December 29, 2007

Saturday Review of Books Challenge



Saturday Review of Books Challenge


Completed - at the last minute - but completed!

The Titles:

Five Children and It by E Nesbit (Completed 7/27/2007)

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale/The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Competed 11/10/2007)

A Seed is Sleepy/An Egg is Quiet by Diana Aston (Completed 12/21/2007)

Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems by Joyce Sidman (Completed 12/27/2007)

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman (Completed 12/26/2007)

A Drowned Maiden's Hair by Laura Amy Schiltz (Completed 11/27/2007)

In My Book . . . A resolution to be remade yet again should be no more procrastination!!!

Saturday Review of Books Challenge - Book 6



Good Intentions!

Procrastination!
Identification!

I completely identify with the students who come to me frantic for the condensed version or the shortest book on the approved list for their book report which is due in four days! Of course, the condensed version or the shortest book has already been checked out by their fellow students who also don’t want to read anything without a picture on every other page or has more than 100 pages. But I love them anyway and convince them that they really can finish their assignment. In that vein and to prove to them that they can accomplish that goal, I confess my procrastination and finish my challenge in four days!

I am substituting a title that is on the list of Saturday Review of Books but that is not on my list of choices for the Challenge. I did not obtain The Goose Girl in time - note my identification with students; however, in my favor I did not choose to substitute The Penderwicks or A Wrinkle in Time both of which are on the approved list and for which I have already done reviews.

I am choosing as my replacement The Hound of the Baskervilles which I promise I had not read until this fall. Yes, I read many books during the fall - just not my assignment - again note my identification with students. I read Hound just after my completion of A Drowned Maiden’s Hair; and if you read that review, you will notice my mention of Arthur Conan Doyle. I have read many, many of Sherlock Holmes' cases and have watched many, many cinematic versions of The Hound. As an aside, in my opinion Jeremy Brett is the Sherlock!

The Hound of the Baskervilles
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle



I feel completely inadequate to review this book. What more can be said about the incomparable Sherlock Holmes? All I can say is I loved it. The mystery genre is my genre of choice. I am happiest with a good mystery in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. My favorite authors cannot write fast enough to please me. Many literary scholars credit Poe with developing the detective novel. But along with many others, I think that Sherlock is the epitome of the Great Detective.

'The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes. Where do you think that I have been?'

'A fixture also.'

'On the contrary, I have been to Devonshire.'

'In spirit?'

'Exactly. My body has remained in this armchair and has, I regret to observe, consumed in my absence two large pots of coffee and an incredible amount of tobacco. After you left I sent down to Stamfords for the Ordnance map of this portion of the moor, and my spirit has hovered over it all day. I flatter myself that i could find my way about.'
'We are coming now rather into the region of guesswork,' said Dr. Mortimer.

'Say rather, into the region where we balance probabilities and choose the most likely. It is the scientific use of the imagination, but we have always some material basis on which to start our speculation.'

The more outre and grotesque an incident is the more carefully it deserves to be examined, and the very point which appears to complicate a case is, when duly considered and scientifically handled, the one which is most likely to elucidate it.'

Doyle takes the reader to a place where it is perfectly logical that a mystical beast could exist.
'I say, Watson,' said the baronet, 'what would Holmes say to this? How about that hour of darkness in which the power of evil is exalted?'

As if in answer to his words there rose suddenly out of the vast gloom of the moor that strange cry which I had already heard upon the borders of the great Grimpen Mire. It came with the wind through the silence of the night, a long, deep mutter, then a rising howl, and then the sad moan in which it dies away. Again and again it sounded, the whole air throbbing with it, strident, wild, and menacing. The baronet caught my sleeve and his face glimmered white through the darkness.
And then, as always, Holmes gets his man!

In my book . . . What could be better on a cold winter night that to curl up with a book that takes one to foggy London town and hear “The game is afoot.”?


December 28, 2007

Poetry Friday and Saturday Review of Books Challenge - Book 5

"Diving Beetle's
food-Sharing Rules"
Any type of larva is mine,
as well as all tadpoles, minnows, and newts.
Sticklebacks, caddis flies, spiders,
and small frogs of any kind - mine.
Snails, eggs, and bugs - all mine.
In short,
if it moves, it is mine.
It it's anywhere near me, it is mine.
If I'm hungry (and I'm always hungry),
it is mine, mine, mine.

And if, by chance, I choose
to crawl up yonder smartweed,
bask for a bit,
open my armored wings,
and fly about my kingdom
(within which everything is mine),
do not forget what is mine.
For if I return
and you have taken it,
YOU
are mine.
from Song of the Water Boatman & Other Pond Poems
poems by Joyce Sidman
illustrated by Beckie Prange



This is a wondrous book - every entry more special than the last, every page more beautiful than the last. It was a Caldecott Honor Book for good reason. It is informative, entertaining, entrancing. A young reader would never realize that she was learning at the same time as she was reading or hearing these amazing poems.

What youngster doesn’t love a cumulative poem?

concluding stanza of “In the Depths of the Summer Pond”
Here hunts the heron, queen of the pond,
that spears the fish
that swallows the frog
that gulps the bug
that nabs the nymph
that drinks the flea
that eats the algae, green and small,
in the depths of the summer pond.

Word Joy!

My young library visitors love Melinda Long’s How I Became A Pirate so I think that their favorite song would be the title poem.

concluding stanza of “Song of the Water Boatman
and Backswimmer’s Refrain”
I guess by now, it’s clear to see
the boatman’s life is the life for me;
among the weeds I’ll always be
. . . on a sunny summer’s morning.
Yo, ho, ho,
the pond winds blow;
the backswimmer’s life is the life I know!
In My Book . . . Sidman’s extraordinary book reminds me of Paul Fleischman’s Newbery Award winning Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices - a favorite at my house with my once-upon-a-time young son - irresistible!


December 27, 2007

Saturday Review of Books Challenge - Book 4




The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish

by Neil Gaiman

This is my first title by Neil Gaiman; and because I have read so many good reviews of his books, I was surprised that I really did not like this one. The idea based on a real incident with his own son is an interesting one. But I thought that the idea was stretched a little too far - a few too many swaps. In addition, the illustrations in places caused the text to be almost indecipherable.

Of course, as I mentioned in my previous post of A Seed Is Sleepy/An Egg Is Quiet, I am looking at these books from the point of view of an elementary librarian and from my interactions with one elementary school. The students that I see would find the illustrations very strange and would think that the book takes ultimately too long to reach its point that the dad was oblivious to the events surrounding him.

I did enjoy the brother/sister interaction. They acted like typical brothers/sisters - always trying to get each other in trouble. But I really liked Gaiman’s choice to have the mother think that the sister was talking with her mouth full, and this is one time that illustrator Dave McKean really succeeded!

In my book . . . This title works best with adults - an adult picture book if you will.


December 26, 2007

Saturday Review of Books Challenge - Book 3


A Seed is Sleepy
An Egg Is Quiet

Both titles are
Written By Dianna Aston
And
Illustrated by Sylvia Long


These books are truly amazing - at least the illustrations. The illustrations are magnificent, magical, mystical. And they overshadow anything that accompanies them.

I had known that the books would be beautiful. One only has to look at their covers on any book purchasing site to know that they are beautiful. However, as an elementary librarian, I had hoped that they would also be amazing as read alouds to first and second graders; and I have doubts that they would be successful for this purpose. The illustrations while striking would not hold the attention of restless young library visitors for very long, and the text though written in elegant calligraphy is simply not that attention grabbing. I do believe that these books would work very well as one on one storytime reads. A one-on-one reading or a teacher read illustration for a classroom curricululm unit would allow the explanation of some of the language and facilitate the understanding of how many of the fascinating plants and creatures included in these books come to be.

A seed is sleepy.
It lies there tucked inside its flower,
on its cone, or beneath the soil. Snug. Still.

(a lyrical beginning - a sunflower deluge)

A seed is sleepy.
but only until it has found
a place in the sun
and it has had its breakfast
and a drink of water.
Then a seed is . . .
awake!

(a bold end - a sunflower delight)


An egg is quiet
It sits there, under its
mother’s
feathers . . .
On top of its
father’s
feet . . .
buried beneath
the sand.
Warm. Cozy.

(shimmering hummingbird . . . stately penguin . . . sea faring turtle)

An egg is quiet. Then, suddenly . . .
An egg is noisy!

(crunching caterpillars . . . cheeping ducklings)
I was especially fascinated by the two page spreads in the front and at the back of each book. Thirty-seven seeds become thirty-seven plants. Fifty-nine eggs become fifty-nine creatures. Gorgeous idea! However, speaking strictly as an elementary librarian, I think that young readers would be frustrated by these pages because the plants and creatures do not correspond in placement on the page to the seeds and eggs. Speaking as an adult reader, I an entranced.

In my book . . . These incredibly beautiful books visually function best as picture books. They are stunning to look at. They do contain some interesting facts. For example, the seed of an extinct date palm was successfully sprouted; and a cassowarie has a rough surfaced egg. Share these books one on one or with a classroom eager to know that a seed and an egg function very similarly to nurture the life that is within them.

December 24, 2007

Poetry For Christmas Eve

English Nursery Rhyme
Christmas is a-coming.
The goose is getting fat,
Please to put a penny
In an old man’s hat.
If you haven’t got a penny,
A ha’penny will do.
If you haven’t got a ha’penny,
God bless you!
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s:
I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Longfellow wrote this poem on Christmas day in 1864 during the American Civil War. It inspired the carol sung today.

Speaking of bells - - -
Stanza 1 of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Bells”
Hear the sledges with the bells -
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the Heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells -
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
“A Christmas Carol”
by Christina Rossetti
In The bleak
mid-winter
Frosty winds made
moan,
Earth stood hard as
iron.
Water like a stone
Snow had fallen,
snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak
mid-winter,
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven
cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth
shall flee away
When he comes to
reign:
In the bleak
mid-winter
A stable place
sufficed
The Lord God
Almighty
Jesus Christ.

In my book . . . Christmas is a time for the heavens to twinkle with a crystalline delight and bells to carol wild and sweet words of peace.
For to us a child is born,
To us a son is given,
And the government will be on
His shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty
God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of
Peace.
Of the increase of his government
And peace

There will no end.
Isaiah 9: 6-7

December 7, 2007

Poetry Friday - Passing Away

This day is a national day of remembrance for those who gave their lives for our country, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked and the United States officially engaged in war - World War II.

It is also a day of remembrance for my family. We lost a dear member of our little group this week.

a poem by Emily Dickinson
Because I could not stop for Death -
He kindly stopped for me -
The Carriage held but just Ourselves -
And Immortality.

We slowly drove - He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too
For His Civility -

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess - in the Ring -
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain -
We passed the Setting Sun -

Or rather - He passed Us -
The Dews drew quivering and chill -
For only Gossamer, my Gown -
My Tippet - only Tulle -

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground -
The Roof was scarcely visible -
The Cornice - in the Ground -

Since then - ’tis Centuries - and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads

Were toward Eternity -
a poem by Emily Bronte

"No Coward Soul Is Mine"
No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heaven’s glories shine,
And Faith shines equal, arming me from Fear.

O God within my breast,
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life, that in me has rest,
As I, undying Life, have power in Thee!

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men’s hearts: unutterably vain:
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thy infinity,
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality.

With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years.
Pervades and broods above.
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears.

Though earth and moon were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And thou wert life alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.

There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou-Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.
In My Book . . . Ecclesiastes still has the last word. There is a time
to be born and a time to die,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time
to dance,

November 23, 2007

Poetry Friday - Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day brought a new experience for me this year, one which inspired the continuation of my thoughts about time and personal introspection.

A Thanksgiving time of year remembrance by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

"The Harvest Moon"
It is the Harvest Moon! On gilded vanes
And roofs of villages, on woodland crests
And their aerial neighborhoods of nests
Deserted, on the curtained window-panes
Of rooms where children sleep, on country lanes
And harvest-fields, its mystic splendor rests!
Gone are the birds that were our summer guests,
With the last sheaves return the laboring wains!
All things are symbols: the external shows
Of Nature have their image in the mind,
As flowers and fruits and falling of the leaves;
The song-birds leave us at the summer’s close,
Only the empty nests are left behind,
And pipings of the quail among the sheaves.
You know that I have to get back to my dictionary obsession every once in a while, and today is the day. The etymology of thanks according to my trusty dictionary states that is derived from Old English from Old High German from the Latin word for to know. Now that is interesting. A search of to know led to thought which led to think which among its definitions is to reflect or ponder, to weigh in the mind which brings me back to my thoughts about time. As Longfellow said:
All things are symbols: The external shows
Of Nature have their image in the mind
In my book . . . I have to remember my posting on time:
There is a time for everything . .
A time to throw away, a time to tear down, and a time to weep

but conversely
there is time to keep, a time to build,
and
most importantly
a time to laugh!

To prevent becoming completely maudlin, a beloved memory
Five fat turkeys are we.
We slept all night in a tree.
When the cook came around,
We couldn’t be found.
That’s why we’re here you see!
This is from memory, so I am sure that it is only a paraphrase; but it was a favorite of my once upon a time kindergarten aged son and so brings about a time to laugh!

November 14, 2007

Saturday Review of Books Challenge - Book 2

The posting about time last Friday was really in reference to today‘s. Time seems to be a real problem for me. I always think that I have plenty of it! At any rate, I realize that I have drifted far away from the stated purpose of this blog - to offer my opinion about books. Most of my posts seem to be about poetry! Now, I love poems; but I am determined to get back to books!

