When the big ones were little, we got the Child’s Garden of Songs CD (like every other Charlotte Masonish homeschooler in the country), and oh how those small girls of mine adored it. For years it was their most frequently requested music, especially at bedtime–especially in summer. 😉 We got the beloved Tasha Tudor-illustrated picture-book-sized edition of Child’s Garden of Verses, too, of course: another CM requisite. My girls liked the book well enough, but it was the CD they cherished, and it’s the CD they still recall with affection, and hum around the house from time to time. Those lovely Celtic-flavored melodies got into my blood, too; that’s the kind of music I love best; it stirs my heart, gives me the shivers.
Now and then I’ll realize suddenly that there are these books and songs that meant the world to us ten, twelve years ago (Amazon informs me I purchased the Tasha Tudor book on April 14, 2000—six years to the day before Rilla was born; gosh, even before Beanie was born; and now I’m a little whelmed by the thought that in some respects, Amazon has a better record of my family history than I do)—important to us years ago, I was saying, but my younger trio don’t know them at all. It happened with Miss Rumphius (heresy!) and it happened with Child’s Garden of Songs.
I realized this a week or two ago and tracked down the CD, and we’ve listened to it every couple of days since. Rilla and Wonderboy are as enchanted by its melodies as their big sisters were. Huck remains somewhat indifferent, but then there aren’t any songs about trucks, are there?
The large book with the Tasha Tudor illustrations has failed to jump out from any of the shelves on which I’d expect it to be residing. All I found was the little Dover paperback edition, print only, no pictures; but Rilla doesn’t care. She sprawled on my bed today, frantically hunting each of the poems during the opening measures of its corresponding song on the CD—pause, Mommy, I can’t find it! oh here it is—and then calmly, almost serenely, singing along, kicking her feet, looking up to identify various instruments in the musical arrangement. Guitar, piano, violin, a fluty thing, those little round things you wear on your fingers, more violin, maracas. It was supposed to be my quiet reading time but I gave up on my book and watched her instead. It was a fancy dress day; she likes her sash tied in a fastidious bow, but she scorns anything that binds or tames her hair. The ragged locks fell over her face as she peered down at the book. Amazon says I purchased the Garden of Songs CD on July 19, 2002. Jane was seven that June. You know, last week.
The other book Rilla wanted today—wanted fiercely, rejecting my offer of the next Brambly Hedge story—was hist whist, the little paperback picture book that is an e.e. cummings poem set to pictures. Beautiful, haunting, Halloweenish paintings by Deborah Kogan Ray, whose bibliography I must remember to look up. Her work here is exquisite. If I had a second copy, I’d take it apart and hang up the pictures each October. I don’t have to look to Amazon for a record of how this one came to us; it’s a Dragonfly Book, which means I probably picked it up on the giveaway table when I worked at Random House/Knopf. Scott and I have loved this book forever. The language of the poem is marvelously rich, cummings at his best:
little hoppy happy
toads in tweeds
little itchy mousies
eyes rustle and run and
You can see why Rilla asked for it five times in a row this afternoon. Five times. I had to smile: yesterday when I added it to our bookstack, she was disgruntled, didn’t think she’d like it. I just began reading it aloud, as if to myself, and by page three she had clambered up beside me and was rapt.
For our family, more than anything else it may be books that serve as our links to years past, our bridges back to the selves we were some time ago. Music, yes, especially for Scott, and for me the 80s tunes of my teens, or certain songs from the Bruce Springsteen mix tape Scott made for me that first summer after we started dating, when he was in Connecticut and I was back home in Colorado—but books are more numerous bridges for me. I’ll remember what bed or sofa we were curled up on, reading this novel, that picture book. The bay window in our Virginia house with Favorite Poems Old and New on its sill, behind the little brown table with the three tiny chairs; and out the window, a red cardinal on the bird feeder, bright against the snow. “Read it again!” they’d beg, shouting. “Page 36!”—The Thomas Hood poem they loved, still love, though now Huck, not Wonderboy, is the three-year-old “imp of mirth and joy” it depicts.
I think perhaps it isn’t only a Halloween poem after all…
I shared this photo on Facebook—a cellphone shot captured at the park yesterday. Because my phone’s camera is middling, and because in the bright sun I can barely see my screen at all, and because I used an Instagram filter that looked nice on the small phone screen but appears excessively washed out in the larger view, this is not nearly as good a photo as it might have been. But it captured a happy moment in a lovely place, and I’m glad I caught it.
But the best thing about the picture is this: after I’d sent it to Facebook, I got a note from my friend Asako. My photo had appeared in her news feed immediately above this one.
She couldn’t help but giggle. Me, I guffawed.
*I wish I knew the origin of the second image so I could properly credit. If it find it, I’ll add it here.
UPDATE: Peter in the comments found the image on a t-shirt at Buck Wear Inc.
And Huckbooks, Wonderboybooks, etc. You know how it is; you read so darn many picture books in the course of a week that it’s nearly impossible to keep up with a list, no matter how earnestly you might plan to. Um, somewhere in that sentence the generic ‘you’ became ‘me.’ My sidebar Rillabooks log lapsed for a long while. Partly that’s because we’ll have weeks where we reread beloved books over and over, and neither GoodReads nor Diigo quite knows what to do with a list full of repeats.
Of course, when I started the list, Huck was a good bit younger, more interested in chewing board books than listening to picture books with Rilla. And my Wonderboy floats in and out of these cuddlesome read-alouds. You’ll understand, won’t you, if I don’t bother to change the name? 🙂
*I know it’s an odd time for a Halloween book. I saw it on the shelf, is all.
So I’ve just discovered I have the option to do threaded comments now and I thought I’d solicit your opinion on those. Personally, I tend not to prefer threaded comments on sites I visit, since it makes it harder to scan the page for new contributions to a discussion. But I know many, many readers vastly prefer threading. Thoughts?
It also seems I now have the option of enabling email notifications for commentors when I reply to a comment, which might be handy; I always worry that if someone asks a question and I answer in the combox, the questioner won’t see that I’ve replied—but if I answer via email, no one else gets to see the answer.
Got a feeling about this? These Matters of Grave Cosmic Importance? 😉
(Re the email notifications, there’s also a setting that would send you a notice when anyone replies directly to your comment. Would you like that? Or feel spammed? It doesn’t seem to be an opt-in setting. Either I turn it on or I don’t.)
While I’m at it, let me ask you about the sidebar! I know most people don’t click directly to the site except to comment—I’m a Google Reader-reader myself, so I’m the same way. But for those of you who do regularly click through, what would you like to see in the sidebar? I have all this lovely space to play with now.
With a trio of new books coming out in just a couple of months, it was high time I overhauled my website. I loved my girly pink home page, but it didn’t exactly fit Fox and Crow and Inch and Roly, you know? Thanks to Emily Carlin of Swank Web Style and my genius artist friend Chris Gugliotti, who drew the swoony bee illustrations you’ll see all around the site (including this little bookworm bee, whom I adore), my internet home base has a brand new look.
Unlike the big changes we made to the rest of the site, we kept the new blog design similar to the original. Mostly I wanted more room to stretch out in this text column. Now I’m itching to go back and resize all my photos. All. Ha! Seven and a half years’ worth, now. Methinks some of them will just have to stay small.
Tinkerer that I am, I’m sure I’ll be making lots little tweaks and adjustments over the next few weeks. (Especially to the sidebar. I have many plans for the sidebar.) If you spot anything wonky, do let me know. Emily did a check across many browsers, but sometimes things look different on different systems.
I had a wonderful time. Dunno if/when I’ll have a minute to write about it; lots on my plate this week. But the nutshell version is: as always, the best part of a conference is catching up with friends, and this conference was particularly excellent in that regard.
Allison Tran of the Authors are ROCKSTARS podcast was kind enough to request an interview , and she and her guest host, Lalitha Nataraj (filling in for Allison’s co-host Michelle), asked really excellent questions about my new books, my Little House books, my social media junkieism, my Betsy-Tacy junkieism, and the challenge of juggling mom/writer/blogger hats. (Hint: It really helps to have a husband who does all the laundry.) I had a ball. Talked way too much, no doubt. The podcast will run sometime in July, I believe—I’ll post a link when it goes up! Thanks again, Allison and Lalitha—our chat was one of the highlights of my weekend.
Of course there’s never enough time to do everything you want to—especially hang out with your librarian friends, for whom the American Library Association conventions are actually, you know, filled with WORK. Presentations and meetings and panels and whatnot. But I’m grateful for the hours I got to spend gabbing away with some of the funniest, smartest, thinkingest people in the books world. Thank goodness for the internet, is all I can say about having to part with them.
Pardon my dust over the next few days—we’re rolling out some long overdue changes to the site, and I’m sure I’ll be tinkering and tweaking in the weeks to come. Lots of photos to resize, things like that. Bear with me! 🙂
So says Rilla. Her father does not approve. Her father is not a fan of tarantulas.
But he’ll forgive me, because he knew what he was getting into when he married me—the runaway train of my enthusiasm. How did we get on to spiders this morning? Rose said something about liking them; I think that was it. Beanie shuddered; she sides with her daddy on this one. Rose and I had a sudden impulse to go outside and see how many different kinds of spider we could count. Oddly, the pickings were slim: we only found two. Usually, they’re everywhere you look, causing some small child or other to shriek and run away. But there were two tiny ones of a species we’ve yet to identify, teensy oblong things with thin stripes of brown and tan, poised on webs stretched between the stems of the rose bush. Look, said Rose, I found this out yesterday: if you put a bit of twig in the web, the spider will come and snip it out. We waited, but the spider was on to us, frozen, silently glaring. Ten minutes later, after we’d roamed the yard in search of others, the twig was gone.
By chance—or maybe this is what put spiders on Rose’s mind this morning?—I’d pulled Fabre’s Life of the Spider off the shelf a day or two ago, thinking it might make a nice nature-study read for the summer, and added it to the high-tide stack in the living room. At the time, I wasn’t at all sure it would grab my girls—read-alouds are a challenge, these days, with one sweet boy endlessly butting in with questions, and the other impish one endlessly butting you with his head. But they were interested, so I gave it a try. Note to writers: If you want to hook an audience of 6-13-year-olds, “Chapter 1, The Black-Bellied Tarantula” is a sure-fire way to begin.
The Spider has a bad name: to most of us, she represents an odious, noxious animal, which every one hastens to crush under foot. Against this summary verdict the observer sets the beast’s industry, its talent as a weaver, its wiliness in the chase, its tragic nuptials and other characteristics of great interest. Yes, the Spider is well worth studying, apart from any scientific reasons; but she is said to be poisonous and that is her crime and the primary cause of the repugnance wherewith she inspires us. Poisonous, I agree, if by that we understand that the animal is armed with two fangs which cause the immediate death of the little victims which it catches; but there is a wide difference between killing a Midge and harming a man. However immediate in its effects upon the insect entangled in the fatal web, the Spider’s poison is not serious for us and causes less inconvenience than a Gnat-bite. That, at least, is what we can safely say as regards the great majority of the Spiders of our regions.
Nevertheless, a few are to be feared; and foremost among these is the Malmignatte, the terror of the Corsican peasantry. I have seen her settle in the furrows, lay out her web and rush boldly at insects larger than herself; I have admired her garb of black velvet speckled with carmine-red; above all, I have heard most disquieting stories told about her. Around Ajaccio and Bonifacio, her bite is reputed very dangerous, sometimes mortal.
Well played, Monsieur Fabre.
Of course we had to look up these twin terrors, the malmignatte with her thirteen red spots, and the tarantula, about whom Fabre’s predecessor, Leon Dufour, waxes quite lyrical: “…when I was hunting her, I used to see those eyes gleaming like diamonds, bright as a cat’s eyes in the dark.” Off we trotted to Wikipedia, for pictures, and YouTube, for pictures that move.
After which appetizing display it was time for lunch.
The familiar fable about Fox and Crow, retold for new readers.
Youngsters will quickly understand the word “outfoxed” after reading these tales of flattery, greed and cheese, told as three connected short stories. Fox and Crow are enemies, fighting over one hunk of cheese as if it were the last morsel of food on the planet. It won’t take long for readers to giggle at just how far these two will go for the cheese. Fox gets the best of Crow in the first story, in which Fox flatters Crow into dropping the cheese directly into Fox’s mouth. Next, Crow dreams of ways to get the cheese back and spends every waking moment constructing a cunning trap, with stew-covered Crow as the lure. Success! Fox retaliates in the final chapter, but both critters are outsmarted by the watchful Mama Bear. Humorous watercolor illustrations are punctuated by thought bubbles showing the animal’s plans; other playful details include the owl’s eyes watching the shenanigans from a safe distance and the eventual sheepish looks when the enemies are trapped in the same net, with Mama Bear chastising them from the side.
Funny chapter titles will amuse adults, and subtle visual details make this a fable book that new readers will return to. (Early reader. 3-7)
Yippee! Oh, you guys, I can’t wait for you to see Sebastien’s art in this book. He did a marvelous job—so much humor and energy in his work. I’m over the moon.