What’s in Mina’s Book Bag?

July 30, 2009

Our latest interest is chickens. We recently found out that there is a community garden across the street and they have a chicken coop with nine chickens. Very interesting chickens! We hadn’t read the book Tillie Lays an Egg in a while, but that book came rushing back when we saw the chickens. The chickens in the coop were almost all “named” in Tillie’s book! I felt like I should be called the golden ones Edwina!

I remember reading it and thinking it would be so nice for Mina to be able to care for a chicken. Who knew that there would be a chicken coop across the street! Tillie Lays an Egg is about a chicken named Tillie who refuses to lay her egg in the nest. She finds “other” places to lay them. It is a search and find type book. You have to look (not too hard) and find the egg in the different locations. One time she lays in the laundry room, the next in the sugar bowl, etc. In the end, Tillie decides that the nest is quite comfortable and lays her egg in the appropriate spot.

Since we are now on the subject of eggs, there are a few other books that we have like about eggs. I had had hopes of doing a blog like this around Easter time, but that didn’t happen…here’s my opportunity now!

The Odd Egg is a funny story done in pencil about a duck who sees all the other birds lay and egg and wants one as well. He finds one: a lovely green polka dotted big egg! The others make fun of his egg, but the duck will soon have the last laugh when the egg creak crack opens at the end–I won’t spoil the surprise! You will have to read it to find out :).

I am in love with the book The Egg is Silent. It is so beautifully illustrated, so realistic. The author renders exact replicas of every kind of bird egg that you can think of, perfectly. It reminds me of rummaging through antique stores and finding old illustrated books and pages from the early 20th century.

Recently we have made very good friends with a new egg book: Egg Drop. It is all about an egg who dreams of flying. “He was young… he should have listened…” it begins and you know the egg is in for some trouble!

The last egg story that we have discovered, kind of by accident, is Two Eggs, Please. The story is based in a diner. The animals get off work and head to get some breakfast. Each orders eggs cooked in a different way, scrambled, sunnyside up, fried, etc. They all think: “Hmmm. … different but the same!” It is a basic book about how people can be different in many ways, but inside we are just like everyone else and that is ok.

The chickens will be getting big enough and will be laying their eggs soon. Mina will be able to go and harvest her own and make her first fresh omelet, straight from the coop. I can’t think of anything tasting any better than that! It will really bring Tillie Lays an Egg to life in so many ways.


What’s in Mina’s Book Bag?

July 7, 2009

We just got back from our vacation in Turkey a few weeks ago, along with six kilos of Turkish books for Mina. Yes, and that is AFTER I left some THERE! I found a nice Turkish children’s website and made up a wish list. Everyone just bought from there and it made it easier of everybody. Last year, we all went to a very tiny tiny little bookshop to quickly find some books, not really knowing if they were any good. They had quite a nice selection of books that had been translated from English. I tried to find some that Mina had read at TKE so that she would instantly want to sit down and listen to the Turkish version. The most translated author was Julia Donaldson, an English writer. I first saw her Gruffalo book in the baby section as a board book. I had no idea that she had so many books out! We got Mina the Turkish version of The Gruffalo (Tostoroman) and Room on the Broom (Superge’de Yer Var Mi). Everyone got a kick out of the crazy storylines.

Upon returning home, I realized that the author also put out a story/song cd of The Gruffalo. Who knew the Gruffalo could sing? Will that become part of our collection–I haven’t decided yet.

I did return to that tiny tiny bookstore to see what they had and found a very cute little book and animal set. It is called Minutka: The Bilingual Dog.  It is written in English and Turkish (you can find it in many other languages as well) and it really helps a bilingual child feel OK with knowing two languages. Sometimes, kids might feel singled out for being different, but this book eases the child into feeling comfortable about their abilities.

While I was there, I asked the girl at the register if they had any books in Italian. They had German, French, and English books, so I thought I would just ask. The girl said no, and I left it at that. As I was paying, I looked up and there was The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear, in Italian!! I had to get it for my friend who is having a baby this month. I was so excited to have found that because it is one of Mina’s favorite books. Even though I was very excited about my purchase, I exuded EXTREME self-control and didn’t spoil the surprise until we returned to Salt Lake. Of course, the day after arriving, I drove to Vincenza’s house to give her the present and said, “Please open before I burst and tell you what I found!”

Before I sign off of the blog, I want to make a small mention of one the best story development purchases I have made. I have purchased two of Eeboo’s story card sets. They are a deck of cards with just pictures all relating to a theme. We have the fairytale one and the circus set. They are wonderful. Not only does it promote storytelling, it also becomes a memory game. We pick four or five cards from the deck and lay them out in front of us and Mina tells me the story of what she sees. They worked well on the plane and also in Turkey. There is no language attached to the cards, so the stories can be told in any language. Mina loves them so much, she will pick them up on her own while I am cooking, spread out her cards and tell stories to her babies. She lines up her babies against the wall and begins her own storytime. They are just wonderful.  ~Elif


What’s in Mina’s Book Bag?

June 30, 2009

When Mom came for Christmas, she brought with her my old book, The Gingerbread Man. It was love at first sight. Mina ran and still runs around the house chanting “Can’t catch me, I am the ginger man bread, I am I am!” That proceeded into one morning around 7 a.m.: “Mama, can we make ginger bread man I am I am cookies?” Hmmm… I need a recipe! Thank goodness for the Internet! I was kind of picky because I wanted one with real ginger, not powdered. We whipped up a batch and cut them into shapes. The same day, ironically enough, we were downstairs reading another book, an anthology of world stories, and another version of The Gingerbread Man popped up: The Runaway Pancake. It was in the book by Valeri Gorbechev called Silly and Sillier. Interesting, I thought, but are there any more? I googled the story and found a site appropriately called “The History of the Gingerbread Man.” 

I guess the story hails from Germany and was originally called The Runaway Pancake. When it hits England, it turns into The Runaway Johnny Cake, and, finally, becomes The Gingerbread Man when it crosses the Atlantic to America.

As I was on a Turkish book website one day, what pops up: The Gingerbread Man translated into Turkish. Curious as to how a rhyming story could be translated, I ordered it. The translated title: The Biscuit Man! Slightly different, but contains the same essence. It was an instant hit in Turkish as well and became the favorite story for Mina’s Turkish grandmother to read. Now both grandmothers can share the excitement, and eat the cookies, of the ginger man bread, I am I am. ~ Elif


What’s in Mina’s Book Bag?

June 18, 2009

Last year, Mina couldn’t say “Mina,” so she decided to give herself a nickname: Mimi. It was so “Oooo LA LA!” that it has stuck in the family as her little nickname even though she can now properly say “Mina.” We have seen Mimi videos, songs, movies, but we were thrilled when we found a book called Mimi!

Mimi by Carol Baicker-McKee is a wonderful little story about a little girl pig named Mimi and her pet Frank, the roly-poly bug. It is also a wonderful example of ingenuity. I am always doing some sort of crafty thing and crafty things take a LOT of time! I read the book and got exhausted by how much work went into creating each page since, as far as I can tell, each is its own unique 3D storyboard that has been photographed. There is so much sewing, glueing, claywork, etc., and each Mimi has a different facial expression. It took a lot of skill and forethought to create this book. It really is, from a craft viewpoint, pretty darn amazing and impressive!

Mina really took to the story and wanted to have her own pet Frank. In the story, Frank lives in a yogurt cup. I had to explain to Mina that while that may work in a STORY, it will not work in REAL life. I had remembered seeing a bug box at TKE and went in search of it. I had poor Sue looking all over the store for it and it was right in front of our noses the whole time!

We took it home and went in search of Frank. They are not too hard to find. We scooped him up with some dirt and sticks and brought him home. Mimi gives her Frank a smidge of banana, so Mina needed to do that as well. Frank lived with us for about a week in the bug jar, but he didn’t seem to like his banana smidge… Hmmmm…

We had to let him go before we went to Turkey on vacation, but… Lo and Behold! Frank followed us to Turkey! We spent some time at my aunt’s summer house in a town called Ayvalik. My aunt has a huge garden with a big strawberry patch. One morning, we decided to pick some strawberries and who did we find—FRANK and his whole family. Mina was so excited that Frank decided to come to Turkey too and that he brought his family as well!

“They are on vacation too, Mommy! Look, the book had it WRONG! Frank doesn’t like bananas–He Likes STRAWBERRIES!!!” And she was right. There was Frank and his family, cousins and all, devouring my aunt’s strawberry patch.


Margaret’s Teen Picks

May 21, 2009

The Stolen One, Suzanne Crowley

Kat is trying to figure out who she is, and at the first opportunity flees her back-country village and goes to Elizabethan London. Because she bears a striking resemblance to Queen Elizabeth, rumors abound, and Kat quickly gets mixed up in all the intrigues of the court. Her struggles are compounded by love in this spicy, colorful read. – Harper, $16.99 (14 and up)

Swim the Fly, Don Calame

Summer has started and 15-year-olds Matt, Sean and Coop have one goal–to see a naked girl. This is a lofty goal especially since they have not had one date between them. Challenges on their dysfunctional swim team add another storyline in this laugh-out-loud book full of potty talk, teenage angst, bad behavior and smelly “stuff.” Calame is obviously enjoying a trip through his own youth and we are lucky to be reliving it with him! – Candlewick, $16.99 (14 and up) 

~Margaret Brennan Neville


Mystery Favs for May

May 18, 2009

Stone’s Fall, Iain Pears

If you like your mysteries succinct and neatly structured, Stone’s Fall isn’t for you. It runs 800 pages, spans a century, and tracks labyrinthian financial plots through the lives of a large and colorful cast of characters. As the novel opens, a journalist is hired by a fascinating woman of middle age to fulfill the terms of her husband’s will by finding the child he sired but never knew. The year is 1909 and the dead man, William Stone, was one of the most legendary financial wizards at work in the world at the turn of the century. As the tale winds us back through time, we see the rise of international finance, of espionage and of the arms race. The characters in Stone’s Fall are history’s equivalents of the titans of Enron and Halliburton, AIG and Citibank. All of which makes Pears’ newest novel revelatory both in terms of history and of today’s news. – Betsy Burton, Spiegel & Grau, $28.95

Genesis, Bernard Beckett

Playing, predominantly, with the theoretical ideas laid out in a 1996 book by Aaron Lynch titled Thought Contagion and an entire corpus of utopian/dystopian novels that can be traced all the way back to Sir Thomas More’s 1516 work Utopia, Beckett knits together an intellectual thriller that operates around an axis of classical philosophy and 21st century politics alike. Genesis is a bold little volume that roars like a lion, an intelligent book of ideas. Its format is original and its prose, in places, is as poetic and distilled as that found in Yevgeny Zamyatin’s 1921-22 Russian utopia/dystopia, We, which was the single most significant influence on George Orwell’s much better known 1984. Best of all, its shocking conclusion drops open like a trap door and the reader is left grasping backward through the novel for footing. – Aaron Cance, Quercus, $20

The Red Squad, E.M. Broner

This is an ensemble story told through the eyes of Professor Anka Pappas, now an English professor at Ohio State but back in the ’60s a Ph.D.-in-waiting instructor at a state college in Detroit and a passionate activist against the war in Vietnam. When Anka receives in the mail a red squad file which details the lives, loves, and crimes of ‘the bullpen’–the group of teachers Anka thought of as her family–it unsettles her. Who was the informer among the group? Why send the file now and stir up so many old–sometimes painful–memories? Red Squad is touching and hopeful but also laced with humor that’s as academic and acerbic as Anka herself. Red Squad isn’t so much as a whodunit but a whydunit. – Paula Longhurst, Pantheon, $24

The Secret Speech, Tom Rob Smith

The follow-up to Child 44 is set in post-Stalinist Russia where Khrushchev–Stalin’s successor–has just denounced his master as a tyrant and a murderer. This ‘Secret Speech’ causes a massive backlash against the MGB and the past rises up to confront former MGB agent, now homicide detective, Leo Demidov. People connected to an arrest at the beginning of Leo’s career are committing suicide and the person at the center of the spider’s web has a agenda against Leo, his family, and particularly his daughter Zoya. Smith’s chilling glimpse into Soviet Russia on the eve of great upheaval repels and attracts in equal measure. Difficult to put down. – Paula Longhurst, Grand Central Publishing, $24.99

Living Witness: A Gregor Demarkian Novel, Jane Haddam

What makes this particular mystery so fascinating is not the series of bludgeoning attacks, but the apparent reason for them: There is an enormous controversy in the town of Snow Hill between the forces in favor of teaching evolution, and the forces that insist that so-called intelligent design be represented. Fundamentalists rage, but so do atheists, while bodies stack up and detective Gregor Demarkian not only detects but also ponders, worries, doubts. Doubts not God, but whether people actually kill over school board decisions. Haddam addresses his musings and those of the town with dry humor, reminding us that whichever side of a debate one may be on, whatever the rights or wrongs of intellectual issues, intolerance is intolerance. – Betsy Burton, St. Martin’s Minotaur, $25.95

The City & the City, China Mieville

A labyrinthine mystery as well as a visionary look at identity, politics, and geography, The City and the City is simply stunning. Both mystery and speculative fiction junkies will want to pick this one up. Mieville adeptly juggles a murder, two cities’ mysterious pasts, and a tense political situation with deft prose and compelling characters. Utterly enthralling, absorbing, and ultimately unforgettable. – Jenn Northington, Del Rey, $25


Fiction Favs for May

May 6, 2009

The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet, Reif Larsen

As this debut novel opens we learn several things: that Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet is a genius; that his drawing skills, especially as they pertain to mapmaking, are unparalleled; that scientific journals the world over are seeking his talents; that the Smithsonian is calling to tell T.S. that he has won the prestigious Baird award. The problem is, T.S. is 12 years old and lives in Butte, Montana, a long way from the Mall in Washington D.C. So T.S. tries to cross the United States without a driver’s license, money, or food–and without telling anyone his age or whereabouts. His detailed illustrations of his epic journey decorate the pages of this absolute gem of a story; you’ll feel like you’re on the road with him cheering the whole way! – Anne Holman, Penguin, $27.95 (TKE has a limited number of signed first editions!)

Sunnyside, Glen David Gold

Gold’s publisher calls this wondrous novel a romp, which on one level it is. He skillfully juggles three different plot lines, all in some way tied to WWII: In America, Charlie Chaplin wears multiple hats–film star, director, studio head as he jockeys for dominance against other more powerful studio heads. In France, a pregnant French whore suckles an American soldier’s orphaned puppies, as he struggles to find anything, anyone safe from the hell around him. On the Russian front, another soldier finds little use for the social skills learned at his mother’s knee in Grosse Point, as he and his unit fight the cold, far worse an enemy than the one hiding in the forest surrounding their Siberian camp. Like Catch 22, Sunnyside just may become another icon for the idiocy that is war. – Kathy Ashton, Knopf, $26.95

Brooklyn, Colm Toibin

A young woman in rural Ireland, with no apparent future, makes her way to a Catholic enclave in Brooklyn. There, she takes tentative steps to build a life, generally being the “good girl” she is expected to be. But Eilis has a mind of her own, or so she thinks. As events force her back to Ireland for a visit and she is pulled between the love of the man she’s left and a growing attraction for a new man and for the life she could have in the land of her birth, we recognize the randomness of her decisions, the ease with which people her age are swayed by forces they assume they control. Uncanny in its evocation of a young woman coming of age and of a city coming of age, Brooklyn is at once interior and ironic, distanced and involving. Toibin, who wrote one of the best books of 2004, The Master, is masterful here in his depiction of Brooklyn and Ireland circa 1950 and of such issues as self determination, love of country, love of family, and, of course, sexual love. – Betsy Burton, Scribner, $25

The Frozen Thames, Helen Humphreys

Small in size, lovely in design, unique in nature, Humphreys’ latest is, as its title indicates, a series of vignettes, none more than two or three pages, one for each recorded freeze of the River Thames and all as evocative as any full-bodied short story. Beginning with Mathilda under siege in 1142, and taking us through the last freeze in 1895 (once the London Bridge came down the river flowed too freely to freeze completely over), Humphreys gives us a quilt of history and intimate human drama, royal and plebian alike, that is astonishing in terms of its imaginative power. At first glance a curiousity, The Frozen Thames is a remarkable little volume that I already know I’ll always treasure. – Betsy Burton, Delacorte Press, $22

The Four Corners of the Sky, Michael Malone

Annie Peregrine is left on the family’s North Carolina farm on her seventh birthday, unceremoniously deposited in a barn next to her father’s airplane as he tears off in his latest convertible, leaving his daughter with her Aunt Sam and Sam’s friend Clarke. The book is rife with characters who make you dwell on their every word, settings that soar from the Naval Academy (the adult Annie is a Navy jet jockey) to the Smithsonian, from St. Louis to a small city in Cuba. Malone has once again conjured a tale that will make you laugh and cry and marvel at his ability to pry and poke and expose all the corners of the human heart. – Kathy Ashton, Sourcebooks, $24.99 (Michael Malone will be at TKE in June!)

Far Bright Star, Robert Olmstead

Far Bright Star is an elegant novel, its finely wrought prose spare. The landscape is searing and austere, the plot bleak to say the least, but Olmstead manages to foster real empathy for the brothers at the heart of the tale. At turns gruesome in its realistic portrayal of a senseless battle, and brilliant in its detailed description of the horses and cavalrymen, this is a portrait of grace under fire and a ringing endorsement for understatements–I really enjoyed the restrained quality of this novel as well as the meticulously crafted writing. – Jenny Lyons, Algonquin, $23.95