Saturday, October 31, 2020

Witches and Witch-hunts


Milton Meltzer 1999

Here's to Halloween!  Interesting history about witches and witch-hunts throughout the centuries.  Meltzer  covers various cultures around the world and some specific cases (including the famous Salem trials).  

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Ounce Dice Trice

This book is FANTASTIC!  It arrived the other day and I can't stop reading it and talking about it to everyone in my family!  Charlotte and Madeleine both once made up a list of their favorite words (Charlotte's included "soapbox") and I think it's fair to say that we are language lovers in this family.

Alastair Reid
Drawings by Ben Shahn 1958

Astair Reid's introduction says it all, how words can sound and feel wonderful.  He goes on to list squishy words, words to be said on the move, names for elephants and kittens and whales.  Names for groups (how brilliant is a "snigglement of string" or "a tribulation of children"?!).  He gives words to sounds ("Ploo" is breaking your shoelace, "kinclunk" is a car going over a manhole cover, "paloop" is the tap dripping in the bath.). And most wonderful of all, a garland of odd words and their definitions circling back around to each other.  

Such a fun book that will surely inspire you to "collect words for yourself" if you haven't already!

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Borning Room

It's not a room that's seen much use.  But the times it has stand up in my memory more than the months and years in between.  Most of my life's turning have taken place here.

The Borning Room
Paul Fleishman 1991

 I recognized the author Paul Fleischman when I saw this book at the thrift store recently.   We've enjoyed some of his other books (I recently posted the Birthday Tree) and this one was no exception.  It's a slim little volume following the narrator Georgina's life and family in the mid 19th century.  It begins with her grandfather coming to the wilderness of Ohio and building the house that was to be her family's homestead.  There is one room in particular, the "borning room" where life and death take their place in the procession of family history.  

Four small walls, sheathed with pine, painted white.  A window.  A door onto the kitchen, for warmth.  Two chairs.  A bed, nearly filling up the room, like a bird held in cupped hands.  Standing by the bed, squire beside his knight, a table bearing a Bible and lamp.  I'm certain you've stood in many such rooms.

Look out the window.  That's a sugar maple.  Grandfather greatly cherished that tree....He steered his oxen along the Stillwater, halted them here, and commenced cutting trees as if he were the avenging arm of the Lord.  But when he came to that maple, it so put him in mind of New Hampshire, of his mother and father and sisters, all left behind, that he let it stand and decided to build his house beside it, for summer shade.  He called it his memory tree.

It's here that Georgina's grandmother and mother and eventually her all take a turn birthing their babies, the view of her grandfather's sugar maple from the window.  And it's here that family members gather to say goodby as death takes them.  

It may seem like heavy subjects for a children's book, but it's written about in such a natural, beautiful way.  We follow Georgina through childhood, having "church" with her grandfather out in the woods and fields...

We moved on, hand in hand, towards the orchard.  Grandfather's fingers felt as rough as his staff, which he resembled- long and thin and strong.  Passing in among the apple trees, we gravitated toward those in bloom.  Grandfather savored all that reached his senses.  Unhurriedly, we admired the blossoms' shades, their symmetry, their aromas... Though speaking was frowned upon during these services, the eating of apples, in summer and fall, was not only allowed but encouraged.  Grandfather felt a ripe apple was an invitation to know the Creator and his goodness.........

Beyond them flowed the creek, its water high and its voice greatly magnified.  Grandfather listened, sniffed, smiled.  The world of nature was for him church and congregation and Scripture. 

What had I observed? he would ask.  What new understandings had those observations brought?  What fresh speculations about the universe had been given birth to by those understandings?

Georgina becomes an abolitionist, takes care of her siblings, goes to school, and slowly grows up.  Fleischman does an excellent job helping us to experience the small intimate family stories that make up our country's history.

And I particularly loved this beautiful description of family love and heritage....

As a child of five, Grandfather had shaken the hand of the aged Benjamin Franklin and received the great freethinker's blessing.  I wondered what hands Franklin had shaken, looked down at Grandfather's fingers in mine, and felt I was reaching back through the centuries.  And just as Grandfather had never forgotten his New Hampshire past or his parents' mettle, I promised him I'd preserve his memory.  The chain of hands would never be broken.

Monday, October 19, 2020

A Walk in the Woods

In case you couldn't tell, we've really been enjoying books about Nature lately.  I love books about children exploring and discovering the world around them, especially when they're accompanied by such engaging illustrations like these.  The pictures really tell the story as a group of kids run off from their village and farms to explore the woods around them.  They find a cave and a lookout rock and all kinds of animals.  They even go skinny dipping (which bothered Charlotte!)

A Walk in the Woods
Christin Couture 1993


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Antique Aesop's Fables

 How about another version of Aesop's Fables?  This antique copy of ours is unfortunately missing the front pages.  So I don't have a publishing date or the illustrator's name.  I'm guessing it's at least 100 years old.  Each story title is uniquely illustrated, which I absolutely love!  There are even notes in the back which give the pedigree of some of the fables, referencing Fontaine and Phaedrus and various Indian legends.  

Aesop's Fables
Preface by Joseph Jacobs

Friday, October 9, 2020

Your Craft Book

 Admittedly we have never tried any of the craft activities depicted in this book, though they do look pretty fun and simple.  I was just taken with the wonderful illustrations and beautiful blue and white end pages!

Your Craft Book
Louis V. Newkirk
LaVada Zutter 1955

Here's a bit from the forward:  
"The arts and crafts are of interest and value in the lives of all of us... Opportunity to create with one's own hands and to use the common tools and materials of industry is an essential type of education and recreation in modern-day society."