Book Reports

“D”s Dominated

duncan 2

First, DUNCAN DORFMAN – Meg Wolitzer’s engaging, “The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman” transported us into the world of competitive Scrabble.  A member of our family plays competitive chess (a US Chess Federation “National Master” – we are kind of proud), so my son is familiar with the concept of board game competition.  The book mentions scrabble tiles and racks over and over, so I brought some tiles and racks for my son to see, touch, try out (regretfully, NO interest).  My son actually does like filling out book reports, and I was happy to see that he picked up on the main themes of this well structured book (ethics, friendship, the roller-coaster emotions of competition).  

doolittle illustration

Then, DR. DOOLITTLE – My son and I are nearly through Hugh Lofting’s timeless adventure, “The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle”.  Here is what we think:  the pleasures of reading this book double when it is read out loud, allowing reader and listener to savor the poetic preposterousness of Lofting’s relentless imagination – delicious names and places like Popsipetel, Bag-Jagderag, Jip, Dab-Dab, Wiff-Waff, Don Ricky-Ticky.  One more thing – the copy we are reading (a 2012 printing) includes spectacular vintage-style illustrations by Scott McKowen.

indian contributions book

Then, DUCK DECOYS – “Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World”, complied by Emory Sea Keoke and Kay Marie Porterfield – a well edited resource we looked forward to opening every night.  A better mom would have read aloud every single entry, but alas, my son had to settle for learning about one topic from each letter of the alphabet.  Adobe, balls, canoes, duck decoys, earache treatments (well, that was gross), fringed clothing, gourds, hominy (I really built this one up with the hope of my son giving hominy a try – GIANT CORN ARE YOU KIDDING????  Who wants to sample some WAY FUN GIANT CORN??? Alas, no luck.  I have no influence.), igloos, jicama, kayaks, lacrosse, maple syrup, nasturtiums, observatories, popcorn, quipus, rafts, salsa, tipis, umbrellas, vanilla, wampum, yams (we skipped X and Z).  

lattice pie

Then, DESSERTS AT THE DINER (a story problem)During summer months, Miss Michelle (famed pastry chef at the diner) bakes pies every morning:  4 apple pies, 2 apricot lattice (vocab) pies, 2 peach pies, 2 cherry lattice pies, 1 blueberry pie, 1 blackberry pie, 1 rhubarb pie, and 2 lemon meringue pies.  Each pie gets sliced into 6 servings.  

  • If a tour bus with 80 passengers stops at the diner for lunch, would all passengers be able to enjoy a serving of pie?
  • How many pie crusts does famed pastry chef, Miss Michelle, roll out every week?
  • It takes 1 hour to bake a pie.  The diner has 3 ovens and each oven can accommodate 4 pies at a time.  How many hours does famed pastry chef, Miss Michelle, need to bake every pie? (answers at bottom of post)

dvorak portrait

Finally, DVOŘÁK DAZZLED –  on the classical music front, it was Antonín Dvořák week at the STORIES AND STUDIES CENTER (my son’s bedroom):

  • Slavonic Dance No. 1 in C major, composed around 1880.  This is one of our favorites and it gets the performance it deserves by the Vienna Philharmonic.  Side notes:  1)  As per usual, conductor Seiji Ozawa’s hair is too wild to be ignored – we should all be so confident.  2)  If you look closely, you will actually see a woman in the orchestra (back row,  violin section).  This video footage was posted in 2008 (so I don’t know when it was filmed) and I am sure the orchestra is trying to be more with the times, BUT REALLY.

  • Humoresque No. 7, composed in 1894 – we love the way YoYo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and conductor Ozawa transform this carefree little piece into a heartbreaker.

  • Song to the Moon, from the opera, “Rusalka”, premier performance in 1901.  Soprano Susan Karinski and the US Navy Band deliver an exquisite performance.  ATTENTION EVERYBODY:  Susan Karinski.  Whoa.  

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  yes, 105 pie crusts, 2 hours)

Finishing Touches

Finished:   Lonely Planet’s “The Cities Book”, AKA “The Seven and a Half Pound Book that is also a Weapon”.   Our plan was to tackle two cities a night and we did!  We ended up taking 200 trips around our globe and it was sort of exhilarating to find every single location.

globe and book

A few final observations:

  • really old cities:  
    • Lisbon – since 1,000 BC
    • both Mecca and Jerusalem – since 2,000 BC 
    • Nicosia – since 2,500 BC
    • Dubai – since 3,000 BC
    • Amman – since 3,500 BC 
    • Shanghai – since 3,900 BC
  • altitude sickness possibility:  Lhasa/Tibet, Santa Fe/New Mexico, Cuzco/Peru
  • city built upon coral:  Male, Maldives
  • cities really close to active volcanoes:  Kagoshima/Japan and Arequipa/Peru
  • world’s steepest residential street:  Baldwin Street (with a 35% grade), Dunedin, New Zealand.  (yes, we compared it to San Francisco’s Lombard Street; sorry, only a 27% grade)
  • cities my son and I would like to visit based solely upon the two page spread in the book:
    • Ljubljana, Slovenia (fairy tale charm with early morning fog making the “weakness” list)
    • Muscat, Oman (pristine beauty)

Finished:   Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s simply excellent book, “The War that Saved My Life”.  I wanted my son to spend a little time reflecting upon how well conceived and well written this book was, so I had him fill out a report card.  I talked about each category before he decided upon a grade.  This book is so deserving of its 2016 Newbery Honor Book award.

report card

Of course, a story problem:  A Vegetable Tasting at Farmer Brown’s:

sugar snap peas

Farmer Brown has put out trays of cauliflower, sugar snap peas, and turnips because he is hosting a vegetable tasting for local school children (specifically, Ms. Becque’s and Ms. Lesh’s picky first graders).  (There are 18 students in each class.)
Results:

Ms. Becque’s class vegetables Ms. Lesh’s class
6 tastes cauliflower chunks 12 tastes
12 tastes sugar snap peas 18 tastes
9 tastes turnip slices with dip 3 tastes

1)  which class had the pickiest eaters?
2)  what percentage of Ms. Becque’s class tried turnips?
3)  what percentage of Ms. Lesh’s class tried cauliflower?
4)  the school district will will have the greatest chance of getting kids to eat vegetables if they purchase which vegetable from Farmer Brown? (answers at bottom of post)

moon

Finishing up the day – we always end each STORIES AND STUDIES session with 3 pieces of classical music.  Unless I have a very specific theme for the evening (like “The Anvil as Musical Instrument” or “Circus Music Classics” – see “Our Music Themes” in title block), I try to promote drowsiness by selecting something soothing for the final selection.  Something like these:

  • Song to the Moon, from the opera “Rusalka” (1901), Antonin Dvorak
  • The Flower Duet, from the opera “Lakmé” (1883), Leo Delibes
  • The Little Train of the Caipira (1930), Heitor Villa-Lobos
  • Scottish Fantasy, movement 1 (1880), Max Bruch
  • Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D major, movement 3, (1798), Luigi Boccherini
  • Sailing By, (1963), Ronald Binge

or these:

  • The Dove, from “The Birds” (1928), Ottorino Respighi.  This is the very recording we’ve been listening to for years on our iPod. The best parts:  the cooing of the dove throughout the piece, and the ending (just splendid):

  • Theme from “Out of Africa” (1986), John Barry.  We listen specifically for distant rolling thunder brought to us by the timpani:

  • Nimrod, from “The Enigma Variations” (1899), Sir Edward Elgar.  Dignified and sobering.  An adaptation of Nimrod was used in the score for the 2017 movie, “Dunkirk”.  No better choice:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  1)  Ms. Becque’s class,  2)  50%,  3)  66%,  4)  sugar snap peas)

We the People

Here is what is going on with us the people at the STORIES AND STUDIES CENTER (my son’s bed, every night, 10:30 pm):

constitution photo

The Preamble to the Constitution – our hearts are touched by the perfectly worded preamble, so I am having my son memorize it.  For the past two weeks, every night after we read through the preamble, my son writes the missing words in a fill-in-the-blanks preamble.  And every night, more words are missing – so we are doing the successive approximation thing.  Interesting thought – what if schools alternated the Pledge of Allegiance with the Preamble every morning?  Another thought – what if every proposed law was required to read as clearly and straightforward as the preamble?

sharks book

Building a House – we’ve read through “How to Build a House” by Gail Gibbons.  Yes, this is a little kids book, but seriously, it is so well organized, every contractor should hand one of these to each of his clients, so they can get the basic idea of what comes before what.  This book provoked a yucky side study – my son wanted to know more about a house’s septic system.  Ick.

Sharks! – from the excellent Usborne book series.  Here is what has caught our eye so far – the eyes of the hammerhead shark. CRAZY. Also, so sad: baby sharks are left by their moms after they are born.  So, apparently they raise themselves.  No wonder they have such bad manners.

Reading for fun – We are laughing our way through #4 of the Tom Gates series, “Tom Gates – Genius Ideas (mostly)”, by Liz Pichon.  We LOVE this series!  Every single page is hilarious.  What a treat at the end of each day.  Love it, love it, love it.

guestcheck

Tips from Le Fictitious Local Diner – not exactly a story problem: We pretended that a waiter from Le Fictitious Local Diner gave my son a list of table order totals and asked him to figure out bare minimum tips (15%) and happy customer tips (20%). We talked about how waiters are paid and how much they depend upon their tips.  We talked about the difference between good and poor service.  We talked about whether it was the waiter’s fault if the food was substandard (of course this would never happen at Le Fictitious Local Diner – the food is always first rate at the diner).

string quartet sketch

EEEEEW, string quartets – I kept putting this off: listening to string quartets with my son.  Of course, I want to my son to know about this classical music genre, but alas, I am not a fan of the string quartet.  I have tried out dozens upon dozens of string quartets in the past few years, and all I hear is either spiders dancing across a hot pan or some poor soul gasping for breath.  But the time has come – I found 3 string quartets that changed my EEEEEWs to AHHHHHs, and I was enthusiastic about  sharing these with my son.

  • First, because we knew that Franz Josef Haydn (1732 – 1809) is considered to be the “Father of the String Quartet”, I thought we should listen to the first movement of his very first string quartet “String Quartet in B flat Major” (“La Chasse”).  This is the first of 68 (!!!) quartets Haydn composed between 1762 and 1803.

  • Next, we listened to “String Quartet No. 2 in D Major”, composed by Alexander Borodin in 1881.  We listened to movement 3 (“Nocturne”) over and over.  This is the deeply romantic melody used in the (1953 American musical) “Kismet” song, “And This is My Beloved”, for which he was posthumously awarded the 1954 Tony Award. (Good show Alexander! Good show Tony Award selection committee!  Good show Kismet people!)

  • And lastly, we listened to a wonderful contemporary musical ensemble, “The Vitamin String Quartet” (I am still laughing at the name). This group is known for applying their classical skills to renditions of modern and rock songs. We loved listening to their version of John Williams’ “Cantina Band” from Star Wars.

There now, that wasn’t so bad after all!

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH

Flying, Farming, and Felix

sis book

Yet another splendid Peter Sis book – this one, “The Pilot and the Little Prince”,  about Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of “The Little Prince”.  Besides the enthralling illustrations, there is much to fascinate in this book.  For example:

  • We learned that de Saint-Exupery’s primary focus, was not writing, but flying.  While reading about his remarkable flying adventures we came across a seemingly small fact that changed the direction of our studies last night: we learned that early French airplanes had no communication system, so they always flew with a cage of carrier pigeons. If a plane had to make an emergency landing who-knows-where, the pigeons could be released with an SOS message! OBVIOUSLY my son and I had to do an outside study of carrier pigeons. These birds are SERIOUSLY interesting!

pigeon

  • Of course, we need to get “The Little Prince” into our book line-up.  In researching “The Little Prince” we uncovered a heated controversy over various translations (the book was originally written in French).  Readers seem to be outraged over the current translation and show staunch loyalty to the translation by Katherine Wood. My, my, my.  Something new to investigate.

The Farm Unit – we have been learning about tractors, the true farm multi-tasker, and we welcomed a new vocab word: TILTH.  Meaning cultivated soil; soil that has been plowed and harrowed and is ready for planting.  We like this word.  We give it an A+.

book report

We write book reports – this was our first go at writing a book report, and heaven knows what took us so long venture into this activity.  We reviewed “Hatchet” and “A Young Reader’s Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.   I made it easy:  I wrote out a basic book report with about a dozen fill-in-the-blanks (as in, “This book report is about _____________, and it is a ___________ story.”).  My son filled in the blanks and then I read the reports out loud. Most satisfactory. My son really liked doing this. I think this puts a final stamp on finishing a book, so we will be doing this again.

You would think I could get this in focus, but...no.

You would think I could get this in focus, but…no.

Le Fictitious Local Diner’s story problem – Last night we pretended that the diner needed to prepare 20 dozen Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies to sell during intermission of the spring band concert at the local elementary school. We used the unbeatable recipe on the back of the chocolate chip package to work out the amounts of ingredients needed.

Our music focus for last night – listening to some of the music Felix Mendelssohn wrote for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.

  • “The Overture” – Shakespeare wrote the play in the 1590’s and Mendelssohn wrote his overture (which is just so grand and descriptive) in 1826, at the age of SEVENTEEN!!!

  • “The Wedding March” – Years later, in 1842, Mendelssohn wrote a few other pieces for the play, most noteworthy is the glorious wedding march (which served three weddings at once – the Duke of Athens/Queen of the Amazons, Hermia/Lysander, and Helena/Demetrius) (and several million weddings ever since).

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH