Friday, 29 July 2011

BOOK REVIEWS ~ "Wibble Wobble" By: Miriam Moss

When I ordered "Wibble Wobble" through inter-library loans, I had no idea how appropriate this "Tiger Tale" book, written by Miriam Moss, would be for both Alisdair and Isobel!

"Wibble Wobble" is a heartwarming story about a little boy named William.  On the first page the reader is told, "All William ever wanted in the whole world was to have a loose tooth."

It seems to William that his "teeth seemed stuck, superglued to his gums.  'It isn't fair,' said William.  'Everyone else at school tells loose tooth stories.  'Sammy swallowed his . . .  Rosa's fell down the toilet . . . and Louie's flew out when he scored a goal!' "

Then William learns he could get a silver dollar from the Tooth Fairy, if he had a loose tooth that came out!  He tells Grandma about three children who lost their teeth at school. 

" . . . 'if it comes out at school, you have to keep it somewhere safe.'  William continued, 'Vicky tied hers into the knot in her shoelaces . . . and Martin hid his in a cotton ball in his ear.  AND . . . today Jasmine's got lost up her nose.  Mrs. King said she'd keep them safe from now on.' "

The very next day, William discovers his very first loose tooth.  He is excited and shows his friends.  For several pages William is busy with his tooth ~ "push, pull, jiggle, joggle.  poke, flick, wibble, wobble."

Then, one day in gym class "William did his best somersault ever.  And when he stood up, his tooth was sitting on his tongue!  William took it out and looked at it.  It was so tiny!  'I'll look after it until you go home,' said Mrs. King, wrapping it in a tissue and puttling it on top of the filing cabinet. 'Then can I take it home?' asked William, feeling a bit wobbly himself.  'Of course,' said Mrs. King.

When William's mother arrived to pick him up, he tells her, "My tooth came out!'  'Oh William!' said Mom.  'Where is it?'  'It's on the filing cabinet, wrapped up in a tissue,' said William.  'Here it is,' said Mrs. King.  Then she said, 'Oh, it's gone.'

They searched everywhere, to no avail.  Then William remembers that when Louie got red paint in his eye, Rosa had handed him a tissue to wipe it out.

"Mom and Mrs. King looked at each other."  Despite their obvious misgivings, the two women continued searching in the classroom and Mom eventually finds the tooth in a crumpled up tissue in the wastebasket.  A very relieved William took his tooth home and the "next morning [he] looked under his pillow.  There lay a little wooden box.  He lifted the lid and inside was a shiny silver dollar!  When William got to school, he told everyone his loose tooth story. 'I would think you'd like a rest from loose teeth for a while, William!' said Mrs. King.  'Yes,' said William.  'I would.'

But when William spends his silver dollar on an enormous ice cream, unwraps it and takes a big bite of the "ice-cold, rock-hard toffee ... another tooth wiggled!  Push, pull, jiggle, joggle, poke, flick, wibble, wobble."

One evening, after we had read this book, Isobel was complaining that eating the meat on her dinner plate was "hurting her teeth."  I was scared she had another cavity... at least until I looked into her little mouth and discovered that one of her bottom front teeth was very loose. A few days later, it fell out and we discovered there was a new tooth coming in a little bit back of where the original one had been.  Now she has a second wiggly tooth!

Meanwhile, in about the space of a week, Alisdair lost, not one, but TWO molars!  I laughed and said pretty soon I'd have to start feeding them both baby food again as they wouldn't have enough teeth to chew their dinner anymore!

This photo, taken on the plane
 to Victoria, shows all the spaces
 Alisdair currently has between his teeth!
 It's funny how, although they are almost six years apart in age, that in many ways, they are going through the same stages together -- learning how to ride two-wheeled bikes and losing teeth are just two of these areas.

Push, pull, jiggle, joggle, poke, flick, wibble, wobble ... I wonder who will be the next to lose another ....Isobel?  Or her brother?!

... One missing and the tooth next to it is wiggly,too!
On our last trip to the main library in North Battleford we borrowed another book on this topic.  It is called "My Tooth Is About to Fall Out" by Grace Maccarone and is published as part of the "Hello Reader -- Level One" Scholastic series.  It's a rhyming book about a little girl.  The conclusion of the poem follows:

"Then tonight I'll go to sleep
And the Tooth Fairy will creep
into my room.
She'll take my baby tooth,
and maybe,
if I am lucky,
she will leave
something behind
for me to find.
I had twenty baby teeth --
with big ones growing underneath.
My roots, I think,
dissolve and shrink
until they're small.
And so my teeth get loose and fall.
My big teeth will begin to show
from under my gums, way below.
I can't wait to see them.  They'll look great!"

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

SHORE LUNCH ~ Fish and Chips in the Victoria Harbour...

Wild Pacific Salmon
A blog reader asked about the restaurant where Alisdair and I enjoyed eating fish and chips while we were in Victoria.  It was called Joe's Seafood Bar and was located at 1208 Wharf Street (Harbour Level).  The menu and other details can be found on their website.

Actually, we hadn't thought about being on the coast or that fish and chips would be a local dish, however, John sent us a text asking if we were planning to have some.  That got us thinking it was a "must-do."  Glad we had a taste of some delicious fish for lunch on the Friday afternoon.  Too bad it is so far away, as I'd go back again in a heart beat!

Alisdair and I were both pleased with our meals and remarked that there weren't any bones at all in our fish fillets.  The little wooden knives, forks and spoons were kind of fun, too!  And the coleslaw was to die for -- complete with sunflower seeds on top!  Yum... 


BOOK REVIEWS ~ "Mark Twain at Work!" By: Howard Goldsmith

If you've ever read "Tom Sawyer" you will recall the incident where the mischievous lad encourages other folk to whitewash a fence, thus getting out of the work, himself.  But you may be surprised to learn this situation actually took place in the life of the author, Mark Twain.

"Mark Twain at Work!" is a "Level 2" book in the "Ready-to-Read" series.  It is one of several books that focus on the "Childhood of Famous Americans."

The reader soon learns that "Mark Twain was born in a small Missouri town in 1835" and that "his real name was Samuel Clemens" (Pages 3 and 4).

It seems he had a happy childhood, playing with his cousins, exploring the woods, climbing trees, picking berries and swimming in the brook. The text indicates Clemens was always busy "hopping about like a jumping bean" (Page 7).

Once he took a garter snake to school.  "The snake wriggled its way across the room.  It stopped at the feet of their teacher, Mr. Cross.  Mr. Cross glared across the room at Sam.  'Sam-u-el Lang-horne Clem-ens!' he called.  'Take that snake outside!  At once!' " (Pages 11-13).

Athough the boy obeyed, the next day the teacher told the lad's Mother what had happened.  "Sam's Mother punished him by making him paint the tall, wide fence around their yard.  'That's an awful lot of work!' Sam complained, staring at the fence.  It looked a mile high.  'Blame yourself!' his Mother answered." (Pages 15 and 16).

Sam tried to get his friend, Sandy, to help him paint the fence, but he was on an errand to fetch water from a well.  Then along came another friend, Will Bowen.  Clemens told Will painting was fun. "'Nothing is work if you enjoy doing it,' Sam said.  'Can I brush awhile?' Will asked. 'What will you give me to brush?' Sam said.  'Give you?'  Will asked, puzzled.  'Of course,' Sam said.  'Nothing for nothing.' "  (Pages 22 and 23).  So Will traded an apple for a chance to paint the fence!

Later, John Briggs came along.  He gave Sam a tadpole for an opportunity to swing the paint brush.  When he got tired, a friend name Frank had the next chance to brush the fence. "By late afternoon all the boys in town had painted the fence.  Sam was not tired at all!  Plus he now had two tadpoles, ten marbles, a box of worms, five pieces of orange peel and other things" (Pages 26 and 27).

" 'Someday,' Sam promised himself, ' I am going to write all this down.'  He would turn it into a funny story.  He loved making people laugh.  As he grew older he learned to weave webs of magic words that cast a spell.  Years later Sam wrote books under the name Mark Twain.  The story of the fence grew into one of Mark Twain's most famous books "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer."  Mark Twain became one of America's favorite humorists.  After The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  He said most of those adventures were true.  They all happened when he was a boy" (Pages 28 to 31).



1835 - Born in Florida, Missouri, as Samuel Langhorne Clemens
1839 - Clemens moves to Hannibal, Missouri
1843 - Twain attends William Cross's one-room schoolhouse.  Young Twain writes:

'Cross by name and cross by nature --
Cross jumped over an Irish potato."

