Reading Report for Northern, Central Texas: August and September 2017

Aug_Sep17I feel it has been an age since I have settled in to write. August and September were so very busy around here.  You may notice that the book stack here is much shorter than usual.  No contributions from Alexis and Sarah.  They moved out to an apartment of their own so I don’t have their input.  I hope to ask them to write something for me to post.  Helping them move, new job responsibilities, helping with a wedding, and general household clean up, my reading and writing have been on a hiatus.  I am glad to be sitting here writing.

With the girls comfortably established in a place of their own, Jim and I are empty nesters.  We are getting used to the new routine that includes only two people.  One of the advantages of  having an empty nest is that there are extra bedrooms. Jim and I converted one of them into an office for me.  Jim, the lovely man that he is, painted it for me.  I have a new desk.   It is wonderful to have a cozy, comfortable, dedicated space to do my bits of writing and blogging.

Without further ado, here is the reading report!

Robin’s List

  • Holt, Tom. The Management Style of the Supreme Beings. New York: Orbit, 2017.
  • Griffith, Clay and Susan Griffith. The Shadow Revolution. New York: Del Rey, 2015.
  • Griffith, Clay and Susan Griffith. The Undying Legion. New York: Del Rey, 2015.
  • Harris, Charlaine. Midnight Crossroad. New York: Ace, 2014.

I haven’t finished The Management Style of the Supreme Beings. I have been distracted by other reading.  I was hoping it would be just a funny as my favorite Tom Holt novel, Flying Dutch.  This one is amusing, but I am having trouble finishing it up.  I will give it another go later this month.

I did enjoy reading Midnight Crossroad. I read this book just before the new TV series, Midnight, Texas started.  It made me a step ahead on the first few episodes.  I need to find another book in the series and then catch up on all the episodes of the TV series I have missed.

The Shadow Revolution and The Undying Legion are the first two books in the “Crown & Key” series.  They take place in Victorian London where werewolves and other nasty shadows lurk.  I fished these two books out of the pile Alexis had designated for Half Price books.  They were fun, light reading during these busy months.

Jim’s List

  • Baxter, Stephen. New York: Penguin, 2015 (Nook Book)
  • Tyson, Neil deGrasse. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2017.

While on vacation this summer, we were wandering in a little independent bookstore in Healdsburg, California when we ran across this slim, little volume.  While Jim does take time to contemplate the cosmos and photograph it as well, I thought he might find this book amusing.  “It was good, very informative, and easy to understand.  You don’t have to be an astronomer or engineer to understand it.”  These were Jim’s comments on the book.  I need to move it from his reading stack to mine.

I am glad to be back at work on this project.  Have a good month and happy reading!

Just in case you are curious.  Here is my office.

Office

 

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Never Spit on Your Shoes: A Book for the First Day of School

NeverSpitCazet, Denys. Never Spit on Your Shoes. New York: Orchard Books, 1990.

Good evening!  This was the first day of school for many children in central Texas.  Parents worked hard to get their children ready to go back to school. Teachers did their part, working hard preparing their classrooms for their new students. It was a significant day for parents and students.  For young children and their parents going to school for the first time can be a little scary.  They don’t know what to expect.  For older students and their parents, the first day of school marks the beginning of a new year of activity.  For me it signaled the passing of a year in a more significant way than New Years.

While I was considering which book to share, I stopped to have a conversation with my daughter.  She grew up to become a music educator and now works in an elementary school here in central Texas.  She had been busy setting up her classroom. She told me her plans for the first day of school.  This year, she will be asking her student to help craft the classroom rules.

That amusing conversation made me remember this book.  I am certain I purchased the book for its title, Never Spit on Your Shoes, when I was teaching preschool. How could I resist? It is a good piece of advice.  Take a look at the cover of this book. Like my daughter, this teacher is developing the class rules for the first day of school.

Denys Cazet has shared the first day adventures of a little puppy named, Arnie.  Arnie is making the transition from kindergarten to first grade.  As the book opens we see Arnie drag himself into the house, throw himself into a chair, and gasp out for milk.  The first day of school has been exhausting.  His mom brings milk and cookies and they proceed to have a conversation about his first day of school.

I like the way this book is designed!  On the double-spread pages of the book, you see an inset of Arnie and his Mom.  The rest of the page shows the details of what happened at school. Here’s an example.  At the top of the inset picture, Arnie tells his mom, “We had to sit together in a circle and help the teacher make the rules.”  The rest of the double page shows the classroom, with the students in the circle working on ideas for rules.  Mrs. Hippowitz got some of these helpful suggestions: “Waste not, want not. Always keep your tools dry! Just say no to catnip. Never spit on your shoes. Keep your feet dry.  Is it time to go home?” The inset picture shows Arnie whispering to his mom.  Under the inset picture Arnie tells his mom, “Never spit on your shoes.”  Mom replies, “I promise.” Good advice, but I doubt it made the list. It clearly impressed Arnie. I am looking forward to visiting with my daughter to hear what interesting suggestions Ms. Reimund received for her classroom rules.

