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Poetry Friday: October’s Bright Blue Weather by Helen Hunt Jackson

Novelist, poet, and activist Helen Hunt Jackson was born October 15, 1830. She wrote a nonfiction book titled A Century of Dishonor in which she exposed government mistreatment of the Native American peoples. “Jackson sent a copy to every member of Congress with a quote from Benjamin Franklin printed in red on the cover: ‘Look upon your hands: they are stained with the blood of your relations.'” (Wikipedia, Helen Hunt Jackson) She also wrote a novel, Ramona, in which she endeavored to dramatize the plight of Native Americans in the same manner as her friend Harriet Beecher Stowe had done for black slaves in her novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Ms. Jackson’s poetry was much more light-hearted and celebratory than her prose.

O suns and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October’s bright blue weather;

When loud the bumblebee makes haste,
Belated, thriftless vagrant,
And goldenrod is dying fast,
And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

When gentians roll their fingers tight
To save them for the morning,
And chestnuts fall from satin burrs
Without a sound of warning;

When on the ground red apples lie
In piles like jewels shining,
And redder still on old stone walls
Are leaves of woodbine twining;

When all the lovely wayside things
Their white-winged seeds are sowing,
And in the fields still green and fair,
Late aftermaths are growing;

When springs run low, and on the brooks,
In idle golden freighting,
Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
Of woods, for winter waiting;

When comrades seek sweet country haunts,
By twos and twos together,
And count like misers, hour by hour,
October’s bright blue weather.

O sun and skies and flowers of June,
Count all your boasts together,
Love loveth best of all the year
October’s bright blue weather.

Rejoice in God’s gift of a new October. Count the hours like a miser, and enjoy the bright blue weather in pairs or alone. That’s my plan.

Poetry Friday Is On! at the Miss Rumphius Effect.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to the Great Wall, The Forbidden Palace, and Other Tourist Attractions by Lenore Look

Alvin Ho is back again, kind of like his namesake, the chipmunk. (Actually, the two have nothing to do with one another. I just was reminded of Alvin the Chipmunk for some reason and wanted to post a picture. Maybe because both Alvins have a penchant for getting into lovable trouble.)

This time Alvin Ho goes on a trip at Christmas time to China with his family to visit his relations who live in a tall scary apartment building. And Alvin has to fly across the ocean in an airplane, aka tin can, to get there. And there are maybe a billion people in China who could squash you. And you might have to use a squat toilet or be stuck all over with acupuncture needles like a pincushion. Scary, right?

Those are only a few of the dangers Alvin faces as he explores, or tries to keep from exploring, a new country. I’m getting a little jaded on Alvin, but I think this book might be just as funny and just as comforting to the average second or third grader as were Alvin’s previous adventures.

I did especially like chapter 15, You Can Make a Friend Anywhere, where Alvin does something very generous and kind in spite of all of his fears and phobias. The rest is standard Alvin Ho fare, although it provides a good introduction to the tourist attractions and interesting aspects of a visit to China. I felt sorry for Alvin’s dad, though, who is forced to be very, very patient and forgiving with Alvin’s childish anxieties and careless misdeeds.

Read this one if you’re a fan or if you want a painless introduction to China or if you have yet to meet the inimitable Alvin Ho.

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Setting: Wintertime, almost Christmas, in an old four-story smugglers’ inn at the top of Whilforber Hill near the village of Nagspeake. Each floor of the inn has a beautiful stained glass window, and the guest rooms also have greenglass windows and old-fashioned, but comfortable furniture. There’s an attic full of treasures and junk, and the inn has outbuildings and a garage to explore, too. Plenty of room for mystery, treasure-hunting, and clues.

Characters: Milo Pine, the innkeepers’ adopted son, Mr. and Mrs. Pine, Milo’s parents, and several mysterious, unexpected guests.

Plot: Milo and his friend Meddy attempt to solve the mystery of Greenglass House and its history by taking on roles as players in a role-playing game. Milo is a blackjack, and Meddy is his scholiast.

Almost every review I read of this little gem of a book compared it either to The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin’s Newbery winner and mystery classic, or to Agatha Christie. And without having read those reviews beforehand, I also thought of The Westing Game and of Christie’s The Mousetrap or other books where the cast is snowed in or otherwise isolated (And Then There Were None). Greenglass House is not your typical children’s mystery story. In fact, you can read about three unspoken rules that author Kate Milford breaks in her novel, to the betterment of the story IMHO, in Betsy Bird’s insightful review at A Fuse #8 Production

I noticed, and enjoyed, the loving and involved adoptive parents. Mr. and Mrs. Pine are very busy with their inn and their unexpected guests, but not too busy to check on Milo and to do things with him and for him to make his Christmas special. I also liked the fact the the story is set at Christmastime. And it feels like an old-fashioned Christmas with a Christmas tree, a Christmas Eve gift for Milo, father/son sledding, hot chocolate by the fire, and story-telling. The setting is indeterminate, sort of Victorian with no cell phones or computers in evidence, but also modern with an electric generator for back-up electricity and up-to-date speech patterns and behavior. So that gives Christmas at Greenglass House a timeless feel.

Milo is a great protagonist, too. He’s very conscientious; he does all of his homework on the first day of vacation so that he can have the rest of the holidays to play. He’s resistant to change, but also intelligent and adventurous. He and Meddy make a good team since she inspires and encourages him to step out and use his imagination to solve the mysteries that the two of them encounter.

Greenglass House would be a lovely Christmas read-aloud book for a class or a family in the holiday mystery mood. I recommend it.

Nagspeake Online: The Nagspeake Board of Tourism and Culture.

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.
This book is also nominated for a Cybil Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.

Autumn Nature Reading

I found these two related posts about good nature books for children and adults in a long ago Carnival of Children’s Literature that I can’t get to now. I’m glad I saved the links.

Beth at Real Learning has a whole 12 weeks worth of autumn nature reading suggestions for an intensive nature study. I’m thinking we should do this someday. Maybe I’d become more of a nature lover if I made myself get outside and read and study and observe along with the urchins.

At the imponderabilia of actual life, Sandy lists her favorite nature books for children. Her favorite and featured author is John Himmelmann. I’m not familiar with this author, but I’m going to grab some of his books on her recommendation. The books sound wonderful.

Some of my favorite nature books and authors:

Jean Craighead George. Ms. George has written over 100 books, some fiction and some nonfiction, all related in some way to nature and the great outdoors. My favorite fiction of hers is My Side of the Mountain, a Newbery Honor book about Sam Gribley, a boy who leaves his home in New York City to live alone on the side of a mountain. She’s also written some delightful nonfiction, including Acorn Pancakes, Dandelion Salad, and 38 Other Wild Recipes, All Upon a Stone, and One Day in the Tropical Rain Forest.

Jim Arnosky. Mr. Arnosky is both a wildlife artist and an acute observer of nature. His drawing books, about how to draw animals, and his guidebooks that encourage kids to observe and learn, are all fantastic.

Gail Gibbons. Ms. Gibbons is the queen of nonfiction, as far as I’m concerned, writing about almost everything science and technology-related. However, her books The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree and The Pumpkin Book are two of my favorite autumnal treats.

Margaret Waring Buck. “Margaret Waring Buck wrote and illustrated a number of books explaining how animals live in the wild. The typical Buck nature book contains detailed black-and-white drawings of the plants, animals, insects and birds to be found in a particular outdoors location, along with an explanatory text ideal for young naturalists who are beginning to learn about the subject.” ~Dodd Center

Anna Botsford Comstock. Mrs. Comstock was an artist, conservationist, teacher and naturalist during the first half of the twentieth century. Her Handbook of Nature Study became a standard text for teachers, and she was the first female professor at Cornell University.

Diana Hutts Aston. Ms. Aston wrote A Seed Is Sleepy and An Egg Is Quiet and A Butterfly Is Patient, all three wonderful introductions to the wonders of the natural world that God made. An Egg Is Quiet, illustrated by Sylvia Long, won the first Cybils award for picture book nonfiction in 2007.

Nic Bishop. Nic Bishop is known for his nature photography. His book Nic Bishop Frogs won a Cybils award in 2008 for its just right combination of beautiful photos and informative text.

Who are your favorite nature study authors, and what books do you recommend for nature study as we move into the autumn season?

I Know What Your Mother Really Wants for Mother’s Day

'' photo (c) 2008, Kimberly N. - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/Well, I should qualify that statement: If your mother is a Christian, if she really, truly loves Jesus, and if she’s one of those “religious” moms who goes to church every Sunday and prays for you every day and embarrasses you by listening to old-timey hymns and posting Bible verses on her Facebook feed. If she’s one of those moms who took you to church and helped you memorize Bible verses and and taught you the plan of salvation and told you that God loves you and has a plan for your life. If your mother is an old-fashioned, Bible-believing, hope-filled, Jesus-loving Christian.

Then, more than she wants chocolate-covered strawberries or twelve dozen roses, more than a diamond ring or a dime store bracelet, more than breakfast in bed or lunch in a fancy restaurant, more than cards or phone calls or words of appreciation, more than new clothes or shoes, more than a trip to the movies or to the Bahamas, more than your gratitude and even more than your love, I know exactly what your mother wants for Mother’s Day.

She wants you to love Jesus, too. She wants you to know Jesus, obey Jesus, live for Jesus, worship Jesus and follow Jesus through this life and straight to heaven. She wants you live where Jesus leads you to live, even if that’s far away from where she is, and to do what He calls you to do, even if it’s something she would never have imagined you doing. She wants you to be filled with the Holy Spirit, connected to God’s church, and busy with the work of God’s kingdom. She wants you to be reading your Bible and praying and listening to the voice of Jesus. She wants you, her beloved child, to be His child. For Mother’s Day and every day, your Christian mom wants St. Patrick’s prayer to be incarnate in both of you:

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right,
Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length,
Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

If you can’t give your mom what she wants for Mother’s Day, Jesus can. Just ask Him. Then get yourself humbled and accept His forgiveness and grace. Then follow Him. Then tell your mom.

It will be the best Mother’s Day present ever. Trust me. I really, really know.

March 17th: St. Patrick and Kate Greenaway

I have written in past years about this poem, The Breastplate, attributed to St. Patrick, but probably not actually composed by him. However, we do have a couple of written pieces that most probably were the work of St. Patrick, one of which is his spiritual autobiography, St. Patrick’s Confessio. For today’s Lenten reading, I suggest you take a few minutes to read through Patrick’s confession.


“I was like a stone lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me, and raised me up, and placed me on the top of the wall.”

“For beyond any doubt on that day we shall rise again in the brightness of the sun, that is, in the glory of Christ Jesus our Redeemer, as children of the living God and co-heirs of Christ, made in his image; for we shall reign through him and for him and in him.”

For a fictional treatment of Patrick’s life and work, I recommend Stephen Lawhead’s novel, Patrick, Son of Ireland.

And here’s a list of picture books for St. Patrick’s Day from Amy at Hope Is the Word.

And yet another list of St. Patrick’s Day picture books from Mind Games.

Celebrating the Irish at Semicolon.

'Image taken from page 43 of 'Little Ann, and other poems. ... Illustrated by Kate Greenaway, etc'' photo (c) 2013, The British Library - license: http://www.flickr.com/commons/usage/

March 17th is also the birthday of British author and illustrator, Kate Greenaway (b.1846, d.1901), whose name is used for the Greenaway Medal, the British award for distinguished illustrations in children’s books. Her illustrations are very Jane Austen-esque, aren’t they, although Greenaway herself would have been more of a Victorian/Edwardian era illustrator. Ms. Greenaway was homeschooled until she was twelve, and then she attended the Finsbury School of Art for six years. Her first book, Under the WIndow, was published in 1879 and almost immediately sold out of its first printing of 20,000 copies. The Book continued to sell well for years, and Kate Greenaway’s illustrations and artistic style was widely copied and admired in England and in the U.S.

Greenaway was friendly with Randolph Caldecott, the other famous illustrator of children’s books of the time, and she maintained a twenty year long correspondence with John Ruskin, the famous critic. Ruskin and Greenaway eventually met; however, her relationship with Ruskin, who was probably mentally ill and morally corrupt, was not good for Kate’s confidence or for her art. Kate Greenaway died in 1901 of breast cancer, convinced that her public had rejected and outgrown her art.
~Information taken mostly from the website, Women Children’s Book Illustrators.

'Image taken from page 10 of 'Little Ann, and other poems. ... Illustrated by Kate Greenaway, etc'' photo (c) 2013, The British Library - license: http://www.flickr.com/commons/usage/

Poetry Friday: A Madness Most Discreet

A Slice of Life by Edgar Guest

'Sailing' photo (c) 2013, Miroslav Vajdic - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Let loose the sails of love and let them take
The tender breezes till the day be spent;
Only the fool chokes out life’s sentiment.
She is a prize too lovely to forsake . . .

Come Live With Me and Be My Love by Christopher Marlowe

COME live with me, and be my love;
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dales and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

She Walks in Beauty Like the Night by Lord Byron

'Starry night, My copy' photo (c) 2013, Saad Faruque - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that ‘s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes.

Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe.

But we loved with a love that was more than love–
I and my Annabel Lee–
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

Young Lochinvar by Sir Walter Scott

'Knight' photo (c) 2011, Sam Howzit - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

So daring in love, and so dauntless in war,
Have ye e’er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?

As I Walked Out One Evening by WH Auden

‘I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street.

If Thou Must Love Me by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Sonnet 116: Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds by William Shakespeare.

Oh, My Luve’s Like a Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns.

'Red rose' photo (c) 2011, Marina Shemesh - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my Dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun!
O I will luve thee still, my Dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

How Do I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

A Birthday by Christina Rossetti.

My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these,
Because my love is come to me.

The Bait by John Donne

'Golden hair' photo (c) 2010, Andrey - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Come live with me and be my love
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands and crystal brooks,
With silken lines and silver hooks.

“Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs;
Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes;
Being vexed, a sea nourished with lovers’ tears.
What is it else? A madness most discreet,
A choking gall, and a preserving sweet.”
~Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Linda at TeacherDance has this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup.

Merry Christmas to All

I was introduced to this beautiful Christmas song last Sunday at my church. I wish I had a recording of the more contemplative version that the worship team shared with us on Sunday, but this video is good in its own way. Canticle of the Turning is a song written by Rory Cooney based on the Magnificat (Song of Mary). The melody is the popular Irish tune “Star of the County Down” which first appeared as the song “Gilderoy” from Pills to Purge Melancholy by Thomas d’Urfey, published between 1698 and 1720.

I hope all of my readers are having a lovely and joyful Christmas. Don’t forget to come back on Saturday to link to your end of the year book lists at the Saturday Review of Books.

Praise be to the Almighty, in His time, the world is about to turn.

The 22nd Gift of Christmas in Plymouth, Massachusetts, 1820

From Daniel Webster’s Plymouth Oration, delivered at Plymouth, Massachusetts, December 22, 1820:

Our fathers were brought hither by their high veneration for the Christian religion. They journeyed by its light, and labored in its hope. They sought to incorporate its principles with the elements of their society, and to diffuse its influence through all their institutions, civil, political, or literary. Let us cherish these sentiments, and extend this influence still more widely; in the full conviction, that that is the happiest society which partakes in the highest degree of the mild and peaceful spirit of Christianity.

The hours of this day are rapidly flying, and this occasion will soon be passed. Neither we nor our children can expect to behold its return. They are in the distant regions of futurity, they exist only in the all-creating power of God, who shall stand here a hundred years hence, to trace, through us, their descent from the Pilgrims, and to survey, as we have now surveyed, the progress of their country, during the lapse of a century. We would anticipate their concurrence with us in our sentiments of deep regard for our common ancestors. We would anticipate and partake the pleasure with which they will then recount the steps of New England’s advancement. On the morning of that day, although it will not disturb us in our repose, the voice of acclamation and gratitude, commencing on the Rock of Plymouth, shall be transmitted through millions of the sons of the Pilgrims, till it lose itself in the murmurs of the Pacific seas.

We would leave for the consideration of those who shall then occupy our places, some proof that we hold the blessings transmitted from our fathers in just estimation; some proof of our attachment to the cause of good government, and of civil and religious liberty; some proof of a sincere and ardent desire to promote every thing which may enlarge the understandings and improve the hearts of men. And when, from the long distance of a hundred years, they shall look back upon us, they shall know, at least, that we possessed affections, which, running backward and warming with gratitude for what our ancestors have done for our happiness, run forward also to our posterity, and meet them with cordial salutation, ere yet they have arrived on the shore of being.

Advance, then, ye future generations! We would hail you, as you rise in your long succession, to fill the places which we now fill, and to taste the blessings of existence where we are passing, and soon shall have passed, our own human duration. We bid you welcome to this pleasant land of the fathers. We bid you welcome to the healthful skies and the verdant fields of New England. We greet your accession to the great inheritance which we have enjoyed.

We welcome you to the blessings of good government and religious liberty. We welcome you to the treasures of science and the delights of learning. We welcome you to the transcendent sweets of domestic life, to the happiness of kindred, and parents, and children. We welcome you to the immeasurable blessings of rational existence, the immortal hope of Christianity, and the light of everlasting truth!

Note that Mr. Webster assumed that future generations would value certain ideals: science, learning, good government, religious liberty, domestic life, rationality, truth, hope, and most of all Christianity. If he were to travel through time and see us here, what would he think of our stewardship of the pleasant land of the fathers and of the blessings of liberty and of the immortal hope of Christianity?

Today’s Gifts from Semicolon:
A story: about Daniel Webster, just for fun: The Devil and Daniie Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet.

A song: On this day in 1808 Ludwig van Beethoven conducted and performed in concert at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna, with the premiere of his Fifth Symphony, Sixth Symphony, Fourth Piano Concerto (performed by Beethoven himself) and Choral Fantasy (with Beethoven at the piano).

A birthday: Edward Arlington Robinson, b.1869.

A booklist: Deliberate Reader with 31 Days of Great Nonfiction.

'Tombstone of Louisa P. Daugherty' photo (c) 2013, Bob Shrader - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/A verse:
A Happy Man by Edward Arlington Robinson

When these graven lines you see,
Traveller, do not pity me;
Though I be among the dead,
Let no mournful word be said.

Children that I leave behind,
And their children, all were kind;
Near to them and to my wife,
I was happy all my life.

My three sons I married right,
And their sons I rocked at night;
Death nor sorrow never brought
Cause for one unhappy thought.

Now, and with no need of tears,
Here they leave me, full of years,–
Leave me to my quiet rest
In the region of the blest.