Reading Report for Northern, Central Texas: June & July 2017

ReadingJuly17Time is swift and it has flown!
June and July have passed.
We are at summer’s scorching height!
A good time to find a cool place
With a tall drink and an engrossing book!

I don’t know what has happened to June or July!  I never got around to the reading report for June so I have combined it with July.

Robin

We went on vacation at the first of July.  It was wonderful to get away.  I didn’t pick a novel of great importance to read this year.  I read a fun book I picked up at the grocery store.  It is based on the TV series the Librarians.  It was not a great classic, but it was amusing!

  1. Cox, Greg. The Librarians and the Lost Lamp.  New York: Tom Doherty Associate Book, 2016.
  2. Dahl, Roald. Matilda. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. New York: Puffin Books, 1988.
  3. Highfield, Roger. The Physics of Christmas.  New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 1999.
  4. Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Buried Giant. New York: Vintage, 2015.
  5. Roberts, Nora. Come Sundown. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2017.
  6. Willis, Connie. Crosstalk. New York: Del Rey, 2016.
  7. Abnett, Dan. Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero. Nottingham, UK: Angry Robot, 2009.
  8. Robb, JD. Brotherhood in Death. New York: Berkely, 2016.
  9. Robb, JD. Apprentice in Death. New York: Berkley, 2016.

Jim

Here is Jim’s list.  He received the book on Colonial Spirits for a gift.  I had a look at it.  It was amusing.  He picked up the copy of Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s book at a little independent book store while we were on vacation.

  1. Baxter, Stephen. Ultima. New York: Ace Books, 2016.
  2. Tyson, Neil deGrasse. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. New York. W. Norton & Company, 2017.
  3. Grasse, Steven. Colonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History.  New York: Abrams Image, 2016.

Alexis

Always our most prolific reader.  I didn’t get a chance to follow up on all the library books she read.  Here a small sample of the things she has read.

  1. Brooks, Mike. Dark Run. New York: Saga Press, 2015.
  2. Sullivan, Michael J. Age of Myth. New York: Del Rey, 2017.
  3. Harris, Charlaine. Midnight Crossroad.  New York: Ace, 2014.
  4. Lee, Yoon Ha. Ninefox Gambit. Oxford, UK: Solaris, 2016.
  5. Roberts, Nora. Come Sundown. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2017.
  6. Holt, Tom. The Management Style of the Supreme Beings. New York: Orbit, 2017.

Sarah

She was busy this month.  I did get a chance to ask her what she was reading today.

  1. Harkness, Deborah. The Book of Life. New York: Penguin, 2015.
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My Trip to the Science Museum

Mayer, Mercer.  My Trip to the Science Museum.  New York: Harper Festival, 2017.

Happy Sumer!  Here in Texas we are in our triple digit weather.  At this time of year, we spend lots of time indoors in the air conditioning, because it is just too “gol dern” hot to do anything outside.  When we do venture out of the house or office, we look for other cool venues like movies or museums. When we send out children to summer camp, we check the schedule to make certain that they will be spending the hottest part of the day inside. It is just too darn hot!

This summer my daughter is working a science camp.  After looking at her camp’s schedule, I see they employ this strategy.  They work inside in the cool and spend small amounts of time outside conducting experiments (like water rockets) that can’t be done safely inside.

All this discussion brings me to my book for today. Written and illustrated by one of my favorites, it is a Little Critter story.  They always make me smile. If you have ever been to summer camp or have sent your children to one, you might remember that once or twice you went some place special.  Around here you might get to go to Natural Bridge Caverns, or the Bob Bullock Museum, or the Doctor Pepper Museum, or the Thinkery.  These are all terrific places that make a good day outing in our area.  While I think this book is about a school field trip, I think it would also make a great summer camp outing so I am working it in here.

I admit that I bought this book for myself.  I haven’t read it with a young friend or with my own daughters or with a class.  I have shared it with my husband and he chuckled along with me.  What drew me to the book? It was the curiously familiar illustration of Dr. DaBison.  Yes, it was Neil deGrasse Tyson in illustrated, animal form. That wonderful, science and knowledge advocate was in a Little Critter book!  The dedication sealed the deal for me: “Dedicated to Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson.  Thanks for making the universe so much fun!” As I admire both men (Mayer & Tyson), it was mandatory to add this book to my collection.

Little Critter’s class and his teacher, Miss Kitty, take a field trip to the science museum.  They get to check out all the cool experiments. It was cool to see Miss Kitty’s hair stand up all over when she touched the plasma globe.  Little Critter enjoyed exploring the tornado machine.  With Dr. DaBison’s help they explore even more cool science experiments.  They end their day in the planetarium where Dr. DaBison shows them the wonders of the universe.  As Miss Kitty is rounding up her class to board the bus, Dr. DaBison poses this question to the class, “What do you want to be when you grow up”.  Little Critter’s response is the perfect end to the book. “When I grow up I want to be you, Dr. DaBison.  You have the best toys in the universe!”

My sentiments exactly!  Pick up this book, read it, and take yourself and some children, if you are so inclined, to the nearest science museum.  Stay cool, think hard, wonder, and have a great time!

Museums for Science in Central Texas

Film, Feast, and Fiction: The Phantom Tollbooth

PhantomTollbooth2Juster, Norton. The Phantom Tollbooth. Illustrator: Jules Feiffer. New York: Scholastic, 1961.

Does anyone remember the show that aired on Friday evenings on TBS called, “Dinner and a Movie”? My family loved it.  We would come home from work and school, eat our own dinner, and sit down to watch whatever movie they were showing, and drool over the delicious dinner that was being prepared. Those recipes always violated my weeknight cooking rules (no more than 2 pans dirty and less than 40 minutes to make), still it was fun to watch them prepare something sumptuous.

In the spirit of that show, I am inaugurating my own series: Film, Feast, and Fiction.  I think it is fun to compare books and the movies made from them.  They rarely match up completely, but it is enjoyable to debate the differences with other book and movie lovers.  What goes well with a lively discussion like this?  Food, of course! I hope you enjoy the book, film, and food parings.  I hope to keep the recipes easy enough that you might consider using them for you own food, book, and movie pairing.

The fiction and film

The Phantom Tollbooth is a book about a boy, Milo by name, who is bored, bored, bored.  He has nothing to do, nothing to see, nothing to think.  He is weary from the boredom of being bored.  As he walks home from school, he doesn’t notice the lovely, sunny day or the birds singing.  At home in his apartment, he looks at his books, puzzles, and toys and sighs.  Nothing, nothing is worth the effort.  He walks into his room to flop on the bed and notices something new. It is a large package. His feeling of ennui almost over powers him, but a miniscule spark of curiosity prompts him to walk over to the package to take a look. It is a tollbooth, just the right size to fit his small electronic car.  “Curiouser and curiouser” as Alice said.  Why is it here?  Who sent it?  What do you do with it?  Affixed to the tollbooth are a map to the Lands Beyond, a token for the tollbooth, instructions to have his destination in mind when entering, and this note: “To Milo who has plenty of time.”

Without much thought, Milo shrugs, hops into his car and proceeds through the tollbooth portal to the lands beyond.  He picks a destination at random, Expectations.  Here he meets the “Whether Man”, who is no help in finding the correct direction.  He drives on and begins to daydream.  As his mind wanders, his car slows and he finds himself in the “Doldrums.” It is a dreary and gray land, which matches his mood.  Surrounded by little people he finds himself getting more and more lethargic.  He’s nearly asleep, when he is startled awake by a dog’s vigorous, loud, angry barking.  Milo is confronted by Tock the Watchdog, who will become his traveling companion.  Tock is a large dog, with a clock as a part of his body.  His arrival shakes Milo up.  Tock make Milo aware of the perils of “wasting time.”  They hop into Milo’s little car and for the first time, in a very long time, Milo is forced to use his brain and “think”.  This is a vital step in escaping the Doldrums, which is a much more dangerous place than you might believe.

In his travels, Milo goes to many strange places: Dictionopolis, Digitopolis, Conclusions (which he jumps to and has to think hard to return), the Valley of Sound, and the Mountains of Ignorance to name a few. What he discovers on his travels in the Lands Beyond, is that all is not well in the Kingdom of Wisdom.  The Princess of Rhyme and Reason have been banished to the Castle in the Air by their brothers, the kings of Dictionopolis and Digitopolis.  With the absence of Rhyme and Reason, the kingdom is beset with the strivings of King Azaz and the Mathemagician.  Words or Numbers, which is better?  With his companions, Tock, the wise and practical watchdog, and the very silly Humbug, Milo sets out to rescue the princesses.

I think this is Norton Juster’s unveiled attempt to show the value of education and the delight you can have in the world around you. Kevin Smokler in his book, Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven’t Touched Since High School, selected this book as one of his 50 classics.  Here’s what he had to say about this book: “The Phantom Tollbooth remains, over fifty years after its publication, an argument for brains over brawn, for Seas of Knowledge engulfing the Mountains of Ignorance. (p. 184)¹”  I agree.  Milo had to apply his learning and education to solve the problems in this book.

I discovered this wonderful book at the same time as my daughters.  We loved Milo’s funny, farfetched, and sometimes terrifying, adventures.  We loved this book full of puns and silly word play.  We chuckled all the way through the book.

As happens, the book and movie don’t line up exactly.  Nevertheless, it is a fun movie. It begins with a live action portion, with Butch Patrick, who played Eddie in the old sitcom The Munsters, as Milo.  Once Milo, drives through the tollbooth, the movie changes to animation, which was done under the direction of Chuck Jones.  You might remember him from the Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoons and one of my other favorite animations, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

If you are nerdy, like we are, you could download a graphic organizer to compare the book with the movie.  Here is a link to one on the site Teachers Pay Teachers: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/FREE-The-Book-vs-The-Movie-Graphic-Organizers-797677.  If you search the web, you can find plenty of them to use.

MyWordsDinnerThe feast

This is the portion of the blog that had me stumped for the longest time.  What did Milo eat while he was in the Lands Beyond?  He went to a dinner in Digitopolis with the Mathemagician and had several helpings of Subtraction Stew.  Unfortunately, he was hungrier when the feast ended than when it began.  I wouldn’t want to do that to you on a Friday night or any other one.

In Digitopolis, he went to a banquet given by King Azaz.  He tried ordering a light meal and a square meal, both not tasty as one was made of light and one was made of squares.  When asked to give a speech, he was interrupted by the King. A dinner of “Your majesty, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to take this opportunity to say that in all…” is not a tasty dinner.  Milo was quite surprised that he would have to eat his words!

For this feast, I give you my words: “roasted green beans, garlic mashed potatoes, mini meatloaves, ice tea, and Sweep the Leg Peanut Butter Stout”.   If this meal doesn’t please you, you can eat your own words!

Mini Meat Loaves

Mini meat loaves are fun and they are terrific for portion control.  Cooking them in cupcake tins makes them cook quickly so dinner can be on the table before it gets too late! I like the recipe that appears on page 91 in Bobby Deen’s Everyday Eats. I like it, because it is easy to make and only takes about 35 minutes from beginning to end. I couldn’t reproduce it here for you, but I did find another similar recipe online “Deen Bros’ Speedy Mini Meat Loaves”: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Recipes/recipe?id=8516509.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Sorry to disappoint you, but I only make garlic mashed potatoes from scratch on major holidays.  For weeknights, I go with semi-homemade and purchase “Simply Potatoes Garlic Mashed Potatoes” from the refrigerated section of my local HEB.  I put these in a small casserole pan and they cook right along with the meat loaves.

Roasted Green Beans

I do make this one.  It is simple and very easy.  I cook them at 400° F for about 15 minutes, until they are slightly caramelized.  I slide the in the oven about 10 minutes after I put the meat loaves in the oven.  My recipe for Bobby Deen’s meatloaves call for them to be cooked at the same temperature (400° F) as the green beans. If you are using another recipe that cooks the meatloaves at a lower temperature, you may have to adjust the cooking time.

1 lb. French green beans
Lemon pepper to taste
Olive oil or Lemon olive oil

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Either spray the foil with olive oil cooking spray or lightly grease the pan with olive oil.  Arrange the green beans in a single layer on the tray.  Sprinkle the green beans with the lemon pepper and then drizzle them with either plain olive oil or lemon olive oil.  Slide these into the oven and roast as described above.

Norton Juster

This blog is already long, but I couldn’t leave you without a providing a little information on this author.  Here are a few basic things you might want to know.

  1. He was influenced by his father, who loved puns and word play².
  2. He was primarily an architect².
  3. Jules Feiffer became his illustrator by chance. Juster paced while he worked.  Feiffer lived below him, heard the pacing, and came upstairs to see what was going on².
  4. Norton wrote this book, when he was supposed to be writing a children’s book on cities².
  5. At the time it was published, people thought that it was not a children’s book as the vocabulary is too difficult. Here is a passage from an interview he did with NPR in October of 2011³.

The prevailing wisdom of the time held that learning should be more accessible and less discouraging. The aim was that no child would ever have to confront anything that he or she didn’t already know.

But my feeling is that there is no such thing as a difficult word. There are only words you don’t know yet — the kind of liberating words that Milo encounters on his adventure.

Here are some websites where you can read more about this author.

¹Smokler, Kevin. Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven’t Touched Since High School. New York: Prometheus Books, 2013.

²http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/the-curious-world-of-norton-juster-7768624.html

³http://www.npr.org/2011/11/10/141240217/my-accidental-masterpiece-the-phantom-tollbooth

Arrow to the Sun – Happy July 4th

arrowsunMcDermott, Gerald.  Arrow to the Sun. New York: Puffin Books, 1974.

I know this is late, but Happy July 4th! Yesterday was the birthday of our nation.  We are fortunate to live in a country with a diverse population.  Our varied backgrounds, ancestry,  and stories combine to create a rich narrative for all of us.

The book I offer today, Arrow to the Sun is based on a Pueblo Indian tale.  According to the synopsis, “it is a retelling of how the Spirit of the Lord was brought the world of men”.

This is an exciting tale.  If I were a better storyteller, I would learn to tell this story. It would be a great one to share around a campfire. This book is a visual treat as well.  It has bright colors and stylized drawings based on the Pueblo Indian’s mythology.  I have enjoyed following the story with my eyes as well as my ears.

The Lord of the Sun sends his spark to the earth to a young Pueblo Indian maiden.  The Boy is born. He is rejected by his peers as his father is unknown.  He leaves home to seek his father.  A wise Arrow Maker recognizes the Boy and sees his connection to the Lord of the Son.  He offers his help and makes the boy into an arrow and shoots him to the sun.  The Boy meets the Lord of the Sun but must prove himself.  Find a copy of this book to read to a young friend or even for yourself.

Gerald McDermott

McDermott’s illustrations are dominated by bright, stylized forms, which often draw from indigenous art and highlight his fascination with the origins of stories!¹

I agree with this assessment of his work!  Here are some other interesting facts about this author.

  1. This author was a reader and artist from a young age.
  2. He had an avid interest in world mythologies.
  3. He was a film maker before he became an author. He made some of his films into books.
  4. He won the Caldecott Award for Arrow to the Sun in 1975. He also holds Caldecott Honors for Anansi the Spider (1973) and Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest (1994).

Here are some websites where you can discover more about this author.

  1. http://www.slj.com/2013/01/industry-news/gerald-mcdermott-a-legacy-of-magical-storytelling/#_
  2. https://www.booklistonline.com/Books-and-Authors-Talking-with-Gerald-McDermott-Nancy-J-Johnson/pid=3993803
  3. https://www.booklistonline.com/Books-and-Authors-Talking-with-Gerald-McDermott-Nancy-J-Johnson/pid=3993803
  4. http://www.academia.edu/12211133/Master_Artist_Master_Storyteller_An_Interview_with_Gerald_McDermott_Independent_Filmmaker_Author-Illustrator_of_Childrens_Books_

¹https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-authors/article/55452-obituary-gerald-mcdermott.html