Wednesday, 30 March 2011

BOOK REVIEWS ~ "Listen Up! Alexander Graham Bell's Talking Machine"

"Listen Up!  Alexander Graham Bell's Talking Machine" is another title in the "Step-into-Reading" series, at the "STEP 3" level.  This series features several titles of a historical nature (like "Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman" discussed in another recent post).  Both of these two particular books were written by Monica Kulling.

These easy-to-read and understand books are an excellent way to introduce children to people and topics they are unfamiliar with. 

Alexander Graham Bell
1847 - 1922
The story begins in Scotland, back in 1857.  Alexander Graham Bell is a young boy and he wants to show his brothers a trick.  He strokes the dog's throat and makes it sound like the animal is talking!  The reader is told "Alec's father had taught him all about sound. 'Sound moves through the air in waves,' said Papa.  'When the waves hit your ear, you hear the sound" (Pages 6 and 7).

Apparently the young boy was intrigued with the concept of sound.  For instance, he sat underneath the piano and sang out loud.  He was delighted that his voice made the piano wires shake!

The setting of the book suddenly shifts to Boston and the year 1874.  The reader learns that "when Alec grew up, he still loved sound.  He also loved inventing.  Alec knew that sound shook a wire.  Could it also cross over a wire?  If Alec could invent a talking machine, then people could talk to each other -- long-distance!"(Pages 10 and 11)

Apparently Bell knew "how he wanted the talking machine to be.  But he did not know how to build it" (Page 12).  Thankfully, Alexander Graham Bell "hired a young man named Tom Watson.  Tom could build anything.  He built the two parts of the talking machine" (Page 13).

An early model of telephone
There are two colourful drawings of the parts of the "talking machine" ~ "The sending part of the talking machine had a mouthpiece that looked like a cone.  The receiving part was in another room.  The two parts were joined by a wire.  The wire was connected to a battery" (Pages 14 and 15).  "When Alec spoke into the cone, the battery sent out waves of electricity" (Page 16).

Alec and Tom worked long and hard but the invention did not work.  "Every time Alec spoke into the cone, Tom heard nothing.  Then one day they tried something new.  This time when Alec spoke, Tom came running.  'Did you hear what I said?' asked Alec, excited.  'No,' said Tom.  'But I did hear the rise and fall of your voice!'  (Pages 17 and 18).

"One day, by accident Alec spilled acid on his pants. He called into the cone, 'Watson, come here! I want to see you!' Watson came running. 'It works! It works!' he shouted. 'I heard every word!' (Pages 20 and 21).

Having been born after the invention of the telephone, and taking it for granted ~ it is hard to imagine what a fantastic discovery this was for Alexander Graham Bell and Tom Watson.

With a flip of a page, the book's setting changes once more.  This time the reader is in Philadelphia at the World's Fair that was held in 1876.  The United States was celebrating it's centennial and Alexander Graham Bell was exhibiting his marvelous invention to those attending the Fair.  

"Excitement was in the air.  The whole world had come to visit the fair!  Alec didn't know what to do first.  He might visit the Egyptian mummy.  Or stroll through the sweet smelling Japanese garden.  Or listen to the musical clocks.  It was a world of wonders.  A giant steam engine powered lights and elevators at the fair.  People were filled with awe to see it working.  A pickle salesman named Henry Heinz had made a new tomato sauce.  He called it ketchup.  Soon restaurants all over America would have bottles of ketchup on their tables.  Charles Hires had made a drink from roots.  He called it root beer.  It was a hot summer day.  Alec bought a bottle.  There were many interesting inventions at the fair.  The typewriter.  The sewing machine.  The calculator" (Pages 24- 31).

The children and I especially enjoyed this section of the book.  Alisdair and Isobel could both relate to things like ketchup and root beer, as well as to each of the inventions that the author mentions.  Again, it is hard for us to imagine life without these kinds of foods and modern conveniences. 

Unfortunately for Alexander Graham Bell, his assigned exhibit space, at the World's Fair, was on the second floor in a far corner.  "It was too hot.  No one wanted to climb the stairs.  Alec was worried.  What if no one saw his invention?" (Pages 32 and 33).

Thankfully, Dom Pedro, the Emperor of Brazil, saw the newly invented "talking machine" and asked about it.  " 'Let me show you,' said Alec.  Dom Pedro held the hearing piece to his ear.  On the other side of the building, Alec spoke into the cone.  'To be or not to be . . . ' The room was noisy.  But Dom Pedro heard Alec's voice, loud and clear.  Dom Pedro dropped the hearing piece.  'It talks!' he shouted.  People wanted to know wny Dom Pedro was so excited.  The judges lined up to try the machine.  They couldn't believe that you could talk to someone across a crowded room without shouting.  They were convinced.  Alex's talking machine was a marvel!"  (Pages 34-39).

Amazingly, a silent movie of Dom Pedro and Alexander Graham Bell seems to exist! (I'm not sure if this is actual footage of the event or a reenactment for the 50th anniversary of the incident, as the video is dated 1926.)  You can view it at the website "Critical Past."  Dom Pedro II (1825-1891) was the second and last Emperor of Brazil. 

The word "telephone" means "far talking."  After Alexander Graham Bell's successful exhibit at the World's Fair, telephones were soon being manufactured all over the world.  There were a few that hesitated to use the new invention.  "People were afraid of the telephone.  It might spread disease!  Everyone would know their business!  Life would never be the same!  But in time, people grew to love the telephone.  You could talk to a friend far away.  Or phone the doctor if you were sick.  Or buy groceries without leaving your house!" (Pages 42-45).

Kulling tells her readers that "Alec and Watson loved to show people their invention.  Brrriiing! 'Hoy!  Hoy!' shouted Alec into the receiver.The audience watched while Alec spoke to Watson in a city over twenty miles away.  Alexander Graham Bell was famous for that first phone call at the World's Fair.  People often told him, 'The telephone will change the world.'  They were right." (Pages 46- 48).

The book concludes with this actual photograph of Alexander Graham Bell using his talking machine in 1892.

Bell demonstrates the talking machine ~ 1892

The final paragraph of the book is an "Author's Note" with a slight clarification.  It states:  "The stories in this book are true.  We can't be sure exactly how they all happened, but we've tried our best to show the way things might have been"  (Page 48).

We shall look forward to reading and learning about history from some of the other titles in this series. I've ordered a couple more ~ one about Annie Oakley and another about Abe Lincoln.  I've found these books especially beneficial because I can read them at bedtime to both Alisdair and Isobel as they span the large age range.  

SAFETY FIRST ~ "Sask. Safety Council Babysitting Course"

The local Lakeland Library Branch is much more than just a place to borrow books!  Our Neilburg Library is holding a "Babysitting Course" next month that is sanctioned through the "Saskatchewan Safety Council."  For more information about this organization, check out their website.

The course will be held, locally, in five, 2-hour sessions (April 5-7 and again on April 12 and 14th).

"This newly updated course is designed to prepare students for the demands of babysitting in the new millennium. It is strongly recommended that students be at least 12 years old before they take this course.   Session topics include babysitting basics, child care, safety smarts, playtime, first aid, and handling various emergencies such as fires."

Alisdair asked to take the course.  Since you can never have too much knowledge ~ and the $10.00 charge was negligible, I said, "Sure."  He ran down to the library yesterday afternoon, when it was open, and signed himself up.

I'm sure he will find the course interesting and very beneficial, even if he doesn't intend to immediately begin to look after other people's children!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

VIDEOS ~ Paul Robeson ~ Song #2 ~ "Loch Lomond"

How could anyone with a Scottish heritage resist Paul Robeson's version of "Loch Lomond?"  He certainly had a bonny bass voice!

VIDEOS ~ Paul Robeson ~ Song #1 ~ "Old Man River" from "Showboat" ~ 1936

Here is Paul Robeson's rendition of "Old Man River" from "Showboat."  It was filmed in 1936.  

Ol' Man River (Jerome Kern - Oscar Hammerstein II)
Lyrics from the Original Libretto

Dare's an ol' man cal'd de Mississipi
Dat's de ol' man dat I'd lek to be
Whot does he care
iv de world gets trauble
Whot does he care iv de land lev's free.

Ol' man river,
Dat ol' man river
He mus'know sumpin'
But don't say nuthin',
He jes'keeps rollin'
He keeps on rollin' along.

He don' plant taters,
He don't plant cotton,
An' dem dat plants'em
is soon forgotten,
But ol'man river,
He jes keeps rollin'along.

You an'me, we sweat an' strain,
Body all achin' an' racket wid pain,
Tote dat barge!
Lif' dat bale!
You gits a little drunk
An' you lands in jail.

Ah gits weary
An' sick of tryin'
Ah'm tired of livin'
An' skeered of dyin',
But ol' man river,
He jes'keeps rolling' along.

[Colored folks work on de Mississippi,
Colored folks work while de white folks play,
Pullin' dose boats from de dawn to sunset,
Gittin' no rest till de judgement day.

Don't look up
An' don't look down,
You don' dast make
De white boss frown.
Bend your knees
An'bow your head,
An' pull date rope
Until you' dead.)

Let me go 'way from the Mississippi,
Let me go 'way from de white man boss;
Show me dat stream called de river Jordan,
Dat's de ol' stream dat I long to cross.

O' man river,
Dat ol' man river,
He mus'know sumpin'
But don't say nuthin'
He jes' keeps rollin'
He keeps on rollin' along.

(Long ol' river forever keeps rollin' on...)

He don' plant tater,
He don' plant cotton,
An' dem dat plants 'em
Is soon forgotten,
but ol' man river,
He jes' keeps rollin' along.

(Long ol' river keeps hearing dat song).

You an' me, we sweat an' strain,
Body all achin an' racked wid pain.
Tote dat barge!
Lif' dat bale!
Git a little drunk
An' you land in jail.

Ah, gits weary
An' sick of tryin'
Ah'm tired of livin'
An' skeered of dyin',
But ol' man river,
He jes' keeps rollin' along!

VIDEOS ~ "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around" ~ Sweet Honey In The Rock

This song was featured in the book "Coretta Scott" by Ntozake Shange.  Since I'd never heard this "Civil Rights Anthem," I thought I would look it up and share it as a companion post to the book review, which was posted earlier today, in case others were also unfamiliar with it.

BOOK REVIEWS ~ "Coretta Scott" ~ By: Ntozake Shange

During our studies of the "Civil Rights Movement" we came upon the picture book, "Coretta Scott," which is a collaborative effort between the poet, Ntozake Shange and the artist, Kadir Nelson.  It was printed in 2009 by Harper Collins Publishers.

Although it is a thin book, each two-page spread gives a powerful punch.  The first two pages set the mood with the moon rising above the silhouetted trees.  On the next set of drawings we find out that "Coretta and her siblings walked all of the five miles to the nearest colored school in the darkness with the dew dampening their feet." As Coretta walks, with her family, a "white school bus left a funnel of dust on their faces but songs and birds of all colours and rich soil where slaves sought freedom steadied them in the face of danger."

She grows into the beautiful young lady (seen on the cover) and "over years learning and freedom took hold of Coretta's soul til she knew in her being that the Good Lord intended freedom for the Negro."

Then Coretta meets "Martin Luther King Jr. a young preacher" who "prayed for freedom.  Coretta prayed. Two minds attracted in prayer, yes... they could do something among the many who thought moral power would overturn Jim Crow.  They prayed together, found joy and were married."

The next double page spread is my favourite of the book.  Martin Luther King, Jr. is preaching in the pulpit and Coretta is sitting on a chair on the stage, while parishioners look on and the choir waits to sing.

Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama
Shange tells the reader, "according to Gandhi, the humility of millions could free more than just one people.  It could free the world ... and the world for Coretta and Martin was the south and they went to Montgomery to their new parish."

The next set of pages shows an empty bus and people of all ages walking in the rain.  The text says, "... and the Montgomery bus boycott ... just the beginning of a long journey."

Four unhappy, despondent Black men adorn the next set of pages.  It talks of "more boycotts and sit-ins for many many Negro students [who] felt bound to do something.  There were hundreds and thousands left behind.  Negros in shacks and cotton fields, living in fear for their lives while they dreamed about the north."

And then we learn about the various marches ~ "hundreds then thousands, white and black, marched in Alabama, Carolina, Georgia and Chicago."

The next spread was Alisdair's favourite.  It brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye as I read of "a quarter of a million at the March on Washington, peacefully singing 'we shall overcome' and listening to the words that would inspire a nation."

On August 28, 1963 ~ 250,000 people ~ both Black and White
gathered at the site of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C.
Then there is a painting of a harvest moon, over the trees, with the words, "Things nature never intended a child to see, haunted them, tragedy accompanies growth, no matter who we are, and the Negroes are no different."

Black silhouettes, of a wide variety of people, march across the next two pages.  They carry a banner and two American flags, with the caption:  "But fervor for the coming vote and equality pushed Coretta to a peace and wonderment of the Lord, 'ain't gonna let nobody turn me round, turn me round.' "

As the reader turns the page, the people are now in colour, and we have close-ups of their faces.  The song continues:  "ain't gonna let nobody turn me round, gonna keep on a-walkin', keep on a-talkin,' walkin' up to freedom land."

The next-to-last page shows Coretta and Martin, voices raised in song, with the words, "singin' always singin."

The final page provides a brief summary of some of the biographical details about Coretta Scott King's life.  These include five short sentences about the assassination of her husband on April 4, 1968.  It also speaks of her own passing on January 30, 2006.  As Ntozake Shage says, Coretta Scott King's "courage and vision are an inspiration to us all." 

While this book doesn't provide great in-depth details about Coretta Scott King, it is well worth reading for the "monumental artwork" of Kadir Nelson and the depth of sentiment in Shange's poetry.  It's obvious Mrs. King was a woman of character, and worthy of admiration.

SKETCH TUESDAY ~ "Something With Claws!"

Santa Claus???
I knew Alisdair had a sense of humour, but this character trait is very evident in his contribution for this week's "Sketch Tuesday" assignment!

Participants were asked to "draw something with claws."  As you can see from the slideshow most of the children drew bears, lions, cats, dogs and birds.  But Alisdair had to be funny and play on the "pun" in the words "Claus" and "claws," and so he drew the Jolly Old Elf, himself.  What does it matter that it is March?  St. Nicholas is obviously a "man for all seasons!"

Next Tuesday's assignment is to draw "something that it is an ingredient in a fruit salad."  Join the fun, if you want, and send your sketch to "Harmony Art Mom," at, before 9 p.m. PST Monday, April 4th.  All contributions are welcomed!

GERMAN ~ Language Lessons Wrap-Up Early

Alisdair and Eva
They say "all good things must come to an end" ~ and that seems to be the case with Alisdair's German lessons.

Early on this homeschooling journey, a lady from the community agreed to give Alisdair German lessons.  Eva is German born but has lived in Canada for many years.  She has homeschooled her own four children and had many interesting ideas for teaching the German language.  One day they made fruit salad so Alisdair could learn the names of the various fruits.  Another day they made a beaded bracelet and he learned the words for each colour of bead.  Alisdair learned how to count to ten and the words for many everyday objects ~ like a refrigerator, a bicycle, and even a cement mixer!

Recently Eva and her daughter had gone back to "the Old Country" so lessons had been on, what we thought, was a brief hiatus.  Unfortunately, upon her return, Eva decided she was too busy to continue with the weekly encounters.  Alisdair was very disappointed to get the news that this past week's lesson would be his last.  Of course we could purchase a curriculum package so he could continue learning on his own ~ or even find another tutor, but, at this point, the next "piece of the puzzle" has not yet been found.

For his last week, on Monday afternoon, Eva reviewed what they had learned with Alisdair.  Then, on Tuesday, March 22nd,  he and I went to visit Eva and her daughter, Rosemarie.  They had organized a short program so that I could see firsthand Alisdair's progress with the German language.

The Program
Alisdair and Eva began by singing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes," in German, complete with the appropriate actions.  In an attempt to add more German words, they included a line at the end that said, "My     ???     hurts so much."  The blank was filled in with the words "belly," "butt," "leg" and "foot" - changing the body part on every verse.

Then they had a German conversation "at the door" that went like this:

Eva: Hello, Alisdair.
Alisdair:  Hello, Eva.
Eva:  How are you?
Alisdair:  Thank you, I'm fine.  How are you?
Eva:  I'm fine, too.
Alisdair:  Would you like to play?
Eva:  Yes, gladly.  Come on in.
Alisdair:  Thank you.

The third item on the short program was when Alisdair held up two sheets of paper with small sketches of various items.  They were indentified with the English word beneath each drawing.  Alisdair pointed to each one and told me the German name for them.

Then, Alisdair got up and began obeying Eva's instructions, given completely in German.  "Get the table cloth and put it on the table."  Or "bring four plates," "the milk" or the "hot chocolate."  Once the table was set, it was time for a bit of visiting and some refreshments.

It was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, and I was amazed at the amount of German Alisdair had actually learned.  We'll have to try to keep him fluent with these language skills as they have provided him a great foundation upon which to build, in the future.

The English Translations of Alisdair and Eva's 
German song and conversation 
Thank you, Eva, for your hard work teaching Alisdair the German language.  He really enjoyed it!

Monday, 28 March 2011

SPEECH ARTS ~ 84% ~ For "Life As A Paper Boy" Speech

Certificate of First Time Performance ~ Speech Arts
It was nerve wracking, but Alisdair made it!  He stumbled a little, at first, but managed to deliver the whole speech "Life As A Paper Boy."  He was the last person on the afternoon program and the only competitor in the Class (there was supposed to be another speech, but the presenter was a 'no-show.')

He had an agonizingly long wait - through eight folk songs/folk ballads delivered by singers 16 years and under.  Then there were six poems, a girl participating in story telling, and another individual who gave a dramatic rendition of a monologue from "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown."  At last it was Alisdair's turn.

He took a copy of Saturday's Saskatoon Star Phoenix up with him.  The bold black headline read "HARPER GOVERNMENT FALLS" and underneath the sub-head was "PM expected to see Governor General today; election in May."

The adjudicator was Phyllis Thomson.  She gave him 84%, which is equivalent to an A- and is defined as a performance with "Definite Merit."

Certificate of Honor
Public Speaking ~ 14 Years of Age and Under
Her remarks were:

"Once you got into the 'stream' you enjoyed yourself more fully.  "cul de sac"  This is a good beginning in public speaking.  Perhaps use the music stand to hold your notes so that you can maintain eye contact as much as possible [we didn't know he was allowed to do so, or he would have!]  Once you know your speech a little more fully, then you will be able to space your words even more completely.  This was a long item to remember and you accomplished well.  Thank you, Alisdair."

It was, in itself, beneficial for Alisdair and I to have the opportunity to watch others perform before competing in the Sacred Reading and Poetry classes.  Now, at least, we know the proper procedures ~ like waiting for the secretary to read out each Class number and the competitor's names, ~ or how they adjudicate items a page at a time.  We'll both be doing a lot of polishing between now and Friday... we need to be at the venue at 9 a.m. so that means leaving home either the night before or about 7 a.m!  The things we do for the love of the arts....!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

SPEECH ARTS ~ "Life As A Paperboy" ~ Alisdair's Festival Speech

This is the text of the speech Alisdair plans to give at the Battlefords Kiwanis Music Festival tomorrow afternoon. 


    I had just read the advertisement on the lamp post it was for the Star Phoenix paper route.
      “Mum, can I please have the paper route?” I begged. So she called the number that was on the poster for more information.

      Then after pestering Mum a lot, she called the number once again to make arrangements for me to go around with the old paper boy.

      I helped him for several days until he thought I would be okay on my own.  My first official day as a paper boy was October 19th, 2010.  I signed a 3-month contract and gave my bank account information to the lady in charge of the carriers.

      My favourite day (other than my birthday or Christmas) is now the 10th of every month because it is PAY DAY! I run outside to go see my statement that tells me how much I earned. I only earn 17 cents per paper/per day – so it adds up slowly. 

      At first I was excited to do my deliveries each day.  But then the weather got nasty – it was snowy and cold.

