger at her nose, and quickly said, "C., don't pick her boogers!" S. was just as quick to reassure me that he wasn't - "It's a rock!"
Well, tweezers didn't work - it just kept spinning around - and trying to get her to blow her nose just resulted in her sniffing it further up. Radio traffic told me Daddy still wasn't going to be home any time soon, so I packed everyone in the van, called M., who was on her way home, left a note ("Call us. Don't panic!") on the door, and, as soon as M. pulled in and jumped into the van, headed out for the ER.
S. was terribly traumatized. Sang all the way down the hill (rather nasally), happily followed the nurses back without even checking to see if I was coming, and sat nice and still for the doctor (who couldn't get it out with tweezers, either.) Two different suction tubes later, success!
Slight pause.
Nurse: "It's a bean!"
Me: "It's a pinon nut!"
Photo: Who: Sheridan
What: Pinon nut
When: This evening, while Daddy was already out on an EMS run.
Where: Up her right nostril.
Why: That's what I would like to know!
Yes, I kept it. For a $175 copay, I want something tangible.
For the after care instructions, the nurse told me to call my primary care physician if we noticed a tree growing out of her right nostril.
We had picked up McDonald's and were headed back up the mountain before Daddy got home and called. Needless to say, we didn't get a fire lit in the cookstove. Something to look forward to tonight!
But, I'm not letting S. hold the marshmallows.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

New (to Us) YA Fiction

We've actually had these since March or April, but I haven't had time to read them - just gaze longingly at the covers as I catalog them! They were coming off the 'new' shelf this month, so I snagged a few to read in bits and snatches:
Small Acts of Amazing Courage
J F History WHEL
"It is India, 1918, six months after the end of World War I, and Rosalind awaits the return of her father from the war. Rosalind is kept from boarding school in England at her mother’s insistence. While her father has been at war, Rosalind sees the country slowly change. A man named Ghandi is coming to power, talking about nonviolence and independence from Britain. Rosalind longs to live the life that her heart tells her, not what her parents prescribe for her, but no one seems to listen.
This penetrating story, told with lush and vivid detail, contrasts Rosalind’s privilege and daily experiences in India with the hardship of the people around her. As she comes of age during this volatile period of history, will she find the courage to claim her own identity and become her own person?"
Here's another reason they should let us read at work - I originally catalogued this as YA because of the age of the protagonist, but it reads much more like a juvenile fiction (upper elementary, middle school). The harsh realities of life in India in the early 1800's are touched upon, but not in any great detail. Just enough is given for an unfamiliar reader to understand how the central characters' choices may be molded by what they experience. Things tie up a bit tidily at times. I think this would annoy an older reader, but just helps make it perfect for a younger reader starting to explore world issues and their own growing pangs.
Vi knows the Rule: Girls don’t walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn…and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi’s future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.
But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they’re set on convincing Vi to become one of them….starting by brainwashed Zenn. Vi can’t leave Zenn in the Thinkers’ hands, but she’s wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous: everything Zenn’s not. Vi can’t quite trust Jag and can’t quite resist him, but she also can’t give up on Zenn.
This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.
Erm...I'm glad Vi knows the rules, because I'm still kind of lost after finishing this. The whole book was a series of what-the-heck-is-going-on, and not in a fun and challenging way. There was also an overabundance of Vi-is-locked-in-a-room-and-has-to-escape scenes. Much of the plot I found highly implausible, and at times contradictory, but it's hard to give examples without spoilers (let's just say that I couldn't help thinking of Bella from the Twilight series).
HOWEVER, if you are willing to provide some 'suspension of disbelief', it's a fast and enjoyable read. Even when I found myself frowining at certain things, I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened next. There is a sequel, Surrender, which may tie things in a bit better.

Ruby Red


Gwen's family is a bit odd - she lives with a conglomeration of mostly female relatives, who are all devoted to her perfect cousin Charlotte. They aren't horrid people, it's just that Charlotte is expected to inherit the family gene that allows one to travel in time, so of course the past sixteen years have been devoted to her training - after all, you wouldn't want to show up in 18th Century France and not know the gavotte, would you? Gwen has been free to enjoy a normal life (well, okay, she can talk to ghosts - and gargoyles - but, other than that, the usual stuff.) Until the day she slips back in time herself.

Oops! Mad scramble by the family, and by the Guardians who manage the whole thing, and Gwen is suddenly thrust into a world of secrecy and plots and mysteries and machinations. With, of course, a cute but obnoxious boy.

Normally, this type of book is not my 'thing' - while I like historical fiction, I'm not that into time travel, and I've had my fill of sinister men with devious plans that we can't quite figure out just yet. Ruby Red pleasantly surprised me, though. I was sucked into the plot and the characters very quickly, and finished the book before I was ready to. Throughout the rest of the day, I kept thinking I would go back and read some more, only to realize there wasn't any more (until the next book, Sapphire Blue, comes out next month). Yes, there are things you know that Gwen doesn't (poor Lucy!), but the mystery is just enough to make you anxious for the next installment - I am, anyways!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Story Time Featuring: Mem Fox

Our story times for this school year are each centered around a favorite author. For our first week, we chose the well-loved and prolific Mem Fox.
When planning for a story time, I love finding out an author has a web site, because not only can I sometimes 'steal' activity ideas, kids and their parents have something extra to go to at home, to continue the fun if they choose. What a treasure trove I found at! A blog I could spend hours reading, the stories behind the stories, recipes, recordings, activities...what a fantastic resource!
As this was our first story time, we started (as we will for the next few weeks, and periodically throughout the year) with a quick overview for parents as to what they can expect from story times, and what I expect in terms of behavior - from both the parents and the kiddos! In a nutshell, preschool story time is where we start learning good listening skills, so I don't expect motionless bodies and waiting-to-be-called-on. All I ask is that, if a child is at the point of distracting everyone else, his caregiver take him out of the room (or to the back, if that works), for a little bit. I never want them to leave completely - if nothing else, they can make all the noise they want during craft time! The same goes for adults - I teasingly remind the kids to make sure their parents wait until craft time to socialize, which gets the point across.
We also started with an old stand-by hand rhyme:
Open them, shut them,
give a little clap,
Open them, shut them,
put them in your lap.
Creep them, creep them,
up to your chin,
Open your mouth...
but don't put them in!
Open them, shut them,
give a little clap,
Open them, shut them,
put them in your lap.
(A word of warning: there are many slightly different versions of this out in library land, and discussions about the correct version can get as heated as the perennial, "Itsy Bitsy" vs. "Eensy Weensy" Spider. This is the one we use. And, it's "Itsy-Bitsy.")
Finally, on to showing a picture of the author, and a very VERY brief biography - how old she is, how many books she has written, where she is from (this being a military town, there is sometimes slightly more understanding of different countries than among typical preschoolers).
We started off with Boo to a Goose, which I introduced by asked kids if they had ever been shy, and explaining the expression. As I read it aloud, I expressed my reactions to some of the crazy things the narartor says she would do, letting them know their own reactions were welcome and encouraged.
From there, we went to:
Where Is the Green Sheep?
which took, as I told them, almost two years to write! Some of our older preschoolers are into dictating or even writing their own stories, and I know I have a few perfectionists in the group, so this was a small way of letting them know things don't have to be exactly right the first time. I wasn't teaching that lesson, just offering a subtle reinforcement to what I know some of my parents are trying to teach.
We read the title together, then looked all over the cover for the green sheep, naming the other colors as we went. After the second or third time of repeating the line, "But where is the green sheep?", I encouraged the kids to chime in - this is one of those wonderful books where any listener can pick up on the rhythm and know when to chime in.
Finally, I showed the group a tin box I have had since I was very small, in which I keep some things that represent old memories - the collar from my first puppy, for example. We talked about how these items were special to me because of the memories that went with them, and how they might have things like that at home - if any had wanted to talk about such items, we would have done that, but no one offered, and I didn't press, since this was our forst story time. Regardless, this gave us a lead-in to:
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge
A little bit long for a story time, but it's one of the sweetest books ever written, and I couldn't resist. In this, Wilfrid's friend at the nursing home next door has lost her memory, so he sets out to help her find it. And the pictures! Happy sigh. I did sort of lose the younger ones towards the end, but brought them back with another audience participation book:
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes lap board book
Another incredibly sweet book, and one the mommies really seemed to enjoy. I started by having the kids take their shoes and socks off, which drew attention back from wherever it was starting to wander. We counted our fingers and toes, and marveled over the fact that we all had the same number (although I was prepared to marvel over anyone with a different number of digits, just in case!) I told them to keep their shoes off while we read the story, and "you will see why when we're done!" This celebration of specialness and aDORable babies makes me want to run out and buy it as a gift for someone every time I read it. The children quickly caught on to the refrain again, and when the narrator gives her own baby three little kisses on his nose at the end, I didn't have to give the mommies the slightest nudge to do the same.
Now, we were ready for our craft. I had flower stems painted on pieces of large white paper, and Mommies could choose to use either paint or markers to make flowers and leaves with their little ones' hands and feet. They surprised me, and every brave Mommy opted for the paint. At least one flower became a gift later that day, for a favorite aunt's birthday, and they all turned out very cute!
Stay tuned for another post featuring some newly-acquired Mem Fox books - we may have to give her a whole 'nother week!

Friday, September 14, 2012

My New Favorite Series

I'll be honest, I don't review too many junior readers. It's not that I don't get sent any to review, it's more that...I just can't think of anything to say about them. Unless they are authored by a certain Willems fellow, they all seem to blend together these days.
And then I read this one:
Inch and Roly Make a Wish
Too. darn. cute! So many junior readers just seem to be a collection of words from an approved vocabulary list, forced into a semblance of a story line. Refreshingly, Inch and Roly and their friends are some cute characters* having a fun day, in a short story that just happens to be easy to read. I broughtthis one home yesterday, and have already been asked for repeat readings. I can't wait for Inch and Roly and the Very Small Hiding Place, due out in January, as well as any future Inch and Roly adventures.

*Illustrator Ag Jatkowska, of course, deserves much of the credit for their cuteness. I spent quite a bit of time on her web site yesterday, and had to resist the sudden urge to completely redecorate S.'s room with her artwork. Gorgeous! And so refreshing after some of the mediocre fare that has crossed my desk lately.

And yes, I know I used the word "refreshing" twice. And cute three times. This is why I don't write books myself - I just sigh over books from those who can!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What I Remember

I was teaching middle school, and set to leave the next day to meet the two girls who would become my daughters. I was watching the news and combing my hair when they showed the first plane hit the tower, and I remember thinking how stupid the pilot was - it honestly did not occur to me for a few minutes that it was intentional. Then the second plane hit, and I realized I needed to get to work, like, now.

I will forever be thankful that I was at school that day, and not a sub. We live in a military town, so a good percentage of my students had parents in the military. One boy's father was TDY at the Pentagon, and the office delivered a message from his mother that his father had called, and he was safe. When I gave this tough and cool, nothing-phases-me, young boy the message, I could see it hit him that his father might NOT have been okay, and he just started shaking with silent tears. I'm crying again just remembering that.

The next day, I went ahead and drove to the airport my flight was booked out of, knowing what I would probably find. Sure enough, all flights cancelled, so I just continued on the interstate and drove all day, to where my girls were living. I missed those first few days of news craziness because I was hanging out at a hotel pool, shopping, and seeing the sights with two beautiful young girls. We all knew everything was changing for us, but in ways that had nothing to do with terrorists. I didn't realize then what an incredible gift of timing that was for all three of us.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Halloween Books from HarperCollins

I realize that, despite what certain retail stores would have us believe, Halloween is still 8 weeks away. In the world of libraries, however, I'm actually a little late in looking for new Halloween books to order - so, this set of review copies from HarperCollins came just in time!
I'll start with a familiar face:
It's Pumpkin Day, Mouse! (If You Give... Series)
Mouse has seven pumpkins to decorate, and as he gives each a different expression, he mirrors them himself (love the sad mouse!) He also makes a nice big mess along the way, which mirrors what my house can look like after a decorating spree. As you might guess by the title, while the cover picture is easily identified as a Jack-o-lantern, the book never mentions Halloween, trick-or-treating, or anything related - making this a great seasonal choice for teachers under the no-Halloween-topics constraints.
The second selection, unfortunately, fell flat for me:
Mia: Time to Trick or Treat!
No call number, because I won't be adding it to the collection. The story line is forced and awkward, with the feel of a junior reader trying to become a picture book by simply adding more words. This makes sense of a sort, as there is already a junior reader series starring Mia and her friends which has received better reviews. I have not seen any of those to compare yet, but this one I'm afraid will be relying on its ballerina theme and "full page of stickers" to sell to little girls, and is not destined to become a favorite read-aloud.
This last one, however, just made it onto my story time list:
Just Say Boo!
If the ghosts in the trees wibble-wobble your knees, what do you say?
Words like "wibble-wobble" were just made to be said aloud, the rhyme scheme will sweep up your listeners, and the "BOO!"s (with a couple fun change-ups) make for an obvious audience participation. The illustrations are full of little touches that will make this a great one-on-one read-aloud as well. Since this will be the first year of trick-or-treating for my two youngest, I will be checking it out early on, at home for the Halloween story time! Definitely the best of the bunch.