Owl Moon

Girl and man on snow hillside under an owl moonYolen, Jane. Owl Moon. Illustrated by John Schoenherr. New York: Scholastic, 1987.

I am over the moon, so to speak, to tell you about Owl Moon.  It seems it is the perfect week to do so.  It was the full moon on Monday that made me remember this book. The moon was large, bright, and lustrous.  This book takes place on a night with a full, bright moon. Here’s how the book opens.

It was late one winter night,
long past my bedtime,
when Pa and I went owling.
There was no wind.
The trees stood still
as giant statues.
And the moon was so bright
the sky seemed to shine.

What else make this a perfect time for this book?  It snowed this evening in central Texas.  If you have friends from central Texas on Facebook, this is probably no surprise to you. Everyone I know in the area has posted a snow picture.  Those of you who live where it is cold and snowy will not be impressed.  I hope you will forgive our giddy pleasure in this skiff of snow.  You will notice this book takes place on a snow covered wintry night.  With a snowy night and a full moon in the same week, I think I was destined to write about this charming book.

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The little girl in this story lives on a farm in a very, snowy part of the country.  She has been waiting oh, so very long to go owling with her Pa. It is late, way past her bedtime, when they head out.  The snow on the fields they pass glistens in the light of the moon.  It is quiet and she can hear sounds from far away as clear as if they were close by.  Have you ever walked on a pristine field of snow with no one around?  It is so quiet and bright.  It crunches as you walk.  If the snow is deep, you have to lift your feet high to walk.  As they walk together their feet crunch in the snow.  It is the only noise they hear.  She knows that if she goes owling with her Pa, she has to be very quiet.  She has to run to keep up with her dad sometimes, but she is still quiet.  They make shadows on the snow, tall and thin, short and round.  They walk to the forest at the edge of the fields.  They stop and Pa gives the call of the Great Horned Owl. They listen and listen, but there is no answer.  She isn’t disappointed as she knows from her brothers that “sometimes there is an owl and sometimes there isn’t.”

As the girl and her pa walk further into the forest, they listen.  There is suppressed excitement and anticipation.  I can almost imagine the little girl bouncing silently up and down as she listens and waits as Pa calls out again. Then they hear it, the faint echo of a returning call.  As they listen the call comes nearer and Pa turns on his big flashlight and catches the owl as it lands on a branch.  Momentarily, they stare at one another, owl to girl and man and back.  Then the owl wings its way back into the forest.  The owling is over and it is time to go home.  She could be loud, she could laugh, but she holds the silence inside as she walks home.  A wise young one, she is.  Here is her final reflection.

When you go owling
you don’t need words
or warm
or anything but hope.
That’s what Pa says.
The kind of hope
that flies on silent wings
under a shining owl moon.

Jane Yolen is a wonderful storyteller.  She evokes feelings of peace and quiet, just what you need for a night of owling.  When I read it aloud, I almost want to whisper.  I want to keep the serenity I see in the pictures and hear in the words.  I hope you can find this book and add it to your collection.  It would make a restful, reflective read on a wintry, full moon night.

Jane Yolen

Facts about this author.

  1. She wrote her first poem in preschool. Amazingly she still has it.  She recites it to groups of students, “because it was so bad that I tell them that, clearly, they’re writing better poems than that.”¹
  2. She has written over 250 books. They seem to cover many genres and all ages. You can take a look at her website for a full listing: http://janeyolen.com/
  3. Owl Moon was the 1988 Caldecott Medal winner.
  4. She won the World Fantasy Award in 1987 for Favorite Folktales from Around the World. In 2009, she was earned their Lifetime Achievement award. Fantasy is one of my favorite genres.²
  5. She’s been an editor, a teacher, a storyteller, a critic, a songwriter for rock groups and folk singers.³

Here are some websites to visit to learn more about this author.

¹http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/yolen
²http://www.worldfantasy.org/awards/winners/
³https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/authors/jane-yolen/

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Counting to Christmas

Courting to Christmas Book CoverTafuri, Nancy. Counting to Christmas. Roxbury, CT: Duck Pond Press, 2005.

Yesterday, we brought out the Christmas decorations.  We put up the incredibly tacky, blow-up “Santa Sleigh” Rocket in the front yard. We put up the tree and trimmed it with lights and ornaments.  When the girls were little we might have stretched these maneuvers over several days as a count to Christmas.

One of my greatest pleasures at this time of year is to bring out my collection of Christmas books.  Yesterday, I brought them out.  How I love to look at each and every one.  It makes me remember when I bought some of them and how much fun we had reading them together.  At one time or another, they were a part of our count to Christmas.

This lovely book is a new pleasure for me and an excellent addition to my collection. It is a story of a little girl and her preparations for this holiday.  She is counting to Christmas. I read on the book jacket that the author shared her family’s favorite holiday crafts and activities. I bought this book, because it reminded me of our Advent calendar activities.  These were some of our favorite activities, too! We haven’t counted to Christmas in a number of years, but I still remember how much fund we had.  As we did, the girl in this story makes Christmas cards with paper, paint and glue.  She writes and sends letters to the people important in her life, including Santa.  She mails her cards. We mailed ours, too, but we had a special ritual for the letters to Santa.  We used to write letters and send them to Santa via smoke signals (we burned them in the fireplace).

What count to Christmas doesn’t include baking?  She makes elaborate gingerbread cookies and lovingly decorates them. The author included a recipe here, if you are keen to try your hand at them.  We liked making cookies, too.  Our favorites to bake were, and still are, cowboy cookies, Russian tea cakes, double chocolate bourbon cookies, and giant ginger cookies.  We used to bake cookies and give them to all of the girls’ teachers.  We had a great time in the kitchen together.

The girl in this story makes animal treats for the wild things that live near her home.  We did that too.  We used to string popcorn with cranberries and hang them on the tree in our backyard.  We made the pinecones with peanut butter and birdseed animal feeders.  It was a messy fun project. Her snowy backyard is filled with many animals large and small like mice and birds and deer and bear.  They all come to enjoy her treats.  Here in this part of Texas, we don’t have snow.  Even with no snow, we have enjoyed watching animals come to our backyard.  We have deer and fox and rabbits and roadrunners.

Here is a charming book to add to your Christmas book collection.  The illustrations are soft and warm.  The child is a delight.  It would be a comfy book to snuggle up and read. It might be a good addition to your count to Christmas.

Nancy Tafuri

Nancy Tafuri has the great fortune of doing what she loves, writing and illustrating books for children. Here are her words on this subject. “I feel honored to be creating literature for young children. The early years in a person’s life are so important, I can only hope that my books can contribute in some small way to that growth.”

Here are 8 facts about this author.

  1. She has always liked art. She convinced her Home Economics teacher to allow her to paint a mural instead of making a dress.
  2. She attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
  3. Her first job was as an assistant art director with Simon & Schuster. She went on to open a graphic design studio with her husband Tom.
  4. One of her favorite early books was The Little Engine That Could¹.  She has something in common with out family, we love that book, too!
  5. Her illustrations were not accepted at first. They were considered “too graphic” for children of 5, 6, and 7 in the early 1970’s. ¹
  6. She lives in Connecticut. She writes and illustrates in a converted chicken shed, which over looks a duck pond.
  7. Perhaps her studio over looks the duck pond represented in her Caldecott Honor Book, Have You Seen My Duckling?
  8. She loves nature.  She says that it is always auditioning for her.

For more information on Nancy Tafuri, check out these websites.

¹http://childliterature.blogspot.com/2012/02/interview-with-nancy-tafuri-and.html

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

A Chair for My Mother

A_Chair_MomWilliams, Vera B. A Chair for My Mother. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1982.

Happy Mother’s Day! I am home with my family today.  I feel surrounded by love.  I am so lucky.  When I was thinking about a book to share for this day, I remembered this one.  It conjured memories of moms and daughters and families.  How much family and community are important in one’s life.

In this book community and family came together to help Rosa and her mother and her grandmother after a fire destroys all their possessions.  Friends, family and neighbors all pitch in to help furnish a new place for Rosa, her mom and grandma. They brought a table, chairs, beds and other necessities.  What they lack is a nice, big, comfy chair to relax in at the end of the day.

Rosa and her family get a huge jar. They begin to save their change for the new chair.  Mom is a waitress at the Blue Tile Diner, half her tips go into the jar.  Rosa works at the diner too; half her earnings go into the jar.  Grandma adds coins to the jar when she can.  They add coins every day until not one more will fit!  The coins are counted and rolled.  Rosa and her mom and grandma take the coins to the bank.

You will have to read this book to find out what chair they bought.  Rosa’s grandma thought shopping for chairs was a bit like the “Three Bears’.  They were trying to find just the right one.

Read this book with a young person you know.  Snuggle up in your big comfy chair and talk about the book.  Do you have a savings jar that you throw your change into at the end of the day?  Why are you saving?  Are you saving up to buy something special for your family or someone you know?

Island Boy

Cooney, Barbara. Island Boy. New York: Viking Kestrel, 1988.

This lovely little book was a gift to Alexis for Christmas 1991.  I don’t remember how I happened to acquire this signed copy, but I am glad I did.  This is a stunning book.

It is a full circle story from youth to death. It is a story of determination and a life well lived. It is a story of leaving and homecoming. This is the story of a boy of Tibbets Island, Matthais. He is kind, loving, and determined.

Matthais’ Pa began the process of taming the island.  He called it Tibbets Island.  He cleared the land, dug a well and built a house.  When he was ready, he moved his family to the island.  At that time Matthais’ family had Ma, Pa, and three children.  By the time Matthais came there were six boys and six girls.  Matthais was the youngest.  When he was small he helped where he could.  When he wasn’t helping, he was sitting under the shade of the red astrakhan apple tree, his Ma had planted. He was watching his island and dreaming of the big, wide world.

In time, he joined his siblings in the steamy winter kitchen and learned to read and write.  He helped plough the fields and chop the woods.  As his brothers and sisters grew up, they left the island for jobs or to marry. His brothers told him he was too young to leave home.  Matthais didn’t pay attention to them.  He longed to see what was beyond his island.  His Uncle Albion was a ship builder.  Uncle Albion built a handsome schooner, the Six Brothers. When it made its maiden voyage, Matthais served as a cabin boy.  For fifteen years, he sailed on the Six Brothers.  He sailed with her here and there, up and down the coast in all kinds of weather.  He eventually became the master of this grand vessel.  Despite the work and joy from sailing, he remembered his island and he longed to return.  He decided one day to return and he did.  He was determined.

He returned to the island and repaired his boyhood home.  He married and lived a full life.  He was clever and knew how to make a good life for himself and his family.  The book ends with his death.  It would be sad, but he lived a life that spoke to so many people.  Many people came to pay their respects to him.  His grandson, Matthais saw all those people, who came to pay their respects and he heard comments like this,

“A good man…” “A good life.”

What more can we ask?  This is a wonderful book to read.  It could be maudlin, but it isn’t.  Matthias lived a full, useful life and it was laid before us in all its quiet glory.  With this book, a meaningful discussion can be had with children about life and how we live it.

This book is worth picking up just for its luminous illustrations.  It reminds me of the primitive folk art style that I have seen at Colonial Williamsburg and other museums.

Barbara Cooney

The book Island Boy is a story about beginnings and endings.  Barbara began her life in Room 1127 of the Bossert Hotel in Brooklyn on August 6, 1917.  Her family was prosperous and they lived in the suburbs. She began summering in Maine at the age of two¹.  It seems to call her back, just as it did, Matthias.  She returned to Maine to a little house overlooking the sea.  She died in Damariscotto, Maine in March of 2000².

It is said that these books are her most autobiographical, Miss Rumptious, Hattie and the Wild Waves, and Island Boy.  Like Matthias in Island Boy, she traveled widely, but was called back to the wilds of Maine. In Miss Rumptious, a book I haven’t read, Miss Rumptious is encouraged to do something to make world more beautiful². Barbara took this to heart and her books are beautiful.  She earned the Caldecott award in 1959 for Chanticleer and the Fox and again in 1980 for Ox-Cart Man.  Her illustrations are detailed and sumptuous. Illustrating books may have been a way to earn a living, but it gave her the opportunity to make the world more beautiful.

You can read more about this author on these websites.

¹http://www.carolhurst.com/authors/bcooney.html

²http://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/barbara-cooney-1917-2000-she-created-many-popular-books-for-children-139578164/116646.html

Ten, Nine, Eight

ten_nineBang, Molly. Ten, Nine, Eight. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1983.

The day has been long and we are ready for bed.
It is after dinner and after bath.
We are both exhausted from the day’s aftermath.
We need a story before you lay down your head.
Scanning the bookshelf for a story or two,
We spy a book that we think will do.
We hop on the bed and snuggle up close,
This book begins with 10 little toes.
With Molly Bang’s Ten, Nine, Eight,
I don’t have long to wait.
As we  count down from ten to one,
You fall asleep as the day is done.

In 1984, Molly Bang received a Caldecott Honor award for this charming counting book.  When I was browsing my bookshelf for a new book to share, this one leapt into my arms.  I hadn’t read it in some time.  I had forgotten what a lovely book of grace and comfort it is.  It made me remember snuggling up and reading a drowsy child to sleep.

Molly Bang

Ten things to know about Molly Bang

  1. She was born in Princeton, New Jersey and went to public school in Baltimore.
  2. While waiting to get into graduate school to study Far Eastern Studies, she got a job as a translator for a Japanese newspaper. For this job, she traveled the United States. She reported on the Apollo missions and sat in the press box to watch the first landing mission to the moon take off.
  3. She has 2 master’s degrees in Far Eastern Studies, one from University of Arizona and one from Harvard. She decided a life of the scholar was not the job for her.
  4. She worked for the Baltimore Sun as a reporter, again another job that was not for her (she was fired).
  5. She always wanted to write and illustrate books.
  6. She started by retelling and illustrating folktales.
  7. She spent time in Bangladesh illustrating documents for UNICEF.
  8. She wrote a book called, Picture This: How Pictures Work, which explains the structural principles that all artists use to make their pictures emotionally powerful. It is used as a text-book in some art programs.
  9. Her concern about American children’s lack of understanding of science, prompted her to team up with Peny Chisholm, Professor of Ecology at MIT, to write a series on how sunlight affects the earth.
  10. She thinks it is very important to read to children. (I do too!!!)

For more information on Molly Bang, you can visit these websites.

Lucy Daniels Center Interviews Series with Molly Bang

2016: A Year in Review

collage1_2016Happy New Year! I am starting 2017 with a review of books from 2016. Here is the consolidated list (libraryrecap).

I have enjoyed writing this blog. I began writing to explain to my new nephew, why I chose the books he received as a birth gift. My family encouraged me to write a blog.  They seem to think that I know something about children’s books.  They are so lovely and kind!  What I know about children’s books is that I like them.  If I could, I would inspire every child with the love of reading.  I like reading books. I like paring books with ideas, events and activities.

Since they encouraged me to write, I have been writing this blog for my pleasure and practice. Sometimes, but not often, it gets me out of dinner dishes (I can’t do dishes tonight, I have to work on my blog).  If I had stopped with the volumes purchased for my new nephew,  it would have been a very short blog. When I finished his list I segued to the rest of my children’s book collection.  Many of these books are old favorites of mine. It has been a lovely walk down memory lane. As I reread and write about these books, I remember snuggling up with my girls and sharing these stories.  Reading to children is a wonderful activity. It was fun, fun, fun to read and discover these books with my girls. It was fun, fun, fun to remember that time through this blog.

My family has become accustom to keeping a list of their readings for the monthly reading report. I hope that you have enjoyed these reports.  2016 was a very enjoyable reading year!  I hope it is another good year for reading and for all other endeavors.

Happy New Year to everyone! May your year be productive, satisfying and fun! Find some good books to read. Here are some of the books that were read in Haus Reimund in 2016.collage2_2016