Green Eggs and Ham

Book cover for Green eggs and ham by Dr. SeussGreen Eggs and Ham
Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)
New York: Beginning Books, A Division of Random House, 1960.

No library for a young person or an old one for that matter should be without a book by Dr. Seuss. I figured that someone had already gotten Elijah a copy of the classic The Cat in the Hat so I went with another classic The Sneetches and Other Stories.  I think each of his stories tries to gently and humorously teach us something. The Sneetches… carries a wonderful message about equality and tolerance.  It ends with “Sneetches are sneetches/ And no kind of sneetch is the best on the beach.”

Dr. Seuss accepted a challenge to write books for beginning readers.  When Elijah gets ready to learn to read, I hope he enjoys some of them like Hop on Pop and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  I hope he learns and remembers what Dr. Seuss wrote: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  My hope is he learns to read well and goes far.

You will notice that I haven’t put a picture of The Sneetches and Other Stories in this blog, unfortunately I don’t have a copy of this book in my collection.  I want to share with you my favorite Dr. Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham.   I love this book!  I didn’t know you could eat in so many place and with such a variety of partners.

“I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
I do not like green eggs and ham”

How many times do we hear our own children say this about a food or food group? Do you think being as persistent as Sam-I-am would get a child to eat their vegetables or something else they are certain they don’t like?  Talk about wearing a person down.  Children need to experience all kinds of food, even the ones they don’t think they will like.  Sometime, we surprise them and serve up really tasty food. We instituted the “No Thank You” helping at our house.  I may have goaded a child with the “I do not like them, Sam-I-am.  I do not like green eggs and ham.” Every now and then it worked.

In our house we loved this story! Every so often we celebrate Dr. Seuss by reading the story and making green eggs and ham.  I hope someday Elijah will come and visit me and I can read him this story and make him green eggs and ham!

Dr. Seuss was a wonderful story maker for children.  Here’s my humble appreciation of his work.

Dr. Suess: An Appreciation

Dr. Seuss, for a cat in a hat and those fish red and blue,
Young readers and their parents are grateful to you!

Whimsical, colorful books that rhyme,
Made practicing reading a joy not a crime.

My girls loved to read you and practice they did,
With joy, glee, and humor and grins that weren’t hid.

Reading practice made fun with a fox in blue socks,
It wasn’t painful or laborious like breaking down rocks.

You took up the challenge to write for beginners,
Your astounding, comical books are winners.

So thank you good doctor for Green Eggs and Ham,
For Grinches and Sneetches and sly Sam-I-Am!

For practice you gave us silly, whimsy to read,
We thank you for writing to fill this need!

Dr. Seuss

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born in Springfield, MA on March 2, 1904 and died in La Jolla, CA on September 26, 1991.  He was educated at Dartmouth and majored in English.   He loved drawing and cartooning, but he was not formally trained.  He one and only art class was in high school and the art teacher didn’t think much of his talent¹.

I like to read about authors to find out what inspired them. Did they spend a lot of time in libraries?  Many of them did.  Theodor liked to read.  He learned to read early and was fascinated by words¹.  Dr. Seuss was inspired by trip to the Springfield Zoo².  I can make that connection! What wonderful fanciful creatures he created!  What wonderous, fantabulous books he left for us to enjoy.

In the early to mid-1950’s works like “Why Johnny Can’t Read…And What You Can Do About It” and “Why Do Student Bog Down on the First R” were circulating.  America was worried because children were having trouble learning to read.  Dr. Seuss was challenged by a publisher. Could he write a book using only words that were found in beginning readers?  Could he make it more entertaining that the Dick and Jane Primers that were currently in use? He rose to the occasion using 225 words to write The Cat in the Hat.   I have to say it is a much more entertaining work that the Dick and Jane series¹. I am so glad he took up this challenge.  The Cat in the Hat was just the first of many reading primers he wrote and illustrated.

Here are some facts I find fascinating about Dr. Seuss.

  1. His first book, And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street was rejected 27 times before it was accepted by a publisher. That shows real persistence!!!!
  2. Theodor Geisel was and advertising man.  Writing and copy and cartooning for products was his day job before he could devote himself to writing books for children³.
  3. Teddy Roosevelt gave him a lifelong case of stage fright³!

Websites for more information about Dr. Seuss.

¹http://www.anapsid.org/aboutmk/seuss.html

²http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0302.html

³https://www.washingtonpost.com/pb/blogs/answer-sheet/post/six-things-you-probably-dont-know-about-dr-seuss/2012/03/02/gIQA1SVGnR_blog.html

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The Ruins of Gorlan

The Ruins of Gorlan Book CoverThe Ruins of Gorlan
Flanagan, John
New York: Puffin Books, 2005

I discovered this book, the first in the Ranger’s Apprentice series a year or two ago.  I was taking advantage of my public library’s OverDrive service.  Offered by some libraries, OverDrive is a free service that allows a patron to borrow ebooks, audiobook and other materials from the library’s digital collections.  It is a wonderful program.  When I am restless and looking for something new, I search through my library’s digital collection.  The books are delivered to my eReader.  I also love their audiobooks.  I have checked out an audiobook and downloaded it to my phone.  We listened to the book on our road trip.

When I was choosing books for Elijah, I remembered this one.  I thought he might like to read a book about a brave, heroic young man.  The author wrote these books to get his son interested in reading.  I hope Elijah, doesn’t need to be enticed to enjoy reading.  Reading can take you places and provide adventures right from you own home.

The boy in this story, Will was small, thin and wiry.  He becomes the Ranger Halt’s apprentice.  While disappointed that he wasn’t going to become a knight in service to King Duncan of Araluen, he discovers that the kingdom needs other types of people to protect and serve. Will learns the ways of the Rangers and has important, dangerous and satisfying work to do.  This book and the others in this series are a bildungsroman, a story of Will’s work to grow into himself and his craft. He is intelligent, resourceful and intrepid.  I like Will and his young friends.  Read this book and others in the series to find out how they work together to save their kingdom.  This is an exciting series for a boy or girl.

John Flanagan

Googling this author, I couldn’t really find much more than what is in the back cover of my book.  He hoped to be a writer and had a successful career in television and advertising.  John wrote the Ranger’s Apprentice series to encourage his son, Michael to enjoy reading. John is an Australian and lives with his wife in Sydney.  You can visit this author’s website at http://www.worldofjohnflanagan.com.  Here are some links to interviews with this author.

Low Riders in Space

Lowriders in spaceCamper, Cathy
Raúl the Third, Illustrator
Low Riders in Space
San Fransisco: Chronicle Books, 2014

This is a book I bought for Elijah’s little library.  It is a 2016-17 Texas Bluebonnet Award Nominee.  Texas teachers, parents, librarians and other interested persons suggest books for this award.  Nominees are chosen and then children in grades 3-6 in Texas schools choose the winner.  I can’t wait to find out if this book won.

This was the second book from the 2016-2017 Bluebonnet Master List, I bought for Elijah.  The first, if you recall from previous posts was Space Case. They were the only two books that were in Elijah’s library that I hadn’t read.  I bought him Low Riders in Space, because it looked like so much fun to read!

I bought a copy of this book for myself and I just finished reading it.  As I suspected it was fun to read! I love books about characters who work hard to achieve their dreams.  This has so many wonderful drawings. Would you like a car that has pinstripes from the rings of Saturn, the Big Dipper on the back license plate and Cygnus the Swan as detail on the front hood?  Could you collapse a black hole with what you had with you in the car as you cruised through space?  Read this book and find out what adventures Elirio Malaria, Flapjack Octopus and Lupe Impala have getting their old Impala low rider ready for the Universal Car Competition.

This is a fantastic book. It would be a great gift for a car fan, space fan, or art fan.  It might get a reluctant reader interested in books.  The pictures are intricate and engaging.  The story is fun.  I recommend it.  I am so glad I picked up a copy for my own collection.

Cathy Camper

Cathy is a writer, artist and librarian.  She is a hard author to find much information about online.  From the book’s back cover, you discover that she is the creator of Bugs Before Time.  She is a reviewer of graphic novels for Lambda Literary and she is currently a librarian for Multnomah County in Portland, Oregon.

