Monday, July 31, 2017

The World Beneath by Janice Warman

This was an awesome book. I don't think I have ever read a book set in South Africa before. I have read various books set in southern Africa, but never South Africa. This book deals with apartheid and the efforts to break apartheid's grip on the nation. Joshua, our 12 year old hero, is unwittingly mixed up in the thick of things--he discovers his brother is part of the movement, as well as discovering an injured freedom fighter in a garden shed.  

This book does a great job of setting the scene and even the mind process of a young boy in that situation. He is still young enough not to have noticed that things should be different, but is mature enough that when it is pointed out he sees it instantly. He is secure enough in his current situation to not want to rock the boat to attempt to gain greater freedom. Things are okay, so why risk everything, including your life on a mere possibility? Yet there is something within him that sees the potential and realizes the worthiness of the fight--something that spurs him onward to do his own small part.

I think this is an important book for middle school/teen readers. From our secure and free lives in America, it can be hard to understand the decisions young people around the world are forced to make each day. This book tries to put us in their place. To make us realize the privilege we have simply by being born in America. America is not a utopia and I understand the desperate, horrible lives some Americans have--my mom is a drug and alcohol counselor in an economically depressed area--I do know. Yet even their lives are better than being in a similar situation in some other countries. We are lucky. Our country has had and still has its moments of darkness that have to be overcome and forgiven, but I think we are still a nation of more hope than many underdeveloped nations.  

I just read this article about Saudi women and it boggles my mind that such a prosperous nation could have such human rights violations against women in this day and age. Yeonmi Park's video about escaping brutality in North Korea. 

Letting our teens know that the world can be a harsh place encourages compassion and empathy from them. It helps them acknowledge their privilege and really think about the choices they would make in similar situations--choices that seem completely incomprehensible to them, but suddenly begin to make more sense when you read more about the situation. 

This book lets teens feel the conflict Joshua felt in making choices, the pulls and ties he had to navigate as he began to understand the greater world around him and chose what side he was going to be on in anti-apartheid struggle. Should he stay safe and miss the chance to change the world for the better? Or should he risk everything, including his life, to make the world more tolerable? It is well written, fairly fast read that encourages teens to think about human rights and difficult decisions. 

And for all that (and the beautiful cover!), I love this book! 

Friday, July 28, 2017

To make a prairie by Emily Dickinson and Pamela Dalton

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,--
One clover, and a bee,
And revery. 
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.

                             --Emily Dickinson

Not knowing when the dawn will come
I open every door;
Or has it feather like a bird,
Or billows like a shore?

                               --Emily Dickinson

                                                                      From Katherine Patterson's Giving Thanks

Thursday, July 27, 2017

8: An Animal Alphabet by Elisha Cooper

This is a fun book about animals and letters! Who doesn't love animals and letters?

 I love Cooper's illustrations.  

For each letter, Cooper illustrates various animals that start with that letter. One animal on each page he draws eight times. So there is counting involved too. Hitting all the big 'uns! 

Bison and badgers and camels and chickens.

Dolphins and egrets.

Aren't these pictures cool? I could spend a lot of time on every page, looking at all the animals. But my kids are more interested in what is on the next page, so they move us along at a fast pace. 

Cooper's illustrations are occasionally bumpy, which interests me. Like that fox up there. he is rather bumpy isn't he? But look at that gazelle. So sleek! 

So clearly he uses bumpiness with discretion.

Narwhals are marvelous. 

Quail and panda

At the end of the book, there is a list of animal facts for each page. Which delights me. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sara Raccoon and the Secret Place by Margaret Burdick

This darling little book was on the shelf in my library. I was instantly smitten. Raccoons, secret places, bright colors, woods... yes please! 

(By the way, just for full disclosure, you are going to see a lot of flowers in my upcoming pictures. I have very little imagination about photo styling, so I make up for it by putting flowers in the picture. Flowers make everything better, right?!?)

Look at all those little animals in yellow rain slickers! I adore yellow rain slickers. And personified woodland animals.

