Mary Nash

December Template

December Staples –

If it is December we are smiling our way through Mary Nash’s “Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians”.  What about this book makes us eager to read it for the 15th time?

funny ✓  original plot   champions self-reliance   holiday spirit  ✓

Or we might be enjoying “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus”, by Julie Lane.  This is our third time through this old fashioned December read. The author has skillfully woven plausible reasons for Santa’s sled, Christmas stockings, Santa’s red suit, etc into the story. 

The best book we’ve read in 2020 – Katherine Applegate’s award-winning “Home of the Brave”:  Kek, a refugee (we discussed differences between immigrant and refugee) from The Sudan (found it on globe, briefly read of its inner turmoil/armed conflict and despaired) has a new home with his aunt and cousin in America.  Every word in this book has been so carefully selected; it is easy to read, calmly poetic, heart-wrenchingly deep, and even funny.  It is about kindness and appreciation.  I was pretty much choked up by the end of every single short chapter.  This is a book that makes us be better people. 

Walruses for the win – We have just finished a unit on pinnipeds (fin footed), using “Scary Creatures:  Pinnipeds” by John Malam as a resource.  We now have the basics on seals, sea lions, and walruses, but seriously, there wasn’t too much that was tremendously interesting except this:

Guess how many clams an adult male walrus can eat at one meal?  6,000.  As in SIX THOUSAND.  How is it that there are any clams left?  My son and I decided that from now on when we see somebody gobbling up way more than their share we are not going to refer to them as a pig or hog, but rather as a walrus.

“American Trailblazers” by Lisa Trusiani – This book presents compelling introductions to 50 Americans who have shaped US history.  Some, my son was familiar with –  Example:  Paul Robeson.  My son loves Robeson’s recording of “Old Man River” from the musical “Showboat”, but we had no idea that Robeson was majorly intellectually gifted with a first-rate education (Rutgers University valedictorian in 1919, Columbia Law School graduate in 1923).

Some were new names to my son – Example:  Alexander Calder.  We learned that Sandy Calder (of the fabulous ultra modern mobiles) came from a line of professional sculptors.  His grandfather, Alexander Milne Calder constructed the bronze statue of William Penn that stands atop the Philadelphia City Hall.  His father,  Alexander Stirling Calder created a sculpture of George Washington that is part of the Washington Square Arch in New York City.  We had to see photos:

Story Problem Time – Jingling all the way at the Local Diner – Somebody, probably the diner cashier, Miss Fran, decided it would add a lot of holiday cheer if 5 large jingle bells were attached to every chair in the diner.  Chairs pushed in, chairs pulled out:  jingle, jingle, jingle.  

  • If there are usually 32 chairs in the diner, but due to the pandemic, 3/4 of the chairs had to be placed into storage, how many chairs would be adorned with bells?
  • If each bell costs 50 cents, how much would it cost to jingle up the chairs remaining in the diner? (answers at bottom of post)

December Listening – Handbell Choirs! What says HOLIDAYS ARE IN THE AIR more than the ting ting tinging of a handbell choir? –

First, a very cute performance of “Up on the Housetop” by the Raleigh Ringers –  

Next, LeRoy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” – a perfect match with a handbell choir (all that jingling), and the usual shenanigans provided by the Raleigh Ringers – 

And finally, “Patapan” – a superb performance by the Hong Kong Youth Handbell Ensemble.  Adorable ending –  

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  8 chairs, $20)

 

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)

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