Friday, February 27, 2009

Attack Of the Giant Foods on Foodie Friday

Something about food falling from the sky or appearing in giant size appeals to the imagination and hunger in all of us. Kids especially love stories with enchanted foods. Think Willy Wonka or Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Because of this, they inspire great writing from kids. Two that I think pair nicely for a writing lesson are Tomie de Paola's Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato and Robert Weinstock's Giant Meatball. In de Paola's story, a retelling of an Irish folktale, Jamie O'Rourke "tricks" a leprechaun into giving him a magic pratie (potato) seed which grows into the largest potato ever. It uproots his home and blocks traffic. The focus here is on plot and how the O'Rourkes and their neighbors deal with the situation. Giant Meatball is more about wordplay and language. A very large and very self absorbed meatball rolls through a "snoozy little town" creating all sorts of problems until he gets his comeuppance in the end. It's a fun story for little children but worth reading with students as old as fourth or fifth grade to examine Weinstock's word choices. His diction is kitchen-inspired. The librarian "stews" and the town marmalade maker "boils" at all the noise and trouble caused by the meatball. The mayor suggests that they ask him to be "a dash" more considerate and everything will be "peachy." This would be a great launching point for a lesson on word choice. What are some sports verbs, musical adjectives, or weather related words? Now use them in a poem. It might also inspire some imaginative essay and story writing. What giant food would you want to show up on your doorstep? Personally, I'd adore a massive, house sized doughnut in my driveway, but not powdered. I despise dusting!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thoughts on Humor

I don't know how it began, but in recent weeks we've had an ongoing discussion about comedy in my house.We've talked about it all: slapstick, topical, dry wit, and bathroom humor. If motherhood has taught me anything, it's that nothing stops a six year old boy from crying faster than a good fart joke. Despite the proven healing power of potty jokes, a dry wit remains my favorite. This prompted my ten year old to ask, "How do you get a dry wit?" God knows I haven't really found one to call my own, but I do appreciate it in others. So we've been analyzing and categorizing every joke we read in books lately because we're stuck on this humor thing. Earlier this week, eight year old Hayden shared a Stephen Wright-like question from her latest book, Dear Dumb Diary #8: It's Not My Fault I Know Everything by Jim Benton. Who spends more time on their appearance: supermodels or circus clowns? Think about it, the hair, the make up, the bizarre outfits and uncomfortable shoes. Hayden just loves those Dear Dumb Diary books and was beside herself with joy to find this latest one at the bookstore last week even though it wasn't scheduled for release until next month.

A comedy bit has been running through my head lately as well. It's from Demetri Martin's new show, "Important Things with Demetri Martin" on Comedy Central. Bookish nerd that I am, I love all of his fresh, clever wordplay. On a recent show, he suggested that to make someone sound less powerful, put "DJ" in front of his or her name. He demonstrated the effectiveness of this with DJ ABRAHAM LINCOLN. So funny, right? I've found myself testing it out on name after name as I go throughout my day. DJ Dick Cheney. DJ William Shakespeare. DJ Salman Rushdie. Like a song stuck in your head, I guarantee you'll end up trying it too as you read the newspaper or listen to the radio.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Look for Joy in the Rink

A number of years ago, I went to visit my grandfather in the hospital after he had undergone surgery. I remember being very worried about him. He looked so small in the hospital gown and bed, and I wasn't sure how aware he was of what was going on or if he even knew I was there. He was such a sharp and proud person, he would not have wanted to appear confused or helpless. So I just sat there quietly in the room with him. There was all the usual daytime noise of a busy hospital going on in the hallway. In particular, the nurses all seemed to need someone by the name of Joy. Who knew if she was a candy striper, maintenance worker, therapist, or doctor? All I know is I kept hearing people loudly ask, "Has anyone seen Joy?" and "Where's Joy?" A nurse came in to fiddle with my grandpa's tubes. Another nurse ducked her head in the room and inquired of her, "Where should I look for Joy?" From his bed and without opening his eyes, my grandpop said, "Not in Mudville." My worrying ended and my love of the greatest sports poem ever, "Casey at the Bat," increased tenfold.
Marty Sederman has written a fast paced rhyming picture book about a pee wee ice hockey game inspired by the style of "Casey at the Bat." If for no other reason, I like Casey and Derek on the Ice because it gave me a chance to tell that story. It does also have some other strengths to recommend. It has lots of action and an underdog story, as well as exciting, spot on illustrations. Illustrator Zachary Pullen has definitely put in some hours at ice hockey rinks. His details are realistic from the black puck marks on the boards to the kids' names written on masking tape affixed to their helmets. Young hockey players will recognize and appreciate the attention to detail. It won't disappoint those who like a happy ending for the underdog.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mixed Bag on Monday

Last night we celebrated my husband and son's fortieth and tenth birthdays. We enjoyed a delicious dinner of beef and chicken fondue, although I have to admit there's something kind of yucky about the smell of spent cooking oil which is hanging in the house this morning. Maybe I'll just eat a slice of leftover birthday cake to get my mind off it. Both guys opened some nice gifts, including a few books. The forty year old now has Sy Montgomery's The Good Good Pig to help pass the time as he commutes to and from the city. The ten year old now owns Harry Mazer's A Boy at War and two of R.L.Stine's Goosebumps books, Ghost Camp and God, help us for this title, Say Cheese and Die Screaming!
Everyone was happy with the birthday dinner, and afterwards I got to enjoy the Academy Awards show. I'm glad Slumdog Millionaire won so many awards. I couldn't take my eyes off that Freida Pinto, the actress who plays Latika. How gorgeous is she? But for me as a parent and as the child of a man with an impressive attention-getting whistle, the sweetest moment of the night was when Kate Winslet was accepting her Oscar and had her dad whistle so she could find him and her mom in the crowded theater. Lovely. And I type that trying to imitate her British accent.
Happy Monday morning to you!

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I like a lot of books. Some I recommend to friends and family, some I give as gifts, and a very few make me act positively evangelical. Lynne Cox's Grayson is just such a book. I was telling people to read it before I had even finished it. I've started counting how many copies I ought to buy for upcoming birthdays. In church this morning I saw a teenaged neighbor who I chat with about books at our lake during the summer. I thought about lending her my copy. I can't wait to start reading it aloud to my kids, although I know my third and fourth graders could probably handle reading it on their own.Grayson is a marvelous and endearing memoir which recounts an encounter the author had when she was a teenager with a baby whale while swimming off the coast of California. It's a story about courage and adventure as Cox swims with the baby whale for hours, helping him find his mother and avoid dying either from collapsed lungs on the shore or of starvation and dehydration in the water. The story is told simply and beautifully. At the same time, Cox describes her experience so clearly that I felt I was in the water with her. I'm no huge nature lover and I certainly hate exercising to the point of tired, much less exhaustion, and yet I was completely charmed by this story of both. Only 153 pages long, it is an easy and enjoyable read that I plan to press on anyone who will listen to me.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bring Me Some Apples on Foodie Friday

I've got a great picture book with rhymes and recipes on this Foodie Friday. It's Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis by Robbin Gourley. Edna Lewis was born in 1916 in a farming community founded by her grandfather and two other emancipated slaves. She grew up to be a famous, award winning chef when there weren't many celebrated female or African American chefs. She was a proponent of Southern regional cooking and bringing ingredients fresh from the field to the table. I learned this about her from the author's note at the end of the book. The bulk of Bring Me Some Apples follows one growing and harvesting season in Edna's childhood. She and her family harvest and eat strawberries, wild greens, wild honey, cherries, blackberries, peaches, tomatoes, watermelon, corn, beans, grapes, apples, pecans and walnuts as they ripen. With each new crop, Edna speculates on what she should make with that food. For instance, when she and her father collect wild honey, she thinks about honey sweetening hot biscuits in the morning. For each food, there is also a bit of folk wisdom or poetry, such as
"A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon
A swarm of bees in July is not worth a fly."
Gourley's beautiful watercolor illustrations make me long for summertime and fresh fruits and vegetables. She wisely includes four of Edna Lewis' recipes updated for modern kitchens and young cooks. The title of the book tells us this is "a story about Edna Lewis." I want more stories about her. It inspired me to learn more about her adulthood and career which makes it successful nonfiction for children in my opinion.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Happy Birthday!!!!

Somebody's turning ten today! Double digits! The big one-o! He hopes to be an inventor, a professional hockey player, a multi-millionaire, and a dad someday. He also plans, through healthy eating, exercise, and medical advancements, to live in three centuries. He's already got the 1900's and 2000's under his boys' size ten belt. I'm betting he'll reach that goal. I love him and have enjoyed the last ten years more than words can say!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Procrastination Does NOT Pay!

Last night I dropped two of my children off at basketball. My kind parents agreed to watch the game and drive the kids home afterward, leaving me free to drive my third child to his ice hockey practice. Once he was on the ice, I had an hour to myself to work on reading for my book club which would meet in less than 48 hours. Unfortunately, the book, Barry Unsworth's Land of Marvels, set in Iraq just before the outbreak of World War I, is not holding my interest. Truth be told, it never even caught my interest. So I told myself I would read just a little of Newsweek magazine and then right back to the book. Mistake!

The first article I read, "The Curse of Cursive" by Jessica Bennett, scared me. I was scared my fourth grade son would find it. Bennett argues in favor of letting penmanship, cursive writing, joined up letters, script, whatever you call it, die out. In this modern world of computers and Blackberries, it has lost its purpose she argues. She cites the 2006 SAT where just 15 percent of the test takers used cursive on the written section. Clearly my son's elementary school didn't get the memo and supporting him through his penmanship homework was like the glory days of Gitmo: torture. It is crucial that he not find this article as it shoots down all of the lame arguments I used to get him to complete the assignments.

Foolishly, I left Land of Marvels in my handbag and moved onto another article, this one on "sexting." Sexting?! The title of this heart warming piece is "Teens, Nude Photos, and the Law." It's written by Dahlia Lithwick and is sure to make parents nauseous. Sexting is the name for sending a nude or semi nude photo of oneself via cell phone. Let me quote from the article here to tell you that "One teenager in five reported having sent or posted naked photos of themselves" according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. One in five! (I apologize for all of the exclamation points but Holy Christmas!) Some people argue that kids have always been this stupid and this epidemic is only occurring due to the availability of technology. I disagree. Cavegirls had the technology to paint on the walls but you don't see many cave paintings of them flashing their boobs and grabbing their crotches. Can you imagine Shirley Temple or Judy Garland pulling a Miley Cyrus? And let me tell you, back in the 80s, my girlfriends and I never went to the pool or beach without a great big butt covering Tshirt that was only removed just before going in the water and immediately replaced upon coming out. Even if, through some miracle of time travel, we had gotten hold of cell phones, MySpace accounts and Facebook pages, there was no possible way we would photograph and forward our (perceived) flawed figures, especially not to boys we liked! No, I blame the times, Bratz dolls, thong underwear sold in little girl's size 6, and those hot pink toddler sweatpants that say "Sassy" and "Flirt" across the bottom. Whatever the reason for such gross stupidity on the part of these teens, here's the really scary bit: the senders and receivers are being charged with child pornography. Think about that as a parent. Not only do you have to face having a kid so dumb he or she sent naked self portraits by cell phone, but if convicted, you're the parent of a soon to be registered sex offender.