A Drowned Maiden’s Hair: A Melodrama
by Laura Amy Schlitz
2006 Cybils Award for Middle Grade Fiction



On the morning of the best day of her life, Maud Flynn was locked in the outhouse, singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
So begins a wondrous book. I was fully expecting not to enjoy this title. I chose it as part of the reading challenge in which I am participating, but for some reason everything that I had read about it did not seem appealing. So why did I pick it? I don’t know. But I am glad I did. It covers subjects that have long fascinated me.

Eleven year old Maud Mary Flynn is an orphan housed at the Barbary Asylum for Female Orphans. She is small for her age and not considered pretty - that is she doesn’t have blond curls and a sweet face. She is intelligent, rebellious, stubborn, unaccommodating, bitter and not afraid to show or state her opinions. The asylum lives up to its name - Barbary for barbarous.


Then one glorious day, against all odds, Maud is adopted! The elderly Hawthorne sisters come to the orphanage to adopt a little girl; and Hyacinth Hawthorne, after hearing Maud sing in the outhouse, chooses Maud. Maud is given wonderful clothes, wonderful food, and access to wonderful books. But, when she reaches the Hawthorne house, she learns that she is to be a hidden child. No one other than the sisters and their deaf mute servant would know of her existence. She is to remain inside the house unseen and unheard by neighbors or passers by.
'Maudy, do you remember what you said earlier today - about how you would do whatever we asked of you? . . . Do you like secrets, Maud?’ . . . Hyacinth lowered her voice mysteriously. ‘You see, Maud, Judith and I have a secret. If you were to go to school, that secret might come out. In a little while, once we are sure of you, we will tell you everything, but first we have to make sure we can trust you. Later on, we’ll ask you to help us with our work.’
Their work is spiritualism. Spiritualism is a religious movement prominent from the 1860’s through the 1920’s. It is a movement that began in the United States growing out of a discontent with established churches that did little to combat slavery or to advance the cause of women’s rights. Women were particularly drawn to spiritualism because this was one area that gave them important roles and made it permissible for them to speak authoritatively before mixed public audiences. The basic premise of spiritualism is exactly what its name implies - the belief that communication with the spirits of the dead is possible. The amazing Houdini exposed many spiritualists as frauds. The beloved creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was an ardent believer. In a pre-technological time, audiences were entranced by supposedly disembodied voices, swinging chandeliers, rocking tables, and floating ghostly figures.

As you can imagine, fraud was rampant. And among the frauds were Judith and Hyacinth Hawthorne. A third Hawthorne sister, Victoria, believed in spiritualism but refused to participate in the work of her sisters. Maud, a small child with a beautiful voice who could easily be hidden under a table and who was trained to move silently, was groomed to be their source of voices, moving objects, and ghostly figures as they posed as Spiritualists for financial gain.

Hyacinth’s target for financial security was the wealthy widow Eleanor Lambert whose daughter Caroline had drowned. Caroline died after a quarrel with her mother who was now desperate to know that her daughter could forgive her. Maud was to convince Mrs. Lambert that this was so. Of course, Caroline supposedly had been an angelic blond child; and Maud was dark haired and certainly not angelic. How she is transformed to mimic Caroline is a fascinating tale. But most fascinating is the parallel tale of the real Maud’s relationship with Eleanor Lambert and surprisingly with Caroline.

The sub title of this novel is A Melodrama which is defined by my trusty dictionary as a work characterized by extravagant theatricality and the predominance of plot and physical action over characterization. The emotional reaction of the audience is stressed. Melodramas have stock characters: the hero, the villain, the damsel in distress. And above all, they have a happy ending. The happy ending of A Drowned Maiden’s Hair is a long time coming but well worth the wait.

In My Book . . . A Drowned Maiden’s Hair: A Melodrama is a complex mystery, a compelling drama, and a clever morality tale - crime doesn’t pay; but good things can come out a bad situation.

Side Note: One of my favorite bloggers always comments on the covers of the books she reviews. The cover of A Drowned Maiden’s Hair is suitably mysterious - dark and brooding with the hint of a ghost whose image contains a hint concerning one of the book’s surprises. But Maud’s feet bother me. They are very strange feet!

November 9, 2007

Poetry Friday - Time

There are many axioms about time. Time flies when you’re having fun. The older you get, the faster time goes.

The older I get, I realize that what my mother always said is true - especially about time going faster, the older you get!

