Tuesday, March 22, 2011


How to Eat a Poem

Don't be polite.
Bite in.
Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice that may run down your chin.
It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are.

You do not need a knife or fork or spoon
or plate or napkin or tablecloth.

For there is no core
or stem
or rind
or pit
or seed
or skin
to throw away.
                             -Eve Merriam

My friend Margaux recently requested some poetry recommendations.  We read poems pretty much every day- either at naptime or bedtime.  I even sometimes copy poems to put in Madeleine and Henry's lunch.  Besides the fact that I personally love poetry, I think it's important for children to experience it.  They hear rhyme and meter and rhythm and beautiful ideas strung together through language.  I'll read from any of the books of poetry we have (and we have many!), but here are a few that are particularly for children.

A big collection of Walter de la Mare. Every one is a gem!
Walter de la Mare 2002

Madeleine first brought this home from her school library.  When I saw that it included Gerard Manly Hopkins (one of my favorites) I knew we had to get our own copy.  This book also contains more contemporary poets
compiled by Elizabeth Hauge Sword 1997

I started collecting everything Eugene Field that I could get my hands on. One book has pictures by Maxfield Parrish (reprinted from a 1904 edition) and Lullaby Land is beautifully laid out with illustrations.
Eugene Field 1996
illustrated by Maxfield Parrish

Hush, little one, and fold your hands-
     The sun hath set, the moon is high;
The sea is singing to the sands,
     And wakeful posies are beguiled
By many a fairy lullaby-
     Hush, little child- my little child!

Eugene Field
illustrated by Charles Robinson

I love that Christina Rosetti's collection of Nursery poems (from 1872) is "dedicated without permission to the baby who suggested them".  Some of her verses also deal with the death of a baby which was often written about and romantacised at that time.
Christiana Rossetti 1968
illustrated by Arthur Hughes

What are heavy?  sea-sand and sorrow:
What are brief?  to-day and to-morrow:
What are frail?  Spring blossoms and youth:
What are deep?  the ocean and truth.

Another library find that I had to track down for myself.  Really fantastic collection of poems.
compiled by George Carhart and Paul A McGhee 1931

At every used bookshop I look for Sara Teasdale. I can't get enough of her. This is a thin volume, but has wonderful black inked drawings.
Sara Teasdale 1930
illustrated by Dorothy P. Lathrop

And of course I've already mentioned this wonderful book.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Crinkleroot's Book of Animal Tracking

Yesterday we spent a few hours at the park along the creek.  We brought our nets and Henry brought a wooden boat he made to float along the current.  It sounds like more fun than it was because Madeleine and Henry decided to bicker the whole time and make everyone miserable.  No matter, we found a tiny, baby crayfish and some deer tracks.  In the summer we've spotted frogs and lots of fish there.

At one time there must have been otters and beavers and all sorts of wild life along the creek.  Sadly we mostly found bits of glass and other trash. 

Jim Arnosky 1989

In this book the naturalist narrator, "Crinkleroot" teaches about different woodland animals, their behaviors and how to identify their tracks. 

Eeny, Meeny, Miney Mole

Spring is officially here, though you wouldn't be able to tell it today.  We woke up to sleet and rain!

Jane Yolan 1992
illustrated by Kathryn Brown

Eeny Mole lives with her two sisters in a hole where they can't tell day from night or summer from winter. She meets a worm and a centipede and a snake who all tell her "astonishing things" about Up Above. Things about light and darkness and the seasons. Her sisters don't care about those things, they're content in their hole. But Eeny decides to see for herself and is amazed.

Light did spread from corner to corner like a blanket above her.  But it also touched in and out of tall trees like a thread.
Day was sharp, but the shadows were soft, and she liked the way they curved around into night.
There was a strange moistness to the air, a little like tears, that was sometimes warm and sometimes cold.  She could not tell if it was winter or summer or something in between.  But there was a murmur all around, of bees and trees, of showers and flowers, of tadpoles and tidepools and crinkly grass.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Man in the Moon

There is such a moon tonight!  Large and light and luminous.  We all ran out to the front yard to peer at it through our binoculars (we don't have a telescope). 

Oh, and this beauty that we read tonight in bed, from The Tall Book of Make-Believe

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Across A Dark And Wild Sea

Don Brown 2002

The true story of Columcille, a pagan born in Ireland who converted to Christianity and founded monastaries throughout Ireland and Scotland.  He worked as a scribe, creating a copy of the psalms that caused a fight among the clans.  But he promoted learning and "through his efforts the embers of literature and scholarship, nearly extinguished during the Dark Ages were re-ignited." 

A revered figure in Celtic history, Columcille left a legacy of learning that illuminated a corner of the Dark Ages.   

The process of writing using the tools and materials of that time period is described. Also in the back is more biographical information. A nice compliment to this book is the movie The Secret of Kells. The artwork is incredible. The kids and I loved it (there were a few scary parts for Charlotte). We ended up looking up photographs of the real Book of Kells (which I didn't know anything about before.)  

Books were made and dispatched, like small boats on a a dark and wild sea, to places where reading and writing had been forgotten or ignored.  The books made colonies of learning and people's minds, once dark with ignorance, were brightened.

O'Sullivan Stew

Hudson Talbott 1999

A fun Irish yarn (in honor of St. Patrick's Day of course!) about a girl who saves the day. When the village witch has her horse taken by the king (for taxes) no one will help her. Kate O'Sullivan and her brothers come to the rescue but get captured when trying to steal back the horse. Plucky Kate has a fistfull of stories that she amuses the king with. There are fairies and sea serpents and other magical plots.  Kate of course wins the king's affection and sets her family free.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Many Hands Cooking

It's rainy and damp- just the perfect day to make some Irish soda bread.  I like to have my kids helping me in the kitchen.  Sometimes that works out and sometimes there's a lot of arguing!  Madeleine's specialty is "No Bake Cookies".  Henry's good at making molasses cookies and tortillas, and Charlotte likes to help make everything!

Terry Touff Cooper and Marilyn Ratner 1974
illustrated by Tony Chen 

I originally checked this book out of the library years ago and loved it.  Then it was just my luck to find it at a thrift store.   It has great illustrations and a page of cooking term definitions, a map, and information about each country highlighted.  There are plenty of children's cookbooks out there, but I think I like this one best.  The recipes are simple and use easy to find ingredients.

We've tried most of the dishes.  Some were a bigger hit than others- the Irish Broonie is really good, but no one liked the Fufu from Ghana.  Even if not used as a cookbook, the text about the country and its food still makes for good reading and learning.