My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me

maya angelouMs Maya Angelou died this week. A very sad time for the literary world and the world at large. Before this week I did not know much about this lovely lady. Most of her writings, I believe, are a little heavy for the kids who read to me. But I am a bit familiar with her. I have heard her enchanting voice on the radio and seen her face in magazines. And we do have one of her books on my bookshelf. A picture book that we like to take to school to share with my reading buddies.

IMG_0125My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me
by Maya Angelou
photographs by Margaret Courtney-Clarke
designed by Alexander Isley Design
published by Clarkson Potter in 1994

Themes – South African culture, traditions

Suitable for ages 3 and up

It begins ….
Hello Stranger-friend
I am Thandi, an Ndebele girl in South Africa.
I am eight years old, and my best friend is a chicken.

This is a fascinatingly unique book. It is filled with beautiful photographs of Ndebele women, children, and painted houses. It is also filled with the rhythmic words of Ms Angelou painting a picture of life in a South African village. A life quite alien to what my reading buddies are used to. Many of the kids in Glen Rose have chickens. And some even talk to their chickens like Thandi does. Thandi has a mischievous younger brother that she would like to give away. Many of my readers can sympathize with those feelings! But Thandi’s village life is quite a bit different from our small town life. For one thing, Thandi and her friends don’t wear much clothing! Mostly LOTS of beads. And they are quite proud of their beadwork. The women do all the beading and Thandi looks forward to one day being able to make her own beaded apron. The women also paint their houses in fantastic geometric patterns – using chicken feathers as brushes! These are traditions that will be passed down to Thandi and her girl friends.

IMG_0128Thandi says that Ndebele people do not call anything beautiful. They say that the best thing is GOOD. This is a very GOOD book full of joy and the music of hope.

When we read this book, we have Good discussions about different cultures and traditions and how traditions get handed down from one generation to the next. We talk about family traditions that the kids might have.

It would be fun, if you have thumbs, to try painting some pictures using the Painted Houses as a model – and paint them with feathers!

To learn more about the art of the Ndebele visit HERE.

Here are some instructions for GOOD beaded snowflake or star ornaments.

Have some fun and laugh and play like Thandi and her friends!

And try this little game!

Now you might want to venture over to the GOOD Ms Susanna Hill’s blog where she keeps a list of Perfect Picture Books.

I challenge you to go out and find your Rhythm
and Dance!
In memory of the GOOD Ms Maya Angelou
Your dancing friend
Rhythm
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A Country Road

IMG_0030We live in the country on a country road. In Texas it’s called a Farm to Market Road. FM. It’s a long and windy road that begins in the town and follows the river out of town for a long long way. There aren’t a lot of houses on our road. Or much traffic. There is lots of pasture land. You might see sheep and cows and horses and goats and emus. You might see some deer or an armadillo or a road runner running by. There are even dinosaurs!!!

IMG_0675It’s a fine, fine road to live on.

We have a book about a country road and all that goes on on that road.

IMG_0033Country Road ABC
An Illustrated Journey Through America’s Farmland
by Arthur Geisert
published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children in 2010
suitable for K and up
Theme — alphabet, farming

It begins —
A
is for ammonia fertilizer

Ammonia fertilizer?! Yes, that’s right. Ammonia fertilizer. Ammonia fertilizer is well known these days as a bomb maker. It happens to be at the center of the big explosion that wiped out part of the town of West, Texas last year. But it also happens to be an important farm tool that farmers use to grow better fields of produce.

This is kind of an unusual ABC book. It is a fabulous ABC book! You not only learn your ABCs, you also learn all about farming. Like fertilizer, and D is for disking, E is for erosion, G is for grinding feed, I is for inoculate! And my favorite — K is for kick!! As in the cow kicking the farmer!

IMG_0034The illustrations are D is for detailed and M is for mesmerizing. Mr. Geisert illustrates all his books with hand colored etchings. A tedious process, I think. This long country road starts in the city and moves out to the countryside where the farmlands begin. You get a very good picture of life on the farm and in a small town. (like Glen Rose, Texas!)

At the end of the book is a farm glossary that gives you further explanations for all the alphabet words used in the text. There is also a big thank-you list to all the owners of the sites and farms that you get to visit in the book. It’s all REAL!

After reading this book, you might want to do an ABC story of your own town. Is your town a farming community or a big city? Or something in between. What different things do you see in the city and the country?

This book would go very nicely with any farm unit that a class may be doing.

TeachingBooks.net has a nice little video interview with Mr Geisert in which he talks about his etching process and about some of his books. You can find it HERE.

And another interview in which he talks about the making of Country Road ABC.

Now it’s time to move on down the road to Ms Susanna Hill’s blog to view the list of Perfect Picture Books that appears on her doorstep every Friday!

Have a Good One!
Your country friend
Rhythm
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Wondering

IMG_6145The Mom Person is going to a big family gathering this weekend. These affairs are quite common with her family. They love to party. Most of the time when they have these gatherings, there is a theme to go along with the event. The theme for this weekend seems to be Super Heroes. The Mom Person is going as Wonder Woman. As in ” I wonder …….” woman. She has spent some time wondering about the best way to do her costume. We have spent some time talking about what Wonder Woman wonders about. Does she ever wonder about how to wear her hair? Does she ever wonder if she looks fat in that outfit? Does she wonder about the magic in that lasso of hers?

I spend a lot of time wondering. I wonder when my next meal is coming. I wonder if it’s my day to go to school. I wonder what kids I will get to see. I wonder when I will get to go to the river. I wonder where my tennis ball is.

Copy of IMG950653Right now I’m wondering about the book that we’ve chosen for Perfect Picture Book Friday. It’s a story about wonder. The world is filled with wonder and I’m guessing that most folks spend quite a bit of time wondering about the world around them.

IMG_6146Little Black Crow
by Chris Raschka (one of my very favorite author/illustrators!)
published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers in 2010
A Richard Jackson Book
A fiction book suitable for ages 4-7

Themes- the wonder of wondering, crows

It begins –
Little black crow,
where do you go?
Where do you go
in the cold white snow?

This is a brilliantly simple tale of a little boy sitting on a fence watching a crow overhead and wondering about the life that the crow lives and if the crow wonders about anything. The rhyming text is spare and lyrical. The illustrations are simple water color and ink brush strokes. Mr Raschka uses a simple palette of blues and browns and pinks. I wonder how such a simple little book can contain such depth of thought.

IMG_6151I found a TED talk presented by a young man named Joshua Klein who has spent a lot of time wondering about crows. You might want to view it HERE. It’s quite fascinating.

PBS Nature series has an episode about crows. You can find out more about it and view the episode HERE.

Now go out on a Wonder Walk and look at the world just outside your door. Do a little wondering as you wander. See any crows? What are they doing?
When you return from your wondering, you might try writing some little poems and doing some painting in the style of Mr Raschka.

and you might want to listen to Mr Paul McCartney while you’re working —

Now you might want to travel over to visit Ms Susanna Hill and check out the list of Perfect Picture Books that show up on her doorstep every Friday.

Now go spread your wings and enjoy your weekend!
Wondering what’s in store for me …..
Rhythm
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Rain Talk

IMG_6126We had a big day of rain yesterday!!!! Finally!!!! And it was really loud rain. Pounding on the roof like little hammers. And the thunder! My oh my!! We didn’t go out and play in it. The Mom Person was worried about all the thunder and lightening. So I had a nice napping day. But we went out this morning to see all the aftermath. Wow!! Nature has just exploded around here!! Before yesterday, all the grass and wildflowers were struggling to stand up. Today, they have burst into bloom!!

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The Paluxy River, that was nearly all dried up a couple of days ago, is now raging too fast for us dogs to go down.

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Rain is a good thing. It brings JOY to the World!

We have a Joyful book about the rain —

IMG_6142Rain Talk
by Mary Serfozo
illustrated by Keiko Narahashi
originally published by Macmillan in 1990
published by Scholastic in 1992

From the back cover –
Ploomp Ploomp Ploomp
PlipPlipPlipPlipPlipPlip
Drum-a-tum-a-Drum-a-tum-a-Drum-a-tum
Listen! The raindrops are talking.

A little girl and her dog – who looks a lot like Walker! – go for a romp in the rain. The girl talks about how the rain sounds as it hits the ground and pounds on the tin roof of the shed. How the drops “chuckle together as they run down the drain.” (I like that.) The rain gets harder and “speckles” the pond. It Bup,Bups on her umbrella.

Soon her Mom calls her to come inside, where she gets dried off and ready for bed. Mom reads her a story and she falls asleep listening to the rain whispering on her roof. Tomorrow she’ll go out and look for a rainbow.

IMG_6144The vivid watercolor illustrations in this book give a soft feel to the plop,plop onomatopoeia of the text. This is an all around happy, feel good book!

I didn’t see any rainbows in the sky today, but there are sure rainbows in my heart.

EnJOY the Rain!

If you would like to see how this video was made, follow this LINK HERE.

Your friend singing and dancing in the rain
Rhythm
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Chip Wants a Dog

We’ve got dogs at my house. Real dogs. Stuffed dogs. Dogs in books. Dogs on the walls. Dogs on the shelves. We big dogs even have our own dogs –

IMG_6115Look at poor little Electra. Don’t worry, she has her own dog, too. —

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Do you have your own dog? If not, would you like to have your own dog? Are your dreams filled with dogs?

We recently found another great book from Mr William Wegman about a young guy who wants his very own dog.

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Electra really liked this book!

Chip Wants a Dog
by William Wegman
published by Penguin Young Readers in 2014
a Level 2/Guided Reading Level H

It begins –
Dogs!
Dogs! Dogs! Dogs!
Chip thinks about dogs.
Chip reads about dogs.
Chip dreams about dogs.
Chip wants a dog!

This is a hilarious book! Chip wants a dog! Chip IS a dog!! But he wants his own dog for a friend. He thinks about all of the things that he and his dog could do together. They would be best friends. But his parents don’t want a dog. His mom is a cat person. ARF! ARF!!

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What’s a fellow with big dreams to do?!

I won’t tell you what happens in the end! It’s a big surprise! You’ll have to read the book yourself and find out!

This book had me rolling on the floor. Electra didn’t get it. Walker had his own dream going on.

This week, May 12 – 18, is Children’s Book Week. A week to celebrate “books for young people and the joy of reading.” This is the 95th anniversary of this celebration!!! 95 years! I would like to know what books were celebrated 95 years ago. And think about all the books since then! Wow! Mind boggling!

CBW_Poster-smallYou can find out more about Children’s Book Week by clicking on the poster above.

Every week is a Children’s Book Week for me, but it’s nice to spread the celebrations around.

Check out Mr Wegman’s websites HERE and HERE.

I’ll leave you with a bit of Mr Wegman himself — enjoy!

I hope that your week is filled with Picture Books and dreams that come true!
Rhythm
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Never Ever

IMG_6028The landscape around here is pretty dry and crunchy. We haven’t had any rain in quite a long time. The Mom Person worries that we will “Never Ever” have rain again! She gets these crazy thoughts sometimes.

IMG_5261Walker worries that we will “Never Ever” have any peace and quiet again with Dogzilla living with us. He’s a big worrier.

I sometimes read with kids who say they will “Never Ever” be able to read all those words. That makes me sad. I don’t know a lot about time. But I believe that Never Ever is a very long time. Kind of like infinity!

I’m not a “Never Ever” kind of girl. I’m more a “Maybe Soon” kind of girl. My eyes are always open looking for possibilities. I KNOW that eventually tennis balls and french fries will fall from the sky. You just have to be ready for it with your eyes open!

Some folks are always walking around with their eyes closed and miss all those possibilities that are out there all around.

This little book – NEVER EVER is about a little girl like that.

never everNever Ever
by Jo Empson (who also did that incredible book Rabbityness)
published by Child’s Play in 2012

It begins —
Nothing exciting ever happens to me!
Never, ever!
Humph…..

This is a wondrous book! And so fun to read with a buddy! A cute little red headed girl wanders through the countryside carrying her stuffed rabbit and complaining about how NOTHING exciting EVER happens to her! There aren’t a lot of words here. Lots of never, ever, ever, never, ever, never. But a whole lot of story is going on in the illustrations! Everywhere she steps she juuuusssttt misses something pretty exciting. If she would only open her eyes!!!! It’s hard not to yell that at her! OPEN YOUR EYES!!!!! LOOK AT THE WORLD AROUND YOU!

never ever 2But she never ever does.

I am participating in a reading challenge posed by Bruce at The Bookshelf Gargoyle. The Small Fry Safari has 8 categories of titles to be completed. I believe that Never Ever falls into category #3, a book with a specific time in the title. To see the complete list of categories and books visit Mr Bruce on his bookshelf HERE.

Never say never – and always be open to possibility!

Keep your eyes and your heart open!
Wishing you a world of possibilities – and the eyes to see it with!
Rhythm
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Gone to the Apes

As you may (or may not) know, I have a particular fondness for Apes. Gorillas in particular. My sleeping buddy when i was a wee pup was a cuddly gorilla who kept me safe at night.

IMG_3871I have talked about apes and ape books on several occasions. HERE. and HERE. and HERE. and HERE. One of my most favorite author/illustrators is Mr. Anthony Browne who is quite famous for his depictions of apes. Do you know the difference between apes and monkeys? Apes don’t have tails!

IMG_6017Today for Perfect Picture Book Friday, I have two, yes TWO, Perfect Picture Books about Apes. One is non-fiction and one is considered fiction but is actually a biography. I get so confused about these things sometimes!

IMG_6020APE
by Martin Jenkins
illustrated by Vicky White
published by Candlewick Press in 2007
a non-fiction book about the five great apes
suitable for pre-school and up

It begins —
There are five kinds of great apes in the world.
Each of them is different from the others …
but not so very different.
They’re all part of the same family.

Mr Jenkins goes on to tell us about the great apes of the world. The Orangutan of Borneo and Sumatra, the Chimpanzee of central and west Africa, the Bonobo of central Africa, the Gorilla of central Africa, and ….. Humans who are found all over the world.

Mr Jenkins tells us about each ape family’s habitat and habits, what they eat, and what their personalities are like. This is all accompanied by the most unbelievably beautiful artwork by Ms White. Publisher’s Weekly says about these illustrations – “White makes an intense emotional connection between subject and reader. …. The great apes have found their John Singer Sargent.”

IMG_6019At the back of the book is a world map showing where the Great Apes are found, and links to some conservation organizations who are working to save the great apes.

This is a most incredible book! You can read Publishers Weekly’s review HERE.

IMG_6021Me … Jane
by Patrick McDonnell
published by Little Brown and Company in 2011
a fictional biography of Jane Goodall – champion of chimpanzees
suitable for pre-school and up

It begins —
Jane had a stuffed toy chimpanzee named Jubilee.
She cherished Jubilee and took him everywhere she went.
And Jane loved to be outside.

This is an exquisitely joyful look at Jane Goodall as a wee young girl. She spends her time immersed in the world around her. She is a watcher of nature – the plants and animals that fill her habitat. She studies and keeps detailed notes in her journals. Jane reads about Tarzan of the Apes and dreams of being in Africa herself living a life “with, and helping, all animals.” And Jubilee is with her always.

IMG_6018The illustrations in this book are the cute, sweet pictures that Mr McDonnell is famous for. But there are also some of Jane’s own artwork from her journals. And pages of subtle realistic nature pictures.
At the back of the book is a brief biography about Ms Goodall and links to her websites. You can get to those HERE. and HERE. There is also a message from Ms Goodall herself.

Besides learning about chimpanzees at Ms Goodall’s website, you can find more about gorillas at the Gorilla Organization. More about orangutans at the Orangutan Foundation. More about Bonobos at the Bonobo Conservation Initiative.

Here is a link to some activity sheets and a cool gorilla mask.
A great lesson plan about apes with crafts and activities can be found HERE.

And now you might want to visit Susanna Hill’s blog where you’ll find a great list of Perfect Picture Books and helpful resources to go with.

Ms Jane Goodall recently celebrated her 80th birthday. Here is a video tribute to her —

Now go out and do something good for your neighborhood!

Your ape watching friend
Rhythm
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