1848 - Apprentices at the Missouri Courier
1852 - Twain's first published sketch appears in the Boston Carpet Bag
1857 - Begins work as an apprentice pilot on the Mississippi River
1861 - Moves to Nevada with his brother Orion and tries mining
1862 - Takes a job as a reporter, for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise
1865 - Wins fame with his comic take "Jim Smiley and his Jumping Frog" (later published as 'The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.')
1866 - Gives his first lecture on his experiences, beginning a career as a humorous lecturer
1870 - Marries Olivia Langdon
1871 - They settle in Hartford, Connecticut
1876 - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a great success
1882 - Publishes The Prince and the Pauper
1884 - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is published in London; comes out the following year in America
1889 - Publishes A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
1904 - Wife Olivia dies at age sixty
1910 - Dies at age seventy-five in Redding, Connecticut.   


BOOK REVIEWS ~ "Under the Quilt of Night" By: Deborah Hopkinson

Another book about escaping from slavery is "Under the Quilt of Night" by Deborah Hopkinson.  The illustrations in this volume are by James E. Ransome.

In "A Note About the Story" at the back of the picture book, we learn this is an "imagined journey.  It is a fictitious story inspired by the Underground Railroad, and it mixes fact and folklore.  The Underground Railroad, of course was not actually underground.  Nor was it a railroad.  It was a secret network of people who helped others to escape slavery.  It was most active in the 1850's, in the years just before the Civil War."

Hopkinson also tells her readers:  "Just as we don't learn the name of the girl who tells this story, we don't know the names of most who escaped on the Underground Railroad.  Activities took place in secret and weren't written down.  Those fleeing slavery faced incredible danger and hardships.  The free blacks and whites who helped them also faced risks.  Many stories have grown up around quilts and the Underground Railroad.  Some think quilts included hidden meanings or were hung to mark safe houses, while others believe these stories are simply folklore."

"We do know that fugitives were hidden in many ways, sometimes in secret rooms or tunnels, other times in wagons with false bottoms, or simply under straw in back of carts.  We also know from songs like "Follow the Drinking Gourd" that enslaved people used the North Star to help them locate north, where Canada and freedom lay.  In this story, the girl finds a star someone has carved in the floor as a hopeful sign of freedom."

"When I was a fourth grader, the Underground Railroad was mentioned in just a few lines in our history textbook.  Today many books and Internet sites have information about this part of our history.  In communities people are working together to remember family stories and to find and preserve Underground Railroad routes and houses.  But some of our past may always be hidden from us, " explains Hopkinson.

... a quilted pattern on the first and last pages of the book ...
"Under the Quilt of Night" is composed of six sections titled "Running," "Waiting,"  "Watching," "Hiding," "Traveling," and "Singing."  The text is almost poetical.  Under the heading, "Running," on the first page of the book we read, "I'm young but my legs are strong.  I can run." 

... RUNNING ...
The text continues, "I run so fast, I lead the way; the ones I love race right behind.  Pounding dirt and grass, jumping rocks and roots, my feet make drumbeats on the path."

The next stanza says, "I'm running far away from the farm where the master worked us, hoeing and picking, mending and sewing till my hands got raw."

The master is hot on the trail of the slaves.  The girl says he wants to track her and "chase me till my breath is gone, fence me in to be a slave again."  But the unnamed girl, at the heart of the story, will have none of that and says, ". . . I'll make my steps quick whispers in the dark.  I'll run where he won't find me, under the quilt of night."  The group of slaves find a hidden boat alongside a river and cross safely to the other side.

The next section is called, "Waiting."  It is written in such a way that you can imagine what it was like to be with the slaves awaiting nightfall.  "Runaways like us must hide in daylight.  So come morning we crouch in the bushes till night.  It's hot.  Sweat dribbles down my neck.  Thorns rake my arms and legs.  In the still afternoon, mosquitoes whine and tease just like the overseer's children did.  All I can do is wait for the cover of darkness.  Oh, if only I could dance into the open and sing so loud the stars would hear and hurry out to guide our way!" 

"Watching" is the next part of the book.  Hopkinson writes, "We run and hide, run and hide.  My cuts sting, my bites itch.  I'm hungry all the time.  One day at dusk we make our way to the patch of woods at the edge of a town.  There are more houses here, people, roads -- danger.  The others rest, while I keep watch for a sign from the Underground Railroad -- the friends who will help us get free. . . . Then I see a woman walk through her yard wearing a plain dress.  On her arm she carries a quilt to air.  She hangs it over the fence, then looks to the woods, just once.  I stare with all my might.  I know what to look for:  in most quilts, center squares are red for home and hearth.  But these centers are a dark, deep blue.  This house hides runaways!"

