It’s Thankgiving

thanksgivingPrelutsky, Jack. It’s Thanksgiving. Illustrated by Marylin Hafner. New York: Scholastic, 1982.

Good morning!  Happy Thanksgiving!  It is a wonderful morning, cool and clear.  I offer some poetry for your enjoyment this day.

First a poem from this book. I have no recollection of picking up this slim volume of poems for this holiday, but it is one of my favorite little books.  When my girls were small, I used to share these poems over the day on Thanksgiving. Perhaps our favorite was “Daddy’s Football Game.” We would arrange dinner so that we could watch Texas A&M and Texas play on Thanksgiving day. I adore the poem “It’s Happy Thanksgiving”.  It is all about visiting his Grandma and cooking with her.  I remember visiting my Nana on Thanksgiving, but there were so many people in the kitchen I did not help her cook.  I do remember cooking with my Mom and I hope my girls remember cooking with me.

The First Thanksgiving

When the Pilgrims
first gathered together to share
with their Indian friends
in the mild autumn air,
they lifted their voices
in jubilant praise
for the bread on the table,
the berries and maize,
for field and for forest,
for turkey and deer,
for the bountiful crops
they were blessed with that year.
They were thankful for these
as they feasted away,
and as they were thankful,
we’re thankful today.

I got up early to write these words for a day I love.  By the time it is over I am tired and worn, but I love cooking dinner for our family.  I have just been told that the Texas A&M and LSU game begins at 6:30 pm.  It is a good thing we are eating early and will have everything cleaned up by kick-off.  The girls and I may send Jim off to the den to watch the game and we will play a game or watch a movie.  One of my favorite blessings is by Irving Berlin.  You can hear it in the movie, White Christmas. Here it is, perhaps you can hear Bing Crosby sing it to you while you read it.

When I’m worried and
I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep,
And I fall asleep counting
my blessings.

When my bankroll is
getting small,
I think of when I had none at all,
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.

Irving Berlin ©1952

As I go to start the last of the cooking, here are my own humble words for this day.

We are gathered together this Thanksgiving Day,
To celebrate and feast in our own special way.
We remember our family wherever they roam
and we are thankful for everyone’s heart, health and home.
For all that we have and all that we treasure,
We are truly blessed beyond all measure.
We hope you can celebrate, however is best
With friends or family to share how you’re blest.
Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2016


Picking Apples & Pumpkins

Hutchings, Amy and Richard Hutchings.  Picking Apples & Pumpkins.  New York: Scholastic, 1994.

Today was a fall day in central Texas.  The day dawned clear, crisp and cold.  At our house it was 33° F.  In central Texas this is cold!  It was glorious. We had our first frost!  Take a look at the picture I have included of the frost on the grass and the little house roof. I know, I know its very light, but it is frost.

fall_nov2016In Picking Apples & Pumpkins it looks like Kristy has the same bright start to her day. She and her friends and family went apple picking. Have you ever been apple picking? I have not, but this colorful book illustrated with photographs makes me wish I had.  At the orchard, Kristy and her friends and family got a hay ride out to the apple trees.  They picked Macouns, a variety I am not certain I have ever seen.  They look bright red on the outside and white and crisp on the inside.  Kristy and her friends ate apples, while they worked.  They climbed to the top of the apple trees and picked apples.  After the Macouns, they went on to pick yellow Delicious apples. All that tree climbing and apple picking no wonder they were hungry for lunch!

As the title promises they move on to the pumpkin patch.  I haven’t seen a pumpkin patch in a field like Kristy and her friends visit, but I love to look at the Pumpkin Patch that a local church does every year.  It is delightful to watch all the little ones work to pick the perfect pumpkin.  In this book, they had little pumpkins and big ones.  Kristy and her friend pick their favorites.  At this point, in my day I would have opted for a name, but this family is hardy!  They go home and make apple pie and carve pumpkins.  What a fantastic day they had!

