Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Early Morning Writing

Early morning from my east facing window.
The crow calling just outside my window woke me enough to notice how light it was. Must be a least 7. No, only 5:18 a.m. Too early to be up with a long day ahead of me. But as I lay in the guest bed, the quiet was energizing.

I'm staying on top a mountain near East Calais, Vermont, and the beauty of sound and sight and fragrance is balm to my soul. There is no hum of the highway half a mile away; no jarring sirens of emergency vehicles responding to the needs of the one million people living in a single county; no ridiculously heavy footsteps of the family in the apartment above me. Instead, I listen to the calls of birds I can identify (killdeer, crow, robin, some kind of owl) and the songs of those I don't yet know. This quiet is like a drink of cool water on a warm day.

I am inspired to write, energized to do so now. Being in Vermont, I can't help but think of poet Robert Frost. He worked the land, knew the people, and recorded them in verse that grasps their vitality and reality. I feel a kinship to him in shared loves. I am writing in Vermont.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Window Seat of the Perfect Present

The window seat of the "perfect present."
Living in the moment is vital.  Not one of us has any certainty beyond the present.  Yet I find myself thinking of the future.  When I move to Vermont, then I will be happy,  When I publish a book, then I will be successful.  When I make a lot of money, then I will feel secure.  Rarely do I find satisfaction in the moment.  That is why last night was so incredible.  I am in Vermont because my daughter is in the hospital here.  It is a stress filled time of uncertainties and decisions. The kindness of strangers has provided me a place to stay, and last night I experienced, in the midst of a life storm, perfection in the moment.  I sat in a window seat watching a thunder storm transverse the mountains as I read a book about a romance in Paris, eating chocolate, sipping red wine, and patting a purring cat.  The moment was perfect, and I was there in it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Creaky Old House

What a fun book this is.  Creaky Old House: A Topsy-Turvey Tale of a Real Fixer-Upper by Linda Ashman is a rhyming adventure of a simple home-repair taking on bigger and bigger proportions. 

"Our house is kind of old and creaky.
Porch is sloping, roof is leaky.
Windows drafty, shutters peeling.
There's a crack across the ceiling.
Paint's a little chipped and faded.
Might say it's dilapidated.
Still, each one of us -- all nine --
thinks the house is fine, just fine."

The family of nine thinks their house is just fine until a doorknob falls to the floor.  They look in the shed for one screw, and that begins a chain of events gone wild.  Michael Chesworth's ink, watercolor and pencil pictures, reminiscent of Richard Scarry's style, provide a smorgasbord of comical images to illustrate the text. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Flag Day

The American Flag is considered the oldest symbol of the United States. In 1949, President Harry S. Truman declared June 14 as Flag Day. It was the day in 1777 on which the Continental Congress designated the making of the first American flag.

Britain’s Union Jack had flown over the colonies in America since 1607. But in 1775, in a show of unity, the colonists designed the Grand Union flag. It had 13 stripes to represent the 13 colonies, and a small Union Jack in the upper right hand corner to represent loyalty to Britain. The Grand Union flag was also called the Continental Colors or Congress flag. Ralph Waldo Emerson mentioned the flag in his Concord Hymn, a poetic commemoration of the first battle of the American Revolution, which took place on April 19, 1775, at the North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts.

“By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world ….”

On July 4, 1776, the colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, and almost a year later, on June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed a resolution stating, “Resolved, That the Flag of the United States be 13 stripes alternate red and white, that the Union be 13 stars white in a blue field representing a new constellation.” That new constellation was the new county.

The first American flag may have been designed by congressman Francis Hopkinson, or by a committee. Although historical evidence proves that Betsy Ross sewed American flags, it is not certain that she made the first one.

While Francis Scott Key watched the fighting in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812, he noticed that once the bombing stopped, the American Flag was still flying. He wrote The Star-Spangled Banner, which in 1931 Congress named the national anthem. The very flag that inspired Francis Scott Key is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in D.C.

In 1831 a Massachusetts sea captain named William Driver nicknamed the American flag “Old Glory.”

As the country grew, Congress decided that after a state was admitted into the Union, a new star representing that state would be added to the flag on the Fourth of July. Since 1777, the flag has changed 26 times. The current 50-star flag has flown since 1960.

For more information about Flag Day and the American flag, consider these children's books:
What’s So Great About … Frances Scott Key? by Marylou Morano Kjelle
The American Flag by Christine Poolos
Meet Our Flag, Old Glory by April Jones Prince

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Picture Books for Father's Day

Special occasions provide reading opportunities. Choosing books related to a holiday teaches children about the event, and adds to the festivities and memories. Try these picture books for Fathers' Day read alongs.

Daddy's Lullaby by Tony Bradman
I Love Daddy by Lizi Boyd
My Daddy's Job by Peter Glassman
Father's Rubber Shoes by Yumi Heo
Daddy Hugs 1*2*3 by Karen Katz
Daddies Give You Horsey Rides by Abby Levine
Father Bear's Special Day by Else Holmelund Minarik
A Father's Day Thank You by Janet Nolan
Father's Day by Anne Rockwell
Daddy All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas
When Papa Comes Home Tonight by Eileen Spinelli
My Daddy and Me by Jerry Spinelli
Driving Daddy by Hope Vestergaard
Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino

Do you have others to recommend?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sandra's Recommendations for Fifth Grade Readers

My youngest daughter, now heading to high school, recalled for me her favorite books. Here are her recommendations for readers in fifth grade.

A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

Peter and the Starcatchers series by Dave Barry
  • Peter and the Starcatchers
  • Peter and the Shadow Thieves
  • Peter and the Secret of Rundoon
  • Peter and the Sword of Mercy

The Penderwicks and The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

A Face First by Priscilla Cummings

Marley, A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan 

Edward's Eyes by Patricia MacLachlan

How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell 

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The Story of a Seagull and the Cat who Taught Her to Fly by Luis Sepulveda

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Sandra's Recommendations for Fourth Grade Readers
Sandra's Recommendations for Third Grade Readers

Friday, June 3, 2011

My Book Club is FridayReads

I was fairly new to Twitter when I noticed a message from @thebookmaven (a.k.a. Bethanne Patrick) inviting me to share what I was reading, with the hashtag #FridayReads.  I loved Bethanne's cheerleading and hourly, if not more frequent, count of how many people had participated.  I shared.

Now I greet every Friday with TGI #FridayReads on my Twitter account.  I look forward to sharing what I'm reading, to seeing the count of how many have shared, and to the sometimes clever, sometimes simple reminders to participate.

FridayReads has expanded from Twitter (@fridayreads) to Facebook and Blogspot, too.  The FridayReads blog includes lists of the top titles being read (or listened to) worldwide each week, and synopses of the books which the FridayReads team members* are currently reading.  I've referred to both for ideas of what to read next.  But still my favorite is participating on Twitter.

#FridayReads has become my book group.  I enjoy sharing my reading, greeting other FridayReaders on Twitter each week, and spreading the word.   I think you'd enjoy participating, too. 

*The FridayReads Team
@thebookmaven (Bethanne Patrick)
@erinfaye (Erin Mitchell, In Real Life)
@bookmeme (Ian Lewis, Book Meme)
@bookladysblog (Rebecca Schinsky, The Book Lady's Blog)
@shelfmagazine (Shelf Unbound)