It is a rainy day in Sara Raccoon's world. She is quietly sewing a dress for her sock monkey, Mimi, while her little brother and sister are wrecking havoc on the bottom bunk. 

This. So real. I remember sharing bunk beds with older siblings who never thought my shenanigans were as funny as I did. As well as having two younger brothers who intruded into everything my ten year old self thought was important and sacred. 

Not content with wrecking havoc below, the twins have to go to the top bunk to get Sara's attention. 

Their presence is not appreciated. 

But aren't these pictures adorable? All those primary colors!

Mother Raccoon's solution is to kick them all outside now that it has stopped raining. Sara asks to stay inside, but.... no go.

"Not now dear," said her mother. "i'd like to be alone for a little while. I need some peace and quiet by myself this afternoon. Why don't you play with Bobby Otter?"

I feel this mama's pain. And I like her ability to kick her kids out when they are bothering her. But poor Sara Raccoon who just wanted to sew quietly.

Alright, lets all look at the adorable store for a bit. Candy in jars, Lilies-of-the-valley in bunches on the windowsill, Robins perched on canned acorns or something, candycanes AND Easter baskets at the same time....

Pure delight!

Sara can't find ole Bobby anywhere, so she goes out to look for him. But... whoopsie! Rain again.

She runs to the first dry spot she could find, a hollow tree trunk.

While she watched the rain, she decided it made a lovely little secret place for her. A place where NO ONE else could bother her. Her very, very own! 

As a kid with seven siblings, I delight right along with her. A place of your own is so important. 

"The next week, Sara was very busy. She gathered clover, honeysuckle, and wild strawberries to trade at Mr. Badger's for scraps of calico." 

How many sweet little things can be crammed into one sentence?! Can you imagine armfuls of honeysuckle, clover, and wild strawberries? 

When everything is ready and just so, she heads back to her secret place to put it all together. If she was anything like I was, she probably has such grandiose schemes for this secret place that it had taken on the proportions of a royal palace. It was freedom, independence, and solitude. And it was hers.

Except...there is someone sticking their big fat nose into her secret place!

The outrage! The shattering of the dream!

Sara Raccoon does not handle the situation well. Even though the intruder is Bobby Otter, her best friend. 

Words are exchanged. 

Sara's crushing disappointment comes out at Bobby and blames him for the ruination of all her plans.

He scuttles off with a few choice words of his own. 

Despite the calico she worked hard for and the setting up of her secret place, it is all ruined by the bad feeling she has about how she treated Bobby. 

And it starts to rain again. Life is hard. 

I so, so, so feel her. I remember fights with friends about similarly irrational disappointments and the bitter feeling you are left with that colors everything you do after until you make things right again. The arguing within yourself about how it wasn't entirely your fault, they shouldn't have.....!! but knowing all the while that it really is all your fault. 

After all the rain that has been happening, there is a teensy flood and Sara can't get home from the secret place. Who rescues her? Bobby of course. 

As good friends do, they sort it out with a good cry and talk. 

Bobby consoles--"Your place will be dry again soon. Meanwhile, we can go to my secret place."

Whaaaat? Bobby Otter has his own secret place. Oh bliss! They can share secret places! Friends are the very best.

Bobby's secret place is pretty nifty. 

And so was Sara's when it dried out again. 

I want to go visit their secret places. I sort of want a secret place of my own.... 

Image result for outdoor reading nook

This would do.

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Or this.

(Have to say I would be a little bit nervous about the strength of that rope for the first time or two...)

Image result for outdoor reading nook

Maybe a land based one is better! 


Image result for outdoor reading nook

Somehow grown up secret places are so much more complex than a hollow tree...

But aren't they lovely?!  Here is a whole page of these delightful spots!

I'll take them all. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

America the Beautiful by Woodie Guthrie & Illus by Kathy Jakobsen

We have been roaming and rambling, which is why I haven't been on here very much this past month. It was a lovely month, packed full with all kinds of good things. And now we are back home, getting back to normal summer laziness. The girls are binge listening to the Anne of Green Gables books. Gilbert and Elsie have been outside getting wet more often than not. And I am contemplating the mountains of laundry that a month of merrymaking produces. 

