Texas Book Festival 2017

Books covers for Soonish, It devours, Welcome to Nighvale, Santa Calls, Creepy Carrots, Spy School, Space Case, How to avoid extinction, Symphony for the city of the dead, Last stop on market stree

The first Saturday of November, Jim and I attended the 22nd annual Texas Book Festival in Austin.  The book festival began in 1996 about the same time my family moved to the Central Texas area.  It is prestigious, large, and mostly free.  It promotes literacy and reading across all ages.  There are events for the youngest children through adults.  There is something of interest for everyone. The money raised at the book festival through book sales, donations, and other fundraising goes to library and literacy programs in Texas.  This year there was a special fundraising effort for public and school libraries effected by Hurricane Harvey.  I participated by attending and purchasing lots of books.  Once I started it was hard to stop!!!

One of the first events of the day was the announcement of the new Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List for 2018-2019.  We missed the announcement, but I collected a copy of the list.  As I have said in the past, I like this award as Texas school children in grades 3-6, who have read (or have heard read out loud) at least 5 of the books on the list, vote for the winner.  The 2016 winner was Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl. The 2017 winner will be announced this spring at the Texas Library Association’s annual conference. I picked up a book from the list How to Avoid Extinction.  It quirky title made we want to see what is inside!

Another program that the book festival supports is the Reading Rockets Program. This is a literacy outreach program for students in Title I elementary schools, like the one where our daughter teaches.  It brings bilingual and award-winning children’s authors to these schools for presentations.  This program donates a signed copy of the author’s book to each student and a set of the author’s books to the school’s library.  How cool is that!

Because I love children’s books, we had to spend time in the Children’s tent.  We stopped to see the PreK class from my daughter’s school introduce Aaron Reynolds.  He had been at their school earlier in the week. I also wanted to hear his new book.  It had an interesting title, Creepy Underwear. This book is hysterical and so was the author.  Have you ever talked with a group of young children?  You must bring your A-game!  You never know what they will say.  He was funny, charming and energetic.  He told the group that he was an author and most of the time he was a grown up.  The kids in the tent were delighted!  They loved his book.  Alas, I delayed going to the books sales tent and all the copies of the book were gone.  As an alternative, I purchased his book, Creepy Carrots. You will hear about it in another blog.

I decided to stay for the next session as I was intrigued by Chris Harris’ book title, I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-ups. Here was another delightful author.  The local class that introduced him recited one of the poems from the book.  He thanked them and told them how much he had enjoyed visiting their school.  Wow, you must really love to talk with children to be on this circuit.  They asked him all kinds of questions.  As you might have guessed, he began this book for his own children and it just grew.  His poetry, rhyming or not, is captivating and the poems have appealing titles. Here’s a title from one he showed the audience, “Alphabet Book (by the Laziest Artist in the World)”. The illustrator for this book is also one of my favorites, Lane Smith.  The pictures in this book are fantastic, just like the poems.  There will be more to come on this book in another blog.  I have to read the book first!

I learned an interesting fact from both Chris and Aaron. Authors and their illustrators rarely meet.  I was under the wrong impression that they collaborated during the entire process.  That must only happen when the author and illustrator or illustrator and author are very close or the same person.  According to Aaron and Chris, you write your book and you send it off to the publisher.  They look it over and then decide, who might be the best person to illustrate it.  They send the book off to the illustrator to see, if he/she wants to illustrate it.  Aaron said he never met his illustrator, Peter Brown, until after his first book, Creepy Carrots, was published.  Jim and I wondered what happens when the author hates the illustrations?  Our question will have to wait for another time as both these authors appeared to enjoy the illustrations in their books.

These two children’s authors presented in the mid-afternoon and as I am not a husband torturer, we split the day between what he thought might be interesting and what I wanted to see. He is interested in science and science fiction, so we took a flyer and attended Kelly and Zach Weinersmith’s session.  Their book title looked curious, Soonish: A Funny Future of Technology: Ten Technologies That Will Improve/Ruin Everything.

I thought this was a delightful session!  Zach has two degrees one in literature and the other in physics.  Kelly, who could not attend, has a degree in parasitology.  Between the two of them, they work on the ideas and research for their books.  Their book combines interesting theories and Zach’s cartooning. In this presentation, Zach talked about two technologies from their book: Cheap access to space and robots.   In the section on “Cheap Access to Space”, he discussed carbon nanotubes that could be used for a space elevator.  As soon as he started on this topic, I thought about Arthur C. Clarke’s story The Fountains of Paradise.  I haven’t read the book so I don’t know, if they reference his story.

He also discussed robots and how it will end for humanity.  He talked about some interesting recent robotic experiments.  We, the people, are so gullible. Seems if a robot tells us something, it is true. To the best of my narrative ability, here’s how the experiments went.  In experiment one, on a campus, near a locked dorm lurked a robot.  The robot would stop students and ask them to let it into the dorm.  A very, few students let the robot into the dorm.  On the other hand, around 80% of the students stopped and would let that same robot in the dorm, if it robot had cookies and offered one to the student.   Makes you wonder what people will do for cookies!

In experiment two, began with student who were volunteering for a study waiting in a building’s lobby.  They were met by a robot and led to a room.  Sometimes the robot went straight to the room.  Sometimes the robot took what was obviously a long, circuitous route.  Sometimes the robot would walk into a wall and go the wrong direction and have to correct itself on the way to the room.  Sometimes the robot would move very slowly.  The robot left the students in the room where the experiment was to take place. After they had been in the room for a few minutes, the room began to fill with smoke and the fire alarm went off. A robot appeared in the doorway and told the students to follow it to safety.  It is interesting that in every case, people followed the robot.  It didn’t matter, if they could see the exit door, or if the robot had made mistakes in getting them to the experimental room and was making obvious mistakes getting them back to the outside door, the students followed the robot.  I think that is a scary thought that they would so blindly follow robots.  After all they were built by people.  During the Q&A session someone asked this related question, what would you do to prevent a robot apocalypse?  His answer: “Don’t let it get started!”  It was a most amusing presentation.  Did I buy his book? Why yes and “soonish”, after I read it, I will blog about it.

Jim and I listen to the news on the way to and from work every day.  It gives us a chance to talk about current events.  Discussing current events led us to this session with its intriguing title, “Falsehoods, Forgeries, and Fake News” in the C-SPAN Book tent.  This session featured Kevin Young and Jared Yale Sexton.  They discussed how PT Barnum and his use of the Penny Press was similar to the way the internet is used now.  It was a lively, but somewhat distressing topic.  They offered us hope.  We must learn about each other and find common ground so that civil discourse can continue.

After that heavy topic, we were ready for lunch.  We walked down to six street and had lunch at BD Riley’s Irish Pub.  Books (a discussion), a brew (Guinness Stout), and BD Riley’s Irish stew (best ever) made lunch heaven.  I am glad that we had the second half of our day at the book festival to walk off all that yummy goodness.

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To cap off our book festival day, we intended to try the festival’s lit crawl.  Unfortunately, all the lit crawl venues were too far from us.  We had our own lit crawl. We used two of our newly purchased books (Tom Hank’s Uncommon Type and Zack and Kelly Weinersmith’s Soonish) to play the game, “Bring Your Own Book.”  We had a blast and it was a lovely end to a perfect day at the Texas Book Festival.

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The Halloween Tree: A Story of Friendship, Bravery, and Our Halloween Traditions

Halloween TreeBradbury, Ray. The Halloween Tree. Illustrated by Joseph Mugnaini. New York: Yearling Book, 1972.

Happy Halloween (a bit belated)! Here is a book that celebrates all the traditions of this season. Here is an education of the history of Halloween so carefully woven into a story of nine boys, you miss the education.  The book opens with these words:

It was a small town by a small river and a small lake in a small northern part of a Midwest state.  There wasn’t so much wilderness around you couldn’t see the town. But on the other hand there wasn’t so much town you couldn’t see and feel and touch and smell the wilderness.  The town was full of trees. And dry grass and deaf flower now that autumn was here.  And full of fences to walk on and sidewalks to skate on and a large ravine to tumble in and yell across.  And the town was full of …. Boys.

I love this ordinary setting in our United States for a launching pad for the adventures of eight boys and their special friend, Pipkin.  They are costumed for Halloween as a skeleton, witch, ape man, gargoyle, beggar, mummy, ghost, and death.  They leave their houses. They run and shriek and laugh and jump and frolic.  It’s Halloween! They stop to take count. Something is wrong.  There are eight where there should be nine.  Where is Pipkin? He would never miss Halloween!  Why is this boy so special? Here’s what Bradbury tells us about Pipkin.

Joe Pipkin was the greatest boy who ever lived. The grandest boy who ever fell out of a tree and laughed at the joke. The finest boy who ever raced around the track, winning, and then, seeing his friends a mile back somewhere, stumbled and fell, waited for them to catch up and joined, breast and breast, breaking the winner’s tape.

These and many more accolades are heaped upon Pipkin.  How could these boys have Halloween without him?  What is wrong? They scramble over to his house. Pipkin steps out.  He looks bad.  Will he trick or treat with them?  He asks them to head to the place of Haunts and he will meet them there. They go to the only house worth visiting on Halloween.  They round the side of the house and there it is, a tree, a hundred feet tall and hung with pumpkins of every shape and variety, the Halloween Tree! Each pumpkin was carved with an elaborate face.  As the boys watched, all the pumpkins light up! Each frightening, carved face is aglow. From this splendor comes Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud, a ghoulish person, who offers them a trick.

These boys are wary of Moundshroud.  They aren’t sure they like his trick. They are waiting for Pipkin.  They spy him at a distance, when something dark whisks him away.  These brave boys, must rescue their friend.  The boys enlist the aid of the skeletal Moundshroud.  He promises to help them find and rescue Pipkin.  Away the boys are whisked to the past, chasing Pipkin through the centuries.  Each time and place they visit teaches them something about the traditions of Halloween.  Each festival from ones in Ancient Egypt to Día de los Muertos in Mexico is an exciting adventure.  They see the Feast of Samhain, The Time of the Old Ones, All Soul’s Day, All Saint’s Day, The Day of the Dead, El Día De Muerte, All Hallows!  All are some variation of Halloween.  As Moundshround says: “Night and day. Summer and winter, boys. Seedtime and harvest. Life and death.  That’s what Halloween is, all rolled up in one.”

Finally, in Mexico in the celebration of the Day of the Dead, they find Pipkin.  He may or may not be dead. Can they rescue him? What is the price?  It is a year from each young life. Will each brave boy give up a year of his life to save their dear friend?  Would you?

Ray Bradbury’s story is rich with symbolism and imagery.  It is difficult to give you a sense of this story.  I chose this book because it is my daughter, Alexis’ favorite. I can see why. It is creepy, exciting, and lyric all at the same time.  Ray Bradbury’s prose is evocative and wonderful.

This story set in an ordinary Midwest city, and that makes me remember.  I was raised in an ordinary Midwest city.  On Halloween, it was cool and crisp.  The trees had lost their leaves.  We lived in a housing subdivision, referred to by my folks, as the “Heslop Hatchery” for its sheer number of young children living in the neighborhood.  We leapt and gamboled and wandered carefree through the neighborhood my sister and me.  We met our friends and trick or treated throughout the entire neighborhood. Our bags must have been so heavy!

This story makes me remember Halloween past in various places not only the ones in my Midwest city. We lived in Greece for a time on a job site out in the country side.  I remember the terrific parties devised by the moms to keep us entertained.

I remember my Mom and Dad, who have both passed away.  They enjoyed this holiday, too.  I wish I had a story of their youth to share with you.  I do remember a couple of Halloween parties, they had.  It was fun to see grown-ups dress up.  I have some old film of one of these parties and it looks like they were having a terrific time.

I remember celebrating Halloween with our girls.  We had one girl, who always dressed as something gruesome and one who always dressed as something pretty.  I remember a Halloween, we had the Grim Reaper and a Princess and one with Pocahontas and Peter Pan.

I was discussing this story with my husband.  He too, remembers Halloweens past.  He shared some of his remembrances with me.  Here they are for you.

Well, here I am at 60, thinking about Halloween.  This was one of my favorite times when growing up.  While the candy was great, designing costumes was even better.  In 3rd grade, out teacher taught us how to make papier- mâché masks for art.  The masks were finished before Halloween.  This mask, though simple, was very cool.  I got to use my imagination to make my own Halloween mask!  It was mine and totally unique.  No one else would be wearing my same mask!

The papier- mâché mask led to other more elaborate costumes.  It turns out that boxes, hose and paint can make cool costumes.  I was always a fan of Jules Verne stories and it occurred to me that I could be Captain Nemo.  I don’t remember all the details (too long ago) but I do remember using these boxes and hose to make a diving helmet, air tank and hose that joined them.  The following year I went all fantasy and created a dragon outfit.  Again, boxes were used to create the head and mouth of the dragon.  Cardboard and strap was used to create the wings.  One house I went to that year loved the originality and DIY nature of the outfit and doubled my candy!

The last year I trick or treated I recalled the papier-mâché mask of long ago.  I decided to make something totally different.  The mask was in two parts, a round nose portion and a large mask to cover the head.  To this I added some simple electronics to my late 1960’s costume.  I fitted a colored light on the top of the head portion of the mask and one on the nose.  These were wired to a battery and switch that went through my jacket sleeve and into my hand.  As I walked down the street I blinked the nose and head lights.  It was gratifying when, the next day, I heard someone in school talking about a costume they had seen in my neighborhood with blinking lights!

These are our thoughts and the great Ray Bradbury’s thoughts and reflections.  Pick up a copy of The Halloween Tree and savor it.  Do you give Halloween gifts?  This would be a great one!  Read and remember.

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat

An old lady is swallowing a bat.Colandro, Lucille. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat. Illustrated by Jared Lee. New York: Scholastic, 2005.

Last year a stroll through Barnes and Noble provided me with the wonderful Madeleine parody, Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody. This year a stroll through the book section at Target brought me this little jewel.  I had to have it for my book collection.

I loved the original story, I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.  It is fun, but a little creepy to sing, as it begins and ends with something unexpected.

First line: I know an old lady, who swallowed a fly. I don’t know why she swallowed a fly. I guess she’ll die.

Last line: I know an old lady, who swallowed a horse. She’s dead, of course!

If you need to reacquaint yourself with this little ditty, you can listen to Judy Collins sing it for Kermit the Frog on YouTube: https://youtu.be/qC_xO2aN_IA. It is fun, but a little gruesome.

This book caught my attention as it is a version of that rather gruesome story and it is illustrated by one of my favorites, Jared Lee.  I wondered, if this parody was a creepy as it base story.  It is after all, a Halloween story.  It is not quite as creepy, but just as eerily delightful.

There is no mystery here, you know how the book begins, “I know an old lady, who swallowed a bat! I don’t know why she swallowed a bat. Imagine that.” Before I opened the book past the first page, I speculated on what she might have swallowed to catch that bat.  Here’s my next line.

I know an old lady, who swallowed a cat. Imagine that to swallow a cat.  She swallowed the cat to catch the bat that flitted and darted and flapped inside her. I don’t know why she swallowed the bat. Imagine that!

It is no wonder I am not a children’s book author.  Still speculation is fun.  In this case she swallowed an owl and the old lady began to howl.  The book goes on to rhyme through cat, ghost, goblin, bones, and wizard. It is a treat to see her eat her way through this silly book. Do you think it will end in her demise?  Pick up a copy and read and sing it to the next group of “Trick or Treaters” that come to your door.  Will they appreciate this silly trick before they get their treat? Listen to Judy’s version, drag out your guitar, and serenade your neighborhood friends with this interesting little ditty.

Wodehouse on Crime: A Dozen Tales of Fiendish Cunning

Blue and white creamer in the shape of a cow and the book Wodehouse on CrimeWodehouse, P.G. Wodehouse on Crime: A Dozen Tales of Fiendish Cunning. D.R. Benson. New York: International Polygonics, LTD, 1981.  With a foreword by Isaac Asimov.

Sunday, would have been Wodehouse’s birthday!  Happy Birthday, good sir!  Happy, belated birthday for one of my favorite authors.

Isn’t it interesting how blog ideas get going, what ho? I was wandering through my kitchen and noticed my adorable, little cow creamer. It was a gift one Christmas from my daughter, who had just completed a read of a couple of Wodehouse books. The method by she acquired this piece of frippery for me was much less fraught with complications than the methods Bertie Wooster tried in retrieving a cow creamer for his Aunt Dahlia. These thoughts plus a wander through my calendar, brought me to this author.  This was not the book I was seeking as I was shuffling through my shelves, but then I was arrested to find it had a foreword by Isaac Asimov.  Two of my favorite authors, how could I resist?

I picked up the book and began reading Asimov’s forward.  Here’s one bit that brought me to attention.

P.G. Wodehouse, as we all know, created a world of his own; or rather, forced one to live past its time. He took Edwardian England, purified it of its grosser elements, and kept it alive by some alchemy, of which only he knew the secret, right into the Vietnam era.

And in doing so, he imbued every aspect with lovability.

Do some of his characters seem like wastrels? Semi-idiots? Excrescences on the face of society?

Undoubtedly, but one and all, each worthless idler would rather die by torture than sully a woman’s name, however indirectly and involuntarily.  All would engage, at a moment’s notice, in any act of chivalry and kindness, though it meant the loss of all their worldly good (all five pound of it) or, worse yet, though it meant a rip in their perfectly-creased trousers¹.

How could I resist!  I picked up this volume and proceeded to re-read it and report on it for you.  Note, before you begin a Wodehouse book, you may need to find a safe place to read.  In bed, with you partner at the end of the day, might not be a good place.  Are they sensitive to the polite chuckle, a brisk tsk-tsk, or a loud bark of laughter after lights out? How about the cafeteria at lunch time, will your neighbors look askance at these mild outbursts?  My advice, find a cozy spot to giggle, snicker, tsk, and guffaw and enjoy his books in a carefree manner.

Here we have a book that reports to be a dozen tales of fiendish cunning.  It is Wodehouse, who is fiendish and cunning, writing these stories about men and women.  The crimes don’t seem so dastardly and mysterious. Many of the characters seem like they don’t have two brain cells to rub together to make a spark, but they are loveable.  One of my favorite stories in this little gem is titled, “The Crime Wave at Blandings.”  Were jewels stolen, was someone murdered? No, in a day of gentle, general lawlessness at the idyllic Blandings Castle, an air gun confiscated from the grandson of Clarence, ninth Earl of Emsworth.  It is amazing the trouble one little air gun can cause. The situation gets so out of hand that the very proper butler, Beach hands in his resignation!  You will have to read this story to find out how the easy-going Lord Emsworth, his sister the rather stern, no-nonsense Constance, the very proper butler, Beach, and the odious, bossy, ex-secretary Rupert Baxter all are affected by this small element of criminality.

A collection of Wodehouse short stories would never be complete without a story about that dynamic duo Wooster and Jeeves!  This book includes three: “The Purity of the Turf,” “Without the Option,” and “Aunt Agatha Takes Count.” Each story is a jewel of convolution and silliness.  In any Wooster and Jeeves story, Bertie is in a jam and Jeeves comes to the rescue.  In the story “Without the Option,”

Bertie encourages his friend, Sippy (Oliver Randolph Sipperly) to pinch a policeman’s helmet on the night of the Oxford/Cambridge Boat-Race.  Bertie escapes the chokey, but his friend, Sippy is sentenced to 30 days. Chaos ensues, of course!  Sippy is to go down to Cambridge to please his Aunt Vera.  Bertie feels great remorse for landing Sippy in the soup!  Jeeves is consulted and suggests that Bertie go in Sippy place.  Again, you will have to read the story to learn how Bertie shoulders on and Jeeves wins the day.  Here’s a bit of conversation to whet your appetite for this story.

Bertie: “You think, I haven’t the machinery.”

Jeeves: “I will most certainly devote my very best attention to the matter, sir, and will endeavor to give satisfaction.”

In conclusion, I agree with Isaac Asimov.  I, too, would have liked to dine at the Drones Club and observe all the exuberance of those young men.  I have two strikes against me, one I am a woman and individuals of the opposite sex were barred from this establishment.  The second is that the Drones Club is a fictional establishment, alas no one can go there.  Pick up a volume and read a cunning, convoluted, silly story to brighten your day.

Possum Come a Knockin’

Possum knocking on a doorVan Laan, Nancy. Illustrated by George Booth.  Possum Come a Knockin’. New York: Trumpet Club, 1990.

Conversation around the lunch table this week, made me remember this book.  I have a friend, who lives near the edge of a small town.  Like many of us, who live on the fringe of town, she had a possum visit her yard.  She was worried that it might carry off one of her small dogs or they might try to eat it.  Her story made me think about this book and how I inadvertently tormented my niece and nephews with it.  It is a standard joke at our house.  As a matter of fact, my husband just wandered by and said, “Oh, Possum Come a Knockin!  Going to scare more, small children, are you?”

I first heard this book, when I was teaching in a private preschool.  We had an itinerant music teacher, Mr. David.  He read my students this book.  I understood why he chose it.  It had a wonderful cadence and rhythm. It was almost musical.  I recorded myself reading this book (https://goo.gl/ZvigbY) to give you a feel for it.  Here, also, is a link to a video of a teacher using this book in class: https://goo.gl/zcSZ6Y.

I thought it was such a wonderful, musical type of book that for the next gifting occasion I figured it was perfect for my brother-in-law and his family.  He and his wife were both musicians so I thought they and their children would enjoy this book as much as I did.  Alas, I forgot that they too lived at the edge of town. While they didn’t have a possum come a knockin’, they did have a possum get under their house. It made a lot of  creepy scratching noises.   That possum terrified my niece and nephews and unfortunately so did this book! They didn’t think it was musical or rhythmic, they thought it was scary!

Hopefully, you won’t encounter any possums and you can enjoy the cadence written into this story.

Nancy Van Laan

While I was looking at information on this author, I found someone who described her books as good for reading aloud.  This book is terrific for reading aloud, I am not certain I could keep it to myself.   Here are a few fun facts about this author.

  • She read to pass the time on long trips.
  • She wrote and illustrated her own stories when she was young.
  • Her first love was ballet, but an injury ended her careers
  • She has been an English teacher in a private school, a creative writing teacher at Rutgers, and a network censor at ABC.
  • She has an MFA from Rutgers and has painted murals for schools and private clients
  • In 1989, she began to write full-time.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/26331.Nancy_Van_Laan

Reading Report for Northern, Central Texas: August and September 2017

Aug_Sep17I feel it has been an age since I have settled in to write. August and September were so very busy around here.  You may notice that the book stack here is much shorter than usual.  No contributions from Alexis and Sarah.  They moved out to an apartment of their own so I don’t have their input.  I hope to ask them to write something for me to post.  Helping them move, new job responsibilities, helping with a wedding, and general household clean up, my reading and writing have been on a hiatus.  I am glad to be sitting here writing.

With the girls comfortably established in a place of their own, Jim and I are empty nesters.  We are getting used to the new routine that includes only two people.  One of the advantages of  having an empty nest is that there are extra bedrooms. Jim and I converted one of them into an office for me.  Jim, the lovely man that he is, painted it for me.  I have a new desk.   It is wonderful to have a cozy, comfortable, dedicated space to do my bits of writing and blogging.

Without further ado, here is the reading report!

Robin’s List

  • Holt, Tom. The Management Style of the Supreme Beings. New York: Orbit, 2017.
  • Griffith, Clay and Susan Griffith. The Shadow Revolution. New York: Del Rey, 2015.
  • Griffith, Clay and Susan Griffith. The Undying Legion. New York: Del Rey, 2015.
  • Harris, Charlaine. Midnight Crossroad. New York: Ace, 2014.

I haven’t finished The Management Style of the Supreme Beings. I have been distracted by other reading.  I was hoping it would be just a funny as my favorite Tom Holt novel, Flying Dutch.  This one is amusing, but I am having trouble finishing it up.  I will give it another go later this month.

I did enjoy reading Midnight Crossroad. I read this book just before the new TV series, Midnight, Texas started.  It made me a step ahead on the first few episodes.  I need to find another book in the series and then catch up on all the episodes of the TV series I have missed.

The Shadow Revolution and The Undying Legion are the first two books in the “Crown & Key” series.  They take place in Victorian London where werewolves and other nasty shadows lurk.  I fished these two books out of the pile Alexis had designated for Half Price books.  They were fun, light reading during these busy months.

Jim’s List

  • Baxter, Stephen. New York: Penguin, 2015 (Nook Book)
  • Tyson, Neil deGrasse. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2017.

While on vacation this summer, we were wandering in a little independent bookstore in Healdsburg, California when we ran across this slim, little volume.  While Jim does take time to contemplate the cosmos and photograph it as well, I thought he might find this book amusing.  “It was good, very informative, and easy to understand.  You don’t have to be an astronomer or engineer to understand it.”  These were Jim’s comments on the book.  I need to move it from his reading stack to mine.

I am glad to be back at work on this project.  Have a good month and happy reading!

Just in case you are curious.  Here is my office.

Office

 

Never Spit on Your Shoes: A Book for the First Day of School

NeverSpitCazet, Denys. Never Spit on Your Shoes. New York: Orchard Books, 1990.

Good evening!  This was the first day of school for many children in central Texas.  Parents worked hard to get their children ready to go back to school. Teachers did their part, working hard preparing their classrooms for their new students. It was a significant day for parents and students.  For young children and their parents going to school for the first time can be a little scary.  They don’t know what to expect.  For older students and their parents, the first day of school marks the beginning of a new year of activity.  For me it signaled the passing of a year in a more significant way than New Years.

While I was considering which book to share, I stopped to have a conversation with my daughter.  She grew up to become a music educator and now works in an elementary school here in central Texas.  She had been busy setting up her classroom. She told me her plans for the first day of school.  This year, she will be asking her student to help craft the classroom rules.

That amusing conversation made me remember this book.  I am certain I purchased the book for its title, Never Spit on Your Shoes, when I was teaching preschool. How could I resist? It is a good piece of advice.  Take a look at the cover of this book. Like my daughter, this teacher is developing the class rules for the first day of school.

Denys Cazet has shared the first day adventures of a little puppy named, Arnie.  Arnie is making the transition from kindergarten to first grade.  As the book opens we see Arnie drag himself into the house, throw himself into a chair, and gasp out for milk.  The first day of school has been exhausting.  His mom brings milk and cookies and they proceed to have a conversation about his first day of school.

I like the way this book is designed!  On the double-spread pages of the book, you see an inset of Arnie and his Mom.  The rest of the page shows the details of what happened at school. Here’s an example.  At the top of the inset picture, Arnie tells his mom, “We had to sit together in a circle and help the teacher make the rules.”  The rest of the double page shows the classroom, with the students in the circle working on ideas for rules.  Mrs. Hippowitz got some of these helpful suggestions: “Waste not, want not. Always keep your tools dry! Just say no to catnip. Never spit on your shoes. Keep your feet dry.  Is it time to go home?” The inset picture shows Arnie whispering to his mom.  Under the inset picture Arnie tells his mom, “Never spit on your shoes.”  Mom replies, “I promise.” Good advice, but I doubt it made the list. It clearly impressed Arnie. I am looking forward to visiting with my daughter to hear what interesting suggestions Ms. Reimund received for her classroom rules.

This book is very funny! It is evident that Mr. Cazet has spent some time in a classroom.  There are many amusing things to discover and discuss.  I don’t know, if I would read this book to my child before or after the first day of school.  It might be fun to read after and discuss how the child’s day was the same or different from Arnie’s. When you read this book, you need to pay close attention to the words and pictures or you will miss the jokes.  Pick up a copy of this book and share it on the first day of school with a youngster you know.

Denys Cazet

Here are five fun facts about this author.

  1. He’s been a gardener, mail carrier, teacher, librarian and media specialist.¹
  2. His characters are based on some of his friends and family.
  3. The title Never Spit on Your Shoes was an actual contribution to a teacher’s class discussion on rules.
  4. He was inspired to write the Minnie and Moo stories, when he drove past a herd of cows. All the cows were facing the same direction except two.2
  5. He lives and works near Napa in California3.

¹http://biography.jrank.org/pages/1785/Cazet-Denys-1938.html
²https://www.harpercollins.com/cr-100163/denys-cazet
³http://www.patriciamnewman.com/kidlit-creators/denys-cazet/