Archive for April, 2013

April 24, 2013

even in the April snow, the forest is singing

Each silver
snowflake
sings my name.
Guess what?
No two sound the same.

foresthasasongI love LOVE LOVE that last line. We all know that no two snowflakes look alike, but that they sound differently? When they call our name? What a wonderful image! And while you might think it strange to start a blog in April about snow, the flakes are fast and furious outside my window right now, so I’m just trying to stick with what mother nature is dealing.

This poem is from a wonderful book of poems just sent to me. And it’s poetry month, so that’s perfect, don’t you think? It’s called Forest Has a Song and in it a girl walks through the forest in all four seasons, listening to the song. There are so many wonderful kid-friendly images that really make the forest come alive.

exploding a mushroom:

Puff!
I found one.
Puff!
It’s plump.
Puff!
Come see this
mushroom pump.

tiptoeing on moss:

Barefoot on this emerald carpet
toe-by-toe I squish across.
I softly sink in velvet green.
Oh how I wish for socks of moss.

Aren’t those great? Other poems detail a fossil, a pile of animal bones, a squirrel, the song of the forest, deer, and many more.

This would be a great book for a classroom. It would be fun to read on or before a family camping trip or hike. It would be fun to read any night, really. And you can challenge your kids to look for the sensory images in the poems. Can they hear a snowflake? What do they think it sounds like? Can they see a cardinal and do they think he looks like a kite?

You could also turn it into a scavenger hunt if you live near or are visiting a forest. Can they find mushrooms? Lichen? A squirrel? A deer? How many images from the book can they remember and see for themselves?

Older kids can make up their own images. Have them walk barefoot across something…a lawn, a pebbly beach, or maybe through a cool brook. What does that feel like? Would they want pebble slippers like the author wanted moss slippers? Can they think of a different image they would like?

Have fun with this book, and I hope you enjoy some of nature this summer. Just not the snowflakes, maybe.

foresthasasongTitle: Forest Has a Song
Author
: Amy Ludgwig Vanderwater
Illustrator: Robbin Gourley
Genre: Poetry, Pictures, Nature
Ages: Almost any

April 18, 2013

Peanuts and crackerjacks

Pete O’Brien was my favorite player. He played first base for the M’s, back when the Mariner’s had yet to have a winning season. If you are saying “Pete O’Who?”, that’s okay. He was mostly my favorite player because he wore glasses and so did I. And I’m still pretty sure that’s a good reason.

Ballpark

There is nothing I like more than playing or watching baseball on a sunny day. I remember playing ball with my dad in our yard and then cheering with him at the stadium. I remember thinking the Mariner’s were going to win (every time) even during the years when their bullpen lost it in the ninth (every time–except when they lost it in the eighth). I remember doing all of my homework with the games on the radio (Dave Neihaus, you are responsible for any bad grades). I remember getting into an argument about Dave Valle (catcher) with my Middle School Crush (now husband) that ended in him sitting (temporarily) on the other side of the movie theater. I remember wearing my M’s hat with duct tape over the “S” during the strike in 8th grade. I remember gleefully watching the postseason games with the Yankees in 1995 with a Yankee fan and personal foe. I remember Edgar’s double.

Betsy and Grandpa

As I’ve “grown up” (for lack of a better term), baseball still has me. At a recent Tiger’s game, I could feel my heart race just walking into the stadium, seeing the light reflect on the grass. I’ve lost a little of my loyalty to the major leagues, but paying attention to money and drugs will do that to you. And while you will never see me root for the Yankees, I’ve transitioned to a Tiger’s fan with little ado.

Which is why I was excited to see Betsy’s Day at the Game come across my desk. I love that the book is about a girl going to the game, as sports books often target boys. I love that it focuses on keeping memories along with the scores. And I love the way it integrates a story with a lesson on how to keep score, which is complicated business. I remember the first time I learned how to read a box score and to check player’s stats in the paper. Keeping score is a great way to watch a ballgame. It’s a great way to stay focused on the action. And it’s great for kids who are more numbers-oriented than sports-oriented: it might open up a world they never knew was there.

page 16

Betsy’s Day at the Game is the size of a picture book, but really an early reader, meant more for the adult to read to the child. It’s a text-heavy given the nature of teaching, but explains the game and score-keeping well. This is a book that brings it’s own family acitivity: simply read, head to the ballpark, and start keeping score! Don’t forget to include the family memories like Betsy does, and if you aren’t heading to a ballgame anytime soon, you could start your own memory book instead.

Betsy's_Day _at_the_Game-coverTitle: Betsy’s Day At The Game
Author: Greg Bancroft
Illustrator: Katherine Blackmore
Genre: Early Reader, Sports
Ages: 4 – 10

If you’d like to win a copy and help pass on the love of baseball to your sons and daughters, students, or grandchildren, please leave a comment below. Maybe tell me your favorite player, or favorite team. I’ll choose a winner with random number generator and forward on the copy the publisher sent to me. Good luck! [AND UPDATED NOTICE: YOU MUST LEAVE THE COMMENT WITHIN ONE WEEK OF POSTING, SO BY NEXT THURSDAY…I’LL GIVE YOU UNTIL MIDNIGHT EASTERN TIME] TO BE ELIGIBLE.]

And if you need some more baseball inspiration, I will end with a link to my absolute favorite essay ever, The Green Fields of the Mind, by A. Bartlett Giamatti.

April 10, 2013

Fast-paced mythological fun

Rick Riordan, author of the mega-smash hit series about Percy Jackson and the Olympians, almost makes my days in the Junior Classical League cool again. (In case you missed JCL while you were off doing something more normal like cheerleading, it was a competition where you could recite Latin poems, play ancient-Roman-based trivia games, and wear togas.) I said almost, okay?

I’m into the Kane Chronicles right now, a trilogy that follows a brother and sister team as they try to learn their family’s ancient Egyptian magic and save their father. The books are told in the first person from both Carter’s (the nerdier, grew-up-homeschooled-and-on-the-run-with-archaeologist-dad, darker-skinned brother) and Sadie’s (the hipper, cooler, sometimes-braver and fairer-skinned sister) point of view. You can meet these kids here. And you can learn more about their family’s magic here. And if you really need to, you can play some Egyptian games here.

As always, I’d encourage you to read these with your kids! This one is an easy assignment, because you are going to love it and before you know it, you’ll be done and off looking for some more Riordan ancient civilization fun.

After you do, you can talk about one of the fun ideas in this book, a secret name. Everyone has one and knowing someone else’s gives you complete control over them. Sadie controls the God Set because she knows his secret name (Evil Day). Tere’s a great moment in the book where she needs to guess her brother Carter’s secret name, something she can do because she knows him so well. Why not discuss your secret names around the family dinner table? Or in a classroom? Kids could come up with names for themselves or friends, tapping into their best qualities or highest ambitions. What better way to get close to your child than to know their mythologically secret name?

serpents-shadowTitle: Kane Chronicles: The Red Pyramid, The Throne of Fire, The Serpent’s Shadow
Author:
Rick Riordan
Genre:
Fantasy
Age Group:
Middle School kids

This book would be great for:

– reluctant boy readers (it’s big, but fast-paced and action-packed)
– anyone into mythology or ancient Egypt
– anyone studying mythology in school
– readers looking for mixed-race main characters (I’ve had many parents ask about this before: their race is not an issue in the book, just a fact about them, which is nice)
– anyone who likes a LOT of action (sometimes I find myself needing to catch my breath!)

So, what is your secret name? And if you have this conversation with your kids, let me know how it goes! Or don’t, if it’s a secret…