      “Why did I ever want this job?” I asked my Mum, as we drove around doing deliveries.  “I want to quit.”

      She told me I had to keep delivering as my three months weren’t up yet.

      I had some encouragement at Christmas time when many of my subscribers gave me cards, gifts and tips.  I especially liked the Quality Street chocolates (they are my favourite!) One lady even gave me a bowl full of homemade baking.  Yum!

      My strangest experience was when we went to deliver papers on a cul-de-sac where I have three subscribers.  My Mum had trouble driving because a big green house was in the middle of the street.  Workmen were putting it on a foundation.  It was blocking my way to one of the houses.  I had to walk around the green house and in behind it to get to the shiny gold mailbox where I put the local school Principal’s paper!

      Another odd experience was when a lady asked us to hold her paper for several weeks, as she was going to British Columbia.  We left all the papers in the Rubbermaid tub that the delivery man uses each day when he drops the papers off on my doorstep.  Somehow, the lid didn’t get properly shut one day and some snow got inside.  Some of the papers we were holding got wet.  The only solution we could think of was to use a hairdryer to heat the papers up and dry them out.  Thankfully she didn’t seem to mind as she didn’t complain to us about the incident.

      Two of my subscribers have mischievous dogs.  One lady often chains the dog outside, near the steps where I have to walk.  Sometimes the dog starts barking very loudly at me.  Once the dog stood on the step barking and barking and I was scared if I went any farther, he would bite me.  After quite a few minutes, and a lot of barking, the owner finally came outside and sent the dog inside and apologized to me for the trouble he had caused.  I’ve also ripped my coat on some nails sticking out of the trim on the door frame of this same house!

      Another problem is when people do not empty their mailboxes.  Sometimes they get so full of papers, which I have to put the new issue underneath the box or in-between the doors.  One lady’s screen door broke and I now have to open her door and throw the paper inside on the floor of her porch.

      I also am concerned about ice as some people have very slippery walks and driveways.

      My list of subscribers changes sometimes.  I have had two people die and two more went to the United States of America for the winter.  I hope they renew their subscriptions when they come back home.  I have also had some new people subscribe because the Star Phoenix does telemarketing to try to get more people to buy the paper by offering a big discount for a four months.

I also have a delivery deadline that I should meet.  The papers have to be delivered by 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday and by noon on Saturdays.  Sometimes we have to rush because we want to go somewhere or are doing something else.  I am lucky because, if I lived in Saskatoon, they would want me to get my work done by 7:30 a.m.

Even though it isn’t always pleasant to deliver the paper to my subscribers, I realize I am providing a valuable service to my customers.  When I deliver a paper with headlines about things like the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, or the pending Canadian election and the unstable political situation at the moment, I know these are important for people to know about.

I’m glad I am a paper boy!

Friday, 25 March 2011

VIDEOS ~ "Go Down Moses" ~ "The Harlem Gospel Singers"

In one of the library books that we've read recently, it talked about slaves singing, "Go Down Moses."  I wasn't familiar with the song and so decided to look it up.  We found a rousing version of this Spiritual, sung by the "Harlem Gospel Singers," and felt it was worth sharing:

BOOK REVIEWS ~ "Paul Robeson" ~ By: Eloise Greenfield

A Crowell Biography
Like "Ray Charles," (see previous book review post), the book titled "Paul Robeson" is another "Crowell Biography."  It was written by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by George Ford, and published in 1975.

Until I read this book with Alisdair I was unfamilar with the life and work of Paul Robeson.  And then we "googled" him and both of us were amazed at his extraordinary voice.  We listened to Black Spirituals and even a rendition of "Loch Lomond."  He definitely had talent!  I'm glad Greenfield's book introduced us to this entertainer.

Paul Leroy Robeson

PAUL LEROY ROBESON was born on April 9, 1898, in the church parsonage in Princeton, New Jersey.  His father, William D. Robeson was the pastor of Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church. Pastor Robeson had once been a slave on a plantation in North Carolina.  At the age of 15, he ran away, escaping to the North, where he went to school.  He married Maria Louisa Bustill after he graduated from college.  Paul was the youngest child in the family, with three older brothers and an older sister.  Greenfield tells us Rev. Robeson was 53-years old, when Paul was born.  She also notes that "Mrs. Robeson was sickly and almost blind.  Even with her thick glasses, she still could not see very well."  But despite all this, the family were delighted with their new arrival.

Paul Robeson encountered discrimination early on.  He was "still a baby when his father lost his position at the church because of an argument among the members."  He found a new way to provide for his family -- by buying a horse, named Bess, and a wagon and hauling away the ashes created by coal furnaces in the Town of  Princeton.

"Sometimes Reverend Robeson or Paul's brother, Reeve, hitched Bess to a large carriage and drove passengers where they wanted to go.  Some of the passengers were students from Princeton University.  More than once, Reeve fought these students for making insulting remarks about black people" (Page 3).  "Reeve taught Paul that he should always stand up for his rights" (Page 4).

"When Paul was six years old, a tragic accident upset the family's happiness.  One day when his mother was cleaning the house, she bumped into the coal stove that kept the house warm.  A hot coal fell on her long dress, setting it on fire, and she was burned to death" (Page 5).  Young Paul missed his Mother very deeply but he grew very close to his Father, as a consequence of this loss.  "His Father taught him to recite and helped him study his homework. . . . He had learned from his Father the importance of always doing his best.  He learned many other things by watching and listening to his father.  He learned to love words -- written words and spoken words.  He learned to be proud of being black.  He learned that people should do the things they really believe in" (Pages 6 and 7).

Eventually his Father became the pastor again.  "Paul was proud when he sat in church and listened to his father's sermons.  He could see that the words meant a lot ot the members of the church.  They liked what Reverend Robeson was saying and they liked the rhythm of his deep bass voice.  Paul sang in the church choir.  He loved music, especially the black music called Spirituals.  Spirituals are religious songs.  They are a mixture of the music that slaves had known in Africa and the music and words they added to it after they were kidnapped to America" (Page 7).

"Paul sang the solos in the glee club.  He liked to sing, and he sang well.  But he didn't think he would want to make his living as a singer when he grew up.  He knew he didn't want to be an actor.  One year his school gave a performance of Othello, a play written almost four hundred years ago by William Shakespeare.  Paul played the part of an African general.  It was the main part, and he was so nervous that he promised himself he would never try acting again.  Years later, Paul would be famous all over the world for his great acting in Othello and other plays, and for his singing.  But he did not know that then" (Pages 8 and 9).

Robeson graduated from high school and won a 4-year scholarship to Rutgers College.  "At Rutgers there was only one other black student.  There had not been many black students at the high school either, and Paul had had problems with some of the white students and teachers.  But worse things happened at Rutgers.  Paul was not allowed to sing in the glee club because there were parties after the musical programs that no black person could attend.  He tried out for football, but the other players did not want a black student on the team.  On the first day that the coach sent them out on the field to practice, one player smashed Paul in the face with his fist.  Paul fell down and the other players jumped on him and punched him with their fists and knees and elbows.  Paul went home with a broken nose.  His shoulder had been knocked out of place, and he had scratches and bruises all over his body.  He stayed in bed ten days.  He was hurting and he was thinking.  He was thinking about whether or not he wanted to try out for the team again.  He hated being hurt.  But he didn't want to be a quitter.  Also, he knew that if he made the team, he would give hope to other young black athletes" (Pages 11 and 12).

"Paul went back to practice determined to make it.  He knew that he was big and strong and that he had been the star player on his high school team.  If the other boys played fair, he could show the coach what he could do.  On the first play, Paul made a tackle, pulling the boy carrying the ball down with him.  Another player ran over, lifted his foot, and stamped on Paul's hand.  The cleats on the bottom of his football shoes dragged all the fingernails off Paul's fingers.  Paul was mad.  The pain and unfairness made him madder than he had ever been.  He picked up one of the players and lifted him up over his head.  Just as he started to slam the boy to the ground, the coach ran up to him.  'Paul, you're on the team!' he yelled.  'I'm picking you for the team!'  Paul put the boy down."

Illustration by George Ford
Page 13
"The Rutgers team was lucky tohave Paul. He became its hero. Newspapers wrote about Paul Robeson, the tall black athlete. They told how he stopped the players trying to run past him with the ball.  They told how he reached up with his long arms to snatch the ball out of the air and take it for a touchdown.  They told how he hurled his body against anybody who tried to stop a Rutgers teammate.  Crowds came to see 'Big Robey,' and almost always in the crowd was Reverend Robeson, proudly watching his son"  (Pages 12 and 14).

Robeson was twice named  "All-American End"
Paul decided to be a lawyer.  Near the end of his third year of his studies, Rev. Robeson died.  "His father would not be in the audience when he graduated.  Graduation day came in 1919 when Paul was twenty-one years old.  He had won many honors in college. . . . He won awards in four sports.  Twice, he had been named All-American End.  This meant that Paul was one of the best college athletes in the United States.  As the student with the best grades in the whole graduating class, Paul was chosen to make the farewell speech.  From the stage, he said good-bye to Rutgers for himself and his classmates" (Pages 15 and 17).

Robeson moved to New York and attended the "Columbia University Law School.  Weekends he played professional football to earn money.  Most of his free time was spent in Harlem, where he lived. . . . Paul saw plays at the Lafayette Theater.  He visited friends and went to parties.  At the parties people loved to hear him sing.  A friend would play the piano and Paul would sing Spirituals.  He sang about slaves being a long way from home and about slave children riding the train to freedom.  The room would grow very quiet as people listened to the sound of Paul's deep, throbbing voice" (Page 17).

"When the Harlem Young Women's Christian Association decided to give  a play, Paul's friends asked him to take a part in it.  Paul played the main part, but this time he wasn't as nervous as he had been in high school.  Many people told him that he was a good actor.  But he did not take it seriously.  He wanted to be a lawyer" (Page 18).

While studying at Columbia University he met Eslanda Goode, who was studying science at the school, and was nicknamed "Essie."  They "fell in love, and one summer day they were married" (Page 18).

The next summer, Paul was asked to act in a play put on by an English theater company.  The couple went and, while overseas, met Lawrence Brown, who became a good friend. Brown ended up accompanying Robeson on the piano and he put many of the Spirituals into musical notation.  The Robesons returned to New York and Paul worked, for a brief period, for a white law firm. When he soon found himself unemployed, Paul was asked to be in some plays.  He began to be paid for his talent and he appeared on the stage more and more.  Greenfield tell us that "in some of the plays, he both acted and sang" (Page 21). Then Lawrence Brown came to New York and he and Paul gave a concert featuring all Black music.  This was "a new idea.  Many people wanted to hear.  They filled all the seats at the theater, and some people even stood up" (Page 21).  At the end of the concert, the audience cheered and yelled for more.  They did not want the concert to end" (Page 23).  Robeson and Brown became a famous team.  They traveled all over the United States and to other countries, including Africa, France, the West Indies, Russia, and England.  Paul also made records and appeared in plays and movies on the radio. 

"Paul Robeson liked meeting and talking with the people of different countries.  He learned their languages and sang their songs.  He especially loved Africa - the people and languages, the stories and poetry, the music and art.  Because he was Black, he felt very close to Africa.  Everywhere he went, crowds came to see him.  Teachers brought their classes to see him as Othello.  People gave parties for him and gave him awards.  Newspapers and magazines wrote about his ability to walk and talk and look like the characters he played.  They wrote about his ability to make audiences cry or feel good.  But Paul could not always enjoy these things.  He saw many problems that made him sad and worried and angry" (Pages 23 and 24).

Robeson began to make speeches at his concerts about the injustices he saw in the world.  "He talked about Black freedom, and good jobs for all people, and peace.  Audiences listened when he talked.  Many people wanted to hear what he had to say.  But not everybody.  Not everybody liked what he was saying.  Some people did not want him to talk about problems.  But Paul had to do what he believed was right.  He often thought of his Father.  He wanted to be strong and as true to his beliefs as his father had been.  He not only continued to speak out, he worked too.  He marched with signs in front of theaters where Black people had to sit in special seats.  He marched in front of the offices of baseball teams that would not hire Black ballplayers.  He went to see the President of the United States to protest the killings of Black people in the South.  he started a newspaper called Freedom.  He helped to start groups who worked for Black freedom.  He wrote articles for magazines" (Pages 26 and 27).

Paul often attended large peace rallies held by the Communists which raised suspicion about him and his political affliations.  Robeson was punished for having Communist friends.  "It became very hard for Paul to find places to perform.  Owners of many theaters, concert halls, and radio and television stations would not allow him to sing or act.  Owners of record stores stopped selling his records.  Some of them were angry with him, and some were afraid they would be punished too.  Sometimes, but not very often, Paul could perform in a church or a park.  When he did, large audiences came to see him.  They came even though they were sometimes attacked by Paul's enemies"  (Pages 27 and 28).

One afternoon Robeson gave an outdoor concert in Peekskill, New York and 25,000 people came to listen.  "A much smaller crowd came to try to keep him from singing.  They yelled and blew horns during the concert.  But Paul kept singing.  At the end of the concert, a group of friends formed a bodyguard for Paul.  They walked him to his car and saw that he left safely.  Then the real trouble began.  Paul's audience was attacked.  They were beaten with clubs.  Men, women and children trying to leave in the buses and cars were hit with bricks and bottles and broken glass.  Empty cars were turned over.  The attackers were not arrested." (Page 29).

The next year, Robeson was barred from visiting other countries.  "Stop talking and just sing," he was told.  But Paul said, 'No.' He said that he had the right to both travel and speak.  He took his case to court for judges to decide.  While the judges were considering his case, Paul could not leave the United States.  But his voice could.  Several times he sang at the line between the United States and Canada.  He stood on a stage in the United States on one side of the line.  His audience sat in a park in Canada, on the other side of the line.  Once, almost a thousand people went to a concert in England. [Note:  Other sources suggest this concert was actually in Wales.]  Paul was not there, but his voice traveled across the Atlantic Ocean by telephone.  The last song he sang was 'Old Man River.'  One line in this song says that a man is tired of living and scared of dying.  Paul changed this line.  He sang, I must keep fighting until I'm dying" (Pages 30 and 31).

Robeson kept "fighting for freedom for all people, and he kept fighting for himself" (Page 32).  After eight years he was able to travel again.  "In the years that followed, millions of Blacks in America began to feel close to their African heritage.  Many of them marched for their rights and for better jobs.  Many Black singers and actors spoke out for Black freedom, as Paul Robeson had" (Page 32).

In April 1973, Paul Robeson was celebrated at a concert in Carnegie Hall.  Unfortunately he was too sick to attend -- but his son, Paul Junior, was there to represent him.  Twenty famous stars were on the program to mark Robeson's 75th birthday.  Robeson wrote a book, about his life, called "Here I Stand."  Robeson says "although Black people cannot yet sing, 'Thank God Almighty, we're free at last,' they can sing, 'Thank God Almighty, we're MOVING !' " (Page 33).

Greenfield's book ends at this juncture in Paul Robeson's life.  From further research we learned that, due to poor health, Robeson retired from public life in 1963. He died on January 23, 1976, at age 77, in Philadelphia.

According another website, "Paul Robeson was the first major concert star to popularize the performance of Negro spirituals and was the first black actor of the 20th century to portray Shakespeare’s Othello on Broadway. As of 2009 Robeson’s run in the 1943–45 Othello production still holds the record for the longest running Shakespeare play on Broadway. In line with Robeson’s vocal dissatisfaction with movie stereotypes, his roles in both the American and British film industries were some of the first parts ever created that displayed dignity and respect for the African American film actor, paving the way for Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte."

VIDEOS ~ Ray Charles ~ Song #3 ~ "In The Evening (When The Sun Goes Down)"

This is  LIVE performance from 1963 of the Blues/Jazz tune, "In the Evening (When the Sun Goes Down)."  It is mostly instrumental but there are some lyrics, which don't begin until approximately mid-way through the video.

In the evening ... In the evening
I said baby, in the evening
It's lonesome... when your lover is not around...

Thursday, 24 March 2011

BOOK REVIEWS ~ Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman ~ Step Into Reading

Step Into Reading - Level 3

Imagine being born into slavery and sent out to work at the age of seven!  Most contemporary children have no clue about the tribulations faced by thousands of Blacks, who lived in the southern states, little more than a century ago.  One of these individuals, who suffered the injustice of slavery, was Harriet Tubman.

"Escape North!  The Story of Harriet Tubman" is an easy-to-read introduction to the life of this heroic woman, written at a Grade 2/3 level.  It is one of the titles in the "Step Into Reading" series, published by Random House.  I read this book aloud to both Isobel and Alisdair.  

The 48-page book begins in 1851 with Harriet Tubman acting as a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad.  The author, Monica Kulling, explains, "the Underground Railroad wasn't a real railroad.  It was the name people gave the route taking slaves north to freedom.  Years before, a slave had run off.  He had seemed to disappear right in front of his owner's eyes.  'He must have gone on an underground railroad,' said the owner.  The story spread.  There was a way north to the free states!  There were people who would help.  They would hide you in their homes.  These safe houses were stations on the Underground Railroad"  (Page 6 and 7).

In the first chapter, titled "Escape North," the author describes Tubman's rescue of a party of ten slaves who relied upon her to lead them to safety.  The second section, "Born a Slave," brings out facts from Tubman's childhood.  She was born, in about 1820, on a tobacco plantation in Maryland, owned by Edward Brodas.  She was named Araminta Ross but was nicknamed "Minty."  When Araminta got a little older, she began to call herself "Harriet," which was her Mother's name.       

Harriet Tubman
(Photo appears on Page 48)
"Harriet's family lived in a small cabin near the Master's house.  It had no windows and only a bare earth floor.  The family slept on beds made of straw.  They used rags for blankets.  They didn't have much to eat.  Harriet didn't go to school.  Slaves weren't allowed to learn to read or write.  Instead, she helped her mother cook.  She carried buckets of water to the slaves working in the fields.  She picked insects off tobacco plants" (Pages 12 and 13).

As a seven-year old, Harriet was sent to a neighbour's to work.  She was whipped if the yarn she was winding broke.  She was also sent to work outside.  "Day after day, Harriet stood in the swamp, checking muskrat traps.  Finally she got sick, and Mr. Cook took her home" (Page 15).  When Harriet recovered, she was sent to the tobacco fields to work long hours in the hot sun.

The next chapter is called "The Accident."  It briefly outlines an incident that took place "when Harriet was a teenager.  A slave working in the fields ran off.  The bossman threw a weight at him to stop him.  But it hit Harriet instead."  We are told "Harriet wasn't the same after that.  She fell asleep without warning.  Sometimes her head would drop in the middle of a sentence and she would be asleep" (Page 18).  It sounds more like physical abuse rather than an accident! 

"Daddy Ben, her father, knew Harriet would run.  He wanted her to make it when she did.  He showed Harriet where to hide in the woods.  He showed her which plants and berries were safe to eat.  He taught her how to run quickly and silently through the forest.  Most important, he taught Harriet how to find north.  'See the Big Dipper in the sky,' said Daddy Ben one evening.  Harriet picked out the stars that formed a dipping ladle. 'See that bright star above the bowl?' asked Daddy Ben .  'That's the North Star.  Follow it and you'll be heading toward freedom' (Page 21).

In the fourth chapter, "Harriet Escapes."  She had married another slave, named John Tubman, by "jumping the broom," (slaves weren't allowed to officially marry), when she was 28.  John had no interest in running away in search of freedom.  In fact, he threatened to tell the Master if Harriet kept talking about wanting to run away.  So Harriet made plans on her own.  "One day, Harriet found out that she had been sold.  It was time to act!"  (Page 24).

"The next Saturday, Harriet waited until John was asleep.  She wrapped cornbread and salt herring in a handkerchief.  She silently opened the cabin door.  Outside the North Star pointed the way. Harriet didn't look back.  She took off into the woods, running fast!" (Page 25). 

The heartstopping story of Harriet's escape continues in Chapter Five - "Free at Last."  "Harriet ran for hours.  Sharp pains stabbed her sides.  But she didn't stop.  She followed the Choptank River to the Maryland border.  As she ran, Harriet remembered Daddy Ben's words:  'Walk through water when you can.  The dogs will lose your scent.'  Harriet took off her shoes and stepped into the icy river.  When the sun rose, she heard the baying of hounds.  The bossman was on her trail!" (Page 26 and 27).

