Archive for June 2nd, 2006

A Bean by Any Other Name Would Be as Sweet

June 2, 2006 @ 11:33 am | Filed under: ,

Beanie’s hair is like an eighth member of the family. (Oh my goodness. We are a family of seven now. I am still getting used to saying that.) This time of year, it embraces the humidity and exhibits more personality than ever. In certain weather, the child looks ready for a Welcome Back Kotter reunion. It is glorious hair, the kind you can’t keep your hands off, the kind no passing stranger can resist commenting about.

Today we were headed home from the pool, depressingly dry. Thunder and lightning had commenced just as the kids kicked off their flip-flops, and the life guard somberly shook her head. We turned to trudge home, the rising wind whipping Beanie’s curls into a frenzy.

Our friend Lisa met us in the parking lot. “Hey, Fuzzhead,” she greeted Beanie affectionately.

Beanie (who seldom glowers) glowered. “I don’t like being called Fuzzhead,” she said quietly.

“Oh, I’m sorry!” said Lisa. “What do you like to be called?”

Beanie pondered. Her eyes brightened and she nodded with satisfaction.


Well, of course. Monkey is ever so much more dignified than Fuzzhead.

Glad You Asked

June 2, 2006 @ 5:15 am | Filed under: ,

Stephanie asked:

Do you take specific book recommendation requests? If so, sign me up! I’d like to read a bit about the American Revolution with my 6 & 8 year olds prior to a trip to Williamsburg/Yorktown/ Jamestown this summer. I’d especially love to share a couple great historical-fiction read alouds with them to bring this area/time period alive. I’d like to avoid books that have a young adult romance in the story line. Anything come to mind?

Yes! I’ll add to this list tomorrow, but for now let me recommend a couple of books we’ve really enjoyed:

0064403335101_aa_scmzzzzzzz__1A Lion to Guard Us by Clyde Robert Bulla. This short chapter book would be perfect to read before your Jamestown visit. It’s about three young English children whose father has gone to Jamestown to make a home for the family. When their mother dies, they must find a way to cross the ocean and join their father. The story of their journey to Virginia (with a detour to Bermuda) is based on a true story and features real historical figures like John Rolfe. I read this book to Rose and Beanie (7 and 5) recently and they hung on every word. Your kids are the perfect age to enjoy it. After reading it, I’m itching to take my gang to Jamestown too. (But I don’t think Rilla is quite up for it yet.)

You’re probably aware of this already, but the American Girls Felicity series is set in colonial Williamsburg. (I have a soft spot for the Felicity books because they are illustrated by the same artist as my Charlotte books, the wonderful Dan Andreasen.) When my family visited Williamsburg last fall, my girls were excited to recognize some of the places featured in Felicity’s adventures, like the Powder Magazine.

Girlshorses_2(Oh, and a tip for making your Williamsburg trip even more fun: splurge for the costume rental for your kids. They get to dress up like colonists and are given a list of items to collect from the various shopkeepers, as if they’re running errands for an elderly relative. They’ll have a ball.)

Two of our favorite Revolutionary War-era novels are Robert Lawson’s Ben and Me : An Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin by His Good Mouse Amos and Mr. Revere and I.

More to come…In the meantime, don’t miss the excellent collection of titles at Reading Your Way Through History. And of course reader suggestions are always welcome!

Anyone else looking for read-alouds to go along with summer travels?

Poetry Friday: Seamus Heaney

June 2, 2006 @ 2:59 am | Filed under:

For a real treat, click the link* to hear the poem read aloud by the Mr. Heaney himself.

Personal Helicon
by Seamus Heaney

As a child, they could not keep me from wells
And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.
I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells
Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.

One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top.
I savoured the rich crash when a bucket
Plummeted down at the end of a rope.
So deep you saw no reflection in it.

A shallow one under a dry stone ditch
Fructified like any aquarium.
When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch
A white face hovered over the bottom.

Others had echoes, gave back your own call
With a clean new music in it. And one
Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall
Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.

Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.

This poem always makes me want to talk to other writers. Helicon is the mountain where the Muses made their home. Mr. Heaney speaks of finding his inspiration by probing the deep, dank places in the same way that he, as a child, explored the inky depths of forgotten wells. Sometimes, peering down into the darkness, he discovers his own reflection. Sometimes his voice comes back to him with a “clean new music” in it—that is the part that gets me. My own muse seldom lurks in the dark places (though I think my best book is the one in which certain experiences of loss and suffering informed my understanding of how Martha, as a mother, could experience terrible loss and not be crushed by it); for me, the “clean new music” rings from the eager faces of my children, my husband’s wry grin, the toes of a newborn, the cloud-shadows on our green hills.

Where is your personal Helicon?

*About the Internet Poetry Archive: “The University of North Carolina Press joins the UNC Office of Information Technology in publishing the Internet Poetry Archive. The archive makes available over a worldwide computer network selected poems from a number of contemporary poets. The goal of the project is to make poetry accessible to new audiences (at little or no cost) and to give teachers and students of poetry new ways of presenting and studying these poets and their texts.”

One of the treasures made available at this site is a recording and transcript of Seamus Heaney’s 1995 Nobel Lecture, “Crediting Poetry.” An excerpt:

To begin with, I wanted that truth to life to possess a concrete reliability, and rejoiced most when the poem seemed most direct, an upfront representation of the world it stood in for or stood up for or stood its ground against. Even as a schoolboy, I loved John Keats’s ode “To Autumn” for being an ark of the covenant between language and sensation; as an adolescent, I loved Gerard Manley Hopkins for the intensity of his exclamations which were also equations for a rapture and an ache I didn’t fully know I knew until I read him; I loved Robert Frost for his farmer’s accuracy and his wily down-to-earthness; and Chaucer too for much the same reasons. Later on I would find a different kind of accuracy, a moral down-to-earthness to which I responded deeply and always will, in the war poetry of Wilfred Owen, a poetry where a New Testament sensibility suffers and absorbs the shock of the new century’s barbarism. Then later again, in the pure consequence of Elizabeth Bishop’s style, in the sheer obduracy of Robert Lowell’s and in the barefaced confrontation of Patrick Kavanagh’s, I encountered further reasons for believing in poetry’s ability – and responsibility – to say what happens, to “pity the planet,” to be “not concerned with Poetry.”

More Poetry Friday contributions:
Big A little a
Chicken Spaghetti
Book Buds
Scholar’s Blog
Fuse #8 Productions
The Simple and the Ordinary
bookshelves of doom
Jen Robinson’s Books Page—a poem by Emily of New Moon!
Farm School
A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy
Gotta Book
Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to write
So Glad I’m Here
Mungo’s Mathoms
Blog from the Windowsill—I really enjoyed this review of two books about poetic form.

Did I miss anyone?