Grown-Up books!

One of the drawbacks to having a friend who loves to read as much as I do is that she takes me to dangerous places like libraries and book clubs. Thanks a lot, Southern Today Gone Tomorrow.

She invited me along to her book club last week and I figured I could handle one grown up book a month (I am swamped with plenty of other projects with deadlines). Before we went back to the meeting, we stopped to say hi to some of my old coworkers at the desk and damned if I didn’t walk away with two books before even getting the book club book!

Conversation with my old coworkers turned toAbraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter of all things. It was a great book and I enjoyed the movie.

I was shocked when the librarian told me there was a second book!!! Well, I had to have it. I really liked how Seth Grahame-Smith wove the fiction into the real history of Lincoln’s sad life. My library friend said the second book follows Henry, Abraham’s friend (and vampire) through major events in American history.

Again, I’m pointing out that libraries are dangerous places. In the process of grabbing The Last American Vampire I happened to see Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy on the next shelf down.

Except there were 4 books!!

Now, not everyone enjoys zombies. Or even post-apocalyptic books, but this series is amazing. Grant’s characters are well conceived and the entire post-rising world she has created is well thought out and intelligently written. There are plenty of suspense, conspiracies and espionage along with the zombies–but the books are not overly gorey or hyper-focused on the weaponry. To say I was ecstatic about Feedback is putting it lightly. I’m going to have to read her Parasite series ASAP.

And finally, yes, we made it to the book club. I didn’t get to read last month’s selection, but the discussion makes me think I should.

This month we are reading The Alice Network about a female spy ring during World War 1. It’s not my typical style, but isn’t that what book clubs are for?

I have finished Feedback and plan to start The Alice Network next…along with some family related projects, crochet for commissions and friends, and preparing for two children’s literature classes this summer. Libraries are dangerous places.

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Groundhogs Day

For Americans, and Canadians, it seems, there is no better predictor for spring than a groundhog and his shadow. Yeah, it’s a bit sketchy, but it’s s fun tradition that would be difficult to find offense in, so we get to have fun with it at school. The kids predicted whether or not Phil would see his shadow, and I found a lot of fun books to share with them. Truth be told, there aren’t a ton of great lower-grade groundhog stories available, but here is what I found:

I have kindergarten twice each week so I started the week with simple nonfiction about groundhogs and shadows.

Then for their second class, they got to watch a Peep and the Big Wide World episode where Peep, Chirp and Quack teach a young groundhog about shadows. You can watch it here.

First grade got to come twice this last week too, so first we read The Black Rabbit about a rabbit who is scared of his own shadow.

There was time to spare so I also read Moonbear’s Shadow by Frank Asch to them.

They loved Moonbear, so I think I’ll find other ways to work his stories in. I didn’t read to them as kindergarteners so they aren’t familiar with him.

For their Friday class, we read a really fun book about a little girl groundhog who doesn’t act like the rest of the groundhogs in her family.

Phyllis wants to be a Punxsutawney Phil, like her uncle, but she is told that Phil is always a fellow.

Phyllis doesn’t deny her instincts though, and one cold day in February, she realizes an early spring is coming, even though Uncle Phil misses the signs.

I really liked this book. I am excited because she has a second book about another hard-to-find holiday: April Fools Day.

We had a couple of minutes after we read about Phyllis so we decided to learn some facts about groundhogs from Gail Gibbons. If you aren’t familiar with her picture-book nonfiction titles, you should go find them!

We learned that groundhogs are also called woodchucks, they live about 3-5 years and there are other groundhog weather predictors besides Phil.

  • Chuck Wood lives in Los Angelos
  • Unadilla Bill lives in Unadilla, Nebraska
  • Sir Walter Wally lives in Raleigh, North Carolina
  • General Lee lives in Atlanta, Georgia

There are many more, as I found in this article from Time magazine.

365 Days!

I can’t believe I did it, but I managed a post every day for the last year! I didn’t want this post to go up without a book, so I started searching on the Internet Archive. I don’t know how the search “New Years Day” brought up Rocky I but I don’t regret reading this great story!

Rocky is a Christmas miracle alpaca. He was born premature, his mother didn’t have enough milk for him, and she wasn’t interested in him at all. Rocky gained his name by fighting through all of the odds stacked against him though, and thanks in part to his owners and in part to a foster mom, he made it.

The story ended after Rocky was able to start nursing from a foster mom who was also rejected by the herd. The book hints that there will be a second book, but I could not find it online. In fact, I could not find much about AlpacaKing farm online either. There are magazine articles and newspaper columns, but no website. I really wanted to learn more about Rocky’s life.

The authors note at the beginning of the book was very informative. I did not know that alpacas have been pushed to the brink of extinction twice by man. I learned a lot about these fuzzy guys and I can’t wait to learn more. I don’t have any alpaca books at school, so I’ll need to correct that.

I might not write every day of this year, but don’t worry, I’ll still share all the gems I come across.

Thrifting

We are enjoying a visit from friends who love to browse flea markets and thrift stores. This is the only time my husband and daughter will go to those types of stores with me. I always see a lot of things I want, but I have to pass them by. Here are some of today’s Ones That Got Away.

It seems Johnny Lion was a series by Edith Thacher Hurd.

I loved reading Dennis in the Sunday comics. I am sure I read more than a few of his comic collections too.

This was one I really wanted. The book was $8 and the dust jacket was badly torn…but I still hope to become a circus clown one day when I grow up.

My husband pointed out the Gumby book. He had to quote Eddie Murphy’s Gumby from Saturday Night Live,

I’m Gumby, dammit!

My friend and I saw a vintage Paddington Bear stuffed animal too.

I might be wrong, but I think I had this Little Golden Book.

You know I’m a sucker for Sesame Street.

I wanted every book in this booth!

I think if I had to pick, I’d get Here, Kitty. So cute!

But the star of the day want a book–I know, it’s shocking. I finally found a vintage ceramic Christmas tree!!!!!!!!!

Balloons Over Broadway

For me, when I was a little kid, the thing I really loved about Thanksgiving was watching the parade on tv. We didn’t always have cable when I was younger (that came after we moved off the homestead and gave up the outhouse for modern indoor plumbing. 😂) but we could see the parade on one of the networks. The best part of the parade was the balloons.

Before getting Melissa Sweet’s book, Ballons Over Broadway, I never thought about where those balloons came from, of who made them. That man was a puppeteer named Tony Sarg.

Sarg was quite an inventor. He went through a lot to bring his vision to the parade.

The balloons change a lot. Characters retire and new ones appear. I agree with the author, it would be awfully fun to see some of the vintage Sarg designs make a comeback.

My own kids don’t look forward to the parade. I’ve never made it a point to show them what it is. Maybe today, since we are home we can watch at least part of the magic together. And it is magic, I have no doubt about that.

You can read a great interview with Melissa Sweet on Delightful Children’s Books. She’s a talented illustrator, I just love her collage style.

Humphrey the Lost Whale

I decided to read a true animal story to one of my third grade classes today that they insisted I had read to them before. I think they were remembering seeing the story on Reading Rainbow, because today was the first time I’d ever read it.

In 1985, a humpback whale entered the San Francisco Bay and then, apparently lost, swam upriver for 69 miles before rescuers figured out how to coax him back to the sea.

I explained to my students that Humphrey, as the whale came to be known, was not meant to live in fresh water, and that was one of the reasons he was getting sick the farther he traveled upstream. I also told them that he would be having a harder time swimming in fresh water because of the difference in buoyancy between fresh and salt water. The book mentioned he may have been hungry as well.

The kids were glad to hear that Humphrey’s story had s happy ending, even when 5 years later he beached himself. Again he was rescued and sent on his way. They enjoyed the story so much that we found a recording of whale songs online to listen to. The kids I read to are smart and curious. If I don’t know an answer to a question, we look it up or I challenge them to find the answer.

I have to admit, this happy story did me some good. Finishing up my book fair and getting it all packed up had me stressed out. Knowing Humphrey may still be out there, that makes me happy.

Knut

I am reading true animal stories with 3rd grade right now, and we loved Cecil’s Pride, despite the sad ending to Cecil’s life.  We moved on to a second book by the Hatkoff family, Knut How One Little Polar Bear Captivated the World.

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This book was written when Knut (pronounced Ka-Nute) was one year old.  Knut was born in Zoo Berlin in December of 2006, with a twin brother.  Sadly, their mother didn’t have the instincts to take care of them so the cubs were fostered by zoo keepers.  Knut’s brother died from a high fever, but Knut was a tough little guy and grew to be healthy and strong under the care of Thomas, his foster father.

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Knut quickly became a world-wide sensation, especially as debates took place about whether or not zoo babies should be fostered or left to die as they would in the wild.  My students and I agree that babies should always be fostered to help us learn more about our animal friends and to further our conservation efforts.

Today, as I knew we would finish the book with time to spare, I thought I’d go online to find a live feed of Zoo Berlin, thinking that a celebrity like Knut would surely be accessible online.  I was horrified to learn that Knut died in 2011 from encephalitis.  I was very sad to have to tell the kids that news, but I did explain that until Knut’s death, we did not know that animals could get this particular form of encephalitis.  Now that scientists know what caused his death, they may be able to help other animals in the future.

Knut was an amazing animal and I am thankful for this wonderful book that allows me to share his story.

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