• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming, home schooling, and building our own house. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 18/Grade 12, 16/Grade 11, and 14/Grade 10.

    Contact me at becky(dot)farmschool(at)gmail(dot)com

  • Notable Quotables

    "If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
    William Morris, from his lecture "The Beauty of Life"

    "‘Never look at an ugly thing twice. It is fatally easy to get accustomed to corrupting influences."
    English architect CFA Voysey (1857-1941)

    "The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."
    Clarence Day

    "Anyone who has a library and a garden wants for nothing."
    Cicero

    "Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend."
    Sir Francis Bacon, "Essays"

    "The chief aim of education is to show you, after you make a livelihood, how to enjoy living; and you can live longest and best and most rewardingly by attaining and preserving the happiness of learning."
    Gilbert Highet, "The Immortal Profession: The Joys of Teaching and Learning"

    "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment."
    Walter Wriston

    "I'd like to give you a piece of my mind."
    "Oh, I couldn't take the last piece."
    Ginger Rogers to Frances Mercer in "Vivacious Lady" (1938)

    "No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem."
    Booker T. Washington

    "Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member."
    Attributed to Groucho Marx in "The Groucho Letters" by Arthur Sheekman

    "If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me."
    Alice Roosevelt Longworth

    "If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, we feel all our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'."
    Jean Hagen as "Lina Lamont" in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
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  • Copyright © 2005-2016 Please do not use any of my words or my personal photographs without my express permission.

Christmas wishes

We’ve been enjoying warmer temperatures (closer to zero than -30) and lots of hoarfrost, thanks to very foggy evenings and mornings. The countryside looks lovely and very Christmassy.

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Other things we’re enjoying:

:: Jon Favreau’s Chef: one of the best movies I’ve seen this year (admittedly a very short list) with one of the best soundtracks ever.

:: Christmas Day dinner will be roast saddle of venison, courtesy of the 15-year-old, who shot his first deer this fall, and also won the youth division of the big buck contest. His prize was a new rifle and scope, and mine is Thursday’s meal.

:: A new favorite Christmas cookie recipe, The Kitchn’s toffee chocolate chip shortbread. Easy and fast to make too, and doubles easily. A few changes I made — slightly less sugar (1/3 cup vs. 1/2 cup), fewer toffee and chocolate chips, and I drizzled chocolate on top instead of dipping.

:: Free printable Christmas food gift labels from the talented Lia Griffith

It’s been a difficult year for us, but also a rewarding one.

Merry Christmas wishes from Farm School, and a happy and healthy* 2015!

*Advice for a new year: go to the doctor, don’t put off checkups and tests, hug your children, your parents, your in-laws, update your will, and make sure you have a living will/personal directive (no, you’re not too young) and talk to your family, including your kids, about your decisions.

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More BirdCasting

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Exciting news for us — Laura is in Washington, DC to help celebrate the 500th show of Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds, and will be part of the live broadcast tomorrow from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Talkin’ Birds is a live interactive half-hour radio show about wild birds and nature, airing Sunday mornings at 9:30 Eastern, on WATD (95.9 FM); you can read more at the Facebook page and listen with live streaming on Sundays here. They’ll be joined by Smithsonian ornithologist Bruce Beehler.

Ray has been an extremely generous, kind, and encouraging mentor and friend to Laura ever since she discovered the show about five years ago and then started calling in. I wrote back in June 2009 (“BirdCasting”), when she was 11,

Laura has developed an interest in, and growing passion for, birds since last summer when I helped her put up some bird feeders around the yard. Her interest in the Christmas Bird Count last year is what got our family in touch with the local naturalist society. She spends much of her free time feeding, watching, listening to, and reading about birds. And recently she realized that there might be birding podcasts she could make use of on her iPod; she’s become a big fan of podcasts. So with my researching and her vetting, we came up with this list of her favorite birding podcasts…

It didn’t take long for Talkin’ Birds to become her very favorite. And for the past while, she’s been part of the crew as a far-flung correspondent; when Ray gives her advice on how to speak on the radio, he knows what he’s talking about. I keep thinking how I, at her age, would have taken an invitation to take part in a live broadcast in front of a theatre full of people. I’m fairly certain that I would have said, thank you so much for asking, but no, and spent the rest of my life kicking myself for missing such a wonderful opportunity. The differences between extroverts and introverts!

Tom is with her, since while we have no problem sending her alone to the wilds of Ontario, we figured a major city is probably more enjoyably and safely negotiated with an adult travelling companion (the show staff are in town just for 36 hours), and Tom needed a holiday anyway. Good reports back from the hotel, the Liaison Capitol Hill (which has a pillow menu believe it or not), and also their restaurant last night, Cafe Berlin. They’re hoping to get to Bistro Cacao, not too far from the hotel, before they leave on Tuesday. Huge thanks to Talkin’ Birds for underwriting her flight and part of the hotel stay.

I’m writing this post as a thank you for so many things that have become an enormous part of my daughter’s life, and also as a reminder for any other home schooling parents who might still be reading — if your child has a particular interest or passion, even if you as the parent have little knowledge of (or interest in) the subject, modern technology has made it possible to reach out and find those who can inspire, guide, and teach your child. And if you teach your child about internet safety and writing skills, he or she can do much of the reaching out himself or herself, which is a good skill to learn. Living on a farm in rural western Alberta hasn’t been any sort of impediment, and a flexible home schooling schedule has meant Laura could take advantage of spending a month last fall as an intern at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario, banding birds and working on an independent research project, or participate in an event like tomorrow’s festivities. Age isn’t a barrier either, as most home schooling families know; she’s been able to write bird book reviews, receiving printed and e- books regularly, and when she realized that there wasn’t a Facebook group for Alberta Birds (and birders), though most of the other provinces and states had something, she started one; the group now has more than 2,000 members who share their photos and videos, as well as sightings, birding stories, and blog posts. She’s made lifelong friends and learned more than my husband and I could have ever taught her, and we continue to be touched and amazed by the support and generosity of so many adult birders so eager to take young people under their wings and nurture this budding interest. It reminds me very much of gardeners I’ve met the world over who are always so quick to offer seeds and cuttings, in order to spread not just a love of nature but the joy of a passion shared.

In their absence, the boys and I are holding down the fort and farm, more like hunkering down, since winter finally arrived today, with a high of -5C and some snow that won’t be melting any time soon. Tomorrow’s daytime high is to be -11C with an overnight low of -15C. Welcome, winter. I think…

Still remembering

In my earlier post today remembering Pete Seeger, I mentioned seeing him perform at South Street Seaport for an autumn festival. Turns out it was October 1972, according to the caption on the back of the photograph my father took.

Here it is, with Brother Kirk (the Rev. Frederick Douglass Kirkpatrick) and Pete Seeger at South Street Seaport. My younger sister and mother are at the bottom, in the clear plastic rain bonnets my grandmother and mother used to keep in their purses.

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Remembering Pete Seeger: “I’ve got a song to sing, all over this land”

Here’s an edited repeat of a post from May 2009 celebrating Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday; you can read the original here. I was saddened, though not surprised, to read last night of his death at age 94. His was one of those long lives well lived, and so many of ours were that much richer for his.

(I haven’t checked all of the links, so if any are broken, please let me know.)

*  *  *  *

Pete Seeger has been presence in my life since childhood with his records and music, and I still recall one marvelous autumn day when I was about nine or 10 and we got to meet him and listen to him sing at South Street Seaport (I think I remember a pier covered with pumpkins, and while I don’t remember the sloop Clearwater, I think it must have been there as well), well before it was fixed up and turned into a tourist destination. We were also fortunate to live down the street from Pete Seeger’s old friend, Brother Kirk (the Rev. Frederick Douglass Kirkpatrick, who died in 1987), who would sit on the sidewalk with his guitar and give impromptu sidewalk concerts. Together the friends collaborated on a 1974 children’s album, “Pete Seeger & Brother Kirk Visit Sesame Street”.

As fascinating as Pete Seeger’s life story and career is his family.  He was the son of musicologist and composer of Charles Seeger and violinist Constance Edson; his stepmother was the noted composer Ruth Crawford Seeger;  his uncle Alan Seeger was the celebrated poet killed in World War I; his eldest brother Charles was a pioneering radio astronomer; his brother John, a longtime teacher at New York’s Dalton School, also founded Camp Killoleet in the Adirondacks; his half-sister is the singer Peggy Seeger; his half-brother is singer Mike Seeger.

No childhood is complete without Pete Seeger — for the music he has sung and written, for his sense of history,his family’s place in the history of American music, and his environmental and political activism.  You can listen to his music and listen to songs about America as it was, and America — and the world –  as it should be. Here’s a list, not nearly complete or comprehensive, of some of our favorite Pete Seeger records, books, and more.

Music especially for children:

“Abiyoyo and Other Story Songs for Children”

“American Folk, Game and Activity Songs”

“Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Fishes (Little and Big)”

“Folk Songs for Young People”

“Song and Play Time”

Pete Seeger’s “Children’s Concert at Town Hall”

Music for the entire family:

“American Favorite Ballads”, on five CDs

“Frontier Ballads”

“Headlines and Footnotes: A Collection of Topical Songs”

“If I Had a Hammer: Songs of Hope and Struggle”

“Love Songs for Friends and Foes”

“Pete Seeger Sings Leadbelly”

“Sing Out!: Hootenanny with Pete Seeger and the Hooteneers”

“Traditional Christmas Carols”

Pete Seeger/The Weavers 3 CD box set

“Pete Seeger at 89″

Pete Seeger discography at Smithsonian Folkways.  By the way, SF has a new publication, “Folkways Magazine”, just debuted with the Spring 2009 issue, and the main article is “Pete Seeger: Standing Tall”

Pete Seeger discography and biography at Appleseed Records

Books (many of which are children’s picture books based on his songs):

Abiyoyo with accompanying CD; and Abiyoyo Returns

Turn! Turn! Turn! with accompanying CD

One Grain of Sand: A Lullaby

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?: A Musical Autobiography

Pete Seeger’s Storytelling Book

His memoirsWhere Have All the Flowers Gone: A Singer’s Stories, Songs, Seeds, Robberies

The biography How Can I Keep from Singing?: The Ballad of Pete Seeger by David King Dunaway, the companion volume to the radio series produced by Dunaway (see below)

Audio and Video:

PBS’s American Masters episode: “Pete Seeger: The Power of Song”; now available on DVD

How Can I Keep from Singing?, the three-part radio series produced by David King Dunaway

“To Hear Your Banjo Play” (1947)

“How to Play the 5-String Banjo” DVD, Davy’s favorite; there’s also an accompanying book (not on film, but also instructive and instructional is Pete Seeger’s “The Folksinger’s Guitar Guide”)

At NPR; and the NPR appreciation, “Pete Seeger At 90″ by Lynn Neary and Tom Cole.  At the latter link, you’ll find a little orange box on the left with The Pete Seeger Mix, a “five-hour mix of Pete Seeger classics and covers” put together by NPR Music partner Folk Alley

Pete Seeger at the pre-inaugural concert for Barack Obama

Websites:

Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress, where Pete Seeger worked as an assistant in 1940

Clearwater, the organization Pete Seeger established in 1969 to preserve and protect the Hudson River

Bits and bobs:

Studs Terkel’s 2005 appreciation, in The Nation, of Pete Seeger’s 86th birthday

The New Yorker‘s 2006 profile, “The Protest Singer”, by Alec Wilkinson, and in hardcover

Pete Seeger’s biography at the Kennedy Center, where he was a Kennedy Center honor recipient in 1994

Summer fun

Just in time for Summer, and for Alice in Wonderland fans — the new book, Everything Alice: The Wonderland Book of Makes by Hannah Read-Baldrey and Christine Leech, published, not surprisingly, by Quadrille Publishing,

At last the Mock Turtle recovered his voice, and, with tears running down his cheeks, he went on again:

“You may not have lived much under the sea—” (“I haven’t,” said Alice)—”and perhaps you were never even introduced to a lobster—” (Alice began to say, “I once tasted—” but checked herself hastily, and said, “No, never”) “—so you can have no idea what a delightful thing a Lobster-Quadrille is!”

Ms. Read-Baldrey is a stylist and illustrator and Ms. Leech is an artist and designer, so the crafts are not the homemade sort. The women met working at the UK craft superstore HobbyCraft. From their own description of the book,

Welcome to Wonderland and the magical world of Everything Alice, where nothing is quite as it seems. Alice’s fantastical adventures in wonderland provide the inspiration for this book which contains a charming and original collection of 50 craft & cookery makes, ranging from a hand-sewn Mr Dandy White Rabbit toy,  to the stylish Time for Tea Charm Bracelet and pom pom-decorated Red King’s Slippers to papercraft Tea Party Invitations and cut-out-and-keep Dress Up  Alice and White Rabbit Dolls.

If the “makes and bakes” are half as charming as the cover, they have a winner. One way to find out: two freebies from the website to get an idea of what the book has: free printable Alice in Wonderland paper doll and Red Kings Red Velvet Cupcakes recipe

The book, which was published in the UK on Monday, will be published in North America in early August. You can wait a month, or if you’re the impatient sort and/or just like ordering from Book Depository (guilty on both counts*), you can go ahead and order from Book Depository, which as always offers free worldwide shipping.

* Now that the Canada Post strike is over and Persephone’s Miss Buncle Married, just reprinted in April but in and out of stock several times since, is finally available again, my copy is on the way

These days

Yesterday was my birthday and when I wasn’t thinking about how for the first time my mother wouldn’t be telephoning, and my father wouldn’t be emailing a Jacquie Lawson card and sending the usual box of books, it wasn’t too bad.  The kids and Tom made a heroic effort to distract me from my orphandom (is that even a word? orphanhood?).  Okay, it was awful and what did help was a quick trip to town to pick up some last-minute things for Daniel’s 12th birthday on Friday.  Much easier to concentrate on someone else’s festivities, especially when I need to figure out how I can co-opt some wedding printables for birthday purposes.

This morning dawned much better and happier, especially with all sorts of new birds back, and the yard positively vibrating from robins’ song. And the swallows are back and swooping around the window frames trying to figure out where to make their nests.  And here I’ve only more or less started the exterior spring cleaning — after just having finished, more or less, the indoor spring cleaning — and have yet to attack the window screens the swallows made such a mess of last summer. Must clean off old mess before they start making a new mess.

But then I checked my email and there was a merchandising come-on for Mother’s Day,

“be a hero to your hero! Great gift idea’s for Mom on eBay”

and, aside from the momentary pause to sigh about the dolts in charge of punctuation at eBay, it occurred to me that these next few weeks are going to be very, very hard.

Fortunately, part of my birthday present from Tom is a greenhouse — similar to this hoop-style greenhouse covered with poly, though Tom wants to make it more A-frame style with 2×4’s for ease of construction — and I am hoping that by May 8th I will be suitably distracted, or at least in a more suitable place to commune with the spirit of my parents, since my mother loved nothing better than filling the house with spring flowers (branches of pussywillows, forsythia, and lilacs) though she wasn’t in the least interested in how anything was grown, and my father was happiest puttering among his plants in his shade house.

Onwards. Upwards.


Marooned

The five of us met my mother at JFK in early October, to fly with her to her vacation home in the West Indies.  The plan was, after my father’s unexpected death earlier this year, to sort through my father’s things and also sort out the house, which for some years has needed repairs, touch-ups, and general decluttering. We had been making good headway and also making time for some fun — the local Halloween party at the nearby beach club, a lovely dinner party for my mother’s 79th birthday, a very fun meal at a new restaurant in town — when things came crashing down four weeks ago, when my mother died even more suddenly than my father did.  He died not three months after being diagnosed with brain cancer; she died two days after going into the hospital feeling faint, dizzy, and hot.  It turned out to be advanced heart failure and kidney failure, not altogether unexpected for someone with diabetes and high blood pressure who has made the most of life and ignored doctors’ warnings and daughters’ pleas for years.  But still terribly sudden and shocking for all of us, and just days after a happy birthday. I’ve taken comfort knowing that things moved so swiftly that she had no idea what was happening before she lost consciousness, that she was in no pain, wasn’t scared.  And that she hadn’t been home alone in the apartment in New York.

Some 35 years ago, on her island,

We are bereft, and marooned, emotionally and almost literally, not able to come home last week as planned.  With so many extra loose ends to tie up, we delayed our departure until this coming Sunday (weather willing, and we are hoping it will be more willing than the weather this past weekend), and even then we are leaving many things undone, in an upside down world, though we have fixed and cleaned and painted and tidied.  The kids have been troopers, coping with the work and the sadness.  Poor Davy had expected and hoped to celebrate his 10th birthday with Grandmama, and Thanksgiving the next day was a shadow of its former self.

Instead of an overnight stop at the airport hotel as originally planned, we’ll spend several days in NYC , to see my sister, the lawyer, the office, and leave for Canada on Wednesday, which should get us back home in time for Christmas Eve.  Our holidays will be considerably diminished, but the kids at the moment are craving home and home comforts. I would be happy to crawl into my own bed and pull the covers over my head for the next six months, but thanks to rent control laws in NYC, we have 90 days from the date of death to empty my mother’s apartment.  We need to get back to farming and real life in February, so next month we’ll be driving across North America with a truck and trailer.  No, it’s not my first choice, either.

I came across this poster recently and I find it much more reassuring than the slogan I’d come up with about halfway through 2010, “One damned thing after another”.

Definitely an approach my life loving mother embraced, though she would have asked for vodka. And extra ice.

*  *  *

“To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (1895)

Spotera!*: Recapturing a writerly fairyland

A few weeks ago The Guardian featured a lovely article by Valerie Grove as part of the marvelous “Life in Writing” series, an overview of her new biography of Kaye Webb, So Much to Tell, to be published in Canada next week in time for Puffin’s 70th anniversary.  Miss Webb established the Puffin Club for young readers in the 1960s, and I was a devoted member across the pond in the early seventies.  I wrote a bit about the Puffin Club just over a year ago, here.  And while I didn’t get Mars Bars from Roald Dahl, I did spend afternoons with Ezra Jack Keats and author Ben Lucien Burman and his wife, illustrator Alice Caddy, who gave us Puffineers autographed copies of the Catfish Bend books.

Miss Webb rather fell into children’s book publishing, having read only few children’s books in her youth,

Her luck was to arrive at the dawn of a second “golden age” in children’s books in the 60s. Enduring classics were being written by authors such as Philippa Pearce and Rosemary Sutcliff. Improved colour printing brightened picture books and inspired illustrators such as Brian Wildsmith and Quentin Blake. American publishers (Grace Hogarth, Marni Hodgkin) infused the scene with transatlantic know-how. New magazines gave guidance for parents on the best new books for their children; soon there was the Bologna children’s book fair, and the broadsheet papers were devoting whole pages to reviews of children’s fiction.

What Webb brought to the changing scene was her enormous personality. She acquired new titles, brokering deals with the enterprise of an innocent. She cajoled hardback publishers – still sceptical and snooty about paperbacks – to yield up rights. She founded a Children’s Book Circle, wooed librarians and booksellers. She commissioned in her distinctive style: “Darling! I’ve got this wonderful idea, you have to do it, come straight round, it’s your big chance!”  …

Only months after taking the position at Puffin, Kaye Webb’s mother died and her husband, the celebrated cartoonist Ronald Searle, abruptly left her and their two teenaged children, for his lover in Paris, informing her by letter.  But, Ms. Grove, writes,

The Puffin job proved the making of her: she set about establishing the brand as the marque of excellence in children’s literature, and increased sales by 300% within a year. To the Narnia books and Noel Streatfeild she added Mary Poppins, Paddington Bear, Clive King’s Stig of the Dump, Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians [Grove has also written biographies of Dodie SmithLaurie Lee, and my father’s beloved John Mortimer]. Soon, authors needed no persuading: “I could have all the authors I wanted,” Webb said. Roald Dahl, who had taken years to get his children’s books published in Britain in 1967, actually asked to be in Puffin (at a 17.5% royalty, which he repaid in astronomical sales.)

And then things get truly exciting:

Webb had always encouraged her son, John, to be fearless. She once drove him to Chesil Bank in Dorset, the setting for J Meade Falkner’s Moonfleet, and suggested he dive in and test out the fierce undercurrent that had wrecked many ships. Children liked to have adventures away from their parents, as children do in books. Heedless of health-and-safety, she took readers to see real puffins, on the precipitous Yorkshire coastline. In fact, the first Puffin Club adventure, a trip to Lundy Island, could have been disastrous. The boat almost capsized in choppy seas. Webb had to tie the children down and pray that none were flung overboard. After that she collaborated with Chris Green, the schoolmaster founder of Colony Holidays, lifeline to many frazzled mothers confronted by long school holidays in the 60s and 70s. There were Puffin holidays, winter and summer, at castles such as Featherstone in Northumberland, or vacant boarding-schools, where the children (benignly supervised) could scamper in fields and woods, write and perform plays, bird-watch, build boats, produce newspapers, sing round campfires. Webb scorned parents who apologised in advance that their “shy” children would be reluctant joiners-in. There was no such thing, Webb said, as the shy child.

Nobody doubted that Webb enjoyed her jamborees as much as the children did. Conflating Hallowe’en and Guy Fawkes, she would dress up as a wizard, a cat or a silver fairy queen at “Guyween” fireworks-and-bonfire parties. The chaotic Puffin office seemed to hold endless celebrations; it was always someone’s birthday, an excuse for balloons, jellies and “Puffins pleasure” cocktails, filling the Penguin HQ with shrieks of laughter. Every Puffineer got a personalised greeting, each birthday. They were effusively grateful. “Thanks awfully for my purple bag,” wrote one prize-winning child. “I think it’s super and a marvellous prize. Did someone make it specially? If they did, could you thank them terribly?” Puffineers became substitute grandchildren for Webb, before she had one of her own.

After which come the late seventies, and the end of that second golden age,

doubts began to be voiced at Penguin about whether Webb was sufficiently aware of deprived children whose homes were not book-lined. Was she doing enough to attract the reluctant boy reader, or appeal to ethnic minorities? Webb bridled in self-defence. She cared little for social engineering, only about upholding the high standards, and imaginative writing of the kind adults could enjoy reading aloud time and again. …

In 1978, aware of the threat to literacy from television, she organised a Time Capsule containing books, messages from authors and from readers, ceremoniously buried (by Patrick Moore) in the garden of Penguin headquarters at Harmondsworth, to be opened by the grandchildren of the “Puffin Guardians” in 100 years’ time. Only 10 years later, noting the rise of the computer and a less biddable, less bookish generation, Webb told me the capsule would probably have to be exhumed much earlier.

Her successor at Puffin, Tony Lacey, launched the popular Fighting Fantasy and Dungeons and Dragons books aimed firmly at boys, to Webb’s dismay: what had become of literary merit? Puffin Club membership dwindled, the magazine was no longer cost-effective, and was closed down in 1987. Her long retirement was afflicted with crippling arthritis – she had often had to conduct Puffin business from her hospital bed – and she died at 82 in 1996. She did not live to witness the Harry Potter phenomenon. She would certainly have been horrified to learn that in 2009 it was reported that many children go through their schooldays without ever reading “a whole book”.

Read the entire article, “Queen of the Puffineers”, here.  Long live the Queen.

*  *  *  *

* The reply to the secret Puffin password “Sniffup!” Together, they spell out, backwards, Puffins are tops.  Indeed.

National Poetry Month 2010

April, as always, brings May showers and…

National Poetry Month

brought to you as always by the Academy of American Poets.  You can request your own poster, designed by Canadian artist (and recent TEDTalk 2010 speaker) Marian Bantjes.

Here are some bits and pieces from some of my previous posts on National Poetry Month, with a few updates, and at the end links to various Farm School poetry posts (most of which you can find at the green “Poetry” tab at the very top of the blog on the right):

Poetry is like peace on earth, good will toward men.  It’s something we should read and enjoy year-round, not just in Spring and all, but for many of us, without the extra effort of a special day or month, it gets rather lost of the shuffle of daily living.

National Poetry Month is celebrated both in the US, under the auspices of the Academy of American Poets (whose page has oodles of links — some good ones are How to Read a Poem [often] and Tips for Booksellers), and in Canada, under the auspices of the League of Canadian Poets.

New for 2010:

The CD “Poetic License”, featuring 100 poems read by 100 performers, comes out April 2, in time for National Poetry Month.  It’s the first project from the new label GPR Records (Glen Roven, Peter Fitzgerald, and Richard Cohen), which will record and distribute Broadway, classical, spoken word, and children’s music.  Poems and performers on the new CD include Louis Zorich with Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar”, Michael York with Kipling’s “Tommy”, and Barbara Feldon with Margaret Atwood’s “I Would Like to Watch You Sleep”.

My old blog friend Gregory K. at GottaBook celebrates the month with his second annual 30 Poets/30 Days celebration.  You can find last year’s celebration here.

This year’s Cybils children’s poetry book winner is Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarensky; winner too of a 2010 Caldecott Honor award.  The list of all the poetry nominees is here, and Ms. Sidman has a free online reader’s guide to the book for students in grades 1-4 here.

Poet J. Patrick Lewis asked last month, “Can Children’s Poetry Matter?” in the journal Hunger Mountain. It’s aimed toward parents with children in school, but there’s still much that parents who home school can learn:

American children grow up in a country that poetry forgot—or that forgot poetry. The reasons are not far to seek. I have visited four hundred American elementary schools here and abroad as a latter day Pied Piper for verse, and I can confirm that too many teachers still swear allegiance to an old chestnut: the two worst words in the language when stuck side by side are “poetry” and “unit.” …

Children rarely gravitate to poetry on their own. It’s an acquired taste. They must be introduced to it early and often by their teachers and parents, the critical influences in their lives. And not in the way Billy Collins has memorably described — and vilified — by tying poems to chairs and beating them senseless until they finally give up their meaning. We do not look to poetry to find answers or absolutes. Nor do we investigate verse with calipers and a light meter, though at least one benighted school of thought has tried. …

But any genre buried in unread books is useless. Make poetry a habit with students. If children are reading poetry they find insipid or pointless, they naturally reject it for the playground. Let them choose their own verse favorites. Encourage volunteers to read them. Open a Poetry Café, no textbooks allowed. Ask students to ask their parents for their favorite poems. Then invite the parents to the classroom/café to read them.

Go to the source:  Seek out the poetry lovers among teachers and discover the strategies that have worked best for them.

Read the rest of Pat’s essay here, and then go back to the list of the Cybils children poetry book nominees, write them down or print them off and head to your favorite bookseller or library.

Crayola’s activity pages for National Poetry Month 2010 include coloring pages of Langston Hughes and Edgar Allan Poe and a Poem in My Pocket craft.

Poetry Friday is celebrated in the blogosphere all year, every year, and you can read more here and here.  For all of the Farm School Poetry Friday posts, just type “Poetry Friday” in the search box above.

Some of our family’s favorite poetry resources:

Poetry Speaks: Hear Great Poets Read Their Work, from Tennyson to Plath (book and three CDs), edited by Elise Paschen (2007 saw a new expanded edition)
Poetry Speaks to Children (book and CD), edited by Elise Paschen

A Child’s Introduction to Poetry: Listen While You Learn About the Magic Words That Have Moved Mountains, Won Battles, and Made Us Laugh and Cry (book and CD), edited by Michael Driscoll and illustrated by Meredith Hamilton

A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children, edited by Caroline Kennedy and illustrated by Jon J. Muth
The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, edited by Caroline Kennedy

Poetry Out Loud, edited by Robert Alden Rubin

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Eric Beddows

Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris

The Caedmon Poetry Collection: A Century of Poets Reading Their Work (audio CD); ignore the publisher’s sloppy labeling job and just sit back and listen

Seven Ages: An Anthology of Poetry with Music (audio CD) by Naxos AudioBooks

Voice of the Poet: Robert Frost (audio cd), from Random House’s “Voice of the Poet” series
Voice of the Poet: Langston Hughes (audio CD), from Random House’s “Voice of the Poet” series. Search for “Voice of the Poet” at Powell’s, Amazon, B&N for the rest of the series.

Poetry for Young People series; includes volumes of poetry by Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman, Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Coleridge, Longfellow, and more.  Very nicely done and perfect for strewing about the house.

Emily by Michael Bedard and illustrated by the marvelous Barbara Cooney
The Mouse of Amherst by Elizabeth Spires
“The Belle of Amherst” on DVD; Julie Harris in the one-woman stage production about the life and poetry of Emily Dickinson

“The Barretts of Wimpole Street” (1934) on video, starring Norma Shearer as Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Frederic March as Robert Browning
The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning, illustrated by Kate Greenaway

You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You by John Ciardi and illustrated by the fabulous Edward Gorey
How Does a Poem Mean? by John Ciardi

Talking to the Sun: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems for Young People, edited by Kenneth Koch and Kate Farrell
Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?: Teaching Great Poetry to Children by Kenneth Koch
Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry by Kenneth Koch
Making Your Own Days: The Pleasures of Reading and Writing Poetry by Kenneth Koch

Beyond Words: Writing Poems with Children by Elizabeth McKim and Judith Steinbergh

A Crow Doesn’t Need a Shadow: A Guide to Writing Poetry from Nature by Lorraine Ferra and Diane Boardman

Magnetic Poetry (something for everyone)

Poetry podcasts and other online audio poetry:

New from my old blog friend Sylvia Vardell at Poetry for Children: poetry podcasts

The Library of Congress’s guide to online poetry audio recordings

The Academy of American Poets “Poetcast”

The Poetry Foundation’s podcasts and audio selections

Cloudy Day Art podcasts

Houghton Mifflin’s “The Poetic Voice”

HarperAudio!, where you can hear Ossie Davis read Langston Hughes, Peter Ustinov read James Thurber, and Dylan Thomas read his own works

The UK Poetry Archive

BBC’s “Poetry Out Loud”

PennSound

Learn Out Loud’s “Intro to Poetry” podcast

The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer’s Poetry Series podcasts

Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac

First World War Digital Poetry Archive podcasts

Poetry at NPR

KCRW’s Bookworm podcast

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Previous National Poetry Month celebrations and other Poetry Posts at Farm School (you can also click the green “Poetry” page link up above, second from the right over the carrot leaves):

National Poetry Month 2009: Essential Pleasures and Happy National Poetry month!

Something different, a list of poetry books and other poetic resources

How I got my kids to like poetry and broccoli

Poetry sings

More poetry aloud, with PennSound

Poetry Is Life, and some Great Books too

A monthlong celebration of delight and glory and oddity and light (National Poetry Month 2008)

Adding even more poetry to your life, just in time for National Poetry Month (NPM 2006)

“Feed the lambs”: On the difference between poems for children and children’s poetry, Part 1 and Part 2

Thoughts on The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems and classic poetry

An appreciation of John Updike and light verse

Langston Hughes, the “social poet”

Eugene Field, “the children’s poet”, and his plea for the classics, for ambitious boys and girls

Robert Browning, with another plea and an explanation of how children learn best

You can also use the “category” clicker on the sidebar at left to find all of the Farm School Poetry and Poetry Friday posts

The road to history

Beloved of home schoolers, the writer and illustrator Jeanne Bendick, who from what I understand just celebrated her 91st birthday on February 25th, has a new children’s history book, Herodotus and the Road to History (Bethlehem Books, September 2009).  From the BB page for the book,

Best-selling author Jeanne Bendick takes us for another informative—and amusing—journey into places and events of long ago. Herodotus and the Road to History, written in the first person, details the investigative journeys of Herodotus—a contemporary of the Old Testament prophet Malachi—as he takes ship from Greece and voyages to the limits of his own ancient world. His persistence, amidst disbelief and ridicule, in the self-appointed task of recording his discoveries as “histories” (the Greek word meaning “inquiry”), means that today we can still follow his expeditions into the wonder and mystery of the “barbaric” north, Syria, Persia, and Egypt. Jeanne Bendick’s lucid text, humorous illustrations and helpful maps entertain and instruct as they open the way for readers young and old to join Herodotus . . . on the road to history.

Small Press Bookwatch in December noted,

Herodotus and the Road to History is a fictionalized account of the travels of Jeanne Bendick, detailing the story of Herodotus, the man who is often referred to as the father of history. Facing criticism in his day, Jeanne Bendick does well in presenting a thorough story of the man and his travel with many charming, simple illustrations. Herodotus and the Road to History is a fine pick for younger readers with an interest in history.

Jeanne Bendick‘s other books in print, all staples on most home schoolers’ bookshelves, include Along Came Galileo (Beautiful Feet Books, 1999), Archimedes and the Door of Science and Galen and the Gateway to Medicine, the last two part of  Bethlehem Books’ “Living History Library”, Worth noting that another book in the library, The Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin Wiker, is illustrated by Mrs. Bendick.  Here you can find a timeline of BB’s books.

According to the biographical note for the Jeanne Bendick papers at the University of Oregon libraries,

An author and/or illustrator of over one hundred books, Bendick is particularly noted for her comprehensive research, clear text, and simple illustrations; her work reflects her ability to hold a reader’s interest even when elucidating a complex principle or invention. Much of what she has written clarifies the areas of television, movies, time, shapes, numbers, ecology, astronomy, heredity, and science history, urging in her readers a basic understanding followed by the curiosity to learn more.

On November 24, 1940, she married Robert Bendick [see which], a photographer who became one of the first three cameramen at the emerging CBS-TV network. This connection enabled her to work in the television field as a story editor and scriptwriter for series such as NBC-TV’s The First Look from 1965-1966, and Giant Step, 1968, as well as a segment for ABC-TV’s 20/20 titled “Evolution/Creation.” …

Bendick has commented, “One part of the job I set for myself is to make those young readers see that everything is connected to everything-that science isn’t something apart. It’s a part of everyday life. It has been that way since the beginning. The things the earliest scientists learned were the building blocks for those who came after. Sometimes they accepted earlier ideas. Sometimes they questioned them and challenged them. I want to involve readers directly in the text so they will ask themselves questions and try to answer them. If they can’t answer, that’s not really important… Questions are more important than answers… If I were a fairy godmother, my gift to every child would be curiosity.”

If you like garage and library sales, keep your eyes peeled for Mrs. Bendick’s older, out of print titles such as Exploring an Ocean Tide Pool, How to Make a Cloud, and Why Things Change: The Story of Evolution.

Belated birthday greetings, Mrs. Bendick, many happy returns, and many many thanks all of the wonderful books, including the newest.

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Other Herodotus resources for children:

The Boys’ and Girls’ Herodotus by John S. White; free online too

Stories of the East from Herodotus by Alfred J. Church; book version from Yesterday’s Classics or free online from The Baldwin Project

The Story of the Persian War from Herodotus by Alfred J. Church; book version from Yesterday’s Classics or free online from The Baldwin Project

Herodotus resources for older readers:

The Landmark Herodotus, edited by Robert Strassler and translated by Andrea Purvis (Pantheon, 2007); the NY Review of Books essay is here

Herodotus by James Romm (Yale University Press, December 2008); The New Yorker review of the Landmark volume and Romm’s volume is here

Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski; published two years ago, Kapuscinski’s last work

Just out this month — The Way of Herodotus: Travels with the Man Who Invented History by Justin Marozzi

Herodotus on the Web

Herodotus at MIT

Herodotus to listen to:

At LibriVox

Trip report, part 3: NYC, Columbus Day

On Columbus Day, we thought we’d head off in search of model railroads, first at The Red Caboose store on West 45th, just off Fifth, and then at the NYC Transit Museum shop in Grand Central.

Never a dedicated Columbus Day parade goer, it never dawned on me that 45th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues would be part of the staging area for the parade.  The first tip-off came at 6th Avenue, where a cop had the street barricaded off, but like the New Yorker I used to be, without thinking I just put my head down and kept walking as though I belonged on the street, hoping that Tom and the boys would do the same. It worked and before long we were at the end of the block looking for the little hidey-hole that is The Red Caboose. We found it, but the news wasn’t good: the door was padlocked. It was then that I realized that the owner probably figured that with all the parade nonsense going on on the street outside, it wouldn’t have been worthwhile to come in and open up the store.  The boys were very, very disappointed.  So too were the three men who arrived just after we did, standing morosely in front of the padlock.

The boys cheered up a bit when we found the Batmobile parked outside.  Who knew that Batman is Italian?

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I managed to snap them in front of the car just before Batman zoomed off,

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The boys above are looking rather shifty, because they were distracted by a high school band still rehearsing. We didn’t know why they couldn’t rehearse with their hats on (speaking of  hats, Davy is very pleased with his new Zabar’s ball cap),

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Say what you will about the recently re-elected Mayor Bloomberg, but the streets are a darn sight more flowery (and clean) than they used to be,

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Then we headed a few blocks over, through more barricades, to Grand Central to the MTA Transit Museum Store, where last year in late November — I realize now it was probably a holiday special — the store had an amazing, enormous Lionel train display.  The kids were crushed to find out that the space was now occupied by an exhibit, “The Future Beneath Us”.

We did make it back to The Red Caboose a few days later, no parades, and it was open.  It’s a crowded basement treasure trove, the sort of place any train-crazy eight- and 10-year-old boys would love. Packages of HO and other scale people, animals, and vehicles are stapled to any available surface. There are display cases, stacks, and open boxes of model trains, cars, and other items. We spent at least an hour in there, some of which I spent on a stool in a corner with my eyes closed, wedged in between various merchandise and paraphernalia, trying to block out the incessant sound of a train whistle. But the boys loved it (or did I say that already?). And I shot myself in the foot early on in the visit by discovering, and mentioning to Tom, a no-longer-being manufactured Skilcraft Visible Cow kit, brand new and still wrapped in plastic. Tom thought it was too good to pass up, so, yes, it came home in our luggage, to keep our Skilcraft Visible Horse company.

Going back to Mannahatta

“On a hot, fair day, the twelfth of September, 1609, Henry Hudson and a small crew of Dutch and English sailors rode the flood tide up a great estuarine river, past a long, wooded island at latitude 40° 48′ north, on the edge of the North American continent.  Locally, the island was called Mannahatta, or ‘Island of Many Hills.’ One day the island would become as densely filled with people and avenues as it once was with trees and streams, but not that afternoon.  That afternoon the island still hummed with green wonders.  New York City, through an accident, was about to be born.”

Eric W. Sanderson, Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York  City (Harry N. Abrams, 2009)

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This year marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Henry Hudson in New York. Before Henry sailed into the harbor, the river was known by the local Lenape as Muhheakantuck, “the river that flows both ways”. Having grown up a block and a bit from the river, I’m delighted to offer a bit of a round-up to celebrate the occasion.

First up, the official Hudson 400 website:

Albany, and the entire Hudson River Valley region of New York State, have already begun celebrating a significant anniversary. The year 2009 officially marks the 400th anniversary of our European founding by Dutch explorer, Henry Hudson. The Hudson 400 celebration offers a wonderful opportunity to explore the Dutch heritage of the Hudson Valley and to celebrate with special events on the Hudson River, along the shores of the river, and at historic sites throughout the region.

While the official motto is “Celebration of Discovery”, the website does note that

For centuries before the arrival of the Europeans, Algonkian-speaking Native Americans lived along the Hudson River. In the Upper Hudson Valley, it was the Mohican people who greeted Henry Hudson, as he anchored his ship the Half Moon in this fertile river valley in 1609.

There is also the official Henry Hudson 400: Amsterdam & New York 2009 website, featuring the pages “Henry Who?” and “Why Celebrate?” From the second,

In many ways Manhattan, not Plymouth Rock, is where America, and all that it represents, began. Following Hudson’s voyage, the Dutch Republic, the most progressive and commercially powerful force in the 17th century established the settlement of New Amsterdam in 1624.

At its peak, fully half the residents of New Amsterdam were from other nations, making it a true multicultural enterprise, a lively, liberal, idea-driven business community united in its focus on trade as the abiding source of the common good.

So it can be said that, from the start, New York was then what it has become today, a working symbol of freedom based on competence and respect, diversity and tolerance. The progressive connections between New York and its Dutch progenitor, Amsterdam, were and are profound.

The 400th anniversary of Hudson’s voyage comes during the age of globalization and offers a timely opportunity to celebrate and reinvigorate this vital transatlantic connection. Hudson’s discovery, and the achievements of Dutch businessmen in the years following, embody the unshakeable belief in new horizons, spirit of enterprise and diversity of views that remain defining characteristics of New York. Festival events will stimulate fresh understanding of this correlation, one that stimulates the city’s expansive cultural and trade developments to this day.

And then there’s the NY400 website, home of Holland on the Hudson, also known as the official website of the Government of The Kingdom of the Netherlands for the celebrations of NY400.  As part of the festivities, New Amsterdam Village has been set up in Bowling Green Park, from September 4-14. The village

consists of traditional Dutch canal houses, a windmill and a stage set up on an open, outside area. In the village some of the best known Dutch agricultural products and foods can be sampled and bought, including some our famous cheeses, herring, dollar pancakes also known as poffertjes, sirup wafels (stroopwafels), cut flowers, flower bulbs and green roofs.

The Village has a historic component as well: traditional crafts are shown, such as wooden shoes making, glass blowing and a floral workshop. You can also rent orange Dutch bicycles for free there, to bike to the different NY400 Week events throughout the city.

In addition to the New Amsterdam Village, there’s also the New Amsterdam Market on South Street, a new public market near the site of New Amsterdam’s first market of 1642.  The season begins this Sunday, September 13, Harbor Day, with these vendors planning to attend. Dates for the rest of the year are October 25, November 22, and December 20.

The Half Moon and New Netherland Museum: Albany, New York’s New Netherland Museum operates the Half Moon, a reproduction of the ship that Hudson sailed in 1609 from Holland to the New World; the website is available in English and in Dutch. For those who can’t make it to Albany, you can take a virtual tour of both the Half Moon and the colony of New Netherland.

The Albany Institute of History & Art is featuring the yearlong exhibit, “Hudson River Panorama: 400 Years of History, Art, and Culture”, from February 7, 2009 to January 3, 2010.  From the exhibit’s webpage,

This unprecedented year-long exhibition will commemorate Henry Hudson’s 1609 exploration of the river that bears his name, and the remarkable narrative of the people, events, and ideas that have shaped this magnificent region.

Featuring hundreds of artworks, artifacts, interactive displays, and rare archival documents from the Albany Institute’s renowned collections, “Hudson River Panorama” encompasses five major themes relating the many agricultural, industrial, and cultural influences of this historic waterway: Community and Settlement; Natural History and Environment; Transportation; Trade, Commerce, and Industry; Culture and Symbol.

The Albany Institute not surprisingly also has a collection of Hudson River School Art, “The Landscape that Defined America”, with more than “60 paintings and oil sketches by first and second generation Hudson River School artists, and over 100 sketches, sketchbooks, letters, photographs and other related materials”, by Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, Jasper Cropsey, James Hart, William Hart, John Kensett, Homer D. Martin, David Johnson, John Casilear, and George Inness.

In connection with the Hudson anniversary, the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx offers a new installation by Holland’s leading garden designers, Piet Oudolf and Jacqueline van der Kloet, the Seasonal Walk, which has its own website and which The New York Times‘ garden writer Anne Raver recently wrote about here. From her article,

Mr. Oudolf is the Dutch horticulturist who masterminded more than five acres of perennial gardens at the Battery, at the tip of Manhattan. There, and here in the Bronx, he teamed up with Jacqueline van der Kloet to arrange and time thousands of bulbs and other plants that bloom from spring to late fall. Observing this latest collaboration unfold from week to week is a revelation for any gardener.

You can now plant the new orange “Henry Hudson” tulip, which was formally introduced on Wednesday by Princess Maxima of the Netherlands, at Battery Park. For more information, visit www.bulb.com (more here for educators, non-Hudson related).  Canada gave the Hudson his own flower, the hardy white rugosa in the Explorer series, in 1976, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Felicitas Svejda at Ottawa’s Central Experimental Farm.

Still in the garden, don’t miss Fritz Haeg’s Lenape Edible Estate in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. The garden, planted in June, “provides a view back to the lives of the Lenape people, how they lived off the land on the island of Mannahatta, from the native edible plants and the mounded plantings of bean, corn and squash, also know as ‘three sisters’.”  Harvest is planned for Monday, September 14 with a free public reception from 6-8 pm.

Wave Hill, the public garden along the Hudson River in the Bronx, presents the art exhibit “The Muhheakantuck in Focus” (August 1 – November 29, 2009), using the original Lenape name for the river.  The exhibit features project by contemporary visual artists exploring “the native people’s engagement with the river, both before and after Hudson’s arrival on its shores”. The press release contains more information, and The New York Times ran a review the other day, calling the show “is a thoughtful, informative and entertaining” and noting that “there is enough good artwork here to impress upon viewers that the quadricentennial is a time not just to celebrate, but to remember”.

Through December 31, 2009, you can stroll through history along The New Amsterdam Trail in Manhattan, a 90-minute audio/walking tour of 17th century Dutch America. You can download the map as well as an audio narration of “Ranger Story: Nieuw Amsterdam to New York” by park historian Steve Laise, Chief of Cultural Resources for the National Parks of New York Harbor.

At the beginning of the month, a fleet of Dutch flat-bottom barges sailed into New York Harbor after crossing the Atlantic aboard Dutch freighters. The sailing vessels are “descendants of the sailing ships that plied Dutch coastlines in the 17th century, immortalized by the country’s painters, and closely related to the first ships built in New York.”  The fleet will remain in the harbor for three weeks, “taking part in sailing races on the city’s waterways and offering tours and transport to visitors”, and taking part in a grand naval parade, the Admiral’s Sail, with a “flotilla of lighted ships [coming] down the Hudson into the harbor past Battery Park”. Sunday, September 13 is Harbor Day in New York, and you can sail along on Pete Seeger’s Clearwater sloop; check here for more festivities.  The fleet will then sail up the Hudson River to Albany before returning, again via freighter, to the port of Amsterdam.

From September 3, 2009 to January 3, 2010, Manhattan’s South Street Seaport Museum, in conjunction with the National Archives of the Netherlands, is presenting the exhibit, “New Amsterdam: The Island at the  Center of the World”, of rare maps and documents of 17th century New York.  The presentation, by the way, takes its name from Russell Shorto’s 2005 book, The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped New York. The centerpiece of the exhibit will be

the now-famous letter, dated November 5, 1626, from one Pieter Schaghen, listing, among other items, the purchase of Manhattan for 60 guilders (falsely converted to $24 in the 19th century). The Native Americans actually saw this transaction as a treaty for the usage of land, not a purchase.

If you can’t make it to NYC in time, the Museum has a small online gallery of prints and maps. Edward Rothstein’s review of the exhibit for The New York Times is here. From which,

The exhibition has problems: the design (by Urban A&O and Thinc) is awkward, the chronology often hard to trace and the commentary and contexts too cursory. But these rarely seen documents are landmarks, mapping out early New York history. There is an open, oversize book in which, in elaborate script, the Dutch East India Company prepared a contract with Henry Hudson (misnamed Tomas Hutson), ultimately charging him, in 1609, with discovering a route to Asia via a northeast passage over Russia. Instead, of course, that venture led to the beginnings of Dutch colonization in North America.

From 1626 there is a letter that was once folded to form its own envelope; it is now torn and stained by the fingers that must have handled it, addressed to “High and Mighty Lords.” It is a dispatch from Pieter Schaghen to the directors of the recently formed Dutch West India Company, whose title implicitly recognized that the way east lay elsewhere. The letter disclosed the latest news about New Amsterdam from a Dutch ship that had arrived home: reports that “our people are in good spirits and live in peace,” that they have sowed and reaped their grain, that the cargo contained 7,246 beaver skins and 48 mink skins. And that, oh yes, the settlers had “purchased the Island Manhattes from the Indians for the value of 60 guilders.”

The New York Times‘s article heralding the 400th anniversary of Hudson’s voyage, “Henry Hudson’s View of New York: When Trees Tipped the Sky” by Sam Roberts, January 25, 2009

The Hudson River sloop Clearwater, established by Pete Seeger in the sixties to clean the river; Pete Seeger on the State of the Hudson, and the DVD edition of the PBS documentary ‘Til the River Runs Clear.  The Clearwater website’s education page and free goodies page are worth visiting.

Riverkeeper‘s Quadricentennial Exhibit: A Hudson River Journey

The grand opening of the Walkway Over the Hudson will be held on the weekend of October 2-4. The new pedestrian walkway is the former Poughkeepsie-Highland railroad bridge; you can read an 1887 account of the bridge construction in Scientific American here. According to the book Bridging the Hudson by Carleton Mabee, “The Poughkeepsie railroad bridge was the first bridge to be built over the Hudson River from the ocean all the way up to Albany. It was a technological wonder. Opened in 1889 soon after the Brooklyn Bridge opened, it is not only higher above the water than the Brooklyn Bridge, and founded deeper in the water, but also longer. When it opened, its promoters claimed it was the longest bridge in the world.”

Walking Off the Big Apple blog (“A Strolling Guide to New York City”), handy and very well written– and photographed — whether or not you need quadricentennial information and musings

And this being 2009, of course Henry Hudson has a blog

Music:

Songs of the Hudson River, including Pete Seeger’s “Old Father Hudson River”

Tom Winslow’s Clearwater song, “Hey Looka Yonder (It’s the Clearwater)”, on mp3

The out-of-print songbook, Songs and Sketches of the First Clearwater Crew: A Musical and Pictorial Log of the Maiden Voyage of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, compiled and edited by Don McLean (yes, that Don McLean, who was a troubador on the sloop’s maiden voyage), and illustrated by Tom Allen

Hudson River balladeer Rick Nestler, one-time member of the Hudson River Sloop  Singers and also a member of the Clearwater crew, who penned the song “The River That Flows Both Ways”

“Broad Old River 2” by the Hudson River Sloop Singers; order here

Jerry Silverman’s new New York Sings: 400 Years of the Empire State in Song (scroll down to listen to 25 songs from the book, including “Land in Sight” and “Half Moon”, and to find upcoming concert dates)

The new CD from Betty and the Baby Boomers, “Where the Heron Waits”, a collection of river songs “marking the Boomers’ long involvement with Hudson River education and advocacy”

The Barefoot Boys’ “Sweetwater Passage”; the boys are Rich Bala (see below), Rick Hill, and Tom White

Rich Bala’s “Hudson Valley Traditions”

The Westchester, NY a cappella ensemble Sing We Enchanted offers “Hurrah for the Hudson: River Songs & Ballads”

Storyteller Jonathan Kruk and folk balladeer Rich Bala are The River Ramblers, who offer four educational musical presentations, including “The River That Flows Both Ways” and “Revolution on the River” (more here)

Bob Lusk‘s blog about the folk music of the Hudson River Valley and Catskill Mountains

Historical balladeer Linda Russell offers an educational program, “Songs of the Historic Hudson”

The new “River of Dreams” CD — see below

Finally, make your own music with wind chimes.  Not just any wind chimes, but Woodstock Percussion‘s new five-pitch Hudson River Chime, “tuned to the pentatonic melody” of Pete Seeger’s “My Dirty Stream (The Hudson River Song)”.  Read about the chimes here, watch/hear them here, and buy them here; a portion of the proceeds for each chime goes to Clearwater.

Art/Hudson River School:

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site at Cedar Grove, which for the festivities has a “loan exhibition of paintings by 19th century masters of the Hudson River School of art, depicting views of the river and related and connecting bodies of water”.

“Seeing the Hudson: An Exhibition of Photographs and Paintings on the Occasion of the 400th Anniversary of Henry Hudson’s Sail of Discovery”, September 17 to October 31, featuring the works of painters
Samuel Colman (1832-1920),
Jon R. Friedman,
Joseph Antonio Hekking (1830- 1903),
William Rickarby Miller (1815-1893),
Robert J. Pattison (1838-1903), and 
Robert Walter Weir (1803-1889); and photographers Carolyn Marks Blackwood,
William Meyers,
William Clift,
Robert Richfield,
Diane Cook,
Joseph Squillante,
Jan Staller,
Elliott Kaufman,
Susan Wides,
Len Jenshel, and

Harry Wilks.  The opening reception will be on the 17th from 6-8 pm.

Books and such for children:

River of Dreams: The Story of the Hudson River, by the aptly named Hudson Talbott; highly recommended (and not just by me).  River of Dreams has recently been adapted for for the stage (and what a stage) with Casey Biggs and Frank Cuthbert, and the CD soundtrack will have its release party on Sunday, September 13 at The Thomas Cole National Historic Site at Cedar Grove (see above); free admission.

My Mighty Hudson by Mitchell Bring, with a foreword by Pete Seeger; a children’s guide to Hudson River history, science, and fun

Beyond the Sea of Ice: The Voyages of Henry Hudson by Joan Elizabeth Goodman

Hudson: The Story of a River by  Thomas Locker

PBS Kids’ Henry Hudson page, part of their Big Apple History

Henry Hudson at Enchanted Learning

Dover’s coloring book, Exploration of North America and also if I recall correctly, their Woodland Indians book

The 100-year-old children’s history book, The Men Who Found America, by Frederick Winthrop Hutchinson — available online at The Baldwin Project — includes a chapter on Henry Hudson, “The Englishman Who Sailed for the Dutch”.

If you’re home schooling, don’t miss the Homeschooling on Hudson blog

NYC Dept. of Education’s Henry Hudson Quadricentennial Teaching Resources (including a very good listing of museum exhibits)

NYS Dept. of Education’s Champlain/Hudson/Fulton Commemoration Online Resource page

Teaching the Hudson Valley; I quite like the look of most of the 11 lessons in the “Life along the Hudson River: Exploring Nature and Culture” unit

Books and such for older folks:

Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World by Douglas Hunter

A Description of New Netherland by Adriaen Van Der Donck

The Hudson: America’s River by Frances F. Dunwell

The Hudson: A History by Tom Lewis

The Hudson Valley Reader, edited by Edward C. Goodman

The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell by Mark Kurlansky; also available as a very enjoyable audiobook

Hudson Valley Voyage: Through the Seasons, Through the Years, “An Exploration of Four Seasons and Four Centuries along the Hudson River from Manhattan to Saratoga Springs”, with photographs by Ted Spiegel and text by Reed Sparling

and continue the festivities through next year with Ted Spiegel’s Hudson River Valley Calendar 2010

For the entire family, even if you’re not from, or don’t live in, New York:

The Manahatta Project, by Eric Sanderson and the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo, who used the science of landscape ecology to learn what Manhattan would have looked like in 1609, before Hudson’s arrival.

Earlier this year, my father gave me the book that came out of the project, Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City by Eric W. Sanderson (Harry N. Abrams, 2009). It’s a marvel of a book, not just the computer-generated photographs of what the island probably looked like 400 years ago, but also Dr. Sanderson’s “Muir Webs” connecting all the organisms in 1609 New York, and, perhaps most importantly, his last section of the book, a prescription “to bring a little Mannahatta back to Manhattan” to sustain the city’s ecology and its inhabitants. Harry Abrams has done the book justice, with lovely heavy paper and beautiful color illustrations (photography, maps, drawings) throughout.  From chapter one,

It is a conceit of New York  City — the concrete city, the steel metropolis, Batman’s Gotham — to think it is a place outside of nature, a place where humanity has completely triumphed over the forces of the natural world, where a person can do and be anything without limit or consequence.  Yet this conceit is not unique to the city; it is shared by a globalized twenty-first-century human culture, which posits that through technology and economic development we can escape the shackles that bind us to our earthly selves, including our dependence on the earth’s bounty and the confines of our native place.  As such the story of Mannahatta’s transformation to Manhattan isn’t localized to one island; it is a coming-of-age story that literally embraces the entire world and is relevant to all of the 6.7 billion human beings who share it.

The Mannahatta project is the cover story of this month’s issue of National Geographic, “Before New York: Rediscovering the Wilderness of 1609”

The Wildlife Conservation Society page on Mannahatta is here

At the Mannahatta website, you can enter your address or the name of a landmark and see what it would have looked like in 1609, download lesson plans/curriculum, and more.

The Museum of the City of New York is hosting an exhibit curated by Dr. Sanderson, “Mannahatta/Manhattan: A Natural History of New York City”, through October 12.  Edward Rothstein of The New York Times reviewed the exhibit back in July, with an accompanying slide show.

Dr. Sanderson, with Eric Wright, helped to make a traditional Lenape wigwam in the New York Botanical Garden’s Family Garden

Eric Sanderson interviews via podcast from WNYC and the NY Times City Room blog

And, if you have younger children at home, you  might want to pair Mannahatta — you can look through the pictures together and read some of the passages aloud — with the wonderful children’s picture book On This Spot: An Expedition Back Through Time by Susan E. Goodman and Lee Christiansen.  In fact, when I first read about Mannahatta, I thought, “Oh good! On This Spot for adults!”

Star party

On Saturday night Tom, the kids, and I attended a stargazing party at our provincial park to help celebrate the International Year of Astronomy. It was our town’s “Galileo Moment”. While we live in a rural area and don’t have a local astronomy club, observatory, or planetarium in where we live — though we do have the benefit of almost no light pollution  — we do have some passionate amateur  astronomers who put together two presentations (including the video “Eyes on the Skies”, more here on it) and set up eight telescopes, including a Celestron 14″ in diameter.

The kids ran from telescope to telescope, viewing the moon, Saturn and its ring, nebulae, and more.  Just after 11 pm, we watched an iridium flare as the sun shone briefly on a travelling satellite. We’re planning on keeping our eyes open for more, since the bigger ones are visible to the naked eye.

As with all the best parties, ours had refreshments (hot chocolate, juice, and cookies to keep everyone warm on a cool Spring evening) and party favors, most courtesy of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada: an assortment of AstroCards to collect (one from each telescope owner); Star Finders; the May/June issue of SkyNews, the Canadian Magazine of Astronomy & Stargazing*, which has a constellation chart for late spring and a 2009 summer star party calendar; promotional postcards and brochures (one for 2-for-1 general admission to Edmonton’s science museum, and Cosmic Journey at the Strathcona Wilderness Center); “Become a Sidewalk Astronomer” booklet, also available to download; and also a copy of a new Canadian children’s astronomy book, aimed at those from grades 1-6, Mary Lou’s New Telescope by Don Kelly and illustrated by Michael McEwing, which can also be downloaded and printed.

If we had such a stellar happening in our little town, I can’t imagine all the offerings and special events available in larger cities to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s use of the telescope, wonderful ways to introduce, or further studies in, astronomy for your kids and your family. At the International Year of Astronomy website, click on your flag to your country’s IYA website and see what’s available in your country; this is Canada’s offering.

And no matter where you live, you can supplement your stargazing with starlistening, with the podcasts at 365 Days of Astronomy, Astronomy Cast, The Jodcast, and Slacker Astronomy.

* For anyone not familiar with the magazine, the editor is astronomer and writer Terence Dickinson, author and co-author of a remarkable selection of astronomy books, including The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide, Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the UniverseExploring the Night Sky: The Equinox Astronomy Guide for Beginners, Exploring the Sky by Day: The Equinox Guide to Weather and the Atmosphere, and Summer Stargazing: A Practical Guide for Recreational Astronomers

,

“I’ve got a song to sing, all over this land”

Happy Birthday, Pete Seeger.

If you’re in New York City today, you can swing by Madison Square Garden and help celebrate his 90th birthday.

Pete Seeger has been presence in my life since childhood with his records, and I still recall one marvelous autumn day when we got to meet him and listen to him sing at South Street Seaport (I think I remember a pier covered with pumpkins, and while I don’t remember the sloop Clearwater think it must have been there as well), well before it was fixed up and turned into a “destination”. We were also fortunate to live down the street from Pete Seeger’s old friend, Brother Kirk (the Rev. Frederick Douglass Kirkpatrick, who died in 1987), who would sit on the sidewalk with his guitar and give impromptu sidewalk concerts. Together the friends collaborated on a 1974 children’s album, “Pete Seeger & Brother Kirk Visit Sesame Street”.

As fascinating as Pete Seeger’s life story and career is his family.  He is the son the musicologist and composer of Charles Seeger and violinist Constance Edson; his stepmother was the noted composer Ruth Crawford Seeger;  his uncle Alan Seeger was the celebrated poet killed in World War I; his eldest brother Charles was a pioneering radio astronomer; his brother John, a longtime teacher at New York’s Dalton School also founded Camp Killoleet in the Adirondacks; his half-sister is the singer Peggy Seeger; his half-brother is singer Mike Seeger.

No childhood should be complete without Pete Seeger — for the music he has sung and written, his family’s place in the history of American music, for his sense of history, and his environmental and political activism.  You can listen to his music and listen to songs about America as it was, and America — and the world —  as it should be. Here’s a list, not nearly complete or comprehensive, of some of our favorite Pete Seeger records, books, and more.

Music especially for children:

“Abiyoyo and Other Story Songs for Children”

“American Folk, Game and Activity Songs”

“Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Fishes (Little and Big)”

“Folk Songs for Young People”

“Song and Play Time”

Pete Seeger’s “Children’s Concert at Town Hall”

Music for the entire family:

“American Favorite Ballads”, on five CDs

“Frontier Ballads”

“Headlines and Footnotes: A Collection of Topical Songs”

“If I Had a Hammer: Songs of Hope and Struggle”

“Love Songs for Friends and Foes”

“Pete Seeger Sings Leadbelly”

“Sing Out!: Hootenanny with Pete Seeger and the Hooteneers”

“Traditional Christmas Carols”

Pete Seeger/The Weavers 3 CD box set

“Pete Seeger at 89”

A Pete Seeger discography at Smithsonian Folkways.  By the way, SF has a new publication, “Folkways Magazine”, just debuted with the Spring 2009 issue, and the main article is “Pete Seeger: Standing Tall”

A Pete Seeger discography and biography at Appleseed Records

Books (many of which are children’s picture books based on his songs):

Abiyoyo with accompanying CD; and Abiyoyo Returns

Turn! Turn! Turn! with accompanying CD

One Grain of Sand: A Lullaby

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?: A Musical Autobiography

Pete Seeger’s Storytelling Book

His memoirs, Where Have All the Flowers Gone: A Singer’s Stories, Songs, Seeds, Robberies

The biography How Can I Keep from Singing?: The Ballad of Pete Seeger by David King Dunaway, the companion volume to the radio series produced by Dunaway (see below)

Audio and Video:

PBS’s American Masters episode: “Pete Seeger: The Power of Song”; now available on DVD

How Can I Keep from Singing?, the three-part radio series produced by David King Dunaway

“To Hear Your Banjo Play” (1947)

“How to Play the 5-String Banjo” DVD, Davy’s favorite; there’s also an accompanying book (not on film, but also instructive and instructional is Pete Seeger’s “The Folksinger’s Guitar Guide”)

At NPR; and today’s NPR appreciation, “Pete Seeger At 90” by Lynn Neary and Tom Cole.  At the latter link, you’ll find a little orange box on the left with The Pete Seeger Mix, a “five-hour mix of Pete Seeger classics and covers” put together by NPR Music partner Folk Alley

Pete Seeger at the pre-inaugural concert for Barack Obama

Websites:

Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress, where Pete Seeger worked as an assistant in 1940

Clearwater, the organization Pete Seeger established in 1969 to preserve and protect the Hudson River

Bits and bobs:

Studs Terkel’s 2005 appreciation, in The Nation, of Pete Seeger’s 86th birthday

The New Yorker‘s 2006 profile, “The Protest Singer”, by Alec Wilkinson, recently released in hardcover

Pete Seeger’s biography at the Kennedy Center, where he was a Kennedy Center honor recipient in 1994

A telescope in every pot

New to me today, via CBC Radio’s “Quirks and Quarks” science show, hosted by Bob McDonald:

The Galileoscope, an International Year of Astronomy 2009 Cornerstone Project, US $15 each plus shipping to just about anywhere in the world.

You can also win a free Galileoscope in the Quirks and Quarks astronomical limerick contest, but I figured what the heck and just ordered one for each child.

Happy National Poetry month!

Begin your month of poetry over at GottaBook with Gregory K. and his 30 Poets / 30 Days celebration.  Today’s poet is America’s first children’s laureate Jack Prelutsky with “A Little Poem For Poetry Month“.

Today is also the official kick-off of poet Robert Pinsky’s Poems Out Loud blog.  Unofficially, Mr. Pinsky’s been blogging since Monday.

Updated to add: Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect reminded me in the comments below that this month she’ll have at least one interview with a poet everyday.  The celebration begins today with Kenn Nesbitt; you can find the entire schedule here.

……….

Like Mr. Pinsky, our family couldn’t wait until today to start celebrating.  Our festivities began on Monday with the start of the local speech arts/music festival, with Davy, Daniel, and Laura each reciting two poems (Laura also gave her 4H speech and did a sacred reading of a traditional Mohawk poem).  The kids each won their classes, and Davy and Laura took the home awards for their categories.  They all also did very well in the vocal sections (traditional folk songs and musical theater), winning three awards.  Very, very well done all round and Tom and I are proud; Laura has her last performance this afternoon, in piano.  I was especially happy not with the awards but to see how much the kids had learned.  Laura had had a fairly dismal time with her speech in February at 4H public speaking day, because she was sick with the flu; she had just about given up on her speech as any good or her ability to deliver it, when her performance on Monday and the adjudicator’s comments restored Laura’s confidence.  Davy’s voice teacher got the last two pages of his music out of order while accompanying him on the piano, and Davy stayed calm and just waited while the teacher tinkled away, starting to sing again when the music finally sounded familiar. Daniel didn’t let the fact that he was in two tough categories (against his older sister in one) stop him from doing his best. We’re proud and pleased.

In other late March, early April news, the snow is still here but it is melting and the days are above freezing.  The geese and the crows are coming back, and the gophers are coming out. The organic farming recertification paperwork pile has been filled out and returned. We have seven sweet calves, with 20 more to come. Our first cow to calve should have been the last, with a premature, stillborn calf (she may have slipped on the ice and fallen, or another cow did so and fell against her); so at the kids’ request, we’ve started milking her.  Yesterday Laura and I made butter and put a pot of milk in the old O’Keefe & Merritt gas oven to make cottage cheese; the pilot light keeps the oven at just the right temperature, just warm enough to start the clabbering.

Unlike Gregory K. and Robert Pinsky, I can’t promise a blog post or a poem, even an old one, for every day of the month, but I’ll post as many poems this month as I can.  Here’s my April Fool’s Day offering, by Ian Serraillier.  As I wrote two years ago with another of his poems, Ian Serraillier (1912-1994) was an English author and poet who wrote often for children. His works are much beloved by many North American home schooling families, more for his retellings of classic tales and legends than for his adventure stories and poetry; some of our favorites are Escape from WarsawBeowulf the Warrior, and The Road to Canterbury.  And so, a fractured fairy tale for a foolish day,

After Ever Happily
(or, The Princess and the Woodcutter)

by Ian Serraillier

And they both lived happily ever after…
The wedding was held in the palace. Laughter
rang to the roof as a loosened rafter
Crashed down and squashed the chamberlain flat–
And how the wedding guests laughed at that!
“You with your horny indelicate hands,
Who drop your haitches and call them ‘ands,
Who cannot afford to buy her a dress,
How dare you presume to pinch our princess–
Miserable woodcutter, uncombed, unwashed!”
Were the chamberlains last words (before he was squashed).
“Take her”, said the Queen, who had a soft spot
For wood cutters. “He’s strong and he’s handsome. Why not?”
“What rot”, said the King, but he dare not object;
The Queen wore the trousers — that’s as you’d expect.
Said the chamberlain, usually meek and inscrutable,
“A princess and a woodcutter? The match is unsuitable.”
Her dog barked its welcome again and again,
As they splashed to the palace through puddles of rain.
And the princess sighed, “Till the end of my life!”
“Darling”, said the woodcutter, “Will you be my wife?”
He knew all his days he could love no other
So he nursed her to health with some help from his mother,
And lifted her horribly hurt, from her tumble.
A woodcutter, watching saw the horse stumble.
As she rode through the woods, a princess in her prime
On a dapple-grey horse…Now, to finish my rhyme,
I’ll start it properly: Once upon a time —

………….

Farm School’s recent round-up of poetry resources, National Poetry Month 2009: Essential Pleasures

Filched

The one thing that jumped out at me from the recent AP article by William Kates on the 50th anniversary of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style was the following sentence,

Strunk’s “Elements of Style” probably would have vanished for good had not someone stolen one of the two copies in the Cornell library in 1957 and sent it to White.

“Someone” was in fact Andy White’s old friend and Cornell classmate H.A. Stevenson (class of ’19), editor of the Cornell Alumni News in 1957 when he sent White (class of ’21) the little book. As for “stolen”, well, as White wrote to Stevenson in thanks, he preferred a different word,

25 West 43
2 April 1957

Dear Steve:

I was overwhelmed to get the little book, filched from the library, and I hope I deserve it.  Last night I went through it, seeing Will in every word and phrase and line — in Charles’s friend, in Burns’s poems, in the comma after each term except the last.  What a book, what a man!  Will so loved the clear, the brief, the bold — and his book is clear, brief, bold.

It may be that I’ll try to do a piece on “The Elements of Style” for The New Yorker.  Perhaps you can fill me in on a few matters on which I am vague or uninformed (My memory is poor and needs jolting.) …

If you can answer, and feel like answering, any of these tedious questions, I would be delighted to hear from you.  Hell, I would be delighted to hear from you anyway. …

Thanks again, Steve, for this gift.  This is a late day (I almost said a “very” late day, but Will hated “very”) for me to meet up with “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk, Jr.  I shall treasure the book as long as there are any elements of life in my bones.  Hope you and Mildred will get to Maine again.  If you do, you will get fed, not merely ginned; and I will put you in my 18-foot sloop and whirl you round and round. (“Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end.”)

Yrs gratefully,

Andy

As White closed his July 1957 essay in The New Yorker (the book’s inspiration) on Prof. Strunk’s pamphlet,

“The little book” has long since passed into disuse.  Will died in 1946, and he had retired from teaching several years before that. Longer, lower textbooks are in use in English classes nowadays, I daresay — books with upswept tail fins and automatic verbs. I hope some of them manage to compress as much wisdom into as mall a space, manage to come to the point as quickly and illuminate it as amusingly.  I think, though, that if I suddenly found myself in the, to me, unthinkable position of facing a class in English usage and style, I would simply lean far out over the desk, clutch my lapels, blink my eyes, and say, “Get the little book! Get the little book! Get the little book!”

Many thanks to Mr. Stevenson from Farm School for rescuing the little book and passing it on to Andy White.  You can, by the way, have your Strunk without White, but to me that’s like getting ginned without the tonic.

(The Cornell Chronicle notes the anniversary, also The Cornell Daily Sun where Andy was editor from Spring 1920-Spring 1921, though neither notes Cornellian H.A. Stevenson’s role)

National Poetry Month 2009: Essential Pleasures

Poetry is like peace on earth, good will toward men.  It’s something we should read and enjoy year-round, not just in spring and all, but for many of us, without the extra effort of a special day or month, it gets rather lost of the shuffle of daily living.

National Poetry Month is celebrated both in the US, under the auspices of the Academy of American Poets (whose page has oodles of links — some good ones are How to Read a Poem [often] and  Tips for Booksellers), and in Canada, under the auspices of the League of Canadian Poets, where this year’s theme is “Poetry Planet”.

Of course, we wouldn’t need a special month if we lived on a Poetry Planet…

And if we did live on a Poetry Planet, I have no doubt I’d find there my old Poetry Friday and Fib Friend, Gregory K. who blogs at GottaBook and who is planning to announce, on Monday March 23, his monthlong Poetry Party, with new poetry every day of the month and much much more.  For all sorts of wonderful original poetry by Greg, from his poems to his fibs to his very funny Oddaptations, check his sidebar.  UPDATED March 23 to add: Greg’s monthlong poetry party is “30 Poets / 30 Days”, where he’ll be posting a “previously unpublished poem by a different poem” for each day of April.  Check his blog, GottaBook, for details and the list of celebrated contemporary children’s poets.

Greg also has an update on what else is going on in the Kidlitosphere (which now has its own planet, er, website) to celebrate National Poetry Month:

* Sylvia Vardell at her Poetry For Children blog, which has a wealth of information year-round,will be reviewing a new children’s poetry each day for the entire month of April

* Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader has some plans up her sleeve for the month too (she’ll be offering some lovely books as prizes), as well as a new blog of political poetry and a long, rich post from early March featuring her updated Resources for National Poetry Month (including some tidbits for teachers and home schoolers).

* Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect is featuring interviews with three dozen poets for her series, Poetry Makers.

* Anastasia Suen at the Pencil Talk blog will celebrate by the month with school poems written by children, posting one every day.

Former US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky will spend the month of April blogging about Poems Out Loud.  You can sign up to join him.  As Poet Laureate, Mr. Pinsky created the Favorite Poem Project to encourage Americans to read their favorite verses aloud. April will see the publication of Essential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud, a book and CD set edited by Mr. Pinsky. Also good to read: the 2007 Mother Jones article on Robert Pinsky the poetry popularizer; and Mr. Pinsky himself, “In Praise of Difficult Poetry”, and on “Poetry and American Memory”.

Poetry podcasts and other online audio poetry:

The Library of Congress’s guide to online poetry audio recordings

The Academy of American Poets “Poetcast”

The Poetry Foundation’s podcasts and audio selections

Cloudy Day Art podcasts

Houghton Mifflin’s “The Poetic Voice”

HarperAudio!, where you can hear Ossie Davis read Langston Hughes, Peter Ustinov read James Thurber, and Dylan Thomas read his own works

The UK Poetry Archive

BBC’s “Poetry Out Loud”

PennSound

Learn Out Loud’s “Intro to Poetry” podcast

The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer’s Poetry Series podcasts

Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac

First World War Digital Poetry Archive podcasts

Poetry at NPR

KCRW’s Bookworm podcast

Some wonderful new, newish and newer poetry books to share with your children:

The Cuckoo’s Haiku: and Other Birding Poems by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by Stan Fellows (Candlewick, March 2009)

A Foot in the Mouth: Poems to Speak, Sing and Shout, compiled by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Chris Raschka (Candlewick, March 2009), from the same pair who brought us A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms in 2005.  And really, what better way to celebrate poetry every day of the year, not just in April, than to speak, sing, and shout poetry aloud?

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet.   A Caldecott Honor picture book biography of the American poet and physician (1883-1963) who wrote “A Red Wheelbarrow” and “This Is Just to Say”

The Visions in Poetry series from Canadian publisher Kids Can Press, where classic poems are combined with new Canadian artists, sometimes in startling ways, especially on the cover of The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes, illustrated by Murray Kimber.  Other volumes include Casey at the Bat by Ernest L. Thayer, illustrated by Joe Morse; Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch; The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson, illustrated by Geneviève Côté; My Letter to the World and Other Poems by Emily Dickinson, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault; Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch; and The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe, illustrated by Ryan Price.  And not new but fabulous from Kids Can Press: their picture book editions of Robert Service’s poems, illustrated by Ted Harrison. Canadian classics.

Douglas Florian‘s brand new Dinothesaurus: Prehistoric Poems and Paintings (and his not new but entirely seasonally appropriate, his energetic exploration of the vernal equinox, Handsprings)

The lovely new picture book version, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, of The Negro Speaks of Rivers, written by a very young Langston Hughes (Hyperion, January 2009)

I haven’t yet seen Rabbie’s Rhymes: Burns for Wee Folk newly out for the Robbie Burns 250th anniversary, but think it looks adorable.

UPDATED to add: Indefatigable children’s poet J. Patrick Lewis, one of the participants in Greg at Gottabook’s April 30 Poets / 30 Days poetrypalooza, was kind enough to send me a very sweet note complete with ruffles and flourishes — rather than the plank walk at swordpoint I deserved for the omissions — to remind me of his many varied works coming out in 2009:

The Underwear Salesman, And Other Jobs for Better or  Verse by J. Patrick Lewis, illusrated by Serge Bloch (Atheneum, March 2009)

Countdown to Summer: A Poem for Every Day of the School Year by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Ethan Long (Little, Brown, July 2009)

Spot the Plot! A Riddle Book of Book Riddles by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger (Chronicle Books, September 2009)

The House by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger (Creative Editions, October 2009); I’m excited to hear about this one because I loved their previous collaboration, the beautiful, marvelous The Last Resort.

If you or your children aren’t familiar with the poetry of J. Patrick Lewis, I urge you to run to the library or your favorite bookstore.  Pat has written so many illustrated books of verse on such a wide variety of subjects — art, biography, history, science, holidays, bible stories, animals, general silliness, general spookiness, arithmetic, geography, music, reading and libraries, folk tales, castles and pirate kings, and more — that I dare you not to find something appealing. Also his timely tome on Galileo for this year — it’s a pop-up too, great fun.  Best of all, Pat has free printable bookmark poems (or poem bookmarks).  If you’re going to carry a poem in your pocket (an idea sparked in New York City), I can’t think of a handier way to do it!

Coming out soon:

A Mirror to Nature: Poems About Reflection by Jane Yolen, with photographs by Jason Stemple (Wordsong, April 2009)

Previous National Poetry Month celebrations and other Poetry Posts at Farm School (you can also click the green “Poetry” page link up above, second from the right over the carrot leaves):

Mark your calendar

From PRWeb:

The official 50th anniversary of The Elements of Style is April 16, 2009, and an event to celebrate the occasion will be held in New York City with a panel of writers and journalists discussing the power of the “little book,” featuring acclaimed writers Roger Rosenblatt, Roy Blount Jr. and Barbara Wallraff, columnist for The Atlantic. In addition, the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections at Cornell University, keepers of the papers of E.B. White, will host an exhibit in Olin Library to coincide with the anniversary. Materials include White’s typewriter, handwritten notes, photographs and more. …

The best-known and best-selling book about writing ever published, more than 10 million copies of The Elements of Style have been sold since its first publication in 1959. The original Boston Globe review, quoted in the front of the commemorative edition, still holds true today: “No book in shorter space, with fewer words, will help any writer more than this persistent little volume.”

In 1957, E.B. White rediscovered the brief guide to clear English writing style that had been self-published by William Strunk, Jr., a favorite writing teacher during White’s undergraduate years at Cornell University. White, an acclaimed editorialist and essayist at the New Yorker and the author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, expressed his admiration in a New Yorker article. When an editor at Macmillan persuaded White to revise and expand Professor Strunk’s 43-page book, that essay served as its introduction, and the book often known as “Strunk and White” was born. White later revised the book twice, in 1972 and 1979, and a fourth edition appeared in 2000 with a foreword by White’s stepson, writer Roger Angell.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, fourth edition

Call me cranky, but I don’t feel the need for a 50th anniversary edition, even if it is black leather-bound and gold-embossed and includes ” ‘fifty years of acclaim’ from leading literary figures past and present”, or even for an illustrated edition.  I would, though, suggest hardcover over paperback, to hold up to repeated readings. And I like the idea of an exhibit with Andy White’s typewriter, though I suppose Prof. Strunk’s typewriter or pencil is too much to hope for.

I’ll also admit to some curiosity about Mark Garvey‘s Stylized: A Slightly Obsessive History of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, coming out in October from Simon & Schuster.
* * *
Associated links:

Strunk without White, the 1918 edition

Andy White ’21 at Cornell

“Romeo and Juliet” starring Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer, and directed by George Cukor, the 1936 MGM version for which William Strunk served as literary consultant

Darwin 200: Day 6: Time for presents

It’s Mr. Darwin’s birthday, but we get the presents.  Last April The Guardian put up its seven-part online Science Course, in partnership with the Science Museum in London; where, by the way, entry is free, so that’s another present.

The Guardian‘s Science Course: Part I, The Universe; Part II, Life & Genetics; Part III, The Earth; Part IV, Humans; Part V, Energy; Part VI, Building Blocks; and Part VII, Experiments for Kids

From Part II, Life & Genetics, “Evolution and Darwin” by Tim Radford, with a good look at the life of a scientist:

He had, at the time, no idea of how living things passed their characteristics from one generation to the next, or how any modifications could happen. He was not the only prophet of evolutionary theory, but he is the one whose name will be forever linked with it, and that was because Darwin backed up a great, but incomplete idea, with a huge body of highly detailed evidence. Some of it was gathered on his voyage around the world on HMS Beagle, but most of it was assembled painstakingly through decades of observation, note-taking and inquiry, quietly at home in his study and garden at Down House in Kent. There were no “eureka moments”, dramatic pronouncements or a search for the limelight.

He probably first began to wonder about descent with modification in about 1838. He spent the next two decades simply thinking about creatures and how they varied. He wrote thousands of letters, to gardeners, foresters, naturalists, geologists, explorers, curators and keepers, asking questions, and then asking supplementary questions. He wondered about why coral atolls formed and what strange specimens pigeon fanciers could breed, the enormous variation in the domestic dog, the effect of earthworms on the ground in which they lived, and the life cycle of the barnacle.

And from Part VII, Experiments for Kids, to help children become scientists, Gabrielle Walker writes in “Get Stuck In!”,

One of my favourite scientists from history is the wonderful and chaotic Joseph Priestley, discoverer of oxygen. He didn’t know what oxygen was, but he did know that if you mixed it with hydrogen in a bottle and then put a flame to the neck you got a satisfyingly loud explosion. He used to carry little tubes of the mix around in his pocket. When giving a lecture he would whip one out and light it to make his audiences jump. He was insatiably, exasperatingly curious.

Science has moved on since the 18th century, and these days it’s harder to stumble across fantastic new gases, but the principles Priestley followed still hold true. Real science isn’t about textbooks, it’s about experiments that are surprising, exciting and — yes, even a bit dangerous.

Doing them means taking risks, getting stuck in, finding out for yourself — using your imagination.

Kids should do scientific experiments too, for the same reason that they should write stories as well as reading them or do sport as well as watching it. Experiments encourage kids to be curious, creative and confident. Jokes make us laugh because the punchline takes us by surprise. The best experiments do the same.

So take this guide and use it, and may it show you many new ways to make yourself and your audience jump. Or as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.”

I couldn’t agree more, either with Ms. Walker or Mr. Emerson, and I think Mr. Darwin would, too. And also Mr. Priestley — who was a friend of Mr. Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus and fellow Lunatickwhile we’re at it. Celebrate the bicentennial with some proper noisemakers, experiments, and big bangs, won’t you?