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At Home with the Flock

Yesterday was supposed to be a big day. I decided that I would permit one chick to free-range. Standing, I unlatched the front door of the run, and told the girls that one of them could come out. "But not you, Loretta," I had to add, because she is still too lickety-split for me to catch. Petunia stepped forward cautiously, but soon had second thoughts and ran back toward the coop, flapping her wings.

Then I sat down on the ground, and they all dashed to the front, clamoring to get out like a bunch of Wednesday matinee-goers at a Broadway show. We'll miss the bus! Hurry! Despite the fact that I am the daily cafeteria attendant and housekeeper for the group, they think, "Predator?" unless I sit. I had forgotten.

While I held the others at bay, Bossy emerged. She pecked at my watch, she pecked at my Read bracelet, she free-ranged approximately four inches from the run, and then lay down beside it. After pacing around the entry way on the other side, the remaining group clustered in a corner, and then they lay down as close to Bossy as they could get.

Free-ranging was going nowhere. I returned Bossy to the others. Feathers were fluffed and realigned, legs were stretched, and the chickens resumed their previous, desultory activities.

The chicken whisperer was back at elementary school. I'll have to ask his advice.

The picture book of the day is the classic Petunia, by Roger Duvoisin. Petunia the goose thinks that she is brilliant because she carries around a book. She dispenses wacky advice, which brings chaos to the barnyard. After a while, the situation explodes. A fowl comedy indeed.

Tidbits, 8.31

The August Carnival of Children's Literature is up at Po Moyemu. Go, read.

Daniel Pinkwater gave one of his book picks last Saturday on NPR: Andrea U'Ren's Mary Smith, a picture book from 2003, which sounds quirky. I must have it.

Another blog to visit is the one at PaperTigers. From the web site: "PaperTigers is a website about books for young readers, with a special focus on the Pacific Rim and South Asia, that offers a wealth of book-related resources for teachers, librarians, parents, and all those interested in the world of young readers's books." In addition to the blog, the site is packed with good reading. PaperTigers started the blog back in May.

On Saturdays Semicolon hosts a link festival of book reviews.

Poetry Friday: The Book of Pigericks

There are some days that call for a 48-page of pig poems after dinner. Days when a little revival, a second wind, or some humor is needed before the nighttime routine begins its inevitable march toward arguing about bedtime slumber.

Here I make a case for The Book of Pigericks, written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel, of Frog and Toad fame. I wish to quote from the 1983 picture book, but to do so and avoid copyright infringement, I must make use of an unwanted device: literary criticism. To wit,

There was a fat pig from Savannah

Savannah is in Georgia; this pig is Southern.

Who set foot on a peel of banana.

Note the felicitous phrase "peel of banana" to describe a fruit skin.

As he came crashing down,

Lobel's Savannah-dwelling pig presents as a top-hatted, three-piece-suit-wearing dandy who walks on two feet. Comeuppance is nigh.

Every person in town

Actually they're pigs.

Thought an earthquake was shaking Savannah.

A comment on the alarmed and yet unhelpful reaction of the dandy pig's fellow villagers. Surely an exaggeration.

Parsing this text, an astute reader may have concluded that these "original limericks about all manner of pigs" (as the card catalogue description characterizes the book's contents) are mighty silly. That would be correct. Look for The Book of Pigericks at the library since it is out of print.


The Book of Pigericks
by Arnold Lobel
Harper & Row, 1983
ISBN: 0-06-023982-4
for ages 4-8 (and anyone else who likes pig poems and limericks)

For more rhymes, check the Poetry Friday roundup at the blog Mentor Texts, Readalouds & More.

Recommendations from Under the Radar, Friday 8/30

Don't miss the last of the Recommendations from Under the Radar. Courtesy of the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, which reviews Such a Pretty Face: Short Stories about Beauty today, the list of other recommenders is

A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy: The Vietnam books by Ellen Emerson White

Big A, little a: The Deep by Helen Dunmore

Bildungsroman: The May Bird Trilogy by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Finding Wonderland: The Avion My Uncle Flew by Cyrus Fisher

Not Your Mother’s Bookclub: A look at some recently revised classics

A Fuse # 8 Production: Stoneflight by Georgess McHargue

lectitans: Gentle’s Holler and Louisiana Song, both by Kerry Madden

Chasing Ray: Kipling’s Choice by Geert Spillebeen

Interactive Reader: A Plague of Sorcerers by Mary Frances Zambreno

The YA YA YAs: Resurrection Men by T.K. Welsh

MotherReader: Things Left Unsaid, by Stephanie Hemphill

News Items, including Recommendations from Under the Radar

A big welcome goes to two new children's literature blogs: Gina MarySol Ruiz's Cuentesitos ("dedicated to Latino children's and YA literature") and Kathleen T. Horning's Worth the Trip ("Queer Books for Kids and Teens").

