And Now We Are Two

Birthday Cake

(Photo credit: Will Clayton)

Hard to believe, but this blog is 2 years old and still plugging along! I see in my stats I’ve written 262 book reviews and 71 movie reviews. Hmm. Time to watch more movies…

Thanks to everyone who follows this humble little blog o’ mine, especially through the lean months last spring and summer when I was too caught up with moving mayhem to post. (I wrote 300 posts in my first year, but only 96 in my second! So embarrassing.) Now I’m glad to be back on track, diving once more into the library stacks in search of buried treasure. This blog is truly a labour of love, and I am glad to share my findings with you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to my book: the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, esquire… he’s just about to meet up with Smaug!

Happy reading!

Books HD

(Photo credit: Abee5)

 

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Well-Written Books: A Joy to Read

8291200329_5b38b57771_mI’m afraid I haven’t churned out many reviews this week, partially due to a couple of headachey, unproductive days, but also because I am immersed in rereading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I will be writing about it when I finish, but in the meantime I am thoroughly enjoying Tolkien’s masterful style. All parents will know this problem: far too many books we read aloud to our children are so badly written they are a struggle to get through. Like picking your way through a rock-strewn field. So when we pick up a true gem by someone who really knows their craft – E. B. White, Tolkien, Kenneth Grahame, A.A. Milne – it can be quite a revelation. So perfectly evocative, so smooth to read, so musical!

A few months ago I was reading Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories and “The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo” was so liltingly written I had to read it aloud to my daughter immediately. Look it up and you’ll see what I mean.

Why do you think Goodnight Moon is so universally loved, even after 66 years? Because books like it were not written quickly, every word was laboured over and the whole project was carefully, meticulously crafted. Plus Margaret Wise Brown knew what she was doing. Dr. Seuss books too, give the impression of freewheeling, chaotic abandon, but he took a long, long time achieving that tone and constructing rhymes that scan so perfectly that you never stumble over them when reading.

One particular quality of my favourite writers, most notably writers from a past era, is their restraint. So many books today seem purposefully over-wrought – whether it’s an avalanche of action, torrents of emotion, or a hyper ping-ponging of current teen slang. The more timeless writers, I think, are the ones who slow down, step back a bit from things and comment more thoughtfully. More omniscient, more measured. An old-fashioned style, yes, but it lends itself well to carefully crafted sentences and turns of phrase that are sheer poetry.

(More to come about The Hobbit, restraint, and the complete lack of it in Peter Jackson movies…)

So, all you weary parents, do yourself a favour and pick out an old classic for bedtime tonight, be it prose or poetry. Here’s a good one for a start: The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear. So soothing it’s like meditation.

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NFB Children’s Films Celebrate Cultural Diversity

The old NFB logo.

I just love sending people to the National Film Board of Canada site – they are a national treasure and thankfully seem very keen to provide online access to their vast collection. (Their Christmas Advent Calendar app – a film a day – is always a big hit in our house.)

 

Here, in one handy spot, are a serious of animated shorts reflecting the cultural diversity of Canadians. We haven’t watched them all yet, but The Girl Who Hated Books is a true gem, and my daughter watched Asthma Tech about twenty times.

 

Our Little Artists – Why Should They Have All the Fun?

Here’s another great TED talk, this time about how each and every one of us is an artist. Really.

Young-ha Kim also says that our kids are making art… all the time. Even when/especially when they are driving us crazy.

One thing I’ve really been enjoying lately is joining in with my daughter’s art projects. She is keen to learn how to do everything she comes across – two weeks ago it was macrame jewellery, last weekend it was paper maché, this weekend it was embroidery, and some night this week we’ll be making paper with bits of moss in it. I don’t always have the time to get right into things myself, I’m usually just the facilitator and brush-cleaner, but every once in a while I’ll join in. The how-to craft books for kids these days are just so engaging and wonderfully put together that I can’t resist. I even picked up a needle on Sunday and tried some embroidery! (If you know me at all you’ll appreciate how crazy that is.)

We should definitely all be trying new things all the time, but we get too set in our ways, too lazy. Thank goodness our kids can help us shake things up a little, eh?

As Young-ha Kim says, “Be an artist. Right now!”

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Little House in the Big Woods

9780064400015

Little House in the Big Woods

by Laura Ingalls Wilder

HarperCollins, 1932

238 pp. – 13 chapters

Age: 6 + (read to); 7+ (independent reading)

Interests: history, pioneer life, farming, autobiography, seasons, nature

Also by this author: continuing in the series – Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake

Next: Caddie Woodlawn, Sarah Plain and Talland picture books – Abraham Lincoln, Ox-Cart Man

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Holes

holes

NEWBERY MEDAL WINNER – 1999

Holes

by Louis Sachar

Random House: 1998

233 pp.

Age: 10 +

Interests: mystery, fate, jail, desert, survival, friendship

Also by this author: Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Marvin Redpost series, and Small Steps – a sequel of sorts to Holes, following some of the other boys from Camp Green Lake

Next: the movie version Holes (2003) is very good, and quite faithful to the novel

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The Giver

the-giver-lois-lowry

NEWBERY MEDAL WINNER – 1994

The Giver

by Lois Lowry

Random House: 1993

179 pp.

Age: 10+

Interests: science fiction, dystopia, morality, questioning authority, freedom

Next: the rest of ‘The Giver Quartet’: Messenger, Gathering Blue, Son

More science fiction: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine l’Engle, The Iron Man by Ted Hughes, The Martian Chronicles or Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Also by this author: Number the Stars, Autumn Street, The Silent Boy

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Oliver Jeffers, funny guy

Here’s a great little video about Oliver Jeffers, creator of many picture books such as Lost and Found. It’s entertaining but also gives a glimpse into what goes into the making of a children’s picture book.

Charming video, and yet… I can’t wait until filmmakers stop doing all those distracting out/in focus pulls. (In the good old days camera operators checked the focus before starting to shoot!)

You can check out his website here.

Lost and Found (book)

Caddie Woodlawn

caddie

NEWBERY MEDAL WINNER – 1936

Caddie Woodlawn

by Carol Ryrie Brink

MacMillan: 1935

275 pages, 24 chapters

Age: 6+ (read to); 8+ (independent reading)

Interests: history, American history, farm life, pioneers, siblings, growing up

Also by this author: sequel Magical Melons (aka Caddie Woodlawn’s Family)

Next: picture books – They Were Strong and Good, Abraham Lincoln, Ox-Cart Manchapter books –  Sarah Plain and Tall, Little House on the Prairie series, Anne of Green Gables

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The Reluctant Dragon

The Reluctant Dragon

by Kenneth Grahame

originally a chapter within the 1898 novel Dream Days; later published on its own

Holiday House: 1938

1966 edition: 55 pp.

Age: 6+ (read to); 8+ (independent reading)

Interests: dragons, knights, revisionist fairy tales, non-violence

Also by this author: The Wind in the Willows

Next: The Book of Dragons by E. Nesbit

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.