A Midsummer Night's Dream


Spring is over!  Happy Summer!  I hate summer, but I love festivals, so a very happy Midsummer to you. The girls and I are headed to Lindsborg for Midsummer's Fest, but I wanted to leave you with an ode to my favorite of William Shakespeare's comedies, A Midsummer Night's Dream.  As a theatre person, I find that I am in the minority on this one.  It's much hipper to love Much Ado About Nothing.  However, I love whimsy and fairies and silliness, so Midsummer is my personal love.  I've only done the play once (Helena), and it was a high school production, but I love to watch other people perform it..  It's a great choice for introducing children to Shakespeare, too.

Have you read or seen A Midsummer Night's Dream?  I was going to give you a short breakdown, but my short breakdown became a very long breakdown, and I just deleted the whole thing.  Instead, may I direct you to the Wikipedia page?  Or you can find the full text at multiple websites - here, for example.  I'll just say there are three major plotlines (and one smaller but important plotline), involving several sets of characters:  the Lovers (Hermia, Lysander, Helena, Demetrius), the Mechanicals (Nick Bottom, Peter Quince, Francis Flute, etc.), and the Fairies (Oberon, Titania, Puck, etc.).  All of these folk wind up in the woods one night, where all sorts of silly fairy mischief occurs.  The smaller plotline involves the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons.  The last act has the Mechanicals performing their hilariously bad "tragedy," newlyweds rushing to bed, and finally we end with Puck's famous "If we shadows have offended" monologue.

In honor of Midsummer, the girls and I read two picture book adaptations of A Midsummer Night's Dream!

The backyard book photos are courtesy of Big Sis, my sweet helper!

The first came out in 1996, a beautiful adaptation of the full play by Bruce Coville, lushly illustrated by Dennis Nolan.  The edition we read was the out-of-print hardcover, but it looks like Coville sells a paperback edition via his website.

William Shakespeare's A Midsummer
Night's Dream,
retold by Bruce Coville,
illustrated by Dennis Nolan.  Dial, 1996.

Coville's adaptation gives you the whole play, broken down into language a child can mostly understand, with a few quotes from the Bard preserved.  Big Sis is eight-and-a-half, going into third grade, and she really liked it.  There were still some questions, of course, and I had to stop to explain the occasional word or phrase, but she enjoyed the book very much.  The art helps!  Gorgeous illustrations.






The other book I want to share with you is simpler.  It is called Donkey Head, and it was written and illustrated by Lisl Weil.

Donkey Head by Lisl Weil.  Atheneum, 1977.

Donkey Head focuses on the story of Oberon, Titania, Puck, and Bottom.  Oberon and Titania are quarreling over the orphan child Titania has taken.  Oberon decides to play a trick on her.  He has his hobgoblin Puck fetch a flower.  If the juice of that flower gets into someone's eye, that person will fall in love with the first creature he or she sees.  Puck gets the flower, and comes upon the group of mechanicals, practicing their play in the woods.  He spies Nick Bottom, away from the rest of the group, and changes him, giving him the head of an ass!  Bottom, now the Donkey Head of the title, comes upon the sleeping Titania, her eyes now bewitched by Oberon, via the flower.  Titania falls in love with Bottom, and lavishes him with flowers and food and attention.  Finally, Oberon thinks she's been punished enough, and wakes Titania from the spell.  She is disgusted by the sleeping donkey-man beside her, but finds it funny in the end, and goes off with her king.  When he wakes from his spell, he cannot be sure if it was a dream, or if it really happened.  He thinks dream, but then...  where did this wreath of flowers come from?

I love these illustrations!  I wasn't familiar with Lisl Weil's work before, and our library has only a few of her books.









Last, I thought I'd leave you with some videos.  I'm sure one or more of these may be pulled down in the future, but at least you can enjoy them today!

The first is from Shakespeare: The Animated Tales.


Next is a goofy version of Puck's final monologue, via the wacky Warners of Animaniacs!


Here's a rare treat:  from a 1964 television special, Around the Beatles, here are John, Paul, George, and Ringo, along with Trevor Peacock, performing the mechanicals' play, "Pyramus and Thisbe."



And finally, here is the trailer for the beautiful Max Reinhardt-directed 1935 Warner Bros. film, with Mickey Rooney, Olivia de Havilland, James Cagney, Dick Powell, and more.  


We own the Warner film on DVD, as well as the lovely 1999 version.  I also like the 1996 Royal Shakespeare Company film, which is also available to stream via both Amazon Prime Instant and Netflix

(By the way, after we return from Lindsborg, I am taking the girls to see a little Shakespeare:   Love's Labours Lost.)



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The World of Beatrix Potter


I don't know what the weather is like where you are, but it is terribly muggy here.  I want to like summer, I do, but I hate heat.  I dream about a warm summer that feels more like spring, full of beautiful flowers and plants and trees that somehow do not make me sneeze.  I want to live in a Beatrix Potter book.

I have a couple of books to show you today.  The first is from the library, and I'll just give you a little peek. It's called At Home With Beatrix Potter, and it's a pictorial tour of Potter's Hill Top Farm, which she bought it 1905.

At Home With Beatrix Potter, the creator of Peter Rabbit by Susan Denyer.
Frances Lincoln Publishers, 2009.

I did not know this, but Potter never really lived at Hill Top Farm.  For a long time, her mother kept her busy in London, then after Potter married her attorney, William Heelis, they moved into the house at Castle Farm, a neighboring farm she bought a few years before the marriage.  Potter, however, had long planned her ideal home and its decor, drawing from sketches and memories she had of favorite country spaces she had visited over the years. Hill Top was the place where she would receive guests, including tourists looking for Peter Rabbit, and where she often worked.  Potter was an avid conservationist, and bought many farm properties which were conveyed to the National Trust after her death.  The book is lovely, with pictures from Hill Top and the Lake District, along with Potter's paintings and illustrations, most inspired by the area.



The second book I want to show off is the one I'm really excited about. I ordered it as a summer treat to myself, as I haven't bought a book to keep in a little while.  It's Beatrix Potter: A Journal, one of those enchanting interactive books like the one I featured here, or the Dragonology or Egyptology books.

Beatrix Potter: A Journal, "a work of fiction based on Beatrix Potter's journal and letters."
Frederick Warne & Co, a division of Penguin Books, 2006.


The book is full of photographs, illustrations, and very cool things to explore, such as the little photo album you see in the above picture.  Here it is close up:


It follows her early life, such as her bouts with illness, the animals in her life, holidays with the family.  We glimpse her early career as the illustrator of Christmas cards.


The Tale of Peter Rabbit came about via a letter she wrote to the ailing child of her former governess.  There is an envelope, bearing a reproduction of that letter.


Potter's visits to the Lake District and purchase of Hill Top farm are recorded, with an attached map.


She could not find a publisher for Peter Rabbit, which she insisted be printed in a small format.  She published the book herself, independently, in black and white.  The book did surprisingly well, and friends urged her to try once more to find a real publisher. Frederick Warne was now interested, and willing to put the book out in her preferred "little" format, but they wanted color. Norman Warne, the youngest partner in the company, worked with Beatrix in making sure the new three-color printing process captured the colors to her satisfaction.


The book was a major success, and two more books followed the very next year, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and my favorite Potter book, The Tailor of Gloucester.

At the age of 39, Beatrix Potter was considered an "old maid," but she fell in love and accepted the proposal of Norman Warne.  Her parents did not approve, and the couple agreed to keep the engagement a secret for six months, as her parents hoped she would change her mind.  She proceeded on holiday with her parents, only to receive word that Warne was terribly ill.  He died of a sudden, rapid-killing case of leukemia before she could see him.


The "journal" concludes with Beatrix Potter explaining how she began to spend more time at her Lake District farm, which leads to more time spent in the company of her attorney, William Heelis.  Finally, she marries Heelis, and most of her time is now spent managing her vast country properties.

There is one final treat at the back of the book.  I almost missed this!


I pulled the little gold ribbon tab, and out popped a little facsimile edition of the independently-published, black and white edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit!






I must confess, I've been on a bit of a Beatrix Potter kick the last few days.  Saturday night, the family snuggled in with popcorn and watched the movie Miss Potter on Amazon Prime.

It isn't perfect, but it's sweet and charming, and led to me getting out the old Beatrix Potter treasury I've had since my grade school years.  Big Sis ripped the dust jacket into three pieces when she was little, and I admit, I've had the book put up out of reach ever since.
  





I also checked out a hefty biography called Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature, which I hope to get to soon, although my stack of library books is starting to totter steeply.

In gathering links for this post, I found a treasure trove of Beatrix Potter sites to explore.




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Happy Father's Day



Happy Father's Day to all my readers who are fathers, have fathers, are partners with fathers, who act in place of fathers, and everyone who celebrates this lovely day!

Mr. B asked the girls for one gift this year.  He wanted them to make him a duct tape wallet.  You see, Little Sis wanted to make herself a duct tape wallet, in which to keep her new library card.  We made one for Big Sis two years ago for the same reason, and she likes to follow tradition.  Mr. B caught wind of the plan, and told me he would like one, too.  So the girls picked out a very special roll of duct tape for their daddy.  They knew exactly which roll they wanted before we ever headed to the store!

Mustache-print.

So we constructed a duct tape wallet, using a couple different tutorials we found online.  Then Little Sis decorated a paper sack, Big Sis made a card, and they wrapped the wallet in tissue paper.


The giant button is something I got for my own dad one year.  The girls found it somewhere at my grandmother's house.


The wallet isn't perfect, but all the pockets work.  We tested it beforehand, as you can see from my blurry driver's license in the ID slot.  I don't remember which tutorials we ended up using, but if you're interested in trying the project, just Google "duct tape wallet."  There are tons of tutorials out there!

Now, last year, the girls conducted an interview with Mr. B for the blog.  The questions focused on their favorite father-daughter things.  This year, they wanted to ask him about when he was little.

The Girls:  What did you want to be when you grew up?

  • I always wanted to be a Marine when I was little.   In 1983, when the Marine barracks in Beirut were bombed - bear in mind, I was little - when the commanding general went and visited the wounded Marines, one of the Marines wrote down on a pad of paper, "Semper fidelis."  I asked my folks what that meant -- this showed during a breaking report during Saturday morning cartoons -- and they told me it was the Marine Corps motto, "Always faithful."  And I teared up.  Of all of the things that young Marine could have said...  That made me want to be a Marine.  So at 17, between the summer of my junior and senior years, I enlisted in the delayed entry program for the U.S. Marines.  I even told my mom that if she didn't sign to waiver to let me enlist, then I'd do it as soon as I turned 18, with or without her blessing, so it was better to give me her blessing.  Besides being a dad and a husband, being a Marine ranks very high with me, second only to you three.


Big Sis:  What was your favorite book when you were little?

        When I got a little older, I liked the Little House books and My Side of the Mountain.


Big Sis:  What was your favorite thing to do or play when you were a kid?
  • When I was a little younger than Little Sis, until I was your age, I had a mine.  It was really an old hog waller.  I would "go to work" when my dad left for work, and I'd stay out there and dig for hours.  I always played pretend.  I didn't have any friends, since we lived out on the farm.
The Girls: Did you get in trouble a lot when you were a kid?
  • I was always in trouble.  One of your grandpa and uncle's favorite stories - I got mad at your uncle and started throwing rocks at him.  Your grandma came out to stop me.  I got scared, and started throwing rocks at her.  I had both of them pinned up in the house!  Your grandpa came home, and started coming at me, so I started winging rocks at him.  He ran in the house, then came around the back side of the house and flanked me.  If I remember right, I got him with a couple of rocks, but he finally got a hold of me.  That was one of the many butt-blisterings I received as a boy.  Grandma and your uncle were pretty mad, but Grandpa thought it was really funny, that I had two grown people locked in the house.  I was only about four or five years old.
The Girls:  What was your favorite animal?
  • My dog Duke.  I loved him and he loved me.  And I had a cat named Callie.  And a quarter horse named Cadillac, and a goose named Duck Duck.
Little Sis:  Favorite toy?
  • You know, when I was really little, I had a pedal John Deere tractor.  When I got a little bigger, it was G.I. Joe and Star Wars toys.
Big Sis: Favorite food?
  • Cashew chicken and fried rice.  But I only like cashew chicken from southwest Missouri.  I call it "real" cashew chicken.
[He isn't kidding.  Cashew chicken in Joplin and Carthage and Springfield, Missouri is its own thing: Southern-fried "Asian" food.  I found a recipe, if you want to check it out!]

Thank you, love, for sharing a bit of your childhood with us today.  I'm so glad you grew up to be such an amazing daddy and husband.  Happy Father's Day.

And a happy Father's Day to my own daddy, too.  I'm so blessed to have such wonderful men in my life. 

Have a lovely Sunday, one and all!

My daddy and me in Colorado.  I was two.


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