Today is Nonfiction Monday in Children’s Literature circles.  So I decided to go back a few years and pull out a review I wrote when in graduate school, of one of the Caldecott Winners . . . It remains one of my favorites, so here it is :-)

Hush!, by Mingfong Ho/ illustrated by Holly Meade

Having recently discovered my love for Holly Meade’s artwork, I decided to indulge in a study of her illustrated works.  First, I looked more closely at her styling in the book I had already chosen for my Caldecott study [see below].

In this book, I did not initially recognize the medium.  This is due in part to the effect that the process of printing has upon the original work of art.  It is also, however, due to my own artistic ignorance.  While I have dabbled in art, and studied it some, my knowledge is certainly not extensive concerning different types of media, never mind how to pinpoint different types.

And so, I looked to the expert in question herself: Holly Meade.  As it turns out, the artist of this book that had chosen me so fiercely also wrote about her artwork in the 1998 “Picture Books” issue of the Horn Book.  In this article she explains why collage is her preferred medium for illustrating picture books.  Knowing this, a further examination of the pages of Hush! revealed clear signs that collage was indeed the medium of this particular book.  For instance, I noticed the fuzzy edges [torn paper] of the bits of mud splaying out from the pig’s mud puddle.  I also noticed that these bits were next to smooth lines surrounding other figures, clearly indicating the mixture of materials that Meade had carefully placed together.

The important part of all this examination, of course, is not the details of the different media, but the entirety of its effect on the viewer.  What it tells me is that a great amount of thought and effort has been put into each minutiae of each page, and I, for one, am thankful.  Because what I get is the privilege of that unparalleled phenomenon we know as the experience of beauty.

just another loon

May 30, 2010

As I dragged the kayak out onto the water this afternoon, I wondered if those who teased me were right: I was told I would end up beached, with the waters as choppy as they were.  But I just couldn’t resist the serendipitous combination of a few hours of free time + the fact that I had not yet been on the lake this year [only “in”].

So while out I chuckled at this feathered companion as she dove in and out in the waves; each time she disappeared under the surface I would scan the area, hoping to catch her as she emerged.  I also could not help but take comfort in the fact that I was not the only “loon” out on the lake.

*You may just have to take my word for it that the small black triangle near the center of this photo is, in fact, the head of a duck . . . not exactly the most obvious visual aid :-)

It’s official: all of my old blogspot content now “lives” here.  So thanks to all who read/look/follow, and feel free to make this new site a favorite, a bookmark, a blogroll link . . . whatever you like :-)


May 24, 2010

Knowing to expect the unexpected is one thing. Having that same unexpected happen is quite another . . . which is, I think, one of the main reasons I love telling “true” stories so much: I am one of those who delights in the re-living as much as [and often more than] in the moment itself. So telling about those moments is no trivial matter—telling the tales of the absurdities in a day in a life almost makes the day, the life, worth living.
But enough of that: I have a bad writing habit of overly prefacing . . . on to the story:
A portion of this particular day was spent at two area assisted living facilities. One of which I had been to already, many times, to visit my grandmother. But the other was a new one to me. When I arrived I took some time navigating the maze-like, under construction hallways, searching for members of my group. Eventually I found what looked to be the gathering room and entered, looking for a place to stash my camera and gather song sheets and itineraries. As I did so, a woman came towards me, looking directly at me as she did, with an expectantly cheerful look on her face. She looked rather young, and very aware, so I assumed her to be a member of the staff. But instead of an expected approach, and then [personal space bubble allowed] stop, she continued her walk until her face was an inch away from my own. Rather stunned, I just waited, wide-eyed. And for several minutes she stood there, smiling, as she hummed “Mimimimimimimimimi . . .” in a high-pitched monotone. Then, her song complete, she inched slightly closer yet, and then [still looking straight into my eyes] walked away. I surmised my error in her identity pretty quickly and carried on in preparations.
A bit later, as we began a prayer, she came towards me again, with the same “Mimimimimimimi” song. This time, anticipating her actions, I quickly ran through a few courses of potential action for myself: Should I keep my eyes open and look at her? Should I just pray as usual? Should I smile? I opted to look at her, smile quickly, and then close my eyes and continue joining in on the prayer. When I closed my eyes I felt her face and realized that now, instead of just peering into my own, she was giving me “Butterfly kisses,” brushing her nose side to side against my own.
This time I just couldn’t help but giggle. Seriousness aside, how can any reasonable 30-year-old woman stay straight-faced when being given Butterfly kisses by a bright-eyed slightly-older women? I decided not to try.
And the day continued—as a day does—with other moments of ups and downs, of the unexpected and the expected . . .

To say that Mom’s garden is impressive is decidedly understating the reality: it is, in fact, an amazing array of vegetables and herbs that far exceeds the norm for regional growth. And so it is in no way the fault of the harvest that our dinner greens this evening were a meager affair; rather, my own lack of expertise in gardening is the problem. What I thought was a large bundle of carefully-chosen Swiss Chard stalks boiled down to the equivalent of approximately 1 Tablespoon per person, for of the three of us dining tonight. Ah well–I know better for next time. And thankfully, 20-some-odd brimming bundles remain in the rows from which I gleaned tonight’s portion :-)

still-living stalks

May 19, 2010

As I headed out the door to grab my camera, I grinned with a smug sort of satisfaction at the sound of Mom’s laughter . . . I find it to be oddly gratifying when I manage to amuse my own family members. I had announced to her my intent to photograph the lavender I had just planted, playing up the haste with which I had to do so: “I know that, since I planted them [and you did not], they won’t last long–I have to document their existence while they are still living . . .” And off I rushed. So here they are: beautifully still-blooming sprigs, duly documented :-)

another of my own

May 13, 2010

Emboldened [too much so?] by the kind response to last week’s Poetry Wednesday post . . . and perhaps also by the fact that I am trying to flame the fires of my song-writing creativity, I have decided to go ahead and put another of my own writings out there. This one is decided less serious than last week’s–quite goofy, in fact. But as much of my children’s writing is just as goofy, there is no good reason for me to hide that fact :-) This one was inspired by a conversation I had with a little one, years ago, in the church bathroom after the service . . .

Stuck in the Loo
Oh dear, I fear it’s true:
I’m stuck here in the loo.

I’ve wiggled, and jiggled, and pried:
And now I’m fit to be tied.

I really had to pee.
So Mommy came in with me.

I told her she could go–
I’m big now and, well, you know.

But now I wish I hadn’t.
Cause she’d a known how to unfast’n it.

She knows how to do
Just anything–I promise, it’s true!

Well I guess I’ll settle in a bit–
The loo’s not a bad place to sit.

I can make it real nice and comfy,
Even have my friends over for tea.

Suzy, and Jane, and Jackie.
And maybe Jane’s puppy, Jalopy.

We can all sit right there on the floor,
In that space–it’s just perfect for four!

After tea, then time for . . .
What’s that? Did I hear the door?

Oh–Mommy, you found me!
I was just . . . well, I’ll tell you later.

Yes, I’m fine. Tell you now?
Well ok. This is how . . .

After dinner this evening I picked up an MK Newsletter that had arrived this weekend and started flipping through. Once I had read only a few of the items in one rather lengthy article, I started chuckling. Then, since Lou had looked up from his own readings, and seemed curious enough—and since we were all still lingering there around the table—I began to read out loud. But suddenly, unexpectedly, my laughter had turned to tears. Here are a few of the truisms that stuck out to me: some because of how true they are to my own experience, some simply because they made me laugh, and some because they are as beautiful as the land about which they are written:
“You know you are from Africa when . . .”
• No running water for a day is just another ordinary thing.
• It doesn’t seem right to pay the asking price on anything without bargaining first.
• Someone asks you how much your sister costs.
• You miss rain on a corrugated iron roof where it’s so loud you have to shout to be heard.
• You visit your grandparents and take your passport—just in case you have to evacuate.
• American corn isn’t hard enough for you.
• You expect people to tell you they’re fine before you ask them.
• As a girl, you’ve been proposed to while walking down the street.
• You can lead a 20-minute conversation starting with “Walleponaua!” and keep it going by replying “ehh” in numerous different tone levels for the next half an hour! (and have the other person understand exactly what you’re saying!)
• Something that would normally take half and hour in the Western world takes a few days or weeks.
• Your journey is interrupted by herds of cows and goats on the road.
• You can smell the rain before it comes.
• The only thing you throw away are avocado stones, and even then you wonder if you should save them and plant a tree.
• You know that an umbrella is useless during the rainy season and simply accept the fact that you’ll be wet for 3 months . . . and really don’t mind.
• Your bed doesn’t seem right without a mosquito net.
• Tears well up in your eyes as you read this list, wishing you were back in Africa.

[adapted from “I’d rather be in Africa” ]

When I first spotted this fuzzy family, huddled together, mother sheltering little ones, I kicked myself for not having my camera on me. It being first thing in the morning, I assumed that they would be long gone by the time I returned. So later, around midday, when I came back with my camera . . . just in case . . . I was thrilled to find them still out, still braving the cold of the rain and wind. And I cheered them on in their lonely trek out towards the middle of the lake :-)

till Zion

May 5, 2010

This Spring, thanks to an inspiring baby niece, I accidentally wrote a song. I am accustomed to making up songs, as they rather regularly pop into my head to be used as teaching tools . . . silly French ditties, usually. This time, however, it sounded kind of like a “real” song. When I shared it with one of my blogging friends, she suggested that I post it for a Poetry Wednesday. It took me a while to decide to do so but, now, here it is.
The poem itself I wrote a while back–an “Alphabet Prayer.” But the tune is new, and I first sang it a cappella. Then, with the help of a talented collaborating musician, it turned into an official song, complete with instrumentals and background vocals. Anyhow, here are the lyrics. If any of you, who have not already heard it, would like to hear either version of the song itself, I would be happy to pass along the MP3 version: just comment or email me directly if so . . .

Till Zion is Nigh

Verse 1:
Abba Father
Blessed Jesus
Come and cheer us
Do be near us

Every Creature
Far and near
Give You praise for Your
Holy ways
[Refain]: For Yours I’ll be, till Zion is nigh. Oh, yours, till Zion is nigh.

I am Yours
Just as I am
Kindly made
Loved and framed

May I never
Not be true
Or be forgetful in
Praising You

Quiet me when
Restless I grow
Still my spirit
Tame my soul

Under Thy wings
Verily I fly
Watched for by Your
eXtra watchful eye

Final Refrain: Sung with a 3rd line] of “Till Zion”