Tag Archives: USA

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World

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Making an apple pie is really very easy.
First, get all the ingredients at the market.
Mix them well, bake, and serve.

Unless, of course,
the market is closed.

In that case, go home and pack a suitcase.

The pie-craving protagonist travels to Italy (for wheat), Frances (for a chicken that lays “elegant eggs”), Sri Lanka (for kurundu bark), England (for a cow to provide milk), Jamaica (for seawater and sugar cane), and Vermont (for apples). Once the traveling is through, all she will have to do is:

mill the wheat into flour,
grind the kurundu
bark into cinnamon,
evaporate the seawater
from the salt,
boil the sugar cane,
persuade the chicken
to lay an egg…

Well, you get the idea. This book is thoughtful, colorful, and quietly funny. Perhaps it was inspired by the famous Carl Sagan quote: “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” (My youngest swears by the apple pie recipe on the last page.)

Author: Marjorie Priceman
Illustrator: Marjorie Priceman

You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer!

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It was Mary Poppins, of all things, that introduced my boys to the idea that women had not always had the same civil rights as men. My oldest was curious, so I started looking for age-appropriate discussions of the subject. This was a success; the boys actively request we read it.

Amelia Bloomer was born in 1818, but she was utterly uninterested in being a “proper lady.” She wanted to work, vote, and wear practical clothing. So, she started her own newspaper, advocated for the vote, and published the pattern for the proto-pants that became known as bloomers. As Mrs. Banks would say: “Well done, Sister Suffragette!”

Author: Shana Corey
Illustrator: Chesley McLaren

Make Way for Ducklings

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My youngest son is very found of birds. Ponds full of ducks make him very happy. If some of the ducks are on land, he heads straight over in hope of picking one up. Once they (inevitably) retreat to the water, he perches on the nearest rock and happily quacks at them (although he points out wistfully that, as yet, no ducks have quacked back to him).

My mother is also very found of ducks and she read me this book many, many times. The pictures are great and it is fun read-aloud, particularly once the ducklings (Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack) make their entrance. Speaking of grandparents, this is one of the only books on this blog that is older than all of my sons’ grandparents (The Little House and The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes are the others).

Author: Robert McCloskey
Illustrator: Robert McCloskey

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11

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High above
there is the Moon,
cold and quiet,
no air, no life,
but glowing in the sky.

Here below
there are three men
who close themselves
in special clothes,
who–
click–lock hands
in heavy gloves,
who–
click–lock heads
in large, round helmets.

It is summer here in Florida,
hot, and near the sea.
But now these men are dressed for colder, stranger places.
The walk with stiff and awkward steps
in suits not made for Earth.

This outstanding book tells an amazing story, reads like poetry, is full of interesting facts, and is beautifully presented. It is not a short book, but reading it aloud is a pleasure.

Author: Brian Floca
Illustrator: Brian Floca

 

From Dawn Till Dusk

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My brothers and sister and I grew up on a farm of steep, wooded hills and fields with rocks as big as your head. There was work enough on that farm to keep us busy all year long from dawn till dusk.
On winter nights, as the wind whistled ’round the house and snow piled up against the windows, our mother told us stories of how our Scottish ancestors left their rocky farms to journey to America for a better life.
We thought of the rocks here, of Vermont’s long, bitter winters, and of the hundreds of trees that had to be cut down to make a farm, and my brothers would say, “Why’d they ever move
here?
Then they’d argue about where they wanted to move to when they grew up.

“Think of all the things you’d miss,” I told them.
“Miss?” they said. “What would we miss?”

For the rest of the book, the author and her brothers provide points and counterpoints of the difficulties and joys of farm life. It sounds incredibly difficult and wonderful and very exotic to us suburbanites. The author ends by noting:

A few cousins moved away, to New York and Michigan and even one to Africa, but my sister, brothers, and I, and most of my cousins, are still here, sugaring and haying and cutting wood. We also cross-country ski and canoe and gather together to eat, laugh, and tell stories. And no one talks about leaving.

Author: Natalie Kinsey-Warnock
Illustrator: Mary Azarian

 

Miss Bridie Chose a Shovel

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She could have picked a chiming clock or a porcelain figurine,
but Miss Bridie chose a shovel back in 1856.

Miss Bridie chose the shovel from the peg in the barn, and
she took it to the dock, where she stepped aboard the ship.
She leaned on the shovel as she rocked in the cabin while
she lived on the ship on her way across the sea.

Miss Bridie flung the shovel with her pack on her shoulder
when she stepped off the ship in the harbor in New York.

This quiet, beautiful book covers most of a lifetime and is a pleasure from beginning to end.

Author: Leslie Connor
Illustrator: Mary Azarian

 

Lincoln and His Boys

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Abraham Lincoln was a doting, devoted, and devastated father. This work of historical fiction focuses on his relationship with two of his four sons. Willie narrates the first half of the book (this narration is partially based on a 200-word fragment by the historical Willie; all of the events in the book are historically accurate). When Willie dies at age eleven, partway through his father’s term of office, the narration is taken over by his younger brother, Tad. (The Lincolns had already lost another son, Eddie, at the age of three, while Lincoln was practicing law in Springfield, Illinois.) The book ends as the Civil War ends, before Lincoln’s assassination. (The book does not go on to note that Tad outlived his father, but died at age eighteen and the Lincolns’ only surviving son, the one Lincoln had the most distant relationship with, then arranged to have his mother committed to a psychiatric hospital.)

While this is clearly not the happiest of stories, Lincoln loved his wife and their boys very much and his (over?) indulgence of his boys and joy in their company make this a very accessible, warm book. It is memorable too; my oldest drew Lincoln (complete with this stovepipe hat and beard) and one of his sons in response to an end-of-the-school-year question, along with the following explanation: “My favorite social studies is Aedrham Lingkne. Cus he is vary nice to his cids and evry oun eles!”

Author: Rosemary Wells
Illustrator: P.J. Lynch

Houdini: World’s Greatest Mystery Man and Escape King

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This is a wonderfully written and illustrated book about the greatest magician ever. Harry Houdini, born Ehrich Weiss, used books, his imagination, and pure grit to lift himself (and his entire family) out of anonymity and poverty into lasting, world-wide renown and wealth.

We came upon this book because I read The Houdini Box to my oldest and he wanted to know the real story behind the story. The boys love this real rags-to-riches tale and are fascinated by Houdini’s tricks, especially his escapes. Their favorite escape may be how Houdini would jump (handcuffed!) off bridges in front of huge (nonpaying) crowds, free himself underwater, and swim to safety (and sell out all his remaining performances in the area). As the book puts it, if you saw this, “You remembered it for the rest of your life.”

Author: Kathleen Krull
Illustrator: Eric Velasquez

The Bake Shop Ghost

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Miss Cora Lee Marriweather
ran the best bake shop in
these parts–maybe even in the whole
state. The chocolate in her Mississippi
mud pie was darker than the devil’s
own heart. Her sponge cake was so light
the angels kept hoping it would float up
to heaven. No birthday was complete
without a Merriweather layer cake with
her special buttercream frosting.

It would be hard to find a sweeter ghost story than this one, although it does start out sadly. Miss Cora Lee’s baked goods get lots of attention, but she is basically ignored. After she dies (no one cries at her funeral until they realize her desserts are a thing of the past), her ghost refuses to leave her bake shop until a new baker can fulfill a very special request.

This book is very enjoyable to read aloud and the boys love hearing about (and dreaming of choosing from) the bake shop’s wares.  I especially like the gumption, persistence, and–ultimately–friendship of the two main characters.

Author: Jacqueline K. Ogburn
Illustrator: Marjorie Priceman

The Art Lesson

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Tommy knew he wanted to be an artist when he grew up.
He drew pictures everywhere he went. It was his favorite thing to do.

His friends had favorite things to do, too. Jack collected all kinds
of turtles. Herbie made huge cities in his sandbox. Jeannie,
Tommy’s best friend, could do cartwheels and stand on her head.

But Tommy drew and drew and drew.

This book is a great portriat of a young artist (“Tommy” is Tomie de Paola himself) and a very different time. The boys really enjoy this book. Highlights are Tommy’s joy in the sixty-four colors found in a large Crayola box (they agree that gold, silver, and copper crayons are especially exciting) and they are always amazed that each first grader in Tommy’s is given one (and only one!) precious piece of paper for art class.

In the final page of this book, a grown-up Tommy is sitting in his studio. Pictures from some of his most famous books (many of which the boys recognize) are on the wall. Tommy drew and drew and drew…

And he still does.

Author: Tomie de Paola
Illustrator: Tomie de Paola