And All That Jazz

Well, we have just had a few days of thoughtful remembrance and have celebrated Memorial Day in all kinds of ways. Parades, Barbecues, Picnics, Prayer gatherings, Visits to cemeteries, Waving of flags.

But did you know that Saturday, the 25th, was also National Jazz Day?! AND National Tap Dance Day?! Did you do any dancing this weekend? Well, I sure did! I don’t actually have any tap shoes, but my nails do a pretty good tapping on the tile floor! And we have a local radio station that plays some pretty good jazz!

The Mom Person has a boy who is a real jazz fan, so she decided that it would be a good thing to get him some new jazz books for Father’s Day. That will be coming up soon. He happens to be the Dad of My Princess Reading Buddies. Well, the books came in the mail today and are they ever SUPER!!!! And if you promise not to tell Mr Princess Dad, I’ll tell you all about them!

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john coltraneBefore John Was a Jazz Giant, a Song of John Coltrane is by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Sean Qualls. It was published by Henry Holt & Co. in 2008. It was a 2009 winner of a Coretta Scott King illustrator honor and a 2009 Bank Street Children’s Book of the Year. Isn’t that something?! The book is a rhythmic story of John Coltrane’s childhood and all the sounds that he heard and listened to that lead him to the sounds of jazz music. At the end of the book is an author’s note about Mr Coltrane’s real biography. And some lists of more resources. This is a fine little book, with bubbly, jazzy illustrations. It makes me want to go outside and listen to the world.

jazz flyThe Jazz Fly is written and performed by Matthew Gollub and illustrated by Karen Hanke. It was published by Tortuga Press in 2000. It comes with an audio CD!! Jazz Fly is trying to get to town but doesn’t know the way, so he stops to ask various critters for help. But he speaks Jazz and they speak whatever, so they don’t understand each other. But the Fly hears music in their words. This is such a great read aloud!! Jazz Rhythm! Some of the verses rhyme and some don’t. There is an author’s note at the end of the book to explain this. He shows you how the words are meant to be accented like jazz music. Then he says, “But don’t feel bound to the way I recite the story. Play with the phrases. Acquaint them with your mouth.” I like that. This is a really fun book!!

jazz a b zAnd the really WOW book, that the Mom Person is trying to decide if she wants to keep for herself or not, is Jazz A-B-Z, an A to Z Collection of Jazz Portraits by Wynton Marsalis and illustrated by Paul Rogers. It was published by Candlewick Press in 2005. Candlewick Press puts out the absolute best books!  This is a virtual encyclopedia of jazz! And poetry! Each letter is represented by a jazz musician and a different type of poem. So you have A is for Louis Armstrong with an Accumulative poem. H is Coleman Hawkins with a Substitution poem. N is for Nat King Cole with a nursery rhyme. Z is for Dizzy Gillespie with a Skeltonic verse. (Ms Catherine Johnson, I think you would love this book!) At the end of the book are biographical sketches of all the musicians and notes on all the different poetic forms. Incredible!!!

So there you have it! Jazz and more Jazz! ( I have a friend named Jazz who is a crazy, jazzy golden retriever!)

And now for a little music from Wynton Marsalis and Norah Jones —

and a little Tapping with Eleanor Powell to go with —

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Restaurant Mishap

Do you ever go to restaurants? I’m sure you do. I think most humans go quite often. I don’t. Most eating establishments frown on dog hair. Well, sometimes I get to sit with the humans on a patio. That’s nice. And well, I do get to go to the cafeteria at school. That’s kind of a restaurant. And well, I did get to go to restaurants a lot when I was a youngster.

I got to go to these places because I needed to learn all the rules about good behavior in an eating place. You humans have lots of rules. Like not stretching out so people wouldn’t trip on me. Like not eating all the french fries that kids drop on the floor. Like not whining. Most of the time, a place under the table provided for a nice nap. Sometimes, if it was crowded under the table, we pups would party a little. That was frowned upon.

Kids have to learn a lot of rules, too. Kids and pups are a lot alike, I think. Kids have to sit still, and not drop french fries, and not whine or be loud. It’s tough! And I have a great book for you all about those rules!

Our favorite 2nd Grade teacher, Ms Julie is presenting this book for us. Ms Julie belongs to the Mom Person and we sometimes visit her class. She has a friend, Conner Hill, who has written a little book called Restaurant Mishap. This is the 1st book in his Stubby Stories series. Conner is 11 years old. The book is illustrated by C. Carlyle McCullough and was published by Aero Studios in 2012.

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Conner came to Ms Julie’s school recently to talk about his book and sign some for the kids. He has a nice smile. I bet he likes dogs.

And Ms Julie’s class has a review for us of Restaurant Mishap!

