Science

A Glimpse and a Glance

What was life like for my son’s grandparents, who were teenagers during the Great Depression and young adults during World War II?  

We got a glimpse of the Great Depression – through Cheryl Mullenbach’s first-rate book “The Great Depression for Kids”:

  • setting the scene for the Great Depression: the roaring twenties
  • Herbert Hoover’s policies and FDR’s “New Deal”
  • and when things could not get any worse: the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s
  • differences between city schools and country schools
  • fun diversions:  roller derbies, the circus, Shirley Temple
  • neighbor helping neighbor, farmer helping farmer  (very heartening)
  • vocabulary and concepts defined:  migrant workers, prohibition, the stock market, banks collapsing, breadlines, striking workers, rationing, silent movies /“talkies”, rural, urban

We got a glimpse of the early days of World War II – through Richard Peck’s YA novel, “On the Wings of Heroes”.  Peck’s short chapters seamlessly combine the realities of a nation at war with a middle school student’s realities:

  • an adored older brother serving in the air force
  • rationing (we did not know that even shoes were rationed)
  • collection drives for the war effort (rubber tires, paper, all types of metal), culminating in the most wonderful town event:  a parade of rusted out jalopies headed for the scrap yard
  • ineffectual teachers vs. dynamite craftier-than-a-fox teachers
  • classroom bullies (who are served their just desserts)
  • the best friend
  • the hilarious next door neighbors

This is a comforting book set during nervous times and a perfect follow up to our study of the Great Depression.

A glimpse at trees and the high seas – 

Trees, a Rooted History” –  Socha and Grajkowski explore 32 tantalizing tree topics and team them with clever, superbly executed illustrations.  Our favorite two-page spreads: prehistoric trees (lots of fern-like leaves), the tallest trees (FYI, the tallest tree in the world:  “Hyperion”, a coast redwood in California), tree houses (why yes, we would like to stay in the treehouse on the grounds of  Amberley Castle in England), and the art of bonsai (who can’t love the sheer art and patience evident in a bonsai tree?).

We concluded our tree unit with a fill-in-the-blank version of the Joyce Kilmer’s poem of 1913, “Trees”.  (This was easy for my son – we have read this poem many times.)

Speaking of trees:  a Farmer Brown story problem – Farmer Brown’s cat, Olive, loves to scamper to the top of the front yard apple tree, but is jittery about the descent.  Smart thinking Farmer Brown has been successful in coaxing Olive down the tree with a fragrant offering of tuna.  If a can of tuna costs $4 and Farmer Brown needs to lure Olive down around 7 times a month, will $400 be enough to cover the cost of Olive’s “rescue tuna” this year?  (answer at bottom of post)

deep sea voyage

Professor Astro Cat’s Deep-Sea Voyage” – YAY! We have the new book by Dr. Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman!  My son and I have loved every book by this team (especially “Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space”).  And once again, THIS IS WHAT A LEARNING EXPERIENCE SHOULD LOOK LIKE IN BOOK FORM.  We are only half way through, but here is what has grasped our attention so far:

  • How low can you go?  My son and I both shivered as we read about depth zones in the ocean.  How it gets darker/colder and darker/colder and darker/colder the lower you go (thank heavens for deep sea vents) .  We found the Mariana Trench (the deepest known place on Earth) on our globe and pondered how anybody found this in the first place.
  • Ocean birds:  We are giving “A+ for Effort Awards” to cormorants, sea birds that can dive to 130 feet below sea level, and Arctic terns, who migrate further than any other animal on Earth (from north pole to south pole).
  • Octopuses have NINE brains: each arm has a brain – after getting over the semi-creepiness of this, we mused over the mechanics of an arm having a brain.
  • Most thought provoking:  those who have viewed fish tanks at any aquarium will have seen schools of fish moving together quickly and almost poetically.  Now that we think about it, we have never seen fish bumping into each other.  WHY?  Because fish have something totally confusing called the LATERAL LINE SYSTEM which enables them to detect vibrations, movement, and pressure from their surroundings.  

manderinefish

  • The utterly elegant manderinefish:  our new favorite fish 

A glance at ants –  If you need to know about ants, may we recommend, “The Life and Times of the Ant”, by Charles Micucci.  It is simply jammed with all sorts of stuff we budding ant scholars did not know previously, like:  

  • an ant scholar is properly known as a myrmecologist (what an RTW – really tough word)
  • a queen ant can live for up to 15 years and can produce 1million eggs annually
  • all worker ants are ladies;  the only job for male ants is fathering ant young ’uns
  • ants rely on the senses of touch, smell, sound, and taste (but not sight)

Concluding thought:   ants have been busy on Earth for around 100 million years.  They are smart, strong and supremely organized.  Homo sapiens have been busy on Earth for less than 1 million years.  Some of us are smart, some are strong, few are supremely organized.  No wonder we cannot get a handle on how to deal with ants in the sugar bowl.

Classical Music Time – we created a soundtrack for busy ants:

  • Moto Perpetuo by Niccolo Paganini,  1835.  We’re imagining ants with teeny iPods, working non-stop to the rhythm of Paganini’s composition.  Do they notice how this four and a half minute piece seems to be managed on a single breath by trumpet virtuoso, Wynton Marsalis?

  • Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, composed in 1748 by George Frideric Handel for his oratorio, “Solomon”.  All hail the Queen of the Ant Colony!  After producing all those eggs, this little lady deserves all the royal pomp that Handel can muster – 

  • Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4, movement 3 – Oh my, it is as if Tchaikovsky was writing about ants marching toward the ultimate prize:  A PICNIC BASKET.  There they go!  March, march, march, up and down little hills on the trail, no time for funny business.  But wait!  About a minute and a half in, AN OBSTACLE in the middle of the path!  A big leaf perhaps?  But take heart, quick thinking ants maneuver around the leaf and by minute 3, they are back on track.  What a grand ending as the picnic basket is reached (even the orchestra’s conductor is jubilant!).  Treasures (maybe a potato chip and cookie crumbs) are hoisted to bring back to the Queen, and the march back to the colony’s nest commences.  (My son LOVED the commentary and welcomed it again in the next night’s music line-up)(success!) –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  yes)

Mid-March Roundup

They glide through the air with the greatest of ease – We are reading “Catching Air”, a book focused on GLIDING ANIMALS (non-bird animals that seemingly fly from tree to tree).  This is our third book by Sneed B. Collard III, whose writings on lizards and bird beaks (for heavens sakes) have made us enthusiastic observers.   As usual, the material he presents in “Catching Air” makes us feel super scholarly:

  • we now know that large eyes on animals are suggestive of a nocturnal nature
  • we now know the difference between flying, gliding, and parachuting animals
  • we now know what a patagium (vocab) is and we know how to pronounce it
  • we discussed the difference between a carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore
  • we are now among those who know where the largest, second largest, and third largest islands in the world are (the largest, of course, is Greenland – where there are no gliding animals, but there are gliding animals aplenty in Papua New Guinea, the second largest island and Borneo, third largest island) 
  • last night we read about the creepiest creepiest creepiest thing:  the air gliding snakes of Borneo     

Editing Triumph:  Hans Christian Anderson – I wanted my son to understand references that originated from Anderson’s writings, like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “The Ugly Duckling”, so we read from a most elegant edition of his fairy tales, compiled by Noel Daniel (published in 2013).  This book is thoughtfully organized and filled with sumptuous surprises.  There is a lot of gold ink, short informative sidebars, and each fairy tale is teamed up with its own illustrator  (the likes of Maurice Sendak and Arthur Rackham).  THIS is the edition that anybody interested in Hans Christian Anderson should own. 

Quick Notes –

  • Hokusai:  After finishing “The Old Man Mad about Drawing” (Francois Place), learning more about Katsushika Hokusai, woodcut print master of the late 1700’s, I presented my son with 4 Hokusai poster possibilities for his room.  He selected the classic, “The Great Wave”.  Even in poster form, it is more spectacular than I had imagined.
  • Marsupials:  First of all, “marsupial” is a fun word to say.  Marsupial, marsupial, marsupial.  We finished a unit on marsupials – those mammals that nurture their newborns in mom’s front pocket – except for those marsupials whose mom’s don’t have a front pocket (which our book should have expanded upon)(editing disappointment)(sigh).
  • Compass directions:  I did a compass check with my son.  Did he know north, south, east, and west?  YES.
  • Hank the Cow Dog:  It has been years since we have read through the John R. Erickson series.  This is the ridiculousness we need to conclude each day.  We pretty much love Hank.

Complaint Department:  My son and I are studying architectural landmarks.  I am not mentioning our resource because this book could have been so much better.  I would not be giving this editor a raise anytime soon:

  • Our book provides only vague references to each landmark’s location, as if the exact whereabouts were a secret.  Seriously?  No nearby city mention?  No COUNTRY mention?  How can there not be a little map accompanying each entry?   
  • Whereas all entries are interesting, are they all really landmarks?  Are the Roman Baths of England a landmark?  Are the the buried terra-cotta army figures in China a landmark?
  • Often the book waxes on about a particular object of fascination (fabulous mosaics, a special stone, etc) associated with a particular landmark, and then does not include a photo of the object.  AAAAACK.

Nevertheless, we do have our favorite landmarks:

  • First place honors go to the hundred foot tall Christ the Redeemer of Rio de Janeiro.  Monumental simplicity.  Of interest:  funding ran low during construction, so the Vatican stepped in to assist.  Nice.
  • Second place, measuring in at 185 feet (on one side) is the relentless engineering fiasco and utterly charming Leaning Tower of Pisa.  

Story problem – a landmark at Farmer Brown’s roadside produce stand!  In the hopes of making his produce stand a tour-bus destination, Farmer Brown has commissioned a sculptor to create a 10 foot high bronze ear of corn, to be positioned near the stand.  That should get everyone’s attention!  The “artwork” will be true to actual corn proportions.  If there are 50 kernels of corn in a typical row on a corncob, each kernel must be approximately how wide in the sculpture?  (answer at bottom of post)

A)  2.5 inches     B)  5 inches     C)  7.5 inches     D)  2.5 feet

Classical Music Time – earlier in this month (MARCH), a local radio station hosted a “vote for your favorite march” opportunity.  We listen to marches every Friday night throughout the year, so my son definitely knew the three he was voting for:

  • Marche Militaire No. 1 in D major, composed as a piano four-hands piece by  Franz Schubert and first published in 1826.   Perhaps best described as a ballroom march, Marche Militaire is also effectively used in the cute-as-anything Disney cartoon of 1932, “Santa’s Workshop” (my son LOVES this cartoon – frankly, I love this cartoon).  Note:  the extremely competent pianists in this clip do take quite a bit of time to get started:

  • March of the Prague Student Legion, by Bedrich Smetana, composed in 1848.  This is a march that fills you with nationalistic pride, makes you throw your shoulders back and stand up straight.  We love the snappy pace of this particular recording.  As an added listening bonus, tucked into the middle of the march, my son and I listen for a few bars of “The Farmer in the Dell”:

