Archive for May, 2008

Carnival Time!

May 31, 2008 @ 1:42 pm | Filed under:

Welcome to the May 2008 edition of the Carnival of Children’s Literature!

I promised a no-frills edition this month. It’s a lazy Saturday morning in my house, the kind filled with cartoons and sugary cereals. On Saturday mornings, you would never know what booksy people we are. Saturday afternoons are different. There is nearly always a library run on Saturday afternoon. Sometimes Scott will take some of the kids; other days, I’ll swing by during errand-running to pick up whatever we might have on hold. It’s always fun to see what Scott or Jane might have requested from inter-branch loan during the week. Jane’s queue this week seems to be full of Miss Marples and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books. Scott has a knack for hunting up interesting new books in all genres, including children’s and YA. At our old branch in small-town Virginia, the librarians told me they used to watch for his requests and snag his returns for their own reading lists. They mourned when he left. We mourned to leave them!

Clare B. Dunkle is a librarian turned author. Becky Laney offers a fascinating Interview with Clare about her recent novel, The Sky Inside, at Becky’s Book Reviews.

For more author interviews, step Into the Wardrobe, where Tarie presents a conversation with author/illustrator Katie Davis, and pay a visit to MotherReader, where Pam Coughlan interviews Kelly Bingham about Shark Girl.

As an author myself, I am always interested in what attracts a reader to a book. Of course, I’m interested in this from a mom’s standpoint as well. It’s fun to see what turns my individual kids on to a title. Rose is at the classic 9-year-old girl stage which leaps at anything with a horse on the cover. At Under the Covers, Lisa Chellman shares some observations about book covers in Book Jackets with Familiar Faces. “Has anyone else noticed,” she asks, “celebrity look-alikes on children’s and YA book covers?” Don’t miss the comments for an informative response from the editor of one of the books Lisa discusses.

The always thought-provoking Jen Robinson shares her own book-appeal criteria in My 6 P’s of Book Appreciation at Jen Robinson’s Book Page.

A number of bloggers submitted book reviews this month. Here’s a wide selection:

Susan Gaissert posted on one of my favorites, Heaven to Betsy, at The Expanding Life. Sounds like Susan and I share a common grief over the out-of-print status of the high-school Betsy-Tacy books.

At In Need of Chocolate, Sarah writes about a book Jane keeps sticking in my to-be-read pile: Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright. I’m going to treat myself to it at last this summer!

Over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Jules & Eisha give us a delightful back-and-forth about E. Lockhart’s YA novel The Frankie Mystique.

In honor of Asian Pacific Heritage month, Jenny Schwartzberg reviews Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit at Jenny’s Wonderland of Books.

At The Learning Umbrella, Sara reviews two books: Swallows and Amazons and The Willoughbys.

Nancy Arruda raves about a picture book at Bees Knees Reads. “Traces is a book of beautifully written verse by master children’s writer Paula Fox and illustrated by Karla Kuskin.” You had me at “beautifully written verse.” By the end of this carnival, our library reserve list is going to be a mile long.

Case in point: after reading cloudscome‘s review of Millicent Min: Girl Genius at a wrung sponge, I can’t wait to read this book. (Jules & Eisha sold me on The Frankie Mystique, too.)

At A Year of Reading, Mary Lee presents an interesting look at how kids of different ages responded to the same picture book: Experimental Read-Aloud. She says, “As an experiment, I read aloud the same book in Preschool-5th grades. (I am a classroom teacher, not a librarian, so this was a unique experience for me.) The differences in their responses were fascinating.”

Becky offers a Young Readers review of As Good As Anybody by Raul Colón, “the story of two men: Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Two men. Two stories. Both powerful.”

In Weekly Geeks Challenge: Outsiders, Jenny of Read. Imagine. Talk. discusses three books about people on the outside: The Hundred Dresses, Loser, and The Giver.

Libby Gruner muses about the depiction of childhood in Peter Pan at Lessons from the Tortoise.

Several contributors sent in posts about ways of sharing books with children.

Jill at The Well-Read Child feels strongly that Fighting Illiteracy is a Community Effort.

Heather Young recalls how her children followed their own path to reading in Books, books, books! at An Untraditional Home.

At The Reading Zone, a blogger recounts a conversation between two teachers which reveals how they are Censoring in the Classroom.

Silvia and her sister-in-law have hit upon a wonderful way to share beloved books with their children: by having Familiar Voices record the text on mp3 files for iPod enjoyment by their Lucky Kiddos.

One of Karen Edmisten‘s famous Ramona stories captures exactly why sharing books with children is its own reward: Why I Love Our Read-Alouds, Part 937.

And wrapping up our carnival, Elizabeth O. Dulemba presents a fabulous photo-essay of an event I would have loved to attend: the 1st Annual Children’s Book Illustrator’s Show! I loved all the pictures showing kids sprawled on the gallery floor with books in the background.

Thanks for visiting this month’s carnival. Next month, author Susan Taylor Brown will host a carnival with the theme of fathers in literature. You may submit a post to Susan using our carnival submission form. To explore past kidlitosphere carnivals, visit the archives.

UPDATE: Eek!! I just went to the BlogCarnival site to enter the info for this post, and I discovered EIGHTEEN MORE SUBMISSIONS that must have come in after the deadline this morning. That means BlogCarnival automatically began forwarding them to next month’s host instead. Bear with me while I figure out what to do. Meanwhile, enjoy the posts below.

UPDATED UPDATE. I know what we’ll do. I’m out of time for this endeavor, so if you missed the deadline and want your post to be included, you may submit the link in a comment below. But listen, folks, on-topic posts only, please. I’m seeing an awful lot of spam there, or self-promotional pieces that are merely book promos, and a bunch of posts that have nothing at all to do with children’s books. If I spot links like that in the comments, I’ll delete them because I don’t want to waste my readers’ time. For the sake of the substantive and relevant posts in the bunch, I’m allowing this means of making late entries.

Crash Call for Submissions: Carnival of Children’s Literature

May 29, 2008 @ 8:03 pm | Filed under:

Am I up to this, I ask myself? It’s been a crazy week here. Ah, what the heck.

Our very kind volunteer host for this month’s Carnival of Children’s Literature had a scheduling conflict arise, and she had to reluctantly pass on the fun. She gave me plenty of notice to line up an alternate host, but we had Stuff happening here, and I failed to solicit a substitute. And here we are at the end of the month, with no carnival planned.

Well, who needs planning? I don’t promise a clever theme this time, but I’m quite sure I can promise some fun reading. So: pick your best post about children’s books from the past month, and send it my way. No, scratch that—submit it via the BlogCarnival site. That way I won’t have to fiddle with links and code. Make it easy on me!

As always, submission does not guarantee inclusion. I’ll take submissions until 8a.m. Pacific time Saturday morning, and I’ll get the carnival posted sometime that day. I know, the pressure’s on. Move, move, move!

As for upcoming carnivals, there is fun ahead this summer. Author Susan Taylor Brown (Hugging the Rock) will host on June 23rd, with a theme just right for Father’s Day: Fathers in Literature. And in July, Jenny Rich of Read Imagine Talk will be our host. Love that blog name: sounds like our way of life.

To explore past kidlitosphere carnivals, visit the archives.

Comments are off

Good News/Bad News for Betsy-Tacy Fans

May 28, 2008 @ 7:38 pm | Filed under: ,

The good:

betsycoverBetsy-Tacy has been reissued in a spiffy new edition. Nice big trim size, appealing to young readers. The beloved Lois Lenski art inside. Quite a beautiful painting on the cover—you may recognize it from the previous edition, which featured the same art peeking through a cutout on the front cover. And a nice bonus: in back is a big chunk of interesting biographical material about Maud Hart Lovelace. My young B-T fans (and their mother) were delighted.

The bad:

This doesn’t necessarily mean the entire series is being reissued. As you may recall from posts last year, many people have lamented the gradual going-out-of-print of this series, which is one of the best children’s serieseses of all time (she says authoritatively). If you’re a fan, now’s the time to show you want books like this in print…I for one will be stockpiling enough copies for my brood.

(P.S. Pardon the lack of wrapped text around the picture above. WordPress is being persnickety with me. Can’t remember the HTML do wrap it manually. Tried float=”left”. Didn’t work, obviously. Too lazy to google it. Too lazy even to capitalize google. Almost too lazy to close my parenthesis here, but…will…muster…the…strength.)

The Secret Life of Scott Peterson, and Other Assorted Nonsense

May 27, 2008 @ 6:52 pm | Filed under:

In the mornings, I am so full of things to write about but don’t have time. At night, I have time but no words. I had about three posts in my head this morning…where they’re hiding now, I couldn’t say.

All right, then, I shall abandon attempts at cohesiveness and simply string sentences together.

Our daily drawing time has been such a lovely part of the day, these past two weeks. We’ve managed it nearly every day except for the weekends and a couple of busy out-of-the-house days. Sometimes the girls paint, sometimes they draw. Jane doesn’t always join us: she is practicing like crazy for the piano guild auditions coming up in a couple of weeks.

I suppose this is fairly obvious, but whenever I say “the girls” I mean my three oldest. Wonderboy and Rilla are joining in drawing time, too. Wonderboy loves the ritual of it: getting out Grandpa’s special picture placemats, distributing drawing paper, passing out the tins of good crayons. He LOVES those block beeswax crayons I bought a zillion years ago. Those things last forever. Rilla loves whatever color you were planning to use next, thank you very much.

Something not going so swimmingly lately: our read-aloud time. This happens from time to time. It’s a kids-of-many-ages rhythm thing, I guess. Sometimes we hit a groove where the little ones are content to bop around while I read; other times, nope. No go. This is one of those times. Beanie and I have been bogged down in the middle of Knight’s Castle for ages, but not because we aren’t enjoying it. We’re loving it, and so is Rose, whose official position at the moment is to prefer NOT to be part of read-alouds, but who inevititably winds up leaning over the back of the couch, drawn in. Shhh. Let’s not call attention to it.

To make up for the fizzled reading-aloud, I’m trying to tell more stories. This is something I used to be very good about, oh, until about five or six years ago. No, wait, four and a half years ago. Wonderboy’s birth was the turning point (a statement that applies to a great many things in our life). I would read folk and fairy tales and practice them in my head in the shower, so that I always had a good story on hand if need or opportunity arose. Boring waits in line, boring waits in doctors’ offices, that sort of thing. Actually this is something I’ve been doing since way before I had kids; I remember telling Scott’s little second cousins some stories at various Peterson family gatherings, and then later it was his nephews and nieces. It figures my own kids (the younger set, at least) would get less of this than assorted friends-and-relations. Shoemaker’s children go barefoot and all that.

So anyway, I’ve been remembering some of the old tales and airing them out now and then. Beanie makes the most enchanting (and enchanted) audience. Rose listens with a quiet smile and then adds funny commentary later. Rilla follows the narrative amazingly well. Wonderboy echoes random phrases—”Horse go fast?”—and then wants to know where Dad is. At work? Yes, Dad’s at work. Where Dad keys? In his pocket. Where Dad pone? Dad’s phone is in his pocket. Where Dad’s wallet? In his pocket. Dad get pizza? Probably. Yes, Dad is probably out somewhere getting pizza at this very moment, with his phone and his keys and his wallet all jingling around in one giant pocket, because we all know that is what he secretly does when he leaves the house all day. Work, schmork. He’s off having pizza.

We’re on to you, buddy.

A Middle Child’s Shattered Dreams

May 27, 2008 @ 6:23 am | Filed under:

At the breakfast table, Beanie heaves a wistful sigh.

“Rats. I’ve dreamed of having a whole box of cereal all to myself, and I thought it was going to come true at last because no one else likes this kind. But then I remembered the baby does.”

Bread and Butter

May 21, 2008 @ 6:54 pm | Filed under: , , , ,

We haven’t baked bread for a really long time (witness my neglected bread blog). Lately the reason is because it’s been too hot. Yesterday our heat wave broke and I had a breadish impulse, and I thought I’d better act on it because it’s bound to get hot again soon and who knows when I’ll feel like baking again. The girls mixed up a batch of dough (Wisteria’s recipe) and I read to them while they kneaded.

Later, after the rising and shaping and second rising, we put the bread in the oven and I had another impulse. Someone blogged recently about making butter—I can’t for the life of me remember who it was. Years ago, summers during college, I had a job as a tour guide at a prairie wildlife refuge where, in addition to 2,000 acres of open prairie full of pronghorn and owls and snakes and prairie dogs, there was a small sod village. Sometimes my job was to give tours to school groups, and in the sod house we always baked johnny cake on the iron stove and churned butter to go with it. We had a jar with a special hand-crank churn blade attached to the lid, and the kids would take turns cranking while I gave my talk and mixed up the johnny cake. When the butter was ready I’d turn it out into a wooden bowl and mash it with a wooden paddle, squeezing out the buttermilk. Even in hot Colorado July weather, the warm johnny cake and sweet, creamy butter was heart-stirringly delicious.

So you’d think with all that buttermaking experience under my belt, not to mention the whole Little House motif threaded through our lives, I’d have made butter with my kids a zillion times. Not so. I think I was spoiled by the fancy churning gadget; I always figured doing it the shake-it-in-a-jar way would take a really really long time and be one of those experiments with a spotty success rate.

But this blog entry I read (my apologies for forgetting where) described it as a simple and sure-fire process that took about 20 minutes. So when I put our bread in the oven to bake, I grabbed a clean spaghetti jar I’d save for rinsing paintbrushes and poured in some heavy cream. Filled it about half full. Called the girls. Commenced a-shaking.

We took turns and everyone was very giggly and excited. Of course we had to pull Little House in the Big Woods off the shelf and read the churning passage there:

At first the splashes of cream showed thick and smooth around the little hole. After a long time, they began to look grainy. Then Ma churned more slowly, and on the dash there began to appear tiny grains of yellow butter. When Ma took off the churn-cover, there was the butter in a golden lump, drowning in the buttermilk.

We couldn’t resist unscrewing the lid every little while to check our progress. At first the cream got very thick, just as Laura described. Our shaking had whipped it, and when we shook the jar we couldn’t hear or feel it sloshing around anymore. Then, about ten minutes later, it began to thin out again, and we felt the sloshing. We peeked inside and it really did look grainy. Another five or six minutes, and it looked lumpy. Right after that it happened to be my turn to shake the jar, and all of a sudden I felt a thunk inside from something solid smacking the lid. We had our butter.

The girls erupted in squeals. We opened the lid and there it was, not golden like Laura had described, but the faintest of pale yellows. I scooped it into a bowl, and Rose and Beanie took tastes of the buttermilk. They liked it. I mashed the soft butter to get out the rest of the liquid. Ma washed hers in cold water, but I didn’t bother doing that. I mixed in a little salt, and the timer beeped on our bread, and we couldn’t bear to wait for the bread to cool. Thick slices, slathered in butter; a blissful hush in the kitchen. Mmmm.

You are not to be impressed with my industrious domesticity on this day because 1) if such a state occurs in this house, it is a passing fluke; and 2) it turns out making butter is incredibly easy. Come to think of it, it was easier than, say, loading all the kids into the minivan and running to the grocery store to buy butter would have been. You know how those grocery-store runs can reduce me to a frazzled wreck.

I have since poked around a little online and it seems baby-food jars make excellent mini-churns. Just remember to only fill the jar half full, leaving plenty of sloshing room. And I wouldn’t give each kid his own jar because your arms do get really tired and it’s good to be able to pass off to the next shaker down the line. It sounds like it only takes ten or eleven minutes to go from cream to butter in a small jar like that. Ours took about 24 minutes, which I only know because the bread timer was set for 25. From (I’m guessing) 6 ounces of cream, we got about half a cup of butter, maybe 2/3 cup.

Oh, a last note about the bread—we did NOT use my fancy mixer with the dough hook because the children object to the way it usurps their favorite thing about breadmaking: kneading. In retrospect I realize that’s one reason we cooled off on breadmaking after our wildly enthusiastic beginning. My co-bakers drifted away because the machine killed the fun. So yesterday, I just set a mixing bowl and the six simple ingredients on the table, and the kids went to town. Yeast, water, flour, honey, salt, melted butter. They can mix this dough all by themselves. I gave each of them her own cutting board (nothing fancy; two of them were plastic, and one of those was quite small, but Beanie asked for it because she wanted to make a small loaf for herself) and divided the dough into three lumps. It’s better if they don’t have to take turns for the fun part. We stuck it all back together for the first rising. The kitchen table works better for kneading than the counters, because they can get above the dough and push down. This is stuff I figured out as we went yesterday, but it’s the kind of fiddly logistical stuff that can make or break an experience for us, and I share it under the assumption I’m not the only mom for whom that’s true.

Drawing Together

May 21, 2008 @ 7:42 am | Filed under: ,

After lunch both Monday and yesterday, I cleared the table and brought out a stack of drawing paper and our best crayons, and something magical happened. This was a notion inspired by a passage in Amanda Soule’s book, The Creative Family, about how in her home they have a regular “family drawing time.” That made me realize it had been a long, long time since the girls and I all sat down to draw together. We used to do this regularly, but you know: babies come along and the household rhythm changes.

I remember long, long ago on the CCM list, Leonie wrote about how whenever she would sit down with her watercolor pencils and nature journal, her boys would flock to the table clamoring for their own journals. There was no better, faster way to get her kids interested in an activity than in doing it herself. I had tiny little girls then, and I took Leonie’s wisdom to heart. If I draw it/knit it/bake it/sculpt it, they will come. Far better than saying “Why don’t you…(do this cool activity)” is simply to become engaged in it myself. It’s like strewing your own self.

So I sat down at the table and whoosh, I was a child magnet. For the next hour, all five kids were happily drawing pictures with me. No bickering, not even over the blue block crayon that makes the best sky! Amazing. We put on the Elgar cello concerto and Rose decreed that the perfect music to draw to. I didn’t know what to draw, so I (clumsily) illustrated a scene from a story we’d read before lunch. They really liked my depiction of the wind tangled in a treetop (from Medio Pollito, the Half Chick). Beanie started to draw a fox and decided it looked like a cave painting, so she embellished with a deer and a python and torches on the cave walls. Rose drew a rose-covered garden gate, so lovely, and Jane’s snail among flowers was quite charming. Wonderboy and Rilla filled up pages of scribbles.

Yesterday they all (save Jane, who saw a chance to slip away with the new Penderwicks book, and who can blame her?) wanted a repeat performance. “We should do this every day,” declared Rose. I quite agree.