Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tales: Books for Boys

When I was pregnant with my first child, I couldn’t imagine what I would do if I happened to have a boy. I know little girls. I was one of course. I know their games and toys, clothes and hair, songs and stories. I had never really grown out of my love of girlish things. My mother gave me an Anne of Green Gables Madame Alexander doll for Christmas the year my child was born. That was exactly five days after Edward Thomas came into the world at a whopping 10.1 pounds.

Now don’t think that I didn’t like boys. I did. In fact, I was one of those rare teachers who loved, not only teaching middle school, but middle school boys. Girls are easier, of that I am sure, but boys are just so much fun. When they like you, they are loyal. Girls can’t be counted on to pick you over their own roller coaster emotions. Their bad days are followed by weeks of holding a grudge. As long as they know you like them, boys accept a consequence and move on.

What I did not know inherently about boy’s taste, I have learned from the experience of having taught them and continue to learn from raising two of my own.
Following is a list of stories I have found that boys love.

Younger Children:
Abridged Peter Pan (Barry, read by Dawn French)
Babar Collection (DeBrunhoff, read by Louis Jourdan)
The House at Pooh Corner (Milne, read by Peter Dennis)
The Secret Garden (Burnett, Story Treasure for Young Readers)
D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, (D’Aulaire)
Frog and Toad Collection (Lobel,)
The Magic Tree House Collection (Pope Osborne)
Little Bear Collection (Holmelund Minarik)
Nate the Great Collection (Sharmat )
Sarah Plain and Tall Series (Maclachlan, read by Glenn Close)
Ralph S. Mouse series (Cleary)
The Narnaia Tales (Focus on the Family)
The Fairy Collection (Disney)

Rabbit Ears Radio Productions has a number of classic Children’s stories read by famous personalities with music performed by well known artists:
The Velveteen Rabbit (told by Merely Streep)
Pecos Bill (told by Robin Williams)
John Henry (told by Denzel Washington)
The 3 Little Pigs/The Billy Goats Gruff (told by Holly Hunter)
The Emperor and the Nightingale (told by Glenn Close)
Follow the Drinking Gourd (told by Morgan Freeman)

Jim Weiss is an ingenious storyteller. He retells classic stories in a kid friendly way:
Robin Hood
Egyptian Mummies
King Arthur
Galileo and the Stargazers
Shakespeare for Children
Treasure Island
Arabian Nights
Gulliver’s Travels
Greek Myths
A Christmas Carol
Giant Stories
Tales from the Old Testament
Celtic Treasures
Children ages 7-13:
Tom Sawyer Huck Finn
Where the Red Fern Grows
The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever
The Littlest Angel
The Great Brain
Crispin and the Cross of Lead
My Side of the Mountain
Call it Courage
Winn Dixie
Pippi Longstocking
Call of the Wild
Long Way from Chicago
Shoeless Joe and Me
Peter and The Star Catcher Series
Just so Stories
Henry Huggins and Ramona Books
Super Fudge
Time Warp Trio Series
Scarecrow and His Servant
The Hobbit
Fr. Brown Mysteries
Hardy Boys
Sherlock Holmes (Stepping Stone)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Stepping Stone)
Twenty Thousad Leagues Under the Sea (Stepping Stone)
Bunnicula Series
Charlie Bone Series
Peter Pan
Around the World in 80 Days
Arabian Nights
Color Fairies (Multiple books by Andrew Lang)

Ballantyne Adventures: Noted as a favorite author of Twain and Robert Lewis Stevenson

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Story of Childhood: A List of book recommendations for children

I will know I have done something right, if when asked about their childhood, my kids respond with memories of Tasha Tudor’s illustrations, quotes from Children’s Shakespeare and belly busting laughter at the antics of Pooh. If they recall neighborhood battles of Troy, voyages on ships made from beds to Treasured Islands, hours spent cramped tightly into the bathroom closet waiting for a new world to appear and days spent searching the ivy for a door to the Secret Garden.

The life of books is threatened by our technological age. How can they hope to compete with galactic battles on the hand held screen and animation so real we begin to believe that it is life which imitates art?

To compete, they must merely be presented. They have spines of steel and will endure. Children are creatures of habit and rebel from anything new. But once you have lured them into the world of story, you will find it hard to drag them out again.

My children often complain that we are the only family in the world who does not have a Wi. They beg for five minutes of Pop Tropica or just one more Qubo show. But if I want to hit them where it hurts, make them tow the line and get a grip, I threaten to take away their books on tape.

Like all human beings children have a fascination with the new and improved. But in the end, they return to the old and familiar. They return to their stories and their imaginations.

A childhood without story is a childhood without joy.

Following are a list of books we have loved:

Holiday Favorites:
The Tale of the Three Trees (Elwell Hunt)
Mouse’s First Halloween (Thompson)
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey (Wojciechowski)*
Why Christmas Trees aren’t Perfect (Schneider)
The Littlest Angel (Tazwell)*
The Crippled Lamb (Lucado)
Polar Express (Van Allsburg)*
Legend of the Poinsetta (dePaola)
Story of the three Wise Kings (dePaola)
Song of the Camels (Coats)
We Three Kings (Illustrated by Zharkova)
The Clown of God (dePaola)
The Very Special Valentine (Kneen)
Petook, An Easter Story (dePaola)
Happy Easter Day (Watson)
America: A Patriotic Primer (Cheney)
Books with Beautiful Language:
Anything by Beatrix Potter
Anything by Tasha Tudor
Anything by Kate Greenaway
Pegasus (Mayer)
Cupid and Psyche (Craft)
The Selfish Giant (Wilde)*
The Happy Prince (Wilde)
Robert Frost Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening (Illustrated by Susan Jeffers)
Shakespeare Stories (Garfield)
Shakespeare for Children (Lamb)*
Books with Wonderful Characters:
Anything Kevin Henkes*
Anything by Richard Scary
Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)*
Curious George Series (Reyes)*
The Frances Series (Hoban)*
The Little Bear Series (Minarik)*
The Frog and Toad Series (Lobel)*
The Poky Little Puppy (Janette Sebring Lowrey)
The Alfie Treasury (Hughes)
Just Me & My Family (Mayer)
Books with Engaging Stories:
I Love you my Stinky Face (McCourt)
The Hoppameleon (Geraghty)
How will we get to the Beach (Luciani/Tharlet)
Gloria and Officer Buckle (Rathmann)
The Boy Under the Bed (McClear)
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (Joffe Numeroff)
If You Give a Moose a Muffin (Joffe Numeroff)
If You Give a Pig a Pancake (Joffe Numeroff)
Little Gorilla (Bornstein)
Pigs can’t Fly (Cort)
Click, Clack, Moo (Cronin)
Moon Lake (Gantschev)
James and the Giant Peach (Dahl)*
Giggle, Giggle, Quack (Cronin)
Make Way for Ducklings (McCloskey)
Ira Sleeps Over (Waber)
Where the Wild Things Are (Sendak)
Little Sal (McCloskey)
One Morning in Maine (McCloskey)
Time of Wonder (McCloskey)
Blueberries for Sal (McCloskey)
Moon Lake (Gantschev)
Owl Moon (Yolen)
Harold and the Purple Crayon (Crockett Johnson)
Can You Spot the Spotted Dog? (Roe)
David Gets Into Trouble (Shannon)
Katy and the Big Snow (Burton)
Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel (Burton)
Akiak (Blake)
One Kitten for Kim (Holl)
The Giant Jam Sandwich (Vernon Lord)
We were Tired of Living in a House (Moak Skorpen/Burn)
Good Night Good Night (Boynton)
Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day (Viorst)
I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More (Beaumont)
Strega Nona: Her Story (dePaola)
Big Anthony: His Story (dePaola)
Big Red Barn (Wise Brown/Bond)
The Mitten (Brett)
On the Night You were Born (Tillman)
The Tiny Book (Ruckman)
Bear Snores On (Wilson/Chapman)
Books with Wonderful Messages:
New Picture Book of Saints (Fr. Lovasik)
St. Jerome and the Lion (Hodges)
Christopher: The Holy Giant (dePaola)
New Catholic Picture Bible (Lovasik)
A Child’s Rule of Life (Benson, ill. by Pippet)
Weight of a Mass (Nobisso/Szegedi)
Children’s Book of Virtues (Bennet)
Children’s Book of Faith (Bennet)
On Mother’s Lap (Herbert Scott)
Selfish Giant (Wilde)*
Happy Prince (Wilde)
We Help Mommy (Cushman)We Help Daddy (Stein)
Once Upon a Time Saints (Pochocki)
Saints and Heroes for Kids (Pochocki)
Bunny My Honey (Jeram)
Frederick (Lionni)
The Rainbow Fish (Pfister)
The Kissing Hand (Penn)
Baby Dear (Wilkin)
I love You Little One (Tafuri)
Books about History and Science:
So You Want to be President? (St. George/Small)*
Magic Tree House Series (Pope Osborne)*
D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, (D’Aulaire)
Little House on the Prairie Series (Laura Engles Wilder)*
Mr. Crinkleroot’s Guides to Knowing Series (Arnosky)
Deluxe Book of Flower Fairies (Barker)
Theodoric’s Rainbow (Kramer/Duffy)
Books with Beautiful Illustrations:
Anything Illustrated by KY Craft
Anything by Tasha Tudor
Anything by Kate Greenaway
Anything by Robert McClosky
Anything by Jan Brett
Baby Einstein's ABCs of Art
The Lord’s Prayer (Holder)
Owl Moon (Yolen)
Deluxe Book of Flower Fairies (Barker)
Longer Books to Read over Time:
The Secret Garden (Burnett)*
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Twain)*
The Narnia Tales (Lewis)*
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Dahl)*
Charlie and the Glass Elevator (Dahl)
Mary Poppins Series(Travers)*
Mrs. Pigglewiggle (MacDonald)*
Bunnicula Series (J. Howe)*
Wind in the Willows (Grahame)
Wizard of Oz (Baum)*
Number the Stars (Lowry)*
Cricket in Time Square (Selden)*
The Scarecrow and His servant (Pullman)*
Shoeless Joe and Me (Gutman)*
The One Handed Catch (Auch)* Disclaimer: This hints that there is no Santa Clause
Long Way from Chicago (Peck)*
The Great Brain (Fitzgerald)*
Peter Pan (Berry)*
Books of Rhymes and Poetry:
Over in the Meadow (Wadsworth/Vojtec)
Where the Sidewalk Ends (Silverstein)
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (Martin Jr. and Archambault)
Marigold Garden (Greenaway)
Mother Goose (Greenaway)
Mother Goose (Richard Scary)
Mixed Beasts (Wallace Edwards)
Deluxe Book of Flower Fairies (Barker)
The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts (Belloc)
The Bedtime Rhyme (Walter Wangerin, Jr.)
Mother Goose (Edited by Eulalie Osgood Grover, ill. By Frederick Richardson)
The Family Treasury of Children’s Stories Book 1 and Book 2 (edited by Pauline Evans, ill. by Donald Sibley)
* We have personally found in audio form

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ode to a Dryer

You steal a sock
I see you mock
You burning bellied devil's spawn
I swear I'll put you on the lawn
Your cave puts out too many bones
To fold and sort while all alone
You fill my life with greyish fluff
You don't know how to say, "Enough!"

No lines and pins
No prayers for winds
Prince charming shiny, square and white
I need that blouse to wear tonight
The fragrance which floats up from you
Sparks memories like a home made stew
You fill my life with time to spare
The only one to say, "I care!"

Strange Packages

I return home from getting my nails done for our big night out. I hear my husband saying, "What did you do?" He is trying so hard to sound stern. Then he just starts laughing with, "OH, wow!" I come up the stairs and see a pile of hair to my right and another to my left. My three year old has decided to give herself a pixie cut like her sister's. She has shaved one side of her bangs, cut over her ears and taken a huge chunk out of the middle back. She is pretty much bald on top with two long strands hanging down behind her ears. It is about the worst mullet I have ever seen. After cutting off the long strands, I decide there is nothing evenna professional could do.

The next morning at church she snuggles up to my shoulder with her head down. Has she finally realized she should be embarrassed? She leans back and says, "I got a hair cut." I reply, "I know honey, it's okay." To which she responds quite loudly, "I LOVE my new hair!"

She really does think it is awesome. To tell you the truth, it IS adorable. Not the hair itself, but what it has done to her little three year old face that has recently become completely big girl. She looks exactly like she did when we brought her home from China at 10 months old.

I don't know about you, but I am always sweeter when there is a baby around. I just get into a mode. It is EASY to be sweet to a baby, not the constant struggle it can sometimes be with a 3, 5, 7, and 9 year old. Her little cut has given me a few more months of having a baby around. A little break where I look at her tiny face and find it easy to be sweet to everyone. Sometimes gifts from God come in strange packages!

Parable of the Laborers

We all know how it goes: A man hires laborers to work in his fields. Some all day, some for just an hour. At the setting of the sun, he pays them equally.

Whenever the sermon is preached, we are told we would react as did those who had worked the full day, and we know in our heart it is true. God’s ways are not our own, we are told. We are left with a sense of contempt for our nature, and the feeling we must strive to not feel cheated as those first workers felt. We must reject our natural way for God’s way. But God does not require the impossible. He builds into our very nature the help we will need. So I contemplate, when would I not begrudge my fellow workers. When would I rejoice in their good fortune rather than dwell on my own sense of loss. What has God sewn into the fabric of my nature that if I can access it, I can access Him .

I stretch out with my head resting on a bent arm. A slight breeze moves through the fields and dries my sweat drenched skin. Through the branches of an ancient olive tree, I see a solitary cloud stretched across an expanse of burning blue. An elegantly dressed man descends the marble steps of the manor. A hush falls over the laborers gathered in his court yard. His commanding presence tells all who did not know: This is the master.

A large jewel reflects the deep hues of the setting sun as he motions a group forward. It is those called at the eleventh hour. Among them is my father. He moves slowly bent with age. He leans on a stick found in the field. I rub my aching back pondering days stretching far into the past which he worked to feed our family without ere a complaint. I am pleased he has only worked an hour. The meager sum he will receive will help preserve his dignity with out much cost to his ailing body.

