Archive for February, 2006

Who Knew Cats Liked Scrambled Eggs?

February 21, 2006 @ 2:55 am | Filed under:

Evidently, Beanie was so charmed by the way The Three Pigs played with storybook conventions that she was inspired to create her own twist on a classic tale.


The cat, I am told, has eaten the wolf who ate the grandmother. The red hat is the grandmother’s nightcap—it seems she wanted to match Little Red Riding Hood. Fortunately for Red, she was sent on a different errand on this fateful day: that’s (and I quote) “Humpty Dumpty with freckles” bringing cookies to Red’s granny. Little does he know “the cat is going to eat him all up.”

Picture Book Spotlight: Beanie’s Choice

February 20, 2006 @ 2:34 am | Filed under: ,

061800701601_aa_scmzzzzzzz_The Three Pigs by David Wiesner, author and illustrator of the enchanting Tuesday. In this fresh take on the old tale, the wolf’s huffing and puffing blows the pigs right out of their book. They wander among rows of storybook pages, popping in and out of selected tales and gathering friends as they go. The stunning art (no surprise, since this is Wiesner, winner of multiple Caldecott Medals, including one for this book) is filled with intriguing details that kept my younguns poring over the page.

Don’t Miss…

February 19, 2006 @ 3:50 pm | Filed under:

…the Bookworm’s virtual literary tour.

I dream of one day being able to make a literary tour of England of my own – in the dim and distant future when time and money allow – along with a kindred spirit who shares a love of the same books. For now all I can do is dream, and I thought it would be fun to share my fantasy virtual tour of literary England. So please join me as we set off on day 1 …

Fun, fun!

Comments are off

Light a Fire

February 18, 2006 @ 11:04 am | Filed under: ,

In Brave Writer and Classical Writing, Julie writes:

Kids deserve to be expanded by great literature, myth, epic poetry, legend, artwork, history, scientific discovery, the stars, mathematics as a language (not just as a workbook), Shakespeare, theater, music, dance, and languages. These sources provide rich material for imagination, vocabulary, and inner life. Such inner lives naturally spill over into writing with content and texture.

I have certainly found this to be the case with my kids. Julie continues with the excellent advice to kindle your kids’ interest in the classics (or anything else) by getting yourself interested first. If I want to reignite their enthusiasm for nature journaling, I get mine out and start drawing. Next thing I know, there’s a crowd of kids around me begging to join the fun. In the same way, they developed an interest in mythology, Shakespeare, the Odyssey, poetry, knitting, basketball, birdwatching, gardening, and any number of other things—by witnessing mom or dad’s passion for the subject and wanting to know what the heck was so exciting.

By the way, the Heaney translation of Beowulf that Julie mentions is one of my favorite books. Language so rich you can taste it. Begs to be read aloud. Makes Scott stomp around the house like a Viking, bellowing colorful oaths. Now that’s the way to get kids begging for more classics.

Peace Comes Dropping Slow

February 17, 2006 @ 2:40 am | Filed under:

If yesterday’s post was about “The Quiet Joy,” today’s is “The Joy of Quiet.” CityMom asked the following question in the comments section last week. Another friend wrote me this week with a similar question, so I thought I’d bring the answer to a post.

As a follow up question, how have you been able to establish your quiet time routine? My three year old is giving up her nap and I am loathe to lose the one on one time that I used to have with my four year old, as well as the personal time that I had while he would sit quietly with brio, etc. For the past few days, it seems that none of us have been able to really get down time in the afternoon, and boy am I getting cranky!

Oh boy do I know that feeling. Quiet time is imperative for my sanity, let me tell you. Better yet, let my husband tell you. After a noisy, busy, noisy, bustling, did I mention noisy? morning, that little midday window of time when “peace comes dropping slow” is unutterably precious. And after the break, I am recharged and ready for round two of the noise and bustle.

I don’t know if my quiet time strategies will be applicable to anyone else’s specific situation, but for what they’re worth: here’s how we do it.

My three girls (ages 10, 7, and 5) all share a bedroom, but for quiet time they go to separate rooms, or there won’t be any quiet. Jane busies herself in the sewing room, Rose takes possession of my bedroom, and Beanie has the girls’ big room all to herself. Wonderboy, age 2, takes a two-hour nap in his own room.

By this point, all three girls are old enough to understand and follow the quiet time parameters. I think age three to four is the tricky age for keeping quiet time, um, quiet and sufficiently lengthy in time. An hour, say.

For non-napping three-year-olds, here’s my strategy: the bed is a boat, and there are sharks in the water so you can’t get off until mommy comes for you. (Obviously not a good idea for easily scared little ones, but for Beanie it was always a fun game.) I make sure the “boat” is stocked with fun stuff: books, a small basket of toys, something the child really loves to play with and only gets at quiet time. As Bean got older, I added a box of crayons and coloring books.

I put on a story tape or music—something to help the child know that quiet time is still going on. When the tape is over, so is QT. Our biggest hits have been Winnie the Pooh on audio cassette, the Classical Kids CDs, and Jim Weiss’s story tapes. Beanie is also partial to The Beatles.

Oh, and a really active outdoor play time or walk right before quiet time is always helpful too! I used to make a point of getting the kids outside for a short walk before lunch. After that they were usually ready for a rest. That brilliant strategy went by the wayside, however, when Wonderboy was born. Which of course was when Beanie was three years old and would have most benefited by said strategy’s aforementioned brilliance. Ah, well.

As you can see, there’s nothing particularly illuminating or innovative about my quiet-time habit-training methods. Wear ’em out, feed ’em up, set them adrift on a well-stocked “boat,” give ’em something to listen to both for entertainment and to signal “time’s up.”

After that it just takes practice, like any other kind of habit training. (Note: I’m a big fan of Charlotte Mason’s advice on habit training.) Firm but cheerfully enforced boundaries for what is and is not OK. Loud noise: not OK. Abandoning ship: not OK. I’ve noticed that some kids will get rowdy in order to keep mom popping in and out of the room—sort of a ‘negative attention is better than no attention’ kind of thing, so I had to come up with ways around that. I found some natural consequences for disobeying the quiet time rules: no post-QT snack; add 2 to 5 minutes of more quiet time when the story tape goes off (by walking in without a word and setting a timer, preferably one that counts down the seconds in nice big numbers); that kind of thing. Mellow consequences that don’t involve scolding.

(If I fuss at the child—and this applies to any habit-training circumstance, not just quiet time—forget it. Any lesson in patience or obedience goes right out the window: now we just have a case of heartbroken kidlet needing reassurance from mommy. So I always try to think out my course of action in advance and clearly explain to the child how things will work—and then I expect to have to cheerfully, calmly (think Marmee) follow through on the prescribed consequence three or four or ten times in a row before the good habit is established. But if mommy gets cross just once, all progress is lost and we have to start over from scratch. It’s habit-training for me, too, you see. And believe me, I’m a much slower learner than my children. Marmee may have had the consistently-serene-and-cheerful thing down pat by the time Little Women begins, but I’m not there yet. Frustrated-and-annoyed comes so much more easily. But then, how old was Amy in Chapter 1? Ten? What I wouldn’t give to see Marmee in her baby-and-toddler-raising years…)

Anyway, that’s what worked for my strong-willed Rose and my boisterous Beanie. It’s all so different with every child, isn’t it? I can’t begin to guess what it’ll be like whenever Wonderboy gives up his naps. (Please, God, not for a year at least.) When that day comes, you can probably expect a post on the subject: Desperately Seeking Quiet Time Strategies!

Another Treat, This Time for Charlotte Mason Fans

February 15, 2006 @ 4:55 am | Filed under:

The Bookworm and her family are touring the Lake District, including a visit to Ambleside.

Tevye was a little alarmed when I directed him down a narrow road signed ‘Ambleside via “The Struggle” ‘, but to his relief we we were travelling in the right direction and got the cruise downhill, not the struggle uphill. Unlike the last time I visited I had remembered my camera, so I strolled up the drive of Scale How, Charlotte Mason’s old House of Education (now known as St.Martin’s College) to take a picture. With my mind on finding a good spot for photography I forgot to keep an eye on my feet, tripped and fell headlong, nearly giving Tevye heart failure. Fortunately there was no real damage done apart from bruised and scraped knees.

So glad to hear everything is OK! Click the link for the rest of her adventure, plus a picture of Scale How. And in this post, she visits Charlotte’s grave.

Presenting the First Carnival of Children’s Literature

February 12, 2006 @ 9:00 pm | Filed under:

Boys and girls come out to play,
The moon doth shine as bright as day.
Leave your supper and leave your sleep,
And join your playfellows in the street.

Welcome to the first Carnival of Children’s Literature! What an exciting week it has been, watching all the submissions roll in. The response has been overwhelming! Posts came in from authors, reviewers, book-loving parents, and even a couple of teenagers. In reading through all the submissions, I realized what an apt description “carnival” is for this kind of gathering of posts: it brings together a wild assortment of different rides.

So come with a whoop, and come with a call! Off we go…

Gray goose and gander,
Waft your wings together,
Carry the good king’s daughter
Over the one-strand river.

One of the best things about books is the way they take us on journeys far from home, as CityMom and her children have discovered in their literature-based geography studies.

Queen of Carrots shares the books that carried her to an adventure with ducks, while over at A Hen’s Pace, another mom and her children discover the world of crystals with Snowflake Bentley.

Happyheartsmom explores just why it is that what Charlotte Mason called “living books” have the power to carry us away.

The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts,
All on a summer’s day;
The Knave of Hearts, he stole those tarts,
And carried them clean away.

