Friday, August 31, 2007
August Carnival of Children's Literature
While you are enjoying summer's last week-end, go browse some wonderful book selections!
Free the Jena 6
Here is how they recap this outrageously troubling story:
"Last fall in Jena, the day after two Black high school students sat beneath the "white tree" on their campus, nooses were hung from the tree. When the superintendent dismissed the nooses as a "prank," more Black students sat under the tree in protest. The District Attorney then came to the school accompanied by the town's police and demanded that the students end their protest, telling them, "I can be your best friend or your worst enemy... I can take away your lives with a stroke of my pen."
A series of white-on-black incidents of violence followed, and the DA did nothing. But when a white student was beaten up in a schoolyard fight, the DA responded by charging six black students with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
It's a story that reads like one from the Jim Crow era, when judges, lawyers and all-white juries used the justice system to keep blacks in "their place." But it's happening today. The families of these young men are fighting back, but the story has gotten minimal press. Together, we can make sure their story is told and that the Governor of Louisiana intervenes and provides justice for the Jena 6. It starts now. Please join me:
The noose-hanging incident and the DA's visit to the school set the stage for everything that followed. Racial tension escalated over the next couple of months, and on November 30, the main academic building of Jena High School was burned down in an unsolved fire. Later the same weekend, a black student was beaten up by white students at a party. The next day, black students at a convenience store were threatened by a young white man with a shotgun. They wrestled the gun from him and ran away. While no charges were filed against the white man, the students were later arrested for the theft of the gun.
That Monday at school, a white student, who had been a vocal supporter of the students who hung the nooses, taunted the black student who was beaten up at the off-campus party and allegedly called several black students "nigger." After lunch, he was knocked down, punched and kicked by black students. He was taken to the hospital, but was released and was well enough to go to a social event that evening.
Six Black Jena High students, Robert Bailey (17), Theo Shaw (17), Carwin Jones (18), Bryant Purvis (17), Mychal Bell (16) and an unidentified minor, were expelled from school, arrested and charged with second-degree attempted murder. The first trial ended last month, and Mychal Bell, who has been in prison since December, was convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery (both felonies) by an all-white jury in a trial where his public defender called no witnesses. During his trial, Mychal's parents were ordered not to speak to the media and the court prohibited protests from taking place near the courtroom or where the judge could see them.
Mychal is scheduled to be sentenced on July 31st, and could go to jail for 22 years. Theo Shaw's trial is next. He will finally make bail this week.
The Jena Six are lucky to have parents and loved ones who are fighting tooth and nail to free them. They have been threatened but they are standing strong. We know that if the families have to go it alone, their sons will be a long time coming home. But if we act now, we can make a difference.
Join me in demanding that Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco get involved to make sure that justice is served for Mychal Bell, and that DA Reed Walters drop the charges against the 5 boys who have not yet gone to trial.
Review: Bronzeville Boys and Girls
Gwendolyn Brooks wrote the poems in this collection in 1956, in celebration of the children living in the Bronzeville section of Chicago. Brooks is one of our nation's most celebrated poets. From the publisher's brief biographic sketch: "She was poet Laureate for the state of Illinois, a National Women's Hall of Fame inductee, and a recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the National Endowment for the Arts. She received fifty honorary degrees." This collection is a lovely gift to children and adults everywhere. It strikes me as a perfect way to start off the new school year with an eager class of bright eyed children excited about getting to know each other and their teacher. In this volume Faith Ringgold has contributed her vibrant, charming paintings. Her portraits of these children and their environment bring out the lively, memorable personalities.
Each poem joyfully, playfully or thoughtfully describes one particular child's view of the world. Some are silly, some are dreamy, and some others are poignant and sad. My favorite two have to do with growing up and the passage of time; two things that are on my mind at the start of a new school year. Leaving summer behind and facing the back-to-school week, this one really resonates:
What good is sun
If I can't run?
"You're eight, and ready
To be a lady."
That is what my Mama says.
She is right again, I guess.
But there! I saw a squirrel fly
Where it is secret, green, and high.
And there! Those ants are bustling drown,
And I require to chase them down!
What good is sun
If I can't run?
Here's another one that reminds me of schoolrooms and getting back on schedule:
That clock is ticking
The me that only
Ate peanuts, jam and
Is gone already.
And this is
'Cause nothing's putting
Back, each day,
The me that clock is
Poetry is a wonderful thing to play with in back-to-school activities. One could use these poems as writing prompts, encouraging the children to write about themselves or one particular activity, location or object that is meaningful to them this summer or fall. Post them on the bulletin board and encourage scribbled graffiti responses. Have the students copy them into notebooks and read them in chorus as a beginning reading activity. Find multiple ways to incorporate poetry into your day and spur your students on to discovery their own favorite poets and poems!
The Friday Poetry round up is at Literacy Teacher's Mentor Texts and More today. Go leave your links and browse all the other poetry posts.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
August 30 Haiku
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
August Carnival of Children's Literature
Make sure to send your submission in quickly - I did mine today!
Thanks to A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy for the links.
Books for Starting Kindergarten
Many kindergarten books are about the anxiety that comes with the first day of school. Anne Rockwell's Welcome to Kindergarten is a book about a boy and his mother visiting school for orientation. On the first page they are approaching the school on Sunrise Street. The boy observes that "it is very big. The boys and girls coming out the door are all much bigger than me." Inside they find the kindergarten classroom and explore the room's centers for science, art, math reading, writing, weather, and cooking. He sees he'll learn to read the calendar and tell time. As they leave the building he says, "the building doesn't look to big at all. It looks just the right size for me!" The illustrations are done with bold, bright colors in a simple, child-like style. The boy, his mother and the teacher are all white. The principal is a darker shade of tan, with gray hair. Several of the other students are black or brown, including the friendly girl who sits at his table for snack. This is a sweet book for a child entering kindergarten and wondering what exactly goes on in that big brick building.
Rosemary Wells' Timothy Goes to School is all about the difficulty of choosing the right clothes to wear. On the first day Timothy wears a sun-suit his mother made him and he looks too babyish. On the second day he wears a jacket his mother made him, in order to look like the kid who criticised him on the first day. Of course he gets told "no one wears a jacket on the second day". Timothy keeps trying to dress to please until he meets Violet, a girl who understands him and enjoys his company. They become fast friends in their mutual dislike of Claude and Grace, the perfect students they had been comparing themselves to and coming up short. First day of school anxiety themes this book touches on are:
- the excitement of the first day,
- the disappointment of not being completely prepared and wearing the "wrong" thing,
- the fact that there is a second day and a third day so you have chances to get it right (or continue to get it wrong),
- the exposure of judgment from peers and teachers,
- the joy of discovering a new friend that likes you and understands you.
Another Rosemary Wells book we found is My Kindergarten. This is a much longer book that covers everything in the kindergarten curriculum, from telling time and reading a calendar to poetry day, lessons on the types of clouds and insects, and field trips to the senior center to "adopt" a grandparent. You can't read this book in one night. It could last you months if you take the time to discuss each page with your child. It's a course in kindergarten in itself. Whether you are homeschooling or sending your child off to kindergarten with no idea of what they will be learning, this is the book to keep on hand to guide you through the year.
Another classic kindergarten book is Joseph Slate's Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten. Cleverly illustrated by Ashley Wolff, it shows Miss Bindergarten cleaning out the room and preparing for her students, who happen to have names that start with all the letters of the alphabet. From "Adam (an alligator) wakes up" to "Zach Blair (a zebra) finds his chair", each child's first name and animal species follow the alphabet while their action rhymes with their last name. It's a fun book that children love to read over and over. There are several other Miss Bindergarten books in the series.
The diversity here is nice to see, but just like in Rosemary Wells books the one disappointment I have is that all the parent/child pairs match completely. Ophelia Nye, an otter, hugs goodbye to her otter mother. Matty Lindo, an moose, looks out the window at his moose father. There is plenty of evidence that good people come in all shapes and colors, but no acknowledgment that families do. I can't tell you how many times we've had children ask us about why Buddy is black and I am white. Kids quickly draw the conclusion that children always ought to match their parents. It would be nice if children's book authors and illustrators took the opportunity to introduce the idea that just like all races can be friends, working, living and studying together, families can be mixed race too.
A really delightful first day book that is new to me is Vera Rosenberry's Vera's First Day of School. Vera is a little girl going to school for the first time, following along in the footsteps of her older sisters. When they get to the schoolyard though, Vera is suddenly overcome with shyness. She hides and doesn't go in with the other children. She is aghast to find herself outside alone with the door slammed shut. She runs home and hides under the bed. When her mother finds her she brushes her off and gently walks her back to school. With brave authority her mother holds her hand, walks her into room 10 and simply tells the teacher, "This is my daughter, Vera. She was not able to come to school this morning, but she is here now." The teacher accepts this, welcomes Vera into the room and gets her started painting. At the end of the day Vera tells her big sister the day "was fun. But I think I will like the second day even better." That is exactly how I always feel. The diversity in this book is pretty much the same as the others, except that everyone in Vera's family has different color hair. Mom has black hair and one sister has red. You could imagine that the oldest of the sisters is Asian and Vera herself could be mixed-race. There is no father mentioned but her teacher is a man. He is brownish tan, with kinky hair. All in all this is my favorite book, perhaps because even though Vera is so excited and happy about going to school that she has woken up at the crack of dawn and gotten dressed with joy, she freezes up when she sees the playground full of children, "more children than she had ever seen before." I also love the way her socks keep falling down when she is shaken, sad or bewildered and her hair is barely contained. Her sisters and her mother show the perfect balance of involvement, paying attention when needed but not butting in to Vera's experience otherwise. The illustrations display their characters with subtle charm in delicate watercolors. There are several more Vera books, including Vera Rides a Bike, Vera Gets Sick, and Vera's New School. We will have to look for them all!
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
To Do List
To Do List for the Last Week in August
Clean cookie crumbs from the children's car seats
Knit three pairs of wool pants
Scrub fruit bins in the fridge
Buy new shoes for all of us
Pick ripe figs and learn to make fig cookies
Eat all the fig cookies
Sit still, watching monarch butterflies
Find and hang more bird feeders for the goldfinches
Wander down the beach searching for sea shells
Make more fig cookies
Take everyone to the dentist
Get oldest son new glasses
Sort and take old toys to re-sale shop
Pick zucchini & make zucchini bread
Grate and freeze more zucchini
Rub noses with littlest son and whisper I love you
Plan more play dates
Read the rest of the books on June's list
Sign middle son up for soccer
Sew buttons on baby sweater gift and MAIL IT
Finish last year's scrap books
Sit in porch swing & gaze at the moon rising
Play trains on the living room floor
Make fig ice cream (zucchini?)
