Farmer Brown

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)

From the Wanderlust Files

Wanderlust – 
“You don’t even know where I’m going.”
“I don’t care. I’d like to go anywhere.” 
― John Steinbeck, “Travels with Charley:  In Search of America”

Wanderlust –
“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Fellowship of the Ring”

Wanderlust – 
“The gene itself, which is identified as DRD4-7R, has been dubbed the “wanderlust gene,” because of its correlation with increased levels of curiosity and restlessness.”
― Dan Scotti, March 2015 edition of Elite Daily

and more Wanderlust – The Lewis and Clark Expedition – My son and I agree that there had to be a heaping helping of DRD4-7R present among the army volunteers assembled for President Thomas Jefferson’s “Corps of Discovery Expedition” (otherwise known as the “Lewis and Clark Expedition”).  We are reading Roland Smith’s “The Captain’s Dog”.  Each chapter begins with an entry from Captain Meriwether Lewis’s journal and the remainder of the chapter is told from the perspective of Lewis’s dog, Seaman.  We happily open this book up every night and use the included map to follow the arduous journey through the Louisiana Purchase territory and Oregon Country.  New vocab/concepts:  court marshal  –  desertion  –  forts  –  fur trappers  –  grizzly bears  –  keelboats  –  parley  –  pirogue  –  portage  –  privates  –  river currents

wanderlust books

and more Wanderlust – All things Hobo – Hello relentless traveler:  lots of DRD4-7R going on here.  My son and I have learned that a hobo is a continually traveling worker, and the traveling is done by means of a “free” ride on a train.  We are halfway into Barbara Hacha’s comprehensive resource, “Mulligan Stew”.  Just ask us about hobo signs, symbols, carved nickels, bindles, and the dangers of riding the rails.  We’ve read through “Tourist Union 63”, an (excellent) ethical code of behavior chartered by 63 hobos in 1889.  We’ve read about the National Hobo Convention, held annually in Britt, Iowa since 1900.  We’ve read about hobo funerals (sidebar: there is actually a marked gravesite in the hobo section of the Britt cemetery to honor “The Unknown Hobo”).  

and other stuff:

reading

Stop the presses – a few weeks back, someone asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks: Could my son read?  Whoa.  I thought so, but how could I have overlooked that?  So I have added something into our STORIES AND STUDIES routine:  a VERY SHORT story with a few follow up questions.  I remain silent, but I do help my son run his index finger under each line of text.  Then he answers the questions.  Is he reading?  YES!!!!! PHEW!!!!!  He has now read about:

  • Grandmother’s job at a potato chip factory
  • Aunt Susan’s blue ribbon for best pie in the state of California!
  • Peppy, Dog Obedience School Drop-out
  • The Shoes in the Ice Block Contest

carter jones book

Current fiction reading – Gary Schmidt’s “Pay attention Carter Jones”.  We pretty much always enjoy a Gary Schmidt book, but this one is a little daunting.  Premise is adorable – a family is bequeathed the services of a British butler.  But (here is the “but”):  the butler is intent upon teaching the family’s son the British game with the most bewildering set of rules and traditions:  CRICKET.  Every night when I pick up the book I think, oh my gosh, what did we learn last night and is my son picking up any of this?  Still, he is not pushing the book away, and if you look beyond the confusing cricket component, the dialog is fun reading.   

and who doesn’t love a Venn Diagram?  Sets, unions, intersections:  what’s not to like?  My son is FOCUSED! 

venn diagram

From our Venn Vault:
Set A – letters of first half of alphabet 
Set B – letters of last half of alphabet 
Intersection – letters that rhyme with “B”

Set A – people who like to wear red clothes
Set B – people who are jolly 
Intersection  Santa Claus

Set A – odd numbers 1-20
Set B – even numbers 1-20 
Intersection  numbers that can be divided by 3

 

marshmallow roast

A Farmer Brown story problem – Farmer Brown and his farm hands have invited just about everyone they know to a Labor Day campfire!  Farmer Brown has purchased loads of s’more fixings:  marshmallows, chocolate bars, and graham crackers, and the hands have prepared roasting skewers for the marshmallows. The ranch has 4 campfire pits, and each can accommodate 8 marshmallow roasters at a time.  It takes 5 minutes of careful tending to warm a marshmallow to a perfect golden brown.  If 60 friends show up to the s’more fest, how long will it take for everyone to roast a marshmallow for their first s’more of the evening? (answer at bottom of post)

