Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Various and Sundry

Hello out there!  It’s been a while.

For those of us with children, especially school-aged children, May is always crazy.  Between homework and piano recitals and t-ball games and music programs and awards ceremonies and girl scout bridging and grandparent visits and organizing the teacher gift and harvesting tomatoes  and packing for vacation and pool season beginning here in south Texas and so on and so forth…it is almost impossible to come up for air.  Thus, the blog has been neglected.  I’ve been missing it, actually, but really can’t say what the summer will bring in terms of fulfilling my goal of a once-per-week post, since I’ll be on full-time mom duty again. (The summer holidays – looking forward to them with equal parts excitement and dread). 

However, I have been reading some GREAT STUFF.  Today, let’s talk books for the wee ones.  The Who Was series is amazing. 

Eloise and Owen (ages seven and almost six, respectively) each received three of these in their Easter baskets this year and devoured them in a matter of hours.  They are an excellent introduction to biographical chapter books, and are wonderfully cross-cultural as well.  (Yes, so the cover art is a bit creepy with the gigantor-head.  Avert your eyes!)  I bought them in an attempt to expand the kids’ interests in various genres (since I tend to lean heavy on the fiction when left to my own devices), and I’m happy to say that both of them loved the series. 

Another book that has been sitting next to my computer for weeks now is this one.

Again, another fantastic introduction to biography (coincidentally, the author is a contributor to the Who Was series, but this one is color-illustrated and therefore perhaps for the slightly younger child).  I read this one to Eloise and Owen and was particularly impressed by the amount of discussion it triggered.  In other words, plan on this relatively short tome taking upwards of an hour in aloud-reading time, because you’ll need Google to answer all the questions it sparks.  Discussion topics covered were as varied as feminism and the women’s rights movement, slavery and abolition, existentialism (try explaining that in twenty words or less to a couple of kids who don’t even tie their own shoes), vegetarianism, vaccination, the Civil War (also a tricky explanation for the little dudes, seeing as how we’re Southern), and mercury poisoning.  Keep your smartphone handy.

But here’s what I’m super excited about today, which we found at the library just this morning.  Have you read Alexander McCall Smith?  He of Precious Ramotswe and The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency?  Well, if you haven’t, get on it posthaste and tout de suite. 

All of his books are wonderful wonderful wonderful:  Lovely, good people doing honorable, just things.  They will restore your faith in humanity.  Plus, I believe that McCall Smith is one of the absolute best modern writers at “turning a phrase,” if you will.  The way he puts words on paper is so clever, so precise, and so utterly charming and funny – he is extremely talented, and his novels simply a pleasure.  (An aside:  The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series was made into a HBO show for one season.  It was delightful, but unfortunately cancelled.)  Anyway, now he is writing children’s literature and I am beside myself. 

It’s Precious Ramotswe, as a child!  SOLVING MYSTERIES, people.  (Mysteries involving cake, it appears.  Even better.)  Love.

In other news, I’ve been watching Downton Abbey.

I’ve discussed my detrimental television habits in the past here, so by the words “I’ve been watching” you understand that I mean “I’m completely OBSESSED with, and not in a psychologically healthy way.”  (Why do they need dinner, AGAIN?  Can’t Eloise just put some waffles in the toaster?  God, can’t they see that we’re in the throes of the 1918 Spanish Flu, here?)  I also realize that I’m possibly the last person on earth to board this particular bandwagon.  I KNOW.  Next I’m going to really step into the vanguard by, I don’t know, getting a cellular phone, or something.  There is no stopping me.


  1. Yes! We read the Louisa book, too, and had all kinds of discussions sparked from it. Very interesting. I'm going to look into McCall Smith. Thanks!!

    1. Cool! I think you'll love McCall Smith...he has another series set in Edinburgh that I also adore - Isabel Dalhousie is the main character, and she is fabulous as well.

  2. My reading list gets longer every time I come here! I'm planning to read *The Weird Sisters* this summer and now I want to read *The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency* too! Not to mention, I'm glad to know about the *Who Was?* series. Katherine's been really into nonfiction lately and I think it will be fun to spend some time on biographies this summer. Thanks!

    1. Love to hear that! I'd recommend McCall Smith as a first priority there, he is WONDERFUL! Let me know what you think!

  3. I have been wanting to comment on this since the day you posted it! I was reading it right when Moses walked in from school with that terrible case of strep. I LOVE this post. It was a little bit of everything you. All the reasons I love you. Great job.

    1. Thanks, friend! And I know you can relate to my last point, since you're EXACTLY THE SAME about television. EXACTLY. Our children are lucky neither of us has cable.