Sunday, August 31, 2008

Quote of the Week--#002

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parentss."

Emilie Buchwald
Quoted in Quotations on Education
compiled by Rosalie Maggio

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Memories of Books Well-Loved--IV

I have saved the best for last with a real classic that I predict will be read for generations to come just as it was read by my mother when she was a child.

These books were a favorite when it was read to me when I was quite young. They were still favorites when I read them by myself for the first time in elementary school. I still loved them I in middle and high school. The books I made sure to take to college had to include this set. I read them with joy to my children when they were little and even when they were in middle school. I hope that they read them today.

What books could be that important to me? Winnie the Pooh and any of the books by A. A. Milne offer something to people of all ages. The stories are funny and insightful and purely appreciative of the wonders of childhood.

(Please note that I am talking here about the original versions with the original illustrations by Ernest H. Sheperd and not the Disney versions that do not carry the power or the beauty of the original.)

I have memorized bits and pieces of the many poems in these books. It rarely snows that I don't quote Pooh saying
"The more it snows, tiddly pum,
The more it snows, tiddly pum
The more it goes, tiddly pum,
on snowing."

When children ask my age, I almost always recite the classic from Now We Are Six that ends "Now I am six and clever as clever./I think I'll be six forever and ever."

Reading great books helps me feel as youthful as if I were six forever and ever with the added bonus of being allowed to read books from any part of the library and get something from them. Youth and experience all are right there in books.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wacky Wednesday--Joke of the Week #001

If you aren't in the bus line on Wednesday to hear some of Rolf's jokes, look here for a new joke each week.

Teacher: Bobby, what book have you read recently?

Bobby: Half Magic

Teacher: That's a good book. What was it about?

Bobby: I think it'sa bout 215 pages.

Memories of Books Well-Loved--III

At last I was ready to read more challenging novels as I headed into sixth grade. I was eager to read books from the adult section of the library, but I am glad to that took the time to read some of the great young adult books that were waiting right there in the "children's room". (Maybe it was just that title of the room itself that had me trying to rush upstairs to the other books.)

Kate Seredy--her name still seems musical to me. Frankly, a retelling of the story of the migration of Huns and Magyars from Asia to Europe does not sound very interesting to most of us. For me, it was the beautiful illustrations that I remember first so maybe they are what drew me to The White Stag. Maybe it was just luck. Whatever, it remains a strong memory of a book enjoyed, even though I may not be able to readily tell you the story that I found there.

In a previous post I mentioned that I am an animal lover. I loved those fictions with talking animals, but I also loved reading about the true animal encounters in Ernest Thompson Seton's Wild Animals I have Known. Seton was an early naturalist who published this work in 1898. He had a passion for animals that comes through every word he wrote.

It is proof that J. R. R. Tolkien wrote true classics when I see that his books are still popular with so many Emerson students today. When I was in middle school The Hobbit was almost required reading among my peers. When I got to college I read it again along with The Lord of the Rings trilogy for new meanings and new adventures. Watching the movies and then visiting some of the sites where the movies were filmed in New Zealand makes the stories continue to live on for me.

Equally classic, though not quite as old, is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle. Of course I loved this book and its sequels that introduced the concept of using tesseracts to time travel. (I just did a quick search of the word "tesseract" to remind myself of what it means in geometry.) My favorite L'Engle book, however, is much less well known. Meet the Austins featured a much more "ordinary" family. They were so ordinary that in the opening pages there is a mention of flushing the toilet with a bucket of water after the power goes out. It is funny to think about now, but that is what I most remember about this book because I think it was the first book I ever read that acknowledged that toilets exist, much less that they need flushing.

Even though I grew up in Montana, I was never the kind of horse lover that so many girls were then and are now. However, I did read Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry and almost immediately begin dreaming of going to Chincoteague Island to watch the horses that inhabited that classic novel. I read some of the other books by Henry, but none stick in my mind as vividly as the trials of Misty.

The other classic horse story that I loved is Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, but I have to confess that I did not allow myself to read that novel until I was an adult. Why did I wait so long to read the autobiography of a horse? I don't' know. I didn't know what I was missing.

Another classic that I did not discover until I was an adult--what was wrong with me?--is the wonderful Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. I have yet to meet a woman or girl over 10 who has read this book and not be entranced by the this spunky red head. (Did I mention how much I loved another spunky red head, Pippi Longstocking when I talked about books read in elementary school? She is very different from Anne but equally spunky.) One of my dream trips is to visit Prince Edward Island and see the places that Montgomery makes so real.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Memories of Books Well-Loved--II

My first ventures into novels (chapter books) lead me on wonderful adventures. The genre that dominated elementary school for me was fantasy. Most prominently, I read and re-read every book by Edward Eager. I am thrilled every time someone checks one of those books out of the library and begins that same journey. Most folks begin with Half Magic, the wonderful tale of a coin that only works for half of the wish. It is the perfect place to start but don't stop before reading all the other books in the series--Magic by the Lake, Seven-Day Magic, Knight's Castle, The Well Wishers,, and, one with the kind of puns I still enjoy, The Time Garden. I loved them all. Then I went on to read E. Nesbit and C. S. Lewis, but Eager came first and still is my first favorite.

My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett and the two sequels are gentle, tender, funny, and wonderful. Who wouldn't want to have a dragon, a friendly dragon, in the family?

It's a small step from fantasy to science fiction. I didn't start reading what my older brother would have called "real sci-fi" until I was older but I did get interested in space travel when I read Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars by Ellen MacGregor and The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron. They ignore the science to such a degree that a true sci-fi fan might quickly discount them, but their energy and imagination offer a perfect introduction to the genre.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty Bard MacDonald had some pretty fantastic science (or was it magic) working with her. She can cure anything that ails a child from whining to tattling with a dose of something and some gentle nudging. Of course, it only makes sense to trust a woman who lives in a house that balances upside down on its peaked roof.

As a life long animal lover, many of my favorite books had to be about animals. A constant companion for many months or years was surely Freddy the wonderful pig created by Walter Brooks. Freddy lived on a friendly farm that was just how I wished my home farm could be. I would have loved talking animals even if they had wild plots and goofy ideas. Freddy could be a detective or a politician or an astronaut and always he was the perfect pig. Maybe he is why I love pigs to this day.

Mice are pretty special critters, too, but only one can teach you some important American history. Amos, the mouse in Robert Lawson's Ben and Me, lived in Ben Franklin's hat and witnessed some of the first days of our country's history. If you believe the book, Amos is more of a hero than Mr. Franklin.

Another flight of fancy with a dash of history is The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene Du Bois. Imagine sailing around the world on a platform held aloft by 21 balloons. This seemingly perfect trip ends suddenly with a crash in the island of Krakatoa. Few people today know of the wonders that lay there before the famous volcano erupted and destroyed the island completely. You will have to read this book to learn all about it.

In another post I will take you into middle school or, as we called it way back then, junior high.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Memories of Books Well-Loved--I

As I have straightened shelves in preparation for the start of school (which, as you know, is right around the corner) I have also been taking a trip down memory lane. Some books have that effect on me. They are friends and ties to friends. Here are stories about some of the books that I have handled in the past few days that brought back memories of reading them when I was a child, eons ago.

During my first months as the school librarian, I tried very hard to be really prepared for every class. (I still do, but I am a little easier on myself when plans change.) One day, however, I got caught up doing something and did not grab a book to read to the first grade until just minutes before they arrived. There waiting on the shelf was Andy and the Lion by James Daugherty. I remembered the black and gold illustrations and the story so I did not bother re-reading--I didn't have time!! The kids came in, sat down, and I opened the book to read. I was doing fine until I came to the picture of Andy discovering the tail of the lion wiggling behind a rock. I was suddenly taken right back to the first time I read the story. I had to stop for a minute to catch my breath and take myself back to the library. Books are like that. They stick with you long after you think that you have forgotten them.

When I was five or six I loved how my copy of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff was written in script rather than print like most books. It meant it had to be read to me longer so that was an added bonus, but the best part was when I figured out how to read that secret language. In my family we (or at least my husband and I) still honor the street cleaner in the Babar books by calling every street cleaner Hatcibombitor--or however that wonderful name is spelled.

"In two straight lines." Those four words immediately conjure images of Paris and the nuns and sweet Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans.

My favorite Dr. Seuss book when I was young was surely the under appreciated On Beyond Zebra. It was a thrill to imagine new letters that I could add to the alphabet and expand the world even farther.

The Lonely Doll by Dare Wright has just been reissued. I was thrilled to recently find it in a group of books donated to our library in like-new condition. The black and white photos that illustrate this gentle little book of a doll who finds a friend has always appealed to me. I hope that it does not seem outdated to the current generation of young readers.

Little Golden Books were the kind of books that my parents would buy for us. Even thought they were so inexpensive, they had some great stories. My favorite was The Saggy Baggy Elephant by Kathryn Jackson, probably because I loved the image of an elephant of any size dancing through the jungle.

There are many more picture books that I loved and that shaped my life. This list represents ones that I read as a child that are on the shelves of the Emerson library today.

Read my next post to learn about novels that fall into that same category of books I loved as a child and hope you will love, too.

Quote of the Week--#001

Yes, I am stealing this idea from other blogs, but I love quotes that say what I want to say only so much better.

"Trusting children and books is a revolutionary act. Books are, after all, dangerous stuff. Leave a child alone with a book and you don't know what might happen."
Susan Ohanian
Quoted in "Quotations on Educations"
Compiled by Rosalie Maggio

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Vampire mania

Eva Ibbotson, while introducing a character The Haunting of Granite Falls who was once a vampire, notes that "Everyone there [Transylvania] sucked blood at night: it was the thing to do, just as in other places it is done to smoke cigarettes." She then adds that vampirism is healthier than smoking because blood has iron in it (healthy) while cigarettes have nicotine (not healthy). It is comments like this that make me like Eva Ibbotson's books, but she is not the topic of this post. This is a post about vampires.

Vampires are all the rage these days, or so it seems. Of course, stories about vampires have been around for hundreds of years--even before the Bram Stoker classic that you should probably read after you finish the Stephanie Meyer books that I know a good chunk of you in grades six and up are devouring like a vampire attacks a neck.

Is reading about the vampire Edward in the series that begins with Twilight and ends with New Dawn better for you than smoking? Absolutly. It's also a lot more fun. It is not hard to like these books because they read so smoothly with well placed dashes of excitement. There is romance, adventure, fantasy, and high school. It is hard to top all of those things. There are some things that bother me, but I want to invite all of you who have read or heard about these books to give me your impressions first. (And as soon as school starts, I will be inviting all Emerson middle school students to join me in an afternoon discussion. There will be snacks. No blood.)

My daughter, who has not read the books and doubts that she ever will, did have one relevant comment that I feel compelled to share here. Edward has been a teen-ager for an awfully long time. This does not sound like much fun to most of us who have moved beyond high school and look back on it with mixed emotions. Would you like to be caught in high school for eternity? What age would be the perfect age to become a vampire? What age would be the worst to relive forever?

A little trivia on vampires and Emerson. No, we don't have a resident vampire--at least as far as I know. We do, however, have a teacher who played Lucy in a Burns Park production of "Dracula". Lucy gets bitten at the end and turns into a vampire. Do you know who that person might be?

Let the fun begin

My first child was born 30 years ago today. She has a blog.

Her younger sister has a blog.

It's time for mom to get one, too.

I have been pondering a blog for a few years now and decided that one tied to the Emerson School library was a good place to start. Just ask my girls, reporting on my life would not be that interesting. This way I can share my love of reading with lots of people in one neat package. Since Emerson serves students from kindergarten to eighth grade, most of what I will talk about will be aimed at that population. However, it will be impossible for me to restrain myself from talking about exciting adult books that I read as well.

The goal is for everyone who reads this blog to join in discussions of what is read and what is worth reading. Please let your voice be heard.

Let the fun begin.