Friday, August 31, 2007

she finds her voice

It's a bit of a paradox that while Eliza is such an adventurous child that she also tends to be shy, especially around adults. Ask her a question and she'll bury her head in my side to avoid your gaze.

Eliza has seen Miss Carol, the music class teacher, nearly ever week for more than 2 years, and although Eliza speaks very warmly of Miss Carol at home, as soon as we get to the studio she clams up. She thoroughly enjoys music class with all the rhythm instruments, marching, and dancing, and it's all she can talk about from the moment she wakes up on Fridays. But once there, she won't say a word except to whisper something in my ear, and she certainly wouldn't sing . . .

. . . until today. At first, I heard her singing the lyrics to the CD music very softly, almost whispering. But then when the stretchy band (think a giant 8-foot-diameter rainbow-colored scrunchy) came out for the song sequence of "Twinkle Little Star," "Baa Baa Black Sheep," and the ABC song, she sang quite clearly. With each song, her voice grew louder and more confident until it was one of the loudest in the room. I was astonished. Miss Carol looked quite surprised herself and afterward said proudly to the class, "this young lady knew every word to every song" and beamed at Eliza. Eliza promptly buried her head in my side.

It will be interesting to see if today was a fluke or if Eliza has changed her tune about singing outside home.

On a side note, the one time in music class that Eliza becomes quite outgoing is while dancing. In our home, music plays for hours a day. Sometimes I flip through the radio stations, and other times we listen to CDs from our small collection or the public library's enormous one. Eliza dances to anything and everything. Chris and I were discussing this recently since he was the one who has always said he thinks she'd love a dance class more than any other. I told him there was a little studio just 1½ miles down the road that has "creative movement" for 3- and 4-year-olds and wondered what he would think of that for later this year or early next year. I was a bit surprised when he suggested it for Eliza's 3rd birthday present (I thought he'd say "next year," especially in light of the camera incident).

Eliza now has an inexpensive black leotard and pink tights, which are going to be her Halloween costume (at least they'll be useful for fun dress-up clothes even if Eliza decides she doesn't like a dance class). I called a dance studio in Brooklyn about its vegan ballet slippers, knowing that they're often back-ordered, and sure enough they were. The studio near our house insists on pink slippers, but the Brooklyn studio only has white in stock, so I was told to call back in a few weeks to see if the pink polished canvas fabric has arrived - if it hasn't, I can order white slippers and dye them myself, but considering the last time I dyed anything, my hair looked like it had been nuked, I'm a bit hesitant. I may have to resort to begging a crafty friend to do it for me in exchange for baked goods.

Monday, August 27, 2007

missing the camera

I had so many photos I wanted to post, but I hadn't gotten around to uploading them from my camera for almost a month. A few weeks ago, we attended an outdoor family-friendly concert with Eliza and brought our camera. Once we returned to our car, however, I noticed our camera was not with us. Chris became very angry and spat that I didn't deserve to have anything of value. We got in the car and went back to the concert site ASAP. I was relieved to find the hemp shopping bag where I had put the camera (in its case), but then my heart sank when I saw the camera wasn't inside. It had taken us 20 minutes to walk to the car, and in that time, our (overlooked) bag was unattended.

Yes, I'm bitter. It was a half-broken camera, but I could still rig it to work, and some camera is better than none at all. But what really upsets me isn't just that our camera was stolen and that we can't afford a new one at the moment. What upsets me most are the dozens of photos I lost and the hundreds I won't be able to take until I can get another camera. I won't even have a photo of my daughter's 3rd birthday.

So it's going to be awhile before I can post original photos again. I had taken some of my best food photos in July - what a pity. I can't recall what they all were at the moment, but I do remember all our August desserts:

It looks like a lot for a month, but I was able to bring the kamut-hemp cookies and rice treats to potlucks, and that includes all desserts (I didn't even have a chocolate bar) since the only sweet thing I could eat at C's company picnic was watermelon.

The cake was for Chris's birthday. I had printed out Susan's recipe thinking we should have it while peaches are still in season, and even though his birthday was still weeks away, Chris brought the print-outs to me and asked what my plans were for it because he sure would like it for his birthday. I was surprised because Chris is a pie and cookie person who usually doesn't care for cake. But as it turns out, he and Eliza both ate the cake while moaning about how good it was.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

library theme: animals making music

We got to the library just 15 minutes before closing time a little over a week ago. I needed to return a book but didn't intend to check out any since I didn't have my list and Eliza hadn't given any topic suggestions - I thought perhaps we'd head to the armchairs to read until closing, then go see the ducks at the adjacent pond. Eliza had other ideas.

The catalog computers with their tall stools caught her attention yet again. Instead of standing around tapping my foot impatiently, I nosed through the picture book shelves just a few feet away. Olivia Forms a Band caught my eye - I'd been meaning to check it out sometime since Eliza is fond of Olivia (maybe it's a fellow diva thing). 10 minutes until closing. I did a quick scan of the shelves to find another book about music, so marked by the librarian with an eighth note spine sticker. Rock 'n' Roll Dogs and The Song of Six Birds jumped out at me. That's when I thought maybe I could make a quick theme of animals playing music. I knew I had a few books at home that would fit.

The next morning, Eliza noticed the library picture books on the coffee table. "I see Olivia!!" she squealed. I had a feeling she, being an animal and music lover, would enjoy the books, and was I ever right. We've read each of the six library books at least twice a day for the past ten days. And considering I didn't have time to preview them at the library, they were a decent bunch.

Olivia Forms a Band (2006), Ian Falconer

Olivia the porcine diva is dreaming big again. When her mother announces that the family is going to see fireworks that evening, Olivia insists that fireworks without a band is just not kosher. Recruiting her family is met with worried here-we-go-again looks, but Olivia is not deterred. My favorite line from Olivia comes after Olivia's mother tells her a band has to sound like more than one person: "This morning you told me I sounded like five people!" (Echoing similar refrains in our house.)

Eliza's favorite page was the one with the fireworks (['faɪəʃʊks] in Eliza's idiolect), which she still remembers from the 4th of July.

One thing that pleased me was to see Olivia being considerate of her siblings in piecing together her one-pig band (although she appears to snatch her father's suspenders without asking), giving them something they want in exchange for their toy musical instruments.

As with the other Olivia books, Falconer's palette is spare black-and-white, punctuated with splashes of red and blue. The expressions on his characters' faces are so masterful that they tell at least as much of the story as does the prose.

A couple quibbles I have are the ever-present baby bottle (with no adult nearby) and the non-sequitur final page with its depiction of what Olivia's dreaming (I suspect it was put there to give adults a chuckle as I can't imagine the vast majority of the book's target audience would recognize it - Eliza wanted to know who those people were), but overall I found it as charming as Eliza did.

Froggy Plays in the Band (2002), Jonathan London (written), Frank Remkiewicz (illustrated)

I saw on LibraryThing that there are quite a few "Froggy" books written by London. Last summer, we checked out a book about Froggy learning to swim. I tend to be leery of repeating characters in picture books (Olivia notwithstanding) because the stories tend to be uninspired more often than not, and this book did not buck the trend.

Froggy decides to enter a marching band contest that advertises a big prize, so he gathers together his friends into a ragtag marching band. The outcome is not terribly important, but the messages are conflicting. I'm a bit troubled by the emphasis on competition - that Froggy decides to learn the saxophone (['fæfəfoʊn] to Eliza) not for its own sake but to win a contest. On a positive note, Froggy shows determination in practicing day and night and in not allowing an accident during the parade to derail him. I just wish the ol' boy could be more internally motivated.

Who Bop? (2000), Jonathan London (written), Henry Cole (illustrated)

There's a sock hop tonight and the animals are coming two by two to dance to the jazzy rock 'n' roll band headed by Jazz-Bo, the saxophone-playing cat. There's not really a story here - it's a bubblegum 50's ditty as picture book - but the font and lyrics swing along with the animals making it a pleasant enough read although it doesn't stand up to repeat readings for adults. The dust jacket blurb pegs it for ages 3-6, but I had it pegged for 1½-4.

Rock 'n' Roll Dogs (2006), David Davis (written), Chuck Galey (illustrated)

Memphis has gone to the dogs. Although there are similarities to Jonathan London's Who Bop?, Rock 'n' Roll Dogs is more sophisticated and less glib. Dig this:

It's close to Graceland, down in Memphis town,
And the dogcatcher lady wants to shut 'em down.
But on Friday nights they dig a hot dog band
That rocks that boogie in the Delta land.
You're all welcome on their front doormat.
Kids can visit - but they don't let cats
Come hear Rock 'n' Roll
Memphis Blues Dogs.

If a tomcat tries to crash the show,
The dogs start barking, "Go, cat, Go!"
The rhymed couplets are catchy without being overdone. Eliza grooves whenever I read it.

I see from the dust jacket that the writer and illustrator also teamed up for Jazz Cats, which I intend to search out. We are cat people, after all. (Ages 3-6)

Punk Farm (2005), Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Punk Farm answers the age-old question of what farm animals do when the farmer's away. No, Snowball and Napoleon don't stage a revolution in this story - the pig in Punk Farm has better things to do: amping up his electric guitar and wailing out a punk rock rendition of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" along with sheep on vocals, chicken on keyboard, goat on bass, and cow on drums.

Eliza thought it was good fun. This isn't the sort of book you can read in a meek voice, and my throat was a little sore after each reading (I'm so not punk). The writing isn't particularly inspired - it's the reader's "performance" and illustrations that carry this one. (Ages 1½-4)

The Song of Six Birds (1999), Rene Deetlefs (written), Lyn Gilbert (illustrated)

This is my favorite from the animals making music theme, although unlike the other books, there are no anthropomorphic animals playing instruments. The South African authors have set the story in a tiny, close-knit village where young Lindiwe wakes up one morning to find by her side an African flute, a gift from her mother. Lindiwe is grateful for the gift, but the first notes she plays frighten her baby brother. She is disappointed but is determined to find beautiful sounds to fill her flute.

As Lindiwe moves through the day, she comes upon birds and sweetly asks them to share their musical calls with her flute, always expressing her thanks. My favorite part was when the medicine man helped to heal Lindiwe after a hornet stung her and she was afraid the flute might absorb her sobs:

The wise old man smiled, laying a
cool herb leaf on her throbbing arm.
"But a flute should sometimes sob,"
he said. "Ask that hoopoe."
The book closes with the village, young and old, bird and human, dancing late into the night to Lindiwe's flute. (Side note: Lindiwe's mother is shown wearing her baby boy on her back - it's a nice surprise to see babywearing in a picture book!)


Update: I just posted a mini review of Punk Farm. And I forgot to include the link to my "animals making music" tag on LibraryThing; we didn't read them this week, but a few books we own would fit the theme: Opera Cat, Berlioz the Bear, Animal Orchestra, and Mole Music.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

100 more children's books

Nina of Painted Rainbows and Chamomile Tea found out that the previous list was not the current NEA list, so she posted the official list, which is more modern. Once again, those I've read are in bold:

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
I Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch
Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Oh! The Places You Will Go by Dr. Seuss
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner
Thank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
The Cat In The Hat by Dr. Seuss
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
The Mitten by Jan Brett
Crunching Carrots, Not Candy by Judy Slack
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willlems
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman
Corduroy by Don Freeman
Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
Tacky the Penquin by Helen Lester
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type
by Doreen Cronin
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Horton Hatches the Egg
by Dr. Seuss
Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park
Little House in the Big Woods
by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Piggie Pie by Margie Palatini
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann
Olivia by Ian Falconer
The BFG by Roald Dahl
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Bark, George by Jules Feiffer
by James Howe
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Charlie the Caterpillar by Dom DeLuise
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
Frederick by Leo Lionni
by Andrew Clements
Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen
Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion
Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
I Love You, Stinky Face
by Lisa McCourt
Is Your Mama A Llama? by Deborah Guarino
Jan Brett's books
Knots on a Counting Rope by Bill Martin Jr.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
No David! by David Shannon
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
Stephanie's Ponytail by Robert Munsch
Swimmy by Leo Lionni
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Warner
The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper
The Empty Pot by Demi
The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown
The Last Holiday Concert by Andrew Clements
The Napping House by Audrey Wood
The Quiltmaker's Gift by Jeff Brumbeau
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Although I didn't count, it seems I've read even fewer of these. This list's groan-inducing title for me (besides Love You Forever) is No, David! I just don't understand what anyone sees in it - the illustrations give me the creeps. I had commented on Nina's original post that E. L. Konigsburg needed to be up there, and I was specifically thinking of From the Mixed-Up Files... and The View from Saturday.

Lest anyone think me a curmudgeon, other favorites from the above list are Charlotte's Web, Where the Wild Things Are, The Lorax, The Sneetches *, Harry Potter series, Little Women, and anything by Jan Brett. (Hey, where's Patricia Polacco?) I think Eliza's favorite from that list is Olivia, but she has pulled down Chicka Chicka Boom Boom quite a few times this month.

* I once heard that what gave Dr. Seuss the impetus to write The Sneetches was the snobbery of the La Jolla Country Club. I'd like to know if that's really true.

Friday, August 10, 2007

100 children's books

I had intended to blog today about our latest library book theme - animals playing music - but I got sucked into spending Eliza's nap on LibraryThing yet again. I was just about to leave the computer to get something, anything accomplished today when I read Nina's 100 children's books post with her invitation to play along (Nina, I know you'll love Little Women). Titles I've read are in bold:

  1. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
  2. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
  3. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
  4. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
  5. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  6. Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch *
  7. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  8. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  9. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  10. The Mitten by Jan Brett
  11. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  12. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  13. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
  14. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  15. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  16. Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
  17. Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss
  18. Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola
  19. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
  20. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin, Jr.
  21. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  22. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
  23. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  24. Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  25. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
  26. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
  27. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archambault
  28. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  29. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  30. The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
  31. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  32. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
  33. Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
  34. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
  35. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
  36. The BFG by Roald Dahl
  37. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  38. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
  39. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  40. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  41. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
  42. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
  43. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
  44. Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
  45. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  46. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O'Brien
  47. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  48. The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
  49. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
  50. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
  51. Corduroy by Don Freeman
  52. Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
  53. Math Curse by Jon Scieszka
  54. Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
  55. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
  56. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
  57. The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White
  58. Are You My Mother? by Philip D. Eastman
  59. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  60. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
  61. One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
  62. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  63. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  64. The Napping House by Audrey Wood
  65. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
  66. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
  67. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  68. The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  69. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  70. Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss
  71. Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus
  72. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
  73. The Cay by Theodore Taylor
  74. Curious George by Hans Augusto Rey
  75. Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
  76. Arthur series by Marc Tolon Brown
  77. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  78. Lily's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
  79. Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  80. The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
  81. The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
  82. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
  83. Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
  84. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  85. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  86. Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater
  87. My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
  88. Stuart Little by E. B. White
  89. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
  90. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  91. The Art Lesson by Tomie De Paola
  92. Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
  93. Clifford, the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
  94. Heidi by Johanna Spyri
  95. Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
  96. The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
  97. The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
  98. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
  99. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch
  100. Matilda by Roald Dahl
* I've read it in French (Je t'aimerai toujours) but not in English. I assume it's shmaltz of the worst kind in any language.

A few of the ones I didn't bold I'm fairly sure I read once upon a time, but since it has been 20-odd years, I didn't bold them. A number of the older children's titles I read just last year when I was on a YA kick (Bridge to Terabithia, A Wrinkle in Time, Little House in the Big Woods, Harriet the Spy, Anne of Green Gables, Sarah Plain and Tall, The Giver, Tuck Everlasting, etc.). I wonder if the librarians thought me odd for checking out older children's books with a toddler in tow.