Today, our new friend, Conner Hill, came to visit our school. He is 11 years old and is a published author! Conner told us that it is not too early to start working toward a dream career. He said we can start now while we are kids, and not even have to wait until we are grown-ups! We all thought that was really awesome!

Synopsis — “This book is all about a boy who goes to a fancy restaurant, and makes mistakes.
In the beginning of the story, John goes to a restaurant with his family and sees everyone wearing fancy clothes. He was embarrassed because he was wearing jeans and a T-shirt.
In the middle of the story, he had bad manners, made a mess, and said words wrong. He was nervous and embarrassed.
At the end of the story, he goes to bed and his dog licks the mousse off of John’s pants.”

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And here is what the class thought about Conner and his book —

“I like how Conner was really nervous, but his mom was really happy about him.”
“It was awesome, because he’s only 11! He’s my role model!”
“I liked the book because it was a really good and cool book and I liked it a lot!”
“I think it was cool. It was funny!”
“I really liked the book because it is very funny when he made a mess and I can’t believe a fifth grade student wrote a book!”
“I like the book because he was just like me when I go to a restaurant. I forget my manners.”
“I like the book because Conner added a whole bunch of details when he was at the restaurant and I liked the drawings.”

So! It looks like the class liked the book a lot! All thumbs up! I’m hoping that they can do an interview with Conner for us so we can learn more about this fine young man.

In the meantime you should check out Restaurant Mishap. Available thru Amazon.

And check out Conner’s Facebook page here.

And thanks to Ms Julie and all her 2nd Graders for a fine review!

ABCs in the USA

I’ve done a little traveling in my time. Not a lot. But some.

I’ve lived in T is for TexasIMG_5532

and in F is for Florida.palm beach      I’ve seen a lot of Texas. Not so much of Florida. Just the Tampa area where I was in training to be a

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In Texas, I’ve seen some big cities, like D is for DallasIMG_2911.

And little towns, like G is for Glen Rose.IMG_1601  where we have

D is for dinosaurs.dino valley 3-08 014 and R is for rivers.031911173620

Recently my friend Macy read me a really cool alphabet book — ABC  USA by Martin Jarrie. It was published by Sterling Publishing Co. in 2005.

IMG_1375Each letter of the alphabet is represented by something related to the USA! From A is for Alligator to G is for the Grand Canyon to P is for Pilgrims to Z is for Zydeco. Zydeco. Cool word. We had to look that one up and see what it was about. It’s about cool music!

At the back of the book is a glossary that tells you about each word. Did you know that the alligator is the largest reptile in North America and is the state reptile of F is for Florida?!

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The illustrations are pretty awesome. Kind of old fashioned and quirky. I like quirky. It was fun reading this book with Macy. She laughed at a lot of the pictures and asked a lot of questions. Why did they do T is for Tractors instead of T is for Texas? What’s Jazz? What’s the Underground Railroad? It made for a good history lesson.

It was a fun book and I think you should check it out!

And in case you’re unfamiliar with Zydeco —

Running Blind

We’ve been kind of wrapped up in High School Track lately. A couple of our grand boys are track stars and have just wrapped up a stellar year.

IMG_1595There is a young lady that they encounter at track meets that has caught my attention. I first heard about her when they were running cross country earlier in the year. And now she’s been competing at the regular track meets in running events and pole vault. The thing that is fascinating to me is the fact that this girl is legally blind. (Click this link for more info and a video of her.)

When she runs cross country her teammates wear bells on their shoes. When she’s on the track she runs on the inside lane so she can distinguish between the track and the infield grass. When she pole vaults, she counts steps. People are so incredibly adaptable! I have heard of cross country runners running with guide dogs. I have read about blind people climbing mountains and hiking the Appalachian Trail with a guide dog.  And I’ve read about and seen people with all kinds of obstacles thrown in their paths who manage to live full, inspiring lives.

I come from a heritage of working dogs who are bred to provide support and encouragement to people who are visually impaired. I’m proud of that. Because of that history, I am forever connected to the blind community. We sometimes raise guide dog pups, we have friends who raise guide dog pups, we have friends who use guide dogs. And all those dogs are MY friends! It’s an inspirational world.

At my house, we have quite a library of books about that world. Blind people vaulting over life’s hurdles and climbing life’s mountains. Guide dogs doing what they were bred to do. Guide dog pups learning the ropes. I’ve picked one to share with you that is pretty special. Partly because it’s a good story. And partly because it has Braille overlays!

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The View From Under the Pew was written by Diane Winters Johnson and illustrated by Margaret Freed. It was published by Abingdon Press in 2008. This is the true story of Ms Johnson, an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church, and her guide dog Walter. Walter is a golden retriever whose job is “to guide Pastor Diane through her day so she can do her work of caring for the church.”

The book is a look into a typical week of Pastor Diane’s busy life. As a pastor, Ms Johnson spends time in her office visiting with various people about life issues and church issues and other office things. Walter sleeps under her desk. Pastor Diane also goes to hospitals to visit with sick people. Walter goes with her and helps her navigate the busy streets and hospital halls. They go to church meetings and bible classes. Potluck dinners and quilting bees and choir practice. Walter waits patiently under desks and tables. When Sunday comes, Pastor Diane and Walter go to the front of the church where Pastor Diane stands on the pulpit and Walter stays under the pew. Walter has a view of the whole congregation. All the people that he has seen all through the week. It’s a special view of a special place.

This is a very good book that gives a view of what life is like for a working team of dog and human. And as I said, it is also in Braille. Each page has a plastic overlay with Braille print. Braille is a special way of writing text so that blind people can read with their fingers. I can’t read Braille myself, but it’s pretty cool to look at. Some blind people don’t use Braille and some do.

You can find out more about Braille from the National Braille Press here,

You can find out more about guide dogs from the National Association of Guide Dog Users or Guide Dog Users, Inc.

Here are a couple of videos of interest —

Dreamin’ of the Beach

I mentioned before that the House Humans went to the beach last weekend. Without me. They had a fabulous time! Without me. I stayed at home with Walker and Cisco and Mr Alphabet. And our Caretaker, who is nice enough. But, no beach for us.

So, what did we do you might ask. Well, I’m not telling!!

Well, maybe I’ll tell some.

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Walker and I spent a lot of time in bed. The Mom Person’s bed. Reading. Beach books. Dreaming of being at the beach. Swimming in the surf. Rolling in the sand. Rolling on dead fish. Digging sand castles.

It was not so bad. We read some pretty good books and I’ll share them with you.

sally goes to the beachSally Goes to the Beach is by Stephen Huneck. It was published by Harry J. Abrams, Inc. in 2000. I LOVE Sally! She does a lot of traveling and goes on a lot of adventures. Mr Huneck is one of my favorite artists. Maybe because he’s all about dogs. Especially Labs! In this book Sally has great fun at the beach playing with other dogs and discovering ocean life. It’s an especially wonderful book!

img336Melrose and Croc, Beside the Sea is by Emma Chichester Clark.  It was published by Harper Collins Children’s Books in 2007. I like this book because Melrose looks a lot like me! And because it’s about two friends who care about each other. Croc is grumpy and Melrose doesn’t know why so he cheers him up with a fun trip to the beach. It ‘s all about what friendship should be. There are a lot of Melrose and Croc books.

img335Lottie’s New Beach Towel is by Petra Mathers. It was published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers in 1998. Lottie is a funny hen who is going on a picnic with her friend Herbie. She has a brand new beach towel that ends up coming in very handy in some funny situations. It’s a very cute book about thinking outside the box, as they say!

img337A Summery Saturday Morning is by Margaret Mahy and illustrated by Selina Young. It was published by Scholastic, Inc. in 1999. This is a JOYful book about taking the dogs to the beach! Got that – Joyful and taking the dogs to the beach! It’s written in jaunty rhyming verse that’s fun to read. Like I said, a JOYful, sing song romp at the beach.

img334And my very favorite – Painting the Wind by Patricia and Emily MacLachlan and illustrated magically by Katy Schneider. This is such a beautiful book. The story is of a boy who lives on an island and paints and waits for summer when lots of artists come to his island to paint. They all come with their dogs! Artists bring their dogs to the beach! Some of them paint their dogs. Some just have their dogs for company. They all paint different things. Some paint the ocean. Some paint people. Some paint flowers. The boy wants to paint the wind and doesn’t know how. He paints with each of the grown up artists in hopes that he will learn to capture the wind on canvas. Like I said, this is a beautiful book.

So, that’s how I spent my weekend while the Human folks were getting sunburned at the beach. I hope that you check out some of these books and imagine the ocean breeze while you’re reading them. I did. ( And maybe that was Walker’s fishy breath?)

Peter Pan and the Beach

Over the weekend the Mom Person and the Big Guy with Treats went to a family celebration at the beach. Without me.

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They often go to family celebrations. The Mom Person’s family seems to always find reasons to have a party. They seem to find joy in life. This event was to celebrate Mother’s Day. When they have these celebrations, they usually have a theme that involves what they eat and what they wear and the games they play or the gifts they exchange.  This weekend’s theme was Peter Pan.

IMG_1938There seems to have been a discussion about the story of Peter Pan. Was the real story sweet and smarmy like the Disney movie? Or more sinister like the TV show Once Upon a Time?

Well, now the Mom Person is compelled to answer that question. So we are embarking on a quest to read the book Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie.

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Peter Pan 1st appeared in 1902 in a book called The Little White Bird as a magical infant who flies around with fairies. His story in this book was expanded in 1904 and made into a play called Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. This was then developed into the book Peter and Wendy.

This book was published in 1911 by Charles Scribner’s Sons. It begins …

“All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and……….. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.”

I don’t know of anyone who has actually read the book or the original play of Peter Pan. Everyone has just seen the movie. I would kind of like to know of anyone who has read the book. Let me know!

It will take us awhile to read the whole book, but I will keep you posted about our progress.

I hope you all had a nice Mother’s Day. Another day, I will tell you about how I spent mine. Not at the beach. Which would have been really nice.

And they’re flying!! —

Looking Good!

I had a big day this week! I had an eye exam!

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Every year the ACVO (American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists) Vision for Animals Foundation offers free eye exams for service and therapy dogs. So this year the Mom Person decided that seeing as how I’m starting to get up in years, so to speak, we might as well take advantage of the offer. And Dr. Beaumont says that I have some beautiful perfect eyes! Yay for me! (I had trouble not laughing when she put on those funny goggle things!)

But the experience put me in mind of my long lost days as an almost Guide Dog and a book that we have that is one of the Mom Person’s favorites that always makes her cry and that she gives to just about everybody she knows. It’s about a Guide Dog puppy. The book is called Through Otis’ Eyes, Lessons from a Guide Dog Puppy. It’s written by Patricia Burlin Kennedy and illustrated by Robert Christie.  It was published by Howell Book House in 1998.

This book is kind of an adult picture book, but we have read it with kids of various ages and had some great discussions about the life lessons that it presents. I think that ultimately it is suitable for all ages!

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Otis was a guide dog pup that Ms Kennedy raised for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Inc., a guide dog school in New York. This book is a thoughtful journey through her year with Otis and a look at the things that she learned from him.  It begins when Otis is a wee pup with “Through Otis’ eyes I see the wonder and excitement of experiencing the world”. It moves on to “that sometimes the needs of others are greater than my own”. And ends with “Through Otis’ eyes I see that finding a purpose beyond myself makes life truly rich”.

Ms Kennedy is a very wise woman and I think that she had a very special bond with her Otis.

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There are 97 pages in this book. On each spread is a simple lesson and a beautiful picture of Otis. And at the end of the book is a list of all the Guide Dog Schools and Associations in the United States. (I know that there are also Guide Dog Schools in other countries around the world). Ms Kennedy and Mr Christie both got it all absolutely right. And the Mom Person is crying right now just thinking about Otis.

So if you don’t mind a few tears, I highly recommend this book!

For more information about guide dogs visit  the National Association of Guide Dog Users at their website.

You can find teacher resources and activities about eyes and vision at the American Optometrist Association website.

Be sure and check out more great picture books and resources at Susanna Hill’s!

And now lets see what the world looks like through a guide dogs eyes —

Goat Shearing Time!

It’s that time of year when the Mom Person tackles the goats! And us dogs lay around and watch and laugh.

We have 2 angora goats, Henry and Mr. Jingles. I have talked about them before. Here. and Here. Angora goats grow mohair. If you have a mohair sweater it came from a goat. If you have an angora sweater, it came from a rabbit. Go figure. The goats get sheared twice a year. Spring and Fall.

Now after the clippers do their job and we have all that mohair — what to do next?! Well, it has to be washed and carded and spun into yarn. It’s a lot of work! Whew!

And I tell you all of this because that’s what we’ve been busy with. And,  I want to tell you about a book that we have called A New Coat for Anna by Harriet Ziefert and illustrated by Anita Lobel. It was published by Scholastic in1986.

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The book is based on a true story about a time during the war when stores were closed up and no one had any money. But a little girl needed a new coat. So her mom figured out another way to get Anna her coat. They gathered some stuff that they could use to trade and went to visit a farmer who had sheep. He said that they could have some wool, but would have to wait until spring when the sheep would get shorn. In the spring they got a big bag of wool. (Not 3 bags!) They took the bag to a lady to have it spun into yarn, and had to wait until the summer. They wanted to dye it red and had to wait until the fall for the berries to be ripe. Then the yarn had to be woven into cloth and sewn into a new coat. But by the following Christmas, Anna had her new red coat!

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This is a really lovely story – made even more so by the fact that it’s a true one! It’s about patience and resourcefulness. Things we need more of in this world. Anna had to wait a whole year for her new coat. And she didn’t whine one bit! I wish I could be that patient.

I love this story. It’s happy and uplifting and suspenseful. Will Anna ever get her coat?! And the illustrations are just perfect for it – soft and comforting. Everyone smiles through the whole book. Even the sheep! You should check it out!

And here is a gentleman attempting to become the fastest shearer in the world! (It takes the Mom Person about an hour to do one goat.)