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Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Our first day at the beach, finally! We went for a quick evening dip at the town pond. First I had the camera:

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and then, seconds later, my husband had it:

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Heh.

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The other day, my son said the most wonderful thing for me:  “Can you recommend a book?”  I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut while I’ve watched him plow through mountains of garbage.  My general principle is that, if you expose your kids to enough really good stuff, they will soon get tired of the crap on their own–which is much more effective than hearing an adult say, “That book you’re enjoying is crap, so put it down!”  So he read a lot of Goosebumps (ptui), for instance, but also Tolkein and C.S. Lewis; and eventually, he started throwing out the Goosebumps of his own accord, just so no one else would read it.  (NB:  I don’t, of course, let the kids read just anything.  But there are good books and bad books, and then there’s a vast middleground of useless books.  The Goosebumps series falls into this category.)

Anyway, our local library is pretty small, but when my son asked for a recommendation, I happened on a couple of books by William Steig.  I thought Steig only did picture books — some of which are among our favorites.  But we found two which are designed for slightly older kids — say, grade 3 and up.  I read Dominic, and was completely delighted.

dominic

It  begins,

Dominic was a lively one, always up to something.  One day, more restless than usual, he decided there wasn’t enough going on in his own neighborhood to satisfy his need for adventure.  He just had to get away.

My ten-year-old son read this and realized that this book would speak directly to his adventure-dog heart.  Dominic finds some excitement immediately, and continues on his way, meeting a dying pig named Bartholomew Badger, an overwhelmed goose named Matilda Fox (the mismatched last names are a running joke, just for the heck of it)  and repeatedly falling afoul of the evil Doomsday Gang.

Steig’s language is sort of artificially elevated (and so younger readers or listeners might have to able to figure some words out by context:

Dominic was inside the rib cage, in a sort of succulent prison, and they might have trapped him there; but when they saw him chewing on the big bones with such furious dedication, they were paralyzed with terror.

Steig relishes fancy words, and he really pulls it off in Dominic — to much better effect, I think, than he does in some of his other books.  In The Toy Brother, for instance, the ornate language just draws attention to itself, and comes off as precious rather than playful.

Dominic is also nicely  illustrated by Steig in black-and-white.

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Good stuff!  Perfect for the parent who wishes the boys in the family had some heroes who are easy to like, but who are not Captain Underpants.

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 Oh, I forgot!  My 13-year-old daughter wrote a book review of Erin Manning’s new YA book,  The Telmaj.
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EM:  I’ve targeted the intermediate children’s fiction market, which encompasses readers ages 8-12, approximately. I think this market is under-served, especially when readers that age are looking for imaginative fiction like sci-fi.

Unfortunately, a lot of the attention is paid to the YA market of slightly older readers–but many kids in the 8-12 age range just aren’t ready for the sheer amount of graphic sex and violence on the YA shelf. I want to reach kids who’ve already read the Narnia series, perhaps, and want exciting stories, but who aren’t interested in the love life of sparkly vampires or teen zombies.

LarryD:  Yes, I noticed the lack of vampires, werewolves and pouty teen angst.

Later in the interview, Erin says:

 I initially thought about getting The Telmaj published by a Catholic fiction publisher because even though the book is not overtly Catholic I wanted to tell a story full of good and evil, right and wrong, and the kinds of virtues and values that seem to be sadly lacking in many children’s books these days. But the publisher I sent it to, while thinking it was very publishable, explained that she couldn’t publish anything but overtly Catholic fiction–that is, fiction that would show Catholic characters going to Catholic schools and Mass on Sunday, that sort of thing.

While I understood that, I think we’re reaching a point where even trying to tell a story in which characters struggle to do the right thing and have no trouble identifying certain evils really is writing Catholic fiction of a type. So many books, even for children, rely on a kind of “situational ethics” where whatever the characters we like do is good, and whatever the characters we don’t like are doing must be bad (unless they, too, are just the victims in all this). Sort of like how we view political parties these days.

I’m old-fashioned enough to think that for children, the reinforcement of the ideas of good and evil is a good thing to do–not in a cartoonishly simple way, but in a way that helps them ponder these kinds of questions.

 Hear, hear!  And here is my daughter’s short (and kind of adorable) review of the book:
 The Telmaj is, quite bluntly and frankly, a really good book. It was a little hard to get into, but once it got going I was captivated. It’s about a person named Smijj. (Another thing I really like about the book, is that I can actually pronounce the names of the people in the story. That does not happen a lot when I read Sci-Fi.) Anyway, Smijj is living on a planet no one really seems to care about. He is alone, jobless, and struggling to make an honest living, when opportunity arises. A space ship crew hires him to unload their cargo, and he is soon a part of their crew, and on his way to finding out who he is and why he has the ability to wish himself away to anywhere he wants. I recommend it to anyone who likes Science Fiction and Fantasy, or has an interest in space ships.
Erin expects the sequel to be out in May, and two more installments are in the works.

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We went!  The worst thing that happened was that one kid got a bloody nose on another kid, right in front of a John Singer Sargent.  But that could have happened to anyone.

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My kids are pretty, pretty smart.  But not quite as smart as I think they are.

One time, for instance, we were listening to a Danny Kaye song about “they’ll never outfox the fox!”  It goes on to marvel over the exploits of a dashing young scoundrel:

Whenever they try to find me
They find me where I am not
I’m hither and yon, I’m there and gone, I’m Johnny-not-on-the spot!
(He whistles as he jump to a low tree branch)
I’m out on a limb they think!
(He whistles again, jumping down)
I’m down on the ground in a wink
My enemies say “Gadzooks! It’s spooks!”
Shivering in their socks
They know that they’ll never, I’m far to clever
They’ll never outfox the Fox!

