Carnival of the Animals

The Octopus Shocker

He writes!  He illustrates! – For the past few weeks my son and I have become entranced with  Owen Davey books.   Informative, clever, teamed with sophisticated graphics in a perfection of colors.  Our type of book.  We’ve just finished – 

  • “Mad about Monkeys” – We needed to get a better grip on our knowledge of primates (as in the fact that chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, gibbons are NOT types of monkeys) (we had sort of thought they were)(we were wrong).  Also, we now have a passing knowledge of “old world” and “new world” monkeys.  
  • “Obsessive about Octopuses” – 1)  this book is so A+, 2) the correct plural of octopus is octopuses, NOT octopi, 3) we stopped short when we read about the common blanket octopus: the female stretches to 6 feet in length and the male (ARE YOU REALLY READY FOR THIS?) measures in at 1 inch. A live male blanket octopus was sighted for the first time in 2002 (Wikipedia) OH MY GOSH and 4)  THE SHOCKER!!!!!  Most of the 300 species of octopus live ONLY A FEW MONTHS!  I have been asking all my friends how long a typical octopus lives and guesses have ranged from 16 years to 50 years.  Dear dear magical, nimble, problem-solving octopuses –  taken at so young an age.
  • Next on the reading list, “Fanatical about Frogs”.

Deforestation – My son and I read a lot of books about endangered animals, so we know that loss of habitat is a primary cause.  We have come across the term, “deforestation”  many times, so deforestation was on our minds when we read from the excellent “How Ships Work” (a Lonely Planet Kids book) that – 

  • around 2,000 trees were used to build a Spanish galleon in the 1500’s (and we know there was more than one galleon).
  • 6,000 trees were needed to construct British flagship HMS Victory in 1765. 

 Deforestation is not a new trend.

“Everest” by Sangma Francis and Lisk Feng – all topics Everest are covered in this well written, well designed book:  Sherpas, the sacredness of the mountain, climbing clothes, the development of oxygen masks, trash on the mountain, routes to the summit, inspirational climbers AND my son and I are still musing over the fact that Mount Everest grows 1/3 inch a year.

“Little Men”, by Louisa May Alcott – I have read “Little Women” several times and I was eager to share my first reading of “Little Men” with my son.  1)  Jeepers, this is relentlessly moral story.  2) This is a difficult read what with the vernacular of the 1870’s and the loads of characters, some with multiple nicknames. I read aloud one paragraph and then take the same amount of time to untangle what I’ve just read for my son.  Sigh.  We have augmented “Little Men” by reading a short bio of Louisa May Alcott from “American Trailblazers” by Lisa Trusiani.

Time for a change in tone!  Story Problem – Farmer Brown Runs for Town Mayor!  –  Yes, Farmer Brown is running for town mayor and his chances for winning look good!  His campaign manager has all sorts of campaign ideas to get Farmer Brown’s name before the public:

  • 50 big yard signs spread around town, with the slogan, “Farmer Brown can make our town grow!” ($4 for each sign and $25 each for Farmer Brown’s two nephews to place the signs)
  • 1000 campaign buttons (“Farmer Brown can make our town grow!”) for $250
  • A running ad (boldly proclaiming that “Farmer Brown can make our town grow!”) in the local newspaper for $75
  • A banner spanning the width of Main Street boldly proclaiming, “Farmer Brown can make our town grow!” for $75
  • 1,000 grocery sacks at Farmer Brown’s road-side stand with “Farmer Brown can make our town grow!” imprinted for $150

Farmer Brown has budgeted $750 for campaign PR.  Can he afford all the ideas ?  (answer at bottom of post)

Classical Music for Octopuses – we were still thinking about the brief lives of the octopuses.  If the current crop of octopuses is going to enjoy classical music, the pieces had better be short.  May we suggest – 

  • Violin virtuoso Fritz Kreisler’s “Schön Rosmarin” (Beautiful Rosmarin), composed in 1905.  Just under two minutes. We listened for iconic Kreisler embellishments while easily envisioning an octopus swaying with the tides –
  • “Solfeggietto”, by CPE Bach, composed in 1766. One minute sixteen seconds. This fast, frantic piece is certainly the “go to” background music for an octopus needing to escape predators –
  • “The Aquarium” from Carnival of the Animals (1886), by Camille Saint-Saëns.  Two minutes, four seconds. Reflective, yearning, chilling, mysterious; it seems as if the octopus was the muse for this piece –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  NO!)

The Larger Picture

Looming Large:  Hannibal and Elephants

elephant with hannibal

“Hannibal Crossing the Alps on an Elephant” by Nicolas Poussin (1620-ish)

About Hannibal – we are reading from the Wicked History series, “Hannibal – Rome’s Worst Nightmare”.  Hannibal Barca:  an ambitious warrior with strategy skills perhaps surpassing history’s most effective military leaders.  We are currently reading about Hannibal’s most outrageous achievement – crossing the Alps with 100,000 soldiers and 40 elephants.  Interesting fact – when all was said and done – the Alps crossed and the war with Rome over (this would be the second Punic war – and isn’t PUNIC is such a weird word?) – only 1 elephant remained.  (HEARTBREAK)  (but isn’t the painting elegant?  We LOVE it and we’ve ordered a poster of it.)

My son and I wanted to know more, so we also read “Unsolved Mystery: Where did Hannibal get his War Elephants?” from the Ancient Origins website (ancient-origins.net).  This excellent short article: highly recommended.

hannibal

About Elephants – we are reading from Cheryl Bardoe’s book, “Mammoths and Mastodons – Titans of the Ice Age” (titan – vocab).  Absolutely text-book worthy.  A mini-mini sampling of what we’ve learned:

  • elephant (mammoth/mastodon) tusks are “ringed”, similar to a tree trunk.  Layers of ivory are added every day and reveal all sorts of stuff, like the elephant’s age, whether the female gave birth, food consumed, and the climate.
  • The remains of Columbian mammoths have been found in Texas!  It seems so strange to us that these prehistoric creatures have walked where we walk.  Crazy.

goldberg calendar

Large Pictures – Here is an abrupt change of topic:  my son and I love looking at the ridiculous inventions of Rube Goldberg.  However, Goldberg’s illustrations are so detailed, it is difficult for two people to absorb everything while sharing a book.  So, we have found a most useful vehicle for enjoying the engineering shenanigans of Mr. Goldberg:  a wall calendar!  A big calendar page is the perfect size for us to appreciate every nuance of Goldberg’s contraptions.

waitress in frame

And more large pictures! (at Le Fictitious Local Diner) – A large picture frame (3′ x 4′) has been installed on the wall next to the cash register at Le Fictitious Local Diner to showcase EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH.

If the diner employs 3 excellent cooks and 5 efficient and really nice waitresses, over the course of 4 years, how many times might each employee be designated as “employee of the month”?  If the recognition comes with an honorarium (vocab) of $50,  how much will the diner budget for this per year, and how much should each employee accrue (vocab) over the course of the 4 years?  Lastly, if the diner spends $15 to get a glossy print of each EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH, how much will the diner spend on the photos in a year? (semi-trick question:  some employees may be declared EOTM more than once in a year, and there is no need for duplicate photos, no sir, not at $15 a print).  (answer at bottom of post)

elephant brown

The Elephant in the Living Room – music to celebrate the largest terrestrial (vocab) animal:

  • Baby Elephant Walk, composed by iconic American composer Henry Mancini in 1961 for the movie “Hitari”.  This piece won a Grammy in 1962.