We are told Harriet hid in a hollow log and fell asleep.  The slave catcher's galloped past, unaware that she was there.  In Camden, Delaware, Harriet was assisted by some kind folk that had a brightly coloured quilt on their clothesline.  It was a signal that it was safe for "Harriet to knock" (Page 28).  She was hidden in the attic, was fed and was able to sleep.  Then Harriet left in search of the next safe house along the route to freedom. She experienced yet another close call when "she woke up just as a group of slave hunters were approaching.  Harriet scrambled into a ditch and covered herself with mud.  She prayed the hunters wouldn't see her.  Somehow they never did" (Page 30).

This chapter ends with a heartwarming description of Harriet's emotional state when she finally crossed into "the free state of Pennsylvania.  She looked at her hands.  She was the same person.  But something about her had changed.  Her hands belonged to her now, not to anyone else.  Harriet Tubman was free!" (Page 31).

Once in Philadelphia, Harriet found a room to rent and found work as a cook.  She met William Still, the secretary of the American Anti-Slavery Society.  Tubman became involved and attended their secret meetings.  "One night at a meeting, Harriet found out that her sister's family had escaped.  They were hiding in Baltimore. They needed someone to lead them to safety.  'I will lead them,' said Harriet.  The men at the meeting were shocked.  There were no women conductors on the Underground Railroad.  It was too dangerous.  But Harriet would not be swayed.  She was going to free her people, just like Moses in the Bible" (Page 33). 

The next chapter, "No Turning Back," is a flashback to the first few pages of the book describing Harriet's assistance to a party of ten slaves. "This way!" she told the runaways (Page 34).  But when the group finally arrived at a safe house, they weren't let in.  The stationmaster was "afraid of the Fugitive Slave Act.  The new law said that anyone helping runaways could be severely punished.  Harriet led the group back into the woods.  Everyone was tired and hungry.  One woman was so weak that Harriet had to carry her" (Page 35).

"Suddenly, one of the men stopped.  'I'm going back,' he said.  'It's better to be a slave than suffer like this.'  Harriet stood in his way.  If the slave catchers caught him, they would beat the secrets of the Underground Railroad out of him.  Harriet couldn't let that happen.  She pointed her gun at the man.  'You run back and you'll never run again,' she said.  'Come with me now or die.  The group trudged on" (Page 36).  The group finally found refuge in Wilmington, Delaware with a Quaker man named Thomas Garrett.  He owned a shoe store and hid the runaways in a secret room "behind a wall of shoe boxes."  He also gave "them each a pair of shoes" when they were "ready to leave" (Page 39).  We are then told when they reached Philadelphia, William Still "gave Harriet money to take the group on to Canada.  He wrote in his journal:  'Harriet Tubman is not afraid.  The idea that she could be caught at any time doesn't seem to enter her mind' "  (Page 40).

"Saving Daddy Ben and Old Rit" is the title of Chapter Seven.  Harriet's parents were in their seventies.  "Running would be hard for them.  But Harriet wanted her parents to know freedom.  In 1857, she went back to Maryland dressed as an old woman.  Daddy Ben and Old Rit were overjoyed to see her" (Page 42).  With the help of a horse and wagon, Harriet succeeded in hiding her parents under some old blankets.  "She drove the horse as fast as she could.  She wanted to be out of Maryland by daybreak" (Page 43).  She succeeded, getting her loved ones to Delaware where they managed to purchase train tickets.  "Daddy Ben and Old Rit could hardly believe it.  They had been slaves all their lives.  Now Harriet was using Daddy Ben's lessons to bring them to freedom" (Page 43).

The last five pages of the book are a brief summary of "Harriet's Last Years."  Here we find a brief description of the Civil War.  "As always, Harriet was quick to join the fight.  She worked as a spy and a scout for the North.  She also worked as a nurse" (Page 44).  When the North won the Civil War, in 1865, there was no longer a need for "The Underground Railroad."  "The fight to free the slaves was over" (Page 44).  The author tells us "Harriet spent her later years in Auburn, New York, taking care of her parents.  After many years, the government decided to give her a reward for her work.  She used the money to build a home for elderly Blacks who had no place to live" (Page 46).

In 1913, even though Harriet was too "sick to get out of bed" she sent a message to the for the"women fighting for the right to vote" telling them to " 'Stand together.'  It was a message that had helped her people win the victory over slavery.  One day, it would help women win the vote" (Page 47).

Harriet Tubman died at age 93, after having made at least 19 trips south and bringing out more than 300 slaves to freedom.  She used to say, "I've never run a train off the track, and I've never lost a passenger."  Tubman is remembered as "the 'Moses of Her People' and one of the bravest soldiers in the fight against slavery" (Page 48).

This book provides an excellent starting point in familiarizing children with the story of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.  It is written in simple terms that are easy to understand.  In addition to this title, we have also ordered a two other books about this amazing woman through inter-library loans.  One  provides other additional details, while the other is a moving picture book about God's provision for Harriet Tubman during her escape.  Watch for futher posts on this topic!

SPELLING ~ Unit 3 ~ Paddington Bear's Adventure

Alisdair has written a story using the spelling words from this week's Unit.  He is using the workbook, "Building Spelling Skills Grade 6+," which is published by Evan-Moor Educational Publishers.

Paddington Bear's Adventure

(Highlighting words with the short and long 'O' vowel sounds
 and recognizing the 'aw' sound spelled 'O')


A stowaway named Paddington Bear was on a ship, hiding in a lifeboat.  The only problem was, when an officer came and turned the boat upside down, it made Paddington's oxygen level lower.  From his hiding place, Paddington heard a little girl recite a poem. Then he heard clapping because everyone in the audience thought the poetry was brilliant.  He often got frightened that someone would catch him, as lots of men with trolleys kept coming by.  When his trip was over, Paddington quietly got off the boat and went to the zoo, where he saw an antelope.  Then he went to see the fish at the aquarium and an old proverb came to mind.  He got an envelope out of his suitcase and slipped a zoo leaflet into it so he could post it, with what little money he had.  He was very obstinate when the zoo was closing as he wanted to stay longer. The young bear approached the Browns. They saw his tag that read, "Please look after this bear.  Thank you!" Although they weren't planning to take a bear home with them, they took Paddington to #32 Windsor Gardens.  When they arrived, Mrs. Bird was getting an awl out of a drawer so Paddington went to watch television, with a marmalade sandwich and a coke.  At first a show about atoms and molecules was being shown.  As he searched through the channels, Paddington came across an old replay of an Olympic awards ceremony.  Hockey was on BBC Sports.  The goalie made a good save, after the star player tried to shoot it in the net, past several obstacles.

VIDEOS ~ Ray Charles ~ "Georgia On My Mind" ~ Song #2

The history of this song, according to Wikipedia: 

"Georgia on My Mind" is a song written in 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael (music) and Stuart Gorrell (lyrics). It is the official state song of the U. S. state of Georgia. Gorrell wrote the lyrics for Hoagy's sister, Georgia Carmichael.[1] However, the lyrics of the song are ambiguous enough to refer either to the state or to a woman named "Georgia".

Carmichael's 1965 autobiography, Sometimes I Wonder, records the origin: a friend, saxophonist and bandleader Frankie Trumbauer, suggested: "Why don't you write a song called 'Georgia?' Nobody lost much writing about the South." Thus, the song is universally believed to have been written about the state.

The song was first recorded on September 15, 1930 in New York by Hoagy Carmichael and His Orchestra with Bix Beiderbecke on muted cornet and Hoagy Carmichael on vocals. The recording was part of Bix Beiderbecke's last recording session. The recording was released as Victor 23013 with "One Night in Havana".

Frankie Trumbauer had the first major hit recording in 1931 when his recording made the top ten on the charts. Trumbauer had suggested that Carmichael compose the song.

Ray Charles, a native of Georgia, recorded it in 1960 on the album The Genius Hits the Road. It became Georgia's state song in 1979.

Inspired by this blues version, Willie Nelson formally introduced the song to country audiences in 1978 as a #1 Country/Western hit.

Album cover

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

SPEECH ARTS: POETRY ~ "Lord Ullin's Daughter" ~ By: Thomas Campbell

"Lord Ullin's Daughter"
By:  Albert Pinkham Ryder
It's confession time... I'm starting to panic as its only a few days away... and I have eight more stanzas to commit to memory!

Have you ever signed up (or agreed to do something) several weeks or months in advance, and then procrastinated about preparations for the event? Well, that's what Alisdair and I are "up against" at the moment!

It all started back in January when I saw the advertising for the "Battlefords Kiwanis Music Festival" and decided that we should participate... The necessary forms were completed and handed in on Saturday, January 22nd, with the accompanying $12 fee per entry.

On the way home from North Battleford that winter evening, we encountered some troubles and ended up in the ditch. We were towed out and the car was brought back to the house but it needed costly repairs [a new power steering pump], which only just recently were completed.

Meanwhile, "the breadwinner" lost his job (the boss decided to go out-of-business) and he eventually found another.  I signed up for the "Ladies Choir" that will sing at church on Good Friday and Easter Sunday ... and with it, was required to attend the regular choir practice every Wednesday evening. And all that was on top of regular "day-to-day" living -- with meals and laundry, parent/teacher interviews, ballet lessons to go to, books to read and homeschooling exercises to complete. Now, the procrastination has officially ended and panic has set in!

Alisdair is doing remarkably well, learning to recite his poem for the Festival (Sir Smasham Uppe, By: E. V. Rieu). [See post from Thursday, January 27th for the full text]. He is very expressive and seems to have a photographic memory. He's even managed to recite his piece over the telephone for Grandma (with only a little prompting in a few places.) With a bit of polishing, he'll do fine.

But I'm not so sure about my own mental abilities. As I was stumbling around, the other day, repeating the lines of my own poem, for the Festival, I wondered aloud why Alisdair was finding the memorization so much easier. He laughed and informed me it was because "My brain is so much older!" I'm willing to concede there might be some truth to that, but it doesn't help my memorization efforts (or my self-confidence) Thanks, son!

In reality, I challenged myself to this task because it didn't seem fair to make Alisdair memorize a poem and then ask him to perform it, if I wasn't willing to do the same myself.

I chose the poem "Lord Ullin's Daughter" by Thomas Campbell [1777 -1844: Glasgow, Scotland] because of the ties between my family heritage and the Isle of Ulva. This tiny island, just of the coast of Mull, was once owned, for several generations, by my ancestors. I've been to Ulva, on at least two occasions, and have taken the small "ferry" across the sound. On one of these, the water was rather choppy and when someone in the boat commented on this fact, the boatman chuckled and said, "You remember 'Lord Ullin's Daughter?' " - which indeed we did! And so I'm frantically memorizing while waiting in the car, while ballet lesson is in progress, or repeating lines to myself while washing dishes...

The afternoon of Friday, April 1st will soon be upon us. It will find Alisdair and I (and a host of others) in the sanctuary at Third Avenue United Church in North Battleford as we participate in the Speech Arts section of the Festival. The coil-bound official schedule has been printed and although it is daunting to see my name therein (Page 39 - 10,970A Individual Verse, Adult, Open, Own Choice), we will both attempt to do our best to say, like "the hardy Highland wight, `I'll go, my chief--I'm ready!" I don't want to be "left lamenting" when the Festival is over.

Lord Ullin's Daughter
A chieftain, to the Highlands bound,
Cries, ``Boatman, do not tarry!
And I'll give thee a silver pound
To row us o'er the ferry!''--

``Now, who be ye, would cross Lochgyle,
This dark and stormy water?''
``O, I'm the chief of Ulva's isle,
And this, Lord Ullin's daughter.--

``And fast before her father's men
Three days we've fled together,
For should he find us in the glen,
My blood would stain the heather.

``His horsemen hard behind us ride;
Should they our steps discover,
Then who will cheer my bonny bride
When they have slain her lover?''--

Out spoke the hardy Highland wight,--
``I'll go, my chief--I'm ready:--
It is not for your silver bright;
But for your winsome lady:

``And by my word! the bonny bird
In danger shall not tarry;
So, though the waves are raging white,
I'll row you o'er the ferry.''--

By this the storm grew loud apace,
The water-wraith was shrieking;
And in the scowl of heaven each face
Grew dark as they were speaking.

But still as wilder blew the wind,
And as the night grew drearer,
Adown the glen rode arm├Ęd men,
Their trampling sounded nearer.--

``O haste thee, haste!'' the lady cries,
``Though tempests round us gather;
I'll meet the raging of the skies,
But not an angry father.''--

The boat has left a stormy land,
A stormy sea before her,--
When, O! too strong for human hand,
The tempest gather'd o'er her.

And still they row'd amidst the roar
Of waters fast prevailing:
Lord Ullin reach'd that fatal shore,--
His wrath was changed to wailing.

For, sore dismay'd through storm and shade,
His child he did discover:--
One lovely hand she stretch'd for aid,
And one was round her lover.

``Come back! come back!'' he cried in grief
``Across this stormy water:
And I'll forgive your Highland chief,
My daughter!--O my daughter!''

'Twas vain: the loud waves lash'd the shore,
Return or aid preventing:
The waters wild went o'er his child,
And he was left lamenting.

     ~Thomas Campbell

Lord Ullin's Daughter from a long ago publication...