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1. Letters in the Sand

Imagine how overjoyed I was to see my books being recommended on the Letters in the Sand website created by Caitlin, who is a mother of two and has experience as an educator in both public and private schools, as well as the being a home-schooling parent and teaching in community educational playgroups.




These particular books were written for QED Publishing and are illustrated by Sue Hendra. They were designed to help children to distinguish between different shapes. The emphasis is on making learning fun. In the book s I use the environment to reinforce what the reader sees to help them recognise shapes by using familiar, everyday objects in the world around them.





In the United States it is possible to buy all four books in one volume, entitled Shapes Around Me and published by Scholastic.

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2. Honoring Memorial Day

Holidays, Festivals and Celebrations: Memorial Day

By Trudi Strain Trueit; illustrated by Ronnie Rooney

 

In searching out picture books for Memorial Day, I try to find those that both give a historical background of the day, how it morphed from Decoration Day, following the Civil War to around 1890, when it became known as Memorial Day.

I try to find picture books that spotlight all the components and elements of time honored traditions, celebrations, speeches, places, symbols, and even poetry and songs, that are an integral part of the Memorial Day tribute to those that sacrificed  their lives for our freedoms.

Trudi Strain Trueit has put together a picture book that, I think, collects all these elements for picture book readers’ understanding of Memorial Day. And Ronnie Rooney’s art perfectly complements the narrative, portraying the historical progression of this traditional American holiday.

Though there were some things that I knew of concerning its origins and observations, there were others that were both informative and humbling, when looked at thought the prism of time, which is the true leveler and test of what is enduring in a culture.

There is a quiet question that lingers as you shut the pages of this book. And it is this. What is it that we want our children and future generations to glean from the marking of Memorial Day?

Is it the start of the summer season? Is it barbecues and family gatherings? Is it the word Memorial Day Sale, writ large at malls across America? Or is it something more than all of these put together, though they indeed each have their place in the celebration?

I suppose in some sense, I want to say they are not, and shouldn’t be, the defining reason for the marking of Memorial Day.

In this small, simple, eight chapter book, parents will find a delightful and densely packed picture book with information that will help their child understand the meaning and morphing of Memorial Day, both as it stands today…and how it evolved. A memorial, as the book states is “a lasting tribute.”

 

                It helps us to remember

                an important person, group

                or event.

 

They will learn that the day was created, and initially called Decoration Day, where, during the Civil War between the North and South, families found themselves on opposite sides in the war. Father fought against son, and even brother against brother. “In these sad times women in the South began decorating the graves of southern Confederate soldiers with flowers. They decorated the graves of northern Union soldiers, too.”

By 1865 the Civil War ends, with some 600,000 soldiers killed in a war fought on both economic and slavery issues.

1868 finds Union General John Alexander Logan declaring that each May 30th will be a day to remember those who died in the Civil War.

And the first national day of celebration is, as I said, initially termed Decoration Day, and was held at Arlington National Cemetery; a military cemetery in Virginia.

Young readers will hear of Moina Michaels and her desire, following WWl, after hearing the John McCrae poem, “In Flanders Fields,” a determination to make and wear a silk poppy as a symbol for fallen soldiers. It was later expanded to honor all soldiers in the armed forces who died in wartime, and this small idea and enterprise of poppy making and sales has generated over $200 million for veterans groups in the United States and England.

In 1948 she was honored with a stamp by the United States Postal Service.

From the explanation of the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington, to the year 2000’s Congressional creation of a National Moment of Remembrance at 3P.M. on Memorial Day, when all Americans are asked to pause and remember the “nation’s fallen soldiers,” this remembrance continues through both time, and generations of Americans, young and not so young.

Young readers will learn the meaning of the color concept surrounding the American flag, figured so prominently in parades and on porches that day.

Did you know that it is a tradition to lower the American flag to half staff until noon on Memorial Day, as a sign of respect? Here are what the flag’s colors symbolize:

 

 

    White stands for purity and innocence

 

     Red stands for valor and hardiness.

 

     Blue stands for vigilance, perseverance

     and justice.

 

 

Sidebars on each page of this picture book are filled with quotes from presidents including Lincoln, Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush, as well as historical figures quoted from General Robert E. Lee, General John A. Logan, and Nathan Hale.

Young readers can read about “Joining in the Spirit of Memorial Day” at the close of the book, suggesting some seven ways to participate in the day, and honor those, including their own relatives, who may have died in the line of duty.

I guess my favorite part is the last chapter; the poems and songs that evoke the essence of Memorial Day. Some I knew,  some I had forgotten or never knew in their completeness.

But “Taps,” with words in their entirety, is featured in the “Song” portion. Played by a single trumpet as the traditional music played at funerals of fallen soldiers, it’s  pureness and poignancy in sound and symbol is what Memorial Day is about.

And here are the words:

 

Taps

 

Fading light dims the sight,

And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.

From afar drawing nigh comes the night.

Day is done, gone the sun.

From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky.

All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

 

words and music by Major

General Daniel Butterfield (1831-1901)

 

 

 

*Here is “Taps,” played at Arlington National Cemetery, both in summer, and in a driving snow storm.

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3. How well do you know Thomas Hobbes? [quiz]

This May, the OUP Philosophy team honors Thomas Hobbes (April 5, 1588 – December 4, 1679) as their Philosopher of the Month. Hobbes is remembered as the author of one of the greatest of books on political philosophy ever written, Leviathan, in which he argued with a precision reached by few other thinkers.

The post How well do you know Thomas Hobbes? [quiz] appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. “Aery nothings and painted devils”, an extract from Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds

Human beings are subject to a continual process of bodily transformation, but shape-shifting also belongs in the landscape of magic, witchcraft, and wonder. Marina Warner, in her award-winning essays Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds: Ways of Telling the Self, explores this idea ranging from Ovid to Lewis Carroll. In the extract below she looks at Shakespeare's use of magic and demons

The post “Aery nothings and painted devils”, an extract from Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. PubCrawl Podcast: Genres – Romance

This week JJ and Kelly conclude their series on genres in publishing with ROMANCES. Also, we reveal the depth of our Harry Potter nerdery and our deep fandom past. TRIGGER WARNING: We discuss rape and consent in Old School romances.

Subscribe to us on iTunesStitcherSoundcloud, or use this feed to subscribe through your podcast service of choice! If you like us, please, please, please leave a rating or review, as it helps other listeners find the podcast. We cherish each and every one of you who have taken the time to leave us feedback; you’re the stars in our sky!

Show Notes

  • Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (and their podcast!)
  • Romance is the largest market of publishing in terms of sheer number of books being published, units being sold, as well as cash flow.
  • We discussed the hallmarks of other genres, but romance really only has the one: your main couple must end up in a relationship by the end of the book (the so-called HEA, or Happily Ever After, or the HFN, or Happily For Now).
  • Romance is a staple of publishing, and is a large part of what we now consider the literary “canon” but the modern romance novel as we knew it first came into existence in the 1970s. According to the Smart Bitches, the “first” modern romance novel is The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss.
  • Romance novels are divided into Old School and New School romance: Old School are the books published pre-1990s.
  • Old School romances may be partially responsible for the “trashy” reputation around romance novels because there were forceful, rapist male romantic leads, but for other reasons, not the least because the stories were centered around female leads and female pleasure.
  • Old School romances were also about awakening the female lead, sexually, emotionally, etc. so some hangups about “virginity” (actual or metaphorical) linger.
  • Romance publishing is divided into two segments: category and single-title.
  • Category romances are specific lines from a publisher focusing on specific tropes and storylines. As a romance writer, it may be easier to break into publishing by starting to write for categories.
  • Single-title romances are focused more on the author’s name than the tropes, e.g. Nora Roberts. The stories and tropes are created wholesale by the author and is more similar to other trade publishing genres.
  • In terms of content, romances can literally contain anything. Anything! That’s the greatest thing about romance; it’s like Mad Libs: put in what you want and you’ll pretty much guaranteed to find a romance novel that fits that criteria. Romances span every genre: mystery, thriller, science-fiction, fantasy, contemporary, et al. What constitutes a ROMANCE as opposed to another genre is the centrality of the love story.
  • Romances can have series, either where friends or different family members get their own romances in separate books, or else it’s one central couple throughout multiple books.

Books Discussed/What We’re Reading

What We’re Working On

  • Kelly is continuing to work on her WIP, not by writing words, but by journaling and thinking and creating.
  • The project JJ couldn’t talk about last week was a companion novel to Wintersong! Cue the panic.

Off Menu Recommendations

That’s all for this week! We will be on hiatus for the next two weeks as both JJ and Kelly will be on vacation (not together, alas!). When we return, we will be starting a new series, wherein we break down stories to see what makes them successful or not. As always, sound off in the comments if you have any questions and we’ll see you in two weeks!

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6. BLOCKS by Irene Dickson



I absolutely adore BLOCKS by Irene Dickson! I often consult Kirkus Reviews to see what they think of a book and occasionally their reviewer will sum up a book so perfectly I have to quote, and that is the case with BLOCKS. Of Dickson's book, Kirkus succinctly writes, "A cleverly simple book builds skills as well as towers."





Ruby builds with red blocks on the verso, Benji builds with blue blocks on the recto. They parallel play until Benji borrows a red block and a tussle follows. And the structures they have built come crashing down. Ruby even loses a shoe. Both children look stricken and the tension is palpable. Dickson does so much with few words and bold illustrations in BLOCKS. Even if you can see it coming, it is exciting to see the conflict and the resolution in this wonderful picture book. And, while Dickson could have ended BLOCKS with Ruby and Benji happily building together, a final page turn reveals Guy with his green blocks.

As a parent, I find so many teachable moments in BLOCKS. As a librarian who just won a grant that has brought three different sets of blocks (Kapla, Magnatiles and TEDCO Blocks & Marbles) into the library, I especially am grateful to have this book to pull off the shelf when the battles begin...

Source: Review Copy


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7. Dead body politics: what counting corpses tells us about security

What happens when dead bodies crop up where they are not supposed to be? How can this allow us to reflect on how we understand security and insecurity? For example, mass graves can be indicators of crimes against humanity. Recent satellite evidence of mass graves analyzed by Amnesty International outside of Bujumbura has led to a focus on the political violence there, a result of turmoil after Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his intention to seek a third term.

The post Dead body politics: what counting corpses tells us about security appeared first on OUPblog.

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8. Writing with All the Feelings by Liz Garton Scanlon

Author Liz Garton Scanlon implores us to let "you be you" in today's Author Spotlight post.

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9. Caring about human rights: the case of ISIS and Yazidi women

Mass sexual violence against women and girls is a constant in human history. One of these atrocities erupted in August 2014 in ISIS-occupied territory and persists to this day. Mainly targeting women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority, ISIS officially reinstituted sexual slavery.

The post Caring about human rights: the case of ISIS and Yazidi women appeared first on OUPblog.

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10. When When You Were Small Was Small

Is it possible that When You Were Small was published a decade ago? Sometimes it feels like it was just last week. Sometimes it feels like it was a century ago.


In the time since the book was published some very lovely things have happened. It has won a few prizes and gone a few places. It still makes me happy to think of the time the Mexican Ministry of Education printed 60,000 copies to give away to primary students. There have been two more Henry books since that first one and I've got a site that rounds up reviews and such if anyone's interested.

Part of the success of this book (and its fellows) is due to the brilliant book designer, Robin Mitchell Cranfield. Along with Dimiter Savoff, publisher of Simply Read Books, she came up with such a beautiful, stripped-down, timeless aesthetic for the book. I couldn't love it any more than I do.

photo: Summer Hall/Appyreading

My great hope is to go on making books with Julie Morstad. There are many, many reasons for this but the best one, for me, is that we find the same things funny. And in that vein, is this wonderful photo I came across on Instagram a little while ago. It was posted by Summer Hall of Appyreading and she's given me permission to share it here.

When You Were Small is being released in paperback this month (I'll have more on that soon) and is available for pre-order now.

Here are a few places you can find the book. I'll be adding in more and if you have suggestions please feel free to comment. I'm always happy to learn about independent booksellers that are new to me.

Indigo  Indiebound  Amazon.com   Amazon.ca  Amazon.uk   WH Smith  Powell's Barnes & Noble



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11. Q & A: Fariba Hachtroudi

       At Sampsonia Way they now have a transcript of their Q&A with Fariba Hachtroudi, whose The Man Who Snapped His Fingers recently came out from Europa Editions; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       I do like this reaction:

The publisher suggested cutting the length of the book. And I said, "Instead of trimming the book, I'm going to add."
       (Her reasoning is, of course, entirely sensible.)

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12. Presidential Polar Bear Post Card No. 158 - 5.25.16


Astro Bears!

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13. Translation pieces at the Literary Hub

       At the Literary Hub they have six new translation-related pieces (as they're apparently 'Celebrating Translation Month', whatever that might be ...).
       It's all worth a look -- despite some really lax fact-checking in several places ..... (E.g.: "In 2015, 570 translated books were published in the United States" writes Anjali Enjeti -- relying on the invaluable Three Percent database, but ignoring what databaser Chad Post always makes very clear, that that refers only to: "titles that have never before appeared in English" (in the US); the actual number of 'translated books' published is, of course many times larger, thanks to new translations of previously translated titles and, especially, reprints of previously published translations.)

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14. STATIONERY - scribbler

UK card store Scribbler have recently launched their first extensive collection of Notebooks designed by their in house team.  From tropical pineapples to smart black & white designs they are available in Scribbler's 33 stores nationwide.

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15. Harts Pass No. 300!!!!!!!!


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16. DESIGNER - gina mayes

Gina Mayes is a children's illustrator and surface designer who is originally from Mexico but currently resides in Mansfield, Texas. Gina's latest fabric collection is called 'Fairy Meadow' and has been designed for sale at her Spoonflower shop Baby Bubble Co.. Featuring whimsical botanical designs with lush greens and beautiful pastels. Gina is a mom of three and loves to sew, knit and do

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17. How To Make an Art Bot

Make Your Own Art Bot!

An art bot is a thing that uses a motor to in some way create art with drawing implements attached to it. There are many different possible designs. This is a guide to make the one I made, which does not require any expensive or hard-to-get materials. Make sure you read the entire procedure before attempting.

You will need:art bot

  • A large paper or plastic cup that you can cut
  • At least three markers or colored pencils (markers work a lot better because colored pencils don’t have enough pressure to draw well and need to be sharpened)
  • An electric toothbrush (you can get really cheap ones at the dollar store)
  • If they’re not included in the toothbrush, batteries
  • Paper
  • Tape
  • Scissors

Procedure:

  1. Remove the motor from the toothbrush. I’m not sure what brand I used, but the motor came out easily. If there aren’t any, put in batteries.
  2. Cut a hole in the bottom of the cup that the motor can fit halfway into. Turn it over so the hole is on top, and tape the motor in halfway so that the end with a button on it is sticking halfway out. If the button is in a different place, find a way to arrange it so it is reachable from outside.
  3. Tape your pencils or markers around the outside of the cup, drawing ends down (away from the motor end). Make sure they are evenly spaced and the drawing ends are the same distance away from the rim of the cup.
  4. Place the art bot on a piece of paper with the motor on top, and turn it on! If not every marker/pencil is drawing, adjust them so that they are all touching the paper.
  5. If you used markers, make sure to cap them when you are done.

Julie, Scholastic Kids Council

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18. Nurtured and Nuzzled - a bookwrap






Celebrating the bond between parent and child!

In two languages!


Unwrapping...





Nurtured and Nuzzled
Criados y Acariciados

By Mike Speiser
Ages 0-5


Unwrapping some illustrations for you...














Editorial Reviews...