"I'm brave enough to go forward first.  When at last the stars are up, I pull the darkness around me and run through long, wet grass.  My foot trembles on the wooden step, and my knock is shivery and quick -- like the beating of my heart.  'Who's there?' comes a voice.  I swallow hard before I give the password.  What if I am wrong?  But I trust the quilt, so I say, 'The friend of a friend.' "

... A signal??
Luckily the girl had correctly read the coded signal.  In the section titled "Hiding," the story continues.  "A man and woman let us in.  They give us clean clothes, hot stew and biscuits, sweet cherry pie.  We talk in whispers so we won't wake up their little boy, already tucked in bed.  Their daughter, just my age, lets me hold her kitten.  We follow her lantern up narrow stairs to a secret room.  'Sleep now.  Tonight we'll keep watch,' she says.  I lie awake wondering about others who have hidden here.  I won't ever know their names.  But I find a message, a rough carved place in the wood under my mat.  I make my fingers into eyes to explore it.  Just before I fall asleep I see it is a star."

But soon their sleep is disturbed.  In the portion of the book called "Traveling" the girl is awoken abruptly.  " 'Wake up!  Hurry!  Your master and his men are close behind!'  Our friend whisks us through the last folds of night and hides us deep in his wagon.  The cold boards make me shiver.  Straw pricks my skin like needles.  We go north across a bridge, under trees, a zigzag of here and there.  We can't turn back -- we would be beaten, sold away, our chances gone for good.  We must go on or die.  I hang on tight.  Fear is so real, it lies here beside me.  The wagon rattles, horses clomp.  Suddenly I tremble.  Voices!  We're caught."

... "We're looking for runaways..."
" 'We're looking for runaways.  What's in your wagon?' barks a voice.  'Eggs, sacks of grain, vegetables to sell at morning market,' says our driver, smooth as honey.  'Search me if you like.  I'm no friend of the slave.'  I keep still as a rock though it feels like my heart will split.  But the searchers are fooled and at last they gallop off.  Our friend laughs and cracks the reins.  He calls to his horses:  'Giddyup, Hope and Liberty!'  And the wagon rolls on."

The final chapter of the book is called, "Singing."  "Birds wake, a rooster calls.  I listen to night softly falling away.  We stop at a little church deep in a piney wood.  I pick the straw from my hair and rub my stiff, cramped legs.  Our friend takes a stick and draws a map in the dirt of the road we'll take to Canada.  'These good folks will carry you on,' he says.  'You're almost to freedom now.'

... "You're almost to freedom now..."
"Over the trees the sun comes up.  The dark pines glow like gold.  Freedom!  I take a deep breath and when I let go my voice flies up in a song.  My own song of running in sunshine and dancing through fields.  I'll jump every fence in my way." 

... "Freedom!  I take a deep breath and when I let go my voice flies up in song."

Sunday, 24 July 2011

FIRST PERSON ACCOUNT ~ "My Trip to Victoria" ~ By: Alisdair

Waiting at the restaurant for a
 taste of fish and chips ... fresh from the sea!
My Mum, 5-year old sister, Isobel and I wanted to go play. My sister and I took our bikes to go to the playground.  There was only one problem... my bike had training wheels. So Mum looked up bikes for kids like me (I have dyspraxia which makes it much harder for me to keep my balance than most other children) but somebody always wanted lots of money.  Then we found “Lose the Training Wheels.

My Stepdad, John took us to the EIA (“Edmonton International Airport”) so we could go on our flight to Victoria (after finding a 24-hour seat sale for a Westjet flight a few weeks earlier).  It was time to use that ticket! I had a nice chat with the man next to us.  Pretty soon we landed and I got to see my Great Aunt and Uncle.

The next day we got to go to the Legislature Building where we learnt about British Columbia’s history. James Douglas was the first Premier of B. C.  (We went to take a look a second time to find out about Amor de Cosmos who started “The Victoria Times-Colonist.”) This historic figure also saw the gold rush in California and later he also became Premier of B. C.). Francis Mawson Rattenbury was the architect for the building and the Empress Hotel. I got my picture taken with James Douglas and Queen Victoria.

