Arthur Goes to Camp

Cover art for Arthur goes to camp.Brown, Marc. Arthur Goes to Camp. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1982.

Here in central Texas, school is out and the hot weather is upon us.  We topped out at 100˚ today.  It is going to be a long hot summer!

Do you have children?  How will they spend their time this summer?  When my girls were young we were able to send them to camp a couple of times.  They went to Day camp, Girl Scout camp, and Band camp to name a few.  They enjoyed camp and were excited to go.

In this book, Arthur’s parents are sending him to Camp Meadowbrook to learn all about the outdoors.  He is not happy!  He does not want to go!  At the camp bus stop, he is even more unhappy.  His nemesis, Francine, and most of the other girls from his class are going to the same camp.  It doesn’t matter that his friend Buster is going, too. Things were going to be just like at school, girls against the boys.

The bus passes Camp Horsewater, Camp Meadowbrook’s adversary in the annual scavenger hunt.  The campers look impressive, perhaps that is why they always win. Arthur is not impressed. On the bus, before arriving at camp, he writes his first letter home.

Dear Mom and Dad, I am not at camp yet. I am very homesick and I miss you very much. Please write soon. Love, Arthur.

This lament reminds me of the old Allan Sherman song, Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah. Have a listen.  It is very funny and you can compare this boy’s experience to Arthur’s.

Hello Muddah, hello Faddah
Here I am at Camp Grenada
Camp is very entertaining
And they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining

This song sums up Arthur’s opinion and experience of camp. It is just as awful as he supposed.  The girls do everything right.  They are having a wonderful time.  The boys on the other hand are not.  Arthur’s counselor, Rocky is very strict and very athletic. He wants his boys to get in shape. If the pictures in the book are to be believed, he is a little frustrated by them. The boys find poison ivy.  The girls win all the contests.  The boys find frogs in their beds, and someone runs their underwear up the flag pole. This camp is not fun! What is a boy as miserable as Arthur to do?  On the day of the great scavenger hunt, he leaves camp and heads home.

At the end of Allan Sherman’s song, the young boy finds out that there are things to be excited about at camp.  Will Arthur make it the same discovery? Will he be miserable all summer? Who will win the scavenger hunt? What is going on at Camp Meadowbrook? You will have to read the book to find out.

Whether you are going to camp, on vacation, or just staying home, pick up a cool summer book and read!

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Old Kingdom Series

Old Kingdom series books: Clariel, Lireal, Goldenhand, Sabrial, & AbhorsenNix, Garth. Sabriel. New York: Harper Trophy, 1995.
Nix, Garth. Lirael, Daughter of the Clayr. New York: HarperCollins, 2001.
Nix, Garth. Abhorsen. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.
Nix, Garth. Clariel. New York: HarperCollins, 2014.
Nix, Garth. Goldenhand. New York: HarperCollins, 2016.

It has taken me a long time to figure out what to write about this series that wasn’t covered in other blogs.  I realized I couldn’t.  This is a wonderful series about strong women, who have choices to do what is right and uncomfortable or to forget about responsibility.  Sometimes is goes right and good prevails.  Sometimes it goes right and good prevails, but there isn’t a happy ending for everyone. Everyone works hard and there is sorrow and joy in equal measure, much like life.

This series could be considered tales of two countries: a country of magic and a country of technology.  These countries are separated by a mysterious Perimeter Wall.  South of the wall is Ancelstierre.  This is the land of technology.  Many in the southern part of this country don’t believe in magic.  North of the wall is the Old Kingdom.  It is a place of magic.  Some of it constrained in the Great Charter and some in Free Magic.  The Perimeter Wall between the two countries has an important purpose, to keep magic and the Dead out of Ancelstierre.  In the Old Kingdom, the Dead don’t stay dead.  Free magic sorcerers and necromancers use the Dead to do their bidding.  This causes problems for the living as The Dead crave life. It is the work of the Abhorsen to find and send the Dead back to the River of Death and through the Ninth Gate, where they are gone forever.  The Abhorsen, both Charter Mage and Necromancer, is the only Charter Mage who can use Free Magic and Charter Magic.  The Abhorsen and Free Magic necromancers use a set of seven bells to control the Dead and other creatures. The Abhorsen wields free magic bells and a charter magic marked sword in his/her work. At the beginning of their stories, Sabriel and Lirael are Abhorsens-in-Waiting.  Their books are coming of age stories about how they accepted their roles and strove to save both kingdoms.  I think Clariel’s story, a prequel to Sabriel, is a warning for what happens when a society becomes complacent and those with important responsibilities don’t accept them. All five of these are wonderful, compelling stories.  I am looking forward to the next installment in this series.

As noted earlier, writing about this series has been difficult. My impetus to write again is the news that my nephew and his wife are having a baby girl.  I have prepared my husband for the idea of creating another new library for a young relative.  I have more time to think about books for this little girl.  There are so many great girl protagonists in books: Anne of Green Gables, Pippi Longstocking, Jo of Little Women, and Elizabeth of Pride and Prejudice.  I will start her books with these four heroines and I will add Sabriel.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to read this series, please do so.  The long, hot days of summer are a great time for kicking back and reading something new.  Better yet, pour a glass of tea or lemonade and share these stories with a young person you know.

Garth Nix

I admire Garth Nix and have for many years.  For this series I wondered how he got the idea to use bells as a weapon.  As I was reading about him, someone else asked this question.  Dorothy L. Sayers The Nine Tailors influenced him.  If I didn’t admire him before how could I resist?  Her Lord Peter Wimsey series of which The Nine Tailors is a part is one of my favorites.  In that story he learned that church bells had names and he went on to name the Abhorsen’s bells and describe their characteristics.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard

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  • Riordan, Rick. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer. New York: Hyperion, 2015.
  • Riordan, Rick. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor. New York: Hyperion, 2016.
  • Riordan, Rick. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead. New York: Hyperion, 2017.

Here is another great story arc based on mythology.  Have I said I love mythology?  I enjoyed these mythology-based stories as much as I did the works of Lloyd Alexander and Susan Cooper. Rick Riordan is an excellent storyteller.  I have appreciated his tales based on Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythologies. In this series he has explored Norse mythology.

It seems that I have waited for a long time to read this series.  I have a friend who was able to hear Rick Riordan talk about his work 3 or 4 years ago.  She mentioned that he talked about his Norse series.  I have been waiting for this series to be published since that time. I have also been waiting for Alexis to finish this series so I could read it.

Like the heroes in Rick Riordan’s other series, Magnus Chase thinks he is a regular boy with crappy luck.  He witnessed his mother’s death by strange beings that looked like wolves.  She told him to run and to stay away from the only family he knew, his Uncle Randolph.  The story opens on Magnus Chase’s sixteenth birthday.  He is living on the streets of Boston trying to keep away from policemen and truancy officers. He gets a tip that someone is looking for him and off he goes. It turns out to be his Uncle Randolph.  Magnus learns from Uncle Randolph that he is the son of the Norse god, Frey. He also learns that his quest is to retrieve his birthright, the Sword of Summer, from the bottom of the Charles River.  Retrieving the sword was the easy part, the rest of the book describes his struggles to defeat the God of Muspelheim, Surt.  With this first encounter with Surt, he dies and is chosen by the Valkyrie, Samirah, to be a hero of Asgard.

Magnus goes to Valhalla.  The Valhalla of this series is a luxury hotel for heroes.  Here they can be close to the action.  The heroes practice every day to be ready for the Ragnarök, also known as the doom of the gods. When will Ragnarök happen?  Who knows, but for the God Loki, it can’t be soon enough. As in many Norse stories, Loki plays an important role in these books.  He is the chief protagonist.

Read The Sword of Summer to find out, how Magnus retrieves and (spoiler alert) keeps the sword.  Read The Hammer of Thor to see how Magnus and his friends find the Hammer that Thor carelessly misplaced.  Read The Ship of the Dead to see what mischief Loki has designed for Magnus and his friends to work against.  Does Ragnarök happen? Does the world end?  Read, read I say to find out!

Summer is coming soon!  This would be a terrific summer series for a mythologically-minded person to read.

Reading Report for Northern, Central Texas: March, and April 2018

Spring has arrived here in Central Texas.  We are having lovely weather.  It looks like I have spent the last three months reading and not writing.  I hope to change that dynamic this month.  It was lovely just to read.  I haven’t seen much of what the girls have read.  I think everyone has been busy these last few months.

Jim’s List

Jim finished The Chaos Chronicles this month.  He has moved on to the book he was given for the Christmas Book Flood.

  • Carver, Jeffrey A. The Chaos Chronicles, Books 1-3 (Neptune Crossing, Strange Attractor, & Infinite Sea). NP: Starstream Publications, 2010 (nook book).
  • Reynolds, Alastair. Revelation Space. New York: Ace, 2000.

Robin’s List

  • Colfer, Eoin. And Another Thing. New York: Hyperion, 2009.
  • Duncan, Rod. The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter. Nottingham, UK: Angry Robot, 2014.
  • Gibbs, Stuart. Spy School. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012.The
  • Gilman, Sarah Jane. The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016.
  • Hanks, Tom. Uncommon Type Some Stories. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.
  • Jacka, Benedict. New York: Ace Books, 2012.
  • Lawrence, Mark. Prince of Thorns. New York: Ace Books, 2011.
  • Nix, Garth. New York: Harper Trophy, 1995.
  • Nix, Garth. Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr. New York: Harper Collins, 2001.
  • Nix, Garth. New York: 2003.
  • Nix, Garth. Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen. New York: Harper Collins, 2014.
  • Nix, Garth. New York: Harper Collins, 2016.
  • Novick, Naomi. New York: Del Rey, 2015.
  • Robb, J.D. Echoes in Death. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2017.
  • Willis, Connie. Uncharted Territory. New York: Bantam Books, 1994.

Reading Report for Northern, Central Texas: January and February 2018

Greetings!

January was a great reading month for me.  I was able to read my way through some of the large stack of books I received for Christmas.  I love getting books as gifts.  I bought Neil Gaiman’s book, Norse Mythology last year for Spring Break.  I finally got around to reading it in January.  It was wonderfully informative and entertaining.  I have blogged about Bridge of Birds, Frogkisser, and Finding the Constellations. These were all stellar books.  I am a Nora Roberts fan so I especially enjoyed reading her new book.  I am reading Finding Your Why for work.  It is an interesting read.  We have been working to find our personal whys.  February was a slower reading month as you can see by the size of the stack.

These days I find out what both girls are reading from their Facebook posts.  The three of us are participating in the 52 Book Challenge 2018.

All of us here at Haus Reimund love reading and we wish you “Happy Reading, Too!”

Robin’s list

  • Hughart, Barry, Bridge of Birds: A Novel of China That Never Was. New York: Del Rey, 1984
  • Nix, Garth. New York: Scholastic, 2017
  • Sarath, Patrice. The Unexpected Miss Bennett. New York: Berkley Books, 2011.
  • Thomas, Sherry. A Conspiracy in Belgravia. New York: Berkley Books, 2017.
  • Gaiman, Neil. Norse Mythology. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2017
  • Roberts, Nora. Year One. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2017.
  • Hambly, Barbara. Bride of the Rat God. New York: Del Rey, 1994.
  • Rey, H.A. Finding the Constellations, 2nd New York: Sandpiper, 2008.
  • Hanks, Tom. Uncommon Type. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.
  • Sinek, Simon, David Mead, and Peter Docker. Finding Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team. New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2017.
  • Pilkey, Dav. The Adventures of Captain Underpants. New York: Scholastic, 1997.

Alexis’ list

  • Hughart, Barry, Bridge of Birds: A Novel of China That Never Was. New York: Del Rey, 1984
  • Sarath, Patrice. The Unexpected Miss Bennett. New York: Berkley Books, 2011.
  • Mertz, Barbara. Temples, Tombs, & Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt. New York: William Morrow, 1984, 2007
  • Lucas, Dale. The Fifth Ward: First Watch. New York: Orbit, 2017.
  • Maaren, Kari. Weave a Circle Round. New York: TOR Books, 2017.
  • Telfer, Tori. Lady Killers: Deadly Women throughout History. New York: Harper Perennial, 2017.
  • VanderMeer, James. Johanes Cabal the Necromancer. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2010.
  • VanderMeer, James. Annihilation: A Novel. New York: FSG Originals, 2014. (ebook)
  • Howard, Jonathan L. Johannes Cabal: The Feat Institute. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2014.

Jim’s list

  • Nye, Bill and Gregory Mone. Jack and the Geniuses at the Bottom of the World. New York: Scholastic, 2017.
  • Carver, Jeffrey A. The Chaos Chronicles, Books 1-3 (Neptune Crossing, Strange Attractor, & Infinite Sea). NP: Starstream Publications, 2010 (nook book).