Obviously, I shut Newsweek like it was on fire, watched my sweet, innocent, boy with passable penmanship play a little hockey. Then I started back in on my book. You know, it really started to get better about 150 pages in. Maybe that's just in light of the alternative reading...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Alpha Bravo Charlie

If this is a common scene on your living room floor (don't ask me what the astronaut thinks he's doing on a battlefield),

this book might belong on your coffee table:

Chris L. Demarest's Alpha Bravo Charlie has been popular in my house for several years now. Actually, a number of Demarest's books have been read thin to and by my boys including his tremendous alphabet book, Firefighters A to Z. Alpha Bravo Charlie presents a different alphabet, the International Communications Alphabet, used in the military, law enforcement, and civil aviation to clarify communication. Each page presents one letter, its corresponding US Navy signal flag, a sentence using that letter, and a colorful, energetic accompanying photograph. For example, the F page tells us that F is for foxtrot and shows foot soldiers wearing bulletproof flak jackets. Yes, my boys have loved all the pictures of soldiers and fighter jets, submarines and paratroopers, but they love that the ICA can be used like a code as well. I treasure notes from my son Aaron where he signed his name as "Alpha Alpha Romeo Oscar November." Moreover, the book is a great teaching tool about the need for clear communication. It has inspired us to talk about why they see police on television shows call in license plate numbers using ICA. We imagine the consequences if an air traffic control tower confused an "m" for "n." That is a nice segue for a math lesson on military time and how its purpose, removing ambiguity, is similar. Although this book will definitely appeal most to the kid whose pockets are filled with toy army men, it has some great educational uses for all kids. If only it could teach those first kids to take the army men out of their pants pockets before tossing those pants in the laundry!

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Table for One at La Plata De Nada, Por Favor

A few weeks ago I was lamenting the fact that I rarely get to use all the Spanish I learned in college. Sure, I bought those Spanish language valentine conversation hearts, but I was eating them too fast too appreciate all the "Guapo"s and "Besa Me''s. Fortunately, my kids are on the last day of a four day weekend and we went to see The Pink Panther 2 starring Steve Martin. Amidst all of the slapstick humor which made me fear my sons would choke from laughing so hard while eating popcorn, there was a little Spanish. The characters dine at a Spanish restaurant in Rome named La Plata de Nada, the plate of nothing. Hooray, I put my tuition to work. That little gag reminded me of one of the many great details in Steve Martin's L.A. Story where Martin's character books a room for himself and Sarah Jessica Parker's spokesmodel in training character at El Pollo del Mar (ie The Chicken of the Sea). While pale in comparison to the Peter Sellers originals, The Pink Panther 2 was the perfect way to get the kids out of the house and to brag that I'm using my Spanish. And, lest you think I only "read" Steve Martin's movies, my bookclub has read two of his books in recent years, Shopgirl and Born Standing Up, both of which I recommend.

An Award Winning Bedtime Book

Are you searching for a magical picture book to read at bedtime? One that is both mystical and familiar? Comforting and enthralling? With gorgeous illustrations and lovely poetry? The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson and illustrated by Beth Krommes is that book. It just won the 2009 Caldecott Medal and the hearts of the children in my house. It is a cumulative poem like The House That Jack Built and yet so different. It begins, "Here is the key to the house. In the house burns a light. In that light rests a bed." The black and white scratchboard illustrations, enhanced with touches of yellow watercolor perfectly complement the words of the book, creating the feeling of nighttime warmed by both familiar and fanciful things. Obviously The House in the Night is not only a bedtime book, but it is fairly begs to be read in a darkened room snuggled under cozy blankets.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Little Love Poem for the Day

In 1977 my grandmother gave me a copy of Edward Lear's The Owl and The Pussy-Cat illustrated by Barbara Cooney. To my mind, it is the sweetest literary romance of all time. Romeo and Juliet have got nothing on these two. Jan Brett has a gorgeously illustrated version with a Caribbean setting. Back to my grandparents, the best Valentine's gift I ever received, the one that proved the giver really knew me, came from grandfather. One year while I was in college, he put a shiny red bow on a box of Entemann's Pecan Danish Ring. Bliss! Clearly, that's long gone. In fact, it was probably polished off within the first twenty minutes I was alone with it in my dorm room. So, I'll share the poem with you instead.

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sand to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are!
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!"