This book is very funny! It is evident that Mr. Cazet has spent some time in a classroom.  There are many amusing things to discover and discuss.  I don’t know, if I would read this book to my child before or after the first day of school.  It might be fun to read after and discuss how the child’s day was the same or different from Arnie’s. When you read this book, you need to pay close attention to the words and pictures or you will miss the jokes.  Pick up a copy of this book and share it on the first day of school with a youngster you know.

Denys Cazet

Here are five fun facts about this author.

  1. He’s been a gardener, mail carrier, teacher, librarian and media specialist.¹
  2. His characters are based on some of his friends and family.
  3. The title Never Spit on Your Shoes was an actual contribution to a teacher’s class discussion on rules.
  4. He was inspired to write the Minnie and Moo stories, when he drove past a herd of cows. All the cows were facing the same direction except two.2
  5. He lives and works near Napa in California3.

¹http://biography.jrank.org/pages/1785/Cazet-Denys-1938.html
²https://www.harpercollins.com/cr-100163/denys-cazet
³http://www.patriciamnewman.com/kidlit-creators/denys-cazet/

Scaredy Squirrel and Engaging Children with Print

ScardeySquirrel

  • Watt, Mélanie.  Scardey Squirrel. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press, 2008.
  • Justice, Laura and Ann Soka. Engaging Children with Print. New York: Guilford Press, 2010¹.

I am so lucky!  I attended a workshop on “Building Emergent Literacy Skills in Students with Disabilities” given by Dr. Laura Justice.  All I can say is wow!  I received 3 new books and my head is full of new thoughts.  I have always thought that reading was important for all children.  You may have noticed this theme in my work.  I read to my girls when they were little, because it was fun and engaging for each of us.  My girls are excellent readers. Would they have been better readers, had I had this information when they were young?  Who knows?

My girls grew up in a language and print rich environment.  We had books, newspapers, and magazines.  Both their parents and all their grandparents were avid readers.  The girls saw us read for work and for pleasure.  We spent countless hours reading to each of them.  We talked about books. We wanted them to share our love of books and reading. We wanted them to be good readers, too.

When I taught preschool, I tried to provide my students with a language rich environment.  As a former speech pathologist, I knew the value of developing good language skills in children.  I tried to model language for them. I didn’t have any formal training in reading, but I tried to provide the students in my class with the same kinds of experiences that I gave my girls.  I had lots of books in my room.  I tied activities to some of the books we read. I thought seeing objects with words labels around the room would help my students with their basic reading skills.  With what I know now, I could have been a much better teacher.

I never looked at children’s books quite like I did over the two days of that workshop.  It made me think about what skills we hope children bring to kindergarten.  We’d like them to know how to hold a book.  We’d like them to know what letters are and we’s like them to know some of them.  We’s like them to know that letters make up words.   How do they gain these skills?  They gain these skills from reading with someone.  Children, who come to kindergarten, without some of these basic skills have a learning gap.  It is good to know that some of the gap can be closed with specific book intervention at an early age.   For more specific information, check out Laura Justice’s book, Engaging Children with Print.

I think when I was reading to young children, I hit the language skills you need for reading, but I missed the some of the other aspects of print knowledge.  What is print knowledge?  Print knowledge is the understanding of the form and function of written language.  I don’t want to spend too much time on this subject, you will have to read this information for yourself!  I just want to share this book and point out some of the print elements in this story.

Scaredy Squirrel is a very funny book.  It is about a squirrel, of course, who is risk averse.  He doesn’t want to leave his tree.  It is dangerous out in the unknown.  He is afraid of a few things, including green Martians and sharks.  He thinks about the advantages and disadvantages of leaving his tree.  We find out that his schedule is the same day-to-day so that it is predictable. He has an emergency kit, an emergency plan, and an exit plan.  He feels very prepared. He keeps watch.  As with most well laid plans, something goes awry!  He drops his emergency kit.  What happens?  Is there a tragedy?  Does he survive?  Read this book for yourself.  It is wonderful.

Now that I know more, I can see why Laura Justice calls this a book that just keeps giving!  First, it is a fun engaging story.  Kids will want to hear it and read it.  Second, it has examples of different types of expository text embedded in the narrative.  What do I mean?  There are labels, schedules, routines, and compare and contrast examples within the story.  They are all important form of written expression.  And last but not least, it also contains a wonderful assortment of power words. Power words are those words that have important meaning across disciplines, but are not in lists of high frequency words. These are words that are important for children to learn to expand their understanding of language and literacy.  This story has a wealth of them.  Here is a short list of some of them: unknown, risk, venture, scary, afraid, advantage, disadvantage, predictable, control, and those were in the first eight pages.

Pick up this book and read to your child or a young friend.  As you read, take the time to subtly point out some of the expository pieces in the book.  You might connect Scaredy Squirrel’s daily schedule with your family’s daily schedule you have posted on your refrigerator or on your phone.  Do you have an emergency kit in your house?  You might compare and contrast what you have in your kit and what Scaredy has in his.  Think of creative, but explicit ways, to connect your child’s daily life to some of the power words in the book.  Through this shared reading time, you can build a language and literacy rich environment for your young learner.

¹Available to download for free from the Crane Center For Early Childhood Research and Policy: https://earlychildhood.ehe.osu.edu/files/2016/04/Engaging-Children-with-Print-Building-Early-Literacy-Skills.pdf

 

With a Good Book – Happy Anniversary!

Frontpiece of Wildflowers of Texas BookAjilvsgi, Geyata. Wildflowers of Texas.  Bryan, TX: Shearer Publishing, 1984.

This blog, “With a Good Book” is a year old.  Happy Birthday!   I started this blog writing about the books I bought for my niece’s baby shower.  Her son, Elijah is nearly one.  I don’t know about you, but I have been vastly entertained remembering books I have shared with my family over the years. I reveled in the new books I have discovered this year. My random ramblings have delighted me!

Today, I want to reflect on home and family.  My family has been supportive and helpful throughout this year.  They encouraged me to start writing and sharing.  I value their loving support.  How could I continue without it?  We have lively discussions over the dinner table about our current reads.  We also reminisce about things we read in the past and how much they made us think or feel. As you may have guessed, we all love to read.

I was at home today and I took a walk in our back forty.  It was full of wildflowers.  TheDedication to Alexis' Dad for his birthday. sight that greeted me was a field of yellow spotted with purple.  I had to pull out my favorite wildflower reference, Wildflowers of Texas to identify these new flowers.  We have had this book so long that the dust cover is gone.  I took this picture of the inside front cover to show when we acquired it. Alexis and I bought for Jim for his birthday in 1985.  She was a very precocious two.  This book sees regular use every spring and summer.  The wildflowers in our yard, in our neighborhood, and around our state have always intrigued us.  We love walking in our yard and seeing how the flower change during the seasons.

Here’s some photos from this afternoon’s walk.  Here is the field of yellow dotted with purple near the large oak tree.  There are so many types of yellow flowers, it is hard to say what these sunny, yellow flowers are.  I think they are Sleepy-Daisies.  They bloom in the back forty from April through the first good freeze.

field of small yellow flowers
Back Forty in Bloom

The new purple flowers are called American Germander.  They have blossomed since the last good rain. They join the other blue and purple flowers in the yard: bluebonnets, dotted blue-eyed grass, and prairie verbena.

Sleepy Daisies and American Germander
American Germander and Sleepy Daisies

The dewberries bloomed and the blooms have given way to berries.  Our berries get too much sun so they are small.  I did pick a couple small ripe ones and they popped with sweet flavor in my mouth. If you want the big, fat, ripe ones, you must dig into the thicket.  I don’t want to discover a snake (we’ve seen rattlesnakes around here)! What are dewberries you ask?  They are a variety of blackberry.

Ripening Dewberries
Ripening Dewberries

I walked down by our rill to look at the barrel cacti.  Unfortunately, they had finished blooming.  I walked down that way last week so I didn’t miss their bright, fuchsia flowers.  The prickly pear, on the other hand, are blooming in profusion!  Their bright yellow blooms attract all types of insects.  I rambled back to the house.  It was a wonderful afternoon.

Prickly Pear in Bloom
Prickly Pear in Bloom

As I enjoyed my ramble through the yard, I have spent this year rambling through some very good books. Thanks to all of you who have followed my blog over this year.  It has been my pleasure to share my love of books and other random ramblings with you.

Here’s one of my favorite quote on books from Groucho Marx.

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.
Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.

Go and share a good book with your best friend!

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.

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/

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

santaclausBaum, L. Frank. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. New York: Signet Classic, 1986.

I have a large collection of Christmas books. As I was unpacking them for the holiday season, I came across this slim gem. It has been a number of years since I have read it so I picked it up for my holiday reading pleasure. What a delightful treasure it was. Written in 1902, this book answers some of these age-old questions about this important jolly gentleman.

  • Who is Santa Claus? An orphan.
  • Where does he live? Laughing Valley
  • What was the first toy he made? A carved cat figurine
  • Who was the first child to receive a toy? Weekum
  • Who helps Claus build and color the toys? Ryls, Knooks and Nymphs
  • How does he manage to travel over the entire world on Christmas Eve? Exceptionally swift reindeer
  • Who were the first two reindeer? Flossie and Glossie
  • How many reindeer pull Santa Claus’ sleigh? Ten (Flossie and Glossie, Reckless and Speckless, Racer and Pacer, Fearless and Peerless, and Ready and Steady)
  • Where does Santa Claus get his sleigh bells? The King of the Gnomes
  • Who now rides in the Sleigh with Santa Claus? A fairy, a pixie, a knook, and a ryl

Pick up a copy of this little, but informative book on Santa Claus. He is a wonderful man and friend to children everywhere!

This year for Christmas I purchased a copy for each of my youngest nephews. I love to send books for Christmas. In keeping with my plan to send something for now and later, this was the book for Christmas Future. I can imagine each of my nephews snuggled up with one of their parents being read this charming book.