Thursday, August 30th, at 8, is the deadline for the next Carnival of Children's Literature. That's tonight! Submission instructions can be found at founder Melissa Wiley's blog Here in the Bonny Glen. August's host is Po Moyemu.

Don't miss the books and authors featured by today's Recommendations from Under the Radar. An interview with Helen Dunmore, at Big A, little a; Swollen, by Melissa Lion, at Bildungsroman;  Ellen Emerson White's Friends books, at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy; and Pamela Dean's Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary, at Chasing Ray.

Novels by Sherri L. Smith, at Finding Wonderland; The Noisy Counting Book, by Susan Schade, at A Fuse # 8 Production; Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Treasures of Weatherby, at Jen Robinson's Book Page; Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit?: A Hare-Raising Mystery, by Gary K. Wolf, at lecititans; an interview with Kaza Kingsley, at Miss Erin; Ned Vizzini's It's Kind of a Funny Story, at MotherReader; and several Christian fiction titles, at Semicolon.

Plus, an interview with Nancy Crocker, at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast; two novels by Margaret Mahy, at Shaken & Stirred; and Susan Taylor Brown's Hugging the Rock, at Writing and Ruminating.

The Year of the Goat

The Year of the Goat: 40,000 Miles and the Quest for the Perfect Cheese
by Margaret Hathaway, with photographs by Karl Schatz
Lyons Press/Globe Pequot Press, 2007
ISBN: 978-1059921-021-6
for adult readers

In a nutshell: Two young New Yorkers leave their jobs and spend a year driving around the country and investigating the agribusiness of goat-raising and cheese-making.

History: The "year off" idea came from Schatz's shrink, and if that isn't a quintessentially New York sort of thing, I don't know what is.

Potential Readers: Foodies; the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle crowd; armchair farmers

Buzz: Entertainment Weekly gave The Year of the Goat a B+, while noting the "occasionally overlong" descriptions.

The premise: Although they eat a lot of chevre along the way, Hathaway and Schatz are not really after the "perfect cheese," as the subtitle indicates. Interested in perhaps owning goats and operating a farm one day, they're exploring the world of goat-style commerce.

Big Picture: Good reporting characterizes The Year of the Goat. Hathaway's focus is much more on other people that her (and Schatz's) own quest, and the results are delightful: a series of portraits of prominent people in the commercial goat and cheese worlds. One item did give me pause, however: Hathaway and Schatz's book project accepted money from, among others, the American Meat Goat Association, an industry trade group. That is not standard journalistic practice, of course, but Hathaway does mention the fact in the acknowledgments section, at least.

Anyway. My favorite passage in the book comes toward the end. Hathaway writes,

As educated, politically liberal New Yorkers, we had considered ourselves before our travels to be open-minded and free of prejudice. In truth, however, I'm not sure that we were. We had fallen into a trap, I realize now, of classing America as red and blue, city and country, faithful and un.[...]

Traveling through America, covering more than forty thousand miles in forty-three states, we found that generalizations just don't apply. Rural ranchers turn out to have Ivy League educations, slaughterhouse managers are married to animal rights activists—the country and its inhabitants are complex and compellingly, unfailingly interesting.

Postscript: The compatible couple married, bought a farm in Maine, and had a baby. And, yes, they now raise goats, too.

Romina's Rangoli

Recommendations from Under the Radar:
Romina's Rangoli, by Malathi Michelle  Iyengar

A Guest Column by Pooja Makhijani

Over the past year, I've delivered my presentation, More Than Monkeys, Maharajahs and Mangoes: An Overview of South Asian Literature for Kids, to teachers and librarians in the Tri-State Region. The lecture provides educators with an overview of representations of South Asia and the South Asian diaspora in children’s literature and tools to select authentic books for their classrooms and communities. I frame the discussion with a brief history of South Asian American immigration to the United States. Since the topic is rarely taught in classrooms, many educators are surprised by the following factoids:

—The first known South Asian immigrant entered the United States in 1790 as a maritime worker in Massachusetts. In 1851, six Indians marched in the Salem Fourth of July parade under the banner of the "East India Marine Society." [link]
—At least 50 South Asians enlisted and served in the US armed forces at the height of the United States Civil War. [link]
—In the early decades of the 20th century, groups such as the Asian Exclusion League campaigned against South Asian American farm workers who were originally brought from Punjab to the United States by the British to work the Canadian-Pacific railroads. These workers were perceived as an economic threat to native farmers. Laws were passed in California to strip South Asian Americans of their land; in response, many South Asian American men married Mexican American women, which for a time exempted them from these laws. [link][link][link]

Continue reading "Romina's Rangoli" »

Recommendations from Under the Radar, Wednesday 8/29

Looking for a good book? Be sure to see these reviews and discussions coming in from Under the Radar, a blog festival of good reading.

The Tide Knot, by Helen Dunmore, at Big A, little a...Jane Mendelsohn's Innocence (part 1 of a discussion), at Bildungsroman...The President's Daughter series, by Ellen Emerson White, at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy...Innocence (part 2 of a discussion), at Chasing Ray...The House on Hound Hill, by Maggie Prince, at Finding Wonderland...Frances Donnelly's Shake Down the Stars, at Interactive Reader...Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Green Sky trilogy, at Jen Robinson's Book Page... Innocence (part 3 of a discussion), at lecititans...The Reb and the Redcoats and Enemy Brothers, both by Constance Savery, at Miss Erin...The Dreamhunter duet, by Elizabeth Knox, at Shaken & Stirred...Carole Boston Weatherford's Dear Mr. Rosenwald, at Writing and Ruminating

Here at Chicken Spaghetti, don't miss Pooja Makhijani, guest blogging about the picture book Romina's Rangoli.

The Natural History of Uncas Metcalfe

Imagedbcgi The Natural History of Uncas Metcalfe
by Betsey Osborne
St. Martin's Press, 2006; St. Martin's Griffin edition (paperback), 2007
ISBN:-13: 978-0-312-34278-4
(for adult readers)

Two things up front.

1.  While Betsey Osborne is a friend of mine and a colleague from the days when I worked in an office full of cut-ups, she certainly didn't ask me to review her novel here or elsewhere.

2. I love this book, and I'm sorry that it ended because now I don't have it to read any more.

Uncas Metcalfe is a 65-year-old professor of botany in upstate New York, and for a person who does not like change, it's everywhere he looks. His emotional, "exhausting" (and very funny) adult daughter has returned to town, accompanied by her growing family, and then Margaret, his wife of many years, breaks her leg in a freak accident, which leads to a longer than expected convalescence.

Uncas's hometown, which he left only briefly before returning, is on the wane, as well. "The physical upheaval and near abandonment of the heart of Sparta over the last forty years were in sharp contrast to the occasional hiccup in his own life, which was absorbed with little fuss by the resilient stasis he had achieved."

Margaret's absence from much of Uncas's daily life leaves Uncas unmoored. Two young women, whom he knows from town, step in to help out at home, and become part of the novel's rich cast of characters. Some of my favorite scenes, though, involve the private and witty repartee of Uncas and Margaret; through these scenes, the reader glimpses what could be on the verge of being lost. A melancholic air that reminds me of Kazuo Ishiguro's Remains of the Day and an unexpected encounter combine for an emotionally resonant ending. If reserve extracts a price, surely Uncas pays it.

I have included the assured, beautifully written Natural History of Uncas Metcalfe in the "Under the Radar" tour because I am surprised that the New York papers missed it the first time around. There's still time, though; the paperback just came out in May.

Recommendations from Under the Radar, Tuesday 8/28

Radar_2 Today's highlighted authors and books in the "Under the Radar" series are as follows:

Helen Dunmore's Ingo, at Big A, little a

The Girl in the Box, Ouida Sebestyen, at Bildungsroman

Ellen Potter's Olivia Kidney series, at Bookshelves of Doom

Ellen Emerson White, at A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy

The stories of Christopher Barzak, at Chasing Ray

A Door Near Here, by Heather Quarles, at Finding Wonderland

The Winged Girl of Knossos, by Erick Berry, at A Fuse #8 Production: Part 1 and Part 2

The Velvet Room and The Changeling, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, at Jen Robinson's Book Page 

Two biographies by Elisabeth Kyle, at Miss Erin

Jazz ABZ, by Wynton Marsalis, at Writing and Ruminating

Massive, by Julia Bell, at The Ya Ya Yas

The Natural History of Uncas Metcalfe, by Betsey Osborne, here at Chicken Spaghetti