Story Time in the Library: Cats

I had such a pleasant morning in my private subscription library this morning. I had two story times, one for preschool and another for primary age children. Next time I’ll probably combine the two, but I wasn’t sure how many children to expect. There were seven children in attendance in all, and we read all sorts of books about cats. Here are a few of the treasures we read:

Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag.
“Cats here, cats there,
Cats and kittens everywhere,
Hundreds of cats,
Thousands of cats,
Millions and billions and trillions of cats.”

Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes.
Poor kitten! This adventurous kitten, who thinks she sees a full bowl of milk in the sky, travels all over to find that the only real bowl of milk is at home on her own porch.

Three Little Kittens: A Folk Tale Classic, illustrated by Paul Galdone. I love Mr. Galdone’s illustrated folk tales and nursery rhymes. “Oh, Mother Dear, we sadly fear/Our mittens we have lost!”

Puss in Boots, illustrated by Paul Galdone. Since I like Mr. Galdone’s versions of these tales so much, we read another one. This one is in a large format book featuring a huge Puss with fancy red bots and a wise aspect. Of course, a cat like the one in this book could make a fortune for the miller’s son!

Hot-Air Henry by Mary Calhoun. Illustrated by Erick Ingraham. A couple of the moms remembered this story from Reading Rainbow, and that may be where I first heard it myself. Henry the Cat accidentally flies solo in a huge hot-air balloon, averts danger, and comes safely home after his adventure.

We made some cute little cats of our own during and after reading the stories. We had pink cats, blue cats, red cats and rainbow cats, nothing so ordinary and boring as a black and white cat or a tiger-striped cat.

I also had a few other books that we didn’t manage to read this morning as a group, but the children were looking at these after story time, still wanting more cats and kittens:

Cats by Gail Gibbons. (nonfiction)
Dick Whittington and His Cat by Marcia Brown.
Mittens by Claire Turlay Newberry.
William and His Kitten by Marjorie Flack.
The Fire Cat by Esther Averill.

Do you have a favorite picture book about cats or kittens, one that I missed? Or do you have a suggestion for my next story time which I think will be about Dogs?

Peter Stuyvesant by Anna and Russel Crouse

The Landmark series of history books, published by Random House in the 1950’s and 1960’s, were a series of American history books written by such famous and talented authors as John Gunther (best-selling author and journalist), Mackinlay Kantor (Pulitzer Prize winner), Sterling North (Newbery honor), Armstrong Sperry (Newbery Award winner), Robert Penn Warren (Pulitzer Prize winner), Pearl S. Buck (Nobel Prize for Literature), Jim Kjelgaard, Quentin Reynolds (World War II reporter), Van Wyck Mason (historian and best-selling novelist) and C.S. Forrester. There were 122 titles in all. For any upper elementary or middle school age student trying to get a handle on American history, these books are the gold standard.

My plan is to read as many of these Landmark American history books as I can over the course of this school year, since I am teaching American history to or exploring American history with my youngest child, age 14, this year. Z-baby will be reading some of these books with me, and I’ll be reading others on my own. I’m excited to be able to do this project and enjoy these “living” history books written by skilled historians and authors.

Peter Stuyvesant is the biography of a man, the Dutch governor of New Amsterdam, as well as the history of the founding and growth of a city, New York City. I learned about Mr. Stuyvesant’s famous wooden leg, the result of his having his leg blown off by a cannonball on St. Martin’s Island in the Caribbean. After having recovered from his injury and being fitted with a wooden leg with silver bands around it, Stuyvesant married his long-suffering wife Judith and took her to New Amsterdam where he was appointed to serve as governor by the directors of the Dutch West India Company. These investors were still waiting for their investment in a colony in the “new world” to pay off, and Peter Stuyvesant was just the man to take charge and make sure that the furs (money) began to roll into the coffers of the company.

According to the authors, Stuyvesant was a mostly good governor, if somewhat dictatorial, and he fell in love with New Amsterdam and the New World. He attempted, with some success, to keep the peace with both the Native Americans and the English to the north and south, in Massachusetts and Virginia. He made and enforced laws that brought prosperity to the Dutch settlement and its burghers until 1664 when Stuyvesant was forced to surrender the colony to British warships off the coast of Manhattan.

Students in New York and bordering states should find this story especially interesting since it’s really a history of early New York City and Manhattan Island in particular. And because NYC to some degree belongs to us all, the rest of the country might want to know where the place names we’re all familiar with—Wall Street, The Bowery, Coney Island, Sandy Hook, Flatbush, Harlem–came from. All Dutch.

On June 28, 1945, Anna Erskine married Russel Crouse, the playwright who, with his longtime partner Howard Lindsay, wrote such Broadway hits as State of the Union and Life With Father. Mr. Crouse was 23 years Anna’s senior. They had two children, the actress Lindsay Crouse, who was married for a time to playwright David Mamet, and the writer Timothy Crouse. Russell Crouse died in 1966, and Ann died at the age of 97 on December 29, 2013. The couple wrote this Landmark history book about Peter Stuyvesant and the history of old New Amsterdam and also another, Hamilton and Burr.

Julia Ellsworth Ford Foundation Award for Children’s Literature

The book I reviewed yesterday, The Wonderful Year by Nancy Barnes, was a Newbery Honor book. However, curiously enough, the copy I read had no Newbery sticker on it. It did have a medal sticker proclaiming it to be the recipient of the “Award of the Julia Ellsworth Ford Foundation (for) Children’s Literature.”

Mrs. Ford seems to have been a prominent New York socialite and author and patron of the arts. I looked for information about her on the web and found this brief bio at an art website dedicated to the paintings of John William Waterhouse:

Julia Ellsworth Ford, neé Shaw, was a New York socialite, philanthropist, author of children’s books and doyenne of a salon that included the Lebanese mystic Kahlil Gibran, Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, and American dancer Isadora Duncan. Her husband was Simeon Ford, financier and noted host of the old Grand Union Hotel, New York (co-owned with Julia’s brother Samuel Shaw).

Mrs. Ford “though extremely wealthy, was more interested in meeting famous people, whom she collected as others did stamps or butterflies, than in disbursing her capital: ‘the woman who aspires’ was the way he described her to Florence Farr.” (from a 1905 letter by John Quinn quoted in Prodigal Father: The Life of John Butler Yeats, William Michael Murphy.)

“Mrs. Ford had a great interest in the Pre-Raphaelite painters and later artists such as JW Waterhouse and Arthur Hacker, both of whom she knew personally. She went to Germany to meet the German painter Franz von Stuck and to get photographic reproductions of his work. She created her own wallpaper for her upstairs study by arranging on the walls as a mosaic over two hundred photographic reproductions of pictures by these artists.”

Ms. Ford was the author of the children’s book, Snickerty Nick and the Giant, illustrated by famed artist Arthur Rackham, and also of other children’s tomes, somewhat less well-known than old Snickerty Nick. I couldn’t find a list of the books that Ms. Ford’s foundation gave awards to, but I did find some of them individually attributed here and there across the internet. Apparently, the award was a competition for the best children’s book manuscript submitted to the foundation. Here are a few of the award winners that I could find:

Singing Paddles by Julia Butler (Hansen). Holt, 1937. The story of Sally Ann Blair and her family who travel from Kentucky to Oregon in 1842.

My Brother Was Mozart by Benson Wheeler and Claire Lee Purdy. Harcourt, 1937.

The Stage-Struck Seal by James Neal. Holt, 1937.

Hello, the Boat! by Phyllis Crawford. Illustrated by Edward Laning. E.M. Hale and Company, 1938. The journey of a store-boat down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati. This book won a Newbery Honor in 1939.

Falcon Fly Back by Elinore Blaisdell. Messner, 1939. In medieval France, 12-year-old Anne de Hauteville trains a falcon and later rescues it when it escapes.

The Listening Man by Lucy Embury. Illustrated by Russell Hamilton. Messner, 1940. In sixth century Ireland, Ollave wants to become a “listening man” rather than a fighting man.

Walt Whitman: Builder for America by Babette Deutsch. Messner, 1941.

Journey Cake by Isabel McLennan McMeekin. Messner, 1942. In 1793, the father of the Shadrow family whose mother has recently died goes into the Kentucky wilderness to establish a new life for his family. The children leave their home in North Carolina in the spring to meet their father in Kentucky. Along with their freed slave woman and her husband they face drudgery, opposition and danger along the way. During their travel they participate in a pioneer wedding and meet Johnny Appleseed.

Valiant Minstrel: The Story of Harry Lauder by Gladys Malvern. Illustrated by Corinne Malvern. Messner, 1943. Sir Harry Lauder was a vaudeville singer and comedian from Scotland.

Raymond L. Ditmars: His Exciting Career with Reptiles, Insects and Animals by Laura Newbold Wood. Messner, 1944. Ditmars, according to Wikipedia, was an American herpetologist, illustrator, writer and filmmaker. He wrote several books of his own about snakes and about his adventures as a Bronx Zoo curator and naturalist. Mr. Ditmars died in 1942, so this biography was rather timely as well as informative, I’m sure.

The Wonderful Year by Nancy Barnes. Illustrated by Kate Seredy. Messner, 1946.

A Horse to Remember by Genevieve Torrey Eames. Illustrated by Paul Brown. Messner, 1947. Joker the Pony and Jarvis solve a mystery together.

The Canvas Castle by Alice Rogers Hager. Illustrated by Mary Stevens. Messner, 1948. Ms. Hager “worked as a reporter in Los Angeles, California, and was the Washington editor and war correspondent throughout China, Burma and India during WW II.” I’m not exactly sure what the book is about. A memoir of her travels, perhaps?

Tomas and the Red-Headed Angel by Marion Garthwaite. Illustrated by Laurence J. Borjklund. Messner, 1950. The spirited young Spanish girl, Angelita, befriends an Indian boy, Tomas.

After the first couple of years of the contest, there seems to have been some sort of arrangement with Julian Messner Publishing Company to publish the winning manuscripts. I couldn’t find any award recipients after 1950. Julia Ellsworth Ford died in 1950, so I suppose the foundation and the award died with her.

Is anyone else familiar with this contest/award or with any of the books that won the award? As I said, I just read The Wonderful Year, and enjoyed it. I have also read other books by author Gladys Malvern and would love to have any of her books in my library. Are any of these authors or books familiar to any of my readers? Don’t some of them sound interesting?

The Wonderful Year by Nancy Barnes

I found this book at a local public library, and I was rather surprised to discover it in the middle of the vampires and the magical worlds and the middle school angst: a realistic, turn of the century setting story, published in 1946, about an only child, Ellen, who travels from Kansas to Colorado with her lawyer father and her adventurous mother to start a fruit-growing farm. The family is also in search of a rest cure and healthy situation for Father, who has been prescribed fresh air and exercise to alleviate the pain in his neck. Ellen, who is a worrier like her father, is reluctant to leave her friends in Kansas, but Mother is excited about the the new venture and soon talks Ellen into joining in her eager anticipation.

Ah, I see now why the book is still on the shelves at the library; it won a Newbery Honor in 1947. And I would say the honor was well-deserved. The pace and atmosphere of the story is reminiscent of Ruth Sawyer’s Roller Skates or of the Betsy books by Maud Hart Lovelace, especially the older Betsy books in which Betsy goes to middle school and high school. Ellen is eleven as the story begins, and she has her twelfth birthday near the end of the book, but as only children tend to be, she’s somewhat mature for her age. One of the themes of the novel is about growing up and staying a child and not growing up too fast nor being too impatient to leave one’s childhood behind. Ellen makes friends with a fifteen year old boy, Ronnie, who lives nearby, and there is some understated tension about whether the two can remain friends and comrades in adventure when Ronnie is so much older and interested in girls his own age while still enjoying Ellen’s company as a friend. The interpersonal give and take is very well written, and I would love for my early teen and pre-teen girls to read the story and then discuss the possibilities that are suggested about boys and girls being friends and not having to get jealous of one another or have crushes.

Another area for discussion would be the “sexist” and “feminist” stereotypes that the characters seem to take for granted. Boys don’t cry. Girls need to be more like boys, tough and hardy, if they are to be seen as equal partners in adventure. It’s important for a girl to “find her own place, stand on her her own two feet, and not cling to anyone.” Are these true lessons? How is Ellen “like a girl”? How is she “like a boy”? Are these really even useful descriptions?

At the risk of being sexist myself, I would recommend The Wonderful Year for girls ages eleven to thirteen who want to read more about girls in other times and places. Fans of Betsy-Tacy, the Little House books, the American Girl series, or other girls-in-history realistic fiction should enjoy this coming of age story. And Colorado readers would especially enjoy this look at the history of Colorado settlement and farming. The illustrations in the book are by author and illustrator Kate Seredy, and they are quite lovely in their own right. Pen and ink, or perhaps pencil, drawings show Ellen and her family and friends in the thick of their homesteading experiences, and the expressive faces and captured actions add a lot to the story.

I would love to have a copy of this book for my library, and I’ll be adding it to my wishlist, which is growing much too long for the available shelf space in my library.

Saturday Review of Books: August 8, 2015

“A book wasn’t something you could open anywhere and then flip to anywhere else. You opened it at the front and went forward, and the pages went from one to the next, each adding to the last, and the story grew more exciting with each page. It was like the way corn grew from the seed that got planted in spring to the tall rows you hid inside in the fall. A story grew.” ~Rachel Simon, The Story of Beautiful Girl

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.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.

Literary Birthdays on August 5, 2015

Today is a good day for birthdays of authors of “children’s literature.” However, I am in agreement with C.S. Lewis who once said the “it certainly is my opinion that a book worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then.” I also think there’s something to be said for adults who still have enough “childlikeness” to enjoy good children’s literature. So, these authors who have birthdays today are all three worth reading and enjoying–even for grownups.

Robert Bright (b.1902) wrote My Red Umbrella, the story of a little girl with an umbrella that expands to protect all her animal friends from the rain. Shouldn’t we all have just such an umbrella?

Maud Petersham (b. 1890, d.1971), along with her husband Miska, wrote and illustrated more than sixty books for children and illustrated more than one hundred books written by other authors. The Petersham book I like best is called The Box with Red Wheels.. I would love to own some of the Petershams’ other books, many of which are out of print. Maud was the daughter of a Baptist minister, and she and her Hungarian husband wrote and illustrated many retellings of Bible stories.

petersham

Ruth Sawyer (b. 1880, d. 1970) was a storyteller, folklorist, and children’s author. I need to re-read Roller Skates, the book for which she won the Newbery Award. It’s the story of a girl who explores New York City, or maybe her section of NYC, on roller skates. I found out when I looked for information about Sawyer that she started the first storytelling program for children at the New York City Public Library. Also, Robert McCloskey, author of Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal, was Ruth Sawyer’s son-in-law! And my favorite Ruth Sawyer book, Journey Cake, Ho!, was illustrated by Robert McCloskey.

By the way, all the books mentioned above (except for Roller Skates which isn’t a picture book) are recommended in my self-published book, Picture Book Preschool.

It is also Wendell Berry’s birthday. Born in 1934, Mr. Berry would be 81 years old today, about the same age as my mom. His books, especially Jayber Crow and Hannah Coulter, are nourishing reads with much food for thought and impetus to action, albeit action of a quiet, community-building sort.

Saturday Review of Books: July 31, 2015

“I would urge upon every young man, as the beginning of his due and wise provision for his household, … to obtain as soon as he can, by the severest economy, a restricted, serviceable, and steadily — however slowly — increasing series of books for use through life; making his little library, of all the furniture in his room, the most studied and decorative piece; every volume having its assigned place, like a little statue in its niche, and one of the earliest and strictest lessons to the children of the house being how to turn the pages of their own literary possessions lightly and deliberately, with no chance of tearing or dog’s-ears. ” ~John Ruskin

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.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.

Booker Prize Longlist

The Booker Prize, awarded in England, used to be limited to authors of the British persuasion, including authors from Commonwealth countries all over the world. Now, it’s open to U.S. authors, too, and five of the twelve authors on the prize’s longlist this year are American. Here’s the list:

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg.
The Green Road by Anne Enright
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma
The Illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan
Lila by Marilynne Robinson
Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy
The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota
The Chimes by Anna Smaill
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Of the twelve books listed, I’ve only read one, Marilynne Robinson’s Lila. I didn’t like it as much as I did the first two books in the series, Gilead and Home, maybe because I found it more difficult to identify with or sympathize with the fiercely independent Lila. Her demons are not my demons, whereas pastor John Ames, the elderly man reviewing his life for evidence of its faithfulness and meaning, is a man after my own heart. And sometimes I think I know Glory Boughton of Home, albeit I am married with eight children whilst she was a spinster. The story of the elder brother in the prodigal son parable has alway been a poignant and tragic reminder of how I can miss the Father’s love while living in His very house.

I looked up the remaining eleven books on Amazon, and honestly, not one of them was appealing enough for me to add it to my ever-growing TBR list. There were lots of books with multiple narrators, lots of family dysfunction, some “experimental” stuff that I’m pretty sure I would not understand or appreciate. Maybe I’ve “outgrown” contemporary literary fiction, or regressed, or something.

Reading and Thinking on my Birthday

So, what have I been reading and thinking about on my birthday and the morning after?

I spent some time yesterday morning listening to Ravi Zacharias’ recent podcasts. That man is an inspirational speaker, preacher, and thinker. I enjoy listening to him speak much more than I enjoy his books, however, even though I like his books well enough.

Then, I read some in Walter Wangerin’s Paul: A Novel. It’s an interesting perspective, or rather multiple perspectives, on the life of the apostle Paul. The novel switches narrators every few pages from Luke to Timothy to Barnabas to James the brother of Jesus to Priscilla to Titus, maybe others. It’s rather disconcerting, but maybe not a bad idea.

Noel DeVries has a good post at Never Jam Today: we rest in Thee, and in Thy name we go.
Also this older post about the limitations of the “Charlotte Mason Method” of child training.

And this morning I read Julie at Happy Catholic on the feast day of St. Martha, and I was reminded to “choose the better part,” to choose Jesus.

I’m going to spend today working in my library, studying my Bible, praying, eating leftover birthday food (lots of leftover birthday food is here!), reading some more, paying bills, rejoicing in another day with Jesus. I wish you something similar for your day. I’ve learned to appreciate the mundane, event-less days as opportunities for joy and thankfulness.

Saturday Review of Books: July 25, 2015

“Don Quixote, perceiving that he was not able to stir, resolv’d to have recourse to his usual Remedy which was to bethink himself what Passage in his Books might afford him some Comfort.” ~Don Quixote by Miguel Saavedra de Cervantes

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.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.