  • The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s theme),  John Williams’ genius nod to aggression and menace.  In this film clip, John Williams conducts the LA Philharmonic Orchestra (complete with Jedi and Mr. Vader):

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  A)  2.5”)

In a Happy Place

flags nordic

If you’re happy and you know it (you must be living in one of the Nordic countries) We wanted to learn a bit about Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland when we read through the 2019 survey which ranked these Nordic countries the happiest in the world.  (FYI:  the USA placed 19th out of 156 – not too shabby)

We are using multiple resources, our globe is out, and here’s what has caught our attention: 

  • there are 30 active volcanos on Iceland
  • the only Finnish word in the American language is “sauna”
  • male AND female reindeer have antlers, and their wonky antlers are NOT symmetrical (vocab)
  • we know where to find 5 versions of the Nordic cross (all 5 countries use the Nordic cross on their national flag)
  • the Danish alphabet has three letters not found in the English alphabet
  • in 2019, the Helsinki, Finland public library was awarded Best Public Library in the World!

For those working toward a PhD in Herpetology – “Lizards” by Sneed B. Collard III is probably not the book.  For the rest of us, it IS the book:  organized, written in a casual voice, funny, funny, funny and filled with opinions, pretty good photos, and easy to grasp facts.  I tested my son on his lizard info comprehension by having him take THE LIZ QUIZ.  (A+, of course)(yay!)

Story Problems! 

From Le Fictitious Local Diner –  January is not only CHICKEN POT PIE MONTH at the diner, it is FREE IN-TOWN DELIVERY FOR CHICKEN POT PIES MONTH. Sales are skyrocketing.  Typically, the diner sells 50 pot pies a week.  But during free-delivery month, the diner has been selling 150 weekly.  Each pot pie costs $3 to produce and sells for $8.  How much more per week does the diner PROFIT in chicken pot pies during the free delivery month?
A)  $150     B)  $300     C)  $500     D)  $800  (answer at bottom of post)

From Farmer Brown’s ranch – Every January, Farmer Brown provides each of his 5 farm hands with 2 new pair of fleece lined jeans (at $50 each, including tax) and a heavy-duty waterproof jacket (at $90 each, including tax).  Was Farmer Brown able to spend less than $1,000 for the purchases this year? (answer at bottom of post)

Zigzagging from our solar system to  woodcut prints to Claude Debussy –

planetarium

– It started with “Planetarium”, Raman Prinja’s dazzling book of planets, galaxies, dark matter, etc.  My son and I have read through several excellent outer space books, so we are on the lookout for anything new:  “Planetarium” did not disappoint –   we have now been introduced to THE OORT CLOUD.  But the real story for us:  the imaginative and superbly crafted woodcut print illustrations by Chris Wormell.

– We are now in WOODCUT PRINT APPRECIATION mode:  we are re-reading “The Old Man Mad about Drawing”, about the great Japanese woodcut print master, Hokusai.  We are also working through “Making Woodblock Prints” by Chesterman and Nelson, to understand the skills and tools involved.

– THEN, while listening to the radio show, “Exploring Music with Bill McLaughlin” we learned that Claude Debussy was so intrigued by woodcut prints that he requested that Hokusai’s famed “The Great Wave” be used on the cover of his La Mer sheet music.

Our classical music selections – the focus had to be on Claude Debussy.  As polished and deeply moving as the music is, we do not often select Debussy pieces for our nightly STUDIES AND STORIES conclusion as we are usually looking for something jollier.  However, three pieces that we are familiar with (and like) – 

  • Jeux de Vagues – movement 2 from Debussy’s 1905 orchestral composition, La Mer.  My son and I envision being plopped in the middle of an ocean where the music has no beginning nor end.  That is what we hear in this intuitive piece:

  • Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun – this 10+ minute symphonic poem, composed in 1894, is considered to be the beginning of modern music.  Here is what we think:  that flute player, who opens the piece is under ENORMOUS pressure:

  • Clair de Lune – the beloved movement 3 from Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque (for piano), of 1905.  

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  Diner – C.  $500, Farmer Brown – Yes)

The Power of the Deadline

I set myself a goal to post one more time before 2020.  So, VOILA!  Where have I been?  It’s been two and half months!  (We are still here, we are still reading stories and delving into academic material every night.)  My “Poor Me” explanation is hastily offered at the bottom of the page.  But meanwhile, a brief review of what we’ve been learning:

Nonfiction – 

Low Earth Orbit – Oh my gosh, who wouldn’t feel elite and intellectual knowing what LOW EARTH ORBIT means?  Being able to use it in a sentence?  That is one reason my son and I loved “Building on a Dream:  The International Space Station”, written by Tamra B. Orr, published in 2018 (so essentially up to date).  We learned that anything that orbits within 1,200 miles from the earth’s surface is considered LEO.  The ISS is positioned 240 miles from the earth’s surface.  MATH PROBLEM:   1)  If the moon is approximately 240,000 miles from earth, the ISS is what percentage of that distance?  2)  If the ISS circles Earth 15.5 times daily, how many orbits are made in a year? (answers at bottom of post) 

Opera Stories – Sing Me a Story” – a worthy book by the Metropolitan Opera that explains in great detail an array of opera stories.  Our brief synopses of the book’s synopses – 

  • Aida – SAD:  a terrible misunderstanding, lovers die at end
  • Amahl and the Night Visitors – HAPPY:  good things come to those pure of heart
  • The Barber of Seville – HAPPY:  characters in disguise, happy ending
  • La Boheme – SAD:  poverty, love, tragic death
  • Carmen – SAD:  Carmen (not a sympathetic character) comes to a bad end (a stabbing death)
  • The Daughter of the Regiment – HAPPY:  all sorts of surprises, happy ending
  • L’Enfant et les Sortilèges – HAPPY, SORT OF:  naughty boy has a change of heart
  • Die Fledermaus – HAPPY:  ever so many things going on, merry ending
  • Hansel and Gretel – HAPPY, SORT OF:  morbid fun
  • The Love for Three Oranges – WHO KNOWS:  way, way, way too confusing for the likes of us
  • The Magic Flute – HAPPY:  really long, many intertwined themes, triumphant ending
  • Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg – HAPPY, SORT OF: the trials of joining the town chorus
  • Pagliacci – SAD:  vintage opera (clowns and a stabbing)
  • Porgy and Bess – HEART WRENCHING:  drugs, gambling, murder.  Too adult for us.
  • The Tales of Hoffman – SAD:  the three weird loves of ETA Hoffman PLUS tuberculosis

Around the World – we really enjoyed every page of “Amazing Expeditions” by Anita Ganeri, superbly illustrated by Michael Mullan.  

  • Most engaging journeys – Marco Polo, Norgay and Hillary, Ellen MacArthur
  • Most likable expedition leader – James Cook
  • Most unlikable expedition leader – Hernan Cortes

Maurice Sendak – we are in the middle of a unit on American illustrator Maurice Sendak, using multiple resources.  We loved learning that among his many jobs, Sendak constructed window displays for famed NYC toy store, FAO Schwartz.  We are fascinated by the meticulous crosshatching in many of Sendak’s illustrations (and we tried our hand at crosshatching)(and we were terrible, our drawings looked like fly eyes).

Book Learnin’ – we have been giving focused attention to book anatomy:  prologue, epilogue, table of contents, and glossary.   But mostly THE TABLE OF CONTENTS.  We are astonished by what we can learn just by fully appreciating a good table of contents.  

Fiction – 

The Best Man” – as per usual, Richard Peck writes a well-paced book we were happy to open every night.  Amid the chaos of middle-school hijinks, restoring automobiles, best friend’s mom becoming a teacher, and computer geeks, the theme of an uncle being gay is woven in seamlessly.   This is the first time I have discussed homosexuality with my son and this book made it easy.  Kudos to the late Richard Peck (he passed away in 2018).

hearts and music

Classical Music Corner – our favorite pieces that we heard for the first time in 2019:

  • Tambourin, composed by Francois-Joseph Gossec for his 1794 opera, “Le Triomphe de la Republique”.   We just LOVE this short happy piece, here played by the best:  Sir James Galway:

  • Mozart’s Oboe Concerto in C major, movement 3, composed in 1777.  Great piece:  so precise and borderline fussy:

  • Mozart’s Flute Concerto No.2 in D major, movement 3, “composed” in 1778 (it is the same thing as the Oboe Concerto, just transposed for flute – so the patron refused to pay!)  We had to have a listen:

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

Low Earth Orbit math problem answers:  1)  .001%  and 2)  56.6 orbits

PS  My original plan was to post twice monthly.  It is still my plan.  Here is the thing:  the past 6 months my son’s full-throttle OCD has significantly narrowed the hours I have to think, write, and post our stories and studies progress.  Please, 2020 be a nicer year than 2019.

Two Siberts!

FYI:  The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal – awarded annually to the most distinguished INFORMATIONAL book for children.  (Really, these are books for everybody.)  Sibert award winners in our library:
– 2018  Honor Award  Grand Canyon, Jason Chin
– 2015  Medal Winner The Right Word, Roget and His Thesaurus, Jen Bryant
– 2015  Honor Award  The Mad Potter – George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius, Greenberg/Jordan
– 2014  Honor Award  Locomotive, Brian Floca
– 2010  Honor Award  Moonshot, Brian Floca

Two more Sibert winners in the STORIES AND STUDIES CENTER this past week:

2017 Honor Award:  Giant Squid, by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann.  I was looking for information on giant squid (because, why not?) and getting irritated because the books I found included only illustrations NOT photographs.  Well, here is why:  giant squid are tricky to locate.  The first time scientists actually saw a live giant squid was in 2006!  In 2012 (for the very first time), a giant squid was captured on film swimming at a depth of more than 2,000 feet under sea level.  After reading through the book, we confirmed that restaurants do not use giant squid for their calimari menu entrees.  Squid used in restaurants are around a foot in length.  Giant squid are about the size of a bus (and have the largest eyeballs of any living creature on earth) (not that this has anything to do with the dining experience).  We also talked about black squid ink.  Thinking about any sort of squid makes my back shiver.

 2007 Medal Winner:  Team Moon, by Catherine Thimmesh.  Perfect timing!  We were reading this the very week that marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.  “Team Moon” focuses upon critical challenges, last minute glitches, and the team of 400,000 focused professionals who supported the project that landed the first men on the moon.  We read about:

  • unexpected alarms (hearts in our throats)
  • potential fuel deficiency in the lunar module (hearts in our throats)
  • the space suits and shoes (requirements, construction, testing, testing, testing) (hearts in our throats when we read about Armstrong and Aldrin jumping up and down on the moon – disastrous if any seams had ripped)
  • the cameras (OK, this we could deal with, put us on the camera committee)
  • the potential for deadly bacteria/virus returning from outer space (hearts in our throats)
  • the parachute landing (hearts in our throats)
  • high winds in Australia that nearly prevented TV transmission (again, we could deal with this)

We learned that every aspect of Apollo 11 had a “backup program for the backup program for the backup program”, while acknowledging that any surprise from outer space could disable the mission at every single stage.  

We loved finding out why Armstrong and Aldrin shed their oxygen backpacks at the end of their moon walk and left them on the moon:  they needed the room in the lunar module for the moon rocks they were bringing back to earth!  (This book is so A+.) 

BTW,  here is something else we learned (via Wikipedia):  the moon is 240,000 miles away from planet Earth and the International Space Station is a mere 250 miles away.  We learned about the concept of “Low Earth Orbit”  (anything that orbits between 99 and 1,200 miles from the surface of the earth).  So, questions:  is the ISS in low earth orbit?  is the moon in low earth orbit?

Speaking of distances – A Farmer Brown story problem – Farmer Brown’s truck manages 22 miles on one gallon of gas.  Today, the truck has 2 gallons of gas left in the tank and Farmer Brown’s grandmother needs a ride into town to the beauty salon.  The beauty salon is 6 miles away, but on the way to the salon, Granny would like to stop at her friend Beulah’s house to return a cookie tray she borrowed for a tea party.  Beulah’s house is 10 miles beyond the beauty salon.  But before she can return the tray, Granny needs to go to the florist to buy Beulah a bouquet to thank her for lending the tray.  The florist is 3 miles in the opposite direction from the beauty salon.  Does Farmer Brown have enough gas in his truck to drive Granny to the florist, to Beulah’s, to the beauty salon, and then back to the ranch?  (answer at bottom of post)

Music to capture the triumph of the Apollo 11 mission –  we were looking for orchestral music that celebrated the can-do spirit of America, applauded the historical achievement, and conveyed JOB WELL DONE:

– Hoe-Down from Aaron Copland’s ballet (1942), “Rodeo” – EXCELLENT SELECTION:  a joyful, rambunctious dance of exhilaration.  A splendid performance by the National Youth Orchestra of the USA (2018):

– Theme from “Bonanza” TV show – EXCELLENT SELECTION:  composed by Livingston, Evans, and Rose for the Bonanza TV show (1959 to 1973).  A short, robust piece brimming with that American confidence:

– And then, HOO BOY:  my son and I took a listen to the #1 pop song of 1969:  “Sugar, Sugar”, by The Archies.  Let’s get this straight – the very same people who could collectively appreciate the magnitude of the moon landing listened to this song enough times to send it shooting up to the top of the “Billboard Hot 100” list.  Maybe we just needed something ridiculously uncomplicated.  “Sugar, Sugar” to the rescue! 

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  yes, barely.  Granny’s zigzag route to the beauty salon is 38 miles in length)

Dear Librarians

newbery award        caldecott award

Pick us!  Pick us!  We are ready to serve!  We’ve just been reading about the Association for Library Service to Children, which annually recognizes book and video excellence with ten different medals and awards.  Would my son and I love find ourselves on any of the award selection committees?  YES!  Pick us!  Pick us!  Once we settled down from our committee responsibilities fantasy, we narrowed our focus to learn everything about two of the ten awards: the Newbery Medal (literature) and the Caldecott Medal (book illustration):

– The Newbery Medal – we read “Balderdash” (Michelle Markel/Nancy Carpenter).  A snappy,  brief look at the life of publisher John Newbery.  Inspired by philosopher John Locke’s quote, “Reading should be a treat for children”, Newbery enjoyed enormous success by printing books that children WANTED to read (prior to this, most reading material for children was designed to put the fear of the afterlife into the reader’s behavior).  The first Newbery Medal was awarded in 1922.  We read through the list of Newbery Medal and Honor Book award winners and notated those books we had read:

  • 2016 – The War that Saved My Life – Important
  • 2013 – The One and Only Ivan – Liked
  • 2011 – Turtle in Paradise – Really liked
  • 2008 – The Wednesday Wars – Really liked
  • 2007 – Penny from Heaven – Really liked
  • 2003 – Hoot – Satisfying
  • 2003 – Surviving the Applewhites – Oh how we LOVE this book, have read 4 times
  • 2002 – Everything on a Waffle – Liked
  • 2001 – A Year Down Yonder – Really liked
  • 2001 – Because of Winn Dixie – Liked
  • 2001 – Hope was Here – Really liked
  • 1999 – A Long Way from Chicago – Really liked
  • 1999 – Holes – Important
  • 1991 – Maniac Magee – Liked
  • 1988 – Hatchet – we’ve read this 3 times
  • 1984 – The Sign of the Beaver – we are currently reading this, like it a LOT
  • 1978 – Ramona and Her Father – Liked
  • 1973 – Frog and Toad Together – Really?
  • 1963 – A Wrinkle in Time – Really liked
  • 1961 – The Cricket in Times Square – Liked
  • 1953 – Charlotte’s Web – The best
  • 1952 – Ginger Pye – Liked
  • 1939 – Mr. Popper’s Penguins – Liked
  • 1923 – The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle – we are currently reading this, LOVE this book

24 down, 74 to go – Question for my son:  shall we read every Newbery Medalist?  YES!  Why not, what else are we doing?  The challenge begins.

– The Caldecott Medal – we read “Randolph Caldecott – The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing” (Leonard S. Marcus) – a most comprehensive biography, filled with Caldecott’s charming, skillful, intuitive drawings.  This book provoked us to order “Old Christmas:  Sketch Book of Washington Irving” (1876) with illustrations by Randolph Caldecott (we are saving this for December reading).  The Association for Library Services to Children began awarding the Caldecott Medal in 1937.

french fries    milkshakes    french fries

Story problem from the local diner – Miss Jeanette (the new diner manager) has an idea to spark positive PR (vocab) for the diner!  She is proposing that for the upcoming summer months, the diner  award “Shake and Fries” vouchers (vocab) to high school students who volunteer during story-time at the local library.  Miss Jeanette is projecting that 50 coupons will be awarded over the summer.  If a “Shake and Fries” voucher costs the diner $3, how much how much will the diner potentially spend supporting the story-time literacy event? 
A.)  $35     B.)  $53     C.)  $150     D.)  $350

Lactose intolerant students earning vouchers can substitute lemonade for the milkshake, and (happy day) the cost for the diner will be reduced by 20%.  If 10% of the students opt for the lemonade, what is the total projected cost of the diners’ voucher program?
A.)  $20     B.)  $45     C.)  $147     D.)  $235 (answers at bottom of post)

A Serendipitous Pairing – Two A+ books that we just happened to be reading at the same time, that SHOULD be read at the same time:

“My Life with the Chimpanzees”, an autobiography (vocab) by Jane Goodall
and
“The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle”, by Hugh Lofting

My son and I were about three chapters into the Dr. Doolittle book (and just loving it) (meaning that my son has a difficult time letting me shut the book at the end of each night’s reading) when we started the Jane Goodall book.  And then, WHAT A SURPRISE!  Jane Goodall mentions several times in her autobiography the impact the Dr. Doolittle books had in shaping her future.   My son and I love thinking that maybe Hugh Lofting (1886 – 1947) might know how much good work his books inspired.

Dr. Doolittle inspires our classical music selections – Right there, in chapter 6, Dr. Doolittle entertains the Stubbins family with his flute playing!  What doesn’t that man know how to do? The book states that the visit took place in 1839, so my son and I put together a little flute recital program, selecting flute pieces that were composed prior to 1839 – pieces that Dr. Doolittle actually could have played – 

  • Francois-Joseph Gossec’s “Tambourin for flute and orchestra”, composed in the early 1790’s.  This is just so darn sweet.  Play, Dr. Doolittle, play!

  • “Badinerie” from Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2, 1739.  We learned that a badinerie is a brief and lively dance.  We are not sure that anybody could play this piece with greater accuracy and speed than Sir James Galway (except, of course, Dr. Doolittle) –

  • Beethoven’s spritely “Trio for 3 Flutes in G major”, movement III.  The story goes that this piece was composed in 1786 when Beethoven was fifteen.  Whoa.  Vivacious and brisk – the perfect conclusion for our Dr. Doolittle mini concert –  

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Story problem answers:  C.)  $150 and C.)  $147)

Not on my watch

Last Tuesday, I was lunching at a neighborhood cafe and felt a magnetic pull to eavesdrop on the two teenagers a few tables down who had obviously cut class.  The theme of their distressing conversation was “I hate school”.  Oh my.  Who or what stomped the life out of their learning adventure?  

grandma watch

Not on my watch.  Every single night it is my pleasure to make sure that the learning adventure for my son (AND myself) is set on FULL BLAST.  One goal is to read something so startling that we stop, reread, and marvel.  A few items that had us marveling this past week:

national parks better

  • From “The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth”, by Rachel Ignotofsky:
    • the one place on earth, that by 1959 international treaty, can only be used for peace and science (with all discoveries shared freely).  Nice.  (Antarctica)
    • while many ecosystems are under threat from unsustainable farming techniques, deforestation, and global warming, the Mongolian Steppe has quite another problem:  GOATS.  One of Mongolia’s successful exports is the fiber from cashmere goats,  so there are a LOT of goats grazing with a vengeance, munching roots as well as the grass,  destroying entire landscapes.
    • the Gouldian finch of the Australian savanna.  Crazy GORGEOUS (see photo below in the music listening section).
  • From the Lonely Planet Kids book, “America’s National Parks”:
    • which state, after California and Alaska, boasts the greatest number of national parks?  (Utah).  We never would have guessed that.
    • there are national parks that exist primarily underwater:  American Samoa National Park, Biscayne National Park, Channel Islands National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Kenai Fjords National Park, and Everglades National Park.

tide pool 3 tries

More interesting information on the horizon  We have just started the terribly elegant little “Pacific Coast Tide Pools” by Marni Fylling.  So far we have become knowledgeable about low tides, high tides, the splash zone, the challenges of being permanently attached to a rock, and the toxic beauty of sea anemones.  Sponges are on deck.

trivia sign

Story problem:  Trivia Night at Le Fictitious Local Diner – Tuesday nights are slow at the diner, so the new manager, Miss Jeanette, is hosting “Tuesday Twilight Trivia” to bring in more customers.  Admission is the purchase of the “Tuesday Twilight Trivia Dinner Special” for $7.50.  If the first Tuesday there were 20 players and the second Tuesday there were 40 players, by what percentage did the the attendance rise?  
A)   20%      B)  40%       C)    50%     D)  100%

If the diner awards a cash prize of $25 to each evening’s winner, how much did the diner gross on night number two?
A)  $150     B)  $275     C)  $400     D)  $1,000
(answers at bottom of post)

finches

Music to celebrate that ridiculous-yet-gorgeous Gouldian finch –

  • Vivaldi’s “Flute Concerto in D major” (known as “The Goldfinch”), movement 3, published in 1728.  Yay, James Galway –

  • “Dawn” from Ravel’s ballet, “Daphnis and Chloe”, which premiered in 1912.  A superb, compact performance by the Berlin Phil, complete with chorus.  We put our full attention to listening for the subtle birdsong theme that runs in the background throughout the piece –

and finally:

tie dyed hippie    finch singular

  • “Green Tambourine” by the Lemon Pipers.  The psychedelic colorwork that is the Gouldian finch simply begged for a vintage song from the psychedelic 1960’s.  How can we not smile when we listen to this?  GREAT rhythm.  Peace out –

(for more ’60’s vibe:  the April 29, 2015 post, “Peace, Love, and Tambourines”)

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  D)  100%  and  B)  $275)

Referencing Robert Burns

On the grounds that my son has enough to deal with – I do my best to keep themes of MAN’S INHUMANITY TO MAN* removed from our stories and studies.  However, last night three of our books ambushed us with the ugliness of RACISM:

three books 

  • From Kelly Yang’s novel, “Front Desk”:  racism and racial profiling
  • From Rachel Ignotofsky’s “Women in Science”:  we hated learning that brilliant ophthalmologist/inventor Patricia Bath contended with racism throughout her academic career
  • From Kekla Magoon’s novel, “The Season of Styx Malone”:  we are pretty sure that the reluctance of our protagonists’ father to allow his children to venture into the big city is based upon a past trauma rooted in racism

I provided my son with a concise explanation of racism, and followed up with some questions:

  • does it seem smart or ridiculous to assign specific characteristics to an entire group of people based on appearance?
  • do we need to make others look bad to make ourselves feel good?
  • is racism ever acceptable?
  • what letter grade would we give racism?

robert burns

*“Man’s inhumanity to man” – the phrase was first used by Scottish treasure, Robert Burns, in his lengthy poem of 1784, “Man was made to mourn:  A Dirge”.  We carefully examined each line of this stanza (vocab):

Many and sharp the numerous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And man, whose heav’n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, –
Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!

natural attraction book

Why can’t we be friends? – My son and I are reading from Iris Gottlieb’s cutie of a book “Natural Attraction”, which is filled with examples of unexpected and beneficial partnerships in nature:  tarantulas/frogs, ants/aphids, whales/barnacles.  (New vocab:  symbiotic and mutualism.)  This book offers an uplifting way to conclude each night’s academic agenda.

scot lion

Story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – to bring attention to Robert Burns’ 260th birthday, the diner owner was thinking about adding “A Taste of Old Scotland” onto the dinner menu, but there proved to be no interest among the chefs in preparing haggis, so as sort of a second choice, butterscotch sundaes were added onto the dessert menu as a watered down nod to the great poet’s homeland.  I know, so lame.  Over the course of the first month on the menu, 500 butterscotch sundaes were served up, 80% to teenagers.  How many non-teenagers enjoyed a butterscotch sundae during this time?  (answer at bottom of post)

red rose

Music to celebrate Robert Burns – we listened to the well known Burns song, “Oh, My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose”, and then selected two pieces that idealize his native Scotland –

  • “Oh, My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose”, lyrics by Robert Burns (1794) set to a traditional Scots folk melody.  This is a lovely rendition, but BTW, there is the most adorable performance in the 1999 movie, “My Life So Far” –

  • Max Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy”, movement 4 (selected because the dominant melodic theme is based upon a Burns song, “Scots Wha Hae”), composed in 1880.  Interesting note:  Max Bruch’s first visit to Scotland was one year AFTER the premiere of his “Fantasy”.  Another interesting note:  this youtube video indicates that we are listening to movement 5, but we are not.  This is fake news;  there is no movement 5.  This is a clerical error. –

  • Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 in A minor (known as “The Scottish”), movement 2, composed in 1842, as he reflected upon his 1829 sojourn to Scotland.  The short movement is full of bounce and spirit and this performance is conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.  Winner, winner! –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  100 non-teenagers)

For the record…

science women

We love this book – We continue to be so impressed with the 50 brilliant, determined women showcased in Rachel Ignotofsky’s “Women in Science”.  My son and I were happy to read an entry on Lillian Gilbreth – a women we were already acquainted with – psychologist,  industrial engineer, mom of 12 (!) AND matriarch of the “Cheaper by the Dozen” clan (a book we have read 4 times).  But maybe our very favorite scientist is Marjory Stoneman Douglas – writer, conservationist, AND civil rights advocate, AND suffragist – whose work led JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME to the creation of the Everglades National Park in Florida.  A quote from Ms. Douglas has stayed with us: “I’d like to hear less talk about men and women and more talk about citizens. 

marjory 3

And we love this book – “Front Desk” by Kelly Yang.  Because of its underlying theme of SELF RELIANCE, this is the type of fiction I am always excited to share with my son.  Every chapter has our protagonist, Mia, dealing with the latest disaster at the motel her family is managing.  Every chapter bursts with sidebar discussion topics – we’ve considered the bravery needed to move from one country to another (Mia’s family is new to the USA from China), loan sharks, Monopoly, how to make a key, employment contracts, nice neighbors and crooked landlords.

front desk

To complement “Front Desk”, we are reading through Lonely Planet’s “China – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know”.  We are just barely into this book, but so far we have read about dragons, the gargantuan Chinese population, board games, dynasties, tea and paper (HEY!  We did not know that the Chinese invented TOILET PAPER). 

smoke detector

The Farmer Brown SAFETY FIRST story problem – Farmer Brown will be installing new smoke detectors throughout his barns.  Twenty devices (vocab) need to be ordered.  

He can either purchase 10-year lithium battery detectors for $13 each or he can purchase detectors for $12 each, that use a 9-volt battery (at $1 each), and replace batteries annually.  

Over the course of 10 years what would be the difference in cost between lithium battery detectors and 9-volt battery detectors?

A.  $20     B.  $26     C.  $150     D.  $180  (answer at bottom of post)

golden record

From the HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL department:  MUSIC IN SPACE –  with a degree of astonishment and skepticism, my son and I have been reading about the golden records that were placed aboard NASA’s 1977 Voyager I and Voyager II space missions.  FYI, at present, both spacecraft are waaaaaaaay far away, with Voyager I scheduled to pass near the star Gliese in 40,000 years.  40,000 YEARS.  (We discussed.)

The 31 music tracks – to be played by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization that has record players (WHOA.  We discussed.  Is it just us or do others see this endeavor as curiously preposterous?) – were selected by a committee headed by eminent American astronomer, Carl Sagan, of Cornell University.  Of the selections, seven are classical pieces – two from Beethoven and three from Bach (if they had only known!) (we discussed).  Last night we sampled the wide variety of the music chosen: 

  • Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 2”, movement 1, composed in 1721 (showcasing one of the most difficult-to-play trumpet parts in the classical music repertoire):

  • “Melancholy Blues” by Louis Armstrong, written in 1927.  This is the sole jazz selection on the golden record:

  • “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry, written in 1958, said to be one of the most recognizable songs in the history of popular music:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  D.  $180)

New Year, New Books

2019

(Christmas gift – thank you Jimmy)  On the basis of a single book, “Women in Science”, my son and I welcome to our academic library ANY book book written by Rachel Ignotofsky.  WOW.  Ms. Ignotofsky certainly meets her goal of creating educational works of art;  this  dazzling book is intelligently organized and jammed with the kind of information we want to know about.  So far, we have been enticed into learning about the contributions of women astronomers, chemists, mathematicians, entomologists, paleontologists, engineers, electricians, geneticists, and geologists.  This book is such a keeper.

timeline book

(Christmas gift – thank you Aunt Janet)  The Smithsonian “Timelines of Everything” book offers up approximately 150 timelines, each commanding a giant two-page spread.  The focus of each timeline is narrow and we always find something worth discussing further.  For instance:

  • agriculture – we spent some time musing over the fact that sheep were raised for milk and food beginning around 7,000 BCE, but wool was not woven into into fabric until 4,000 BCE (Whoa. A 3,000 year time gap).
  • the wheel – the first wheels were potters’ wheels (we did not guess this – and we do know all about potters’ wheels from our study of ceramic artist George E. Ohr).  
  • the written word – we marveled over the Rosetta Stone.
  • games – we now know that when we play tic-tac-toe we are playing one of mankind’s oldest games (first century BCE) (seriously, the 3 Wise Men could have known how to play tic-tac-toe).
  • religions – I had no idea that this would lead to a discussion of REINCARNATION.  But, duh, OF COURSE.  If one hasn’t heard of reincarnation one would want to spend a bit of time grasping the concept.

styx malone

Fiction Fun – “The Season of Styx Malone”, by Kekla Magoon. Styx is full throttle coolness and confidence.  Do we trust him?  We just don’t know.  This keeps us leaning forward as we read chapter after chapter.  Please don’t disappoint us Styx!

running dog

A super short, super easy Farmer Brown story problem – Often people visiting the ranch bring their dogs, so Farmer Brown’s farmhands have fenced in two dog runs for visiting canines.  Which dog run will give the animals more square footage:  the 6’x25’ run or the 5’x30’ run?  (answer at bottom of post)

conductor match

Classical Quiz – I wanted to check to see if my son was retaining info about the great musicians we have been listening to, so he matched up virtuosos with their instrument.  A few conductors were tossed into the mix to make things tricky.  FYI:  my son scored 100%.

music notes

That sounds familiar –  It is no secret that composers often borrow musical ideas from other composers.  (Usually they give credit, sometimes they get into BIG trouble).  Anyway,  I happen to like tracing routes of melodies through the centuries, so my lucky son gets to enjoy listening to my melody match-ups.  Quick examples:

  • Jacque Arcadelt’s Ave Maria melody of the mid 1500’s can be found in both Camille Saint-Saens’ 1886 Organ Symphony and the Finlandia Hymn from Jean Sibelius’ 1899 symphonic poem, Finlandia.
  • Luigi Denza’s Finiculi Funicula (1880) is front and center in Richard Strauss’s  Aus Italian (1886) and in Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Neapolitan Song (1907).
  • Brahms’ Symphony 3, movement 3 (1883) provides the melody line for  Carlos Santana’s Love of My Life (1999).

And this leads us to Bach and Rock – 

lute

Last week we listened to Bourrée in E minor from JS Bach’s Lute Suite No. 1, composed around 1710.  Nice, short, memorable melody (and my son learned that a guitar may be substituted for a lute).  A jewel of a performance by Kevin Low – and check out the loose  guitar strings:  

Then we listened to rock-group-from-the-60’s/70’s Jethro Tull’s recording of “Bouree”.  Such a lively interpretation of the Bach suite movement, but it is clear that lead musician, Ian Anderson, had not much experience playing the flute.  We read a few interviews and found out that Anderson was a self-taught flutist, admitting that he had no idea what he was doing.  So we say BRAVO to his CAN DO attitude.  

We concluded by listening to a 2005 recording of Ian Anderson playing the same piece, “Bouree”, with orchestral support.  Anderson did well with the 35 year practice period!  YAY. 

Also, we learned that the real Jethro Tull (inspiration for the rock group’s name) was a noted British agriculture pioneer (1674-1741).

jethro tull

Welcome to the best part of my day!
-Jane BH
(Story problem answer:  both dog run designs have the same square footage – 150 square feet)