Kate Greenaway’s

“When You and I Grow Up”
When you and I
Grow up - Polly -
I mean that you and me,
Shall go sailing in a big ship

Right over all the sea.
We’ll wait till we are older,
For if we went to-day,
You know that we might lose ourselves,
And never find the way.
Ecclesiastes has the final word on time.
There is a time for everything.
and a season for every activity
under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to
uproot;
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to
build
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to
dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time
to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to
refrain,
a time to search and a time to give
up,
a time to keep and a time to throw
away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to
speak
a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

In my book . . . Following the proverbial wisdom of Ecclesiastes will prevent the possibility
that we might lose ourselves,
And never find the way.

November 2, 2007

Poetry Friday - Poe

This week traditionally marks a time of change - at least for me, a month after the autumnal equinox , the week of All Hallow’s Eve - a perfect week for the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe has always been a favorite of mine. For one thing, my favorite genre is the mystery; and Poe is credited as one the first authors of detective/crime fiction; and Poe’s life itself was a mystery.

I love Poe’s best known poems:
The exquisite "The Raven"
the tintinabulation (word joy!) of "The Bells".

Poe believed that the purpose of a poem was it’s effect on the audience, it’s ability to elevate the soul. This is very close to the definition Emily Dickinson gave to poetry:
If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can every warm me, I know it is poetry.
From Modern American Poetry
Edited by Louis Untermeyer

Winter is in the air. Of course, the temperature here in the South doesn’t register winter; but some leaves are turning brown; and acorns are being gathered by the squirrels. In the cycle of life, winter is a time of death and sleep - perfect for Poe’s:

"The Conqueror Worm"

Lo! ‘tis a gala night
Within the lonesome latter years -
A mystic throng, bewinged, bedight
In veils and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre to see
A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.

Mimes, in the form of God on high,
Mutter and mumble low,
And hither and thither fly -
Mere puppets they, who come and go
At bidding of vast shadowy things
That shift the scenery to and fro,
Flapping from out their Condor wings
Invisible Wo!

That motley drama - oh, be sure

It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased forevermore,
By a crowd that seize it not,
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot,
And much of Madness and more of Sin,
And Horror the soul of the plot.

But see, amid the mimic rout,
A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes! - it writhes! - with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food,
And the angels sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued!

Out - out are the lights - out all!
And, over each dying form,
The curtain, a funeral pall,
Comes down with the rush of a storm,
And the seraphs, all haggard and wan,
Uprising, Unveiling, Affirm
That the play is the tragedy “Man,”
Its hero the conqueror Worm.

From Edgar Allan Poe: The Raven and Other Poems
Selected and Introduced by Richard Kopley

In my book . . .
I’m cold!

October 26, 2007

Poetry Friday - Germs

After a weekend of introspection, I had a week of “no spection” - meaning muddled thinking. I was attacked by a germ.

I have mentioned my love of dictionaries. Well, I couldn’t help looking up the definition of the word introspection again which led me to musing which led to germ - I promise it does!

Ogden Nash’s
“The Germ”

A mighty creature is the germ,
Though smaller than the pachyderm.
His customary dwelling place
Is deep within the human race.
His childish pride he often pleases
By giving people strange diseases.
Do you, my popet, feel infirm?
You probably contain a germ.

Germ has many meanings, of course. It can mean a minute life form, especially a disease causing bacterium. It can mean a small electronic listening device - a bug. By the way, part of the etymology of introspection is specere - to look - which leads to spy. And we know that spies are very fond of bugs! But one of the meanings of germ is something that may serve as a basis of further growth or development: the germ of a project.

In my book . . . I can only hope that my "muddled thinking" causing germ will soon give way to that one which allows developing a real project!

Side note I: Definitions were taken from The Free Dictionary (Online) and Merriam-Webster Online.

Side note II: Last week some 6th grade boys actually asked me about dictionaries. I was thrilled! As I have said, and as you can see by my last two blog entries, I love dictionaries!

October 19, 2007

Poetry Friday - Introspection

In honor of a weekend for introspection:
I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us - don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog,
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!
By Emily Dickinson
From
I'm Nobody! Who are You?: Poems of Emily Dickinson for Children

"Nobody"
Nobody loves me,
Nobody cares,
Nobody picks me peaches and pears.
Nobody offers me candy and Cokes,
Nobody listens and laughs at my jokes.
Nobody helps when I get in a fight,
Nobody does all my homework at night.
Nobody misses me,
Nobody cries,
Nobody thinks I'm a wonderful guy.
So if you ask me who's my best friend, in a whiz,
I'll stand up and tell you the Nobody is.
But yesterday night I got quite a scare,
I woke up and Nobody just wasn't there.
I called out and reached out for Nobody's hand,
In the darkness where Nobody usually stands.
Then I poked through the house, in each cranny and nook,

But I found somebody each place that I looked.
I searched till I'm tired, and now with the dawn,
There's no doubt about it -
Nobody's gone!
from A Light In the Attic
by Shel Silverstein

My trusty dictionary defines introspection as self-examination, given to private thought, contemplative. A study of contemplative leads to pensive defined as deep thoughtfulness suggesting melancholy thoughtfulness. And melancholy means sadness or depression of the spirits, gloom.

In my book . . . sometimes I have to remember another of Silverstein's poems - "There's a light on in the attic. . . And I know you're on the inside . . . lookin' out."


October 15, 2007

Poetry Friday (On Monday) - Fall Break

Another Poetry Friday Monday

My school had fall break over the weekend. The students had no school Friday or today - a four day weekend. However, faculty had “staff development” today with a very interesting topic but still not a four day weekend!

In honor of school breaks:
Charles Ghigna’s
“School Daze”
From algebra to English class,
I've lost my mind, I swear;
One teacher says that pie is round,
The other - pie are square!
From A Fury of Motion: Poems for Boys

My trusty dictionary tells me that daze means to stun, to stupefy
and stupefy means to amaze, astonish

In my book . . . I am astonished that the first 9 weeks term has gone by so fast! Bring on the pie!

October 5, 2007

Poetry Friday - Stars

In honor of stars - as in reaching for!

Sara Teasdale's
"The Falling Star"

I saw a star slide down the sky,
Blinding the north as it went by,
Too burning and too quick to hold,
Too lovely to be bought or sold,
Good only to make wishes on
And then forever to be gone.

And . . .

Sara Teasdale's
"Night"

Stars over snow,
And in the west a planet
Swinging below a star -
Look for a lovely thing and you will find it,
It is not far -
It never will be far.

Poems from
All The Silver Pennies
Edited by Blanche Jennings Thompson

In my book . . . what we wish for might be soon and forever be gone - reach for those stars!
"Look for the lovely" . . . It never will be far."

There's nothing half so real in life as the things you've done . . . inexorably, unalterably done.
Sara Teasdale

October 4, 2007

October Skies

October Skies

Today is the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, a basketball sized satellite weighing 183 pounds. October 4, 1957 changed the world. The Space Age began.

I remember lying in front of our black and white television as John Glenn and others paved the way for Neil Armstrong to walk on the moon - on the moon!
I watched as a tiny silver spec called Telstar (look it up) orbited over my house and dreamed of being in space. I think I still would go given the chance!

One of my son’s first words was astronaut; and as a result, we spent many, many days exploring the Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama. He went to Space Camp. I went to Camp Marriot with a suitcase full of books - really! Star Wars, Star Trek, Star Gate are all favorites at my house.

A favorite book is Rocket Boys: A Memoir by Homer H. Hickam, Jr.


Hickam was a NASA engineer at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. His memoir recalls how his life changed with the launch of Sputnik. He was fourteen years old in October 1957 when Sputnik orbited over his Coalwood, West Virginia home. His hero became Wernher von Braun. He and his friends became the Rocket Boys designing, building, experimenting with whatever materials they had, teaching themselves physics, mathematics, and engineering in order to build and fly model rockets. Their efforts led to Hickam’s winning the Gold and Silver Award at the 1960 National Science Fair for “A Study of Amateur Rocketry Techniques”.

One of [the judges] was a young man who spoke in a Germanic accent. I was flabbergasted when he said he was on von Braun’s team. “You mean you actually know Wernher von Braun?” I gasped. I couldn’t imagine that. It was like being interviewed by St. Paul or somebody out of the Bible.

The young man turned and said, “You know Dr. von Braun’s here today, don’t you?”

I sat off in search of the great man himself.

Hickam never met von Braun. When he returned to his area of the Science Fair, he found that he had been awarded the gold and silver medal and that von Braun had seen his exhibit, picked up one of the rocket parts on display.

Hickam might not have met his hero, but he continued in the work his hero helped begin in Huntsville. And, in 1997 one of the Rocket Boys’ rocket nozzles was launched into space aboard space shuttle Columbia.

In my book . . . Always reach for a star - whatever and wherever it might be.

As always, there is much about A Memoir for a librarian to love:

I [Hickam] loved to read, probably the result of the unique education I received from the Coalwood School teachers known as the Great Six,” a corruption of the phrase “grades one through six.”

When I was in the fourth grade, I started going upstairs to the junior high school library to check out the Black Stallion series. There, I also discovered Jules Verne. I fell in love with his books, filled as they were with not only great adventures but scientists and engineers who considered the acquisition of knowledge to be the greatest pursuit of mankind.


September 28, 2007

Poetry Friday - Tigers

Yahoo News continually amazes me. I am not a big fan of wading through masses of newsprint; so I sometimes click on Yahoo’s access points and follow where they lead, thus tigers.

“Tigers rediscovered in Indian rainforests” caught my eye. In early September it was reported that, perhaps miraculously, at least 20 tigers were detected in a rainforest of western India - a place where all tigers were reportedly killed by poachers.

O course I accept the fact that humans have to come first in survival, but I have great hope that a means can be found that allows humans and God’s other creatures to coexist - no more extinctions.

In honor of tigers:

The Tyger
by William Blake
from The Norton Anthology of English Literature
Fourth Edition

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning braight
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

In my book . . . a beautiful balance has been restored.

September 24, 2007

Poetry Friday (On Monday) - Autumn

Again - Poetry Friday on Monday

Autumn at last. September 23 marked the autumnal equinox - fun words to say! And words that give hope for a cooler temperature in south Mississippi!

Using my favorite reference book, the dictionary, I find that autumn means a period of maturity. Maturity means a state of ripeness, and ripeness means fully prepared to something. So . . . Those of us who can be described as mature in age are just now fully prepared to do something - maybe something great!

In honor of Autumn:

Gathering Leaves
by Robert Frost

Spades take up leaves
No better than spoons.
And bags full of leaves
Are light as balloons.

I make a great noise
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.

But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace.
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.

I may load and unload
Again and again
Till I fill the whole shed.
And what have I then?

Next to nothing for weight,
And since they grew duller
From contact with earth.
Next to nothing for color.

Next to nothing for use.
But a crop is a crop,
And who's to say where
The harvest shall stop?

One of my favorite uses of the word leaf is in the phrase turn over a new leaf -to start anew.

So

In my book . . . It is never to late to live. "And who's to say where the harvest shall stop?" Autumn can mean life joy!

September 14, 2007

Poetry Friday - Hummingbirds

I have a friend who is dedicated to hummingbirds. She feed 100's of them many, many gallons of what they love. And they love her. They seek her out each spring. I have known one to sit on her shoulder.

In honor of hummingbirds:

A route of Evanescence With a revolving Wheel -
A Resonance of Emerald -
A Rush of Cochineal -
And every Blossom on the Bush Adjusts its tumbled Head -
The mail from Tunis, probably,
An easy Morning's Ride -

And

Within my Garden, rides a Bird
Upon a single Wheel -
Whose spokes a dizzy Music make
As 'twere a travelling Mill -

He Never stops, but slackens
Above the Ripest Rose -
Partakes without alighting

And praises as he goes,

Till every spice is tasted -
And then his Fairy Gig
Reels in remoter atmospheres -
And I rejoin my Dog,

And He and I, perplex us,

If positive, twere we -
Or bore the Garden in the Brain
This Curiosity -

But He, the best Logician,
Refers my clumsy eye -
To just vibrating Blossoms!
An Exquisite Reply!

Both poems by Emily Dickinson
(I told you she is one of my favorites!)

Fact: The hummingbird heart is about 20% of its body volume and beats about 500 times a minute.

In my book . . . a heart that beats for these tiny miracles vibrates with a joyful noise.

September 10, 2007

Poetry Friday (On Monday) - Spiders

Internet problems puts Poetry Friday on Monday!

Spiders are one creepy crawly that I am not afraid of. If they leave me alone, I leave them alone. In fact, one of the best pets ever in my home was a tarantula - no vet trips, no baths - just a cricket every now and then, a cage clean out, and she was set. She was a beautiful rose tarantula named Bug. However, there are those who suffer from arachnophobia. These poor souls would not find the gigantic web located in Texas as interesting as I did. Spiders spun a web covering over 200 yards of a nature trail in Lake Tawakoni State Park. While the web itself I would find as beautiful as that described in the following poem, what it now holds I would find horrifying. Millions of mosquitoes are caught in the web!
The spider spun a silver web
Above the gate last night
It was round with little spokes
And such a pretty sight
This morning there were drops of dew
High on it, one by one;
They changed to diamonds, rubies red.
When they were lit with sun.
A spider's nice to have around
To weave a web so fine
One which to string the drops of dew

That catch the bright sunshine.
By Truda McCoy
From Poetry Place Anthology

And of course, there is:

"The Spider and the Fly"

The Caldecott Honor book adaptation by Tony DiTerlizzi is a dazzling rendition of this cautionary tale.

And let's not forget:
Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating of curds and whey;
There came a big spider,
And sat down beside her.
And frightened Miss Muffet away.
From The Real Mother Goose

In my book . . . We should all remember the well known adage about weaving a tangled web.
Oh what a tangled web we
Weave,
When first we practice to
Deceive!
Sir Walter Scott Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17

August 31, 2007

Poetry Friday - Strong Winds

This week marked the second anniversary of Katrina. Living without power for almost two weeks before this disastrous event would have seemed intolerable. However, our home was blessed to receive no physical damage; so no power was a small price to pay. Reading sustained my family. I brought out books of all descriptions, and we read and shared books. Several weeks ago I wrote that books could contain memories. Books can also provide comfort as they did for my family during Katrina.

To commemorate a strong wind:

Christina Georgina Rossetti’s

"Who Has Seen The Wind?"

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

From
A New Treasury of Children’s Poetry: Old Favorites and New Discoveries
Selected and Introduced by Joanna Cole

In my book . . . Leaves trembled and trees bowed down, but new leaves came and trees now stand sentinel straight. Lessons have been learned from this strong wind. Books have recorded them. May such a memory never have a companion.

August 30, 2007

Strong Women

On my mind this week are two strong women of American History. I get lost in cyberspace quite often, but two of my regular stops on the kidslitblogosphere caused me to ponder these two women: Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart. One of the blogs discussed the author’s regret that though there are quite a few strong female protagonists in children’s lit recently, the characters have personality traits she can’t admire. They are too sarcastic to one another. They snipe at one another. I have been so thrilled that books are being published with strong girl characters that I haven’t really examined this trend. And I am now having to reexamine my opinions about this, more thoughts to come. However, I have always been drawn to books with independent, strong willed girls: Jo in Little Women and, my all time favorite, Nancy Drew.

Eleanor Roosevelt is on my mind because of a newspaper article commemorating the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United states giving women in America the right to vote. Eleanor Roosevelt supported a woman’s right to do many things thought unladylike including driving a car and flying in an airplane. We take so many things for granted today. But it really was not so long ago that a woman driving a car was a scandalous thing! Which brings me to Russell Freedman’s fabulous Newbery Honor Book Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery.


Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery
Russell Freedman
Newbery Honor

New York: Clarion Books, 1993

Born on October 11, 1884 to a somewhat affluent family, Eleanor was shy and always sought to please those around her. By the age of 10, Eleanor and her brother Hall were orphaned and living with their maternal grandmother. When Eleanor was 15, her grandmother fulfilled Eleanor’s mother’s wish and sent Eleanor to an exclusive London girls’ finishing school. There the shy wallflower blossomed into a school leader and an excellent scholar. Eleanor was described as “beloved by everybody” and she called her time at Allenswood “the happiest of my life.” She arrived feeling “lost and lonely . . . shy, awkward, starved for love and approval” but left in “triumph.” Her growth in self assurance continued when she returned home where she renewed an acquaintance with her distant cousin Franklin. Their friendship became love, and they were married March 17, 1905. The bride was escorted by her uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt!

As a wife and mother, Eleanor found happiness; but she continued her pursuit of personal growth, becoming more and more independent. She joined the League of Women Voters, taught classes in literature, drama, and American history at a private girls’ school in Manhattan; and when Franklin entered politics as governor of New York and later as the four term president of the United States, Eleanor herself became a powerful political figure. When Franklin was stricken with infantile paralysis, Eleanor became his eyes, traveling all around not only the United States but also around the world.

Eleanor was a First Lady of Firsts. She gave the first ever press conference given on the record by a First Lady. She held regular press conferences for women reporters only. She refused a limousine and bought herself a blue roadster which she drove herself. She flew in airplanes - all over the world, “serving as her husband’s personal investigative reporter and gathering material for her columns, articles, radio talks, and books.” During WWII, Eleanor visited American troops traveling “23,000 miles in a cramped, unheated, four-engined bomber.” She comforted the soldiers in hospitals. After Franklin’s death, Eleanor was asked to serve as a delegate to the first meeting of the United Nations General Council and was elected chair of the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission. She met the leaders of the world including Khrushchev. Eleanor never allowed herself to slow down. “ ‘Life has got to be lived - that’s all there is to it,’ she said.”

What an example to follow. Eleanor never sniped! She paved the way for the independent woman of today who can do anything she sets her mind to do. Freedman’s book is well written, well researched, and well packed with photographs of Eleanor’s life which give a fascinating glimpse of a changing American culture; and it is well worth reading the life of this amazing woman.

In my book . . . Long may we women drive! I became too long winded in my admiration of this woman. I tend to gush in my enthusiasm. We don’t have to agree with everything that Eleanor Roosevelt believed, but we have to admire a woman who could stand up to the secret service and drive her own car!