Her best advice to young writers is to learn to day dream! Instead of being on your cell phone or watching TV take the time to think of your own stories in your head.

You can learn more about Cathy on her website at http://cathycamper.com/.

You can listen to her interview for his Texas Bluebonnet Award Nominator for Low Riders in Space on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXQl4fSIjFw.

Raúl the Third

As the characters in this story only used the materials they had at hand or could scavenge to make their car, Raul decided to use the materials he had on hand or found when he was learning to draw: ink pens in red, blue and black.

Currently, Raul live in Boston, where he has had a number of recent art exhibits.  He teaches classes on drawing and comics to students in and around that city.  His advice to young students on drawing or whatever interest them is to work on their interests continually to get better and improve their skills. They should practice as much as they can.

While his lives in Boston, he grew up in El Paso, Texas.  He was influenced by that city and you can see that in his drawings in Low Riders in Space. If you are familiar with El Paso, you may recognize some of the places he included in this book.

To learn more about this author, you can visit his website: http://www.artbyraul.com/about.html

You can listen to his interview for his Texas Bluebonnet Award Nominator for Low Riders in Space on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXQl4fSIjFw

 

A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the WoodsA Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
Bryson, Bill
New York: Broadway Books, 1998

No, watching the movie did not make me read this book.  I read this book a number of years ago, when I was on a search for books of humor.  It wasn’t the laugh until you cried book I was seeking, however it was amusing as well as insightful, informational and charming.

Yes, I do reread books.  It is like visiting with an old friend. This year, I choose to reread this book on my vacation as we were going hike a small portion of the Appalachian Trail. This trail is approximately 2,100 miles long and travels through 14 states.  It begins at Springer Mountain in Georgia and ends at Mt. Katahdin in Maine.  You can access the trail at any number of places along the way.  We accessed the trail at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.  The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is based there and we started our trip at their office.  The staff there is very helpful.  Jim and I wanted to hike a small (very small) part of this trail.  We consulted with the staff on the best direction to head out from the office to hike a representational part of the trail.  South was recommended to us as north took you through Harper’s Ferry and along a railroad canal for much of the distance we would be hiking.

South we headed and made for the Loudoun Heights Trails section.  To reach the trail, we walked across the Shenandoah River Bridge.  The river here was wide and fast flowing.  It was magnificent. Over the river and under the bridge, we began our climb.  We had planned to hike to the ridgeline and back about a 5 mile round trip. As I said, we planned to hike only a small piece of the trail. The trail at this point was breathtaking.  It was lushly green with towering trees.  There were small brooks, tiny water falls, elegant flowers and wild raspberries.

Boots on the trailHere’s one of the first sights that greeted us as we began our climb, boots on the trail.  We stopped and marveled. Were they a joke?  Did they fall off someone’s pack?  Did someone jettison them?  We shook our heads.  We definitely would not want to be without boots on this trail.

We continued our climb. As we did, it reminded me of this section from the book. It comes from the first days of Bill Bryson’s walk.

“The hardest part was coming to terms with the constant dispiriting discovery that there is always more hill… Each time you haul yourself up to what you think must be the crest, you find that there is in fact more hill beyond, sloped at an angle that kept it from view before…” (p. 35)

The trail was a challenging climb for us.  We clambered upward. Sometimes, it makes you wonder why you choose to take up trials. I wonder about the author’s decision to walk this trail as a vague idea of getting fit.  Before I hiked this trail, I would haven shake my head in dismay at that thought.  You don’t hike this trail to get fit.  To be a “thru” or even a “section” hiker, you need to be fit.  Jim and I were carrying our camera backpacks.  With my hydration bladder full of water, my camera backpack weighs between 15-20 pounds.  Jim’s weighs more.  I can’t imagine hiking this trail with a full pack as described in the book.

We hiked on  July 5th, 2016.  The day was a bright, hot, muggy, and  still.  While the trail was shaded, there was not a breath of wind to help cool us.  We are not used to hiking in this kind of weather.  We are used hiking where it is 100º  with 0% humidity, not 95º with 95% humidity.  Alas we were defeated and had to turn back.  We hiked about 2 miles from the Conservancy office about 1/2 mile short of our goal.  We needed enough energy to hike back to the office and meet our ride.

We hiked back to the Conservancy Office.  Hiking down is not always easier than going up.  Good thing we reserved a little strength. Again we passed those lonely, abandoned boots. I wondered about their hiker.  Was he like Bill’s friend, Katz?  Did he throw them down in a fit of anger and despair at the trail? I will wonder, but never know.

The hike was hot, hard and exhilarating!  We didn’t make our goal, but we hiked the trail. We made it back and entered gratefully into the air-conditioned coolness of the AT Conservancy office.  They have a room in the back for hikers. It has a place to rest, a fridge full of low cost drinks and a restroom.  The most amusing sight was the sign with the phone underneath it.  The phone provided free long distance service for hikers. In large friendly letters the sign above the phone said, “Call your Mom and Dad!”  Underneath that printed in smaller letters, it said, ” Call your kids!”

All kinds of people hike the Appalachian Trail, young and old.  While we were in the office, we say some young men who were “thru” hikers.  They stopped to rest, pick up mail and check in. There was another woman, recently retired, talking to the staff about the possibility of “thru” hiking.  There were also sightseers from the town, section hikers just starting or finishing and other day hikers, like Jim and I.  It was fascinating to listen to their stories.  I only got a small glimpse of the trail and while Bill Bryson didn’t hike all of it, he did hike over 800 miles.  His book, while it is a tale of a walk in the woods, it was also a commentary on the parts of American he hiked.  Our country is so beautiful and we are fortunate enough to travel freely within it.  If you are not up for a hike on the AT, find a piece of America that is new to you and visit it.  Appreciate it.  Bryson came away with a new appreciation of America, the wilderness, nature, and mountains.  Here’s one of his final reflections: “Best of all, these days when I see a mountain, I look at it slowly and appraisingly, with a narrow, confident gaze and eyes of chipped granite.” (p. 274).  You will need to read the book to find out what prompts this specific appreciation.

Here’s how Bill Bryson ends his book.

“We didn’t walk 2,200 miles, it’s true, but here’s the thing: we tried.  So Katz was right after all, and I don’t care what anybody says.  We hiked the Appalachian Trail.” (p. 274)

Jim and I never intended to try that hike for a number of reasons.  We did hike the trail as we intended.  I can now say, “Been there, done that and have the t-shirt to prove it.”

On a side note, last night I watched the movie, A Walk in the Woods.  It was an amusing movie.  While not nearly as comprehensive as the book, it provided most of the humorous bits from the story and some of the glorious scenery from this wonder of the world.

If you want to read more about the Appalachian trail visit the Appalachian Conservancy’s website: http://www.appalachiantrail.org/home/explore-the-trail

If you want to read more about Bill Bryson, try these websites.

 

 

The Graveyard Book

Graveyard bookGaiman, Neil
The Graveyard Book
New York: HarperCollins, 2008

They give lots of different kinds of awards for books.  I wanted to get Elijah a Newbery Award winner. The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.  It’s purpose is “To encourage original creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasize to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children’s reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field.”¹ In other words, the author wrote a smashingly good book!

In 2009, Neil Gaiman won this award for The Graveyard Book.  Nobody Owens, a normal boy, lives in a graveyard and is raised by ghosts.  Why is he living in a graveyard?  Is it scary? Bod Owens is not frightened.  His parents, tutors and friends are ghosts from the graveyard.  His guardian, Silas, may or may not be a vampire.  He can’t leave the graveyard, his life will be in danger.  Read this book and find out how Bod grows up and what happens to him.

Neil Gaiman

“Sometimes, when he was smaller, people used to tell Neil Gaiman not to make things up. He never listened”.² Thank God! I hope he goes on making things up for a really long time.  Neil writes for children and for adults. He’s written movies, books and graphic novels.  “As a child he discovered his love of books, reading, and stories, devouring the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, James Branch Cabell, Edgar Allan Poe, Michael Moorcock, Ursula K. LeGuin, Gene Wolfe, and G.K. Chesterton”³. What good taste!  These are some of my favorites as well. And he loved libraries!  I think I am in love!

His books refuse to follow genre’s and fit nicely into categories.  He believes in the future of libraries, reading, books and day-dreaming.  Here’s a great piece he wrote for the Guardian in 2013: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming.

In the back of my copy of The Graveyard Book is the text of his Newbery Medal Acceptance speech.  One of the first things he notes is winning the Newbery Medal made him cool to his kids.  He remarks that this is as good as it gets as you are almost never cool to your kids.

It came to him as he finished writing the book that he wasn’t writing a book about childhood, but about being a parent.  As he says, “if you do your job properly, they go away. And they have lives and they have families and they have futures.”  I thought this book’s last lines were particularly poignant. “But between now and then, there was Life; and Bod walked into it with eyes wide open.” I hold that same hope for my children.

From this same speech he said these insightful things!

Reading is important.
Books are important.
Librarians are important.
It is a glorious and unlikely thing to be cool to your children.
Children’s fiction is the most important fiction of all.

You can follow Neil Gaiman on Twitter @neilhimself.  You can read more about him on his website http://www.neilgaiman.com/.

I forgot to add that NPR featured Neil Gaiman and The Graveyard Book on their Backseat Book Club http://www.npr.org/2011/10/28/141766112/kids-book-club-a-graveyard-tour-with-neil-gaiman.

¹http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/newberymedal/aboutnewbery/aboutnewbery

²http://www.mousecircus.com/MeetNeilGaiman.aspx

³http://www.mousecircus.com/MeetNeilGaiman.aspx

Happy July 4th! America the Beautiful!

America the BeautifulBates, Katharine Lee
Waldman, Neil, Illustrator
America the Beautiful
New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 2002

Happy July 4th!  This year we are celebrating our country’s 240th Birthday. We are so blessed to live in a country with such diverse beauty. Katharine Lee Bates was inspired to write this poem in the summer of 1893 when she was lecturing  at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.  Neil Waldman was inspired to illustrate her poem on a cross country drive. There are days when I wish I had the talent to draw or paint the beauty that I see.  

We are so lucky to live in a country with so much diversity.  We need to remember that the majority of us who call the United States of America home came from some other country, if we look far enough back.  Our family comes from England, Ireland, Germany and Lebanon. My hopes for our next year is to do as it says on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, you poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Let us open our hearts to new people.

America the Beautiful is one of my favorite songs to sing on this day.  This book is the kind I like, you can read it or sing it.  I love music and singing.  Today another song has been running through my head, it is Irving Berlin’s Song of Freedom. I leave you with a link to a version of this song from the movie Holiday Inn.

https://youtu.be/7z9SSuwaME8

Katharine Lee Bates (1859 – 1929)

Katherine was a poet and a scholar.  Her father died shortly after she was born.  Her father’s pension was not enough to support the family so everyone pitched in and helped.  Education was important to her mother and she strove to provide her children with education.

They moved to a town near Wellesly so her mother could care for an ailing sister.  Wellesley College was just being completed and Katharine was determined to attend.  Attend she did and later became the head of the English Department there.1

Bates was a noted scholar, poet and writer. She was a prolific author publishing many volumes of poetry, books on her travels to Europe and the Middle East and stories, verses and plays for children. She also published several books on Shakespeare and pre-Shakespearean English Religious drama.2

Neil Waldman

Neil is a serious traveler.  His own travels inspired him to illustrate this book.  Here is a part of his own artist’s statement.

“But what type of artist are you?’
“A painter, of course. A landscape painter.”
For the earth’s landscapes brighten my darkest caverns
They are the beating of my heart
And their glorious colour is the stuff I breathe
Raging rivers are my life’s blood
Fields of flowers feed me
Twisted trees and mountain meadows heal my deepest wounds
They are like midwives
Continually ushering me
Into sunsparkled mornings3

1http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Katharine_Lee_Bates.aspx

2http://www.songwritershalloffame.org/exhibits/bio/C194

3http://artsnet.net/waldman/pages/statement.htm