Pussy said to the Owl, "You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing
O let us be married! too long we have tarried;
But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

"Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?" Said the Pig, "I will."
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Hybrid Post by a Hybrid Blogger

I don't know about you, but I think of The Book Bench as a hybrid blog. I don't just say that in hopes that Leonardo DiCaprio will accidentally land here via Google. No, I see this hobby of mine as a cross between a mommy blog and a book blog. If you are looking for other (better?) mommy blogs, you certainly don't need my help. You can't take a step on the Internet without tripping over a few. Although, I'd be happy to tell you some of my favorites if you ask. However, if you are looking for some good book blogs, more specifically blogs about books for children and young adults, may I recommend you visit KidLitosphere Central, the brand new and nicely organized site for The Society of Bloggers in Children's and Young Adult Literature. It's a great resource. If, on the other hand (wait, maybe we're up to a third hand), you just come to The Book Bench to enjoy my dry wit, keen observations, and the stained carpet in my profile picture, well, um, sorry.

The title of this post touts it as a hybrid post, so let me switch gears here and talk about shopping. I had to go to the mall yesterday in my role as third grade class mom. My assignment was to purchase some items at The Limited Too for a PTA fundraiser. Are you familiar with The Limited Too? They sell thirty dollar less than beautiful tshirts to preteen girls. My grandmother would have looked at the price tags and said, "Jesse James used a gun." Because it's highway robbery or at least mall way robbery! Anyway, after I completed that errand, I wandered over to Old Navy where I belong. And, oh my gosh, they had Charley Harper board books on sale for 25%off!

I love Charley Harper's quirky, midcentury feel illustrations. Don't you just love that cardinal above? I once read that Harper compared his bird artistry to Audobon's by saying Audobon counted every feather on every wing of a bird whereas he just counted the wings. Last year Old Navy began selling some baby and toddler clothing with Harper's illustrations on them as well as an ABC board book and a 1,2,3 board book. While Christmas shopping back in December, my youngest son and I sat down on the store floor and read them both. We easily agreed that the minnows in the number book were our favorite. Lo and behold, they are marked down, and since I have several friends expecting babies, I stocked up on a few.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tween Girls and "The Period Talk"- Gotcha Covered!

Here comes a cliche: I sure wish this book had been around when I was a tween. Of course the word "tween" wasn't around when I was a tween. In preparation for my period, the filmstrip I watched in school mostly featured an illustration of a uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries that seen from a distance (the back of the classroom) looked a lot like a longhorn steer to me. The pamphlets I was given were overly scientific and did not answer the questions my girlfriends and I had about what it was really going to be like. Gotcha Covered! Everything You Need to Know About Your Period by Lisa McGuinness and Chris Boral is a great resource for today's tweens and their parents. It is written for a nine to twelve year old reader. While talking respectfully to girls, the authors still have a casual tone. Couple that with matter of fact information about what to expect and how to handle embarrassing situations, and you'll end up with a prepared girl not a scared or confused one. The book is short, only 34 pages which is ideal. I think it will inform without overwhelming. It even provides a few laughs, such as in these section titles. "A New Kind of Shopping Spree" and "Did My Jeans Shrink a Size?" That last one is about bloating, and is, in fact, a question I ask myself monthly, decades after I was a tween. While I'm not necessarily looking forward to having this talk with my own daughter someday, Gotcha Covered! will make it easier.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, My Home is Littered with Doilies and Glue

My house was overrun by Valentine's Day preparations this weekend. Each of my three children had to construct their valentines boxes, the boxes placed on their desk during the class party to collect valentines from their classmates. The kindergartner's was easy. Cover a shoebox with red paper and stickers and call it a day. My eight year old daughter spent a fair amount of time joyfully creating a pink and red, doily covered, ribbon bedecked, glitter encrusted confection. While it screams "Valentine's Day" (and that its creator has two X chromosomes), something similar won't cut it for my nine year old son. It's a real balancing act, constructing a manly valentines box. Luckily, he likes to build and has a great imagination and ended up making this ice hockey rink out of an old shoebox with some help from his dad. Note the slots in the goals so his friends can shout "Score!" if they are so inclined while depositing cards in the box.

Speaking of boys with good imaginations who like to build, have you met Iggy Peck Architect? My son in kindergarten chose to share Iggy Peck Architect for the following homework assignment. He says he loves it because "it is funny and has good words and pictures." I couldn't agree more.

Andrea Beaty has written a great book about a boy who loves to build using found objects (shoes, food, diapers). His Great Sphinx and St. Louis Arch are impressive, but it is a suspension bridge he builds that saves the day and convinces his second grade teacher that architecture is worthy of study in school. David Roberts' illustrations are fantastic, and they need to be to convince the reader of the beauty of buildings. And while this might be lost on young readers, I would kill for the gorgeous retro outfits Iggy Peck's mother and teacher wear in this fun picture book!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Foodie Friday: Little Pea

My mom gave my son Ethan a sweet little picture book for Christmas, Little Pea written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and adorably illustrated by Jen Corace. Mom told me she picked it up at a winery in California that she visited with my sister last summer. This blows my mind in several ways. She started her Christmas shopping in the summer! In a winery! A winery that sells children's picture books!? Forget Disney World; that sounds like the happiest place on Earth.
Back to the book. Poor Little Pea doesn't like to eat sweets, but if he doesn't eat his dinner of candy, Mama Pea and Papa Pea will not allow him dessert. What is his dessert, you wonder? Spinach, of course. This little book's strengths are its illustrations of the Peas and its turning the normal order of things upside down. It is sure to charm picky preschool eaters and their parents.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I Said I Wouldn't Do This Again!

I'm about to do something I vowed never to do again. No, I'm not perming my hair or drinking a tequila shot. Believe me, neither is pretty. I'm going to write a post about bear books. After black bears had gone through my garbage cans one too many times, I declared The Book Bench a no-bear zone on November 10, but we've been enjoying two bear books that I feel I must share. The first is Kevin Henke's Old Bear. My son Ethan and I have read this half a dozen times in the past few weeks. Old Bear goes into hibernation and dreams that he is a cub again. It is a lovely book about age and seasons and the colors and sights we associate with the seasons. It's the perfect lapsit book.

Ethan loves Old Bear, so please don't get the wrong impression from the following photos. I'm warning you; they are a bit disturbing. Ethan purchased a Nerf gun last weekend with some birthday money. You would think he was buying his first home judging from the amount of time he spent considering this purchase. He wore a groove in the linoleum of the Toys R Us Nerf gun aisle examining all the options.

We brought it home and he shot every surface in the house. There were suction cup arrows affixed to doors, windows, ceilings, and eyeglasses. Kindly, his sister created several bull's eye targets for him from construction paper and markers. They were great for a few hours, but he eventually tired of them and went hunting for something new to shoot. It seems his hunt took him past the book bench where we keep library books. I assure you, this was not what I intended when I checked Old Bear out of the library! I think I need to return him to the (relative) safety of the children's section soon!
Another book bear avoided the Nerf gun. I think that is because while nice to look at, the illustration on the cover of Wonder Bear by Tao Nyeu is not as large as that of Old Bear, and therefore it's a more difficult target for my pint sized marksman. Wonder Bear was a birthday gift for Ethan. It is an exuberantly illustrated wordless picture book. According to the dust jacket, Tao Nyeu received her MFA in illustration from the School of Visual Arts in NYC and "Wonder Bear was her thesis project inspired by an odd-looking gummy bear with magical powers." When my boys were toddlers, I disliked reading their wordless books because they insisted that I say exactly the same thing for each page at each "reading." However, I couldn't always remember what I said the last time. They would really flip their toddler lids if I strayed from the script as it were. Now my little guy loves it when I make up something different with each telling, and the illustrations in Wonder Bear inspire some wacky storytelling.
Off the subject of bears, Stephen Colbert is at it again. Last night he mentioned Neil Gaiman's Newberry medal winning book The Graveyard Book on the Colbert Report. I'm beginning to think he was a children's librarian in a former life. Also from that episode, his reading of a Danielle Steel novel with Steve Martin is priceless. If you missed it, I imagine you'll be able to find it on YouTube soon.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I'd Like To Thank The Little People

I received a fabulous award this week from Ginny Marie of Lemon Drop Pie. That's it on the left. Thank you so much! I'm amazed that anyone other than my mom and husband read this blog. I think I'm supposed to pass it along to some other bloggers which I plan to do soon. There are quite a few that I enjoy, Lemon Drop Pie for one, so it's hard to narrow it down. It seems part of the award is listing five things I'm currently into. Since this is supposed to be a blog about reading (although carpooling, snow shoveling, and candy eating find their way in), I'll try to keep it to the written word. Here goes:
1. Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie by Ken Haedrich. My mom gave me this book for Christmas. I've shed some drool on the pages.
2. The Cheat Sheet on The Daily Beast website.
3. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. It's our current nighttime read aloud book and all of my kids are enjoying it. Even my husband has been listening in. They get a big kick out of the character Constance.
4. Soft powdered sugar doughnut holes. (You knew I wouldn't stick to reading material.) Sometimes I'm in a salty place food wise and sometimes I'm in a sweet place. Rarely am I in a vegetabley place.
5. I can't stop listening to "Human" by The Killers. I'm also really digging their cover of the Dire Straits' "Romeo and Juliet." Do you remember that one, "Juliet, the dice were loaded from the start..." You know what, that one kind of counts as reading because although it's pop music, it contains a Shakespearean reference.
Tell me something you're into at the moment.

How I'm Using All My Hours of College Spanish

Don't you just love Target? You go in to buy bleach and come out with five (make that cinco) boxes of conversation hearts in Spanish. The last time I confessed that all I had read during that day were the words on candy hearts it was January. At least now I'm eating them in febrero, the appropriate month for Valentine candy.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Amazing Athlete, Great Nonfiction Book

Lerner Publications has just released a new title in its Amazing Athletes series aimed at readers in the second through fifth grades. This one is Sidney Crosby by Jeff Savage. Sidney Crosby's story is a great one. His father first taught him to play hockey at the age of two, and he began skating at three. Savage includes some interesting anecdotes. For example, the young Sidney Crosby practiced slapping pucks into the clothes dryer in his family's basement. His mother must have been a patient woman! Savage also includes the types of stories hockey fans love, of Sidney playing with a broken foot and having his front teeth knocked out by an opponent's skate blade. He went on to be the NHL's number one draft pick in 2005. He was named the Pittsburgh Penguins team captain, the NHL's youngest captain, as a teenager in the 2007-2008 season. Clearly, Sidney Crosby's impressive achievements make a good story, but this is also a great example of well written nonfiction, the kind of nonfiction more kids should be experiencing. The book presents information in a variety of ways. It includes bolded words in the text which are defined in a glossary, relevant sidebar information, captioned photographs, a table of contents, index, and suggested further reading and websites.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Monday Morning Sports Round Up

How about that Super Bowl last night? What an exciting game! This is why you shouldn't expect Monday Morning Sports Round Up to be a regular feature here at The Book Bench: what really made that game exciting to me were the delicious buffalo wings I ate in the third quarter and Bruce Springsteen playing at halftime. I'm a Jersey girl after all. There is another sports story I have been following pretty closely this weekend. I'm really torn up about the photo that was released of Michael Phelps smoking marijuana from a bong. First, I'm disappointed in myself because my very first thought, honest to God, was that "toke" rhymes with "backstroke." What does that say about me? Then my next thought was, "No wonder all those magazine articles told us he consumes like 10,000 calories a day!" Second, I'm disappointed in Michael Phelps. No, not the person; I don't know him. I'm disappointed in Michael Phelps the great story of hard work and goal setting I held up to my kids. My son perused the Scholastic Book Order last week (before the pot smoking story broke) and considered ordering a book about Michael Phelps, but in the end decided that $12 was more than he wanted to spend. I'm curious to see if the companies whose products he endorses decide against spending so much on him as well.