Read an Old Favorite: Clifford the Big Red Dog

Book coverBridwell, Norman.  Clifford the Big Red Dog. New York: Scholastic, 1963.

Do you know this book?  While it is an older book, I think Clifford is still a terrific character.  Yes, Clifford is big and red.  He is a good friend to a small girl named Emily Elizabeth.  Emily Elizabeth says that he is the biggest, reddest dog on her street.  I don’t know about the reddest, but he is the biggest dog on any street and perhaps in the world.  How big is he?  He is as big as Emily Elizabeth’s house!  Where does he get a bath, in the swimming pool!! Clifford loves to play games with Emily Elizabeth!  In Hide and Seek she is an excellent hider, while Clifford is always found.  I wonder why? When Clifford begs, Emily Elizabeth must climb to the attic and use a window there to give him his reward.  Chasing cars for Clifford is problematical, as sometimes he catches them.  It makes the driver, very angry!  I wonder why?  He also runs after cats.  Emily Elizabeth can’t take him to the zoo, can you imagine why?  Clifford is a very special dog and Emily Elizabeth wouldn’t trade him!

My girls loved reading about Clifford. It was wonderful to give them this reading experience.  Children with disabilities need reading experiences as well.  Here is a link to an article on bringing literacy to life with story boxes: http://www.pathstoliteracy.org/blog/bringing-literacy-life-through-storyboxes. Story boxes are a great way to bring stories alive for children with visual impairments.  This article provides an example of how to make another Clifford story, Clifford’s Bedtime, accessible for children with disabilities.

Norman Bridwell

Norman decided to keep it all in the family.  Clifford was names after his wife’s childhood imaginary friend and Clifford’s friend and companion was named after Bridwell’s daughter, Emily Elizabeth.

Norman was born in Kokomo, Indiana!  I lived there for a year and never realized it was his birthplace.  At that time, I didn’t have any children and wasn’t familiar with this wonderful big, red dog.

He had a vivid imagination as a child and enjoyed making up imaginary kingdoms as a backdrop for his tin soldiers and other toys.  As with many other author/illustrators, he majored in art and spent some time working to get a job as a book illustrator.  A chance remark by a rejecting publisher set him on his path.  It was suggested that he make up stories about the big red dog and little girl who appeared in his portfolio.  Clifford the Big Red Dog’s career was launched. Scholastic can be congratulated for recognizing Bridwell’s brilliance!

Dick Robinson, chairman, president and CEO of Scholastic had this to say about Norman Bridwell and the Clifford books.

Norman Bridwell’s books about Clifford, childhood’s most loveable dog, could only have been written by a gentle man with a great sense of humor. Norman personified the values that we as parents and educators hope to communicate to our children – kindness, compassion, helpfulness, gratitude – through the Clifford stories which have been loved for more than fifty years. The magic of the character and stories Norman created with Clifford is that children can see themselves in this big dog who tries very hard to be good, but is somewhat clumsy and always bumping into things and making mistakes. What comforts the reader is that Clifford is always forgiven by Emily Elizabeth, who loves him unconditionally.¹

Watch some video interviews with this author.

Read about more about Norman Bridwell on these websites.

¹http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-authors/article/65076-obituary-norman-bridwell.html

Welcome Spring: The Legend of the Bluebonnet

bluebonnet_legendDe Paola, Tomie.  The Legend of the Bluebonnet. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1983.

Today is the first official day of spring.  From here the days get longer and the nights get shorter until we reach the summer solstice. In my patch of Northern, Central Texas, it has felt like spring for at least a month. We have had warm days into the 70s and 80s and cool evenings down into the 50s.  It is one of my favorite seasons.  As I write, I am sitting in my backyard with a glass of iced tea and a gentle breeze blowing across me.  It is a practically, perfect day.

In Texas, a herald of spring is the Texas Bluebonnet.  As soon as the weather starts to warm up in late February or early March, they begin to bloom.  If you drive through our state during this time, you will see swaths of highway medians and roadsides covered with their bright blue flowers.  We can thank Lady Bird Johnson for their generous displays, but that is another story. As I was shuffling through my books looking for a book about spring, I found this one.  It combines my favorite time of year, with one of my favorite flowers in a book by one of my favorite authors/illustrators. Like the day, it is practically, perfect in every way.

In this version of the legend, there had been a great drought and the Comanche people were dying.  For three days, they prayed and danced and drummed begging the Great Spirits to send them healing rains.  At last their shaman spoke words from the Great Spirits.  The Comanche people had become selfish.  The people had taken and they had not given back.  Only a burnt offering of a valued possession with its ashes scattered to the winds would save the people.  The Comanche people retired to their tipis to consider the best sacrifice, each one thinking that the Great Spirits would not want their treasured items.  Only a child, She-Who-Is-Alone was wise, generous, and brave enough to find a sacrifice.  What does she have that will serve?  Through the drought and the famine, she lost all her family, the only thing she had left was a warrior doll, made by her mother with bright blue feathers from a Jay brought to her by her father.  It is precious to her.  As deep night settled and everyone slumbered, she left the village and went to the hill, where the shaman received the words from the Great Spirits.  She lit a small fire, prayed to the Spirits, and thrust her precious doll into the fire.  When the ashes cooled, she scooped them up and scattered them to the four winds.  Was her sacrifice enough?  She laid down on the hillside and fell asleep.  She woke with the morning light and to her surprise the hillside was covered in blue flowers, the same blue as the feathers on her warrior doll.  The Great Spirits had forgiven the people and sent them the healing rains.  Every year the hillsides of Texas bloom with these bright blue flowers, our Texas Bluebonnets, to remind us of the sacrifice of a brave and faithful girl.

This book is a glorious retelling of this story.  See if you can find a copy to read to someone special on a bright spring day.

Here are some pictures of bluebonnets and other wild flowers growing in or near my yard.  Happy Spring!!!

Bluebonnets from my neighbor’s yard!  Alas we have none in our yard this year.

bluebonnets2

Here is a picture of our back 40.  It is dotted with Anemones in white and purple.  They are usually the first wildflowers to bloom in our yard.  It also is sprinkled with the tiny pick flowers of the False Garlic plant. Jim waits as long as possible in the spring to mow back here.  We love the sea of small wildflowers we have.

back40

Here is one of the hardier Texas perennials.  It is Prairie Verbena.  It blooms all summer long.  It is a bright beacon on the green landscape.

verbena

And last, but not least, one of my personal favorites the Dotted Blue-Eyed Grass.  It is from the Iris family.  They have little blue heads springing up from grassy leaves and stems.

DottedBlueEyedGrass

If you don’t live in Texas, please enjoy all the blossoms.  If you do live in Texas, I hope you get a chance to get out and see our spectacular wildflower displays.

Guest Post: 2312

2312Robinson, Kim Stanley.  2312. New York: Orbit, 2012.

If you have been keeping up with the monthly reading reports from Northern, Central Texas, you might remember that Jim has been reading the book 2312 for the last couple of months.  It is a tome of 640 pages.  I haven’t read it so I asked him to write a little something about it for this blog.  He graciously acquiesced.  Here are his thoughts on this book.

The book 2312 takes place in a future where humans have spread throughout the solar system.  Mars and Venus have been/are being terraformed.  Mercury has a city that forever just stays out of the reach of full sunlight.  Even the large minor planets and moons like Ceres/Titan have populations as well as hollowed out asteroids.  That doesn’t mean, however, that all is well.  Factions exist on Venus.  The Earth is suffering from climate change and the ever-present contentions between countries still exists.  So, not much has changed over 3 centuries.

Well, not everything is the same.  Progress has also brought about artificial intelligences.  These intelligences, at least some, are cooperating and making more.  Some that appear human.  These intelligences have conspired with political forces on Venus to create meteor bombardments.  Some bombardments were to test the concept of bringing thousands of small meteors together at a single point at the same time.  This prevents the immediate discovery of the attack.  Other attacks were to make political statements.

Not all AIs are in on this and help to bring the conspiracy to light.  So, as in real life, there is no clear line between good and evil.  One must always keep an open mind and be observant.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day: Paddy’s Pay Day

PaddyDay, Alexandra.  Paddy’s Pay Day. New York: Puffin Books, 1989.

Okay, this book isn’t about St. Patrick’s Day, but I think of it often on this day.  Paddy, an Irish Terrier is the subject of the book.  He is a charming character.  As you would suppose, Paddy has no words.  You can read the book and imagine what he would say, if he could.

Paddy works with Trilby O’Farrell. They do tricks and acrobatics for carnivals, parties, and benefits.  Every month, Paddy gets his pay and he goes to the nearest village to spend it.  Although Paddy has no words, the everyone in the nearby village him recognizes him and interacts with him just like he could talk.

What do you do when you get paid? Do you buy yourself a treat?  Do you take care of personal chores, like getting a haircut?  Do you spend some of your pay on donations to good causes? Do you look for some entertainment, like a going to a movie?  Do you treat yourself at a meal at your favorite restaurant?  Do you buy little gifts for your friends?  In this book, you can follow Paddy and see how he spends his day off! It really is a lovely book to share with a child.

In the story, Paddy has his usual monthly meal at Murphy’s. It must be an Irish Pub! He treats himself to a baked potato with all the fixings and Guinness beer.  While it is not Paddy’s usual meal here is a special one, he might enjoy at Murphy’s on St. Patrick’s Day.  If you want to try it with your family or friends, I have listed the recipes for the stew and the bread.  Guinness, of course, holds the recipe for the beer and I purchased the truffles at my local HEB grocery store.

StPatrickDinnerA St. Patrick’s Day Menu for Paddy

Robin’s Irish Stew
Irish Soda Bread
Guinness Extra Stout
Irish Cream and Irish Coffee Truffles

Robin’s Irish Stew

Here’s my take on Irish Stew.  I didn’t have a recipe for one so I made this one up.

  • 2 c chopped onion (about 1 large. I like sweet onions, like 10/15)
  • 1 c chopped celery (about 3 large stalks)
  • 2 c sliced carrots
  • 3 c dices potatoes (about 4 medium potatoes)
  • 2 large cloves finely minced
  • 1 lb. beef roast, cubed
  • ½ c flour, seasoned with salt & pepper
  • 1 bay leat
  • 1 T rosemary, crushed
  • 2 T Olive oil
  • 4 c beef broth, low sodium
  • 12 oz Guinness extra stout (1 bottle)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Dredge the meat cubes in the flour, salt, and pepper mixture.  Work in batches and remove coated cubes to a plate.

Use a large dutch oven or other large pot. Heat the olive oil in the pan on medium-high heat.  When oil is hot, add onions and sauté them for about 2 minutes until they begin to soften.  Add the meat cubes a handful at a time, stirring occasionally.  Continue to add meat until all of it is in the pot.  Cook until meat begins to brown about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pan.  Add ¼ c of the beef broth and scrape the bottom of the pan, scraping up all the flour mixture stuck to the bottom.  You may need to use a metal spatula to get all the good flour mixture up from the bottom.  Add the carrots, celery, potato and garlic.  Cook for 3-4 minutes stirring often and scraping bottom of pot.  Add the remaining beef broth, scraping the bottom one more time.  Bring stew to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add the bay leaf, rosemary, Guinness and then salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer stew for another 30-45 minutes.

Remove bay leaf before serving.  Serve with Irish Soda Bread or some other hearty bread.

Irish Soda Bread from Joy of Cooking. Volume 2, Page 273

Preheat oven to 375º. Have all the ingredients at room temperature about 75°. Abbreviations: c=cup, T=tablespoon, and t=teaspoon.

  • 2 c sifted all-purpose flour
  • ¾ t baking soda
  • ½ t salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 6 T chilled shortening
  • ½ to 1 c raisins
  • 1 T caraway seed
  • ½ to 2/3 c buttermilk

Mix the first four ingredients together in a large bowl.  Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the chilled shortening into the flour mixture until it has the consistency of corn meal.  Stir in the raisins and caraway seeds.  Add the buttermilk gradually to the bowl.  The mixture should not be dry.  Knead the dough briefly and shape into a round loaf.  Coat a cake pan with the oil and place the dough in the pan.  Cut a cross on the top of the bread letting it go over the sides so the bread will not crack in backing.  Brush the top of the bread with some of the buttermilk or regular milk.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes until the bread looks golden brown.  Tap the bottom of the loaf and if a hollow sound emerges, the bread is done.

Lost Teeth: Two Books to Share

  • Bate, Lucy. Little Rabbit’s Loose Tooth. Diane deGroat, Illustrator. New York: Scholastic, 1975.
  • Brown, Marc.  Arthur’s Tooth. Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1985.

In case you haven’t noticed, the months of January and February have been brought to you by the letters A and B.  When I was browsing my shelves, I found these two books on the same subject by authors whose names begin with the letter B.  The young people in these books are concerned about their loose teeth!

In Little Rabbit’s Loose Tooth, she doesn’t want to eat hard food, like carrots and beans.  They are after all too hard for a little rabbit with a loose tooth.  Dessert strawberries would be much better!  Mother Rabbit, as mothers do, has a better idea.  Little Rabbit can have the soft strawberries for dessert and can eat carrots and beans with her teeth that aren’t loose.  All week, Little Rabbit eats hard foods with her other teeth and soft foods with her loose tooth.  Finally, she loses it in Friday’s chocolate ice cream.  Read this book to find out all those unanswered questions you have about what to do with a loose tooth, what the tooth fairy might do with the teeth she collects, and most importantly what was the going rate for teeth in 1975.

I don’t know when I bought Arthur’s Tooth.  I know that Marc Brown was the featured author in my preschool classroom.  In this book, Arthur is the only one in his class that hasn’t lost a tooth.  It is embarrassing and is branding him a “baby” with his other classmates, especially the annoying Francine.  His tooth was loose and no amount of wiggling it was making it come out!  All his friends offer to help.  Buster brings him hard carrots to eat.  Brain invents a special (scary looking) tooth removing machine.  Finally, Binky Barnes offer to knock it out!  Finally, his Mom takes him to the dentist.  Dr. Sozio assures Arthur that nothing is wrong and the tooth will come out.  He admits to Arthur, that he didn’t lose his first tooth until after he was eight.  Read this book to find out when Arthur loses his tooth and who helps him.

The girls and I loved this book.  They worried about not losing their teeth as well.  Each of them lost their first tooth well after all their friends had lost theirs.  It was comforting to them to see someone else who was late losing teeth.  One of them had a particularly stubborn loose tooth.  Please don’t try this at home, but we tied a piece of dental floss to her tiny tooth and the other end to a door.  We slammed the door shut and that tooth came flying out! The girl was happy the tooth was out! The tooth fairy collected her tooth and left a quarter. I think our dentist was horrified when we told her what we did.  She said, “Don’t do that again!!!” Fortunately, all other loose teeth in our house came out in a timely way!

Lucy Bate

I couldn’t find much on this author online.  Here is the little bit I found. Lucy was born on the 19th day of March in 1939.  She is best known for her children’s books.  She was also a playwright.  Here is her website: www.lucybate.com.

Diane de Groat

Growing up in a time before DVDs, video games, or magic markers, Diane started her drawing with crayons and chalk.  Her driveway was her canvas.  She loved to watch the “Wonderful World of Disney”.  I remember that show!  Her favorite place in the classroom was the painting corner.  She also liked to draw Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.  She says, “Every time I illustrate a book, I am learning something new.”

Little Rabbit’s Loose Tooth was the first picture book she illustrated.  She has illustrated many, many books for many different authors.  She wanted to illustrate her own books so she joined writer’s groups and took writing classes to learn more about this craft.  Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink was the first picture book she wrote and illustrated.

Read more about Diane on her website: www.dianedegroat.com

Marc Brown

He must have a wild and wonderous time in third grade.  Most of his characters are based on the people he knew at that time.  He says that his Arthur stories came from the bedtime stories that he told his son.  He says that children can relate to Arthur, because “he is dealing with the same issues that they’re dealing with in their lives.”¹

He graduated from the Cleveland Art Institute with a degree in painting.  Did he become a celebrated author right away?  No!  He had a series of other jobs before a story, told to his five-year old son about and aardvark who hated his nose, launched the Arthur series.¹

He credits his friend, Fred Rogers for making Arthur a TV program.  He claims that Mr. Rogers set a high standard for how to use television in useful ways for children and families.²

As I was reading about Marc Brown, I found that the first book he ever illustrated was for one of my other favorite authors, Isaac Asimov. I am going to have to find that book, What Makes the Sun Shine! I think this is so cool!  This is definitely a book I need to acquire for my collection.

You can visit these websites to find out more about this author.

¹www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/brown

²http://marcbrownstudios.com/marc

February 2017: Reading Report from North, Central Texas

feb2017The second month of the year has flown by.  Where did the time go?  As you can see from the photo for some reason this month’s book stack is short.

Jim

Jim is working his way through the book he started last month, 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson.  The past couple of weeks, his reading has slowed down as the skies have been clear and dark and he has been imaging the stars.

Alexis

As always, Alexis wins the reading award for our house. This is only a partial listing of her reads.  She made a trip to the library before I could record them all!

  • Johnston, E.K. A Thousand Nights. New York: Hyperion, 2015.
  • Gladwell, Malcolm. blink. New York: Little Brown and Co., 20015.
  • Meyer, Marissa.  Heartless. New York: Feiwel & Friends, 2016.
  • Sagara, Michelle. Cast in Courtlight. Buffalo, NY: Luna, 2006.

Sarah

Sarah didn’t have much time for personal reading this month.  Here are a few of the books she read to her classes.

  • Wood, Audra.  Silly Sally.  New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1994.
  • Goss, Janet L.  It Didn’t Frighten Me.  New York: Mondo, 1995.
  • Raffi.  Down by the Bay (Raffi Songs to Read).  Nadine Bernard Westcott, Illustrator.  New York: Dragonfly Books, 1988.

Robin

Here are the books I read.  Many of them were for the blogs I wrote this month. You might recognize the Judy Blume books from yesterday’s post.

  • Elrod, P.N. The Hanged Man.  New York: TOR, 2015.
  • Asimov, Isaac. The Complete Robot. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1982.
  • Blume, Judy. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. New York: Puffin Books, 1972.
  • Blume, Judy.  In the Unlikely Event. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing/In the Unlikely Event

Blume, Judy. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. New York: Puffin Books, 1972.
Blume, Judy.  In the Unlikely Event. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.

Let’s start with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.  This is a story about Peter and his little brother, Fudge.  According to Peter, Fudge gets all the attention and he gets all the work. Sounds about right.  I know I was a big sister and I sometimes felt this way.  Fudge is very precocious! He invades Peter’s room, whenever he can.  He causes turmoil in Peter’s household.  What a boy! I had to apologize to my husband last night.  He was trying to sleep and I was on the last few pages of this book. It was making me laugh and I couldn’t keep it quiet for him.  This is a delightful book!  Read this book and discover, if Peter learns, as I did, to appreciate his little brother.

Judy Blume doesn’t confine her efforts to children’s books. She also writes for adults.  In the Unlikely Event is one of her most recent efforts for adults.  This story is about the effects that three plane disasters have on the town of Elizabeth, New Jersey.  While the story is fiction, the three plane disasters are not.  These events took place in the 1950s, when Judy lived in Elizabeth.  It is Miri’s story of coming of age and how she learned to cope with disasters of one type or another.  This was an amusing read, although I must admit to you that it didn’t make me chuckle like Peter’s adventures with Fudge.

Judy Blume

The back of the book I am reading has this to say about Judy.

She spent her childhood in Elizabeth, New Jersey, making up stories in her head.  She spent her adult years in many places, doing the same thing, only now she writes her stories down on paper.

I am so glad she was moved to put pen to paper!  Here are some other interesting things about this author.

  1. Growing up, she didn’t consider writing as a career. She wanted to be a cowgirl, spy, detective, actress or ballerina.¹
  2. Her grandson’s first word was “book”!¹
  3. She has a BS in Education from New York University²
  4. She is baffled by censors and is an advocate of intellectual freedom. ²,¹
  5. One of her favorite authors is Beverly Clearly. ³
  6. Her advice on writing: Never leave a book without a finished draft.²

If you are interested in this author, you might want to visit some of these websites.

¹http://www.judyblume.com/about.php
²http://flavorwire.com/397391/13-things-we-learned-from-judy-blumes-ama\
³http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/teen/5-things-i-learned-when-i-met-judy-blume/