I meant to do this book for the fourth of July, but clearly, I didn't. And since we drove all the way to California (but didn't get to see the redwoods) and back to New York, it seems like a good book to start with after a month of absenteeism. 

I love this song. And I love America and seeing the country and.... I just really like this book. 

It lives at my school library. I just happened to see it one day this spring and glommed onto it. Must. Read. Kids love song books. Totally going to sing this one with kids this fall. 

Woody Guthrie wrote this song in the Grapes of Wrath era, so it is appropriate to have a little nod to the exodus to California. 

I think the art works well here. Definitely a fold art sort of feel to it!

As I was walking that ribbon of highway, 
I saw above me that endless skyway. 

I saw below me that golden valley,
This land was made for you and me

California to New York. 

When we travel we aren't too big on landmarks. My husband dislikes cities in general (mostly this has to do with traffic and noise) so we don't generally hang out in or around cities. (I was just reading something about The Mixed Up Files turning fifty--Claudia's voice just came to me as I read that over. "...hang out in?! What kind of English is that?") The only exception we make is Las Vegas, since family lives there. 

So we have never seen the Golden Gate or the Statue of Liberty. It does strike me as funny that we live in New York and have all been to California, Washington, and Oregon, but never New York City.  Hmmm.....


Apparently Woody wrote this in a sarcastic response to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America." Woody thought everyone's America wasn't quite as blessed as Berlin was portraying. 

On the chorus pages, the edges have additional pictures as well as Woody Guthrie lyrics in the corner squares. 

This lyric isn't quite as common, but I get a good kick out of it. 

As I went walking, I saw a sign there,
And on the it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing. 
That side was made for you and me.

This verse is equally uncommon--

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I saw my people
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Clearly, these lyrics are slightly more challenging to the capitalist nature of America. Questioning the concept of private property and then discussing the poor and destitute. Since this song was written in 1940 and recorded in 1944 (Woody sort of forgot about it for four years), you can see why artists might not have been anxious to record a song that may have sounded like it had communist leanings. 

Woody and his co-horts

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

Love this verse!

Fold out! I enjoy a good fold out. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Squirting Rainbows by Shirley Hughes

Squirting Rainbows

Bare legs,
Bare toes,
Paddling pool,
Garden hose.
Daisies sprinkled 
In the grass,
Bold as brass. 
Squirting rainbows,
Sunbeam flashes,
Backyards full
Of shrieks and splashes!

                                       --Shirley Hughes
                                   Out and About

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday, July 7, 2017

Day and Night by Bishop Heber and Tasha Tudor

God that madest earth and heaven, 
Darkness and light;
Who the day for toil has given
For rest the night;

May thine Angel-guards defend us,
Slumber sweet they mercy send us,
Holy dreams and hopes attend us,
This livelong night. 

                                                      --Bishop Heber

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Very Little Girl by Phyllis Krasilovsky & Illus by Ninnon

This book is an adorable older book I found at a local library. For some reason, this particular library has a good collection of older books. I understand the principle behind removing older books (that generally aren't circulated) from the library, but I do love discovering older books like this! 

This one has sweet little illustrations with two-tone coloring. 

Once there was a very, very, very little girl. 

And we explore exactly how little she is. Smaller than her mother's workbasket!

Being little in an adult sized world!

The special accommodations little people need. Their own table, bed, and chair.

When I first read this, I wasn't sure if she was some magical miniature creature, all these special things she needs. Then I realized that little people do actually come with their own everything. As a mother, I can testify to the great quantity of stuff babies need because they are so little.

She was even smaller than other small people. 

But one day, she wasn't so small! She could do things all by herself.

And she kept getting bigger!

Let's discuss the color scheme--I adore green and pink together. All watermelon-y. 

These illustrations just kill me. So delicately adorable! 

Hello bedroom from my childhood dreams.

And we even have a winter scene. 

All this bigness got her ready for being a big sister to a baby brother who was very, very, very small.