Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Thanksgiving Wish

A Thanksgiving Wish by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by John Thompson.
Blue Sky Press (an imprint of Scholastic), 1999.

Only one more Thanksgiving title to share with you this year.  (See yesterday's and previous years' books.)

A Thanksgiving Wish is a gorgeous picture book. It was published fifteen years ago, but it has such a timeless quality that I was surprised to see it's out of print.

In the story, we meet Amanda, and we learn about her family's Thanksgiving tradition. Every year, Bubbe, her grandmother, works several days to create an entire Thanksgiving feast for her large Jewish family. Everyone crowds into various rooms of Bubbe's small house, enjoying the fabulous made-from-scratch meal. Then at night, Bubbe visits each of her grandchildren one-on-one, offering them a choice of wishbones she has saved over the course of the year. She asks them how big their wish might be. That determines which size wishbone they pull apart.

But this year is different. Bubbe has passed away, and Amanda's family has opted to host the large gathering at their new old house. The family tries to recreate Bubbe's recipes, but they don't give themselves much time.

It's a dreary, rainy Thanksgiving day. Both sets of aunts, uncles, and cousins arrive safely. Dinner isn't ready yet, and everyone is soaked from the rain. Every appliance in the house is running, causing the fuse to go out. There will be no electricity until the hardware store opens the next day.

But there's a knock at the door. An elderly grandmother, Mrs. Yee, has noticed the electricity has gone out. She offers the family the use of her kitchen. When they run out of room there, she takes them to the homes of other neighbors. Amanda's family meets the people in their neighborhood, and they kindly help them finish preparing their feast.

By the time dinner is ready, everyone is too hungry to compare the food to Bubbe's. Mrs. Yee is invited to stay, and everyone has an enjoyable meal, until Amanda starts to cry. She has noticed the wishbone, which reminds her of Bubbe, and the tradition they shared.

The family tells her that it's hers, as she is the youngest and had the fewest years with Bubbe. She misses having Bubbe there to pull apart the bone, but Mrs. Yee offers to act as Grandma in her place.

Amanda admits that her wish cannot come true, as she wished her Bubbe was still alive. Her mother tells her that Bubbe's wish, every year with every grandchild, was that the child should win the larger piece of the bone. After all, what Bubbe wanted most was for her grandchildren's wishes to come true.

While Amanda's Bubbe cannot come back, a new tradition is born. Her family takes over the Thanksgiving hosting and cooking, and Mrs. Yee continues to join them, every year.

How sweet and beautiful and real is that?

I will have my Thanksgiving Thankful Thursday post tomorrow, but in case you don't see it, I'll let you know that I'm thankful for my readers, my blog friends, and for books.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sheriff Sally Gopher and the Thanksgiving Caper

Sheriff Sally Gopher and the Thanksgiving Caper
by Robert Quackenbush.
Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1982.

I didn't check out too many library books for Thanksgiving this year. If you want to see what we read the past couple of years, click here.

These illustrations remind me so much of other books and cartoons from the early 1980s. I would have been in kindergarten when Sheriff Sally Gopher and the Thanksgiving Caper first came out. As familiar as the style may be, I don't believe I ever read this one, nor any other books by Robert Quackenbush.

So story-wise, this one is a mix of weird, silly, and strangely educational. The critters of Pebble Junction are preparing for their big Thanksgiving corn feast. A giant turkey, modeled on one Terence Turkey, is being constructed from ears of corn, when Virgil Vulture (such a tongue-twister when you read this book aloud!) storms into Sheriff Sally Gopher's office. He is angry about Terence Turkey being the symbol of Thanksgiving, when Virgil's ancestors were present at the first Thanksgiving, too. After all, who else would clean up the remains of the meal but a vulture?

After paying a visit to the mayor (who is also Sheriff Sally's horse), it is suggested that the issue be put to vote. Dirk Duck speaks up. His ancestor goes back even further, he says. You see, his ancestor was Dutch, and lived in Leiden, Holland. Many of the Pilgrims who fled England settled in Leiden first. While there, they learned about Dutch Thanksgiving, the hutspot feast, which was first celebrated in 1574, when the Dutch drove the Spanish troops out of Leiden.

[Okay, see what I mean by strangely educational? Because the daughters and I are very curious and love to learn more, we did a Google search for more on Dutch Thanksgiving. Here is short article from Smithsonian Magazine.]

And so, the campaigning begins. Posters and flyers go up. It is decided that voting will be "ancient Greek style, using colored stones instead of paper ballots."

[Okay, more Googling. I'm not saying I was completely ignorant of this stuff, but when I'm trying to keep my facts straight, sometimes a little help is needed.]

The stones used for the election are brown for Terence, white for Dirk, and black for Virgil. After the first box is emptied, Virgil overhears someone saying that Terence was in the lead. Virgil is the last to vote. He carries his stone in a paper bag. When he departs, the second box is emptied. Every stone in the box is black. Virgil has won!

Construction starts on a new corn statue. Thanksgiving starts to seem very gloomy. There are complaints.

Then one day, a small black object whizzes by Sheriff Sally, landing in a puddle. Upon picking it up, the critters notice it has turned brown! There are chicks nearby, playing marbles. The marbles, it turns out, were from the election.

Sheriff Sally and her deputies rush to Virgil Vulture's house to investigate. They find a paper bag. Inside, there is an empty bottle of quick-drying black ink! Sheriff Sally confronts Virgil, who admits he has no idea why he suddenly thought it was so important to be the symbol of Thanksgiving. "Vultures are loners. We hate huge gatherings. Give the job to Terence. He really should have won."

The job is given back to Terence. Everyone is so relieved, even Dirk Duck accepts the news with no objection.

The big Thanksgiving corn feast takes place as planned. Virgil stays home until it's time to clean up.

"So, in the end, Pebble Junction's holiday was a perfect success. It was so perfect that everyone vowed to keep to tradition at future Thanksgivings. And they stuck to their word."

Love and peace to you all.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

What Will I Be?: A Wish Book (A Little Golden Book)

What Will I Be?: A Wish Book by Kathleen Krull Cowles,
illustrated by Eulala Conner. Golden Press / Western Publishing Company, 1979.

Here is a fine example of diversity in children's books, circa 1979. This darling Little Golden Book is simple: a bunch of kids daydream about what they might be or do when they grow up. Some of those things are actual jobs, some are fantasy, some veer into other directions.  But look at the illustrations! We have children of different colors, a child in a wheelchair, girls daydreaming about being firefighters and train engineers, boys wanting to be dancers or chefs.  Enjoy!

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Reads

Happy Friday, dear readers! Isn't this picture sad? I took it one week ago today, when Mr. B pulled down our wonderful fairy playhouse. Last Saturday, a guy came out to install the posts for our brand new chain link fence, and the fairy house was in the way. It was also attached to the big tree you see in the photo, which is actually in our neighbor's yard. Big Sis is still in mourning, despite the fact that her daddy has big ideas about how to make an even better fairy playhouse next year. He didn't help by declaring, "Goodbye, Fairy House. Hello, kindling!" Which he meant, by the way.

I don't have as many books to share with you this week. Only one week's worth, as opposed to a month's.

What Little Sis Read

 Once In A Wood: Ten Tales from Aesopadapted and illustrated by Eve Rice. Greenwillow, 1979.

I don't know if she read the entire book, but this is one she worked on with her daddy, earlier in the week. When I asked her about it, she shrugged it off, and the next day, she insisted on reading something else. Even though she picked this one out at the library, I don't think she cared for it.

The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Candlewick Press, 2014.

And I picked this one. Score! She loved this book. She had some major giggle fits as we read this one together. I loved Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl, and Little Sis has been watching the four Ever After High episodes on Netflix over and over again, and Hale writes those books. She collaborated on this one with her husband, and the fabulous LeUyen Pham provides the illustrations. Princess Magnolia is having a very proper tea with a very proper but nosy duchess, when she receives a signal on her special ring. She finds an excuse to sneak to her broom closet, when she transforms into The Princess in Black! The Princess in Black is a superhero. Magnolia's pretty unicorn becomes a swift black horse, as she rushes into the countryside to save some goats from a hungry troll. Meanwhile, back at the castle, the nosy duchess is snooping around, trying to find any dirt she can on Princess Magnolia. Very funny, very cute stuff.

What I Read

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver, illustrated by Kei Acedera. HarperCollins, 2011.

Okay, the big box bookstore where I worked for 11 years closed at the end of 2011. Sometime during that last year, I got a hold of the most beautifully packaged advanced reader's copy. It came in a lovely cardboard box, like a treasure waiting to be opened. I grabbed it, brought it home, and put it on the shelf with other "big kid books." (Big Sis was only in kindergarten at the time.) So early this week, I finally pulled the book out to read for myself. For all its fine packaging, my copy was definitely an Advanced Reader's Copy, missing some of the artwork, with the rest of the artwork having a sketchy, unfinished quality. But the story itself was wonderful. Liesl is a girl who recently lost her father. Her stepmother wouldn't even let her see him through his final illness, locking her in the attic. Then one night, a ghost and its pet appears to Liesl. The ghost cannot remember if it was male or female, but answers to the name Po. Its pet, Bundle, may have been a dog or a cat - there are no proper forms on the Other Side. Po is able to find her father on the Other Side, though, and with Po's help, Liesl escapes from her attic prison, determined to take her father's ashes home to the tree where her mother is buried. Meanwhile, a boy named Will has accidentally switched a box of powerful magic for a box of someone's ashes, and soon, he finds himself running for his life. I loved this book. I checked it out from the library a day or two later, just to be able to see the final artwork, which is much nicer than the sketches in my ARC. I've told Big Sis she should read it when she finally finishes Doll Bones, which should be soon. (She's already finished Loot at school.)

What I'm Reading Now

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. Mann. Harper, 2014.

Look, Danzel's reading a grown-up book!  (It's been a while.) This is a nonfiction account of the murder of director William Desmond Taylor, in 1922. I love the Silent Era, and books about that time period. Because I'm a silent movie nerd, I already knew quite a bit about the Taylor case, and the suspects and stars mixed up in it. There is a 20-year-old website called Taylorology devoted to it, which was one of the first sites I bookmarked when my family got the internet in 1996. Taylor's murder is still considered an unsolved case, and Mann's book is hardly the first to claim to solve it. I've also read A Cast of Killers by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick, which made the case for a different killer. Mann's book is very novel-like in tone, despite all claims that any dialogue or emotional states are pulled from actual sources. For his Mabel Normand stuff, I noticed he lifts from Betty Fussell's biography quite a bit, which is interesting. I know her grand-nephew, Stephen Normand, disputes much of what was in that book, and has been on a tear lately, trying to restore his aunt's reputation. (I'm a huge Mabel Normand fan, but she did die in 1930, so it isn't like she can tell her own story. Oh, look, I found a review by the person who runs  Anyway, it's been a fast read, so far, and seeing as how it's been a very long time since I read a film history-ish book, I'm having fun with it, although who knows what is or isn't true at this point. I need to get it back to the library soon.

Tonight is the Fall Festival at school. It used to be called the School Carnival, and took place in the spring. Tomorrow morning, we're heading to Oklahoma to visit my mother. It will be a one day trip, and I'm getting an audio book or two for the car ride. Let's talk about that, shall we? As you know, we've been listening to A Series of Unfortunate Events on road trips (checked out from the library), and we love them very much. I've liked many of Daniel Handler/Lemony Snickett's books. So can I just say how truly disappointed I was to read about/watch his stupid watermelon joke at the National Book Awards presentation the other day? Jacqueline Woodson won for Brown Girl Dreaming, and her win has now been overshadowed by an idiotic racist joke. I'm sure he was just trying to be "edgy," but really now. How freakin' uncomfortable.  I thought his apology was rather hollow (a sorry, not sorry sort of thing), but I was glad to read this this morning. Because we do need diverse books. 

Anyway, outside of that, we're planning our little Thanksgiving. Big Sis is still in Nutcracker rehearsals. Little Sis keeps drawing pictures and making us laugh. We need to do a major housecleaning before next Thursday. Such is life.

Merry Weekend! Happy Reading!

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thankful Thursday

Thankfulness through Instagrams, every Thursday in November.

Some of the little things I'm thankful for
this week include...

These are tiny things, of course, in the big scheme of things. What little things are you thankful for?

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