Coop Update 10.18.11, and a Fall Book

A new season is upon us. Yay for fall! And yay for new (to us) chickens. Meet our backyard crew.

Here are Queenie (left) and Angie (right). 



Queenie, who survived the summer's heat wave (Lovey, our sweetest chicken ever, did not), is a bantam mix of Polish and Barred Rock. (A nervous nellie from way back, she has been with us about a year.) Angie, a sassy Rhode Island Red and something else (at least that's the guess), is in charge now. See?


Penny, the Speckled Sussex beauty pictured below, usually stays in separate quarters because I can't take pecking order she treats Queenie like a serf.


Even though we miss Lovey, we are having fun with the new flock.

As far as books go, I stumbled across Leaf Trouble at a seasonal display at the library. (A great way to feature older titles, by the way.) Pip the Squirrel loves the tree where he lives and doesn’t understand it begins to lose its leaves. I appreciated the funny, fresh approach to potentially didactic subject matter. No doubt actual children, for whom the display was meant, will, too.

Happy fall, and happy reading, as always.

Leaf Trouble
Written by Jonathan Emmett and illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church
Chicken House/Scholastic, 2009

Quoted: Unraveling Freedom

These foreigners hailed from unfamiliar regions [...] They dressed differently, spoke unknown languages, held unfamiliar beliefs, and competed for U.S. jobs. To many long-time residents, these newcomers didn't seem like real Americans.

Makes one think, eh? The quote, which refers to late 19th-, early 20th-century immigrants, comes from Ann Bausum's excellent Unraveling Freedom: The Battle for Democracy on the Home Front during World War I (National Geographic, 2010). I nominated the book for a 2011 Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Award in the middle grade/young adult nonfiction category. Unraveling Freedom makes a good companion to The War to End All Wars: World War I (Clarion Books, 2010),  written by Russell Freedman for children in the same age range (12+).


Quoted: The House Baba Built

9780316076289_1681X2544 "Shanghai summers were long, hot, and humid—and as the war went on, the pool became too expensive to fill. So we spent the long summer days in the shade of the garden, with the shrill, hissing cicadas. They sang in unison whenever the sun reached them. Some of us read books from our family library or played cards and board games. [My brother] Hardy and I trained and fought our crickets."

from artist Ed Young's beautiful autobiographical book The House Baba Built: An Artist's Childhood in China (Little, Brown, 2011. Text as told to Libby Koponen.)

The scrapbook-style, multimedia (collages incorporating photographs, sketches, cut paper, and more) picture book, set during the World War II years, stays focused on its subject: a family's strength and resilience. Highly recommended.

Picture Book Prairie Dogs, Dragons & More

9780140546934 At the recommendation of Miss K. at the library, The Great Fuzz Frenzy was a recent pick for a second-grade read-aloud. The kids liked the funny story of how a very strange object (a tennis ball) caused a fuzz-snatching brouhaha in a colony of prairie dogs, but I could also sense that maybe, at this point in the year with this particular group, we might need to get back to something more familiar and less wordy. The wiggly back row on the reading rug was my barometer. 

The next week we read James Marshall's version of the Grimms' Red Riding Hood. The kids listened with rapt attention.They knew Little Red Riding Hood. They knew scary woods. "There's a wolf in 'The Three Little Pigs,' too!" Ms. B. (the teacher) and I noticed how much they want to participate and talk. I especially liked Javier's question: "Why is the wolf in the woods anyway?" Everyone offered an idea about that. "Maybe the wolf was taking snacks to a party," one girl guessed.

Marshall's humor magically appeals to both grown-ups and children; in his version of the story, Granny is lying in bed, surrounded by books when the wolf sneaks in.

"Surprise!" cried the wolf.

Granny was furious at having her reading interrupted.

"Get out of here, you horrid thing!" she cried.

I couldn't help laughing out loud when I read this part. How perfect that Marshall made Granny a reader. 

 Last year's second graders loved Michelle Knudsen's Library Lion; they wanted to hear it twice. At the library I picked up the author's new book, Argus, to preview. It also features a disruptive animal at the center of the story. When Mrs. Henshaw's class hatches eggs in desktop incubators, one of the chicks is not like the others. "It was green. And scaly. And it had big yellow eyes." Except for Sally, the students in the story are revolted by the creature. No one ever recognizes it as a dragon. Misunderstandings—and visual jokes—ensue.

What kid wouldn't know a dragon when he saw one? That puzzled me. Will young readers and listeners will enjoy being one step ahead of the slouchy-shouldered students in Mrs. Henshaw's class, whom Argus tries to eat? Is it funny that Sally and her dragon are fenced off with orange safety cones at recess?

For now, I'm going to stick with folk tales and fairy tales with the second graders. Michael Emberley's Ruby, a spin on Red Riding Hood, would be a logical next choice, but I'm open to suggestions, too. Our schedule is full of possibilities; afer all, like James Marshall's Granny, we're readers.


The Great Fuzz Frenzy, by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel (Harcourt, 2006)

Red Riding Hood, by James Marshall (Dial, 1987)

Library Lion, written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick, 2006)

Argus, written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Andréa Wesson (Candlewick, 2011)

Ruby, by Michael Emberley (Little, Brown, 1990)

What Are Your Favorite Kids' Books of 2011?

What are the best new children's books you've read this year? Go, nominate them for a Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Award! The Cybils are taking nominations until October 15th; then, two panelists of judges for each category will choose winners. Anyone can nominate; you don't have to be a blogger. 

Eligibility rules—for the books, ebooks, and apps—are here.


Mangia, Mangia: Some Books About Food

I was happy to guest blog recently at Gourmandistan, the excellent site run by my pals Michelle and Steve. Michelle and I have been friends since college. While I was arranging Vienna sausages on white bread for what another chum termed "toe sandwiches," Michelle was whipping up coq au vin and other delicious fare. I hope you'll stop by Gourmandistan and check out Michelle's beautiful photography, too.

At Gourmandistan I wrote about some favorite food books—for adults. Here are some kids' selections on the same subject which I've really liked. 

Books A La Carte, a young adult novel by  by Tanita S. Davis (Knopf, 2008)

Anatole, written by Eve Titus and illustrated by Paul Galdone (McGraw-Hill, 1956; re-issued by Knopf, 2006)

The Bake Shop Ghost, a picture book written by Jacqueline K. Osborn and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman (Houghton Mifflin, 2005)

Bee-bim Bop!, a picture book written by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Hoe Baek Lee (Clarion, 2005)

Blueberries for Sal, a picture book by Robert McCloskey (Viking, 1948)

Bunny Cakes, a picture book by Rosemary Wells (Dial, 1997)

The Giant Zucchini, an easy reader by Catherine Siracusa (Hyperion, 1993) 

Ininatig's Gift of Sugar: Traditional Native Sugarmaking, a picture book for older readers by Laura Watterman Wittstock, with photography by Dale Kakkak (Lerner, 1993)

The Little Red Hen, a picture book by Paul Galdone (Clarion, 1973). A new edition from Houghton Mifflin came out earlier this year.

The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza,  a picture book written by Philemon Sturges and illustrated by Amy Waldrop (Dutton, 1999) 

Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake, an easy reader written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Arthur Howard (Harcourt Brace, 1994)

Thunder Cake, a picture book by Patricia Polacco (Philomel, 1990)

To Market, To Market, a picture book written by Anne Miranda and illustrated by Janet Stevens (Harcourt Brace, 1997)

Too Many Pumpkins, a picture book written by Linda White and illustrated by Meghan Lloyd (Holiday House, 1996)

The Ugly Vegetables, a picture book by Grace Lin (Charlesbridge, 1999)

Yum! Mmmm! Qué Rico!: America's Sproutings, a picture book written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Rafael López (Lee & Low, 2007)

All the Way to America with the Second Grade

9780375866425 I learn so much by reading aloud to second graders.* One lesson this week was about asking rhetorical questions. Second graders will want to answer them.

Holding up a copy of Dan Yaccarino's new picture book, All the Way to America, I asked, "How many of you know the TV show 'Oswald'?" ("Oswald" is a cartoon on Nick  Jr.)

A smattering of hands went up, but Matthew said, "I've never seen it." 

"Me neither," someone else chimed in.

"That's okay if you haven't," I said. "Dan Yaccarino, the creator of 'Oswald,' wrote and illustrated this—

"I've never seen that show," Matthew continued.

I reassured the ones who hadn't seen the cartoon that it didn't matter, and we went ahead. Later I realized that my intro was unnecessary and that I just needed to trust that the class would be interested in the book itself. Because they were.

All the Way to America, subtitled "The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel," is about leaving one country and making a success of yourself in another. The Yaccarino family values of working hard, enjoying life, and staying in touch with your family, no matter where you live, resonated with the second graders, whose roots are in Brazil, Nigeria, Haiti, Peru, Vietnam, and Florida ("I came by car and not in a ship!"), among other places.

"It was a long journey.

And how different New York was from his [the author's great-grandfather's] tiny village in Italy!"

Even if we're only seven, we've all had a long journey to get to where we are. I pondered that as I drove home.

All the Way to America
written and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
Knopf, 2011
40 pages; for ages 4-8

Image from Powell's Books. This blog is not an affiliate of the Portland, Oregon, store, but my experience ordering from there has always been positive.

*This is my second year as a volunteer reader in a city public school.


From "The Anti-Romantic Child"

"One day that winter, as [5 year old] Benjamin and [his father] Richard were standing in the parking lot of his nursery school listening to the fire alarm from a distance, Benj cried, 'Daddy, I am not afraid! Just like Frog and Toad!'—a reference to a story called 'Dragons and Giants,' in which Frog and Toad face down some scary experiences by telling themselves that 'they are not afraid.' "

from The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy, by Priscilla Gilman (Harper, 2011)

This is a moving book written by a literary agent and former English professor and Wordsworth scholar. Gilman's older son, Benj, read early. By the time he was two and a half, he could fluently read a page from her dissertation. The precocity was unusual, but accepted as evidence of the boy's intelligence and the family's devotion to the written word; Gilman's husband, mother, and father also had careers concerned with literature. But Benj's sensitivities and intolerance to other stimuli worried Gilman, and eventually he was diagnosed with hyperlexia, defined by Merriam-Webster as "precocious reading ability accompanied by difficulties in acquiring language and social skills" and sometimes associated with autism.

I was curious if Gilman's work on The Anti-Romantic Child affected her interactions with her son's various schools and teachers over the years. She doesn't say. No matter. Her hopeful and well-written story, about Benj's struggles and triumphs—and the gradual shift of her own expectations—ought to appeal to parents and teachers of children of all abilities, not to mention anyone interested in reading. A number of poems by Wordsworth, to which Gilman turns for solace, are woven into the fabric of the book.

Books for One Seventh Grade Boy

9780802798176 Our seventh grader does not jump up and down with wild abandon when we hand him a book and say, "You'd like this." However, leaving intriguing-looking titles lying around to be "discovered" often works like a charm. Author Melissa Wiley once called this "strategic strewing." 

Here a few books that happen to have been left out on the couch and in someone's favorite chair last spring and summer. I go by J.'s interests more than reading levels. Levels, schmevels. 

Amulet #4: The Last Council, by Kazu Kibuishi (Graphix, 2011) The latest in a popular series of graphic novels. J. actually turned off the computer to read it.

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous, written by Georgia Bragg and illustrated by Kevin O'Malley (Walker, 2011)

Impressed by kids who substitute blog for their parents, I asked J. how he'd describe this book for people who hadn't read it. 

"It's about how some famous people died," he said.

"Anything you want to add?" I asked.


Moving right along...

Darth Paper Strikes Back: An Origami Yoda Book, by Tom Angleberger (Amulet Books, 2011) Like its predecessor, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, this is a funny book with a middle-school setting.

Garter Snakes, by Heather L. Montgomery (Capstone, 2011). From a series called Wild About Snakes. 

Oil Spill! Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, by Elaine Landau (Millbrook, 2011)

What to Expect When You're Expecting Larvae: A Guide for Insect Parents (and Curious Kids), written by Bridget Heos and illustrated by Stephane Jorisch. "Whether your babies are wriggly maggots, fat grubs, or fuzzy caterpillars, your larvae will look different from you." Geared to elementary-school-age children but the almost-12 J. still read it with appreciation. I think the title of the informational picture book is hilarious.

Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities, by Chris Barton. Like How They Croaked and the next book, it was one of the great suggestions on the Westport (CT) Library's 6th grade summer reading lists.

Queen of the Falls, by Chris Van Allsburgh (Houghton Mifflin, 2011). I picked up my own strewn book and read it out loud. Fantastic! A widow in need of money decides to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Dude, that's crazy. And it's true.

Books I plan to "strategically strew" (but haven't yet seen)

Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick (Scholastic, 2011). Great writeup at Brain Pickings. J. enjoyed Selznick's Caldecott-winning Invention of Hugo Cabret.

America Is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell, by Don Brown (Flash Point/Roaring Brook, 2011) Reviewed at The Nonfiction Detectives

Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 Miners from 2,000 Feet Below the Chilean Desert, by Marc Aronson (Atheneum, Simon & Schuster, 2011) Reviewed by Betsy Bird at School Library Journal's A Fuse #8 Production.

The Elephant Scientist, by Donna M. Jackson, Caitlin O'Connell Rodwell, and Timothy Rodwell. A new book in Houghton Mifflin's Scientists in the Field series. Another one that sounds good, Loree Griffin Burns' Citizen Scientists, is due out early next year.  

International Rock Flipping Day 2011, or...

a good excuse to celebrate nature! 

Green Frog

My 11 year old and I participated in the fifth annual event organized by some adventurous nature bloggers, and found plenty under rocks and logs, in ponds, and on the trails. I'm going to post the official Rock Flip Find on Flickr, as the frog above is much photogenic. Click over, and you'll see what I mean.  J. found several kinds of amphibians yesterday. I was surprised at the nice variety. The National Audubon Society Field Guide to New England, by Peter Alden, et al. (Knopf, 1998) came in handy when making the i.d.s.

Continue reading "International Rock Flipping Day 2011, or..." »