The toddler at the time said something like, “He singin’ ’bout Wobbin Hood.”  OH MY STARS! I thought.  What an intelligent child!  She extrapolated from the mention of all this clever, limb-jumping derring-do, and made the assumption that this song was about Robin Hood — when it’s actually about a very Robin Hood-like character, The Fox.

Then I suddenly recalled that we had just watched Disney’s Robin Hood, in which the main character is . . . a fox.  All that was going on was that when the kid heard Danny Kaye sing, “The Fox!  The Fox!” she figured he was talking about “the fox, the fox.”  Not a bad assumption, but not especially brilliant, either.

I never learn.  Today, my dear baby, who is the smartiest-whartiest baby in the whole wide world,  oh yes she is, came up to me and said, “Doggie have nursies!”

What an intelligent child!  I marvelled all over again.  We don’t even have a dog, but somehow she divined that they are mammals!  I wonder what slight clue was enough for her agile little mind, so that she understood that female dogs nourish their young with, as she so preciously calls them, “nursies.”

Then I saw the picture of the doggie she had in mind:

Yep.  To those with nursies on the brain, it sure do have nursies.

Bet you never look at Clifford the same way again.

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I have taken up being sick and angry as a full-time job this week.  So this is what you get.

–1–

We got about as much snow as anyone did the other day, and now we can’t find our garbage cans.  Usually my husband shovels, but when his back is out and the rest of us are half dead with our post-strep throat cold which we picked up in the hospital when my son got his tonsils out – – well, then we call the plow guy.

Being a hard-working New England girl, I always feel guilty about hiring a plow until I see the work that he does, and how it takes approximately four-and-a-half minutes.  Then I think about how it would take us approximately four-and-a-half hours to do a much crappier job with a shovel, and I think, “That is what money is for.”  He’s cheap, too!  And nice.

In fact, after he plowed, he told me that if we ever wanted work done on the house (last summer he converted our old shower into a laundry area), he would be happy to do it at cost.

Why would someone do that?  I’m seriously wondering.  Does he just like being with us?  Or has he secretly spotted gold ore in the walls and wants a piece of it?  Or what?

–2–

This:

was a huge part of my childhood, along with these things:

(On the flip side of the record was “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport.”  In this recording, they seem to have taken out the “Let me abos go loose, Bruce.”  I didn’t find out until much later that “abo” was offensive slang for “aboriginal.”  I always thought he was saying “elbow,” and thought it was an odd desire for a dying man.)

–3–

It’s funny enough when kids pronounce things oddly, but it’s even funnier when they used to say it right, but suddenly, for reasons of their own, start saying it in some new, strange, wrong way.  Every morning, the three-year-old asks for oatmeal.  About a week ago, though, she expressed a strong desire for “oitmeal,” and that’s what she’s been saying ever since.  And the baby, who is 21 months old, started saying “hyelp” instead of “help,” for some reason.  So we hear, in a suffering little voice, “Mama, mama, hyelp me!  You come hyelp my sock!”

She has gone back to asking to “nurse,” however, which is sad.  Originally, she said “nurse,” which transformed into “nurd,” which morphed, to my delight, into “nurdle.”  “Mama, I want to nurdle!”  And nurdle we would.

–4–

Relatedly, I’m still getting a huge kick out of having a baby who is still nursing, but can talk.  She is something of a comedian, and likes to think of punchlines while she is nursing.  Then she unplugs for a minute, makes sure I’m looking at her, and says, “Aaaa-OOOOO-gah!”  and then latches back on, grinning.  Or a couple of times, she was apparently thinking about Godzilla, because she took a break just long enough to say, “Grrrr. Aaaahhh!”

–5–

I think this machine has been around for years, but I guess it’s now smaller and available to the public?  It’s the Thing-o-matic, “a ‘factory in a box’ that claims to create any three-dimensional object out of plastic in a matter of minutes.”  You have to start with a 3-D schematic image, I guess, which apparently you can get with Google in some way.  This video seems to show an earlier version of the machine, making a model of the Statue of Liberty.

Astonishing machine, but the name needs some hyelp.

–6–

I was behind a car with so many enlightened bumper stickers, I expected the whole thing to start levitating on a cloud of self-righteousness.  The most egregious one said, “I’m already against the next war.”  Excellent!  I’ll be sure to notify the alien overlords, when they come to attack, that the occupants of that car are such fine, gentle, wise people that they do not wish to be defended.  I also wonder if they are against all past wars, as well as potential future ones?  Big fans of George III, slavery, and the Third Reich?  And whatever that French and Indian thing was about?  Bah.

I also saw another car that had the following decals lined up across the rear window:  Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Knights of Columbus, Rotary, and KISS.  I think I’d rather be friends with them.

–7–

Saw another bumper sticker yesterday:  “My other vehicle is my imagination.”  My kids asked me why I was throwing up all over the dashboard.  I guess I’m just sensitive to these things.  Anyway, my 8-year-old son offered that, when he grew up, he was going to have a bumper sticker that says, “VENGEANCE IS SWEET.”  His younger brother wholeheartedly agreed, and it turns out that the two of them were under the impression that personal and bloody vengeance is a thoroughly brilliant and moral career path.

It’s possible that our Bible readings have been a tad heavy on the Old Testament lately.

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Manners, manners

3-year-old:  WAH!  WAH!  WAH!  I WANTED TO CLOSE THE DOOR!  WAHHHH!

Me:  Well, maybe if you ask me politely, I will move over so you can close it.

3-year-old (snuffling, in her most polite voice):  Mama, will you please move your fat bottom?

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