Memorial Service Music to honor The Unknown Hobo – 

The Big Rock Candy Mountain – this song about a mythical hobo heaven (complete with “cigarette trees”, oh dear), was first recorded by Harry McClintock in 1928, and has been sung at hobo funerals.   My son and I listened to the original McClintock recording:

Ashokan Farewell – composed in 1982 by American folk musician, Jay Ungar.  From the very first bar, the piece captures the sense of loss, and yet, as each additional instrument joins in, we also feel surrounded by the warmth and camaraderie of more and more friends –

Song of the Riverman, from “The American Scene” – even though this is the song of the riverman, my son and I clearly hear the smooth rhythm of the rails.  Composed by William Grant Still in 1957, the melody conveys strength, wistfulness, loneliness and a bit of danger.  The somberness is so right for this memorial service –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  10 minutes)

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)

Doc and Bach

front desk book

Last week’s stories and studies agenda:
  become informed about world ecosystems via Rachel Ignotofsky’s superb book, “The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth”:  CHECK
  cheer for everything protagonist Mia Tang stands for in Kelly Yang’s important fiction read, “Front Desk”:  CHECK
But really, the past week has been dominated by Albert Schweitzer and Johann Sebastian Bach.

schweitzer at organ face right    bach organ

Scholarly, Spiritual, Musical – Albert Schweitzer (1875 – 1965) – doctorates in theology (vocab), philosophy, and medicine.  Pipe organ virtuoso.  Authority on the works of JS Bach (and 4 published papers to prove it).  Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1952.  Whoa.

We are leaning forward as we read through Ken Gire’s bio of Dr. Schweitzer, “Answering the Call”.  The book begins as Schweitzer and his wife, Helene, make their way to Lambaréné, Gabon (Africa) where they set up the area’s first hospital.  The past few evenings we have been learning about how WWI – so very far away in Europe (globe out) – drastically affected the economy in Gabon.  And FOR HEAVENS SAKES Albert and Helene were sent back to France to be imprisoned during the war, leaving the people of Lambaréné with no medical care. (Discussion topic with my son:  is this right?  what would we have done?)  What next?  We’re riveted.

albert and bach books

Schweitzer’s interest is our interest – Because of Schweitzer’s fascination with all things Bach, we are darting around David Gordon’s “The Little Bach Book” learning lots about Bach’s world (1685-1750).  This neat little reference is packed with well researched information, delivered with sly humor (pretty much an A+ sort of book): 

  • quotes about Bach by other composers (superlative after superlative) (vocab) 
  • feather pens; until 1820 (when metal ink pens debuted), composers used feather quills to write their music.  We found out that one could write/compose for about 5 minutes with a particular feather before it had to firm up, be cleaned or recut
  • men’s hair fashion (wigs)  
  • dental care in the 1700’s (yeeks)

violin outdoors

Meanwhile, BACH at the ranch (a Farmer Brown story problem) This summer, Farmer Brown’s ranch will be the site of a series of 3 outdoor symphony concerts featuring 30 Bach compositions, which may sound like a lot of Bach, but when the BWV (which my son and I learned was the official Bach Works Collection listing) was last tallied in 1998, the list of compositions attributed to this musical genius totaled over 1,100 pieces.   Approximately what percentage of Bach’s total output will be performed during the ranch concert series?
A.   1%     B.   3%     C.   15%     D.   30%     (answer at bottom of post)

More and More Bach – Over the years my son and I have downloaded several (32 to be exact) Bach compositions onto our iPod and this week we listened thoughtfully to each one.  My son “reviewed” each piece, and we listened again to his favorites:

bach quiz

  • Sheep May Safely Graze, composed in 1713.  Calming perfection:

  • Invention No. 13 in A minor, composed about 1720.  A super short jewel played skillfully on the harpsichord by a 9 year old!

  • Finally, we listened to THE GRAND, THE MIGHTY, THE REPETITIVE Symphony No. 5 in F minor, movement 5 (the toccata) (1879) composed by Charles-Marie Widor, recognized Bach scholar AND Schweitzer’s organ professor at the Paris Conservatory.  A high energy performance by virtuoso Frederick Hohman:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  B.  3%)

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)

Did absence make the heart grow fonder?

Good heavens!  Over six weeks since last I reported in.  Did ya miss me?  My goal is to write and post every other week, but my son and I have been slogging through months of disruptive routines – our stories and studies times have been cut short and I have so much less to write about.  Not happy about this, but there you have it.

odyssey ithaka

The Odyssey – we are coming to the end of Gillian Cross’s superb retelling of Homer’s ancient adventure poem.  As we bid farewell to this book we will discuss C.P. Cavafy’s poem, “Ithaca” and its Odyssey references.  Next up: “The Iliad” (which, if I had been a more aware scholar, we should have read first.  Darn.).

citrus

We are Citrus Savvy – it seems like we always have a book in the nightly line-up about sailors, pirates, the sea and such, and one cannot read about sailors, pirates, the sea and such without reading about the SCOURGE OF SCURVY and the importance of citrus.  So, after reading through the Wikipedia entry on citrus, we got out the pastels.

cat paw and dollar

There is always time for a  story problem   Poor Farmer Brown.  Literally, poor Farmer Brown.  He is spending so much money replacing items that his cats, Olive and Owl (the hissing sisters), have destroyed.  Over the past twelve months, Farmer Brown spent:

– $300:  area rug in kitchen (shredded)
– $150:  winter coat (clawed to death)
– $100 each:  3 farmhand bed quilts (each mistaken for litter box)
– $200:  office blinds (permanently bent from bird watching)
– $100:  large ceramic planter (tipped over so many times that it finally cracked)
– $  78:  small ficus tree (casualty of repeatedly tipped over planter)
– $300:  neighbor’s yarn stash (don’t ask)

Judging the past year to be typical,  how much should Farmer Brown budget per month to replace things Olive and Owl will most likely have their way with in the coming year?  

A).  $59     B).  $79     C).  $99     D).  $119

classical music

Classical Music:  How I am able to act like I know what I am talking about –

  • ClassicFM.com – a hip website that makes you feel like you are sitting at the cool kids’ table at lunch.  The graphics, clever topics, quizzes, surveys, contests, video links – all VERY COOL.  
  • The Great Courses – (college level courses offered on DVD, etc, through thegreatcourses.com) so far, I have taken 17 of 26 music history courses taught by the organized, captivating, and hilarious Dr. Robert Greenberg.  These classes have had enormous influence on the classical music experience I share with my son.
  • Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin  – an hour-long radio show broadcast 5 times a week, full of entertaining anecdotes from decades of Mr. McGlaughlin’s music profession memories.  If my son and I are in the drive-thru lane of “In-N-Out” at 7pm we are tuned to “Exploring Music”.
  • Wikipedia – in terms of the 300+ classical music entries I have come across, this resource offers dependable and comprehensive information.  A+.
  • The Secret Lives of the Great Composers”, by Elizabeth Lunday – this is the first book that made me aware that the very finest composers are quirky individuals.  Jarringly quirky.
  • The Really Terrible Orchestra (Edinburgh, Scotland) – I cannot get enough of this ragtag group of enthusiastic musician wannabes who find themselves blatantly unqualified to play with any recognized orchestra.  Just thinking about their performance of “Entry of the Gladiators” makes me collapse in laughter:

  • Mozart in the Jungle, both book and Amazon series are eye-opening and entertaining.  A few pieces that I have shared with my son, after hearing them in various episodes:

– Mozart’s “Oboe Concerto in C major”, movement III (rondo) – composed in 1777.  This is such a proper, almost fussy, piece but it moves right along and my son and I love it:

– José Pablo Moncayo’s “Huapango” – this Mexican folk dance was composed for orchestra in 1941 (which is why we listen to this piece played by orchestra, not by a mariachi band)(even though we LOVE mariachi bands).  Absolutely full of the flavors of Mexico:

– Maurice Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloe”, suite 2, dawn – composed in 1912 for a ballet based upon the ancient Greek romance between goatherd Daphnis and shepherdess Chloe.  So much to listen for in this 6 minute piece, but when dawn actually breaks we hear nothing but GENIUS!

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  D).  $119.)

Sea Hunt

Sea Hunt – Do you know about the Sargasso Sea?  Located in the Atlantic Ocean, to the east of Bermuda, it is about 2/3 as wide as the continental USA (so it is HUGE), yet there is a glaring shortage of non-fiction books focused upon this important ecosystem.  Surely my son and I are not the only people who want to know more about the turtles and eels of the Sargasso Sea.  We learned a bit by reading through Ruth Heller’s, “A Sea Within a Sea”, a lovely book with information set to rhyme, but we want more.  Attention people who are looking for something to write about: big opportunity here.

Great Beginnings – We are hopeful about two books we began last night: “Ocean” by Ricardo Henriques and Andre Letria (in just the first four pages we enjoyed a richness of information woven into sparse, eye-catching graphics) AND, we started an abridged version of Homer’s “The Odyssey”, by Gillian Cross and Neil Packer (oh my, the illustrations! and of course, oh my, the story!)

What else are we reading?
“Boats Fast & Slow” by Iris Volant and Jarom Vogel (almost a bit too elementary for us. Nonetheless, there are things to learn from this well organized book).
“The War I Finally Won”, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (a sequel to the excellent “The War that Saved My Life”).
“While Mrs. Coverlet Was Away” by Mary Nash (only our 6th time through) (a plot line that makes us smile through every single re-read) (this book needs to be read during the summer).

Willy Nilly Time Zones – My son and I love opening up a Ken Jennings book – his writing is clever, funny, and informative.  This week, we are in the middle of his “Junior Genius Guide to Maps and Geography” and have spent time twirling our globe while we read about the International Date Line, the Prime Meridian, and time zones.
WE DID NOT KNOW THIS: countries can determine whether they want to follow international time zone designations.  China, which spans 5 time zones, and Greenland, which spans 4 time zones both make do on a single time zone.  We spent a few minutes thinking about what this would mean if you lived at the far east or far west of either country.  Interesting.
When we are feeling rebellious we say THROW AWAY the state approved text books and replace them with anything written by Ken Jennings.

A Farmer Brown Story Problem – Over Labor Day weekend, there is to be a kayak race in the local river and Farmer Brown is anxious for his ranch team to win the competition (good publicity for his farm stand).  He is purchasing 6 kayaks at $250 each for his employees to practice with, and super competitive Farmer Brown has promised to captain the team! (the ranch team will be so glad when the race is over)
After the race, Farmer Brown is going to offer kayak rentals to be used on his ranch pond. If he charges $15 to rent a kayak for an afternoon of paddling fun, and assuming that 6 people want to kayak every single day, how many afternoons will pass before he makes a profit (which will probably go into kayak maintenance)?
A) 17     B) 27     C) 37     D) 47 (answer at bottom of post)
For discussion: Is this a fast way to make money?

Water Water All Around – a classical music theme to compliment all the reading about oceans, seas, and boats:

  • “The Aquarium”, from Camille Saint-Saens’ “The Carnival of the Animals”, composed in 1886.  Saint-Saens congers up an atmosphere of creepy deep sea mystery in this short short two minute piece –

  • “Jeux de Vagues” (“Play of the Waves”), from Debussy’s “La Mer”, composed in 1904.  We haven’t braved listening to this intellectual masterpiece until this very week; a bit too sophisticated for us, I thought.  But this week, my son and I sat back and let Debussy bring us the sounds of waves being pushed around by the wind, currents, and other waves.  Terribly elegant –

  • “Over the Waves”, composed by Juventino Rosas in 1888.  This waltz rhythm is definitely happier listening than the Aquarium or Jeux de Vagues.  However (semi-interesting side-note), we keep getting this confused with Emile Waldteufel’s “The Skaters Waltz” of 1882 (could Rosas have been “more than” inspired by Waldteufel’s piece?) –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  A)  17 afternoons)(and our discussion topic:  we decided that this actually was a semi-fast way of making money, faster than we thought)