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!

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Visit With Jan Brett

Emmy and I had the pleasure of meeting Jan Brett in Portsmouth, New Hampshire during her eighteen day cross country book tour. Jan was promoting her new book The Turnip, but to Emmy and me, she was promoting the love of books and art.  Watching the tour bus pull into the parking lot was so much fun.  We imagined traveling on this large bus with the gorgeous illustrations painted on the exterior and wondered what people's reactions were when they saw it on the road.
When Jan Brett stepped up onto the stage, the excitement in the crowd was electric.  Seeing not only the children's faces light up, but also the adult's faces is a true testament to this woman's work as an artist.  Jan's depictions of animals and human cultures are full of colorful detail.  Through her extensive travels (from Scandinavia to Africa), Jan is able to vividly create artwork that makes the reader of her books feel as if they could walk right into the book page.  As a matter of fact, Jan herself has said in several interviews that she keeps on painting until she can hear the sounds, smell the smells, and feel how soft the fur of the animal is.  She has said that it takes her an hour to draw an inch!

Emmy and I were so grateful to Jan Brett for taking the time to connect with the audience through her quiet storytelling and drawing demonstration.  Watching the Badger Girl come to life right before our eyes was absolutely amazing.


It was through Jan's travels in Russia, as well as a simple carved wooden toy of three people and a bear pulling up a turnip given to her by a friend, that the retelling of the story The Turnip was realized.  For a more detailed review of this beautifully illustrated book, check out our previous post HERE.

Luckily for us, Jan brought back a pair of birch bark shoes from Russia and has been sharing them on her tour. These shoes served as a model for the shoes worn by the badger characters in the story. She also had a surprise for us...her beloved Dutch Bantams also came along on the tour ~ Rueben her rooster and Rilke her hen!   Here is something new that we learned about Jan Brett ~ she raises chickens for show!  She has been reading tons of books about poultry genetics to try to better understand the color patterns found on chickens.

There are so many wonderful retellings of this classic folk tale, some better than others.  Emmy and I enjoyed Jan's take on this story especially with the addition of the bear family under the ground.  We hope you will pick up a copy of The Turnip to see what you think of Jan's version.

Thank you, Jan Brett, for sharing your passion with us!  
Emmy will never forget your kind words to keep her creative spirit always.