Monday, April 17, 2006

Today is gone, today was fun.

Hello there! Hello? Um... hello? Anyone? Oh, I guess to keep people coming back to a weblog, you have to actually post regularly. OK, well, despite the fact that most who have checked in here from time to time have probably long since given up on any kind of content appearing here, I'm going to go ahead and post. Even if it is to an audience of zero.

After giving the matter a lot of thought, then making up my mind then changing it then making it up again, I have finally decided not to continue Once Upon a Story. At least not for a long while. I have mixed feelings about this, of course. I will miss it, even though my posting here has become more and more sporadic, because I love children's literature and have been thrilled to share it with many kindred spirits. But I know I just don't have the time to put into it anymore, and it's time I admitted that to myself.

Life has been pretty hectic around here lately and it hasn't whispered any promises of letting up in the near future. My husband's schedule has been all over the place which makes for chaotic family time, we are looking into relocating to Missouri to be closer to family, and oh yeah, we have a baby due in October.

But aside from some of those Big Change reasons, I often find myself too tired to think by the time I have a quiet house (late at night, when my son is in bed) on the rare ocassions I have that quiet house at all. You know that sleepy-drugged feeling you get after Thanksgiving dinner? Or how about feeling that someone removed your brain and replaced it with moldy cheese after a particularly draining day? Well, that's how I find myself by the end of most days, and that's not ideal for sitting down and writing book reviews. Or, um, thinking.

Plus, I have two small but worthy goals for the rare times I have both time and brain power on my side. One is that I'd really like to start using what little free time I do have to plan some basic activities and projects for my son. Not just because we are looking at another long, hot (Texas) summer, during which it becomes Very Important to find ways to keep a 4-year-old entertained indoors, but also to get myself in shape for our first year of homeschooling. For me, this means learning the fine art of becoming a more disciplined individual and planning ahead a little better. The other is that I'd like to keep a more consistant journal of our family life right now, because there is no way I trust my mind to remember the details--funny, sweet, and yes, even maddening--of the team husband/wife effort of raising a son. And soon, a new baby, too.

So, while I may pop in to post something very, very, rarely, I am officially hanging up the blogging hat for the time being. Thanks to all of you who have commented here and talked kidlit; I have really enjoyed being a part of this little weblogging community, and look forward to continuing to visit my favorite kidlit weblogs even though I no longer have time to maintain one myself.

In the words of Dr. Seuss, today was fun. Thank you all for making it that way.

P.S. For those who have linked to Once Upon a Story, my humble thanks. Please feel free to remove the links now that there will be even less activity around here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Why I haven't been around much lately

Or at least, one of the reasons:

I'm pregnant! And we got an official due date of October 20th just this morning. Hubby and I, we like fall babies.

Does anyone have any book recommendations for preparing children for the arrival of a little brother or sister? We have already been talking about this baby with big-brother-to-be, but books are another fun way to help him get the idea. I just don't know of any, and would greatly appreciate some suggestions.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Valentine's Day Treats

Mr. Husband was good to me this Valentine's Day, and I made away with not one, but two books:

So, so much better than flowers, and almost as good as dark chocolate (which we keep supplied year round, by the way.)

I read about one third of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane last night, and another third (at least) today. So much for trying to pace myself and savor the book. But... but... it's not a very long book, and I want to find out what happens next. Hey, it's not my fault that the books most worth savoring are the same books that are impossible to put down until you've read them from cover to cover.

If you're wondering, the book beneath Edward Tulane is one of my favorites, and one that I regularly gush about recommend to anyone willing to listen, or too polite not to: The Tale of Despereaux, also by Kate DiCamillo. Yay! I have been longing to add it to our permanent collection for a while now, and I'm sure I won't be able to resist re-reading it as soon as I'm finished with Edward Tulane.

At any rate, Happy Valentine's Day, even if I am a day late. I'm off to eat a leftover slice of pink-frosted Valentine's cake... and finish my book, of course!

(Conversation Heart from Acme Heart Maker.)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Favorites in Threes

A children's book meme from Big A, little A:

What are your three favourite children's series?
1. Anne of Green Gables*, Lucy Maud Montgomery
2. Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling
3. The Chronicles of Narnia*, C.S. Lewis

What are your three favourite non-series children's books?
1. The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo
2. The Princess and the Goblin* (and its sequel, The Princess and Curdie*), George MacDonald
3. How I Became A Pirate, Melinda Long

What are your three favourite children's book characters?
1. Anne with-an-e Shirley
2. Despereaux Tilling
3. Dumbledore (Harry Potter)

Narrowing favorites down to threes was difficult, and I almost cheated and added a "three favorite picture books" category (but managed to restrain myself). I won't be content unless I at least mention some additional* childhood favorites: the Little House series, Laura Ingalls Wilder; Misty of Chincoteague, et al, Marguerite Henry; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain; Charlotte's Web, E.B. White; The Digging-est Dog, Al Perkins; The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame; Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne. As an adult, I'd have to add Bear Snores On, Karma Wilson; Horton Hears a Who, Dr. Seuss; the Daisy books, Jane Simmons.

What are your favorites?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Mercy Watson to the Rescue

Speaking of Kate DiCamillo, we (my son and I) finally read Mercy Watson to the Rescue a few weeks ago. After we finished it, he requested a second reading. This is a high compliment from a boy who treasures his I Spy books above all else.

Mercy is a very cute, very funny beginning reader. The story is about a pig who loves buttered toast so much that the pursuit of it occupies most of her time and attention. Her doting human family are counting on her to rescue them from a perilous situation, but will she bring help in time--or will the thought of a heaping pile of hot, buttered toast drive her to distraction? The answer comes in short chapters full of comic action, brought to life by the lively illustrations that did justice to this endearing 'porcine wonder'. (Truly, Mercy's facial expressions are hilarious.)

As it turns out, Mercy (okay, Kate DiCamillo) really is a hero, because the book fit perfectly into our bedtime routine. On nights when my son was a little high-strung and I was worn out, reading one brief chapter was a happy compromise for both of us. He still got his bedtime story and went to sleep at a decent time; my sanity was saved. Hooray! Mercy Watson to the rescue!

We are looking forward to the release of the next installment, Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride, which is just around the corner (May 9, according to Amazon).

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Kate DiCamillo on 'The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane'

Beth from Orange Splot reviewed Kate DiCamillo's forthcoming title, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and also posted the link to a recent Publisher's Weekly interview with the talented author. Interesting aside: Edward came to life through her pen before [The Tale of] Despereaux (my favorite of all her books). DiCamillo also talks about the stylishly dressed rabbit she received as a gift that was the inspiration for Edward Tulane.

Oh, and don't forget about Edward Tulane's website, where you can read the first chapter of the book and watch the video clip from another DiCamillo interview.

The book will be released on Valentine's Day this year. Happy hearts!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Where did January go?

I haven't read much in the way of children's books lately, as I began the year fully engrossed in Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen), and have moved on to The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas). The Count of Monte Cristo is an undertaking I am probably making a bigger deal about than is deserved, simply because I have been wanting to read it for years but was intimidated by the sheer volume of the thing. So far, so good.

However, I did find the time to read Roald Dahl's Matilda a couple of weeks ago, and for the very first time.

We rented the (1996) movie version some months ago and loved it, but I always like to compare Hollywood's version of a story to the author's. Now that I've read the book, I can say that the film was fairly faithful to the original source, although I think the movie gave Matilda's unique powers a more "magical" touch (and explanation) than did Roald Dahl. The movie was well cast, well played, enjoyable. But the mean-spirited adults in poor Matilda's life were more shocking, and Matilda's resourcefulness more humorous, when read. In fact, the indifference of Matilda's parents and the brutal hostility that was the dreadful Miss Trunchbull were downright alarming, especially as each horrible episode was told in such a matter-of-fact manner. The movie was good, but the book was better. No surprise there.

Next on my list is I, Coriander. Maybe I'll read it before I finish Monte Cristo, but I generally enjoy immersing myself in one plot and one set of characters at a time, so it may just have to wait. Beside that, Mr. Husband and I are reading aloud the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. (That is to say, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe--what in the world is this ridiculous new ordering of the series about, anyway?! Yes, I know he wrote something about reading the series chronologically in some letter to a young fan a number of years ago, but really!)

Meantime, we do have a stack of new picture books to look through, so if any prove worthwhile, I'll be sure to share them.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Read and read more

Jumping on the book list bandwagon, I posted lists of my own 2005 reads and 2006 reading goals to my non kid-lit weblog, because, as I was compiling them, I thought there might end up being more "grown-up" titles than juvenile/young adult. There weren't (well, of course there weren't!), but they're staying put anyway.


I just made an embarrassing discovery. When moved Once Upon a Story to Blogger, I selected "comment moderation" which I assumed was just a feature that made deleting unwelcome comments (spam) more convenient (perhaps a handy list of all comments in one place), even though I had already enabled that handy--but annoying--little word verification option as another anti-spam precaution. Surprise, surprise, "comment moderation" actually means that comments don't even show up on my blog until I have read and approved them. I doubt it will come as a shock to find out that I'm the kind of person who assembles things without reading the instructions first, and often skips the details when reading other useful information--like the Blogger description of enabling comment moderation.

All of this to say: my apologies to the three nice people whose comments have been pending since December 29th and onward. The settings have been changed so that comments will show up immediately from now on, as long as you don't mind contending with the minor aggravation of word verification.

Good thing that haven't enabled comments on my other weblog, or might be twice as red right now.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Book: Once Upon a Time Map Book

The Once Upon a Time Map Book, by B.G. Hennessey and Peter Joyce, has quickly become a favorite in our home. My four-year-old, being a big fan of maps, from United States puzzles to the Rand McNally road atlas, loves this book and stubbornly guards it from being returned to the library. But The Once Upon a Time Map Book book will appeal to children who aren't necessarily map enthusiasts; The characters spring from familiar tales, and their home lands bloom with magic, humor, and even a few interesting things to hunt for during the guided tour--something that will delight kids who have an eye for detail and enjoy series like I Spy and Where's Waldo.

The book takes the reader on a tour of six magical storybook lands: Neverland, The Land of Oz, Wonderland, the Giant's Kingdom (Jack and the bean stalk), Aladdin's Kingdom, and the Enchanted Forest (Snow White). Following the instructions and tracing paths with your finger across the pages, you will trek North, South, Southeast, West, and all around these imaginary places; Over footbridges, beneath tree-canopied tunnels, across dangerous rivers, through an Indian camp, and up towering hills and peaks. To aid your journey, each land has a grid, a key (where distance is measured in "one giant step" or "50 white rabbit hops"), and a compass.

Joyce's illustrations are (to my best guess) rendered in ink and watercolor, given detail and rich color that bring them to life as magical, enchanted kingdoms--even on this very small scale. The illustrations pull you in, as each is like looking down on a miniature replica of the classic fairy tales from which they were drawn. The Once Upon a Time Map Book is similar to the Where's Waldo series, where two-page spreads are populated by miniature people--and in this case fairies, munchkins, dwarves).

Like Scrambled States of America, this is another book that stands on its own as a fun read, but sneaks in a little bit of teaching on the sly. The book is more interactive than most, and a good introduction to following instructions, learning directions (N, W, S, E), and, well--reading a map!