-FAST FOOD FESTIVAL-
-BRAVEST OF THE BRAVE-
-THE NEW DEAL GOES NORTH-
I know it looks like my son and I are gearing up to secure spots on a TV game show; our current stack of books is crammed with so many unrelated topics and we are jammed with facts, ready for trivia question number one –
FAST FOOD FESTIVAL – We are ready for questions about the history of mega-popular American foods (pizza, hot dogs, french fries and the like) after reading “There’s No Ham in Hamburgers”, by Kim Bachman. Now we know:
- a surprising number of the foods Americans consume like mad were brought to public exposure at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition AKA the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair: hamburgers, yellow mustard, cotton candy, puffed rice cereal, and Dr. Pepper.
- Mr. Potato Head was the first toy to have a TV commercial (this kooky bit of info found in the potato chapter).
- WWI American soldiers were the first to enjoy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (high in protein and no refrigeration needed). The US Army bought the ENTIRE first batch of Welch’s grape jelly for the cause. And speaking of peanut butter, I am sure EVERYONE wants to know that Skippy filed for a patent for hydrogenated peanut butter the very same WEEK that my son’s grandfather was born (April 1921) AND in the very same city in which he was born (Alameda, California). Whoo hoo! Chills! Making history personal!
WINGING IT – We are ready for questions about North American birds after reading Mike O’Connor’s second book, “Why Do Bluebirds Hate Me?”. Same format (question and sidesplitting/informative answer) as his first book, “Why Don’t Woodpeckers Get Headaches”. Per suggestion from first book, we teamed our nightly reading with the Kaufman Focus Guide, “Birds of North America”. Thanks to a repetition of themes, we now know:
- birds want sunflower seeds, not “special birdseed mix”
- seeds need to be fresh
- birds need a birdbath: we now have a birdbath!!!! Tiny, but AWESOME, handcrafted of river stone by an artisan in New Hampshire (danceswithstone.com)
- there is a correlation between backyard bird sightings and bird migration
- we can be a kinder people, thanks to a superb essay on bird feeder hospitality
Final note – O’Connor’s way with words made me laugh so hard, that with most of the Q&A’s, I had to stop reading aloud until I could gain composure. What is better than that?
POWER PLAY – “Solar Story – How One Community Lives Alongside the World’s Biggest Solar Plant”, Allan Drummond. Easy to read, endearing illustrations, enlightening. We are ready for questions about solar plants and sustainability AND we get to mark another country on our global map: Morocco. We now know that the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant is located in Ouarzazate, Morocco (in the blindingly sunshiny Sahara Desert). We augmented our reading with the Wikipedia article on this Ouarzazate Solar Power Station, and we saw it with our own eyes via a Google Earth view.
BRAVEST OF THE BRAVE – “Resist!”, subtitled “Peaceful Acts that Changed our World”, an A+ resource by Diane Stanley (all of her books are A+). We are ready for questions about the gutsiest people who have acted boldly, guided by an inner sense of what is right. Some we have already studied (like Harriet Tubman and Mohandas Gandhi), some we have never heard of (like Irena Sendler and Ai Weiwei). Each 2-page mini bio has grabbed ahold of our hearts (and I am pretty much weeping at the end of each profile).
BIODIVERSITY UNIVERSITY – We are ready to answer questions about the most biodiverse place on Earth because we have just finished “Amazon River”, a well-edited introduction to the world’s largest river basin, by Sangma Francis, brilliant artwork by Romolo D’Hipolito. We now know a bit about the geography, indigenous people, current dangers, and the ridiculously enormous variety of plant (like 16,000 species of trees) and animal wildlife (like 2.5 million species of insects). Our final take-away: we would like to see “in person” a pink river dolphin, and we would not like to see “in person” a green anaconda (but we sort of would – from at least a 17 foot distance).
THE NEW DEAL GOES NORTH – We are ready for questions about an aspect of FDR’s New Deal program: during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the Matanuska Colony was established to give displaced Midwestern farmers a new start in the Alaska territory. This is the basis of Carole Estby Dagg’s well researched and continually interesting YA historical novel, “Sweet Home Alaska” – a family from Wisconsin becomes part of this new community. Good reading every single night.
Story Problem at the Local Diner – What doesn’t Chef James do well? He has recently revealed that he is a nationally ranked chess player, so diner management has asked him to preside over a week long (Monday-Friday) chess camp for middle schoolers in August. The camp will be held mornings in the diner and will include a hearty breakfast to activate brain cells. 20 students have signed up. The participants are to be charged $75 for the week. Chef James will received $50 for each morning of chess instruction. The daily breakfast for each camper is priced at $8.00.
– How much profit will the diner realize at the end of the week?
a) $250 b) $450 c) $1,050 d) $1,500
– If the diner pays $250 for a large outdoor banner to advertise the chess camp, will they still make a profit? (answers at bottom of post)
Something new: keyboarding skills! I was so inspired by this year’s (2022) graduation speech by Rollins College valedictorian, Elizabeth Bonkers (easy to find her delivery on YouTube). She, like my son, has autism and is non-verbal. Her speech was achieved through a text-to-speech program and was the worthiest of graduation addresses. What a wake-up call! Could my son learn keyboarding skills? We had tried this years ago with no success, but I decided to try again and now, THE ANSWER IS YES! He is focused and interested! We begin with keyboarding practice (finding vowels, the letters of his name, the space bar) and then for the best part: my son gets to text his brother and sister (one in NY, one in Seattle) and they both text right back. Talk about effective positive reinforcement.
Classical Music Time – Our brains are crammed and jammed with facts and this is not the time for challenging music selections. Here are the top three super-soothers that my son selects over and over for night time listening –
– Song to the Moon, from Antonín Dvořák’s opera, Rusalka (1901). This is sort of the Czech version of the little mermaid story; this particular piece has a water nymph asking the moon to tell the prince of her love. This recording showcasing violin virtuoso, Joshua Bell, is the one we have listened to about 300 times –
– Oven Fresh Day, from Grant Kirkhope’s BAFTA (which we learned was the British Academy of Film and Television Arts) nominee score for the Xbox 360 game, “Viva Piñata”, composed in 2006. A lovely, wistful melody, recorded by the Prague Philharmonic –
– The Barcarolle, from Act 3 of Jacques Offenbach’s final opera, “The Tales of Hoffman” (1880). Although referred to as “The Barcarolle”, the real title of the work is “Belle Nuit, ô Nuit d’Amour” (“Beautiful Night, Oh Night of Love”) (FYI, a barcarolle is the song of a Venetian gondolier) . There is no reason for any other orchestra to record this, as this smooth-as-glass, masterful performance by the Berlin Philharmonic cannot be improved upon –
Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Story problem answers: b) $450, and yes)