My heart leaps within my chest as I bolt upright. Could I have just heard what the master has said? He repeats his command in his calm, clear voice: “A full days wage.” The field beyond is drenched in the colors of autumn leaves as the sun creeps farther toward the horizon. Crickets begin their evening prayers as the master calls another group. It is those who were called at mid-day. My back yearns for bed and my stomach for bread, it has been a long cruel day.

The mass of bodies moves forward quickly encouraged by the Master’s previous generosity. I see my son. My heart is glad that he was able to find some work. He is a wonderful child, the joy of my life. His mother and I knew from very early on he was destined for more than our humble station. He longs to learn. Last year he began his studies to become a Rabbi. He wakes before the cock who has always been his faithful friend to make the long walk to his teacher. The old man is just and kind. He sees much goodness in my son and lets us pay him when we can. The child studies everyday and then rushes back to our village to find some way to earn a bit of money for our family. Many days he is unable to find work so late in the day. It saddens him, but he smiles when he kisses his mother hello. He spends the evening doing women’s work to let her rest her feet.

As the master’s voice calls out, “A full days wage, “ I hear grumbling from the crowd. My eyes scan the men receiving their pay. My boy catches my eye and runs to me with a gait only a child can have. Since his studies began, he has never earned a full days wages, not even the partial pay of a child. He jumps into my arms so pleased that his emotion flows even to the olive branches under which I stand.

“A full days pay, Daddy, a full man’s day. The master is kind, I will remember him in my prayers.” Tears fill my tired eyes. God has seen fit to give me this good boy. His grandfather hobbles to where we stand. He pats my son on the head and smiles proudly at me.

The master has called my group. Ours is the smallest group and is made up of those who have toiled all day. I move forward, anxious to return home with my father and son.

“A full days wage.” I gather my money and hurry away. I hear grumbling voices and the master reply, “Did we not agree on this as a fair sum?” I arrive at the olive tree and we three begin our walk home. With the pay of a younger man in his hand, my father walks with his head held high, barely using the crooked staff in his hand. My son’s feet are as light as his heart, and they barely touch the ground as he chases moths a few feet ahead.

“Oh, no!” I think to myself as I see fire in the distance float heavenward from my own hearth. “Oh, no, this far exceeds anything to which I have agreed."

My Body. My Choice.

"It is my body. The fact of the matter is I have earned the right to make this choice."

She was dressed in a tailored black suit with crisp white shirt. A scarf of delicate butterlies tied smartly at her throat. Her slender legs were elongated by her expensive black heels. She stood before the committee with a confidence beyond her years."Senators, Dr. Smith has presented much evidencde to the dangers, and I respect his expertise and concern. But, it is not his choice to make, nor is it yours. Mrs. Jones has raised concern for the children who she believes to be the primary target. But it is clear that case law supports the Health Clause to include Mental Health. What is best for me, regardless of the physical risks, must be outweighed by my own knowledge of myself: What is best for my mental well being.

And so I ask you again, ladies and gentlemen of the majority party, please do not pass this Comrehensive Anti-Smoking Bill."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Why and The What For

Okay, I can say it, and if I must, I will say it loudly, "I AM A BLOGGER." That being said, I must now do a bit of soul searching to find out exactly what that may entail. Why do I choose to write anything for inspection by the known universe? That may take a bit of space to explain.

A writer for as long as I can remember, I learned very early on from my mother: "NEVER write down anything you don't want someone to read." As a Middle School writing teacher, I gave my students similar words of wisdom: "Your writing journal is NOT a diary. It is not a place to write your deepest darkest secrets, UNLESS... it is your intention that those secrets become published pieces." So, I am taking my own advice, going out on a limb, and turning my writer's journal out to the world.

Secondly, I have quite strong opinions about the enormous benefits of being a writer, even if not a very good one. I remember a professor saying at some point in my not so stellar academic career: "Writer's do not live more colorful lives than ordinary people, they just learn how to find meaning in the mundane." To practice the art of writing gives meaning to my life. No, that isn't right. It doesn't GIVE meaning, it allows me to be more aware of the color which surrounds each and every one of us. When a bird's nest becomes a metaphor and a distant tornado siren a simile; when I search for satire in the McDonald's drive through and irony in the laundry basket; life is just... more.

And if that were the long and short of it, this whole endeavor would be pretty self-centered and not only BY me, but FOR me. I hope that is not the case. I love writing and when my muse is singing, I actually love what I write. Maybe you will too. Or if not, it is still helpful if your muse is similar to my most dominant which rears its head in angry response to what someone else has said or written. By all means, use it thus. Or if maybe, just maybe, you read something here and catch a glimpse of what I mean by the color of a writer's life, and you pick up your pen and give it a try. Well then, the limb I have gone out on just might hold my weight for at least a little while.