Monday, February 18, 2013

Grow It Cook It

Let's face it. Our children usually don't eat enough fruits and
veggies. To be truthful, we, the generation that is supposed to be
setting a good example, are not modelling what we want to see. At
least with the kids there is a way to change things. Youngsters who
take part in the growing and cooking of wholesome food are more likely
to have good eating habits than their peers. Factor in that every
year more of our nation's food is being mass produced on factory farms
and you'll have every reason to get down and dirty (we're talking soil
and compost) with the children you love.
Grow It Cook It is a great place to start. It begins with the
basics of what plants need. Children from about second grade on can
grasp the procedures and plunge right in. Equipment is inexpensive.
Some stuff can be creatively handmade. The tone is even reassuring
enough for grown ups. The kids know they can do this. We're the ones
who go through life clipping our own wings with what ifs and other
imagined problems.
Step by step well illustrated instructions show how to plant and
maintain a wide array of veggies and fruits: tomatoes, pumpkins,
blueberries, sunflowers, mint, spinach, beans... Interspersed are
relevant recipes, also done in an enabling, illustrated step wise
fashion. Techniques like companion planting to scare off insect pests
and composting for plant nourishment are covered.
So Mom, Dad, Grammie, Auntie, teacher... What are you waiting
for? Spring will be here before we know it.
On a personal note, posting this review is putting joyous visions of
volunteering at Orono Community Garden in my head.
A great big shout out goes out to John and Shelley Jemmison, the
lively garden crew they'll assemble, and the preciuos senior citizen
friends we'll grow produce for.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Munsch at Play

As young children, my kids were big fans of all things Robert
Munsch. Fortunately he wrote parent friendly books that could be
read again and again... For years I could count Munschless days on
my fingers. Then know how it goes...the man was out of
my life. Our kids grow up.
Recently I saw Robert's jovial vissage peering out at me from
the Orono Public Library's juvenile non fiction section. Of course I
had to check that out. It turns out that in Munsch at Play Irene
Watts has turned eight of his most popular stories into scripts for
children to produce.
My favorite has to be The Paper Bag Princess. A princess is
thinking about marrying her royal boyfriend. Suddenly a dragon
smashes the castle, burns up her fancy dresses, and carries the prince
off to its lair. All the princess has to wear is a paper bag.
Putting it on, she cleverly and valiently rescues prince far-from-
charming, only to be met with criticism about her appearance. She's
to come back when she looks like a princess. As if! She's nobody's
The book's biggest treasure lies in the two pages following the
table of contents. It talks about the many ways children can
improvise their own adaptations. Think about it. So much of
education today is designed for visual and auditory learners. Their
hands on, kinesthetic peers tend to be left out in the cold. Now
here's a way for children who learn best in active ways to develop a
love of reading and shine. The possibilities are endless!
On a personal note, February break is nice, especially not having to
get up at 5:30 to get my son off to school.
A great big shout out goes out to all our vacationing kids, teachers,
cafeteria workers, principals... May you have a wonderful vaca and
come back to school refreshed and healthy!
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Z is for Moose

I've seen plenty of alphabet books in my time. They range from
the sublime through the trite to the ridiculous. Kelly Bingham and
Paul Zelinsky's Z is for Moose has to be one of the funniest.
Zebra is working methodically on creating an alphabet book. He
has characters representing all twenty-six letters carefully lined
up. Trouble is Moose is impatient to get his literary fifteen minutes
of fame.
Moose peeks around the corner at A is for apple, stands in front
of duck at D, and climbs into ice cream (I) and a jar (J). Zebra gets
aggravated and replaces Moose with Mouse. Moose becomes more outré
and then disappears. You'd think Zebra would be delighted. You
couldn't be more wrong.
If you want an alphabet book children will want read again and
again that carries an important message about friendship, you can't do
better than Z is for Moose.
On a personal note, yesterday in the middle of a blizzard (hopefully
not an omen) I officially joined Orono United Methodist Church.
A great big shout goes out to my church family.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Picture book
One morning Jan Brett saw a huge snapping turtle with underwater
plants growing on its shell. She and her husband built a turtle pool
that would allow reptiles to hibernate, sun, and hide from predators.
Being an extremely talented writer and artist, she was inspired to
Mossy, a lovely tale for the rest of us.
Mossy is a young box turtle who lives at the edge of a pond.
Moss begins to grow on her shell. After awhile she's carrying around
ferns, wildflowers, and even wild strawberries. One day she is
captivated by a young male turtle, Scoot, with ruby red eyes...
...only to be discovered by Dr. Carolina, museum curator. A
fancy viewing pavilion is created with everything a turtle could need
except companionship. Poor Mossy is lonely, yearning for Scoot.
Fortunately Dr. Carolina's young niece, Tory, has begun to notice that
she looks sad. Read the book to see what happens.
Brett is a big time fan of all creatures great and small. The
flowers, mushrooms, frogs, insects, and other living things bright and
beautiful lavishly (but never overly) gracing Mossy's pages make this
book a true visual treasure. Check it out and enjoy the amazing
result of Brett's pond side epiphany.
On a personal note, it's the second weekend in a row Maine has had a
big old snow storm. The state looks like a picture postcard.
Families like mine benefit from the chance to earn more money. Lots
of families around here. The white stuff makes for great sledding.
I am strongly resisting the urge to do a shout out to Mother Nature.
There are people inconvenienced by the white stuff like Pastor Steve
who has had his congregation decimated two Sundays in a row. How
about a shout out to the legions of folks toiling even while we sleep
to keep us safe and able to get around?
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Randy Riley's Really Big Hit

Picture book
Although Randy, protagonist of Chris Van Dusen's Randy Riley's
Really Big Hit, enjoys playing baseball, he's not really good at it.
He's really good at science and math. He has an in depth knowledge of
the solar system and a much better ability to hypothesize and
calculate than most adults.
As the book opens Randy strikes out because he's wondering how
far a ball could go if there was no gravity. Back at his home,
looking through his telescope, he arrives at a frightening
conclusion. A massive fireball will hit his town in nineteen days.
When he tries to convince his parents of the danger they send him off
to bed. He's on his own to avert disaster. Fortunately he has a plan.
Illustrations are a fascinating blend of Leave It To Beaver and
futurism. The discovery scene is a prime example. Wally and the
Beave probably had wooden desks and goose neck lamps like those in the
bedroom. But the fireball framed in the telescope is anything but
kitsch. You see this again in the breakfast scene. Randy's parents
are learning the bad news on an old time radio. (Kids will live how
Dad is spewing coffee and mom is sending his breakfast flying).
Randy, clearly in control of the situation, is calmly chowing down on
UF-Ohs cereal.
In an America where we're gradually learning the importance of
the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) professions, Randy
Riley's Really Bit Hit is a book whose time has come!
On a personal note, I finally finished the manuscript for my first
poetry book and turned it over to Leah to add her graphic art. I am
very proud of myself for achieving this goal. I can't wait to see how
Leah transforms it.
A great big shout out goes out to Leah, my graphic arts super star.
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

Friday, February 1, 2013

Blowin' In The Wind

Picture book
I remember singing Bob Dylan's Blowin' In The Wind around
campfires, watching the shifting flame patterns, the smoke drifting
skyward. As a young person troubled by the war in 'Nam, the cruelties
of racism, and other heavy issues, I felt the gentle questions tug at
my heart. Jon Muth heard this song on his transistor radio.
Fortunately he is a talented artist. He's turned it into a delightful
picture book, making it accessible to new generations of patents and
On the cover a child holding a guitar reaches for a paper
airplane. The paper airplane is a unifying theme found on each two
page spread, a metaphor for the answers to the song's poignant
questions. It glides past a boy walking through a strand of birch
trees, children rowing boats, a wistful polar bear on an ice floe, a
flag draped cannon... In the end a number of them soar toward the
The book includes a CD of Bob Dylan singing Blowin' In The Wind
in 1963. If you have children to share this dear song, as relevant
today as it was when it was written, with or just find it stirs up
precious memories, it is quite the worthwhile purchase!
On a personal note, don't forget today is women's heart health day.
Heart disease kills too many of us. Gotta put a stop to that!
A great big shout out goes out to everyone who wore red today to raise
this awareness.
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod