Monday, February 25, 2008

Peter and the Wolf Wins Oscar

At the 80th annual Academy Awards (2008), Peter and the Wolf won the "Best Animated Short" Oscar for animators Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman.

The story-set-to-music was written in 1936 by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. According to some sources, Prokofiev wrote it for his son. In his notes for RCA Victor's recording of Peter and the Wolf, David Hurwitz says that, "The project was actually the idea of a Russian schoolteacher who approached the composer with a peculiar combination of shyness and persistence."

Peter and the Wolf presents an opportunity for children to experience the story-telling power of music, while learning to recognize various instruments by their sound.

In the story, each character is represented by an instrument:
  • The Bird - Flute
  • The Duck - Oboe
  • The Cat - Clarinet
  • Grandfather - Bassoon
  • The Wolf - French Horns
  • Peter - The Strings
  • The Hunters' Shot Guns - Kettle Drums
In the tale, Peter heads to the meadow against his Grandfather's wishes, leaving the gate open behind him. From high in a tree Peter's friend, the bird, tells him that all is quiet. Peter's duck has sneaked out through the open gate, and is swimming in the pond. Grandfather has warned Peter about the dangers of the forest, but Peter pays no attention to his grandfather's words. Peter's disobedience has unpleasant consequences.

I am listening to the RCA Victor / BMG Music CD, copyright 1994, narrated by David Bowie, and performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy, conductor.

As of this afternoon (February 25, 2008), the DVD of the Templeton/Welchman animated Peter and the Wolf is sold out on the UK, and not yet available on the US The DVD is available through Breakthrough Films.

Please share other Peter and the Wolf DVD and audio recordings which you would recommend. There have been plenty!

And when you see the 2008 Oscar winner, let us know right here what you think.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Whiskers for President's Day

In 1860 a little girl wrote to Abraham Lincoln, then a candidate for president. He took her advice and grew a beard. The true story is preserved in the archived letters of Grace Bedell and the response she received from Mr. Lincoln. This is one of many examples wherein letter writing has served the purpose of recording history.

In honor of President's Day, share the story of Grace and Mr. Lincoln by reading aloud Mr. Lincoln's Whiskers by Karen Winnick. The actual letters are reproduced at the end of the book.

Michele McKinnon wrote a lesson plan for this book while interning at Liberty Elementary School in Frederick, Maryland. You can see her ideas at Education World.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Poetry, Dead or Alive?

What a site! Check out Poetry Foundation. I've added it to my list of Literary Links, to the right.

I heard about Poetry Foundation on The Writer's Alamanac with Garrison Keillor. I don't usually get to hear The Writer's Almanac because it is broadcast smack dab in the middle of my morning rush to get ready for work. But those rare times when I can listen, I am reminded that poetry is meant to be heard aloud. At least I think so. When it is read with proper phrasing and emotion, it makes sense. For me, poetry can seem dead on the page: I just don't get it. But that changes when I hear it. Anyone else agree? Disagree?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Be My Reading Valentine!

Each year I enjoy reading Valentine themed books to children followed by a time of making Valentine cards with red and white paper, markers and crayons, heart cut-outs, and Valentine stickers. I do NOT include glitter in the project. Too much clean-up for me!

Here are my favorite Valentine's Day stories. They work well as read-alouds -- the children are drawn into the story -- have attractive illustrations and end with a lesson in friendship.

Bourgeois, Paulette Franklin's Valentine 1998
Bunting, Eve The Valentine Bears 1983
Engelbret, Mary Queen of Hearts 2005
Friedman, Laurie Love, Ruby Valentine 2006
Hoban, Lillian Silly Tilly's Valentine 1998

What is your favorite Valentine poem or story?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Paula Rego

She's famous in Europe, but virtually unknown in the United States: artist Paula Rego (b. 1935). Now the National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington, D.C.) is hosting, from February 1 through May 25, 2008, the first U.S. retrospective on her career.

In preparation for the exhibit's opening, I located only one book in the local public libraries: Paula Rego by John McEwen, published 1992. Reading about artists and looking at photographs of their work before seeing it in person is always for me an adventure with delightful outcomes.

At the opening reception for Ms. Rego's exhibit, I scanned the room to see if the artist herself actually looked like her photographs in the book. Not quite. She is much more diminutive in stature. Then up to the third floor galleries to see the works. Would any I had seen in the book be part of the exhibit? Yes! Every time I rounded a corner and saw firsthand what I had viewed in the book, I felt like I was meeting a friend; except that these "friends" were so much larger and more detailed and colorful than what I'd imagined from seeing their photographs in the book.

Take a look for yourself, and even listen to Ms. Rego talk about her art at NMWA.

And if you have never tried it, take my advice. The next time you are planning to attend an exhibition or a performance, do a little preparation in advance. Read about the artist. View photographs online or in a book. Listen to the music. Your experience will be enriched! Please share your experience of how reading has enriched a music performance or art exhibit.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Freedom on the Menu

His voice was that of an older man, but as Franklin McCain spoke on NPR's "All Things Considered," I was transported to a 1960 lunch counter in North Carolina, and heard the fear of a boy doing what was right.

McCain was one of the "Greensboro Four," whose courage started a revolution of change in the United States.

I am reminded of the saying that courage is not the absence of fear, but doing what needs to be done despite the fear. That is what I heard and envisioned as Mr. McCain told his story. ("The Woolworth Sit-In That Launched a Movement" by Michele Norris.)

I first learned of the Woolworth Sit-In when I happened upon a 2004 children's book in the public library called Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins by Carole Boston Weatherford and Jerome Lagarrigue. The picture book is a fictionalized account told from the viewpoint of one of the town's little girls. The book concludes with a factual review of the actual event.

Combining these resources would make an excellent presentation for school children in observance of African American History Month this February. Read the story, then let the students listen to Mr. McCain. His voice; his remembrance; his experience will bring history to life.