Happy Friday!


It's Friday once again, and our library bag is bursting at the seams.  Our week has been quiet.  The girls are enjoying their organized playroom and bedroom.  As you can see in the photo above, we still have too much stuff, but oh my goodness, if you had seen the donation bags!  Someday I'd love to remove all the crayon and stickers from surfaces, perhaps repaint, definitely refinish the hardwood floors...  Monday, Little Sis had her best friend from preschool over to visit for the first time in months.  Big Sis has been in musical theatre camp this week.  Today, her sis and I will go see the final product: a performance of Magic Tree House, Dinosaurs Before Dark: The Musical!  I mean, how perfect is that?!

As for books, Big Sis is still reading Matilda, although not so much this week - she has lines and songs to memorize.  I'm in between books, because I can't decide which on which of the five books to pull out of the library bag first.  However, let's start with what I finished.

What I Read


Binny For Short by Hilary McKay, illustrated by Micah Player.  Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013.

I admit, I had never heard of this book before I read it.  I requested it because of the gorgeous Micah Player cover, he of Lately Lily and Chloe, Instead.  I'm not familiar with Hilary McKay.  What I got was a unique middle grade novel about a young girl named Belinda - Binny, for short - and her family in England.  Binny's father has died before the book begins, leaving behind a mountain of debt.  Binny hasn't properly processed her father's passing.  Her teenage sister and her little brother had a difficult mourning period, but Binny's grief has been channeled into missing her dog, a border collie puppy given to her by her father the year he died.  When her family was forced to move from apartment to apartment, Max was left with her grandmother.  Seeing how wild the young, untrained dog is, the grandmother's sister gives him away permanently, never telling Binny where he has gone.  It's now two years later, and Binny's great aunt has died, leaving a small seaside cottage to the family.  Binny hopes to find Max once and for all.  I enjoyed this one.  It was funny and touching.  

What We Read


 Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World and Never Smile at a Monkey by Steve Jenkins.  HMH Books for Young Readers, 2014 and 2009.



One of Little Sis's very favorite books is Steve Jenkins's Bones.  We own it, in fact, and I read it to Big Sis's second grade class this year.  (They loved it.)  I decided we needed some nonfiction in our diet, and grabbed both of these.  I love these books.  Jenkins knows how to make his subjects appeal to the younger set.  We especially enjoyed Never Smile at a Monkey, which is full of fascinating facts about what makes certain animals dangerous.  "Never do this," each page states, "because this might happen."












Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Mark Hearld.  Candlewick Press, 2012.

I have long admired the gorgeous cover art for Outside Your Window, but it's taken me this long to finally look at it!  The book consists of lovely nature poems, divided by the four seasons.  We have other nature books by Davies checked out now, but this one is truly spectacular because of Hearld's illustrations.  Definitely worth a look.






The Promise by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin.  Candlewick Press, 2014.

And here we have a more recent offering by Nicola Davies, also about celebrating the natural world, but much moodier.  A young girl describes the ugly city in which she lives, where everyone is poor and unhappy, and where thievery is commonplace.  One night she tries to steal an old woman's bag.  The woman fights her, but then lets go, making the girl promise she will "plant them."  The bag, she discovers, is full of seeds.  The illustrations are appropriately dark through the first half of the book, then blossom into beautiful color as the story progresses.  And look - there's a video for this one!







Paul Meets Bernadette by Rosy Lamb.  Candlewick Press, 2013.

Oh, goodness, where do I begin?  This book is precious.  Poor Paul leads a pretty dull life.  All he does is swim around in circles, first one way, then the other.  Then one day, Bernadette is plopped into his bowl, and Paul's whole world changes.  Bernadette teaches him to look at the world outside the bowl. In Bernadette's world, a teapot is an elephant, and when the teapot is pouring into the tea cups, it's the elephant feeding her young.  The cartons, cans, and bottles of the kitchen are a whole city.  To Paul, Bernadette becomes his whole world.  Beyond the sweet plot, there's the art.  Big Sis kept reaching out to touch the pages, because you can see the brush strokes on each page.  The whole page!  Each page is a beautiful painting.  Very well done!




Queen on Wednesday by Gabi Swiatkowska.  Farrar, Strauss and Giroux / Frances Foster Books, 2014.

Big Sis noticed this one on the new release shelf at the library and thought it looked intriguing, so into the bag it went.  It's a simple book about young Thelma, who is very bored on Monday and Tuesday, so she decides to make herself queen on Wednesday.  She spends a week doing queenly things until she becomes bored of being queen.  I was less fond of the text as I was of the illustrations.  I recognized Swiatkowska's art right away:  she illustrated Kate Hosford's Infinity and Me, which we read last year.  



Pippi Goes On Board by Astrid Lindgren.  Originally published in 1946, this edition is published by Puffin, 1976.

Yay, we're reading Pippi Longstocking books again!  We had a rollicking good time revisiting Villa Villekulla at bedtime this week.  In fact, Pippi is probably a poor choice for bedtime reading, as her adventures are too funny and exciting.  Oh, well! It's summer, right?



Pippi Longstocking's After-Christmas Party by Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Michael Chesworth.  First published in Sweden in 1950, this edition was first published in English by Viking, 1996.

We took a break between Pippi novels to read this picture book.  An after-Christmas party is a big ado in Sweden, as we are told in the translator's note at the beginning of the book.  It's when the decorations come down, something I personally detest having to do.  Maybe I need to do it Pippi's way!  Pippi has invited all the children in town to her house for her after-Christmas party, where her tree is outside, behind her house, and covered in gingerbread, candles, candy, and presents.  There is also an igloo, which she built with Tommy and Annika's help.  She serves hot chocolate and cream cake.  She invites a new boy in for the party, and adopts a stray dog, but refuses to serve the mean old lady who hates children and only wants cream cake.  The kids sled off the roof, and they dance around the giant tree.  Finally, they climb the tree to retrieve the gifts and treats, with Mr. Nilsson the monkey aiding the less adventuresome kids.  I want a Pippi party, how about you?

What We're Reading Now

Pippi In The South Seas by Astrid Lindgren.  Originally published in 1948, this edition is published by Puffin, 1977.

We started this one last night, so we're only one chapter in, but what a great start to a book!  A stuffy city-dwelling "important" man wants to buy Villa Villekulla for a country home.  Funny stuff!

May I pause and say how much I wish Lauren Child would illustrate the rest of the series, the way she did the first book?



What Little Sis is Reading Now (with Mom's help)

Catwings: A Catwings Tale by Ursula Le Guin, illustrated by S.D. Schindler.  Scholastic, 1988.

So my funny 6 1/2-year-old got a library card, and she insists on checking out chapter books, despite the fact I think she should stick to, I don't know, Arnold Lobel or Amelia Bedelia.  She wants something more challenging, so I handed her the first Catwings book.  We have managed to get through a chapter!  She reads it out loud to me, then when she finally gets tired, I finish the page for her.  She's actually doing all right.  I worried she was concentrating so much on the words that she was missing the story, but when I quizzed her later, she was able to answer my questions.  We will keep working on it!



So what else is there to share with you today?  I loved seeing these Oz illustrations by Richard Scarry over at Good Books for Young Souls today.  My family has decided to throw a Fairy Day party at the end of the month, a few days after International Fairy Day, since that's on a Tuesday this year.  I started yet another Pinterest board, in fact.  Tomorrow night, Mr. B and I are going to what promises to be a fun, laid-back wedding.  I'm working out the best times to see three different plays this month, and next Saturday, the girls and I will head to Lindsborg for their annual Midsummer's Festival.  I want to drag the kids around to some new sites this year.  Still working it out...

And oh yes, Sunday is Father's Day, of course!  Please look for a special Father's Day post from us on that day.

Until then...

Merry Weekend!  Happy Reading!


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Our River Festival


The Wichita River Festival has been our city's big event since 1970.  You buy a button, and that button gets you into concerts, races, the food court, whatever activities are being held that year.  Most of the events take place downtown, and along the Arkansas [in Kansas, you say Ar-KANSAS] River.  The Big and Little Arkansas converge in Wichita, the spot marked by the Keeper of the Plains sculpture, so it's a big deal in our city.  The River Festival changes a lot.  I've attended with my family, then with friends or my own little family, since 1984.  I hadn't been to RiverFest in a few years, though.  It used to take place in May, before school let out, but it moved to June a few years ago.  My favorite events either shuffled around or pulled out of the festival entirely.  My theatre schedule has kept me from visiting the festival in the past, too.


However, I failed to get cast in the one show I auditioned for, which led to a crisis of confidence and my failure to audition for anything else.  Suddenly, the whole summer opened up for me, and I decided to take advantage of it.  

I bought RiverFest buttons for the girls and myself for the first time in years.  First up, the opening night Sundown Parade!  


I promised the girls we would at least see the parade, because the 4th and 5th grade drumline from their school would be in it!

The mascot of the River Festival is Admiral Windwagon Smith, a prominent gentleman of the community announced before the festival begins.  Here is the admiral's float.


And WuShock, my alma mater's mascot!   Feat the wheat.


I become far too excited when I spy people in Star Wars costumes.  The girls preferred the kiddie stuff.



I had managed to grab us spots in front of the Kennedy Plaza Stage, where the Wichita Symphony Orchestra would be performing their annual pops concert.  The pops concert and fireworks show, which is always fabulous, used to take place the final Saturday of the festival, but it was one of the things that moved when the festival dates changed.  Unfortunately for me, the girls were tired and hot after watching the parade, and gave me a lot of grief over the idea of staying to hear the symphony and watch the fireworks show.  I gave up.  We didn't come back to the festival until the middle of the week, when we visited the kids' corner and rode the ferris wheel!





There was a zip line over the river!  Crazy!


 I did not try a jalepeno Twinkie, but I did admire this awesome food truck.


We're on a very tight budget right now, so we didn't partake in many food court offerings at all.  But I love the colorful signs and flags...


 In the end, the only treat we bought during the entire festival was a gelati from the Rita's Italian Ice stand.  Root beer Italian ice with vanilla frozen custard...  mmmmm...



We missed all the cool concerts - Joan Jett, Grandmaster Flash, etc. - but we did see Ballet Wichita's latest Ballet in the Park offering, Peter Pan!  The girls' dance teacher from school was in it, along with some girls they recognize from dance at the children's theatre.  They were harassed by a clown, which made my weekend.  I love clowns, but it's trendy to fear them now...


And that was how we spent our River Festival.  We may not have done much, but it was more than I've done at RiverFest in a good long while!



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The Mermaid and the Shoe

The Mermaid and the Shoe by K.G. Campbell.
Kids Can Press, 2014.

We live in a landlocked state in the middle of the country.  I have only been to the ocean a handful of times, and the girls have only been once - last year, to the southern New Jersey shore.  But beach and ocean images are so quintessentially summer.  And if you're thinking about beaches and oceans, and if your mind has been on fairies and fantasy, too, then eventually your mind is going to wander to mermaids.  And if you're thinking about mermaids, then here is a beautiful new picture book for you.

The Mermaid and the Shoe is written and illustrated by K.G. Campbell, who illustrated this year's Newbery-winning Flora & Ulysses, Big Sis's new favorite book.  At the beginning of the book, we are introduced to King Neptune, who has fifty daughters.  All of the daughters are extraordinarily gifted in Neptune's eyes, and he loves to brag about them.


Then we meet poor little Minnow.  Minnow isn't sure where her talent lies.  She is a poor gardener, fish do not obey her, and she can't sing.  The only thing she seems good at is asking questions, to the annoyance of her mean older sisters.  One day, Minnow finds a strange red object in the water.  No one knows what it is, so Minnow sets off to find the answer herself.


Along the way, she finds the answers to some of her other questions.  Unlike Hans Christian Andersen's (or Disney's) Little Mermaid, Minnow has never seen the world outside the ocean, nor has she ever heard about it.

At last, she spies a little "earth maid," and learns what the red thing is for.


Minnow races back, excited to share her knowledge with her fellow deep sea-dwellers.  Her daddy proudly declares that Minnow is a wonderful explorer.


Here is the book trailer.  Look at those illustrations!  So, so lovely.



For more mermaid fun, be sure and check out this wonderful round-up of mermaid books and crafts at What Do We Do All Day?.  And I must add a link to this fun mermaid towel craft from Family Fun magazine.  So simple and so perfect!


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