"My 2 young boys and I love this charming little book! They think the animal family pictures are "SO cute" and I really appreciate how it normalizes the nurturing relationship between parents and their children. It makes cuddling during storytime that much sweeter." (Sarah Reece-Stremtan, MD, Pediatric Pain Medicine Doctor and Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Board Member in Washington, DC)


“The beautiful illustrations in this book can be used to teach all four areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) to young children. I can't wait to use this with my little ones!" (Sue Cahalane, Science for Kids, Science Teacher (grades PK-4), Holmdel, NJ)



“What a wonderful read for families―beautifully illustrated and with an important message about the meaning of parenting.” (Thelma Lager, Advocate for Families, Great-Grandmother (of three), Los Angeles, CA)



About the book...


Every parent knows that a baby truly is a gift.  A gift to be nurtured and cherished.  This book is a celebration of the bond that is created between a child and  his beloved parent.  

This educational, bilingual, (English and Spanish), early childhood science book highlights the importance of good parenting in an infant's life.  It illustrates how a baby needs feeding, grooming and specific care to have his needs taken care of.  The simple vocabulary, in two languages, will provide a lovely learning experience for your young child.

The illustrations are realistic and beautifully executed with bold colours and loving expressions.  



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19. WALL ART - bobbie print

Bobbie Print have created a new collection of hand printed screen prints based on the season. The first two designs Spring and Autumn have just been launched and Summer and Winter will follow shortly. The designs look at the plants and flowers that we all associate with those particular times of year.Stylized Hyacinths, Bluebells, Hellebores and Snowdrops have all been given a mid-century

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20. Spanish Edition of I.R. Coming


Here's something in the works for a July release — a Spanish edition of Imaginative Realism.
----
Previously: Luz y Color, "Color and Light" in Spanish

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21. Q & A: Can Xue

       At Sixth Tone Zang Jixian has a Q&A with Author Can Xue on the State of Chinese Literature
       Can Xue is the author whose The Last Lover won last year's Best Translated Book Award (for which I was a judge); see also the Yale University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       Among the interesting/depressing answers:

Zang Jixian: Your works are gaining a large readership in the English-speaking world. What would you say are the reasons ?

Can Xue: It's mostly because I integrate a lot of Western cultural elements in my work. I believe I'm doing the best job among Chinese writers in that aspect. Therefore, foreign readers can accept my work as literature.
       And:
Zang Jixian: Could you evaluate the current situation of China's literary world ?

Can Xue: I've said it before: I have no hope, and I don't feel like evaluating it.
       Ouch.

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22. Rachel Havrelock on the Sykes-Picot Agreement for Foreign Affairs

9780226319575

 

The Sykes-Picot Agreement, ratified on May 16, 1916, was a concord developed in secret between France and the UK, with acknowledgement of the Russian Empire, that allocated control and influence over much of Southwestern Asia, carving up and establishing much of today’s Middle East, along with Western and Arab sociopolitical tensions. The real reason for the divide? The region’s petroleum fields, and the desire to share in its reserves, but not its pipelines. Rachel Havrelock’s book River JordanThe Mythology of a Dividing Line considers the implications of yet another border in the region, the river that defines the edge of the Promised Land in the Hebrew Bible—an integral parcel of land for both the Israeli and Palestinian states. With her expertise in the ideologies that undermine much cartography of the region (her book includes a map of the Sykes-Picot Agreement’s splitting of territories), Havrelock understands how the demarcation of influence was central to the production of very specific oil-producing nation states.

In a recent piece for Foreign Affairs, appearing a century after the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Havrelock writes about the potential for the region to remake itself, in the self-image of its peoples and their local resources:

The dissolution of oil concessions could hold the key to this transformation. Consider the Kurdish case. Following the Second Gulf War, private oil companies flocked to Iraq. Iraq’s national oil company reserved the right to pump existing wells with partners of its choosing, but local bodies such as the Kurdistan Regional Government were allowed to explore new wells and forge their own partnerships—a boon to the Kurdish economy.

Kurdish oil shares made all the difference when ISIS emerged in 2014. The largely effective Kurdish Peshmerga fight against ISIS owes to Kurds’ desire to protect not just their homeland but also the resources within it. Kurds harbor longstanding desires for autonomy, but their jurisdiction over local oil is a form of sovereignty—over resources rather than territory—that models a truly post‑Sykes–Picot Middle East. Because Sykes–Picot divided territory in the name of extracting and transporting oil to Europe, reforming the ownership of oil is the first step in dissolving the legacy of colonial administration and authoritarian rule.

Ideally, people across the Middle East should hold shares in local resources and have a say in their sale, use, and conservation. In an age of increased migration, this principle could help people inhabit new places with a sense of belonging and stewardship. Of course, local officials will still need to partner with global firms to drill, refine, and export oil, but such contracts will work best when driven by local needs rather than corporate profits. The Kurdish case proves that local stakeholders will raise an army where oil companies will not.

To read Havrelock’s piece in full at Foreign Affairs, click here.

To read more about River Jordan, click here.

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23. Sharing wordless books with children: tips & favorite books (all ages)

Do you enjoy reading wordless books with your child? Do you like the freedom to make up your words and stories, or does it leave you a little lost? Wordless picture books tell the stories only through the illustrations, and they put much more of the storytelling role onto the reader.

Wordless books can be a delight and a challenge to read with children -- here are a few of my tips:

1. Encourage children to make up the story. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to read these books.

2. Spend time looking at the cover and talking about the book's title. What do you think this story is going to be about? What do you notice?

3. Take a "picture walk" through the pages, looking at the pictures and talking together about what you see.

4. Slow down and notice the details together. Talk about the characters' expressions, the setting, the use of color. What does the illustrator want us to notice?

5. Encourage your child to use different voices, add sound effects and use interesting words as they tell the story. Have fun!

These conversations will enrich your child's storytelling, bringing joy and meaning to the experience.
Here is a collection of my favorite wordless books, new and old, with a brief description (based on the publisher's description).
  • 10 Minutes till Bedtime, by Peggy Rathmann -- A boy's hamster leads an increasingly large group of hamsters on a tour of the boy's house, while his father counts down the minutes to bedtime.
  • A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka -- A dog has fun with her ball, until it is lost. This story is about what it is like to lose something special, and find a friend.
  • Draw!, by Raúl Colón -- A boy who is confined to his room fills his sketch pad with lions and elephants, then imagines himself on a safari.
  • The Farmer and the Clown, by Marla Frazee -- A farmer rescues a baby clown who has bounced off the circus train, and takes very good care of him until he can reunite the tot with his clown family.
  • Flora and the Flamingo, by Molly Idle -- In this wordless book with interactive flaps, a friendship develops between a girl named Flora and a graceful flamingo, as they learn to dance together.
  • Float, by Daniel Miyares -- A boy loses his paper boat in the rain, and goes on an adventure to retrieve it.
  • Good Night, Gorilla, by Peggy Rathmann -- An unobservant zookeeper is followed home by all the animals he thinks he has left behind in the zoo.
  • Journey, by Aaron Becker -- A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey.
  • The Lion and the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney -- In this wordless retelling of an Aesop fable set in the African Serengeti, an adventuresome mouse proves that even small creatures are capable of great deeds when she rescues the King of the Jungle.
  • Mr. Wuffles!, by David Wiesner -- Mr. Wuffles ignores all his cat toys but one, which turns out to be a spaceship piloted by small green aliens. 
  • Pool, by JiHyeon Lee -- Two shy children meet at a noisy pool and dive beneath the crowd into a magical undersea land, where they explore a fantastical landscape and meet various creatures.
  • Spot the Cat, by Henry Cole -- A cat named Spot ventures out an open window and through a city on a journey, while his owner (and the reader!) try to find him.
  • Tall, by Jez Alborough -- All the jungle animals help a very little monkey to feel that he is tall.
  • The Typewriter, by Bill Thomson -- Three children find a typewriter on a carousel, and begin an adventure that helps them discover the wonder of words.
If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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24. Rain, Hula-Hoops, Music, Muffins and Mud...


John and I bought a new tent recently, and a little one-ring stove. We were getting ready for last weekend. Like half the residents of Nether Edge, we were all excited, because our favourite music venue, Café #9, had decided to put on a mini music festival!


It was very do-it-yourself: Jonny hired a field, a generator, a couple of portaloos and some hay bales, bought a big star-shaped marque, then divvied up the cost between about 40 participants and everyone else mucked in to make it happen. Various people offered their different skills and we had a bunting-making evening at the café. 

On the Friday afternoon, John and I helped to get things set up.


The sun was shining and the reservoir was glinting behind tall pine trees. Jonny's wife India unpacked buckets of beautiful things and turned our little encampment into a colourful paradise of flowers and lights, pom-poms and cushions. The stage was set!


The music was mainly in the evenings, but people had offered to run different activities during the day. John organised a Saturday morning walk. I offered a sketching session for Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately the rain put paid to most of that... Yes, there was rain. Then more rain.


At least we got our tent up before it hit. By Friday night though, it was pouring down and those coming after work weren't so lucky.


It poured and poured. India's paper stars dissolved. The wind blew the rain in and her cushions and throws wicked up water. It put out the fires. The rain might have dampened everything in sight, but it didn't dampen our spirits. Oh no. We Nether-Edgers are a tough lot.


We huddled under our marquee and ate and drank and chatted and sang. People played guitars, someone brought out a mandolin. Someone arrived with home-baked cheese muffins. someone else brought out a wind-up gramophone and a pile of old 78 records:


In moments when the deluge slowed to a drizzle, kids ran around and people hula-hooped:


Somehow the time became half past two in the morning and we dashed back through the rain to our tents.


Next day started dry, so John's walk went ahead. It was great to see where we actually were. We walked up onto the moors and around the reservoir. We were out for two and a half hours and only got rained on once. It was saving itself...


Yep. Saturday afternoon and evening were EVEN WETTER! Was this possible? John described it best: the rain was biblical. The thing was, even though we couldn't do all the dancing, painting, yoga and star-gazing we had planned, the weather almost did us a favour. Because we spent the whole time together in the marquee, sitting on our hay bales, we really got to know each other and I made so many new friends.


Then in the evening, when the bands arrived the wonderful music totally eclipsed the rain. The main act were the fabulous Goat Ropers Rodeo Band, all the way from Rhyl. Fantastic.


As you can see, I did plenty of painting, though it got tricky as it got dark and we were operating with decorative lights alone.


Some time around midnight the rain stopped. Dan, who had set up a cocktail bar from the back of his van, brought out a record player and a massive pile of LPs. We danced in the mud, in wellies and walking boots, cocktails in hand, to hits from the 70 and 80s mostly. The best boogie I've had in a long while. Numbers dwindled gradually. At half three, John and I gave it up, but apparently the last few stopped up until 5.30!


Sunday was glorious. While those who had to get home packed up their stuff,  we put on the kettle for constant tea and a small encampment of 'morning-afters' lounged around our tent.


There was some guitar playing, a bit more hula-hooping, but mostly we just wanted to chill. The Café #9 bus served coffees.


A bass player was discovered asleep under a hay bale. 


And then it was time to pack up ourselves. The stragglers mucked in to help clear up and ferry things back into Jonny's van and we said our final goodbyes. not that final though - Jonny is already planning another one for mid summer!


Thanks to various people for taking such great photos, especially Charlie Osguthorpe. And of course thanks to Jonny, for such a brilliant idea and having the energy to make it happen.

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25. Yang Jiang (1911-2016)

       One suspects that the reason for obituaries in e.g. The New York Times and The Washingotn Post have more to do with her centenarian- than literary-status; regardless, the death of Chinese author (and translator) Yang Jiang deserves the notice -- even if her work hasn't made much of an English impression.
       She's perhaps best know in the English-speaking world as the wife of Qian Zhongshu, author the classic Fortress Besieged; see the New Directions publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk, but her own companion piece of sorts, Baptism, -- though much harder to find -- is also worth a look; see the Hong Kong University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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