Human Body

Good Books, Bad Books

Sorry to be on a rant in mid-December, but REALLY!  How do poorly edited books manage to get published?   Case in point: my son and I were reading a coffee table-style book about birds of North America.  The introduction was rather good:  we learned that birds with long legs have long necks; we learned that a grouping of bird eggs in a nest is called a clutch.  And then the book fell apart.  A chapter entitled, “Swifts and Hummingbirds” contained NOT ONE MENTION, NOT ONE PHOTOGRAPH of a swift.  And you would think that an author making an effort to explain the simple word, “clutch”, would make sure the reader understood more difficult terms, such as “arboreal” and “terrestrial”.  But no.  In an angry huff, we have bid adieu to that sham of a book.

animal kingdom

Happier reading: we are now reading “Animal Kingdom” by Nicholas Blechman and Simon Rogers…same outstanding graphic format as “Human Body”, which we read a few weeks ago.  Currently, we are mid-chapter, learning about senses; last night reading about animal eyes (largest eye: giant squid…eyes covered by skin, rendering them blind: mole rats (GROSS)), tonight reading about animal ears, and the variety of listening abilities. So interestingly presented, we are back to being happy learners.

Even happier reading:

books final

  • we have finished “Rules of the Road” by Joan Bauer. EXCELLENT story: well written, complex plot, skilled characterizations, and topped off with all sorts of life lessons.
  • and if it is December, we return once again to a super favorite, “Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians” by Mary Nash. This book was a Children’s Book Club offering in 1962.  I LOVED it then, and I LOVE it every year for a re-read. We are reading the very same copy that my dad read to my sister and me, but the book is still available on Amazon and the plot is a DELIGHT.

Our music project last night – selecting music to enhance another poster in my son’s room, “Checkered House” by Grandma Moses, painted in 1943. (The poster was purchased after we completed a unit on Grandma Moses a few years ago.)

Grandma Moses Check

  • “Over the River and through the Wood”, a poem by Lydia Maria Child originally entitled, “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day” (but it still works for all of the December holidays), published in 1844.  Alas, the composer is unknown. Darling video footage taken from an elementary school winter concert.

  • “Sleigh Ride”, composed by Leroy Anderson during the heat wave of 1946! Mr. Anderson was VERY smart (a Harvard man!) and VERY funny. A perfect performance by the President’s Marine Corps Chamber Orchestra.

  • “The Friendly Beasts”, also known as “Carol of the Animals”, words by Robert Davis, penned in the 1920’s, set to French music from the 12th century.  Not too much to look at in this video, but the song is sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary, and it is wonderful!

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Answers for Everything

8 ball white

Are we having fun yet?  Signs point to yes.  My son received a Magic 8-Ball for his birthday and he seems fascinated by the idea of receiving answers (to goofy questions) from the black ball.  Well, CHEERS!  I am always looking for opportunities to expand my son’s game/toy experiences.  The first hurdle (and it is a HUGE hurdle) is to find a toy that intrigues him.  Did we hit the jackpot with the Magic 8-Ball?  You may rely on it!  GREAT GIFT!

Non-Fiction – we are continuing to learn from the books “Maps” (yay), “Human Body”(yay), and “Genghis Kahn” (battle/skirmish/double-cross/repeat) (will this book never end?).

rules of road book

Fiction – we are enjoying “Rules of the Road” (winner of the L.A. Times Book Prize) by Joan Bauer.  This appealing book skillfully balances difficult concepts (alcoholism, Alzheimer’s) with the inherent hilarity of the shoe business and a new drivers license. I knew we were going to like this book, because years ago I read and loved “Hope was Here” (HKH are you reading this????), also by Joan Bauer.

pies in oven

Le Fictitious Local Diner’s story problem!  The diner is sponsoring a community “pie bake” and has set aside one afternoon in November for anyone (meaning high school students who need more volunteer hours for their graduation requirement) to come assemble pumpkin, apple, and pecan pies.  The diner will bake the pies and deliver them to the senior citizen center for their Thanksgiving dinner.  The diner’s plan is to make 20 pies of each type.  Here are the cost breakdowns:

pie tins: $0.50 each, pie crusts: $0.25 each, apple filling: $3.00 each, pumpkin filling: $3.00 each, pecan filling: $6.00 each. The diner’s tax lady needs the total costs for the 60 pies.

cowboy painting

Last night’s music program took its inspiration from a poster on my son’s wall:  Frederic Remington’s gorgeous, touching, lonely, “The Fall of the Cowboy”, painted in 1895.   This painting is on display at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, so we are lucky to have seen it “in person” several times.

  • First, to set the mood, we listened to George Winston’s gorgeous, touching, lonely piano solo, “Thanksgiving”, from his “December” album, released in 1982.

  • My son and I decided that after a long, cold day, the cowboys would want to head off to the local barn dance.  We like this video of two fiddle players expertly playing Aaron Copland’s “Hoe-Down” from his ballet, Rodeo (which premiered in 1942).

  • And finally, a little comfort music for the weary cowboys:  John Denver’s “Back Home Again”, released in 1974.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Back in the Saddle Again

geneautry

Annnnnnnd, we’re back!  Since our last post, we have read about Princess Kaiulani of Hawaii (so refined, educated, and loyal to her people) and Genghis Khan of Mongolia (so unrefined, so uneducated, so loyal to himself. In his defense, the living was pretty uncertain on the Mongolian steppe (vocab) in the 13th century.  We get the impression that there was no lack of unrefined, uneducated, and untrustworthy yurt (vocab) dwellers.  My son and I are SO glad we didn’t live then and there.  So glad.)

marley door knocker

Current fiction – we loved learning about Charles Dickens last month, so we decided to tackle “A Christmas Carol”.  So far, the book’s conversational style is a delight, although I need to interpret countless phrases and concepts on every page: door knocker, counting-house, Bedlam, workhouses, melancholy, tavern.  This is not a problem!  Bring it, Mr. Dickens.

Current non-fiction

human body book

Reading only one page a night from Peter Grundy’s captivating book, “HUMAN BODY” gives us plenty of thought-provoking information. Example: on the page about the sense of smell, we learned that a human has 15 million olfactory receptors (vocab), most dogs have 1,000 million olfactory receptors, BUT a bloodhound has – GET THIS – 4,000 million olfactory receptors.  So this led to a little discussion about why bloodhounds are the dog of choice for finding lost people, followed by a discussion about how people get lost.  Graphics? Genius.

france map     map book     escargot2

We are also reading through “MAPS”, by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski.  What a joy this gigantic book is.  Again, one page a night is plenty.  As we begin each new country, we find it on our globe, then we treat ourselves to the jillions of darling hand-drawn illustrations.  Last night we spent time with the page on France and ended up discussing whether or not we would consider eating escargots.

jackolantern

Our story problem: Farmer Brown’s Halloween – Farmer Brown is giving glow-in-the-dark bracelets for Halloween instead of candy. He can purchase 300 bracelets for $24. How much will each bracelet cost?

glow in dark bracelets

If he gives the first 50 trick-or-treaters one bracelet each, but gives the next 100 children 2 bracelets each (because he really doesn’t want to end up with a bunch of bracelets at the end of the evening), how many bracelets should he give to the final group of 10 trick-or-treaters (so he doesn’t end up with any bracelets)?

Scary Music for Halloween

  • “Dance Macabre”, by Camille Saint-Saens, composed in 1874.  The clock strikes midnight on Halloween, calling the dead to arise and dance until dawn.  This splendid video showcases a most skilled youth orchestra from Poland.  Well worth the view to watch for the marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, and orchestral bells – instruments of perfection for evoking the sounds of rattling skeleton bones.

  • “Mars”, from “The Planets”, composed by Gustav Holst in 1914.  This is the poster child for menacing music.  We love this particular video – it is a simulation of a rover landing on Mars.  We’ve probably watched this 10 times.

  • “Masquerade”, movement 1 (the waltz), from a suite written by Aram Khachaturian in 1941.  This video is a full-blown production number, dark and decadent, just like the music.  For some reason, it is a bit out of focus, but this only adds to the Halloween creepiness.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH