Monday, October 10, 2016

Scarecrow Pete

Autumn is my very favorite time of year.  The cooler days, colorful leaves and pumpkin everything brings me so much joy!  Emmy also enjoys this season, but it takes her a bit longer to make the transition from the hot summer days to the chillier weather.  We both look forward to our town's Fall Festival every Columbus Day (or Indigenous People's Day) weekend.  Our little New England town dresses itself up for the event.  Market Square downtown is decorated with corn stalks, hay bales and pumpkins. Businesses in town participate in the festival by creating a scarecrow and attaching it to our lampposts.  This is our favorite part of the festival.  We enjoy seeing all of the creative ideas used to build the scarecrows as some represent the business while others showcase a favorite character.  

Here are some of our favorite photos from the past several years.

Before we go to check out the scarecrows, Emmy and I enjoy reading ~ Scarecrow Pete by Mark Kimball Moulton.  Now, before you think that this is a book to read during Autumn, let us tell you otherwise.  First of all on the opening pages, the reader is met with this quote, "Why, I can go most anywhere by reading a good book." These words set the stage for this most enjoyable book where a young boy discovers that the scarecrow in his family's cornfield can not only talk, but enjoys a good book! Moulton tells the story through rhyme in the form of a very long poem.  It is delightful to read out loud as the words just roll right off your tongue. 

"Now this is nice," said Scarecrow Pete, "a beautiful fine day, 
a brand-new friend to talk to, and my belly full of hay."  
"A brand-new friend?  Do you have more?" I asked my 
Scarecrow Peter.  "If you are always tied up here, how do you ever meet?"  
"That's easy - I imagine them!  I meet friends, near and far.  
I close my eyes and think of them, then poof!  Why, there they are!"
"I do the same to travel," he continued, with a look.  
"Why I can go most anywhere by reading a good book." 

And second of all, the young boy is on his summer vacation and doesn't think that he needs to read, but when the scarecrow asks him to read him a book from the suitcase by his knee, he hesitantly obliges.  As the boy reads many classic stories such as Moby Dick, Peter Pan, Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland, he finds himself becoming a voracious reader.

"I never forget those days, that summer long ago, for that was when I 
realized how much books can help you grow.  They teach, enchant and captivate, 
enlighten and cajole.  They inspire imagination and they touch your very soul!" 

To go along with the beautiful verse are the gorgeous illustrations by Karen Hillard Good.  Each page is filled from edge to edge with enchanting drawings in subtle colors.  

Emmy is always delighted to see so many of her favorite books in Scarecrow Pete's suitcase especially another one of Moulton's books, A Snowman Named Just Bob, which we read every winter.  Emmy loves that the boy and the scarecrow become pen pals at the end and we both find ourselves loving the very last page in the book every time we read it.  

"You can do most anything, meet anyone you please, 
travel anywhere you like, and do it all with ease.  
Just find a place that's comfortable - a nice, warm cozy 
nook - and lose yourself among the pages of a favorite book!"

Emmy and I would recommend any book by Mark Kimball Moulton, but since it's getting close to Halloween, be sure to read Miss Fiona's Stupendous Pumpkin Pies!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Where's Waldo?

Emmy and I are on the search for Waldo all around Newburyport.  We have been having a blast visiting all of our local shops and searching and searching for a very small cardboard cut out of Waldo.  It has given us the opportunity to talk to the shopkeepers, see all the new merchandise and just enjoy our quaint little town.  A big shout out to The Book Rack Bookstore for hosting this event in Newburyport.  The search for Waldo is going on across the country during the month of July with chances to earn an I Found Waldo button, a $1 off coupon for a Where's Waldo book as well as the opportunity to be entered in a drawing for a deluxe set of Waldo books as well as other great prizes.  Contact your local bookstore to see if they are participating in Find Waldo Local.

Update:  Here is the finished sheet.  Emmy was very determined to find every Waldo!

 And Emmy used her $1 off coupon to purchase this Waldo book with her own money!  

Oh and have you heard about the construction worker who is playing Where's Waldo with the children in a hospital across the street from his construction site.  See the article and video HERE.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Blueberries for Sal

July is National Blueberry Month!

If any fruit deserves its own special month of honorable recognition, this little blue beauty certainly does. Native to North America, blueberries are grown in 35 out of the 50 states which means that the United States supplies roughly 95% of the entire world's crop!  With flavors ranging from puckery tart to mildly sweet, blueberries are in their prime in the month of July.  And as they are full of vitamins, fiber and antioxidants, they definitely make the healthy food list.

My little darling Emmy has an aversion to certain textures in food and blueberries are not often her fruit of choice.  However, when given the opportunity to pick her own, Emmy is much more likely to try new fruits. Fortunately for us, there are many farms in our area that offer pick-your-own so blueberry picking is one of our summer traditions.  
Before Emmy and I head out to our favorite local farm (Cider Hill Farm) to pick our own blueberries, we read Robert McCloskey's book Blueberries for Sal. This story is a classic as it has been enjoyed by generations of children and is still popular today. The endearing illustrations, rendered in dark blue ink reminiscent of the stain made by blueberries, was recognized with a Caldecott Honor in 1949.
McCloskey tells two stories side-by-side in this book, one of a little girl named Sal and her mother, who are picking wild blueberries to can for the winter, and another of a little bear cub and his mother, who are eating wild blueberries to prepare for winter hibernation. Sal's and Little Bear's paths eventually cross and then each follows the wrong mother around Blueberry Hill.  When I share this book with Emmy, her favorite part of the story is always the sound that the berries make when they hit Sal's small tin bucket "kuplink, kuplnak, kuplunk!" This sound is what makes Little Bear's mother aware that her bear cub is not behind her.  


Something else that I enjoy about this story is its old fashioned concepts.  Emmy and I talked at length about the end papers of the book that showed a 1940's kitchen and the process of canning fruit.  I know that there are those that continue the tradition of canning in their home, but it is not something that is recognizable in Emmy's or my life.  
After reading the story, Emmy and I were definitely craving a fresh pail of blueberries of our own so off we went to the farm on a very hot day!  
Emmy was thrilled with the picking, but sad that the bucket we received at the farm didn't make the same sound as Sal's tin bucket.  She did eat quite a few berries right off of the bush, but there was no convincing her that this should be a favorite fruit.  As for me, I ate many more berries than what I added to the bucket!  Overall, the pick-your-own experience was a great time for both us and one that we will repeat.

When Emmy was younger, we very much enjoyed watching many of our favorite picture books come to life through the Scholastic Video Collection.  If you have the opportunity, look for the DVD Make Way for Ducklings...and More Robert McCloskey Stories.  Included are the stories Make Way for Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal, Time of Wonder, Lentil and Burt Dow, Deep Water Man.  Although not animated as the other stories in the DVD series, the narration and music makes it a nice addition to the classic McCloskey stories.  

Emmy and I are such HUGE fans of Robert McCloskey and we hope that his post inspires others to pick up his books and read them.  We have a wonderful treasury of McCloskey classics titled Make Way for McCloskey - A Robert McCloskey Treasury that has 8 complete stories, including Blueberries for Sal, with an introduction by Leonard S. Marcus as well as photographs and original drawings by the author.

If you would like more of McCloskey, then check out our review of another one of his classics Make Way for Ducklings.  Also, look for One Morning in Maine which is considered to be a sequel to Blueberries for Sal.

To continue to inspire all things blueberry, Emmy and I would also recommend the following books:

Blueberry Mouse by Alice Low

More Blueberries by Susan Musgrave

Peter in Blueberry Land by Elsa Beskow

And if you have any blueberries left after picking, there are many delicious treats that can be made, but since Emmy loves putting syrup on her pancakes and waffles (of course freshly picked blueberries can be added to these as well), I thought we might try this simple recipe for Blueberry Syrup!

1/2 cup sugar                      1/4 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup     1 tbs cornstarch
2 tsp lemon juice                2 cups of blueberries

Stir together all ingredients in a large microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on full power 5 minutes. Stir and serve warm.  

Blueberry Deliciousness!