Posts Tagged ‘The Gammage Cup’

Late August

August 23, 2011 @ 8:23 am | Filed under:

I worked for hours in the garden this weekend, weeding and pruning, battling the dreadful August crisping. The blossom-tumbled flowerbed that is the envy of Easterners in January, when my cape honeysuckle goes on a spree and tomatoes spring up Phoenix-like from the ashes of the blistering autumn, is right now a dry, crackling place. I cut back all the dead growth and removed a few of the spent sunflowers. There’s nothing sorrier-looking than a dying sunflower, hunched over, staring gloomily at the ground. But those mournful flowerheads are loaded with ripening seeds, and the goldfinches are waiting…so my garden remains shadowed by these faded giants who stared too long into the flaming sun.

That all sounds very bleak, but actually things are looking much better out there after my ruthlessness over the weekend. Almost nothing’s in bloom, except the cheerful moss roses, but I discovered a vigorous melon vine hiding under the weedy mass of out-of-season primrose. No cantelope blossoms yet, but here’s hoping…

Other thriving things:

* Beanie started reading The Gammage Cup yesterday and says it’s the best book she has read in a long time. (Update: by the time I posted this, she’d finished it and moved on to The Whisper of Glocken.)

* We’re having “Moon Week” for Rilla this week. Spent a long while yesterday looking at moon apps on the iPod, talking about waxing and waning and gibbous and crescent moons. Scott is hunting all over for our copy of Owl Moon—it was right there on the shelf in the boys’ room last week. He did find When Moon Fell Down, a book we adore, and I think I know where The Moon Jumpers is. And on Huck’s favorite DVD, a Scholastic Storybook Treasures collection, appropriately, called I’m Dirty (the title story’s about a garbage truck), there’s a story called Stars! Stars! Stars! by Bob Barner, a lovely picture book (rendered with some gentle animation on this DVD) that has caught the imagination of both Huck and Rilla.

(Those are Amazon links but not affiliate links. I know I should link to IndieBound instead but I don’t feel like extra clicking this morning. But please do support your local independent bookstores.) 🙂

(About those Scholastic Storybook Treasures collections: Scholastic sent me a bunch of them to review, and I have to say they completely won me over, despite my longstanding resistance to books-on-DVD. I always think: why have a kid watch a book instead of reading it to him? But these are beautifully done. Think Reading Rainbow instead of animated storybook. The animation is slight—the art is the exact spreads from the original picture books with a little bit of movement added: the garbage truck rolls down the street, the shooting star streams across space. You can toggle the text on and off; I leave it on to help my emergent reader. I love the selection of stories—I’ll have to do a separate post about all the collections they sent me. I realized this is not much different that the book-and-cassette-tape sets I used to check out from the library for my older girls, but with much much better production values. And I sort of love that my littles are listening to stories I haven’t had a chance to read them yet.)

* Wonderboy started back to school last Wednesday. Same little class, same teachers. He’s enjoying. We’re adjusting. He had an audiology appointment yesterday and despite some serious wax occlusion he tested at very high comprehension levels in the hearing test: with the new hearing aids, he’s catching 77% of quiet speech and 86% of normal conversational speech. That’s huge. He was hearing barely over 50% with the old aids. This is very big.

* Jane enjoyed her summer course in C++ through Giant Campus Academy and has enrolled in their Computer Science class this fall. Starts next week. And she had a great week in Virginia. We are glad to have her back. 🙂

* Rose got Pokemon Soul Silver for her birthday last week, and she and Beanie and Rilla have been drawing and cutting out Pokemon paper dolls and making incredible collage backgrounds for them. I’m in awe, constantly.

* I’m struggling with Ragnarok. All those brawny, brainy gods are besting me. I took a break from reading over the weekend (and from blogging and social media as well) and spent some time slaughtering orcs in World of Warcraft instead. Sometimes there’s nothing that boosts the spirits more than battling orcs.

Booknotes: The Gammage Cup

May 26, 2010 @ 6:30 am | Filed under:

Attempting to catch up on notes about things I’ve recently read and enjoyed…

Of all the curiosities that had been pitched out of Fooley’s balloon, the painting was the only one to fall into the Watercress River. When it had been fished out, nobody knew what it was, but fortunately Fooley had listed in his book the names of the curiosities, and when everthing else was checked off—like the family tree, the poem, the hourglass—it was obvious that the remaining item was a painting. The bath in the Watercress had done it no good. Though the colors of the squares, triangles, circles, and shields were clear enough, and the interconnecting black lines intact, the piece of parchment looked as though inky fingers had daubed it. But daubs or no daubs, the Periods (and therefore the ordinary villagers) adopted the painting for their own. Ever since Fooley’s time, a painting was a pattern of colored shaped connected by black lines, following the classical example.

The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall. Kendall is one of those writers whose voice I just plain enjoy. She’s a quirky storyteller with a taste for misfits. This novel is about the Minnipins, a tradition-loving people who live in small villages in an isolated mountain valley. Their distant ancestors settled here after escaping from terrible enemies about whom little is known, now, except their names: The Mushrooms. A few centuries ago, one of the Minnipins journeyed over the mountains and back via hot air balloon. Most of Fooley’s souvenirs—and memories—were scattered when he crash-landed back at home, but the remaining fragments have been carefully enshrined in a village museum and in the customs of his descendants. (You can tell them apart from the rest of the villagers by their names, which are taken from a scrap of paper that survived the crash and is now presumed to be a list of the friends Fooley made on his journey: Ave., Co., Wm., Eng., etc. “The Periods,” as these folk are reverently called, run the village.)

Folks in the village like things to be done just so, and they have little tolerance for eccentrics like Gummy the poet or lively Curley Green, who recklessly paints images of things from real life, in disregard of the proper classical style. (My kids love Kendall’s work, but her character names drive them up a wall.) When Muggles, the reluctant heroine, and her misfit friends begin to suspect the terrible Mushrooms are preparing for another attack, they have to persuade the rest of the villagers that the danger is real. Instead, they get kicked out of the village.

This is a fun read, somewhat formulaic but Kendall’s unusual voice makes the formula feel new. Beneath the storybook action is a quiet exploration of intellectual honesty; the villagers—especially The Periods—tend to do things just because that’s the way they’ve always been done, without pondering the origins of the customs. Muggles, though fearful of the social consequences of coloring outside the lines, can’t help but ask questions.

There’s a sequel, The Whisper of Glocken, which Rose and Jane have beat me to. They enjoyed it.

The cover of the current paperback edition is perfectly dreadful. I tried not to look at it too much.

Here’s my old post about Kendall’s wonderful The Firelings, which also takes a look at the relationship between custom and reason.