Jenny Broom

Quandary

Here is the quandary (vocab):  I do not like reading to my son about man’s inhumanity to man; he has enough to deal with without trying to grasp the perplexing notion of cruelty.  HOWEVER, the “Wicked History” series books are so well written, organized, researched, and crazy fascinating – we can’t stay away.

leopold-book-cover

We just finished the book on BAD BAD King Leopold II of Belgium (1835-1909); and he was indefensibly bad – Hitler and Stalin BAD.  There were passages in the book describing atrocities under his leadership of the “Congo Free State” (his PERSONAL colony) so barbaric, that while reading aloud to my son, I had to skip over paragraph after paragraph.
On the plus side:
– we learned a LOT about what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo and came away fascinated
– we added to our hero list:  George Washington Williams (a journalist), Edmund Morel (a most alert shipping clerk) and Roger Casement (a British consul). These men brought the brutal policies of Congo Free State administrators to world wide attention and censure (vocab)
– AND Leopold II died with just about everyone (well, maybe everyone) despising him. (ridiculously small consolation)

amazon-pic himalayan-pic

from “The Wonder Garden” book by Williams and Broom – stunning

The subject matter gets a LOT happier, but DRAT:  we just hate it when a good book ends. We loved EVERY page of “The Wonder Garden” by Kristjana S. Williams and Jenny Broom; luscious illustrations accompanied by solidly interesting facts.  This startlingly beautiful book showcases animals of five distinct habitats around the world. We were familiar with the Amazon Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, but we really hadn’t read anything about the Black Forest, the Chihuahuan Dessert or the Himalayan Mountains.  This delicious book is SO on our “read-it-again list”.

Last night my son took a simple matching location-to-fact quiz and then we paired up one piece of music with each habitat.

habitat-quiz

Music to remind us of five living wonders of our world:
– The Amazon Rain Forest – hosting around 1,500 species of birds, Camille Saint-Saens’ “The Aviary” (from his “Carnival of the Animals”, 1886) was an obvious selection.  The music is prefaced by an Ogden Nash poem read by Roger Moore.  Elegant:

– The Great Barrier Reef – again, from Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals”:  “The Aquarium”. Gloriously haunting music provides a backdrop for the world’s largest living structure (however, as beautiful as this linked video is, “The Aquarium” takes up only the first 2.5 minutes; the carnival’s donkey and the cuckoo movements follow, for some unknown reason):

– The Black Forest – the habitat for not only the world’s largest owls, but also the setting for several fairy tales from the brothers Grimm.  My son and I listened to “Evening Prayer” from the opera “Hansel and Gretel”, composed by Englebert Humperdinck in 1893.  We twiddled our fingers during the three minute LONG introduction; however once we got to the meat of the composition we enjoyed possibly the most comforting lullaby ever:

SIDEBAR:  another Englebert Humperdinck??? we followed Humperdinck’s “Evening Prayer” with a short discussion of British pop star (of the ’60’s and ’70’s) Englebert Humperdinck (but really Arnold George Dorsey) (obviously NO relation to the composer of the late 1800’s).  My UCLA college room-mate, J’nette, warbled a mocking version of  Humperdinck’s giant hit “Release Me” throughout our undergrad years, so I made my unappreciative son endure a trip down memory lane:

– The Chihuahuan Desert – Well, first of all, we had no idea where the Chihuahuan Desert was (southern parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and northern parts of Mexico) and we are practically living in it!  We felt the second movement (the “Largo” movement) of Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” evoked the loneliness, uncertainty, and the grandeur of this habitat:

– and finally, The Himalayan Mountains – we paired “the rooftop of the world” with  “Approaching the Summit” composed by genius genius genius John Williams for the 1997 movie “Seven Years in Tibet”.  We could hear how this music captures themes – majestic and mysterious – from both sides of the Himalayan Mountains (India and China):

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(The story problems from this week seemed painfully frivolous after reading about the human suffering provoked by King Leopold II.  I just couldn’t post any of them.)

26 Candles!

candles

My son celebrated his birthday this past week!  Among the wrapped presents, two spectacular books:

wonder-garden-book

“Star Talk” by astrophysicist and consummate showman, Neil deGrasse Tyson.  So far – tremendously engrossing; last night we read about why astronauts grow taller in space (due to lack of gravity) (and apparently this is NOT good for bone density), the night before we learned how long it would take to travel to Mars via current space travel technology. (3 years).  Full of quirky facts and explanations, this is exactly the type of book we like to spend time with.

“The Wonder Garden” by Kristjana S. Williams and Jenny Broom focuses upon animal life in five distinct habitats (vocab) around the world.  We are in the middle of the Amazon Rain Forest (located it on the new globe/another birthday present!) chapter.  Gross fact from last night: the green anaconda NEVER STOPS GROWING.  Ewww ewww ewww.  Aside from that, this book is a jewel. The obsessively decorative artwork is first rate, the book is well written and the excellent research is apparent.  Learning materials were NOT this captivating when I was in school.

horseshoe

Story problem – Farmer Brown recycles used horseshoes!  Farmer Brown has 6 horses and is filling up a barrel with used horseshoes.  He has found a craftsman who would like to purchase the horseshoes and turn them into “good luck” wall art items.  If each horse gets fitted for new shoes every other month, how many used shoes will Farmer Brown have in the barrel at the end of a year?  If he is able to sell the used shoes to the craftsman for $10 each, how much money will he collect by the end of a year?  If it costs $125 to shoe one horse, how many horses could be shod from the money earned from selling the old shoes? (answers at bottom of post)

blacksmith

Speaking of horseshoes – our poem for the evening was “The Village Blacksmith” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1840), which led us to look at and talk about anvils (vocab) and bellows (vocab), which led us to our music theme:

Plink, clank, plink – the anvil as musical instrument!  What a most satisfactory listening experience:

anvil

The Anvil Chorus from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera of 1853, “Il Trovatore” (The Troubadour).  This song of the gypsies praises hard work, good wine, and gypsy women.  For my son, I emphasized the hard work and the unique sound of the sledge hammer hitting the anvil, and sort of didn’t mention the good wine and gypsy women.  Outstanding production:

The Feuerfest (fireproof) Polka, composed in 1869 by Josef Strauss, brother of waltz king, Johann Strauss II.  This is probably one of our top ten favorite classical pieces; we like to anticipate each anvil clang.  In this linked video Mariss Jansons conducts the Vienna Philharmonic WHILE “playing” the hammers and anvil.  Adorable, and kind of spellbinding.

– Finally, “Heigh Ho” from Disney’s 1937 blockbuster, “Snow White”.  Music by Frank Churchill, words by Larry Morey.  Anvil plinking all over the place.

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: 144,   $1,440,   11 horses)

Rodent Rage

rat

Almost finished:  We are sorry that we are coming upon the final pages of “Animalium”, by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom. This splendid book is rich in conversation-provoking information and rich in captivating illustrations. This is a book that we have looked forward to opening every single night (even last night, when we had to read about rodents).

Animalium book 2

Speaking of rodents:

– To establish a baseline, we took a little “Is this a rodent?” quiz, then voted upon the cutest. Our faves: chipmunks, chinchillas, hamsters, guinea pigs, voles, and porcupines.  Not our fave: squirrels are on our bad list at the moment (we are unhappily hosting one in our attic, and are attempting to remove him humanely)(but this is not going well, as he is a member of Squirrel Mensa).

– February 1st I gave my son a pre-test on the big doings of February 2nd: Groundhog Day. I was quite surprised by how much information he knew about this “holiday”.  I am not sure we added much to his store of knowledge, but we read through Wikipedia entries on groundhogs and Groundhog Day, and concluded with a small discussion about whether Punxsutawney Phil was a bit plumper than the average groundhog.  We learned that groundhogs are the same thing as woodchucks, which prompted me to recite the “How much wood can a woodchuck chuck” tongue twister. Rodents and poetry on the same night. Winner.

hamster

Farmer Brown’s petting zoo story problem – The first graders from the 4 local elementary schools love visiting Farmer Brown’s petting zoo. This year, Farmer Brown has hired a photographer to snap photos of each first grader with one of his sweet hamsters. The photos sell for $2 each (and everyone purchases one). It costs Farmer Brown 50 cents to process each photo and he pays the photographer $35 for each school visit. There are 40 first grade children in each school. NEW CONCEPTS!: What is Farmer Brown’s GROSS income from the endeavor? What is Farmer Brown’s NET income (after paying the photo processing and the photographer) from the endeavor?

Catherine Great

What a rat! We have begun another “A Wicked History” (we do love this series), this time we are learning about Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. Right off the bat we find out that she came to power by disposing of her husband, Tsar Peter III. Yikes. What a rat. We want to know more.

snowflakesunshine

Music for Groundhog Day:  Was Punxsutawney Phil going to be greeted by bright sunlight or cloudy skies?  We had the music to mark the occasion:

  • Phil sees his shadow: “Winter”, from Vivaldi’s timeless violin concerto of 1723, “The Four Seasons”. Ugh. We don’t want 6 more weeks of winter!  But we are always happy for a tiny slice of Itzhak Perlman magic:

  • Phil sees his shadow: “Waltz of the Snowflakes” from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet, which premiered in 1892.  We may be weary of the cold weather, but at least Tchaikovsky revives us with a winter that is as pretty as it is capricious (vocab):

  • Phil doesn’t see his shadow: “Symphony No. 6 in F major” (movement 1), composed by Beethoven in 1808. Known also as “The Pastoral Symphony” (familiar to many from Disney’s award winning “Fantasia” of 1940), it is all about the promise of spring.  Leonard Bernstein (always a conductor we want to watch) leads the Vienna Philharmonic in this video:

  • Phil doesn’t see his shadow: “Put on a Happy Face”, composed by Charles Strouse (lyrics by Lee Adams) for the 1960 Broadway production “Bye Bye Birdie”.  Hey, Phil!  Grey skies are gonna clear up!  My son was tapping his toes to this rendition from the mid sixties, featuring The Supremes:

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Zootique

Animals all over the place – this week, all of our current reading seems to be focused upon les animaux.

animal books

First – the stunning “Animalium” by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom. The idea here is that the reader is walking through a natural history museum learning bits and pieces about biodiversity (vocab). Information is clearly presented, illustrations are sensational, and my son and I look forward to opening this book every night.  BTW, our favorite animal phylum so far?  Cephalopods (vocab).  Each member of this group is so very weird.

Then“This Side of Wild”, a new book by Gary Paulson, a favorite author of ours.  We have read his “Hatchet” many times, and the follow-up stories, “The River” and “Brian’s Winter”.  This book is autobiographical (vocab), with Mr. Paulson writing about his relationships with several animals.  Side note: due to something Mr. Paulson had written, we were provoked to view a youtube video demonstrating how to use “anti-bear” spray. Yikes. (More zigzag learning. LOVE it!) (and this video is surprisingly excellent).

Finally – we are are working our way through Ogden Nash’s book of poems, “Zoo”.  Each of his funny, astute (vocab) poems seems to need an explanation, so each becomes a conversation starter.  This book is delicious.

alphabet in chalk

Language Arts Class is now in session

– A few nights ago, my son and I used “Mad Libs” to work on parts of speech.  I don’t think my son saw this as a tremendously hilarious activity, but it was a passable diversion.

– As for even more new vocabulary – so many concept pairings from our animal unit: Matriarch/Patriarch, Predator/Prey, Carnivore/Herbivore, Bones/Cartilage

laminating machine

New menus at Le Fictitious Local Diner!  We worked our way through a really involved story problem last night: the diner is printing up new menus and they can’t decide whether to pay to have the menus laminated or to purchase a laminator and do the job themselves.  A laminator can be purchased for $200, and a package of 100 plastic “pouches” costs $55.  It takes 30 seconds to run one menu through the machine. So:

1) if the diner wants to laminate 200 menus, how long will it take?

2) if a junior employee is paid $10 an hour, how much will be spent on the labor of running the menus through the laminator?

3) how much will the diner spend at the office supply store with the purchase of the laminating machine and the pouches?

4) how much will the diner spend on supplies and labor to laminate 200 menus?

5) if the local print shop will laminate the menus for 85 cents each, is it more cost effective for the diner to pay the print shop to do the laminating?

batowlraccoon

Music!  Inspired by the nocturnal (vocab) animals we’ve been reading about, we decided to find out what musical “Nocturnes” were all about. After listening to a few, we decided that a nocturne might be described as a mature version of a lullaby.  Then, I gave my son a list of events that might or might not be enhanced by a nocturne as background music…on the “NOT” list: a birthday party, on the “YES” list: many Robert Frost poems, like one of our favorites, “Good Hours” (which we reread).

  • “Nocturne No. 2” by Frederic Chopin, composed in 1832.  We learned that Chopin is considered the go-to composer for nocturnes, having completed 21 polished works.  No. 2 might be the most famous of all nocturnes and is used in SO many movies.

  • “Nocturne No. 3”, (also known as “Liebestraum”) (Love Dream) was composed by Franz Liszt in 1850.  This nocturne is neck and neck with Chopin’s No. 2 for nocturne popularity.

Yes, yes, yes, both quite reflective and beautiful, but then we played “Harlem Nocturne” and WELL, we were overwhelmed!  WOW.  Had to listen to it two more times in a row.

  • “Harlem Nocturne”, composed by Earle Hagen in 1939. Lush and SULTRY (vocab).  This is the music used for Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer (hard-boiled detective) TV series.  (I deemed it unnecessarily confusing to explain “hard-boiled detective”).  We listened to this recording by the Duke Ellington Orchestra and it is PERFECTION.  My, oh my.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH