The Mantlemass Chronicles by Barbara Willard

I purchased another one of Barbara Willard’s Mantlemass books to go in my library, the last one that I was lacking, even though I haven’t yet read all of this series. This one is called A Cold Wind Blowing, and it begins in the year 1536 as King Henry VIII, in a fit of pique and acquisitiveness at the Pope’s inconsiderate and uncooperative decision to deny him a divorce, sets about destroying the monasteries and seizing their assets. The Medley family, the family that is the focus of all this series of historical fiction books, takes in a sort of refugee from all the unrest named Isabella. Isabella has a mysterious past, and her secrets threaten the entire family’s safety and happiness.

I’ve read the first two books in this series, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the Mantlemass Chronicles:

The Lark and the Laurel (1485)
The Sprig of Broom (1485)
The Eldest Son (1534)
A Cold Wind Blowing (1536)
The Iron Lily (1557)
A Flight of Swans (1588)
Harrow and Harvest (1642)

These books take us through English history from the Battle of Bosworth, to the reign of the Tudor kings, to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, to the Spanish Armada, to another English civil war between Cromwell’s Roundheads and the king’s men, Cavaliers. During all these great events the families in and around the manor house Mantlemass—Mallorys, Medleys, Plashets, and Hollands–pursue their own ends and keep their own secrets.

Rajpur: Last of the Bengal Tigers by Robert McClung

New in the library, but published in 1982, Rajpur tells the story of a Bengal tiger, born in the forests of southern Nepal and later orphaned when hunters kill both his father and his mother. Rajpur’s sister, Rani, dies of weakness caused by an infection, and Rajpur must hunt and survive alone.

The hallmarks of a “living book” are its narrative power and its full use of language to engage and delight the reader. Mr. McClung, in all of his books, uses both story and descriptive language to make his readers care about animals, the Bengal tiger, in this particular book, and to pull them into the story of one special tiger, Rajpur.

Take these examples of fine descriptive language:

“Kumari growled softly to herself, then turned to the cubs and licked them. The smell of smoke made her uneasy. After a few moments, she left the den and peered across the sea of grass. In the distance, red tongues of flame flickered under billowing clouds of smoke, and the breeze carried the strong smell of the burning vegetation.”

“One mild evening in late February the cubs followed their father as he padded along the edge of a grassy meadow. Many of the trees and bushed around them were still bare of leaves. Others were beginning to unfurl tender new leaves or flower buds. Spring was on its way. Raja Khan was rumbling softly as he sauntered along.”

“Rajpur chased a half-grown wild pig one evening and finally succeeded in seizing it. Squealing with pain, the pig wriggled around and slashed at Rajpur with its sprouting tusks. The sharp weapons tore a bloody furrow in the young tiger’s side. Surprised that the pig was fighting back, Rajpur released his hold and let it go. The pig promptly scrambled to its feet and ran away through the underbrush.”

The story itself also sustains interest as Rajpur grows from a cub into adulthood and as he learns to live alone, after losing his mother, father, and sister. Can Rajpur find a territory of his own? Can he avoid the dangers of cobra, leopards, rogue tigers, and most of all, the deadly human hunters? Can he find a mate?

Mr. McClung was a naturalist and an artist as well as a writer. He worked for the Bronx Zoo for many years, and then as an editor for National Geographic magazine. He wrote more than fifty books for children with titles such as Luna, the Story of a Moth, and Redbird, the Story of a Cardinal, and Spike: The Story of a Whitetail Deer. I would love to have all of these animal stories in my library.

Saturday Review of Books: March 18, 2017

““[People might be surprised to find out] that I believe that writing books is a long way from being important. The most important thing anyone can do is be a teacher. As for those of us who write books, I often think we should all stop for 50 years. There are so many wonderful books to read and not enough time to get around to all of them, but we writers just keep cranking them out. All we can hope for is that readers can find just a little time for them anyway.” ~Natalie Babbitt

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

St. Patrick’s Day books

I have several books for St. Patrick’s Day or about Saint Patrick and Ireland in my library:

Shamrocks, Harps, and Shillelaghs: The Story of St. Patrick’s Day Symbols by Edna Barth is more than just a listing of St. Patrick’s Day symbols and customs. It’s a children’s introduction to the history and culture of Ireland, with chapters on Irish literature and poetry, the history of Irish Catholics and Protestants, Irish dress and food, and Irish folklore, as well as the story of St. Patrick himself threaded throughout the ninety-five page book. And there’s bibliography of “Stories for St. Patrick’s Day” at the back of the book which includes many of the books on this list.

St. Patrick, The Irish Saint by Ruth Roquitte, illustrated by Robert Kilbride. “There’s a day in the spring when people wear green. . . On that day almost all of us would like to be Irish.” This book tells the story of the life of Magonus Sucatus Patricius, the man we call Saint Patrick in forty-six page with illustrations. It would be a good read aloud book to introduce children to the man and the holiday named in his honor.

Shamrock and Spear: Tales and Legends from Ireland by F.M. Pilkington, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Tales of giants and beasts, princesses and dwarves, Cormac Mac Art and Fionn Mac Cool make up this well told collection of more than twenty Irish folktales.

St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Jan Brett. Young Jamie Donovan wants to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, but his family says he’s much too small to make it all the way to the top of Acorn Hill. Read about how Jamie proves that he is big enough to march.

Pegeen by Hilda van Stockum. Pegeen is something of a wild thing who makes up stories and dances like a gypsy and gains the affection of the entire O’Sullivan family in spite of her irresponsible ways. Other books about the O’Sullivan family of Bantry Bay are Francie on the Run, which takes place before Pegeen and The Cottage at Bantry Bay, the third book in the series.

Count Your Way Through Ireland by James Haskins. A numerical introduction to the country of Ireland with numbers in Gaelic, counting such things as sports, symbols, foods, stripes in the Irish flag, and one and only one St. Patrick himself.

Favorite Fairy Tales Told in Ireland by Virginia Haviland. Five stories suitable for elementary aged children.

The King of Ireland’s Son by Padraic Colum, illustrated by Willy Pogany. Mr. Colum was a poet and a playwright and a friend of James Joyce, but his retelling of myths, legends, and folklore for children came to be his most enduring work. The King of Ireland’s Son is a novel based on an old Irish tale about a prince who wins his bride, Fedelma the Enchanter’s Daughter, but must reclaim her after a long and adventurous journey of searching for the kidnapped Fedelma.

Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato by Tomie dePoala.
Jamie O’Rourke and the Pooka by Tomie dePaola.
These two picture books tell about Jamie O’Rourke, the laziest man in all of Ireland and his adventures with first, a leprechaun and then, a pooka. Jamie’s lazy ways get him into troubles, but for the most part all ends well for the lazy Jamie.

Do you know of any other Irish and St. Paddy’s Day books for children that are must-haves for my library?

Fresh-Picked Poetry by Michelle Schaub

Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market by Michelle Schaub.

While you sleep
snuggled tight
farmers toil
by silver light.
Harvest, sort,
wash, and load.
Hop in trucks.
Hit the road.

With alliterative phrases like “tasty transformations”, “pyramids of peppers”, “a whisper of spice”, and “market melody”, poet Michelle Schaub transforms the local farmer’s market into a poetry market. There are other lovely images in these poems, too. The beekeeper brings “jars of liquid-gold alchemy” to the market. Green Zebra Tomato and Dinosaur Kale “live in peace upon a salad plate.” And a couple of blueberry thieves are caught “blue-handed.”

The illustrations by Amy Huntington are bright, colorful, and multi-cultural. And on the final page of this poetry collection there’s a list of “fresh-picked reasons to spend a day at the (farmers’) market.”

Home cupboards brim with bounty
while families dream away,
imagining the wonders
to come
next market day.

Reading these poems has me contemplating a trip to the farmers’ market —very soon.

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Sir Cumference and the Fracton Faire by Cindy Neuschwander

Is it didactic, a story built specifically to teach a lesson about fractions? Absolutely.

Do some of us prefer our mathematics lessons encased in a story? Yes, indeed.

Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. And for some people, math equals medicine.

The Sir Cumference books are designed to engage young readers who like knights and ladies fairs and castles and to teach them a bit of math on the sly, so to speak. This latest Sir Cumference book is all about fractions. Sir Cumference and Lady Di of Ameter go to visit their friend the Earl of Fracton at the annual Fracton Faire. At the fair, they purchase cloth and cheese and other stuff in fractional parts, and a group of thieves target the market. However, the Earl and Lady Di and Sir Cumference use fractions to catch the bandits.

The ending is a bit lame. (The thieves get away, but the loot they took from the merchants at the fair is recovered.) Everyone lives happily ever after, and fractons later become known as fractions. Nevertheless, this story would be a memorable and gentle introduction to or review of the subject of simple fractions.

Other Sir Cumference books are:
Sir Cumference and All the King’s Tens (in my library)
Sir Cumference and the First Round Table (in my library)
Sir Cumference and the Roundabout Battle
Sir Cumference and the Viking’s Map
Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi
Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter
Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland
Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone
Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessert

Another “living math” picture book that I picked up at the used bookstore is The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns. (Ms. Burns wrote two of the books in the Brown Paper School series, Math for Smarty Pants and The I Hate Mathematics Book!, and her name is on a series of math education books from Scholastic for preschool and primary readers, Marilyn Burns brainy day books.) The Greedy Triangle is about a triangle with a busy life who nevertheless becomes bored with doing the same old triangular things. With the help of a shapeshifter, our triangle tries out life as a quadrilateral, a pentagon, and a hexagon, then several other shapes all the way up to a decagon. But, of course, then the old life of a triangle starts to look good, and our shape-shifting shape asks for one last change.

I think this kind of “didacticism” is a just fine. Stories make math so much more interesting. Then again, I was usually the only one in my math classes who actually liked story problems best. Unadorned numbers make me cringe.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

Saturday Review of Books: March 11, 2017

“Books can ignite fires in your mind, because they carry ideas for kindling, and art for matches.” ~Gary Schmidt

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

Argyle Fox by Marie Letourneau

Argyle Fox, a picture book published by Tanglewood Publishing, begins with end papers that show a pictorial map of Argyle Fox’s forest home: Argyle’s house, Badger’s place, Knight’s castle, Beaver’s pond, Groundhog’s burrow, soccer field, and pirate’s hat (?). In the story itself, Argyle Fox, who walks upright and wears an argyle-patterned scarf around his neck, goes out to play on a windy day. All of his ideas for play are spoiled by the wind, including his pirate’s hat (aha!) that is whooshed away by a gust of “rotten wind.” Finally, after many failures, Argyle Fox finds “the most perfect thing to play in the wind.”

The pictures in this book, illustrated by the author, are lovely, colorful, and childlike. Argyle Fox is an intrepid and persistent preschooler with a lot of heart and imagination. His mother is patient, kind, and encouraging, allowing Argyle Fox to try and try again until he can figure out for himself what kind of play will work on a windy day. Argyle Fox would be a great choice for story time on the theme of wind and windy weather. Read along with:

Gilberto and the Wind by Marie Hall Ets.

Feel the Wind by Arthur Dorros.

The Wind Blew by Pat Hutchins.

The Storm Book by Charlotte Zolotow.

Catch the Wind: All About Kites by Gail Gibbons.

A couple of poems about wind wouldn’t go amiss for reading along with Argyle Fox either:

Who Has Seen the Wind? by Christina Rossetti.
The Wind by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Wind on the Hill by A.A. Milne.

The Wind by Amy Lowell

He shouts in the sails of the ships at sea,
He steals the down from the honeybee,
He makes the forest trees rustle and sing,
He twirls my kite till it breaks its string.
Laughing, dancing, sunny wind,
Whistling, howling, rainy wind,
North, South, East and West,
Each is the wind I like the best.
He calls up the fog and hides the hills,
He whirls the wings of the great windmills,
The weathercocks love him and turn to discover
His whereabouts — but he’s gone, the rover!
Laughing, dancing, sunny wind,
Whistling, howling, rainy wind,
North, South, East and West,
Each is the wind I like the best.

My Beautiful Birds by Suzanne Del Rizzo

Young Sami and his family escape from the bombing of his Syrian neighborhood and go to live in a refugee camp, but Sami had to leave his pigeons behind. As others in his family and in the camp begin to make a new life for themselves, Sami cannot think of anything other than his beautiful birds.

The artwork in this lovely picture book uses “plasticine, polymer clay and other mixed media” to create a sense of beauty in the midst of war and desolation. Even young children can sympathize with Sami and his loneliness and depression as he tries to adjust to a new home without any of the things or people he had to leave behind in Syria, and especially without his pet birds. And I can picture young readers being inspired to use clay and painting and other mixed media to create their own pictures and art that perhaps speak to the losses that they have experienced themselves.

The book would even be a good art therapy book for older children and young adults. The use of literature, art and nature in helping people to cope with loss and with trauma is well-established by now, and this book would be a window for those who don’t understand much about the sadness and grief that refugees experience and a mirror for those who have experienced war or disaster firsthand.

“In 2015, looking for resources to explain the Syrian Civil War to her own children, Suzanne (Del Rizzo) came across the article of a boy who took solace in a connection with the wild birds at the Za’atari refugee camp.” She wrote My Beautiful Birds in response to that article.

John Adams: Advice to Johnny

Sprinkled throughout David McCullough’s biography of John Adams is the father’s advice and guidance to his young son, John Quincy. Since father and son were often separated, John Adams wrote his son letters full of fatherly counsel, recommendations for his education, and general wisdom. Here are a few quotes from John Adams’ letters to his son, John Quincy Adams:

As a branch of knowledge, geography was “absolutely necessary to every person of public character,” and to every child, Adams declared. “Really there ought not to be a state, a city, a promontory, a river, a harbor, an inlet or a mountain in all America, but what should be intimately known to every youth who has any pretensions to liberal education.”
(Of course, “America” was much smaller in John Adams’ day.)

“A taste for literature and a turn for business, united in the same person, never fails to make a great man.”

“I advise you, my son, in whatever you read, and most of all in reading the Bible, to remember that it is for the purpose of making you wiser and more virtuous. I have myself, for many years, made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year. I have always endeavored to read it with the same spirit and temper of mind, which I now recommend to you: that is, with the intention and desire that it may contribute to my advancement in wisdom and virtue.”

“But above all Things, my son, take Care of your Behaviour and preserve the Character you have acquired, for Prudence and Solidity. Remember your tender Years and treat all the World with Modesty, Decency and Respect. . . .”