My Great Aunt, Mum and I went to “Fisherman’s Wharf” but unfortunately the seal didn’t come up out of the water. But we then went to Clover Point where my Aunt showed me how to tell a male crab from a female crab.

After that I met my“Lose the Training Wheels” instructors and boy did I make them sweat!  The "Lose the Training Wheels” program uses special bikes with a roller (instead of a back wheel).  There are 8 different rollers (instead of training wheels) which they can make skinnier depending on the child’s confidence as they take a break for some water. This remarkable camp has an 80% success rate -- a success rate that I would soon be part of.

After breakfast the next morning Mum, my Aunt, and I went to Sidney, a town just outside of Victoria. First we went to “Mineral World” where there were rocks and other things, so I made a necklace out of my name. I also went to the “Shaw Ocean Discovery Center.” At the end you could touch some of the different kinds of marine life.

One day my Aunt and I tried to use a GPS to try to go Geocaching, which is when you type in the coordinates and try to find a box of treasures.  You get to choose one and put one back in.  Unfortunately we never did find it.

Then another day I still had to use a roller at the“Lose the Training Wheels” bike camp but... I SOON DIDN’T! I “lost my training wheels” and I lost them with belief!  I was just smiling to know it wasn’t a modified bike but it was your average everyday bike.

The next night I had to sleep in a youth hostel because my Great Aunt and Uncle went away for the weekend. On the way to the hostel, we saw some street performers who did some stunts. After check-in we went to Emily Carr’s birthplace and went to view an exhibition about her life at the “Royal B.C. Museum.” In the evening, we got also got to see the Legislature and the Empress Hotel lit up outside.

In the morning, it was time to go.  We were hoping public transit would be on time and luckily it was. When we were driving home from the airport, I got a BMX bike (with no training wheels of course and a speedometer.)

I really enjoyed my trip to Victoria and if you can’t ride and meet the specifications, I would recommend “Lose the Training Wheels” to you.

COMMERCIAL ~ "La-Z-boy Furniture Gallery - Lloydminster" Starring Homeschoolers

Portions of this commercial were filmed in May, when Alisdair and I toured the New Cap News Television studio and radio station.  Tim Krenz, the President of the Lloydminster Homeschool Association, owns the La-Z-boy Furniture Gallery and he thought it would be fun for the children to star in a commercial for his business.

At the close of the tour, the children sat in one of two black recliners and had a few seconds of footage shot.  Can you find Alisdair?  I watched it twice and still didn't see him.  But my eagle-eyed son knew he was wearing a red t-shirt and found himself!  He is near the beginning (0:07 seconds) in the middle of the bottom row with his hands behind his head and his elbows sticking out!  It's a little blurry but Alisdair thinks it is because the commercial had to be compressed so much smaller to be emailed to us.

In any event, it is exciting to be part of a commerical.  We'll have to watch the local television station to see if we can see the advertisement actually broadcast.

But we'd better not watch the commerical too many times, or we'll be jumping into the minivan and driving to Lloydminster to purchase our very own La-Z-boy recliner.  You've got to admit, it does look very comfortable!

Friday, 22 July 2011

DID YOU KNOW? ~ Facts from "A String of Beads" By: Margarette S. Reid

Would it surprise you to learn that the word "bead" comes from the Anglo-Saxon word "bede" (which means "prayer"), or that each shape and type of bead has a name and a history?

At the back of this picture book, (which is both a story about a girl and her grandmother as well as an  informational volume), are three pages jammed packed with interesting information about "BEADS." These include:

* Beads probably were first made at about the same time in different places around the world.  The oldest ones discovered so far were found in France.  They were made from animal teeth and bones about forty thousand years ago.

* Beads from kangaroo bones have been discovered in Australia.

* In caves in Korea, people have found very old beads made from deer toe bones.

* Disk-shaped beads made from fossil dinosaur and ostrich eggshells were found in the Gobi dessert in Asia.

* Bones from fish and snakes have natural holes that make them easy to string.  Many early peoples used them as beads.

* We know beads were important to people who lived long ago because we find beads in their graves.  In South America, strings of tiny lizard-egg beads were found along with gold jewelry in clay pots.

* A wall painting in an Egyptian tomb shows craftsmen making, drilling, and stringing beads.  Everyone, including pets, wore beads in Egypt.  They thought beads brought them luck.  Sha means "luck" in Egyptian, and shasha is the Egyptian word for bead.

* As early people moved around to find food, they carried beads with them.  Wherever they went, they picked up new ideas about how to make and use beads.

* For thousands of years, up to the present day, people in many countries used a calculator made of beads to keep track of what they bought and sold.  It is called an abacus.  Abacus beads are usually made of wood.

* The English word bead comes from the Anglo-Saxon bede, meaning "prayer." Prayer beads are used by Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians. Although the beads are different, their purpose is the same: to guide worshipers through daily prayers.

* Around the time of Columbus, in the city of Venice, Italy, craftsmen made wonderful glass beads. To keep their methods secret, all Venetian bead makers had to live and work on one island. Although the craftsmen were threatened with death if they tried to leave that island, the secret was impossible to keep. Other centers sprang up to supply the growing demand for beads.

* Animals such as elephants and walruses that once provided ivory from their tusks are now protected. The tagua nut is an ivory look-alike that can be used for beads. It grows in the rain forests of Ecuador in South America.

* Ever since the first pearl was found inside an oyster, people have prized pearl beads.  But until two hundred years ago, people didn't know how they were formed.  Some people thought that oysters swallowed raindrops.  Now we know that when a grain of sand gets inside an oyster's shell, the oyster coats it with layers of smooth, lustrous material called nacre.  Behold -- a pearl!

* Myth and mystery have grown up around certain beads.  In Qom, Iran, people hang large, turquoise-colored beads around their donkeys' necks to protect them.  Eye beads and face beads are believed to have the power to protect their wearers from evil.  Those who wear Bodom beads -- beads that are usually yellow with black or dark-gray inner cores -- expect the beads to bark to warn them of danger!

* Native American women who were skilled at embroidering clothing with porcupine quills eagerly traded furs for bright-colored seed beads.  The explorers Lewis and Clark wrote in their journals that they must be careful to keep enough beads in reserve to trade for food supplies on their return trip.

* Japanese artists carve delicate bead sculptures of fruit, flowers, butterflies, and even dragons from a smooth, hard stone called jade -- and also from peach stones!

* Today in Africa, as in the past, village craftsmen specialize in making beads from the materials they find around them.  The Dogan of Mali make granite beads.  In Mauritania, glass is recyled by crushing bottles to make beads that have a soft, grainy look.  The Turkana people make aluminum beads, sometimes by melting down cooking pots and pans.  In Kenya, it is the custom for a woman who is waiting for her baby to be born to wear an amulet made from large, shiny brown beans.  In Malawi, bright red and black beans make beautiful beads.  They look delicious, but they are poisonous, so don't eat them!

* You can make beads from ordinary things around you -- seeds, shells, acorn caps, paper straws, pasta, even buttons -- just about anything you can string.

* All over the world, for as long as we can remember, people have loved beads and treasured them.


In the biographical facts, on the dust jacket, about author, Margarette S. Reid, we are told she has been "fascinated with beads from childhood (when she wore them playing dress-up).  Reid still treasures 'old' family necklaces, such as carved sandlewood beads brought from India by her missionary aunt or crystal beads that looked sparkly as diamonds to her.  As a Camp Fire Girl, Margarette worked hard to earn wooden honour beads. When she wrote a letter to Child Life about one project worth eleven beads, and the magazine published it, she knew she wanted to become a writer.  She also became a secondary and elementary-school teacher, and a mother and grandmother.  She lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and is also the author of The Button Box.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

BOOK REVIEWS ~ Robin Hill School ~ "The Garden Project" By: Margaret McNamara

Since our garden is growing fast and furiously (thanks to abundant rains lately), Isobel especially enjoyed the book, "The Garden Project" from the Robin Hill School "Ready-to-Read" series (Level 1), written by Margaret McNamara.

In the book, the teacher, Mrs. Connor, decides to turn on old sandbox into a garden plot.  "Parents filled the sandbox with dark brown dirt." After dividing the garden into four smaller plots, four students were assigned to planting seeds in each "square." 

"Nick, Katie, Emma and Eigen planted radish seeds.  Nick made holes in the dirt with his fingers.  Emma dropped one seed in each hole.  Eigen covered them up."

Some of our radish crop...
At this point, Isobel told me about her own experiences, poking her finger into the dirt and helping her stepdad, John, planting seeds.

Another foursome planted sunflower seeds.  "Sunflowers are big.  'And they need a lot of sun!' said Jamie."  (We have a few sunflower plants in our garden, too!)