We have all encountered certain characters in children’s literature who have stolen our hearts away as certainly as the Knave of Hearts walked off with those famous pastries. At Cottage Blessings, Alice tells how the Swallows and Amazons won her family’s heart. And in Bonny Glen’s contribution, I list several other fictional families who have become dear to my children and me.

Over at Conblogeration, Jeff discusses the profound impact a Margaret Wise Brown book had on him in “Why I am a Mr. Dog Conservative”.

And at Read Mommy Read, a mother explains how she found a friend in Mr. Book.

I had a little nut tree, nothing would it bear,
But a silver nutmeg and a golden pear.
The King of Spain’s daughter came to visit me,
And all for the sake of my little nut tree.

Children’s books, like the little nut tree, require a great deal of nurturing before they bear fruit. In our next group of posts, several authors give us a peek into their gardens, where silver nutmegs and golden pears are ripening on the branch.

Cynthia Lord, author of Rules (hitting the bookstores on April 2nd), writes about stealing real-life details to enrich her book in a lovely post called Thieves R Us.

Author Greg Fishbone discusses the challenge of writing a blurb for his middle-grade novel, Septina Nash Presents: The Penguins of Doom, which will be published in 2007.

In a fascinating behind-the-scenes post, Chris Barton (whose book The Day-Glo Brothers is forthcoming in 2007) shares his experiences at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting.

Indian Shoes author Cynthia Leitich Smith, whose incredible website is a must-see for any fan of children’s literature, treats us to interviews with authors M. T. Anderson (Whales on Stilts) and Heather Vogel Frederick (Spy Mice).

James Bow gives us a look at the process of revising his YA novel, Fathom Five.

Janni Lee Simner, author of Secret of the Three Treasures, explores the difference between generic book characters and characters with real personality.

Over at Book Moot, Camille tells about attending a booksigning where author Jonathan Stroud answered questions both good and bad.

Care to visit more author sites? Love2LearnMom has compiled a list.

Little Jack Horner sat in the corner,
Eating his Christmas pie.
He stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum
And said what a good boy am I!

When a person discovers a plum of a book, he is usually eager to share it. These bloggers offer reviews of delicious books they have enjoyed.

Over at A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy, Elizabeth revisits Seven Alone, a childhood favorite, and finds out that there’s more to the story.

Chicken Spaghetti cooks up a review of Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins.

At Semicolon, Sherry reviews Newbery Honor Book Swift Rivers (with delightful commentary from her children).

Becky of Farm School finds the work of Roald Dahl to be Dahlicious.

Big A little a treats us to a review of Sebastian Meschenmoser’s picture book, Learning to Fly.

Noelle gives five stars to Kate diCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie.

Dominion Family presents a list of picture books written by husband-and-wife teams.

Adria, one of our teenaged contributors, chimes in with a review of Greg Leitich Smith’s novel, Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo.

Jen Robinson tells why Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief should have won a Newbery.

The Median Sib explores Amelia’s Road by Linda Jacobs Altman.

At Full of Grace, Anna shares some thoughts on Robin McKinley’s novel, Beauty.

Gail Gauthier takes comfort in Sam the Pig and the Dragon by Alison Uttley. (Note: Gail’s permalinks don’t seem to be working. Scroll down to her February 7 entry for this post.)

Bookcarousel whets our appetite for Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming.

Michele raves about Geraldine McCaughrean’s The White Darkness.

The Kids Lit blog sends us soaring with a review of Super Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold.

At A Pictureseque Life, Bethany finds a message on the sanctity of life in Horton Hears a Who.

Spunky explains why Johannah Bluedorn’s picture book, Bless the Lord, passes her “again test.”

Classical Liberalism takes a look at the work of Jules Verne.

Jack Sprat could eat no fat,
His wife could eat no lean.
And so betwixt the two of them,
They licked the platter clean.

Of course, not everyone has the same taste in books. In this post, Scott of Left of the Dial explains why he’s not so wild about Harry. (I, on the other hand, am wild about Scott.)

At Why Homeschool, Henry Cate asks, “What do I want out of children’s literature?”

Laurie Bluedorn shares her criteria for what makes a good children’s book.

Spunky Jr. explains why she believes that books, like all other good things, should be enjoyed in moderation.

Librarian Lori Feldstein takes a look at gender roles in children’s literature.

Wendy Betts laments the quantities of twaddle she was forced to endure as a book reviewer.

And finally, Kelly takes issue with some well-known authors’ answers to the Royal Society of Literature’s question, “What are the top ten books all children should read?” Gail has thoughts on this as well.

Sing a song of sixpence, pocket full of rye,
Four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in a pie;
When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing—
Now wasn’t that a dainty dish
To set before the king!

Well, we’ve had a great many more than four-and-twenty blackbirds in this big Carnival pie. Many thanks to all our contributors! Don’t forget to post a link on your own sites. And stay tuned for details about the March edition of the Carnival of Children’s Literature, which will be hosted by Susan at Chicken Spaghetti.

This carnival is registered at TTLB’s ÜberCarnival.