While I didn’t go picking apples and pumpkins, I was able to get out in the fresh air and sunshine.  I am grateful for this fall season.  Here’s a portion of poem by e.e. cummings for a lovely fall day.

i thank you God for most this
amazing day; for the leaping
greenly spirits of trees and a blue
true dream of sky; and for
which is natural which is
infinite which is yes

The Paper Bag Princess

paperbagprincessMunsch, Robert N. The Paper Bag Princess.  Illustrated by Michael Martchenko.  Toronto, Canada: Annick Press, LTD., 1980.

I raised two little girls, who enjoyed this book enormously!  Princess Elizabeth was beautiful, intrepid and smart.  She was totally smitten with Prince Roland. Her life changes when a fire breathing dragon enters the story, wreaks havoc and carries off Prince Roland.  When disaster struck did she fall apart?  She did not! She found something unburnt to wear, a paper bag and proceeded to get her prince back!  In the story (spoiler alert!), she finds the courage to outwit the smartest, fiercest dragon in the world and to save her prince.  She also finds the courage to see her prince for what he is, in her words “a bum.”  In the end, she didn’t need to marry the prince at all.

This is a wonderful book!  We liked Princess Elizabeth, because she stood up for herself and defeated a dragon with her wits. We love strong women at our house.

This book was on my list for a blog entry.  I moved it forward, when I came across this article on “Reading Rainbow”: Raising SciFi/Fantasy Readers: 13 Children’s Books That Are Out of This World?  At our house we love science fiction (SciFi) and fantasy books.  If you have been following this blog, you can see this demonstrated in the monthly reading report. As I was looking at this list, I find that I have already blogged about several.  They were books I didn’t associate with raising a SciFi/Fantasy reader, but raising a reader in general as I bought them for my nephew, Elijah’s Little Library.

Here is my soap box. Raising readers is important!  Read anything that engages the young reader in your life science fiction, fantasy, humor, sport! Let them choose the stories that mean something to them.  Help them tell their own stories, after all Robert Munsch started his career not an an author, but a storyteller.

Robert N. Munsch

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in June 1945.  He comes from a large family.  He wasn’t good in school.  His Mom says he never matured past age 6 and that he has always been a little strange¹. He studied to be a Jesuit priest and found the classes deadly boring.  He did find that he liked working with children so he went back to school and worked on a degree in child studies.  While he was in school, he found he liked making up stories for children.  He was the “go to” teacher for stories as other were for the playdoh.  One of his bosses encouraged him to publish his stories and gave him a couple of months off to work on that project.  He sold his books and eventually his book I Love You Forever edged Good Night Moon out of its first place slot on the New York Times bestsellers list.

He is a very interesting character.  He likes to visit schools, day care centers and libraries unannounced.  Take a look at these websites for more information about this author.


Franchise: A Story for Election Day!

whitehouseAsimov, Isaac. “Franchise.” The Far Ends of Time and Earth.  New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., nd.

My thoughts and good wishes are with all the voters, who go to the polls today and to those that have voted early.  Thank you for participating in our democratic process!  The election of our new president is an important duty.

For election day, I offer you a story of a future time, written by Isaac Asimov in 1955. He imagined a time in the future when waiting for the results of an election was just too tedious and the statistical accuracy of the computers in that time reduced the need for the entire adult populace to vote. In the new Electronic Democracy, the voting process was run by the Multivac computer and only one man in the country  needed to vote. Notice that only one man was needed, by this time women were no longer eligible to vote. Did this Electronic Democracy reduce all the hype and hoopla of the presidential campaigns?  No, sadly, there were still presidential campaigns with all their excess and drama.  The pundit’s role was to speculate on state would provide the designated voter.  Norman Muller of Indiana was chosen and he was petrified. It was a grave responsibility to help choose for two hundred million people.  With great trepidation, he goes to do his duty.  Questions from Multivac are delivered to Norman by a technician. His response are recorded, reviewed and fed into Multivac. His ordeal lasted for three hours after which he had to wait for an hour to make certain Multivac had no more questions. After it was over, the only question Norman could remember was “What do you think of the price of eggs.”  I wonder what other factors Multivac incorporated into the election decision. In the end, despite his original terror, Norman was proud of his contribution.

In this imperfect world, the sovereign citizens of the first and greatest Electronic Democracy had, through Norman Muller (through him!), exercised once again its free, untrammeled franchise.

This process was clean and only took four hours.  Would I trade that Electronic Democracy for our current one?  No, I would not!  I want to help make this vital decision. I will take our messy, noisy, time-consuming process!  Tonight I am going to enjoy the fruits of our democracy and watch the election returns. I will raise my glass to the USA!

Stone Soup

anchobutternutsoupFall is soup weather here in Texas.  I am always glad when the highs move out of the 80’s down to the 70’s.  It is at that point that my family will eat soup.  Soup is one of my favorite dishes to make.  There is something very comforting about making it and eating it.  Here is a picture of the beautiful Ancho-Butternut Squash Soup I made for dinner.  It was heavenly.

stonesoupThe making of this soup led me to think about a favorite story of mine Stone Soup.  I was looking through my books to find a copy and found I have three different versions of this story.  Stone Soup is an old folk tale. I am certain that it has as many versions as there are storytellers. It is a story about cleverness, sharing, and generosity.  Here are the three versions I have.

  • Sapienza, Marilyn. Stone Soup. Illustrated by Hans Wilhelm.  Middletown, CT: Weekly Reader Books, 1986.
  • McGovern, Ann.  Stone Soup.  Illustrated by Winslow Pinney Pels.  New York: Scholastic, 1968, 1986.
  • Brown, Marcia.  Stone Soup. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1947, renewed 1975.

Marcia Brown’s book is the oldest and perhaps the closest to the original story.  In her story three soldiers are coming home from war.  They wander into a village looking for food and a place to sleep.  Unfortunately the peasants of that town fear strangers.  They hid all the food. They were too afraid to share.

Ann McGovern’s book features a young, poor man who walked and walked. it doesn’t say where he came from or where he is going.  He came upon a little old lady, who had nothing to give him.  She was too frightened to share.

Marilyn Sapeinza’s book features two pigs, Molly & Max.  They too have been traveling.  They are hungry and tired, but the village they happen upon has no food or comfort to give them. Here is what it says about the village in this book: “What Molly and Max didn’t know is that these villagers weren’t kind.  They were stingy and mean.”

Are all these villages suffering from the same hardships as our protagonists (soldiers, young man, pigs)?  No, but no one is willing to share.  They let the tired, hungry travelers think they are suffering from the hardships of hunger, too. In each story, the hungry travelers try to help the villagers by eliminating hunger for all of them by making the intriguing “Stone Soup.”  Imagine what water and clean stones would taste like.  Slowly and with suggestion, everyone contributes something for the soup. In every story, soup fit for a king is made.  Everyone shares more and a great celebration is had! The soldiers, young man and pigs are treated like heroes.  They have a comfy bed to sleep in for the night.  In the morning when they leave their villages, they remind the townfolk to always share stone soup!

Have you ever made stone soup?  I have made stone soup with my children and also a group of preschoolers in story time.  It is a fun activity.  You can have everything ready to go and begin to read the story.  You can let the children help you make the soup and act out the story.   Here’s the recipe from Marilyn Sapeinza’s book.

Heat some water in a pot,
Add some stones you’ve scrubbed a lot.

Sprinkle pepper, salt, and herbs.
Let it boil undistrurbed.

Drop in carrots, onions, too.
Let the soup heat through and through.

Stir in milk to make it sweet.
Add potatoes for a treat.

Toss in meat cubes. Let it stew.
Let it bubble. Let it brew.

Taste the soup and when its done,
Share stone soup with everyone.

Tell this story to someone you love and help them make stone soup.  You may hear them say, “Soup from a stone. Fancy that!”


Texas Book Festival 2016

texasbookfestivalThe Texas Book Festival (TBF) began with a simple purpose: to bring authors and readers together in a celebration of literature and literacy¹. The mission of the book festival is to promote literacy and Texas libraries. Part of the proceeds from the festival are used to give grants to Texas libraries for collection enhancements. It also funds the Reading Rock Stars program, a literacy initiative that brings national authors to Title I schools in Texas to inspire young readers.  It sends them home with a book of their very own.

The first festival was held in November of 1996, which was around the same time we moved into our current house.   Twenty years and we have never attended!  I find it hard to believe that I have been remiss in supporting literacy and libraries in this way!

So it was on this gloomy Sunday that Jim, Alexis and I made our way to downtown Austin for this year’s Book Festival. Every year it is held in and around the Texas State Capitol.  This year’s festival had over 275+ authors.  There was something for almost everyone.  This year three of our favorites were in Austin: Lois Lowry, R.L. Stine and Mercedes Lackey. We didn’t get to see any of them due to poor planning on our part. When we go next year, we need to have a better strategy.   Still, we had a wonderful time, wandering through the exhibition tents and looking at all the books.  I was able to pick up a couple of good books that will make excellent blog entries at a later date.

We stopped by the story tent and listened to Matthew Reinhart create a pop-up story about a princess triceratops for a group of very engaged second graders.  We wandered past the Central Market Cooking Tent and watched a part of the Taco Scientists Presents: The Taco Cleanse.  It looked tasty.   We went to the C-SPAN2/BookTV tent and listened to Evan Smith interview David Clay about his book The Making of Donald Trump.  We ambled through the Capitol ground and through the Capitol. Even with the rain, we had a delightful day.

Alexis likes to bake and decorate cupcakes so we went to the HEB Read 3 Cupcake Challenge Final.  Five teams were decorating cakes based on stories that they had drawn at the beginning of today’s competition.  This competition was in support of HEB’s Read 3 literacy initiative.  This program encourages parents to read to their children at least three times per week. They sponsor book drives and try to help get books into the hands and homes of children and families who need books in their homes.

practicalI am excited about one book that I picked up today.  It had no friends on the table in the Barnes and Noble tent.  I don’t know, if other book nerds like me picked it up or it was a singleton, but the title said, “You must buy me!” and so I did.  How can you pass up a book with chapter titles like these?  You can expect to hear more about this book!

Candide Says Relax. Then Get to Work.
Am I a Man or an Android?
Staying out of the Bell Jar
Burning Books: One Crappy Job
Why To Kill a Mockingbird Makes a Great Father’s Day Gift
The Renaissance of Nerds of The Phantom Tollbooth
Beware of Revolutionaries Who Look Like Pigs




Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes

peteshoesLitwin, Eric. Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes. Illustrated by James Dean.  New York: Scholastic,  2008.

A happening dude is Pete the Cat!
He’s relaxed, happy and quite laid back!
Does he get stressed and does he worry?
No siree and he doesn’t hurry.
He loves his shoes whatever color they are!
He knows they will take him far, far, far!

I think Pete the Cat is my new personal hero!  Everything is cool, groovy, awesome, and groovy for Pete.  As he says, “its all good.” He just keeps walking and singing his song.  This is a story for a house full of people who randomly break out into songs!

I have seen these books at the store, but I hadn’t opened one. I am regretful.  This book is so funny!  Sarah bought this book at the Scholastic Book Fair at school last week. She read it to her class and the kids read it along with her.  She reports that they loved it. She did have to caution them that they could only sing the verse with three lines.  I can see why.  Pete’s shoe song has been running through my head.  I like the tune we made up, but here is a link to the song referred to on the cover:  Both of them are very groovy and make me want to jive along with Pete!