Song to the Moon

“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)

Finishing Touches

Finished:   Lonely Planet’s “The Cities Book”, AKA “The Seven and a Half Pound Book that is also a Weapon”.   Our plan was to tackle two cities a night and we did!  We ended up taking 200 trips around our globe and it was sort of exhilarating to find every single location.

globe and book

A few final observations:

  • really old cities:  
    • Lisbon – since 1,000 BC
    • both Mecca and Jerusalem – since 2,000 BC 
    • Nicosia – since 2,500 BC
    • Dubai – since 3,000 BC
    • Amman – since 3,500 BC 
    • Shanghai – since 3,900 BC
  • altitude sickness possibility:  Lhasa/Tibet, Santa Fe/New Mexico, Cuzco/Peru
  • city built upon coral:  Male, Maldives
  • cities really close to active volcanoes:  Kagoshima/Japan and Arequipa/Peru
  • world’s steepest residential street:  Baldwin Street (with a 35% grade), Dunedin, New Zealand.  (yes, we compared it to San Francisco’s Lombard Street; sorry, only a 27% grade)
  • cities my son and I would like to visit based solely upon the two page spread in the book:
    • Ljubljana, Slovenia (fairy tale charm with early morning fog making the “weakness” list)
    • Muscat, Oman (pristine beauty)

Finished:   Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s simply excellent book, “The War that Saved My Life”.  I wanted my son to spend a little time reflecting upon how well conceived and well written this book was, so I had him fill out a report card.  I talked about each category before he decided upon a grade.  This book is so deserving of its 2016 Newbery Honor Book award.

report card

Of course, a story problem:  A Vegetable Tasting at Farmer Brown’s:

sugar snap peas

Farmer Brown has put out trays of cauliflower, sugar snap peas, and turnips because he is hosting a vegetable tasting for local school children (specifically, Ms. Becque’s and Ms. Lesh’s picky first graders).  (There are 18 students in each class.)
Results:

Ms. Becque’s class vegetables Ms. Lesh’s class
6 tastes cauliflower chunks 12 tastes
12 tastes sugar snap peas 18 tastes
9 tastes turnip slices with dip 3 tastes

1)  which class had the pickiest eaters?
2)  what percentage of Ms. Becque’s class tried turnips?
3)  what percentage of Ms. Lesh’s class tried cauliflower?
4)  the school district will will have the greatest chance of getting kids to eat vegetables if they purchase which vegetable from Farmer Brown? (answers at bottom of post)

moon

Finishing up the day – we always end each STORIES AND STUDIES session with 3 pieces of classical music.  Unless I have a very specific theme for the evening (like “The Anvil as Musical Instrument” or “Circus Music Classics” – see “Our Music Themes” in title block), I try to promote drowsiness by selecting something soothing for the final selection.  Something like these:

  • Song to the Moon, from the opera “Rusalka” (1901), Antonin Dvorak
  • The Flower Duet, from the opera “Lakmé” (1883), Leo Delibes
  • The Little Train of the Caipira (1930), Heitor Villa-Lobos
  • Scottish Fantasy, movement 1 (1880), Max Bruch
  • Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D major, movement 3, (1798), Luigi Boccherini
  • Sailing By, (1963), Ronald Binge

or these:

  • The Dove, from “The Birds” (1928), Ottorino Respighi.  This is the very recording we’ve been listening to for years on our iPod. The best parts:  the cooing of the dove throughout the piece, and the ending (just splendid):

  • Theme from “Out of Africa” (1986), John Barry.  We listen specifically for distant rolling thunder brought to us by the timpani:

  • Nimrod, from “The Enigma Variations” (1899), Sir Edward Elgar.  Dignified and sobering.  An adaptation of Nimrod was used in the score for the 2017 movie, “Dunkirk”.  No better choice:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  1)  Ms. Becque’s class,  2)  50%,  3)  66%,  4)  sugar snap peas)

April, at last

welcome mat

March was really a long month, full of planned and abrupt schedule changes.  A beloved grandmother, “The Peach” passed on (so many tears) – a cousin got married (adorable) – an iPad got lost in the TSA security screening at LAX (oh no, oh no, oh no) – and there was the daylight-savings time switch (ugh).  Not a dream month for an autism family, but STUDIES AND STORIES times were a constant, and that helped.

happy faceTSAhappy face

The “Lost and Found” department – this was a new concept for my son. (What? Hotels, schools, grocery stores, gas stations and the like are equipped to deal with people losing things?????  This is so handy!)  And happy, happy day!  The lost iPad turned up within 24 hours in the TSA “Lost and Found” office, and with a minimum of paperwork, was in a box on its way to our home in Texas.  Cheers cheers cheers TSA!  Their lost and found system really works!  Excellent!

geography books.jpg

Reporting from “The Cities Book” (a Lonely Planet publication) – reading about two cities per night, we are one third of the way through this book – the locations are presented in alphabetical order and we are just about through the “K’s”.  We scamper all over our globe finding each night’s destinations (this is actually kind of fun).  We are also interested in each city’s:

Primary Exports – some of the better conversation starters:
– Asmara, Eritrea – salt
– Baku, Azerbaijan – pomegranate juice
– Hamburg, Germany – Steinway pianos
– all cities on the equator – coffee

Observed Weaknesses – again, some of the better conversation starters:
– Ashgabat, Turkmenistan – bugged hotel rooms (yikes)
– Dhaka, Bangladesh – polluted waterways (yikes)
– Christchurch, New Zealand – situated on a major tectonic fault line (yikes)
– Florence, Italy – pigeons everywhere (yikes)

More geography – “The Philippines, Islands of Enchantment”, by Yuson and Tapan.  Side story:  It would be impossible to find a kinder heart, a more dedicated worker, a more mechanically adept young man than the super fantastic Ogie M, who cared for “The Peach” (grandmother supreme) for the final 10 years of her life.  Upon her recent passing, Ogie returned to his family in the Philippines.  So this has propelled my son and I to begin a Philippines unit with a book filled with beautiful photographs and decided opinions (this is not a “let’s pretend everything is perfect” book).  We are getting our first glimpse of this tropical paradise of 80 dialects (vocab) and 7,000 islands.

violin book

We thought we knew about violins.  We knew NOTHING.  This is changing:  we are reading “The Violin Maker”, by John Marchese.  Every night we get smarter and smarter, learning about:

Cremona, Italy, home to Stradivari and Guarneri, rival luthiers (vocab) of the early 1700’s who produced stringed instruments of astounding quality that remain highly sought after and extremely valuable to this day.
Sam Zygmuntowicz, recognized expert violin maker and stringed instrument historian extraordinaire.
The Emerson String Quartet (or “ The Emerson”), and specifically, quartet member Eugene Drucker for whom Sam Z has been commissioned to create a violin.
Bach’s compositions for the violin – and most emphatically stressed, the final movement of the Partita No. 2 in D minor, “the Chaconne” (composed around 1720).  This piece is the gold standard for the crushing relentlessness of loss, despair, and grief – I think my son and I are a bit too immature for this, but we did give it a try (and we listened to the best):    

 

Classical Music Time – well, duh, we had to listen to more music that showcased the violin:

From The Emerson String Quartet   we always like listening to The Emerson’s (we are so in-the-know now) recording of Alexander Borodin’s “String Quartet No. 2 in D”, composed in 1881 (perhaps better known as music used in the 1953 American musical, “Kismet”, for which Borodin won a Tony, posthumously (vocab)):

The perfection of a performance by Itzhak Perlman – when we are tired, Max Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy” (1880), movement 1, soothes us:

Thank you good friend Amy S for suggesting that my son and I would love “Song to the Moon” from Dvorak’s “Rusalka” (1900).  The performance by Joshua Bell clutches our hearts:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH