Saturday, March 16, 2013

March 17 - Lá Fhéile Pádraig

Lá Fhéile Pádraig, or the day of the festival of Saint Patrick.
Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all!
Éirinn go Brách!

If you've read my blog for awhile, you know I love a good Saint story. St. Patrick's Day has a wonderful one I like to read each year.
Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland (Paperback) ~ Tomie De Paola (A... Cover Art
Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland
by Tomie dePaola

Tomie dePaola - whose retelling of the old legend of The Clown of God is one of my favorite religious picture books - turns his attention to the traditions of his mother's people in Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland.

The book includes a biographical story about his life, then shorter stories at the end attributed to St. Patrick (such as driving the snakes from Ireland, or using the clover to explain the Holy Trinity).
The story is engaging, the illustrations vintage dePaola (always a good thing!), and the inclusion of five folk legends associated with the saint just gives the book added appeal. Definitely a title to be read for St. Patrick's Day, which (as dePaola informs us) marks Patrick's death, on March 17, 461.

For a little St. Patrick's Day fun, dePaola has also retold two folk tales of Jamie O'Rourke. Jamie O'Rourke is the laziest man in all of Ireland.

Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato
Jamie O'Rourke is so lazy and can't be bothered to ever help his poor overworked wife around their farm. But one chance moment he meets a leprechaun and Jamie ends up with the biggest potato ever grown in all the world. But what do you do with that large of a potato? Read the fun story of how it impacts not only Jamie but the entire village!

Jamie O'Rourke and the Pooka

Jamie O'Rourke and the Pooka

Lazy Jamie O'Rourke is left alone by his wife for a week and he is left to care for the house and the farm. Jamie meets a magical pooka who starts doing all the housework. Jamie thinks he's the luckiest man in all of Ireland. Will his good fortune last? Another funny Jamie O'Rourke tale.

Side note - I love both of these, but my boy was especially fond of the Big Potato, and was frightened of the Pooka, so we rarely ever read that one.


TOMIE DE PAOLA - Jamie O'Rourke and the Pooka

Fin M'Coul and the Giant of  Knockmay Hill
Fin is another popular character from Irish folklore. In fact Fin is responsible for much of the geography of Ireland and Scotland.

In this story he is working on the causeway between Ireland and Scotland, and has to face his foe, the giant Cucullin. But Fin has his wife Oonah on his side, and that is his advantage.

After all that reading, and once you've had your fill of corned beef and cabbage, you can settle in with some felt and create a wonderful St. Patrick finger puppet.
If you do, please send one to me. I love this little guy.
Saint Patrick - Catholic Saint -  Toy Finger Puppet

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Celebrating Dr. Seuss

Saturday was the NEA's Annual Read Across America Day. It celebrates Dr. Seuss' birthday and promotes reading for young and old alike. Many schools, including mine, celebrated this day with different Dr. Seuss themes.

It's stated that Theodore Geisel never made a point of having a specific moral in mind when writing a story He said that "kids can see a moral coming a mile off". Even though he wasn't opposed to writing about specific issues, he said that "there's an inherent moral in any story, and I'm subversive as hell."

I love Dr. Seuss. Most people do. I grew up with a well listened and worn LP record of Horton Hatches the Egg on one side, and The Sneetches and other Stories on the other.
(I still have this album in my basement).

These two book are probably my favorites and well worn into my mind.

The Sneetches and Other Stories

Those silly Sneetches wishing they had stars on thars. Of course there is a greater underlying theme to this story, that we are all alike no matter what our outside looks like. I'm not sure if I understood all that, or just wondered what old Sylvester McMonkey McBean did with that machine after fixing and unfixing all the Sneetches. Were there other places where Sneetches lived and wished to add or a remove a star?

Really the two best parts of this book for me where the story of Mrs. McCave who had 23 sons and named them all Dave, and the last story.

I love that one so much I wrote about it and the whole Sneetches collection here:
How To Name a Baby With the Help of Dr. Seuss

And the culmination of the collection is the frightful
What Was I Scared Of?

I'll tell you what! Pale green pants with nobody inside them! Come on, think about it, it is FRIGHTENING.

The majority of the events in the story are scary without even adding the pale green pants with nobody inside them. Picking a peck of Snide in a dark and gloomy Snide-field that was almost nine miles wide? Come on!!

Of course it all ends well...

My true Dr. Seuss love though is
Horton Hatches the Egg

Good old Horton. Rescuing the egg from the good for nothing Mayzie the Lazy Bird.

As a young child, confined to the endless prairie of North Dakota, where nothing interesting EVER happened, the fact that there was a line in the book referencing "Drake, North Dakota" made me feel validated. Drake is a real place, my best friend in kindergarten even moved there. Most books I'd read took place in New York City or Boston or some other well known city. Nothing in books ever happened in North Dakota.

Ahh, sad North Dakotan existence...

But back to Horton, he endured being taunted, being mocked by the other animals, because he was FAITHFUL and had made a promise to care for that egg while Mayzie took a break. Of course she comes back at the end and wants her egg back but sometime life rewards those that are good.

And as Dr. Seuss says, "it should be, it should be, it should be like that!"

You really can't go wrong with any Seuss book.

The 500 hats of Bartholomew Cubbins
Bartholomew and the Oobleck
Caldecott Honor Award, 1949

In both of these stories Bartholomew is the wise one who serves a silly king.

A couple more highly revered books in my home, worth a read or two are:

Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose
It really redefines the idea of a good host. Read and see why, one of my son's favorites.

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories
Yertle, king of the turtles, wants to reign higher than everything so insists the other turtles create a tower he can rule from in order to try to be taller than the moon.

It doesn't work, it all falls apart (literally) because the bottom turtle, Mack, burps and throws the whole balance off, freeing all the turtles and leaving Yertle as "King of the Mud".

Who doesn't know the story of the Grinch? And his poor dog Max?

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
The Christmas special is wonderful. The story narrated by Boris Karloff is amazing. Those wonderful baritone songs sung by Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft (the original voice of Tony the Tiger and his trademark "They're grrreat!").The redemption of the Grinch, coupled with the love and good will shown by the Whos is a true classic.

The book is also amazing and I'm often stunned that people have only seen the t.v. program and never read the actual book. Don't be one of those people!

Confession, in the end of the story the Grinch carves the "roast beast". I've always referred to roast beef as roast beast because of this. Recently we were out somewhere and my 15 year-old son called roast beef  "roast beast". Oops.

McElligot's Pool
Caldecott Honor Award, 1947

"If I wait long enough, if I'm patient and cool, Who knows what I'll catch in McElligot's pool?"
A small boy, Marco (first in the book below), fishes in a puddle (as a passerby notes to him). But a child's dreams and persistence often pay off.

And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street

This was Dr. Seuss' first book.

I must stress though that while I don't think you can wrong with any Seuss book, you sure can be horrified watching the movie releases of his books. Whoever is managing his estate has sure missed the mark with the horrific Jim Carrey version of  "The Grinch"

I admit I did see the movie version of "Horton Hears a Who!" and was excited and hated it.
Buyer beware.

Between Shades of Gray (not just for adults)

My title is a joke. But I do highly recommend the book
Between Shades of Gray
by Ruta Sepetys

I've been on a streak of Historical Fiction and this is a relatively recent book that is extraordinary.
It is by no means an easy story. It is the story of a 15-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. One night the Soviet officers pull them from their home and send them north, into the Arctic to a work camp in Siberia. It chronicles the horrors and cruelties of the Stalin regime and his Siberian work camps.
It is harrowing yet hopeful. It is a wonderful read for the older child, and provides a look into an era of time that isn't chronicled well for the young reader.

I must add that this has been a popular book in my library. I've had it on display and more than once have had a teacher reel in horror as they glance at the title, thinking it is a young adult story in a VERY adult series out on the market. Not even close...