Native American

“D”s Dominated

duncan 2

First, DUNCAN DORFMAN – Meg Wolitzer’s engaging, “The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman” transported us into the world of competitive Scrabble.  A member of our family plays competitive chess (a US Chess Federation “National Master” – we are kind of proud), so my son is familiar with the concept of board game competition.  The book mentions scrabble tiles and racks over and over, so I brought some tiles and racks for my son to see, touch, try out (regretfully, NO interest).  My son actually does like filling out book reports, and I was happy to see that he picked up on the main themes of this well structured book (ethics, friendship, the roller-coaster emotions of competition).  

doolittle illustration

Then, DR. DOOLITTLE – My son and I are nearly through Hugh Lofting’s timeless adventure, “The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle”.  Here is what we think:  the pleasures of reading this book double when it is read out loud, allowing reader and listener to savor the poetic preposterousness of Lofting’s relentless imagination – delicious names and places like Popsipetel, Bag-Jagderag, Jip, Dab-Dab, Wiff-Waff, Don Ricky-Ticky.  One more thing – the copy we are reading (a 2012 printing) includes spectacular vintage-style illustrations by Scott McKowen.

indian contributions book

Then, DUCK DECOYS – “Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World”, complied by Emory Sea Keoke and Kay Marie Porterfield – a well edited resource we looked forward to opening every night.  A better mom would have read aloud every single entry, but alas, my son had to settle for learning about one topic from each letter of the alphabet.  Adobe, balls, canoes, duck decoys, earache treatments (well, that was gross), fringed clothing, gourds, hominy (I really built this one up with the hope of my son giving hominy a try – GIANT CORN ARE YOU KIDDING????  Who wants to sample some WAY FUN GIANT CORN??? Alas, no luck.  I have no influence.), igloos, jicama, kayaks, lacrosse, maple syrup, nasturtiums, observatories, popcorn, quipus, rafts, salsa, tipis, umbrellas, vanilla, wampum, yams (we skipped X and Z).  

lattice pie

Then, DESSERTS AT THE DINER (a story problem)During summer months, Miss Michelle (famed pastry chef at the diner) bakes pies every morning:  4 apple pies, 2 apricot lattice (vocab) pies, 2 peach pies, 2 cherry lattice pies, 1 blueberry pie, 1 blackberry pie, 1 rhubarb pie, and 2 lemon meringue pies.  Each pie gets sliced into 6 servings.  

  • If a tour bus with 80 passengers stops at the diner for lunch, would all passengers be able to enjoy a serving of pie?
  • How many pie crusts does famed pastry chef, Miss Michelle, roll out every week?
  • It takes 1 hour to bake a pie.  The diner has 3 ovens and each oven can accommodate 4 pies at a time.  How many hours does famed pastry chef, Miss Michelle, need to bake every pie? (answers at bottom of post)

dvorak portrait

Finally, DVOŘÁK DAZZLED –  on the classical music front, it was Antonín Dvořák week at the STORIES AND STUDIES CENTER (my son’s bedroom):

  • Slavonic Dance No. 1 in C major, composed around 1880.  This is one of our favorites and it gets the performance it deserves by the Vienna Philharmonic.  Side notes:  1)  As per usual, conductor Seiji Ozawa’s hair is too wild to be ignored – we should all be so confident.  2)  If you look closely, you will actually see a woman in the orchestra (back row,  violin section).  This video footage was posted in 2008 (so I don’t know when it was filmed) and I am sure the orchestra is trying to be more with the times, BUT REALLY.

  • Humoresque No. 7, composed in 1894 – we love the way YoYo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and conductor Ozawa transform this carefree little piece into a heartbreaker.

  • Song to the Moon, from the opera, “Rusalka”, premier performance in 1901.  Soprano Susan Karinski and the US Navy Band deliver an exquisite performance.  ATTENTION EVERYBODY:  Susan Karinski.  Whoa.  

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  yes, 105 pie crusts, 2 hours)

So Cool


A three-chapters-a-night book!  Ordinarily, I read one chapter a night from our academic resource du jour, but my son is having none of that for “Jim Thorpe – Original All-American” by Joseph Bruchac.  This biography of the Native American/Olympic medalist has captured his attention and he will accept nothing less than multiple chapters at each reading.  We are currently reading about Jim’s high school years; certainly my son did not know about the US government-imposed boarding-school system for Native Americans one hundred years ago, and neither did I.  (Some ideas were good, some were so misguided…a LOT to think about.  How would we have managed this differently?)  The book was written as if an autobiography (vocab), so my son has now learned to distinguish between a story told in the 1st person, 2nd person, and 3rd person “voice”.  As per usual, zig-zag learning.


App Happy – About once a week, we spend time with the FIRST RATE “Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System” app on our iPad.  Graphics: elegant and hip.  Material covered: EXTENSIVE.  (This is a GREAT app for anybody looking for quirky conversation starters.)  For my son, the information presented and even the quizzes:  ENGROSSING.  The merest sampling of what we’ve learned:
– what an AU is (astronomical until – the approximate length between the sun and earth)
– how old my son would be on Mercury
– about the largest mountain in the solar system (on Mars)
– about the planet with diamonds (!!!)


Bringing out the Christmas lights: story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – The diner is hauling out their old Christmas decorations and the plan is to edge the roof with their retro strings of larger bulbs.  It takes 12 strands of lights to do the job.  Each strand has 25 bulbs.  4 strands have no malfunctioning bulbs, 4 strands have 5 malfunctioning bulbs, and 4 strands have 10 malfunctioning bulbs.

1)  What is the average number of malfunctioning bulbs on each strand?   2)  How many bulbs need to be replaced?   3)  If a new colorful bulb costs 50 cents, how much will it cost to replace all the burnt out bulbs?   4)  To be prepared for future bulb burn out emergencies, how many extras bulbs should be purchased if the diner wants to have 10% extra bulbs in storage?   5)  How will the diner look when all the lights are put up?


Bringing out the sleigh bells: our music theme last night –  Hey!  It is getting cool here – in the past week, we plummeted from 70 degrees to the high 30’s.  Time to bring out the sleigh ride music (with jingling bells a must):

  • We started with Mozart’s “German Dance No. 3 in C” (referred to as “Sleigh Ride”), K. 605, composed in 1791.  For some reason, it is difficult to find outstanding orchestral performance video footage of this piece…but it is the melody that we are after:

  • Next, “Troika” (vocab: troika – a three-horse open sleigh), from Prokofiev’s “Lieutenant Kije Suite”, movement 4 (BTW, I really slow down every time I have to write LIEUTENANT…such an unreasonably difficult word to spell).  This was composed in 1933 and was part of Prokofiev’s first film score.  Such a delightful piece, but we especially listen for the iconic Prokofiev discordant “edge”.  You can tell this was filmed in the ’70’s – check the conductor’s (Andre Previn) hair-style and glasses:

  • Finally, the obvious choice, Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride”, written during a heat wave in July, 1946.  Adorable performance:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  1) 5 bulbs    2) 60 bulbs    3) $30    4) 30 bulbs   5) So cool!)