Stay up late watching stars
Grill burgers & call the neighbors over
Light sparklers and dance in the dark
Chase soap bubbles at 7 am in PJs
Write lesson plans for the month of September.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Review: The Game of Silence
In the opening chapter a refugee band of Ojibwa come to shore to be greeted by Omakayas. They had moved west and failed in their attempt to find a place among the Dakota. Omakayas' family and friends take them in and absorb them into their community. Their ragged, poor state is an ominous warning to what the rest of the Ojibwa face in the near future. The problem of what the band will do to secure their future forms the central tension of the story.
Erdirch beautifully describes the people's way of life. They build canoes from cedar wood and birch bark. They harvest rice, grow lush gardens, and hunt. Omakayas learns to cure hide and make clothing and tools. Her grandmother is teaching her to be a healer because she shows a gift for it. The gentle and loving way children are taught responsibility, hard work and respect for elders is woven into the story. In several places in the book one member of the band is separated from the rest of the family, lost in life-threatening weather. Omakayas' little brother is left at the rice harvest island in a terrible thunderstorm, her father is stranded on an ice flow when the winter ice pack breaks up while he is on a scouting mission, and a friend of the family is caught out in terribly freezing weather in a sudden severe winter storm. In each case the people pull together and go out to search for the lost one, bringing him or her home at great personal risk. The strength of the community shows in these instances, as well as the difficulty of their way of life. All these elements come together in a book balanced with humor and beauty.
This is a lovely book to share with children in grades four through six. The troubling conflict the Ojibwa face as the white settlers push them out of their homes and land should fuel challenging conversations. Anyone studying American history, westward expansion or Native Americans ought to read these books.
Erdrich has also written many novels for adults and books of poetry. I highly recommend you look for her work.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
I haven't made zucchini bread since going gluten-free so I had to do a search for a new recipe. I found a lot of yummy-looking ones online but they all involved ingredients that I don't currently have in my kitchen and I was not interested in dragging the boys off to the grocery store on the spur of the moment.
I ended up using the recipe for carrot cake on the back of the Pamela's Gluten Free Ultimate Baking Mix with a few modifications. I doubled the recipe, included zucchini, carrots and raisins, and used nutmeg instead of all spice with the cinnamon. It is so delicious even Buster, who hates eating all things green, said it was "pretty good". Spread with cream cheese it is the perfect breakfast (or any time) treat.
What is your favorite zucchini recipe? What's popping in your garden this week? Leave a comment or link to your garden posts and we'll take a tour.
Friday, August 24, 2007
August 24 Haiku
Review: Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued
O'Donherty approaches the subject with experience as a writer and clinical psychologist. Her advice column for writers, “The Doctor Is In,” can be found on Fridays on the blog of MJ Rose, "Buzz, Balls, & Hype." She has numerous stories, poems and essays published. She has contributed to the anthology It's a boy! Woman Writers Raising Sons, edited by Andrea Buchanan. This is her first full length book. She tells the stories of several women artists; those who write, paint, and composes music, as well as her own story. I particularly appreciated her personal involvement in the writing process. It is striking how similar the obstacles all of these artists face. Chapters about the importance of role models, early artistic experiences, our shadow selves, managing motherhood, the perils of success, society's expectations of women's roles, and how we change as we grow older give the scope of artistic women's lives. Starting with the messages we hear as children about "what girls should do" and spanning the young adult development, mothering challenges, mid life peeks, and new freedoms of maturity O'Doherty guides us through the ups and downs.
She includes exercises at the end of each chapter, designed to turn us inward and give us a chance to listen to the wisdom we so often silence or ignore. She encourages us to keep a notebook and write about the meditation experiences. I tried to do all the exercises even though I don't feel particularly blocked at this time in my life. I am writing a lot this summer but there have been years in my life when I pushed it to the side and ignored it, believing I had nothing to say or that no one was interested. I know those times will come again and I want to be prepared. I am trying to make progress in my writing and at this point I am a willing student.
I confess I did some of these exercises halfheartedly, at the end of the day, lying on my bed. That might account for why I feel asleep during the visualizations and failed to achieve profound insights. Actually those particular exercises might be the ones I most need to practice. Perhaps there is something in the dark recess of my mind that I am not yet ready to hear. I will have to read this book again and dig a little deeper.
The exercises include writing a list of all the things we are told in childhood that "girls should do". I filled a page with that one. In "identifying your inner critic" she suggests we try to remember our earliest artistic attempts in childhood and record what messages we received from adults about our work. I spent a couple of hours searching through the memorabilia in the back of my closet looking for old school papers that might have my childhood poetry recorded. I didn't find the haiku I wrote in fourth grade but I spent some time remembering that it was received with a typical perfunctory enthusiasm that didn't recognize the profound influence haiku would have on my life.
In "communicating with your shadow self" she tells us to plan a day of sheer indulgence. What would we do, where would we go? Imagine living that day and then draw a picture of yourself as you would be. The woman who lived that day is your shadow self. What wisdom does she have to share with you? I enjoyed doing this exercise and wrote several pages about it. My shadow self told me to stop looking at clocks, among other things.
My very favorite exercise was the one after the chapter on "the impossible position: managing motherhood and creativity". After reviewing the challenges of loving, nurturing and serving our children while still being true to our artistic gifts she tells us that "what is crucial is to keep the light burning". The exercise is to have someone else watch your child(ren) for a time so you can go off and do your art. Even if you have to guilt a friend or relative into babysitting, she says you must make time for actually making art. You must take yourself and your work seriously enough to carve out time and dedication to it. She says, "the value of this work is immeasurable." I read this chapter at nap time on a day when both of my little boys happened to fall asleep at the same time ( a rare occurrence these days). I was delighted to jump up, go downstairs, take some photographs and write. I haven't gotten to the point where I will hire a babysitter to cover my writing time yet, but that day is coming.
In the chapter "a woman's place; creating art beyond what is expected" O'Doherty discusses how sexism and racism create barriers holding us back from fully dedicated work. She talks about the way making and sharing art makes us vulnerable to other's opinions, which we have been trained from childhood to value more highly than our own thoughts and feelings. She gives examples from her own life and the lives of other women artists that bring a deeper insight than we normally pursue, as well as advice about how to deal with these challenges.
In the back of the book O'Doherty gives a list of resources for further reading, which I plan to pursue. I have found this book both thoughtful and challenging. I have a new perspective on the writing process and a deeper commitment to facing the challenges head on. I recommend this book to every woman interested in exercising her creative energy in any artistic expression. I already have a friend waiting to read my copy, which I am happy to pass on to her. Look for this book!
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Review: Stink Bugs and Other True Bugs
"A stink bug's main weapon of defense is its oder. When in danger, the stink bug releases a stinking liquid from its thorax. A bird or other predator often takes one whiff of the bug's rotten smell and leaves the tiny creature alone!"
We were drawn to this book, as I said, because we see stink bugs in our house and garden. Last fall I was intrigued enough to do an online search to try to identify what was then to us a mysterious bug. I found out that our part of the country is in the midst of an infestation of these critters. We were encouraged to report sitings, as they are being monitored. There is one thing I still find mysterious: although the bugs we see meet every other descriptive criteria, they do not stink. I have crushed hundreds of them in the past two years and I have never noticed an odor of any sort. I wonder why. Here's a photo of one on my buddleia (look on the green leaf in the foreground):
Buddy and I enjoyed reading all about stink bugs in this World Book title. The series includes forty titles in four sets, covering animals from all around the world. In addition to teaching about bugs I was able to introduce non-fiction text features such as a table of context, index, glossary, fun facts page, list of further resources including books and web sites, and a scientific classification chart. In my library I often find that non-fiction titles are far more sought after than picture books in grades kindergarten through second grade. Children are thirsty for real knowledge and today's informational texts are creative, attractive and expertly crafted. Series such as this one are ideal for young scientists.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
The two cookbooks that I rely on and take great delight in are Gluten Free Gourmet Bakes Comfort Food and The Gluten Free Gourmet Bakes Bread, both by Bette Hagman. When I was diagnosed with Celiac disease three years ago I was devastated to learn that because of my genetically-inherited gluten intolerance I would have to change my diet immediately to remove all wheat, rye and barley products. My favorite foods were pasta, bread, cakes and cookies. I thought I would never enjoy a meal again. Bette Hagman's cookbooks gave me hope. She patiently taught me about alternate flours from rice, corn, potato, tapioca and beans. She tutored me in the importance of egg whites, xanthan gum and precise mixing techniques that make it possible for me to make all of my old favorite foods and discover many new ones. Without those cookbooks I would be much hungrier and drearier. I learned last week that she was ill and today I heard that she past away on August 17.
In honor of all she gave us with her pioneering spirit determined to perfect delicious gluten free baking and cooking, Seamaiden at the blog Book of Yum is hosting a blog memorial event. She says,
"Bette Hagman, a pioneer of Gluten Free baking and the author of the “Gluten Free Gourmet” cookbooks passed away around the 17th of August. Bette Hagman was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, a disease requiring a gluten free diet free of wheat, rye, oats and barley, more than twenty-five years ago. She wrote six cookbooks, each offering a multitude of delicious wheat- and gluten-free recipes—what she called a “prescription for living.” She was a writer, lecturer, and twenty-five-year member of the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) and lived in Seattle and transformed the diets of many of us who are gluten intolerant.
I would like to propose over the next two weeks from August 20th to September 3rd that we all bake something from one of Bette Hagman’s cookbooks, and take a really beautiful photo of the baked good that we produce. I would like to think of each photo as a flower bouquet honoring Bette Hagman, and so include at least one beautiful flower (and possibly a flower bouquet) in the background of your photo or placed on the baked good like the photo I posted here. Post your photo on your blog along with a short (one or two line) note on the impact Bette Hagman had on your life and comment here with the link or email it to me. Please download the “Baked in Honor” tag and post it along with your post. If you feel comfortable doing so, include a wallet sized photograph of yourself in the post or email. If you don’t have a blog, that’s ok, just send me the photo(s) and your message. Please size your photo to be about the same size as the photo posted here. I will personally take these photos to Kinkos, create a poster/card of some kind with the images and our personal messages, and mail them to the Gluten Intolerance Group, in care of Cynthia Kupper, so that she may deliver the card to Bette’s daughter. I will also do a roundup on this site with all the photos. I would really love for Bette Hagman’s family to know how many of our lives Bette touched with her cookbooks. Please help me make this event a wonderful success for a wonderful lady, Bette Hagman, the one and only true Gluten Free Gourmet."
One of the foods that I miss the most is bread. I love, love, love a good ham and cheese sandwich. I could weep over a roll with mustard, mayo, cracked pepper deli ham, provolone, garden fresh basil and just picked tomatoes. This is what I had for lunch today, with just-out-of-the-oven Bette Hagman gluten free French bread rolls. Ms. Hagman I can not tell you the joy you bring me. Thank you for your life's work. God Bless you and may the Spirit comfort your family.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
August 20 Haiku
Monday, August 20, 2007
Review: Birchbark House
Erdrich is of mixed ancestry, with an Ojibwa mother and German-American father. She grew up in Minnesota, in the same area that this story takes place. In researching for the book she joined her mother and her sister in tracing family history. She found ancestors on both sides who lived on the island she wrote about. The name Omakayas was listed in the census. In the acknowledgments she talks about the spelling and pronunciation of the main character's name (oh-MAH-kay-ahs) and says "Dear reader, when you speak this name out loud you will be honoring the life of an Ojibwa girl who lived a long time ago." It is good to read a beautifully written story of Ojibwa life that is authentic and based on the lives of real people.
Although Omakayas is only seven years old the story has depth and complexity that will give older students plenty to ponder and discuss. The opening chapter begins, "The only person left alive on the island was a baby girl." Men on a fur trading mission come by in their canoes, but they are afraid to land and investigate or rescue the infant girl because it is clear that all the other people have died from small pox. One man thinks he will tell his wife about her, because his wife is braver than he and will want to come and get the little girl. That is all we know of this part of the story until the very end of the book. The second chapter starts to tell us about seven year old Omakayas and her family. In the last few pages of the book Omakayas is told by Old Tallow, a rough, independent, grandmotherly friend of the family, that she is that little girl rescued from the island, the only survivor of her birth family. Old Tallow is the wife of the trader in the canoe, who went back to claim the girl and then threw her cowardly husband out in disgust. She nursed the tiny girl back to life and brought her to her friends Yellow Kettle and her husband and family to adopt and raise, because she felt unable to do it herself. Hearing this story at the age of eight brings back memories to Omakayas, and she realizes that she has always held the memory of the birds singing on that first island. She says the bird's song kept her alive.
Old Tallow has waited to tell Omakayas her history until after the girl has met her spirit guide and begun to understand her life's calling. Her family has just recently survived a small pox outbreak. Her baby brother died the winter before from small pox, and Omakayas is still mourning his loss. Old Tallow tells her that the reason she was able to nurse her family back to health without getting ill herself is that she is already a survivor. Giving her the story of her own early life allows her to find her strength and peace.
Erdrich is a mother of five children herself, two of whom are adopted. She speaks about the difficulties and the richness of being a writing mother in a Salon interview from 1999. I am inspired by her words and by her extensive body of work. Next on my reading list is another children's novel about Omakayas, The Game of Silence. I have another of her novels for adults and I am going to look for her poetry books. I encourage you to do the same. She is a writer to follow.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
late summer drought -
early morning sunlight finds
My garden is not at its best in August. I am afraid I don't keep up with the watering and everything looks bedraggled and wilted. Except for the Rose of Sharon and the Black-Eyed Susans we are flower-poor here. How is your garden?
Friday, August 17, 2007
August 17 Haiku
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Order of the Phoenix
I have spent the past couple of weeks borrowing the older movies from the library and watching them again. After I finished reading Deathly Hallows I felt the need to review the history. The first three movies were somewhat boring. I found them childish and trite. Hermione's character really annoyed me. I can't stand when female actors rely completely on expressions of negative emotion to display character. Hermione is always irritated, annoyed, angry or frustrated. She hasn't much depth in the first three movies. Ron is really shallow too - he's just a bumbling fool playing side kick.
But when I watched The Goblet of Fire the other day I was much more impressed. I really liked how Hermione came into herself. She had a far greater range of emotion. At the Yule Ball she showed some delicate blossoming. Ron is still an idiot, but he also showed some depth in subtle facial expression. He realizes his weaknesses and works to overcome them, even taking risks at being rejected in order to restore friendships.
The actors are growing up and getting better at their craft. I really like how the friendship between Hermione and Harry is developed. Their interchanges seem genuine and tender. At times I began to forget it was a movie, which never happened in the first three portrayals. I wonder if I like this movie better than the first three because I am a grown up and a mother; I am interested in the coming-of-age theme more than the magic/wizarding/fantasy elements.
Order of the Phoenix is the best one yet. I was glad they all had better hair cuts (mom speaking here). I felt so sorry for Harry in his loneliness and confusion. I cried several times, particularly in the scenes when he is with Sirius having heart to heart talks. I can see Harry being nurtured by the adults at Hogwarts more than I noticed before. He is clearly loved and cared for as a person and not just a savior/sacrificial lamb/superhero. His sweet personality shines.
As a teacher I was intrigued by the scenes where the professors are arguing or challenging each other. It puts me on red alert when Prof. McGonigall and Dolores Umbridge go head to head on the stairs in front of the students. I wanted to tell them to go in an office or something. It was heartbreaking when Umbridge fired poor Trelawney in front of everyone. I thought Snape did the best job of showing his complexity in this movie. He clearly was on the good side and helped Potter out even though you could see he hated Harry's father because of the way he was bullied in childhood.
Dolores Umbridge takes the cake though. She is my worst nightmare; you know how Harry is afraid he is like Voldemort and turning into him? Well I am sometimes afraid I could turn into Umbridge. She is so evil and clever and hateful. She enjoys a pink frosting of pleasantries on top of her wicked satisfaction with causing pain. She gives me chills. If I ever go to the dark side I will be her student.
I think that David Yates, who directed Order of the Phoenix and is starting to film Half Blood Prince in the fall, did a fantastic job in this movie. I think it is true to the book and far more challenging, thoughtful and poignant than the first three movies. I haven't read through all the books again this summer so I am wondering if this impression is valid. Has anyone else read all the books and seen all the movies this summer? What did you think about how they were done on screen?
Notes about diversity: Watching the movies I paid a lot more attention to racial/ethnic diversity than I did while reading. Perhaps because it is visual? Some of my random thoughts:
- I liked Kingsley's character and I wish he had more of an active role with speaking parts.
- I noticed that at the Yule Ball in Goblet Harry, Ron and Cedric all had Asian women for dates. I never saw an Asian man in any of the movies, did you? I wondered about the stereotypes of Asian women and if that had any influence in the roles.
- I didn't see any blacks at the Yule ball at all. Did you?
- I wish some of the major characters were other than white. None of the heroes or bad guys were anything but Caucasian. I read a review saying HP is multi-culti because of the muggles and half bloods, but I don't think that applies.
- What about international students? Was there a presence at Hogwarts of any International student activities or clubs? Wouldn't you expect that?
- There were several black students in the background at Hogwarts. I wondered if they have a Black Student Union. Just an odd thought that ran through my mind.
- I wonder if there are any gay/lesbian wizards? Do they have a GLBT group?
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
August 14 Haiku
nothing to do but water
black eyed susans
Suzanne from Adventures in Daily Living gave me the Blogger Reflection award last week. I am so tickled to be on her list! Here's how she describes the award:
this award should make you reflect on five bloggers who have been an encouragement, a source of love, impacted you in some way, and have been a Godly example to you. Five Bloggers who when you reflect on them you get a sense of pride and joy… of knowing them and being blessed by them.
- Woman of the Tiger Moon: "Writing about single motherhood, homeschooling, gardening, gender constructs, and attempts at finding serenity and grace in the daily joys, blessings and vicissitudes of family life."
- The Whole Self: "I love touching yarn, attachment parenting, doulas, midwives, stacks of books, debriefing, black and white photos, cuddling, human anatomy and physiology, baggage, memories, organic eating, holistic health, knitting, trolls, anais nin, being spartan, children's books, fabric, family, herbs, houseguests, iced coffee, letterboxing, the idea of yoga."
- Mother Rising: " Mother, Artist, Vegetarian... and Chocoholic!"
- Lucky Beans: Writer, artist, gardener, and mom to three gorgeous children. They've just moved back to the States from Zambia.
- Gluten Free Girl: "food, stories, recipes, love" Shauna has just married the Chef. Her writing makes me hungry happy to be alive.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Butterfly Festival Haiku
A garden butterfly;
the baby crawls, it flies...
she crawls, it flies...
Here are some photos and haiku I wrote about kids and butterflies.
Give the children nets,
release them in the open fields -
with no will to close the net -
Catch and release
careful of delicate wings-
Yesterday we met up with my blogging buddy Shelley from But Wait, There's More! at a butterfly festival. Our boys had a blast climbing a tree and running around the open fields with nets. Buddy even caught and released a monarch and a cabbage butterfly. I think Punkin's favorite parts of the day were the school bus ride from the parking garage to the festival grounds and sitting in the demo vegetable-oil-driven car. He got a kick out of loading his net with grass too. There is nothing like exploring new territory and building stronger friendships! I've been reading Shelley's haiku for a year now and it's the first time we met in person. How delightful to finally be able to say we are friends In Real Life!
Saturday, August 11, 2007
August 11 Haiku
Friday, August 10, 2007
August Pay It Forward Winner!
This is the first time I am participating in Overwhelmedwithjoy's Pay It Forward Book Exchange. I posted the other day that I would be giving away my copy of Annie Dillard's novel The Living to a randomly drawn name of anyone who wanted to be part of the fun. Today I had my youngest draw names out of a book box and the winner is... beckyb at In the Pages...!! Congratulations! As soon as I get a snail mail address I'll be sending it right along. I'll be doing another Pay It Forward Book Exchange on September first and every first of the month after that so check back for another round. Anyone who wants to play is welcome to join in!
Review: Between Two Souls
"The mystifying - perhaps more to the point, the mystical - thing about this book is, indeed, its center. How do we account for the link between these far separated poets? What can possibly be the bridge between them? How is it that they understand one another so well across so many boundaries, despite so many barriers of time and space? The answer, I am convinced, lies in the common well from which they drink. Both these poets are monks, monastics, a man and a woman, devoted to finding the One Thing Necessary in Life. The word "monk" itself comes from the Greek, monos, the single-minded one, the one who seeks the One thing worth having. The one who lives to become one with the One."
In keeping with my own obsessions lately (butterflies and writing) I want to quote two poems for you today. Ryokan writes:
"The flower invites the butterfly with no-mind,
The butterfly visits the flower with no-mind,
The flower opens, the butterfly comes;
The butterfly comes, the flower opens.
I don't know others,
Others don't know me.
By not-knowing we follow nature's course."
I can't help but think of the way I read blogs after reading this poem. You know how you follow one link after another and pretty soon you are reading an amazing new-to-you blog that exactly fits your current life? Flowers finding butterflies.
Kownacki writes back:
"Hours of shooting hoops
In the park just
To shoot hoops
No game no goal
Only faith that I become
Hours of sitting
Before the icon just
No breath no word
Only faith that I become
Hours of writing
On blue lined paper just
No plot no plan
Only faith that I become
I am stunned at how well these two poems come together this morning with what I read in Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones last night:
"Let go of everything when you write, and try at a simple beginning with simple words to express what you have inside. You are stripping yourself. You are exposing your life, not how your ego would like to see you represented, but how you are as a human being. and it is because of this that I think writing is religious. It splits you open and softens your heart toward the homely world."All these words of wisdom come together for me while I am sitting at the computer early in the morning before the sun comes up. I am searching for something to say. My fingers fly across the keyboard. I am searching for someone else to ring the bell that resonates in the still air around me. Ryokan was in the forest, Kownacki was in the city, Goldberg was in the desert of New Mexico. I am huddled in a corner of a crowded bedroom with children clamoring for breakfast. Where are you?
The Friday Poetry round up is at Big A, Little a today. Go enjoy more poetry!
Thursday, August 09, 2007
In Honor of Nagasaki
I have begun reading Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones. I had a gift card for the bookstore and after browsing all my favorite sections that book was the only one left in my hand. I had never read it before but have seen it recommended on blogs recently, particularly by other writing women as one of the most significant books inspiring their writing practice. It is fabulous. I want to quote something today:
"Recording the details of our lives is a stance against bombs with their mass ability to kill, against too much speed and efficiency. A writer must say yes to life, to all of life: the water glasses, the Kemp's half-and-half, the ketchup on the counter. It is not a writer's task to say, "it is dumb to live in a small town or to eat in a cafe when you can eat macrobiotic at home." Our task is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist - the real truth of who we are: several pounds overweight, the gray, cold street outside, the Christmas tinsel in the showcase, the Jewish writer in the orange booth across from her blond friend who has black children. We must become writers who accept things as they are, come to love the details, and step forward with a yes on our lips so there can be no more noes in the world, noes that invalidate life and stop these details from continuing."
I think I'll have more to say about this book as I continue to read, but that's enough for today.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Pay It Forward Book Exchange: Dillard
Last month the blog Overwhelmed With Joy launched her Pay It Forward book exchange idea. Here is how she describes it:
"Most all of us love to read and get “new-to-us” books, right? And if you’re anything like me, you love winning things (what a rush), not to mention getting fun stuff in the mail! So here’s what this book exchange is all about:I love this idea so much I have to join in. This week I'll be giving away a paperback copy of Annie Dillard's The Living. This novel tells the story of several families settling in the American Northwest in end of the 19th century. Dillard is one of my favorite writers and this novel is a treat! All you have to do is leave me a comment that you want to join the Pay it Forward Book Exchange and agree to the rules set out above. I'll do the drawing for the lucky winner on Friday, August 10 at noon. Let's have some fun!
1) Once a month I'll pick a book to give away to one lucky reader (you don’t have to have a blog to enter). It may be a book that I’ve purchased new or used, or it may be a book that someone has shared with me that I really like. It’ll probably be a paperback, just to make things easier, but no guarantees.
2) Details on how you can enter to win will be listed below.
3) If you’re the lucky winner of the book giveaway I ask that you, in turn, host a drawing to give that book away for free to one of your readers, after you’ve had a chance to read it (let’s say, within a month after you’ve received the book). If you mail the book out using the media/book rate that the post office offers it’s pretty inexpensive.
*Edited to add: Caroline at Food for Thought modified this rule. If you aren't a blogger or don't want to do a giveaway on your blog you can just donate the book to a library or pass it on in any way you like. The idea is to Pay it Forward.
4) If you’re really motivated and want to host your own “Pay It Forward” giveaway at any time, feel free to grab the button above to use on your own blog. Just let her know so she can publish a post plugging your giveaway and directing readers your way!
So there you have it, the Pay It Forward Book Exchange, designed to encourage people to read, to share good books, to possibly get you out of your reading comfort zone, and to get fun stuff in the mail instead of just bills!"
Monday, August 06, 2007
August 6 Haiku
"Mama - Look!
I picked tomatoes.
Green is pretty!"
Punkin, my two year old, has been watching my tomato pots with great interest. I have many times told him to "look, don't touch!" The other day he was just too excited to resist them any longer. I stepped in the door for something and before I knew it he had picked an arm full of little green tomatoes. He was so proud of himself. I was so disappointed. I put them on the windowsill. I tried to explain again why we don't pick them green, but the crushed look on his face stopped me.
He's right, they do look pretty.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
August 5 Haiku
morning shade -
gazing at herb pots
My garden is parched and scruffy in the July/August heat. This is my lazy season as a gardener and all I can manage is remembering to water the pots of herbs, tomatoes and petunias. I've been enjoying the morning's cool breezes sitting next to the herbs and anticipating the crunch of parsley, the tang of sages. I can't seem to get this picture out of my mind. How is your garden this week?
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Deathly Hallows, part II
"Maybe I am hypersensitive to the whole orphan fantasy. I am learning so much about the trauma that adopted and foster children live with and the deeply challenging parts of parenting that it makes me a bit angry to see a majorly important writer present Harry's character coming to him so easily, without obvious effort invested in loving, dedicated parenting. I want desperately for my boys to grow up as fine as Harry, but it doesn't just happen without my daily struggle to be the best I can be and then some. Perhaps it's just another example of the literary orphan fantasy; it's exciting to be a child loose in the world with distant but loving parents.If we compare:
Years ago I remember my priest saying why she disagreed with the Christians who ban HP from their kid's reading lists. She said the central idea of the story is this ultimately important truth: that sacrificial love is the greatest force in the universe. That is a very Christian teaching. I think the strongest magic in the books is the magic of Harry's mother's love protecting him. His father sacrificed life for him too, but Dumbledore doesn't seem to mention that as much. It's Lily's sacrificial love that makes Harry what he is. So I guess Snape and Voldemort also had miserable, lonely childhoods but didn't have the same mother's love to work the magic. It seems like that might be one of Rowling's themes.
I also am thinking about how Petunia loves Dudley and Narcissa loves Draco, but it is a twisted, selfish type of love compared to Lily's love and it doesn't help them become good strong men. I am beginning to see the whole series as an exploration of mother's love. That feels a bit threatening actually. Is there a formula and am I measuring up? LOL It's all about me, of course."
- Voldemort (mother died just after giving birth),
- Snape (lonely, miserable childhood, muggle father, mother not mentioned much?),
- Harry (mother Lily died when he was one),
- Dudley (mother Petunia constantly fussing over him, calls him obnoxiously cute pet names, sees Harry as a rival?)
- Draco (mother Narcissa fawns over Draco, sending him sweets and cakes at school, lies to Voldemort, her liege lord, in the final battle in order to find out from Harry if Draco is still alive)
- Mrs. Weasley: ideal mother image: cooking, fussing over their safety, knitting everyone sweaters, lots of kids, pulls Harry into the family, fights for Ginny in the last battle)
Friday, August 03, 2007
Friday Poetry Review: Can't Sit Still
autumn in the city
pump the pedals
race the sun
down the blockwind smells like hot java beans
tickles the hairs on the back of my neck...
This vibrant picture book shows the joys of living in an exciting city neighborhood through the seasons of the year. The little girl rides her bike, paints her toenails, plays in the snow, feeds the kittens in the alley, takes out the trash, does her homework and plays in the water sprinkler shooting out of the fire hydrant. She dances across the pages delighting in the sights, smells and flavors of a life of joy. It is a pleasure to read and my kids ask for it over and over.
The poetry round up is at Miss Rumphius today. Enjoy browsing!
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Review: Across the Alley
- learning to play the violin,
- two boys in friendship,
- a black kid and a white kid
- (most dramatically shown on the cover) the boys are tossing a baseball across an alleyway from one open window to another.
They quietly agree to switch equipment, passing the violin across the alley and tossing the baseball. The Black boy plays beautifully and the Jewish boy strengthens his arm, dreaming of playing pitcher in a big game. One night the Jewish grandfather walks in and discovers that the excellent violin playing he has been listening to is not coming from his grandson. We hold our breath for a moment with the two boys, waiting for his reaction. He breaks into a smile and compliments the budding violinist. He shows him the proper position for his bow.
Next week the two families are walking down the street together, not caring what the world may think. The Black boy plays violin beautifully at Temple and the Jewish boy pitches in the Black neighborhood game at the sandlot. The wonder is that the families of both boys reach across their divide and welcome the friendship to flourish.
This is a very sweet and hopeful book. Buddy is a little young to understand the full nuance of the tension and the history between the races, but he gets the energy of the children's friendship working to overcome their separated positions. He would like to learn both baseball and violin, so this friendship is one he respects. I think the book would be great for older children as a discussion starter or writing prompt. Kids in third through fifth grade studying race, culture, ethnicity and/or history could have a lot to say on the predicament of children caught in a world shaped by hatred and segregation. It's the world they live in and the problems for which they seek creative solutions, after all.
Another review of the book:
Just One More Book podcast
August 2 Haiku
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
I love these books. I really do. Rowling is a master storyteller. I am awed by her mind; that she created such a complex, compelling world and that she carried on with the story for over ten years. She is genius. The stories are amazing, entertaining, thoughtful and beautiful. I just have a few problems with them, now that the series is finished.
I tried to ignore these thoughts and let go of them because of the really wonderful aspects of the books, as I said above. I just can't get them out of my mind. Am I the only person wondering:
- Harry is an orphan. He lost his parents at the age of one year. He was raised in a foster home by people who hated and feared him. He was shoved in a tiny closet under the stairs. He was abused emotionally and physically. His greatest gifts were the things his care-takers hated the most. No one loved him between the ages of one and eleven. He was very aware that no one loved him. So how does he turn out to be such a great guy? Where does he find the wisdom, the compassion and the courage to love others selflessly? His mother's sacrificial love saved his life and protected him, granted. But that kind of magic happening once in babyhood is not enough to raise an ethical, moral, secure, compassionate, generous, grounded person. Good parenting makes good leaders. It doesn't just happen. It is not realistic. Even magic has to make sense on some level after all.
- Hermione's little beaded bag. OK, at first I thought how clever. It solves the problem of how they will find all the things they need to survive and maintain their quest. After a while I started thinking Oh Please. Extra robes every time they need them? The sword for crying out loud? And when she gets taken by Death Eaters and tortured she manages to hold on to it by hiding it in her sock? Give me a break. That is stretching it too far.
- I don't quite understand how Harry died and came back to life. Where was he when he had that heart to heart with Dumbledore? Purgatory? How is it he had a choice of going back into life? Did everyone have that choice or just him because he died willingly as a sacrifice? That whole section is a little hard to swallow. If he died, he should have stayed dead or his resurrection should have been explained as remarkable and significant. Characters don't just get to die dramatically and then pop back to life for a happy ending, even in stories. And WHO the heck was that miserable baby shoved under a chair? Voldemort's soul?
- The epilogue. It brings to mind that 80s TV show called "thirtysomething". Do you remember it? Ron is Timothy Busfield. I used to love that show, partly because Buster was a baby right when Hope had her baby and I could relate. But now it just seems so trite. So yuppie. Harry turned out to be a boomer yuppie?
What did you think of Deathly Hallows? What do you think about Harry's remarkable character traits, given that he grew up in bad foster care?
July Project 365
Here is my July mosaic for the Project 365. I have been taking tons of pictures and posting one photo per day for the whole year. I am making the mosaics at fd's flickrtoys.
I think this month I have focused more on my kids and the things we are doing. The garden is still present in the photos but there are a few more people shots. Also I see a lot of food shots. Yum! We have eaten well this month.
Look at the photos individually in the Flickr set July 365 here. See all the Project 365 photos here. See the rest of my monthly mosaics here.
Visit the links under Photos in my sidebar for more blogger's Project 365 photos.