Happy Weekend

My Friday reading roundup is a bit late - this one will go out early Saturday morning!  How has your week been?  Mine hasn't been perfect.  My transmission went kaput the night of the Sarah McLachlan concert in Kansas City last week.  While I am grateful Big Sis and I made it home safely, unfortunately, the financial headache associated with the car has put a damper on things.  Plans are changing, and I've been battling my own personal issues, so I apologize if my little blog has been quiet.  We have read a few books, and I thought I'd share some now.  There are a few I want to feature next week, though, so it's nice to actually have bloggy plans again!

Today (Saturday), we head to the roller skating rink for Little Sis's best friend's birthday.  That's the two of them picking out treats from the ice cream truck.  Most of the time, we hear "La Cucaracha" or "The Entertainer" or "Turkey in the Straw."  This truck was playing Beethoven's "Fur Elise."  We had to flag him down!

And now for books!

What I Read 

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine.  HarperCollins, 2006.

While I'm midway through an actual adult book, I took a timeout when my hold for this one came through at the library.  Set in the same fantasy world as Ella Enchanted, with a crossover appearance by that novel's foolish fairy, Lucinda, Fairest is an interesting retelling of "Snow White."  The main difference is that Aza, the main character, is not fair at all.  She is considered worse than plain:  too tall, too pale, too large.  In fact, she is used to rude stares and comments.  She takes comfort in music.  Singing is regarded as very important in her country, and Aza has one of the best voices anywhere, and can even throw her voice, like a ventriloquist. (She is a mimic as well.) Aza is the adopted daughter of innkeepers, and when one of the guests, a duchess, needs a companion to attend the king's wedding, Aza is invited to go along.  The new queen is beautiful and vain, but decides she wants the awkward, unattractive Aza to be her lady-in-waiting.  The story really takes off from there.  It's an interesting take on the old fairy tale.  It's nice to have an honest-to-goodness physically unattractive heroine, who discovers there is much more to herself than her looks.  It isn't as fun to read as Ella Enchanted, but I'll pass it along to the girls when they're older.

Under The Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald.  Dial, 2014.

Oh good grief, I loved this book!  I told Mr. B the entire story the night I finished it, and as soon as each daughter is old enough, I will point them in the direction of Under the Egg.  Fiction can teach so much, and there are some big topics here:  poverty, WWII / the Holocaust, art history.  Even the deux ex machina ending worked for me.  It's about a very poor but self-sufficient girl in New York, and the mystery that unravels when she accidentally spills rubbing alcohol on her grandfather's painting.  With the help of a girl she meets that very day - the daughter of movie stars, no less - she uncovers the secrets of her grandfather's past.

What I'm Reading

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne.  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014.

Okay, really, I just started this one today, and I haven't had a chance to get very far.  But here is what you need to know:  it's a steampunk novel for kids!!!  And look at that cover!  Yes, I totally checked it out based on the cover art.  I'm very excited to delve into it.

Oh, and I'm also still reading The Devil in the White City.

What Big Sis and I Listened to On the Way to Kansas City

A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Fifth: The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket.  Performed by Lemony Snicket, with original music by The Gothic Archies.  HarperCollins, 2003.  (Hardcover edition, 2000.)

Big Sis and I listened to the first two audiobooks in the series, narrated by Tim Curry, but we took turns reading the third and fourth books aloud.  We did check the third book out from the library, but the first CD skipped badly, and to be frank, we missed Tim Curry.  Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, is a very funny guy and he does a great job, but he just isn't Tim Curry.  I love Tim Curry, have I ever mentioned that?  He is one of my favorites.  We needed an audiobook for our KC trip, though, and we were ready for this one.  We loved it.  This series is so macabre and funny and we laughed so many times together.  If we do head out of town next weekend, I'll try to grab the next couple of audiobooks.  Tim Curry takes over from Book the Sixth on!

What The Girls and I Read

The Day the Cow Sneezed by Jim Flora.  Originally published by Harcourt Brace, 1957.  New edition by Enchanted Lion Books, 2010.

I've read about Jim Flora on several other blogs in the past, but I  finally got around to checking his stuff out last week.  Flora was a fabulous mid-century graphic designer and artist.  He is especially well-known for his wonderful album covers.  Our library system had a few of his books, and we checked out three of them, as well as an art book about his work.  This one was Little Sis's favorite.  She is especially taken with his art.  Ward Jenkins did a very popular post on it, pre-reprint, on his blog, The Ward-O-Matic.

The Fabulous Firework Family by Jim Flora.  Originally published by Harcourt, 1955.  Most recent edition by Margaret K. McElderry, 1994.

Big Sis and I preferred this one.  It's the story of Pepito and his family in Mexico.  They are preparing the annual fireworks display for a village festival.  Throughout the book are Spanish vocabulary words.  It's a fascinating little book.  And look, in 1959, there was a Terrytoon short made of the book!

And yes, we did check out one other book by Jim Flora, but I plan to recheck that one in time for Halloween!  

Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley.  Peter Pauper Press, 2013.

I know, I know, I'm a little late getting to this one.  What a darling, charming book!  Dudley's dioramas are simply amazing.  So much detail, I can't even describe.  The girls ooh-ed and aah-ed and oh!-ed at each wordless page.  The story is simple.  Little Hank finds an egg in the woods.  He spies the nest in a tree.  He tries standing on a stump, and even makes a ladder, but he just can't reach the nest.  So he builds a little campfire (so cute!) and goes to sleep.  The next day, the mother hummingbird finds Hank and her fallen egg.  Hank makes a little package for the egg, which the bird is able to carry in her beak.  Soon, the eggs hatch, and the book ends with three little hummingbirds, flying over Hank's head.  A sequel comes out this fall!

The Boy and the Airplane by Mark Pett.  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013.

Another wordless picture book!  A little boy receives a toy plane.  He loves the plane, as we see him playing with it.  Alas, the plane lands on the roof.  He tries various methods of reaching the plane, to no avail.  [We read this right after Hank Finds an Egg.  At this point, the girls thought I'd picked a weird theme on purpose!]  Finally, the boy plants a seed.  A tree begins to grow.  As the tree grows, so does the boy.  The tree is finally large enough for the boy to climb and reach the roof, but the boy is no longer a boy.  He is an old man.  The ending was humorously sweet.  

The girls and I are visiting Oz again!  After finishing our Pippi books, we decided to tackle the rest of Tik-Tok of Oz.  It's only taken, oh, you know...  seven months!  Now that we're finally through with it, we've moved on to The Scarecrow of Oz, so look for another "Oz & Ends" post next week! 

Beyond books, the girls and I started watching a little cult TV, mostly Doctor Who (the first season of the reboot) and Once Upon a Time, which I started watching once upon a time, but never got through the first season.  The Disney aspect - you know, the Disney character names and plot points - was too much for me. However, enough time has passed and Big Sis wanted to watch it, so we started the series again.  Little Sis is into Adventure Time, Big Sis still  loves Dennis the Menace, both girls love Ruby Gloom and Phineas and Ferb.  Don't worry, we don't spend all our time indoors.  We have the inflatable pool and sprinkler, the fairy house, the swing set, fireflies to chase, mosquitoes to swat...

Yeah, anyway...

By the way, if you want a little eye candy today, I suggest you check out the Mad Tea Party over at A Fanciful Twist.  Vanessa Valencia hosts this amazing blog link-up party every year, and as a big Alice fan, I love to gawk at the amazing Wonderlands people create!

Merry Weekend!  Happy Reading!

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Firefly Season

Last night, we took advantage of the pleasant temperatures, and headed into the backyard with a Mason jar. I dislike so much about our sticky midwestern summers, but there is one thing I love about summer in Kansas:

It's firefly season.

The air was thick with dancing fireflies, and the girls kept catching them to put in their jar, where they would refuse to glow.

Mr. B caught the beauty you see above.

I like this picture I managed to catch of a firefly on our front window.  Look at the glow, reflected in the glass.

I know that fireflies - or lightning bugs, as my Okie mother calls them - are not a part of everyone's summers. If you can't see fireflies in person, how about meeting some in books?

Fireflies! by Julie Brinckloe.  Aladdin, 1986.

A beautifully illustrated story about a boy who catches fireflies in a jar, then must make a choice when it becomes clear their light is fading.

 Sam and the Firefly by P.D. Eastman.  Random House / Beginner Books, 1958.

A classic about an owl who finds a playmate in a firefly named Gus.  Together they write words in the air, but Gus has a mischievous streak, which causes problems between the duo.

The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle.  Philomel, 1995.

The simple story of a firefly looking for company on a summer night. The small board book, with its light-up last page, was a favorite of my both my daughters when they were very small.

It's a Firefly Night by Dianne Ochiltree, illustrated Betsy Snyder. Blue Apple Books, 2013.

Another lovely choice for small children.  A little girl catches fireflies in a jar to show her daddy.  Then she reminds us, "I love catching fireflies, but they are not mine."  She releases the insects, and watches them fly. There are also fun facts about fireflies at the end of the book.

You can read a bit more about fireflies on the National Geographic website and on Firefly.org.  I also found this lovely video on YouTube a man made of his firefly time-lapse photography.

EDIT:  Here's an awesome video about fireflies from Science Friday.  Did you know there are over 2,000 species of fireflies worldwide?

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