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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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/

Advertisements

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

A Turkey for Thanksgiving

Book cover with moose, rabbit and turkeyBunting, Eve.  A Turkey for Thanksgiving.  Illustrated by Diane de Groat. New York: Scholastic, 1991.

I was at home this week preparing for the upcoming holiday.  In the mornings, I listened to the newscasts.  I was completely amused by the two early morning news anchors on Monday. There was a filler article on the annual Presidential Turkey Pardon.  Did you know there was an annual Turkey Pardon?  I don’t know, why turkeys need a pardon.  What is their crime, not enough dark meat? At any rate, the male news anchor was pretty disgusted by the whole idea.  He thought that it was a significant waste of resources.  Evidently the two turkeys, in this case Beau and Tye, were put up for a few days at the Willard Hotel to await their pardon.  The other news anchor commented on the turkeys’ names.  The male anchor noted that better names for the turkeys would have been Lunch and Dinner.  At 6 am, I thought this was hysterical (housework and early hours can warp the mind). The pardoned turkeys live out the rest of their days at Gobbler’s Rest at Virginia Tech.   A most peaceful end for each of them.   Soon after this segment, I went to look for a Thanksgiving book for this blog.  I found this one and thought it would be a perfect book to share for the holiday.

In this story, Mr. & Mrs. Moose are preparing for Thanksgiving dinner.  Their friends, Sheep, Rabbit, Porcupine, and Mr. & Mrs. Goat are coming and they are making everything just so for their friends.  They were looking over their decorations and all looked good, especially the paper turkey.   Alas, Mrs. Moose was sad.

Mrs. Moose sighed. “Yes. But I wish we had a real turkey for Thanksgiving. Everyone always has a turkey for Thanksgiving. Everyone but us.”

Mr. Moose nuzzled Mrs. Moose’ head. “Well that won’t do. I will go this minute and find you a turkey for Thanksgiving.

Off he goes to find Mrs. Moose a turkey for Thanksgiving. As he wanders to find one, he enlists the help of all his friends.  They find the turkey in his nest.  The turkey runs away despite Mr. Moose sweetly telling him they want him for Thanksgiving dinner.  Is there a happy ending for Mr. Turkey? Why yes there is!  A chair at the table for Mr. Turkey right next to Mrs. Moose!  He surveys the table of all the good food Mrs. Moose has prepared.

“I hope you find something her to your liking, Mr. Turkey,” Mrs. Moose said.  “I wasn’t sure of your taste.

“You are so kind to worry about my taste,” Turkey said. “I thought you’d be worrying about how I’d taste.”

“Heavens, no!” Mr. Moose smiled his big-toothed smile…. “It’s so nice to have friends around the table at Thanksgiving.”

It was a Happy Thanksgiving for Mr. Turkey.  He was at the table and not on it.  He has new friends for Thanksgiving.

What an amusing take on the turkey and Thanksgiving! Perhaps, Beau and Tye, will meet new turkey friends at Gobbler’s Rest?   They will be at the table and not on it, too!

I liked this charming book.  Eve’s words along with Diane’s lovely watercolor pictures make it a pleasure to read.  I bought it to share with my preschool class.  They loved the story.

Whether a turkey is on your table or at your table (sometimes it can be both), I hope all of you have a lovely Thanksgiving Day.

Texas Book Festival 2017

Books covers for Soonish, It devours, Welcome to Nighvale, Santa Calls, Creepy Carrots, Spy School, Space Case, How to avoid extinction, Symphony for the city of the dead, Last stop on market stree

The first Saturday of November, Jim and I attended the 22nd annual Texas Book Festival in Austin.  The book festival began in 1996 about the same time my family moved to the Central Texas area.  It is prestigious, large, and mostly free.  It promotes literacy and reading across all ages.  There are events for the youngest children through adults.  There is something of interest for everyone. The money raised at the book festival through book sales, donations, and other fundraising goes to library and literacy programs in Texas.  This year there was a special fundraising effort for public and school libraries effected by Hurricane Harvey.  I participated by attending and purchasing lots of books.  Once I started it was hard to stop!!!

One of the first events of the day was the announcement of the new Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List for 2018-2019.  We missed the announcement, but I collected a copy of the list.  As I have said in the past, I like this award as Texas school children in grades 3-6, who have read (or have heard read out loud) at least 5 of the books on the list, vote for the winner.  The 2016 winner was Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl. The 2017 winner will be announced this spring at the Texas Library Association’s annual conference. I picked up a book from the list How to Avoid Extinction.  It quirky title made we want to see what is inside!

Another program that the book festival supports is the Reading Rockets Program. This is a literacy outreach program for students in Title I elementary schools, like the one where our daughter teaches.  It brings bilingual and award-winning children’s authors to these schools for presentations.  This program donates a signed copy of the author’s book to each student and a set of the author’s books to the school’s library.  How cool is that!

Because I love children’s books, we had to spend time in the Children’s tent.  We stopped to see the PreK class from my daughter’s school introduce Aaron Reynolds.  He had been at their school earlier in the week. I also wanted to hear his new book.  It had an interesting title, Creepy Underwear. This book is hysterical and so was the author.  Have you ever talked with a group of young children?  You must bring your A-game!  You never know what they will say.  He was funny, charming and energetic.  He told the group that he was an author and most of the time he was a grown up.  The kids in the tent were delighted!  They loved his book.  Alas, I delayed going to the books sales tent and all the copies of the book were gone.  As an alternative, I purchased his book, Creepy Carrots. You will hear about it in another blog.

I decided to stay for the next session as I was intrigued by Chris Harris’ book title, I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-ups. Here was another delightful author.  The local class that introduced him recited one of the poems from the book.  He thanked them and told them how much he had enjoyed visiting their school.  Wow, you must really love to talk with children to be on this circuit.  They asked him all kinds of questions.  As you might have guessed, he began this book for his own children and it just grew.  His poetry, rhyming or not, is captivating and the poems have appealing titles. Here’s a title from one he showed the audience, “Alphabet Book (by the Laziest Artist in the World)”. The illustrator for this book is also one of my favorites, Lane Smith.  The pictures in this book are fantastic, just like the poems.  There will be more to come on this book in another blog.  I have to read the book first!

I learned an interesting fact from both Chris and Aaron. Authors and their illustrators rarely meet.  I was under the wrong impression that they collaborated during the entire process.  That must only happen when the author and illustrator or illustrator and author are very close or the same person.  According to Aaron and Chris, you write your book and you send it off to the publisher.  They look it over and then decide, who might be the best person to illustrate it.  They send the book off to the illustrator to see, if he/she wants to illustrate it.  Aaron said he never met his illustrator, Peter Brown, until after his first book, Creepy Carrots, was published.  Jim and I wondered what happens when the author hates the illustrations?  Our question will have to wait for another time as both these authors appeared to enjoy the illustrations in their books.

These two children’s authors presented in the mid-afternoon and as I am not a husband torturer, we split the day between what he thought might be interesting and what I wanted to see. He is interested in science and science fiction, so we took a flyer and attended Kelly and Zach Weinersmith’s session.  Their book title looked curious, Soonish: A Funny Future of Technology: Ten Technologies That Will Improve/Ruin Everything.

I thought this was a delightful session!  Zach has two degrees one in literature and the other in physics.  Kelly, who could not attend, has a degree in parasitology.  Between the two of them, they work on the ideas and research for their books.  Their book combines interesting theories and Zach’s cartooning. In this presentation, Zach talked about two technologies from their book: Cheap access to space and robots.   In the section on “Cheap Access to Space”, he discussed carbon nanotubes that could be used for a space elevator.  As soon as he started on this topic, I thought about Arthur C. Clarke’s story The Fountains of Paradise.  I haven’t read the book so I don’t know, if they reference his story.

He also discussed robots and how it will end for humanity.  He talked about some interesting recent robotic experiments.  We, the people, are so gullible. Seems if a robot tells us something, it is true. To the best of my narrative ability, here’s how the experiments went.  In experiment one, on a campus, near a locked dorm lurked a robot.  The robot would stop students and ask them to let it into the dorm.  A very, few students let the robot into the dorm.  On the other hand, around 80% of the students stopped and would let that same robot in the dorm, if it robot had cookies and offered one to the student.   Makes you wonder what people will do for cookies!

In experiment two, began with student who were volunteering for a study waiting in a building’s lobby.  They were met by a robot and led to a room.  Sometimes the robot went straight to the room.  Sometimes the robot took what was obviously a long, circuitous route.  Sometimes the robot would walk into a wall and go the wrong direction and have to correct itself on the way to the room.  Sometimes the robot would move very slowly.  The robot left the students in the room where the experiment was to take place. After they had been in the room for a few minutes, the room began to fill with smoke and the fire alarm went off. A robot appeared in the doorway and told the students to follow it to safety.  It is interesting that in every case, people followed the robot.  It didn’t matter, if they could see the exit door, or if the robot had made mistakes in getting them to the experimental room and was making obvious mistakes getting them back to the outside door, the students followed the robot.  I think that is a scary thought that they would so blindly follow robots.  After all they were built by people.  During the Q&A session someone asked this related question, what would you do to prevent a robot apocalypse?  His answer: “Don’t let it get started!”  It was a most amusing presentation.  Did I buy his book? Why yes and “soonish”, after I read it, I will blog about it.

Jim and I listen to the news on the way to and from work every day.  It gives us a chance to talk about current events.  Discussing current events led us to this session with its intriguing title, “Falsehoods, Forgeries, and Fake News” in the C-SPAN Book tent.  This session featured Kevin Young and Jared Yale Sexton.  They discussed how PT Barnum and his use of the Penny Press was similar to the way the internet is used now.  It was a lively, but somewhat distressing topic.  They offered us hope.  We must learn about each other and find common ground so that civil discourse can continue.

After that heavy topic, we were ready for lunch.  We walked down to six street and had lunch at BD Riley’s Irish Pub.  Books (a discussion), a brew (Guinness Stout), and BD Riley’s Irish stew (best ever) made lunch heaven.  I am glad that we had the second half of our day at the book festival to walk off all that yummy goodness.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To cap off our book festival day, we intended to try the festival’s lit crawl.  Unfortunately, all the lit crawl venues were too far from us.  We had our own lit crawl. We used two of our newly purchased books (Tom Hank’s Uncommon Type and Zack and Kelly Weinersmith’s Soonish) to play the game, “Bring Your Own Book.”  We had a blast and it was a lovely end to a perfect day at the Texas Book Festival.

My Dad the Magnificent

Parker, Kristy. My Dad the Magnificent. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 1987.

Happy Father’s Day!  Here is a great book for Father’s Day.  It is about a boy and his Dad.  Buddy’s Dad wears a suit, works in an office, and has meetings.  He isn’t a lion tamer or a cowboy or a deep-sea diver.  What make him magnificent to Buddy?  Saturdays!  Buddy and his Dad spend Saturdays together.  From breakfast to bedtime, they work and play together.  Here’s the wonderful end to this story.

Then he hugs me real tight, and he says, “I love you.  See you in the morning.”

And you know what? My dad is the most magnificent in the whole world. And that’s the truth.

Here’s a picture of my Dad, taken for his high school graduation.  He looks so young.  He passed away several years ago, but I still miss him.  He was a magnificent Dad!  I am sure we were a trial for him.  I remember when we were little, he would come home from his office, take off his tie, and spend some time wrestling with us.  It was the best time of the day for us.  I expect his was tired, but it never showed.  I remember him raking up all the leaves in the yard and not getting angry when my sister and I jumped in the piles.

Our parents both had their skills, but for adventures you wanted Dad.  He was the parent, who chaperoned our field trips.  I remember him driving us around to go caroling.  He was the one who took us fishing.

One of the strongest memories I have of him is on the day of my wedding. He was tall (at least taller than me), handsome, and strong.  When I think of him now, it is the way I see him.  He taught me so many lessons without words.  How to be kind, how to be persistent, and how to be caring.  He was a wonderful Dad!

Happy, happy, happy day to all fathers everywhere.

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?