Sarah’s list

  • Meyer, Scott. Off to Be the Wizard. Seattle, WA: 47North, 2014. (ebook)
  • Meyer, Scott. Spell or High Water. Seattle, WA: 47North, 2014. (ebook)
  • Cooper, Susan. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2006.
  • Holt, Tom. New York: Orbit, 2012 (ebook)
  • Howe, Deborah and James. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010 (ebook). Originally published 1979.
  • Walker, Rysa. New York: Amazon Publishing, 2014.

Find the Constellations-2nd Edition

Tween Star Gazing Flyer for event on 2/23/18Rey, H.A. Find the Constellations, 2nd Edition. New York: Sandpiper, 2008.

This past Friday evening, I found myself at the Georgetown Public Library for a stargazing event for tweens.  “What are tweens?” my husband asked, when I described the event we were attending.  Referencing the library poster, I informed him that tweens were children 9-12.  I am so glad that the library is developing activities for this group of children.  I remember when my girls turned this age that there were so library/literacy things for them to do.  They are too old for story time, but too young for some of the events for adults and teenagers.

As advertised this event was to feature stargazing in the library parking lot by the Williamson County Astronomy Club.  My husband is a member.  His connection to the event is how I happened to be at the library on a Friday evening.  Alas, it had been a gloomy day it was an equally gloomy evening, the outside stargazing was scrubbed, but the program was scheduled and so Plan B was used.  The librarians already had the most important items for an evening for tweens, food (Probably a part of their Plan A)!  There were star-shaped rice crispy bars, asteroids (grapes) and flying saucers (pizza).  After food there were crafts.  I particularly liked the one with the rocket ship and straws.  There was also make a kaleidoscope station and make a constellation station using mini-marsh mellows and toothpicks. I wonder, if they found a book in their collection with these activities or if they found them on Pinterest?  All of them looked fun!

Realizing a few days before the event that anything outside would be scrubbed.  The Williamson County Astronomy Club moved to their Plan B. Several amateur astronomers brought their telescopes inside and set them up so the students could take a look at them and ask questions.  The club president provided a very interesting 30-minute presentation on basic astronomy, including: a bit about the different types of telescopes (there were 3 different ones on display), how telescopes work, things you might see with one, and a small bit on light pollution.  Only about 10-15 tweens attended, but all of them paid attention during the presentation part of the evening.  At the end, they had thoughtful and intelligent questions to ask the group of amateur astronomers.  One tween asked about who gets to name constellations, which brought a wonderful answer from the club president, “they were named a long, long time ago”.  This question and its response jogged loose the memory that I had this book in my collection, Finding the Constellations, 2nd Edition.

This book was written by H.A. Rey in 1954 and was updated in 2008.  I found it on a past vacation and wanted it, because H.A. Rey, the author of the Curious George series, wrote it.  I love his style of illustration.  I was also intrigued by its content.  It is a delightful explanation of the constellations and how to find them.  Here is a bit from the foreword.

Few people can tell one star from another.  Most of us can tell an oak from a maple or a jay from a woodpecker even though we don’t see woodpeckers often, but the stars, which we see any clear night, remain a mystery to us.

Yet it is not difficult to know them.  Simple shepherds, 5,000 years ago were familiar with the heavens; they knew the stars and constellations – and they could not even read or write – so why don’t you?

Its is good to know the stars, if only to enjoy better the wonderful sight of the starry sky.  But you simply must know them if you are interested in space travel.

I wish I had taken it with me on Friday.  I think it would have been a cool resource to share.  It was written for tweens.  It has plenty of basic astronomy information, but is written in a fun and chatty style.  You can learn about star magnitudes, their names, and where to find them in the constellations we see in our northern hemisphere night sky.  Did you know that there are only 15 stars of the 1st magnitude (brightest) in our northern skies?  If you remember that constellation names came from the distant past, you also might remember that some of them come from ancient myths.  He tells the stories of two of them, Andromeda and Orion.

The book contains some very practical help.  It has sky view charts for winter, summer, spring, and autumn stars.  It has some helpful hints for stargazing outdoors.  Although they aren’t constellations, he doesn’t neglect our solar systems planets.  Some of them are as bright in our night sky as a star.

Alas our skies are not as dark as they were for H.A. Rey, but there are still some wonderful sights to behold.  So find a clear night, drag out your comfy chair, or better yet a blanket, and look up.  You don’t need any fancy equipment to view our heavens.  I end this blog the way Mr. Rey ends his book: Happy stargazing!

Here are some interesting links for you.

Frogkisser!

FrogkisserNix, Garth. Frogkisser! New York: Scholastic, 2017.

This is the second book I received for the Christmas Book Flood on Christmas Eve.  I asked the daughter who gave it to me why she thought I’d like it.  First, she knows that I like Garth Nix.  Second, she read the acknowledgements in the back of the book.  Here is what the author wrote and what influenced her choice. He begins by acknowledging that all writers are influenced by the books they read.  Sometimes the influence is apparent and sometimes it is not.

With this book, I would like to particularly acknowledge the inspiration and positive influence that came from my youthful reading (and frequent rereading in later years) of the works of Lloyd Alexander, Nicholas Stuart Gray, Dianna Wynne Jones, Robin McKinley, and T.H. White. There are many other writers who have influenced my work, of course, but I think for Frogkisser! these five deserve special mention.

Wow!  Some of my favorites!  I am going to have to look up Nicholas Stuart Gray.  The others are writers of stories about reluctant or unexpected heroes and heroines.  Thank you Sarah for this wonderful book!

This book, as it happens, is about a reluctant heroine.  A princess, who just wants to be left to read, study, and be a companion to the royal dogs.  Enter Princess Anya, second daughter, to the queen of Trallonia.  As the story opens, Trallonia has lost its queen and her consort.  The queen died first.  Anya’s father married Countess Yselde, an enthusiastic botanist, who cared not for children.  After a year, he passed away.  Countess Yselde married Duke Rikard.  While Countess Yselde could have been the evil step-mother, she is merely disinterested. Duke Rikard, on the other hand, is the evil step-parent of this story.  He is a sorcerer and he wants to be king.  As the story opens, Anya’s sister, Morven is nearly sixteen.  At sixteen, she will be old enough to wed and to begin her reign as queen.  Duke Rikard wants to prevent this from happening, after all he has grand ambitions, first Trallonia and then the world.

Duke Rikard makes a strategic error.  He turns Morven’s current beau, Prince Denholm, into a frog.  Had he waited a little while, Morven would have found another beau, she was notoriously fickle.  Anya, the more practical of the two, tells Morven to dry up her tears and kiss Frog Prince Denholm and turn him back.  He is after all her theoretical true love.  Unfortunately, Denholm has escaped through the window and into the moat.

Here is where Anya’s adventures begin.  She finds a frog, but Morven refuses to kiss the icky thing.  Anya, goes to her friend the librarian, Gotfried.  They discover that not only true love’s kiss will reverse this spell, but so will the Transmogrification Reversal Lip Balm and he just happens to have a small amount. Anya anoints her lips with the balm and kisses the frog that she thought was Prince Denholm. Oops!  Not Prince Denholm, but the prince of the month from last November.  It seems the Duke has been transforming all Morven’s suitors into frogs.  He was taking no chances!

After feeling Anya’s reversal of his spell, he is determined to send her halfway across the world to a very good school even though it is a perilous journey to get there.  At this point, Anya takes counsel with Tanitha, oldest and wisest of the Royal Dogs.  She is advised to go on a quest to find help to defeat the Duke.  Like all reluctant heroines, she cries, “Why me!”  She remembers that her real parents would want her to do the right thing.  Reluctantly, she leaves the dubious safety of her home.  With Ardent, the royal dog  who has a quest of his own, she begins her quest.

Her quest, like most, takes her all over the country side.  She is pursued by transmogrified weasels and other agents of the Duke’s.  She befriends, Shrub, a thief boy, who was turned into a newt.  She meets Merlin and the seven dwarves.  She meets Bert, leader of the Association of Responsible Robbers, who tells her about the All-Encompassing Bill of Rights and Wrongs.  All of them have a part to play in her quest.

You must read this book.  It is a hoot!  Will Anya be able to defeat Duke Rikard?  Will she be able to save Princess Morven?  Once saved will Morven restore the All-Encompassing Bill?  Will that restore the kingdom?  Can Anya make enough lip balm to change back all the people the Duke and his fellow sorcerers have turned into frogs and other animals?  Does she get chapped lips?  You must read this book.  It turns the fairy tale of the Frog Prince on its ear.