Friday, May 18, 2007

A Summery Saturday Morning

by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Selina Young. Puffin Books, 2000.
A woman walks down to the beach with four children and two dogs on a breezy, sunny morning. The story is told in a rocking rhythm and rhyme, making this an excellent choice for a Friday Poetry morning on the edge of summer. The meter of each stanza reminds me of the book Whiffle Squeak by Caron Lee Cohen, which has been a standing favorite in my house. You just can't help yourself chanting these verses once you get started - the pace carries you along. Listeners tend to jump in on the repeating refrains:

"Bad dogs, bad dogs chase the cat,
Chase the cat, chase the cat.
One dog's thin and the other dog's fat
On a summery Saturday morning.

They chase the boy on the rattly bike,
The rattly bike, the rattly bike.
Chasing things is what dogs like
On a summery Saturday morning."

Those bad dogs just can't help themselves chasing everything that moves, of course, and when a family of geese is roused out of the tall grass the "walk" goes haywire. Hilarity ensues, as we say.
My favorite parts of the book are in the illustrations. Young has drawn watercolor cartoon style pages that completely capture the personalities of each character. The dogs have their tongues hanging out in excitement and somehow even the goose manages to look startled, flustered and then riled. The children are a mixture of ethnicities, which is nice but never mentioned in the text. I like how the brown skinned girl's hair is bouncing around in joyfully free corkscrews.

Mahy is a New Zealander. She was born in Whakatane, the northern island of New Zealand, in 1936. She now lives in Lyttelton on the south island. She has two dogs that look quite a bit like the ones in the illustrations of this book. Her daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters live next door. I bet they walk down to the beach just this way on many a sunny morning. We have the autobiography titled My Mysterious World that Mahy wrote for the "Meet the Author" series done by Richard Owen Publishing in 1995. Our second graders do a unit on author's biographies and hers is a favorite. She describes how she lives in the crater of a million year old volcano which is now Governor's Bay, Lyttelton Harbor. She describes her work day, starting in the dark before dawn, and tells how she finds her stories and works them through many versions of text. She likes to visit schools and draws pictures to answer the letters she receives from children all over the world. She says "mysterious" is one of her favorite words because "it is the word that most truly descibes the world around me.."

Mahy has written over a hundred books for children of all ages and adults. New Zealand's Storylines website tells of her awards: "In 1993 Margaret was made a member of the Order of New Zealand, New Zealand's highest honour, which is limited to 20 living persons at any one time. Her entry on the Honours' website states: 'She is regarded as one of the foremost authors of children's literature and is said to be one of the best living authors in the English language'. In 2006 Margaret Mahy received the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the world's premier prize for children's writing. Often called the Little Nobel, the award is given biennially by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) to honour an author who has made a lasting contribution to international children's literature."

Mahy is a librarian too! Here are a few more links, including a lists of books, a teacher resource file, lesson plans for Summery Saturday Morning, and an author interview focusing on her YA books. I am planning to do an author study of her work next year with my kindergarten so I will be coming back to revisit these excellent sites. Which of her books have you enjoyed reading and sharing?
Today's Friday Poetry roundup is at Big A, little a. Next week it's my turn again!

1 comment:

Vivian Mahoney said...

This sounds so lovely. I'll have to look for it at the library.