Archive for the ‘Read-Alouds’ Category

Rose petal, rock, leaf, bat

June 14, 2011 @ 10:28 am | Filed under: , , , ,

“Mommy,” says Rilla, “I’m in a bad mood.”

“You’re in a bad mood? Why?”

“No, not a bad mood. A bat mood!”

She holds up her wrist, clinging to which is a small furry brown bat with tiny magnets in its wingtips. We were digging through a box of toys in the garage this morning, looking for my old Smurf collection; Rose found the mushroom house in the girls’ closet and wanted to populate it for Rilla. The garage search produced only the baker Smurf—and, it seems, the stuffed bat. For today, at least, Smurfs have been forgotten.

Well, a bat mood. I can accommodate that. I went hunting for our copy of Stellaluna but didn’t find it. (You may detect a pattern here.) However, there on the shelf was Randall Jarrell’s lovely fairy-story, The Bat-Poet. Even better. Rilla propped her wrist on the arm of my rocking chair so her little bat could see the pictures—such delectable ones, drawn by Maurice Sendak.

Once upon a time there was a bat—a little light brown bat, the color of coffee with cream in it.

We didn’t get far, for after only a few pages, Rose and Huck returned from a walk around the block, and he had treasures to bestow. A rose petal for Rilla, a large smooth stone for Wonderboy, and a yellowed magnolia leaf for me. He could hardly hand them over fast enough: he needed his hands free to sign cat whiskers. My children measure their walks in number of cats encountered. This was a three-cat morning, a very good day.

Rilla’s bat had things to tell Rose, who is extremely receptive to the confidences of small animals in the hands of small children. Rilla showed her The Bat-Poet, and the opening line reminded Rose of the Little Brown Bat entry in the Handbook of Nature Study. The three of them—big girl, little girl, stuffed bat—looked at the pictures in that book for a while, and then it was cast aside and Rose began to spin a story: the first installment, I’m told, of The Bat Chronicles, about a little girl named Batty (inspired by The Penderwicks, of course) who rescues a lost bat named Bitty. I was eavesdropping like crazy, but then Wonderboy wanted his daily Signing Time, and the Bat Chroniclers moved to their bedroom.

And now the boys are watching Zoo Train, and Jane is running her lines for our upcoming Twelfth Night performance, and Beanie is lying on her bed listening to Suzanne Vega.

And in case that all sounds too idyllic, I should mention that my sink is full of breakfast dishes, and my floor is carpeted with cracker crumbs. There is a mountain of paperwork on the table behind me. I should be doing housework but sat down to write this post instead.

P.S. Thank you for your questions and comments on the open thread. I am so enjoying them and should have a chance to answer some of this afternoon. And I have a question of my own for another post. I’m really stealing these minutes right now—it isn’t my usual blogging time—but I wanted to capture the morning before it slipped away. Signing Time is almost over, so writing time is too!

Related post: “He imitates the world he drove away…”

From the Morning’s Reading: Hoppers

June 9, 2011 @ 1:17 pm | Filed under: , ,

McBroom’s Ear by Sid Fleischman

“Pa!” Mary cried. “They didn’t even wait for my prize tomatoes to ripen. They ate them green!”

“Pa!” little Clarinda said. “What happened to your socks?”

I looked down. Glory be! Those infernal [grasshoppers] had eaten the socks right out of my shoes—green socks. All they left were the holes in the toes.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

I next wrote in my Notebook that we had two very different kinds of grasshoppers that summer. We had the usual quick little emerald ones decorated all over with black speckles. And then there were huge bright yellow ones, twice as big, and torpid, so waxy and fat that they bowed down the grasses when they landed. I had never seen these before. I polled everyone in the house (except Grandfather) to find out where these odd yellow specimens had come from, but nobody could tell me. Not of them was the slightest bit interested.

As a last resort, I rounded up my courage and went out to my grandfather’s laboratory. I pushed back the burlap flap that served as a door and stood quaking on the threshold. He looked up in surprise from the counter where he was pouring a foul-looking brown liquid into various beakers and retorts. He didn’t invite me in. I stumbled through my grasshopper conundrum while he stared at me as if he was having trouble placing me.

“Oh,” he said mildly, I suspect that a smart young whip like you can figure it out. Come back and tell me when you have.”

Two grasshopper stories: not a coincidence. I started reading Calpurnia to Rose and Beanie today (with Rilla listening in and, after a bit, curled in my lap picking out words Scout Finch-fashion), and when it came time for me to read a story to Rilla, I went straight for McBroom. If I’d thought about it in time, I’d have hunted up Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices; there’s a grasshopper poem in there, I’m sure. In fact, I can picture a hopper on the cover. Maybe tomorrow. Today has rolled on to the next thing. Polly Pockets for those three girls, and the Shakespeare kids coming in a bit to work on costumes for our Twelfth Night performance.

Related post: Sciency fiction and nonfiction
More about McBroom: Hoppers
More about Calpurnia Tate: Our first encounter; Naturalists in literature

More book recommendations here.