Dragons Love Tacos

DragonsTacosRubin, Adam.  Dragons Love Tacos. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri.  New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012.

Here in Texas we are big taco lovers. According to the Texas Monthly, San Antonio is the Taco Capital of the World.  According to other sources, Austin is the Breakfast Taco Capital of the World.  We love all kinds of tacos, breakfast tacos, puffy tacos, fish tacos, vegetarian tacos.  Let’s face it, we Texans are crazy about tacos.  It might surprise you to learn that dragons love tacos, too.  It may be that their love of tacos exceeds that of even the most taco-loving Texan.

What do you love about tacos?  Is it the tortillas, flour or corn?  Is it one of the fillings?  This week I am making poblano and butternut squash tacos.  I hope they are good.  My mouth waters just thinking about them. Is it the sizzle of the pan, when meats and vegetables are getting caramelized?  Maybe you have a secret reason to love them.  Dragons are like Texans, they enjoy all kinds of tacos, big ones and little ones.  After reading this book, I am certain there that dragons love tacos down to the very last bite!

In this book, Robbie and his dog want some dragons for friends.  How do you get a dragon to be your friend?  You have a party, dragons love parties!  They like lots of things about parties like conversation, dancing, and laughter.  Make it a taco party and the dragons are sold and will flock to your do.  Robbie and dog invite all the dragons in their neighborhood to their party.  I wonder where the dragons live?  I haven’t seen one around here lately.

Robbie and Dog want to be good hosts so they make tacos, lots and lots of tacos. They make a boatload of tacos, you know you don’t want to run out. During their party preparations they learn dragons don’t like spicy salsa, not one little bit and for good reason. What do you think happens when a fire-breathing dragon encounters spicy salsa?  Something explosive happens!

This is a silly, funny book!  I chuckled all the way through to the end.  You will have to read it to see if the party was a success.  Did the dragons like the party?  Were there enough tacos?  Did Robbie and Dog bury all the spicy salsa in the back yard? Remember the trick to getting a dragon friend is tacos!

Advertisements

Things to Make and Do for Valentine’s Day

VDayDe Paola, Tomie.  Things to Make and Do for Valentine’s Day.  New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1967.

Happy Valentine’s Day!  I was looking through my book collection for a book to share on this day and this one leaped off the shelf and into my hands.  This book wanted to be shared so I decided that I would.  Over the years, I have been a room mother for one or the other of my girls elementary classrooms, a preschool teacher, and a library story-time lady.  I expect I purchased this little book as a resource for activities for an evening at home or a party at school.  These were the kind of resources you needed “back in the day” as my stint in all those roles came after 1983 and before the age of Google, DIY, and Pinterest. Here is the perfect book for all your DIY needs from ancient times.

Do you need Valentine Cards?  How about making some?  This book has easy, but detailed instructions on how to make block print cards with Styrofoam and poster paint.  Messy work, but fun to do.  It also included instruction for making an envelope for your cards.

Does you child need a Valentine Mailbag for school? Do they still have Valentine Mailbags at school?  It has been a long time since I have attended a party at an elementary school.  Here are the instructions for making one using a brown paper grocery bag.  Brown paper shopping bags were terrific!  You could make so many  great things from one.  Alas this activity might need modifications as brown paper grocery bags are hard to come by these days.

Do you need to organize a Valentine’s Party?  This book has all you need from food to games. For food there is a recipe for fancy sandwiches and chocolate snowball valentines. I don’t have any food stains on the book so I never made these recipes. With supervision each of these recipes would be easy for a child to construct.

What else do you need for a party?  Why decorations of course!  This author provides some simple decorations that can be made in a snap.  Once your guests arrive, you need games to entertain them.  This is a one stop book, so it includes information on several different games.  I found some construction paper hearts tucked in the back of this book so I have organized the Valentine Relay Race at some point.  It is a rowdy game, sure to tire out some silly players. Here’s what you need and how you play.

You need:

  • Red construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Black crayon
  • A piece of string six times as long as your arm

How to do

  1. Before the part, cut out a heart for each player.
  2. Think of some things to do, such as jump, crawl, hop, skip, and walk backwards.
  3. Take two hearts. Write the same thing to do on each.
  4. Do this for all the hearts. Put the hearts into two piles.

How to play:

  1. Make two teams of players
  2. Put the string on the floor
  3. Line each team up behind it.
  4. Put a pile of hearts across the room from each team.
  5. On “Go”, the first player on each team runs up to a pile and takes a heart.
  6. The players then come back, doing what it says on the hearts.
  7. When the first players get back to their teams, the next players run to the hearts.
  8. The team finished first wins.

Do you need a gift for your Valentine?  The book had an excellent recipe for making “Baker’s Clay.”  You could craft a little something wonderful for your special person.

This little book has everything you need for a wonderful day of activity for young ones or those young at heart.  Interspersed throughout the books are bits of valentine humor.  They are groaners.  I will be kind and share only two.  I hope you have a terrific day with all of your loved ones!

A Valentine’s Joke

Knock knock
Who’s there?
Olive.
Olive who?
Olive you!

A Valentine Tongue Twister

Lila’s love laughs loudly!

Bridge of Birds: A Novel of Ancient China That Never Was

Asian girl with birdHughart, Barry.  Bridge of Birds: A Novel of Ancient China That Never Was. New York: Del Rey, 1984.

This blog is late, late, late, but I still say Happy New Year, everyone!  I was able to get in some extra reading over the holidays.  This was one of the books I enjoyed.

We had our 2nd annual Christmas Bookflood (Jólabókaflóð).  I think it must be making a splash over here.  If you are interested in reading about it, here is a link to a NPR story on the subject: https://www.npr.org/2012/12/25/167537939/literary-iceland-revels-in-its-annual-christmas-book-flood.  Everyone gets a book on Christmas Eve.  You snuggle up with your new book and a cup of something warm by the fire, or on the sofa, or in your bed and read until you fall asleep.

I received two books one from each of my daughters.  The first one I read was Barry Hughart’s Bridge of Birds: A Novel of Ancient China That Never Was. I asked the one who gave it to me, why she picked it.  I like to know what people are thinking, when they give me a book. She was looking for a funny science fiction or fantasy book for me.  She said it kept popping up on lists of best lighthearted fantasy novel.  Oh, the girl knows me well. As an aside, she said she also wanted to read it.

It is a funny book.  Amazingly, it begins with a double tragedy.  The village of Kufu raises silkworms for its livelihood.  All the children between 8 and 13 pick mulberry leaves to feed to the silkworms.  At the end of their feeding stage, all the silkworms die and all the children, who had picked the mulberry leaves were afflicted by a plague.  What was to be done?  Number 10 Ox was sent to Peking to find a wise man to help find an answer.  The wise man was Master Li Kao.   In a filthy, foul, hovel in Peking #10 Ox discovers a very drunk Master Li.  Master Li is a scholar with a slight flaw in his character. Is being inebriated this slight character flaw?  After this first auspicious meeting, it is off to the races.  Master Li is indeed a great scholar, but many quests are needed to solve the puzzle of the plague afflicting the village children.  In the end it is a race against time.

Despite the urgent mission of Master Li and #10 Ox, this is an amusing, bawdy, and at times poetic book.  The author skillfully weaves stories that could be myths of ancient China throughout the book. It gives the book the feel of a book from an ancient time.  Number 10 Ox and Master Li must work together to accomplish a delicate and dangerous mission.  Characters are many and some are of questionable character.  They disappear and reappear unexpectedly.  I was surprised how all were skillfully woven into the story. This is complicated, complex, comic tale for anyone to enjoy. It was the lighthearted fantasy my daughter wanted for me. Read this book and see how a wizened sage and a sturdy, young peasant solve a puzzle to save a village and reunite two lovers.

Last Stop on Market Street

LastStopDe La Peña, Matt.  Last Stop on Market Street. Illustrated by Christian Robinson.  New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015.

Many of the children’s books I featured in my blog are older books. I write about them, because I have wonderful memories associated with them.  When I pick up a book, I remember the first time I read it either to one of my daughters or to a group of children.  I have been lucky to have read many fine books over time.  I am delighted to add this new book to my collection.  Eventually, I will get to read it to special young person.

This is a very new book to me. I picked it up on a whim at this year’s Texas Book Festival. I am ever in pursuit of Caldecott and Newberry award winners.  Not only did it win these two awards, but it also won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor.  I brought it home and placed it on my shelves for a future blog post.  Just after the first of the year, I bought myself a 2018: Desk Diary Literary Datebook from Barnes and Noble.  It is chock-a-block full of all sorts of literary bits and bobs.  A couple of weeks ago, I was looking it over for interesting facts and I found one about this book.  My diary informed me that on January 11, 2016 Matt De La Peña became the first Hispanic winner of the John Newberry Medal award. It was kismet!  It was a sign! This must be my next book blog.

Wonderful words and praiseworthy pictures come together for a charming story about CJ and his Nana.  I already have something in common with CJ.  He calls his grandmother, Nana and that what I called my grandmother and my girls called theirs. Every week after church, CJ goes with his Nana to help at the soup kitchen, which is near the last bus stop on Market Street.  He is young and restless.  Why do they have to walk to the bus stop in the rain? Why don’t they have a car? He has a few other laments.  For each question, his strong and sunny Nana has a calm and thoughtful answer.  She guides him to ideas and thoughts outside of himself.  A question about why they don’t have a car, brings this reply, “Boy, what do need a car for? We got a bus that breathes fire, and old Mr. Dennis, who always has a trick for you.” It took me a couple of readings and examination of the illustrations to find the reference to the bus that breathes fire.  It is an illusion to the fire-breathing dragon Christian Robinson has illustrated on the side of CJ and Nana’s bus.

This is a wonderful book about how we see things about us.  CJ, with Nana’s help, learns to hear and see the wonder of the world that surrounds them.  Whether you’ve ever ridden a bus with your Nana or not, this is a wonderful book.  Read it and remember all the times someone who loved you, helped you see the bigger picture.

The Dark Is Rising Sequence

DarkRising

  • Cooper, Susan. Over Sea, Under Stone. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1965.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Dark Is Rising. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1973.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Greenwitch. New York: Simon Pulse, 1974.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Grey King. New York: Simon Pulse, 1975.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Silver on the Tree.  New York: Simon Pulse, 1977.

Last year, I started out with a series based on Welsh mythology, the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. I love stories based on myths and legends. While I was writing about that series, I thought about this one.  The Dark Is Rising Sequence is based on Arthurian legends with some other mythologies in the mix.  It is a sweeping tale of the final struggle of the light against the dark. It is an exciting, well written, high fantasy series.  It appears on several best fantasy series lists. Once I decided to write about this sequence, I had to locate the books. Unfortunately they aren’t carried in my local Barnes and Noble.  I had to scour my Half Price Book store to find them.  I consider it well worth the effort. These are excellently crafted books that carry you away to another place and time.

Susan Cooper received a Newberry Honor Medal for the Dark Is Rising and the Newberry Award for The Grey King.  I couldn’t write this summary of the entire sequence without giving you some spoilers so stop here, if that is a problem for you. Please take my word for it this is a wonderful adventure.  I know I didn’t read this when I was young, because I started with The Dark Is Rising, which was published in 1973 when I was busy in college. I must have discovered it when my oldest daughter did and again when my youngest daughter did.  We all loved it.

In the first story, Over Sea, Under Stone, we are introduced to the story of the struggle between the light and the dark for control of the world.  Simon, Jane, and Barney Drew, ordinary, intrepid children, have their part to play in this struggle.  Theirs is the first quest.  During a trip to the Cornwall Coast, they are introduced to this struggle by their Great Uncle Merry.  They find an ancient map that leads to an important manuscript and to the grail.  These are crucial weapons for the Light’s fight against the dark.  They must find a hiding place that is over sea, and under stone.  How can they prevail when all their actions are scrutinized by agents of the dark?   Can these agents be outwitted?  There is intrigue, danger, and excitement in this book. Read along to see how they discern the clues needed to solve this puzzle.

We move on to the second book, The Dark Is Rising. This book provides the title for the entire series.  Here we meet Will Stanton, the last of the Old Ones.  Will is the seventh son, of a seventh son.  On his eleventh birthday, he discovers his special gifts and his great responsibilities (sounds a lot like Spiderman).  He  must learn from the mysterious Merriman Lyon all that it means to be an Old One.  What are his powers?  What are his gifts?  He learns about the final contest between the Light and the Dark.  His quest is to find the Six Magical Signs that will aid the Old Ones in the final battle.  Here is a book rich with myth, mystery, adventure, terror, and delight.  Does Will prevail? Who is the mysterious, Merriman Lyon?

After Will’s discovery of his heritage and of his quest, we move to book three of the sequence, The Greenwitch.  If you’ve read this far, you probably have figured out that both the Drew children and Will were successful in their quests.  It really isn’t spoiling the stories for you too much.  A lost of exciting things happen to these children in both books, making them excellent reads even if you know the outcome.  Susan Cooper can weave a spell around you.  In Greenwitch, Will and the Drew children meet.  Here we learn the prophecy which has guided them thus far and will do so through this book and the next.

When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone;
Five will return, and one go alone.

Iron for the birthday, bronze carried long;
Wood from the burning, stone out of song;
Fire in the candle-ring, and the grail gone before.

Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold;
Played to wake the Sleepers, oldest of the old;
Power from the green witch, lost beneath the sea;
All shall find the light at last, silver on the tree.

Greenwitch opens with Simon, Jane, and Drew discovering that the grail they found in Cornwall was stolen from the British Museum.  They are at the museum looking at the display, which had held the lovely grail they had discovered during their Cornwall adventure.  The grail came with a manuscript.  While the children were able to retrieve the grail, they lost the accompanying manuscript to the sea.  With the help of their Great Uncle Merry, they travel back to Cornwall to see if the manuscript can be retrieved.  At this point, the trio of children becomes a quartet as Will Stanton joins them.  He has grown into his responsibilities as an Old One with training from Merriman Lyon, a.k.a. Great Uncle Merry. Again, agents of the dark are all around them.  Although this story has tasks for all of the company, it is quiet, thoughtful, Jane who turns the day.

The Grey King is a quest for aid in the battle between light and dark.  Will has been very ill.  His illness has robbed him of most of his knowledge of the Old Ones.  He is left with this riddle to guide him. Although he can’t remember, it is the riddle from the manuscript retrieved from the grasp of the Greenwitch in the previous book. In this book and the final one, this riddle guides his way.  To unravel the riddle and find all of his answers, he will have to find the translation for the last two mysterious lines.

On the day of the dead, when the year too dies,
Must the youngest open the oldest hills
Through the door of the birds, where the breeze breaks.
There fire shall fly from the raven boy,
And the silver eyes that see the wind,
And the Light shall have the harp of gold.

By the pleasant lake the Sleepers lie,
On Cadfan’s Way where the kestrels call;
Though grim from the Grey King shadows fall,
Yet singing the golden harp shall guide
To break their sleep and bid them ride.

When light from the lost land shall return,
Six Sleepers shall ride, six Signs shall burn,
And where the midsummer tree grows tall
By Pendragon’s sword the Dark shall fall.

Ymaent yr mynddoedd yn canu,
Ac y mae’r aglwyddes yn dod*.

In the Grey King, Will’s family sends him to their relatives in Wales to help him recover his strength. Little did he or his family realize that Wales was the next step in his journey. Here he meets the enigmatic, Bran.  Is Bran the son of the Pendragon?  He is curiously pale.  He has tawny eyes, like a bird.  At their first meeting Will names him as “the raven boy’ boy from the riddle. Although most everyone else doesn’t know about Will’s status as an Old One, Bran recognizes him immediately.  There is something curious about Bran aside from his pale coloring. He has a sort of quiet austerity.  Is that due to the nature of his upbringing or his parentage.  Will learns that King Arthur and his knights fought the previous great battle against the dark.  While they weren’t able to defeat the dark completely, they did diminish the dark’s power and postponed the final battle between the light and the dark. The time is coming soon for the final battle.  Will and Bran must work together to find the tools needed in the Light’s fight.  At every angle and with every tool that can be mustered, the Dark works seeks to foil their attempts. Finding the Golden Harp and waking the seeker is the quest that Will and Bran must complete.   Will Bran meet his father?  Are they successful? Do they find the harp and wake the sleepers? Who is Merriman Lyon, who appear mysteriously, when aid or guidance is needed in all of these books.

The conclusion to the sequence is Silver on the Tree.   In this book all the players from all the books are present and necessary to the conclusion.  Each had his/her part to play.  Simon, Jane, and Drew come to Wales for holiday.  They are joined by Great Uncle Merry and Will.  Here they meet Bran and his family and allies. To start the book, Will has been receiving messages from the Old Ones around the world that they are prepared for the final battle.  Is everything ready?  Are the weapons and resources gathered?  Are all the necessary players in place?  The last object of power must be found, a sword, which has been hidden away.  Arthur’s sword it what they seek.  Will they find it? Like all the other books, Will and his companions must travel through space and time to gather what is needed for the final battle.  Here is the epic conclusion to this wonderful series.

Susan Cooper

  1. She has always loved reading and writing.
  2. She lived near London and was not evacuated during the Blitz. Her experiences during that time color some of her stories.
  3. After graduating from Oxford, she wrote for the Sunday Times. Her boss was Ian Fleming.
  4. She wrote Over Sea, Under Stone in her spare time in order to win a cash prize. She didn’t win the prize, but she was bitten by the fantasy bug and in time went on to write the other four books in this sequence.
  5. She married an American widower and moved to the United States, where she still lives.
  6. She was awarded a Newberry Honor for The Dark Is Rising and the Newberry Award for The Grey King.
  7. She has been nominated for an Emmy award for the scripts she co-wrote with Actor Hume Cronyn.

If you want to read more about this author, here are some interesting sites to visit.

The mountains are singing, and the Lady comes.

Happy New Year 2018

Backyard_1_1_18Happy New Year to one and all.  It is a chilly, frosty 24° in my part of Texas this morning.  We had a skiff of snow last evening. Right now the world outside my window looks cold and a gray. It is a perfect day to follow my plan to stay inside where it is warm and finish reading one of the books I received for Christmas.

It was a very good year for books.  I received a nice stack.  Book gifting began on December 24th, when we celebrated our 2nd annual Jólabókaflóð.  This year both girls bought books for everyone for the event.  I received Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart and Frogkisser by Garth Nix.  Both books are based loosely on fairy tale and myth, which seems to be my chosen genre this month.  Our book gifting continued with more under the tree.  Here’s a picture of the books Jim and I received this season.  It is a good stack.  It will keep us in reading material for at least a couple of weeks. Everyone at our house for Christmas received at least two or three books.  We went book crazy this year, but that is a wonderful thing.

 

On December 24th I didn’t start reading one of the books I received, I was working to finish The Management Style of the Supreme Beings by Tom Holt. As it turns out, I am going to have to add this to my Christmas book collection.  In this book, the world is saved by God’s other son, Kevin; an Indiana Jones-like character, Dr. Jersey Thorpe; Lucy, a practical and intelligent young woman; a high level human executive of the Flip-side (Hell), Bernie; and the Red Lord (aka Santa).   I thought I might not finish this book as it took more time than usual to become engrossed in the story.

2017 was a terrific year. I read some new books and revisited some old ones.  I have compiled a list of the books I have blogged about and the ones mentioned in our monthly reading report (LibraryRecap2017).

It has been most enjoyable sharing these books and ideas with everyone.  There are great books in the world for those young and not so young.  I hope to go on sharing my thoughts on those books.  I am working from my book collection, but I am also looking forward to discovering new ones.

I wish all of you a Happy New Year.  May your year be satisfying, productive, and fun!  Keep reading!  I know that we will here at Haus Reimund.

National Short Story Day: The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories

MistletoeMurderJames, P.D. The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.

I offer this thin volume in celebration of National Short Story Day and of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.  It contains four delicious short stories by  PD James, one of the world’s greatest mystery writers.  I bought this little goodie some time earlier this year and saved it to read after Thanksgiving and before Christmas.  It is the newest addition to my Christmas book collection.

All four of these stories have unexpected turnings and endings, a hallmark of James’ work.  All are tales of murder.  Two of the stories feature one of my favorite fictional detectives, Adam Dalgliesh.

The first story is “The Mistletoe Murders”.  In this story a young woman is unexpectedly invited to her grandmother’s house for the Christmas holidays.  Her mother was estranged from the family and this young woman is interested in meeting her relatives. As happens in a novel of another great dame of English crime literature, there is a body in the library.   Finding out who did it and why will keep you on the edge of your seat.

“A Very Commonplace Murder” comes next.  This was the creepiest of the four stories.  A distasteful, seedy clerk with a taste for pornography witnesses a murder.   Why doesn’t he report what he has seen?  This one will send more that one shiver down your spine.  I had to read the ending twice to find all the twists the author leaves one.

I was so surprised to learn, who actually murdered the victim in “The Boxdale Inheritance”!  I wonder, if Chief Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh was as well? His godfather, the Canon Hubert Boxdale, is to received a legacy of 50,000 pounds from his step grandmother, Allie Boxdale.  Before he feels he can accept this boon, he wants to know, if Allie murdered his grandfather. He feels that in his position, he cannot accept a tainted inheritance. At the time of the murder Allie was young and Hubert’s grandfather was old.  The marriage itself was a small scandal, although at age 4, young Hubert wasn’t aware of this fact.  She was acquitted of the murder, but the Canon felt he had to be certain before he accepted his legacy.

Finally, we have “The Twelve Clues of Christmas”.  Here is an early investigation from a newly promoted Sergeant Adam Dalgliesh. On his way to have Christmas with his Aunt Alice, he is flagged down by a man frantic to report a suicide at Harkerville Hall.  He asks Adam for a ride to the nearest telephone box. Is it a suicide or a murder? Sergeant Dalgliesh has the opportunity to do a bit of sleuthing before the local constabulary arrives.  The local constable dismmisses it as a suicide, but he puts in a call to the local CID to be complete and orderly.  Adam continues on his way to Aunt Alice’s cabin. He has only time to settle in with a drink by her fire, when his help is requested by Inspector Peck from the local CID.  They return to the Harkerville House.  It appears that it may not be a simple suicide. When asked by the Inspector what struck him about the situation, here is Adam’s reply.

A number of oddities, Sir.  If this were a detective story, you could call it “The Twelve Clues of Christmas.” It’s taken a little mental agility to get the number to twelve, but I thought it appropriate.

Here’s where the story gets its title and yes, there are twelve clues or questions to be answered.  Who did it?  You will have to read the story, it was quite interesting.

This was a fine little volume of stories filled with murder and mystery.  Each story is carefully plotted and written with grace and elegance.  PD James has the knack for capturing the complex and sometime unsettling aspects of human nature.  If you can find a time in this holiday season to brew a cup of tea, grab a cookie, and find a cozy corner to enjoy these stories.  These short stories will keep you entertained on the shortest day or the longest night or any time.