  • Pink Elephants on Parade, from the 1941 Disney movie, Dumbo, composed by Oliver Wallace and Ned Washington.  This movie segment received a bit of bad press, as many thought a film for children should not glorify hallucinations resulting from the mixing of the elephant’s water with champagne.  Ya know, this footage IS sort of disturbing.

  • The Elephant, from Camille Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals”, composed in 1886.  The orchestra’s double bass perfectly matches the heavy lumbering steps of the elephant.

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

(story problem answers:  6 times,   $600,   $300,   $120)

The Liberace Instigation

liberace

This post is not about the man, Liberace, but about a GLARING ERROR he made before treating the TV audience to his take on the classic Strauss “Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz”.  See for yourself:

You saw the problem, right?

Of course, I am referring to the introductory comment: “…I would like to take you back…many hundreds of years ago to that wonderful, romantic night when Johann Strauss first introduced the waltz…”.  Here is the GLARING ERROR:  Johann Strauss II premiered “The Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz” in 1867, just 86 years (NOT many hundreds of years) prior to Liberace’s 1953 TV show.

I sort of want my son to have a more accurate sense of when important musical compositions were written, so I have put together a simple chart of classical pieces that he is familiar with, and paired them with US Presidential administrations. This will give us both a bit of a sense of what was going on in the world when each piece was written, and remind us that many great compositions are not as old as we think (or Liberace thought)(seriously, I suspect a lot of people think classical music was written 500 years ago, in a galaxy far, far away).

The chart works this way:

USA Presidential Administration – 1 orchestral piece composed or premiered during that time period

George Washington  –  Haydn’s “Symphony No. 94” (Surprise Symphony), 1791
John Adams  –  Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No. 14” (Moonlight Sonata), 1801
Thomas Jefferson  –  Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5”, 1808
James Madison  –  Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville”, 1816
James Monroe  –  Schubert’s “Marche Militaire”, 1822
John Quincy Adams  –  Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”, 1829
Andrew Jackson  –  Mendelssohn’s “Hebrides Overture”, 1830
Martin Van Buren  –  Chopin’s “Piano Sonata No. 2” (The Funeral March), 1837
William Henry Harrison  –  Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman”, 1841
John Tyler  –  Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March”, 1842
James Polk  –  Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2”, 1847
Zachery Taylor  –  Schumann’s “Symphony No. 3” (The Rhenish), 1850
Millard Fillmore  –  Verdi’s “Rigoletto”, 1851
Franklin Pierce  –  Foster’s “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair”, 1854
James Buchanan  –  Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld” (the Can-Can!), 1858
Abraham Lincoln  –  Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, 1862
Andrew Johnson –  Strauss II’s “Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz”, 1867
Ulysses S. Grant  –  Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite”, 1876
Rutherford B. Hayes  –  Gilbert & Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore”, 1878
James Garfield  –  Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy”, 1881
Chester A. Arthur  –  Waldteufel’s “The Skater’s Waltz”, 1882
Grover Cleveland  –  Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals”, 1886
Benjamin Harrison  –  Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”, 1892
Grover Cleveland  –  Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, 1897
William McKinley  –  Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”, 1900
Teddy Roosevelt  –  Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance, No. 1”, 1901
William H. Taft  –  Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”, 1913
Woodrow Wilson  –  Holst’s “The Planets”, 1916
Warren G. Harding  –  Berlin’s “What’ll I Do”, 1923
Calvin Coolidge  –  Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, 1924
Herbert Hoover  –  Grofe’s “Grand Canyon Suite”, 1931
Franklin D. Roosevelt  –  Copland’s “Appalachian Spring”, 1944
Harry S Truman  –  Anderson’s “The Typewriter”, 1950
Dwight Eisenhower – Bernstein’s “West Side Story”, 1957
John F. Kennedy  –  Mancini’s “The Pink Panther Theme”, 1963
Lyndon Johnson  –  The Beatles’ “Yesterday”, 1965
Richard Nixon  –  Weissberg/Mandell’s “Dueling Banjos”, 1973
Gerald Ford  –  Williams’ “Theme from Jaws”, 1975
Jimmy Carter  –  Williams’ “The Imperial March” (Darth Vader’s Theme), 1980
Ronald Reagan  –  Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera”, 1986
George H.W. Bush  –  George Winston’s “Hummingbird”, 1991
Bill Clinton  –  Doyle’s “Steam Engine” (from “Sense and Sensibility”), 1995
George W. Bush  –  Kirkhope’s “Viva Piñata Soundtrack”, 2006
Barack Obama  –  Williams’ “The Adventures of Tintin”, 2011

(and yes!  My son is quite familiar with all of the above pieces.)

jacques c      otto

BTW, this week we have been ALSO learning about Jacques Cousteau and Otto Von Bismarck.

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

A Ghost by any Other Name

marley ghost

A Christmas Carol – oh, how we would have liked to listen to Charles Dickens read aloud from his “A Christmas Carol”.  To hear the delicious phrasing verbalized as he would have envisioned.  The wording is difficult, so I am often repeating sentences to get the rhythm and meaning – but so worth the extra time; we are loving the book’s message.  We are midway through, currently reading about Scrooge’s encounter with the “Ghost of Christmas Present” (a bit of a talk about the difference between “Christmas Present” and “Christmas presents”).  And we are making a running list of the many ways Dickens can say the word, “ghost”.  So far:  spirit, specter, apparition, supernatural medium, shadow, and phantom.


joan of arc

A new academic unit – we are learning about Joan of Arc, via another outstanding book by Diane Stanley.  To set the stage, Stanley has written a clear description of the Hundred Years’ War that took place between England and France (the war began in 1337, 75 years before Joan of Arc was born).  We are learning that Joan was complex young lady – pious, brave, charismatic, single-minded (let’s just say it: pushy).  As I am reading this to my son, I cannot help but wonder what today’s world would have thought about Joan of Arc (the voices? the visions?).

trophy

NTC Champion!  We held the “Name the Continent” finals last night!  Our globe is practically a permanent resident in the STORIES AND STUDIES CENTER (my son’s bed); whatever we are reading, if a country is mentioned, we find it on the globe.  So, last night, I made up a long list of countries and had my son match each country with its continent.  A+! What can I say?  He knows where everything is.  He’s the NTC Champ!

brussels sproutssweet potatoesgreen beans

Farmer Brown’s Thanksgiving food prep story problem – Farmer Brown has grown all of the vegetables that he is bringing to the family Thanksgiving gathering.  He is bringing his famous steamed Brussels sprouts sautéed in browned butter, his famous green beans with bacon and onion, and his famous sticky sweet potato casserole with candied lemon slices.  It takes Farmer Brown 45 minutes to prepare the sprouts for steaming, 1 hour and 15 minutes to trim the green beans, 25 minutes to prepare the bacon and onion, and 15 minutes to prepare the sweet potatoes for each casserole (for which there are 4).  The good news is that he has two assistants who work just as quickly as he does.  How long will it take the three of them to get the vegetables prepped?
france

Listening to Music – after a brief and sober discussion about the recent unthinkable evilness in Paris, we paid tribute to French heritage by listening to three reflective pieces written by French composers:

  • “The Swan” from “Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint-Saens. This was composed in 1887 for piano and cello. It is a soulful, pensive piece. This video showcases Yo-Yo Ma, so we are listening to the best.

  • The “Carillon” from “L’Arlesienne”, by Georges Bizet, composed in 1872. About one minute into the piece, the flute section takes over, and this is the part that tugs at our hearts – the sorrow, the regret, the wistfulness.  It is all there in the music.

  • “La Vie En Rose”, certainly the iconic Parisian melody, written and popularized by chanteuse (prettiest word of the month) Edith Piaf in 1945. Louis Armstrong made a well-loved recording of this, but we wanted to listen to the original voice (this is OLD film footage).

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH