Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Clever Camel

I always enjoy retellings of classic tales, but this story from the Middle East is a retelling of one I hadn't heard before. It's about a camel who wants his master to let him sleep in the tent on a cold night. As the title says, the camel is clever.

But what I like best about the book is the way it shows the environment and culture in a few, well-written pages.

I especially enjoyed the poetic description of the sunset.

"Even the stars trembled in the cold" is a perfect example of showing, instead of telling readers about the atmosphere and preparing us for the camel's motivation to get into the tent.

The author, Chitra Soundar, grew up in India, so she knows a lot about Middle Eastern cultures and environment.

And Eugene Ruble did a great job with the illustrations.

Kids will enjoy Clever Camel and learn from it as well.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Bo at Iditarod Creek

Kirkpatrick Hill has written an amazing book for kids.

One of my great uncles was involved in the Alaska Gold Rush, but I never knew anything about that time and culture until I read this book. The story happens after the actual gold rush, but takes place in mining communities.

Unfortunately some of the story is a bit disturbing since it involves child abuse. But, overall, the plot is exciting and the ending is positive.

I love the way the author managed to reveal so much about the culture and environment naturally as the plot progressed. The characters, especially the protagonist Bo, seem alive and I cared about them.

Reading this book was like being transported to the time and place where it happened.

The illustrations by LeUyen Pham are cute and just frequent enough to help carry the story along without taking attention away from the plot.

In my opinion, Bo at Iditarod Creek ought to win an award.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

All the Children

Some of you may remember the Sunday School song about Jesus loving all the children in the world. The song calls the children red, yellow, black and white.

Those terms are often used to refer to various races. But none of them are accurate.

I have seen some people from certain parts of Africa and a few African Americans with skin so dark brown it's almost black, but most people in America with African ancestry have skin that's brown or tan.

I once saw someone with severe liver jaundice and his skin had a strong yellow tint, but I've never seen an Asian person with yellow skin.

The only red people I've encountered had fair skin and severe sunburn.

And I have met a few people with albinism who had such pale skin it could be considered white. One of them was African American.

And why does anyone think the color of people's skin defines them?  We could discuss prejudice, but it would take all day.

Perhaps the lyrics of that song should be changed to say, "Tan, and beige, and brown and pink, God still loves us when we stink."


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Hi, Ho, Come to The Fair

This weekend I'm spending time with family at a county fair.

That got me thinking about the history of events like that.

Thousands of years ago in many cultures people would gather on certain days  for what we now call street markets, but they considered them fairs. While most of the people were there to buy and sell things, there were also entertainers.

In the Middle Ages fairs and street markets were important in most communities.

When I was a kid no street markets happened in our part of the world because people could buy things from stores, but at least once a year a carnival with games and rides would come to town.

Now lots of towns and cities have weekly street markets during the warm months of the year and the holiday season. Many of those events have rides and games, at least for kids.

Whenever I see one I think how traditional they are.

But state and county fairs are much bigger than those.

Can you imagine what someone from ancient Rome or England in the Middle Ages would think of a Ferris Wheel?


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My Pets

When I was a kid my grandfather, who lived with us, had a "Siamese Fighting Fish" he trained to jump out of the water and knock food out of his fingers when he tapped on the side of the aquarium. I named that fish Sir Velvet because he was the color of blue velvet.

I got a pet goldfish that kept jumping out of the fish bowl the first day I had him, so I named the fish Silly.

Later I got a pet hamster and named him Hampstead. The first day I left him outside and he escaped from the cage and disappeared so my mother got me another hamster. I named that one Hamstead.

I was allowed to adopt a stray cat my neighbors had taken in when they moved away. My mother told me it was a boy, but I couldn't see the usual body part that would show that. I wanted a girl cat so I named him Susie.

As an adult I had several other cats, because of my husband's extreme allergy to cat hair, all our pets were dogs after we got married.

We had two deaf dalmatians, Brenda and Buttons, and a story I wrote about one of them is in the Chicken Soup for the Soul book, I Can't Believe My Dog Did That. We chose their names because Brenda means fiery and dalmations are fire dogs, and the spots on their hair look like buttons.

Bungee was a terrier mix and probably half corgi. We chose that name because his tail was striped when he was a puppy and he bounced around a lot. He had a long body, short legs and an undercoat similar to the coloring of corgis. Terriers are bred to kill rodents but corgis are herd dogs. Bungee loved to herd rodents. He'd take care of my daughter's guinia pig when she let it out on the floor.

We got a black mutt on Washington's Birthday, so we named him George. He was a stray found on inner city streets and was apparently brain damaged. He'd jump in the air and catch flies. Even when he caught a yellow jacket and it stung his tongue, he kept on jumping after bugs.

Now a sweet, snuggly poodle-bichon mix sits on my lap a lot. We named her Suds because her curly, white hair looks like soapsuds when she's clean. But she never stays white for long with all the dirt in our yard.

Those aren't the only pets I've had, but those are the most interesting ones.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

More on Animal Languages

I've blogged before about my interest in languages and the science of Linguistics.

Did you know that many animals, birds, and even insects have their own languages?

Bees communicate with others in their hives about the location of good nectar by doing a sort of dance.

Books have been written about the ways horses and dogs communicate. I have a story in the Chicken Soup for the Soul book, I Can't Believe My Dog Did That about a dog we had who learned to understand American Sign Language and taught us about 30 dog signs.

All the signs our dog used, and intonation patterns she couldn't use because she was deaf are mentioned in Stanley Coren's book, How to Speak Dog. I've told so many people about that book he should pay me a commission. ;-)

But now I wish I could learn to communicate with a squirrel.

I like squirrels and years ago tamed one to sit on my lap and let me pet it while it ate out of my hand. That wasn't wise because it started coming into the house and climbing my leg with its sharp nails when it wanted to be fed.

Now a squirrel keeps chewing on the metal corner of the leaf guard on my roof gutter. The noise is irritating and I don't know why the squirrel chews on metal, but I can't seem to make it stop doing that.

If anyone knows how I can tell the squirrel to stop, I could use an interpreter.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Bedtime Stories

When I was a kid one of our parents read to us every night at bedtime. My brother and I would each get to choose one book to hear.

I had quite a few Little Golden Books. I remember The Bedtime Story Book, Circus Time, and many others. And, of course, there were fairy tales.

I wanted to hear a different story every night, but my brother always wanted the same on. I had to listen to The Animals of Farmer Jones every single night for several years.

Probably having books read to me helped inspire my love of reading and I've been a bookaholic as long as I can remember.

Back in the 1940s parents were told they shouldn't try to teach their kids to read because they'd do it wrong and the kids would have to unlearn what the parents had taught when they started school.

And reading wasn't taught until first grade.

My first grade teacher was terrible, but I, and some other kids, started second grade reading at fifth grade level.

Years ago I read a scientific study that showed the only thing the best students at the best universities in America had in common was that their parents read to them every day.

Reading to little kids is important!