Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

day sixteen: more Hornby

January 16, 2017 @ 9:19 pm | Filed under: Books

Just a little FYI—I was poking around Amazon trying to figure out if there were any of Hornby’s “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” collections I’d missed, and I discovered there’s now (as of 2014, so I’m way behind the times here) one big collection that includes all four of the books I’ve read—The Polysyllabic Spree, Housekeeping vs. the Dirt (see this post), Shakespeare Wrote for Money, and More Baths Less Talking—as well as the 2012-2013 columns that came after those four. The Amazon reviews consist largely of grumping from people who ordered this master collection, Ten Years in the Tub, without realizing most of the content is recycled from the earlier collections. But I’m delighted, since this means I can stop hunting for my copy of Polysyllabic Spree, which Scott must have given me because it doesn’t show up in my shopping history.* And even better, I know I haven’t read all the 2013 columns. So: new Stuff Nick Hornby Has Been Reading! New to me, at least. Should hit my library branch this week.

In other news: I finished L’Engle’s Ilsa and have MANY THOUGHTS to share. Later. Soon.

*Ha! Per this post, Spree was a library book.

More Hornby enthusiasm in my archives:

How does he love me? Let me count the books.
Housekeeping vs. sludge.
I hope he likes pepperoni.
The trouble is, I fancy too much.

day fourteen: all about weeds

January 13, 2017 @ 3:41 pm | Filed under: Books, Family, Fun Learning Stuff, These People Crack Me Up

naturejournalpages

1.

A bonus post for today! But this one’s mostly for me: another little addition to our family collection of All About Weeds stories.

Strangely, I can’t find the first All About Weeds story in my archives. I’m sure I must have written about it here! But maybe not. Maybe it was pre-Bonny Glen, a tale posted to a homeschooling message board instead. I suppose it must have been, now I think about it: my Amazon history tells me I purchased the book on July 13, 2002. And it entered our lives as a library book some time before that. Which fact (its being a library book) provides the drama of the first anecdote, actually.

2.

We’d moved to Virginia only a few months earlier (on New Year’s Day, 2002, as a matter of fact). When spring arrived, O glorious mid-Atlantic spring with its abundance of dogwood and redbud blossoms, I was in a mania to know every single plant growing in our yard. Among the books I checked out from the adorable train-depot-turned-library in our little town was a rather dusty tome about weeds. I did say every plant.

I flipped through the weed book but I found it rather dry, and besides, I was sidetracked by what would become a years-long obsession with Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards. (Chip, meet block.) All About Weeds sat neglected (so I thought) on a table for a day or two, and then I returned it to the library.

Soon after, Jane (age sevenish, I think? heavens, that was a long time ago) came to me, came to me all in a dither. Where, she begged most earnestly to know, WHERE was that fascinating weeds book?

When I told her I’d returned it to the library, she was crushed. It was the BEST BOOK EVER, I was informed (in tones conveying, yes, both capitals and italics). Full of the MOST INTERESTING information. 

And as my shopping history testifies, so persuaded was I of the merits of this superior tome that I purchased a copy for keeps.

3.

The best and perfect weed book makes a number of appearances on this blog, even if its origin story has been lost to the archives of some distant Yahoogroup. “Bonny Glen Firsts” (published in 2011) tells me it was in fact the second book I ever mentioned here:

Second book mentioned (though not by name): All About Weeds, a Jane favorite for years. Seriously.

(Ah, there you go. Not mentioned by name. I’ll have to dig up that post.)

I find it mentioned in a March, 2006 post called “The Tide Is Going Out“—an early exploration of my tidal homeschooling concept.

The other day a neighbor asked me if we take a spring break. I laughed and said, “Yes—the whole spring!”

We’ve had such a pleasant time the last couple of months, immersing ourselves in some good books and other forms of study. Now the outdoors is beckoning, and our daily rhythms are shifting. Spring is calling us, urging us out of the house. We are a bunch of Mary Lennoxes, unable to resist the rustlings and chirpings, the spikes of green, the gypsy winds.

I keep finding cups of water on the counter with tiny blossoms floating like fairy lily pads: the first bluets and starry white chickweed flowers. Chickweed, so Jane tells me, is an edible plant and quite tasty. (“Like sugar snap pea pods, Mom.”) She has begged me not to uproot the vast patch of it that has taken over a stretch of our backyard mulch bed, just uphill from the strawberries. Another weed, a purple-flowered plant the children call “cow parsley,” is popping up all over the lawn, much to their delight: they suck the nectar from the itty bitty orchid-like blossoms and proclaim it better than the honeysuckle they’ll seek out later in the summer.

Jane, who had been binging on math during the past three weeks, seems to have shifted her attentions to botany. I find myself tripping over her tattered copy of All About Weeds everywhere I go, and upstairs, the microscope is much in demand for the viewing of leaf cross sections. An experiment involving scarlet runner beans has become the centerpiece on the kitchen table.

So there we are, four years later, and Weeds is still in constant use. It seems wee 2002 Jane hadn’t been overstating her affections.

A month after that, April 2006: “Things to Do While Your Mother Is in the Hospital” (delivering your baby sister). This one—which is the post that sparked today’s story and this entire trip down memory lane—made me laugh pretty hard. (Not at poor Rose’s plight. At The Book’s role in her recovery.)

If you are seven…

…get stung under the chin by a wasp.

If you are ten…

…recall a passage from that scintillating classic, All About Weeds, describing the sting-soothing properties of yarrow, and concoct a poultice of newly emerging yarrow leaves with which to soothe your little sister’s wasp sting.

Well done, young Jane!

4.

Which brings me to today. Huck’s birthday post keeps turning up melt-my-heart tidbits in the “related posts” widget at the bottom of the page. I was clicking along a little baby-picture rabbit trail when I happened upon the “things to do” post above. Rilla, who was aww-ing over my shoulder at her adorable baby brother’s toddler antics, was transfixed by this glimpse at what her big sisters were up to on the day she was born. She read the post breathlessly, pausing only to interject “Oh, I love that book!” at the bit about “that scintillating classic.”

The chip doesn’t fall far from, er, the older chip.

5.

We found the book, you know, during last week’s grand shelf-cleaning. It has been returned to its permanent spot on Jane’s bookcase.

day twelve: midweek booknotes

January 12, 2017 @ 6:24 am | Filed under: Books

sisters

1.

Picture books:

Ah Ha! by Jeff Mack. Chronicle Books. This deceptively simple story is an absolute hoot. The only text in the whole book are variations on “Ah ha!” and “Ahh!” Ah ha! A little boy catches a frog. Ahh, the frog escapes from the jar. Ah ha! Right into the mouth of a predator. Ahh! He gets away again. And so on. For beginning readers, this is about as easy as it gets—you can read a whole book with just two sounds. For kids a bit older, like mine, it’s a fun exploration of inflection. How many shades of meaning can you infuse into those two simple syllables?

When Moon Fell Down by Linda Smith, illustrated by Kathryn Brown. HarperCollins. I’m sad to see this lovely book has gone out of print already. It’s been in regular circulation around here since my former Little House editor—also its editor—sent us a copy many, er, moons ago. Moon falls out of the sky one night, meets an amiable cow, and takes her along on an adventure around town. My favorite part is Moon’s discovery of a hidden side to things he has heretofore only seen from above—shop windows and horses’ knees, for example.

 

 

2.

High tide read-alouds:

Story of the World Volume 3: Early Modern Times by Susan Wise Bauer. Rilla, Huck, and I are just beginning this tome this week. I’ll admit Chapter 1 left them a little befuddled. It’s presented in a framing sequence several layers deep: imagine you’re a traveler who’s been all over the known world having adventures; it’s 1600 and there are these two kings you’re going to learn about, but first let’s back up to 1500 to hear about a young man who wanted to be Emperor because of this other emperor several centuries earlier…whew! And at the end of the chapter, both my kids were disappointed because they’d wanted to hear more about that grizzled old two-toothed world traveler from the first paragraph, who never showed back up. Fortunately, I know the text will settle down soon and they’ll be hooked into the historical dramas. But I think they’d rather hear the tale of the seven-toed, two-toothed scurvy man who survived being bitten by a cobra and a water moccasin. (!)

Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin. Oldie but goodie. My favorite way to introduce my small people to classic references like the Sword of Damocles, King Alfred and the cakes, and the famous Laconic “IF.” (Those links will take you to the Main Lesson Project, where you can read the stories for free.)

The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children’s Poems, edited by Donald Hall.

“Can I keep playing Legos while you read, Mom?”
“Can you play with them quietly enough that you’ll be able to hear?” ”
“Yes, but I need to rummage for some certain pieces first.”
“Okay, you rummage. I’ll pick out some poems. Ooh, Macavity!”
[Fifteen-year-old looks up from her geometry, bursts into song.]

 

 

3.

My own queue:

I finished Cat’s Cradle. If you’ll forgive me for getting ultra-intellectual on you for a moment—that is one bananas book. 😉

I got so much, and most mud got so little.

I seem to be rereading two Nick Hornby essay collections at once—Housekeeping vs. The Dirt in print, and More Baths, Less Talking on Kindle. Also in this collection: The Polysyllabic Spree and Shakespeare Wrote for Money. Yes, I will almost certainly have to reread them all before this kick plays out.

One of my favorite aspects of these “Stuff I’m Reading” columns is that Hornby leads with lists of the books he bought that month, and the books he actually read.

“The seasoned reader, accustomed to the vicissitudes of a life spent accumulating books, can probably guess without checking that in any given month, the Books Bought and Books Read lists hardly overlap.”

And later:

“Surely we all occasionally buy books because of a daydream we’re having—a little fantasy about the people we might turn into one day, when our lives are different, quieter, more introspective, and when all the urgent reading, whatever that might be, has been done. We never arrive at that point, needless to say…”

And here he’s speaking to my rabbit-trailing, homeschooling heart:

“And so a lot of adult life—if your hunger and curiosity haven’t been squelched by your education—is learning to join up the dots that you didn’t even know were there.”

(All these quotes are from More Baths, which is more easily quotable simply because I have it on Kindle and can copy-paste from my “Your Highlights” page.)

Some enticing new titles landed on my Netgalley shelf this week, including a new-to-me reprint of a Madeleine L’Engle novel, Ilsa, which has been out of print for some sixty years and is being reissued by Open Road Media next month. More on that to come, surely. And I’ve received a copy of Maud, “a novel inspired by the life of L. M. Montgomery” by Melanie Fishbane, due out in April from Penguin. (Jen of Recreational Scholar expresses some ambivalent feelings about it in this post.)

1480956676_LEngle_Ilsa 

day eleven: lear

January 11, 2017 @ 3:48 pm | Filed under: Books

I’m teaching King Lear to Beanie’s literature class this month, and part of my prep has been to watch as many iterations of the play as Youtube can provide. There are a few good Ian McKellan clips to be found, but what has really entranced me is the series of interviews and scene excerpts from the National Theatre production starring Simon Russell Beale. Absolutely riveting.

Here’s Act I, Scene i.

And the devastating Act IV, Scene iv.

There are 26 clips in the series. Only four are excerpts from the performance, but the interviews are well worth the time.

day ten: museum

January 10, 2017 @ 4:52 pm | Filed under: Books

 

textile and shadows

Five of us went to Balboa Park this morning. It was Free Tuesday and yet we actually got parking! We don’t usually get out of the house early enough. Huck, Rilla, and I spent most of our time in the Museum of Man while Rose and Beanie roamed the Park. I need to go back soon (very possibly this weekend, with a visiting friend) to spend some time in the Scandinavian textiles exhibit in the Mingei. I got the barest peek—a breathtaking piece in the foyer—and am champing at the bit to return. (Sans seven-year-old. I love the kid, but long periods of thoughtful gazing at large pieces of cloth isn’t exactly his specialty. Besides his own shadow, the thing he found most interesting in the Mingei was that wall outlet. He’ll be forever haunted by the mystery of why the lower half is sealed over.)

(Ouch. Just realized that even if he were as fascinated with textiles as I am, I’d only have three days to go back with a seven-year-old. He’ll be eight on Friday.)

pythagorus

Detail from “Pythagorus” drapery fabric by Sven Markelius

Back in the ’90s when I decided the thing missing from our little Queens apartment was a table loom (ahahaha), I quickly discovered that the weaving patterns that appealed to me most were the Scandinavian ones. My Carl Larsson obsession began about that same time. Although, as I mentioned the other day, I have finally grasped reality enough to part with one or two of my old weaving texts, none of the Swedish books were ever in danger. I love flipping through them, even though the loom’s been in the garage for ten years. The clean lines and simple, bright geometric patterns fill me with such satisfaction.

The Erik Gronborg exhibit is also breathtaking and begs a good deal more of my time.

(None of my pictures came out, sorry. My phone didn’t like the lighting. Plus I had a seven-year-old to watch.)

The Monsters exhibit at the Museum of Man was much more Huck’s cup of tea. 🙂

giantsquid

day nine: goodreads and good books

January 9, 2017 @ 6:30 am | Filed under: Books

salviabee

1.

Leslie in VA absolutely made my week with this comment:

Many, many years ago. . . you gushed over “Fruitless Fall” and that book truly changed our life. I read it, my husband read it and our older kids read it. My husband (phobic of bees) wanted to get bees (still does). Fast forward to today and my oldest son, 21, now works on a queen bee farm in Hawaii. He was truly inspired by that book. Thank you for your part in him finding his path!

I told Scott, “I feel like I was just given a George Bailey moment without having to get to the desperate jump-off-a-bridge stage first!” Thanks, Leslie, really. And thanks to all of you who’ve let me know my book chatter has been meaningful to your family life at some point or other. It means a lot to me to know that, truly. 🙂

2.

Leslie went on to ask,

Also, thoughts on goodreads? I think it is a valuable tool but decreased activity over the past year. Are people reading less, not using it, is there another site? I have been keeping track of our books for over 5 years (kids have different shelves) because I often draw a blank when asked for suggestions for a certain age. Wondering what you think of its usefulness?

Have you read Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton Porter? Delicious!

Taking the last question first: I have not! It’s been recommended to me by a number of Bonny Glen readers over the years, and I think I even snagged it on Kindle at some point. Why haven’t I read it yet?? If anyone understands my reading tastes, it’s you folks. Perhaps I can make it a January treat.

As for Goodreads, I too enjoy it but my use comes in fits and starts. I’ve been somewhat more consistent at updating my books in the past few years…at least, until October hits. Then, if it’s a year I’m serving on a Cybils panel (and since I’m now chairing the YA Fiction panel, every year will be that sort of year), it all falls apart. I can’t keep up with the logging.

I’ve tried once or twice to log my kids’ reading that way, but it’s hopeless. Too darn many books. Beanie does log her reading at her own account, though.

I admit I seldom read Goodreads comments on books I’m interested in—not the general pool of comments, that is. I do enjoy reading the remarks left by my Goodreads friends and acquaintances. It’s always fun to enter a book and discover six of my GR pals gave it four stars.

Oh, but about those stars—I hardly ever give any! Sometimes I’ll award them, but only if it’s (in my opinion) a four- or five-star book—and I’m terribly inconsistent at that, having entered many excellent books without putting in any stars at all. It bothers me that a three-star rating (which is supposed to mean “I like it”) is considered by writers (and readers) to be a lackluster, low rating. I don’t want to deflate someone’s scores (and feelings) by seeming to give it a bad grade. And writers work too hard on books for me to go around slapping a depressing two stars on their efforts, even though I’m bound to feel ‘meh’ about some of the books I read. So—I mostly ignore the whole star machinery. A zero-star rating isn’t factored into the book’s score. And it certainly doesn’t mean I thought the book was worth zilch. Some of my lifelong favorite books show up as zeroes in my list, because I didn’t bother with the stars.

I keep thinking I could use Goodreads to log incoming review copies, but there too I get bogged down by the busywork of entering titles.

In the end, my sidebar booklogs are a more accurate reflection of my year’s reading. I wish I’d begun keeping them sooner than 2008!

How about the rest of you? Do you have a good(reads) system?

3.

A tangent: as I write this, at 8:30 Sunday evening, I’m listening to Rose and Beanie play a piano-and-violin duet in the next room—a song from one of the Zelda games, I believe, quite lovely—and my heart’s about to burst with delight. They each started group piano classes around age eight. Rose ‘graduated’ from the music school last spring, at age eighteen. Beanie still attends, along with Rilla, who’s in her third year. And Huck is beginning this week.

Beanie has been taking violin lessons for about a year. The instrument she plays on was given to me by Scott, my senior year of college. He knew I’d always wanted to learn and found a second-hand three-quarter-size violin somewhere. I took lessons for a few months from an elderly fiddle player who taught me out of an old hymnal. I confess I didn’t get very far. I was self-conscious about practicing in earshot of my roommates. The violin got bumped around through several moves, suffering a broken bridge at some point. And the bow disintegrated. The summer before last, Rose spent six weeks in Colorado with my parents and was given the rather amazing opportunity of assisting their neighbor, a violin repairman, with the restoration of my old instrument. She brought it home to Beanie, who’d been pining to play strings for ages.

And here we are. They sound, to this mama’s ears, utterly magical. When they play, I don’t just hear melody—I hear history.

4.

          

Our weekend picture book reading:

The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman. A pencil draws a host of characters, and then when they clamor for color, he draws a paintbrush to help out. But when he draws an eraser, things begin to go downhill…my kids love this book, from the mild chaos created by the Calvin-esque eraser to the beleaguered pencil’s clever solution. This book would pair nicely with Harold and the Purple Crayon—or that Looney Tunes where Daffy Duck is being tormented by the paintbrush that created him (wielded, of course, by Bugs Bunny).

A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker and Kady MacDonald Denton. I wrote about this gem in 2008: “This was one of the Cybils nominees, and when I read the library copy, I knew it was a keeper. Sweet, funny story about a rather curmudgeonly bear who, despite his best efforts, finds himself playing host to a persistent and amiable mouse. I showed it to Scott, who instantly pegged it as a perfect Rose book. Endearing art, charming story.”

Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier and Suzy Lee. From my 2013 booknotes: “A series of quirky creatures is reading a series of little books, each smaller than the next. Very clever way to play with the convention of the codex. All those adorable nested books are irresistible to my kids. And the art, oh the art: utterly to swoon for.”

How to Read a Story by Kate Messner and Mark Siegel. <– This last one, I’m informed, will be our Monday pick, if we can find it. It fits nicely with the meta-book themes of The Pencil and Open This Little Book, which is probably what made Huck think of it. Some of you will recall that I caught Huck on video reading this one out loud, back in 2015. (Those character voices—oh my heart!)

day eight: commonplace book

January 8, 2017 @ 12:26 am | Filed under: Books

1.

Yesterday I picked up one of my cleaning-spree finds: Nick Hornby’s Housekeeping Vs. the Dirt. Just the thing to reset my brain after Cybils reading, I thought. Hornby’s what-I’m-reading essay collections were hugely important to my reading life several years back. He was writing monthly columns about his own reading life—not reviews, but meditations and meanderings, an ongoing conversation with the books he was immersed in each month. Those essays, originally published in Believer magazine and then bundled into several print collections, struck me as wittier, more deliberate versions of the kind of book-notes I’d been casually posting here on the blog for some time. I learned pretty early in my blogging career that I don’t enjoy writing formal book reviews (worrying, as I do, that I’ll wind up at dinner someday with the author of something I gave an unfavorable review to)—what I like is having conversations about books as I’m reading them. It’s during the reading that I’m burning to talk about what’s on the page. After I finish a book, I want to cocoon with it a bit, and finding words for it feels like work.

So as I said, I had more or less figured that out within a year of blogging, and I decided to think of what I was doing here as discussing rather than reviewing—sharing my enthusiasm, thinking out loud, capturing what thoughts the book put in my head while I was reading it.

When, in March 2009, I discovered that Nick Hornby was doing something similar (albeit in a more substantive, organized fashion) in his Believer essays, I felt my own thoughts come into focus. To chronicle one’s reading life—now there’s an activity that excites me. Ms. Mental Multivitamin, then as now one of my favorite bloggers (she posts these days at Nerdishly), had been doing exactly that at M-mv for longer than I’d been blogging (and probably since before Hornby’s essay series began).

(Thinking back, it’s likely I heard about the Hornby essays from Ms. M-mv in the first place.)

2.

hornby

When I picked up Housekeeping Vs. the Dirt yesterday, my first reaction was to chuckle over the memory of what happened when I first posted a picture of it here in April, 2009. I presented the photo as evidence of Scott’s thoughtfulness—the book appeared on our bed not long after I’d mused aloud about wanting it—and a few commenters politely wondered if my husband might perhaps be going round the bend.

Q: “Was it a hint that the house was messy, was it exactly what you wanted, or was it a way of saying it’s ok honey, I love the house just the way it is?”

Huck would have been three months old at the time, and I imagine if a book about actual housekeeping had appeared, unsolicited, on our (unmade) bed as a sort of hint that it was time to tidy things up, said book might have hit a nearby wall…or head. 😉 But that would have required an entirely different kind of book, and an altogether different sort of husband.

And so whenever I come across Housekeeping Vs. the Dirt, I chuckle over the critical importance of context. Hornby’s title, of course, refers to two of the books he discusses in the volume.

3.

And here we get to why I love to read the book-musings of other readers: because writers like Nick Hornby and Helene Hanff (O my beloved) don’t just write about the books; they write about relationship. The relationships they form with books. The ways their mental and emotional landscapes are altered by those books. There are personal connections and anecdotes; the books become a part of the reader’s history, shaping new narratives. All the books on my shelves have stories behind them, not just inside them. When I hold a volume, I’m remembering not only its contents, but where it came from and what was happening the first time I read it. Our old books, the ones we’ve hauled from house to house, state to state (uneconomically, sentimentally), contain multiple stories—their own, our family’s, and sometimes, if they came to us used, the stories of previous owners. Like Billy Collins, I’m entranced by the narratives we find in the margins:

…the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents’ living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page

A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil —
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet —
“Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.”

—excerpt from “Marginalia”

When I pick up Hornby’s Housekeeping, I find it holds a piece of the congenial, bookish blog community I’ve enjoyed for so many years; and a memory of the happy jolt I felt when Scott surprised me with it; and the reading jags I went on because of Hornby’s recommendations; and the pleasure of curling up with those books while my last infant slept on the (unmade) bed beside me, in a room that existed in a state somewhere between housekeeping and the dirt.

4.

All these associations rushed upon me before I’d even opened the book to page one this afternoon. I hit the Preface (page 11, technically) and felt immediately compelled to open the laptop and click New Post.

“I began writing this column,” Hornby writes,

“in the summer of 2003. It seemed to me that what I had chosen to read in the preceding few weeks contained a narrative, of sorts—that one book led to another, and thus themes and patterns emerged, patterns that might be worth looking at. And of course, that was pretty much the last time my reading had any kind of logic or shape to it. Ever since then my choice of books has been haphazard, whimsical, and entirely shapeless.”

You see why I love him.

“It still seemed like a fun thing to do, though, writing about reading, as opposed to writing about individual books. At the beginning of my writing career I reviewed a lot of fiction, but I had to pretend, as reviewers do, that I had read the books outside of space, time, and self—in other words, I had to pretend that I hadn’t read them when I was tired and grumpy, or drunk, that I wasn’t envious of the author, that I had no agenda, no personal aesthetic or personal taste or personal problems, that I hadn’t read other reviews of the same book already, that I didn’t know who the author’s friends and enemies were, that I wasn’t trying to place a book with the same publisher, that I hadn’t been bought lunch by the book’s doe-eyed publicist….”

“But this column was going to be different. Yes, I would be paid for it, but I would be paid to write about what I would have done anyway, which was read the books I wanted to read. And if I felt that mood, morale, concentration levels, weather, or family history had affected my relationship with a book, I could and would say so.”

Which is exactly what brings me back to these essays, time and again. And to other chroniclers of the reading life. Give me your moods, your weather, your family history, your ‘tired or grumpy or drunk.’ Give me the reader as well as the book. In the end, that’s my favorite genre, whatever it’s called.

day seven: saturday flashback

January 7, 2017 @ 10:55 am | Filed under: Books, Photos

photo by Murray Brannon

1.

In a couple of weeks, this blog will be twelve years old. (So will The Wine-Dark Sea. Melanie and I, who were to meet in the comment box, happened to begin our blogs on the same day.) Even with the occasional dry spells I’ve had, twelve years means a lot of posts. 3,324 of them, in fact. Plus another 496 in drafts.

Them’s a lot of words.

Every couple of years, when the anniversary rolls around, I decide to wander through the archives and revisit old entries. Usually this results in my noticing broken links, wonky formatting, and missing photos (due to my Typepad-to-Wordpress migration in 2007), and I get first sidetracked and then overwhelmed by the attempt to clean things up, and within a week or two I’ve forgotten all about the whole Memory Lane idea. I don’t expect this time to be any different. 🙂

 

yogurt1

2.

In that first month, January 2005, I published ten posts, some family-focused, and some diving right into gushing about books and things we loved. In that, I’ve been pretty consistent over the years. In personality tests, I always fall right on the introvert/extrovert line, and I realized a few years back that my extrovert tendencies manifest largely in the impulse to show-and-tell. If I’m loving a book, I need to talk about it. If a resource or game has sparked enthusiasm for someone in my family, I need to spread that information. It’s in my wiring. I’m sure that’s why blogging has been such a satsifying vehicle for me. This whole site is my turn to get up in front of the class and talk about my favorite stuffed animal.

And so Signing Time is prominently featured in Bonny Glen’s first month, because in Jan 2005 we were in the thick of our ASL immersion. Wonderboy’s hearing loss had been firmly diagnosed a few months earlier (after a stint with tubes to rule out conductive loss due to fluid), and he got his first pair of hearing aids in November 2004, at eleven months old. The Signing Time DVDs were daily viewing in our home for a good five years or more, and they still get pulled out from time to time even though everyone knows them by heart. They pop up over and over again in my posts from 2005-2010 or thereabouts. We even got to Skype with Rachel at one point.

jane age ten

3.

The first picture book I recommended here is one I happen to have sought out just the other day, because I want to read it to Huck and Rilla soon: the beautiful Boxes for Katje. From my notes in 2005:

When I read this picture book to the girls, Jane had to take over for me near the end because I was so choked up. Candace Fleming’s beautiful story takes place in a small Dutch village, post World War II. Young Katje receives an unexpected package in the mail: a small box containing soap, socks, and—wonder of wonders!—chocolate, gifts from an American girl named Rosie. What follows is a heartwarming exchange of letters between the two girls, and a vivid illustration of the ripple-effect of generosity.

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4.

February 2005‘s posts could almost have been written this year, so full are they of the same books and resources I’ve just been pulling together for use this year. I guess that’s because Rilla and Huck are about the same ages Jane and Rose were in 2005. I’m cracking up right now to see I wrote about A Case for Red Herrings, because I found that on a bottom shelf just yesterday and shrieked with glee to Jane over it. Also discussed:

It’s Not My Turn to Look for Grandma, another beloved picture book I grabbed last week for my read-soon shelf;

Brave Writer and A Writer’s Jungle—and here I am about to teach classes for Brave Writer this spring;

The Scrambled States of America—that one was a library book and I think I checked it out again for my younger set a couple of years ago, but it might be time to put in another request;

Jim Weiss’s storytelling CDs, in particular the Shakespeare one;

By the Great Horn Spoon, one of our all-time great daddy-readalouds;

Small Meadow Press paper goods—Lesley Austin’s lovely stationery and planner items which are still in daily use on my desk (I keep our homeschooling notes in her beautiful Wild Simplicity Daybook); and

• even a mention of our beloved (and now in tatters) anthology, Favorite Poems Old and New.

That month was also the first appearance of my “These People Crack Me Up” tag, and I’m giggling afresh over some of those Rose and Beanie stories. The “woset in my closet” story!

(Amazon Affiliate links on this site help keep the lights on)

5.

Scott is going to growl at me for this post. Old pictures of our children make his heart ache, the big softie.

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Hi, daddy!

day six: books and bugs

January 6, 2017 @ 4:33 pm | Filed under: Books

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1.

There. I’ve been through every book in the house. There are hundreds stacked up, ready to be donated, just as soon as someone who wants them shows up with boxes. Thousands more survived this round of cuts, and I’m itching to curl up *right this minute* with about 80% of those. (Insert despairing cackle.)

I’m steeling myself to let some of the weaving books go. Some were reference for writing the Martha books; others were instructional for my own rookie efforts. I’m going to let Spinning and Weaving With Wool and the big book on linen find homes with someone else. (Sitting here writing this post, I couldn’t remember the exact title of the linen book. Then I remembered I probably ordered it from Amazon. And sure enough, there it is in my order history. From 1998.

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I’m a little freaked out right now

One notable observation we made while culling the collection was how many books could be let go due to our now relying on the internet for their kind of content. Informational texts, science projects, cookbooks. (Okay, but I did keep Lotions, Potions, and Slime—I don’t care if you can find all those activities on Pinterest now; that book has family history.) If I ever need to know how to finesse linen in a handloom again, I’ll Google it.

2.

Last night’s picture book: Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner. So good. Huck was initially baffled by the strange alphabets of the aliens’ and insects’ languages, but as soon as he wrapped his head around the concept, boy did he enjoy interpreting the dialogue. He started over again as soon as we finished, and then he took it to bed with him. I love experiencing a wordless picture book with a child—how his trepidation gives way to glee as he gets into the spirit of the ‘reading.’

My favorite parts of this book are the ‘cave paintings’—the insects’ murals on the wall under the radiator, depicting the history of brave stands the ants and ladybugs have made against the fearsome feline attacker. The detail is remarkable, and you get the fun of deciphering another wordless story within the wordless story.

3.

I finally got my 2016 booklog up to date (more or less—not everything’s linked up, but the titles are all there). I may have to declare Goodreads bankruptcy, though, and just begin fresh with 2017. (Which is what I wound up doing last year.) It takes too long to click through all the layers of search new book—add new book—choose shelves—set start and finish dates when you’re doing it for dozens of books at once. Will I keep up as I go next year? Probably not.

4.

I’m pining for a new episode of the West Wing Weekly podcast. Holidays, schmolidays!

5.

Consider this a PSA—Creativebug is running a special: one month of free unlimited access. If you explore my Creativebug tag you’ll see how much enjoyment my family wrings out of our $4.95/month subscription.

(affiliate link, but only because I’m a happy customer)