Some other students planted pea pods while "Neil, Nia, James and Megan planted lettuce."

When Neil begins complaining about disliking vegetables, Mrs. Connor takes it in stride and says, "We shall see." 

"Every day the first graders tended their garden.  They watered.  They waited.  After one week tiny green sprouts came up.  The class picked weeds.  They kept birds away.  They watered some more.  They waited some more.  After three weeks, little lettuces were growing."

The sunflowers started to grow taller -- even taller than some of the children!  When the garden produce was ready to harvest, "Mrs. Connor made a lettuce and radish salad, with pea pods on top."

'Yummy!' said Neil. "Yes," said Becky.  She bit into a pea pod.  "It tastes just like sunshine."

Reading this little book to your child will help encourage them to try gardening for themselves. 


Alisdair and I were only gone to Victoria for six short days but the growth of the garden over that brief period was remarkable!  We took a few photos of our plants to show Grandma and Grandpa.  The potatoes are almost waist high ... it's unlikely we'll be able to rotovate between the rows again this season!  We thought we'd post a few photos of our radish crop (and the other plants) to accompany this book review.  I know Isobel will be very busy helping out, once harvest time arrives in Saskatchewan!

The potato patch ... plants are up to Alisdair's waist!

Tomato plants ... Isobel's already eating cherry tomatoes from the garden!

Giant sunflowers and squash ...

DID YOU KNOW? ~ JOHN LENNON's "Yellow Submarine" Rolls-Royce

After the "Lose the Training Wheels" camp concluded, we spent a few hours sightseeing in Victoria.  We went to the Royal BC Museum and were surprised to find John Lennon's Yellow Submarine "Rolls-Royce Phantom V" near the ticket kiosk in the lobby.  Of course we had to take a photograph!

We also took a partial picture of the sign that accompanied the exhibit.  The text may be too small for some to read.  In one place it tells about an irate woman who got mad at Lennon about the paint job on his car.  She called him a "swine" for "doing this to a Rolls-Royce!"

Not surprisingly, Lennon had a double bed installed in the back section of the vehicle.  The car had been in a "Ripley's Believe it or Not" museum and then was given to the Royal BC Museum in Victoria by the famous automobile magnate, Jim Pattison.

For car enthusiasts, a wealth of information can be found at this site.  Additional detailed photos of this interesting vehicle and of Victoria's beautiful scenery are here.


Yellow Submarine
John Lennon/Paul McCartney
© 1966
In the town where I was born
Lived a man who sailed to sea
And he told us of his life
In the land of submarines

So we sailed up to the sun
Till we found the sea of green
And we lived beneath the waves
In our yellow submarine

We all live in our yellow submarine,
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in our yellow submarine,
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine

And our friends are all on board
Many more of them live next door
And the band begins to play

We all live in our yellow submarine,
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in our yellow submarine,
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine

As we live a life of ease
Everyone of us has all we need
Sky of blue and sea of green
In our yellow submarine.

We all live in our yellow submarine,
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in our yellow submarine,
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine

We all live in our yellow submarine,
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in our yellow submarine,
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

BOOK REVIEWS ~ "Katie Morag and the Wedding" ~ By: Mairi Hedderwick

We were lucky enough to receive another "Katie Morag" book through inter-library loans.  This one centers around the wedding of Katie's Granma Mainland and one of the islanders on Struay, Neilly Beag.

The synopsis of book from the website for "Waterstones" (a British bookseller) is as follows:

"Romance has been brewing on the island between Neilly Beag and Granma Mainland and everyone is thrilled when they announce that they are to be married. Everyone, that is, except Grannie Island. For some reason that Katie Morag can't fathom her granny is not happy at all. But Granma Mainland has a surprise in store for Grannie Island, one that makes her very happy indeed!"

Like with any wedding, preparations are underway with invitations being sent out and the Village Hall decorated for the grand occasion.  It seems like all the islanders have caught "wedding fever" -- that is, everyone except Granny Island, who seems quite cross about the whole thing.  When Katie Morag McColl asks why her Granny isn't happy about the wedding, no one answers her.  Finally she writes and asks the bride-to-be why her "other Granny" might be upset about the pending wedding.  Granma Mainland doesn't answer but she does come to the rescue and solve the problem.

It turns out that there is a Grandad Island.  He likes to travel while Granny Island doesn't like leaving the Isle of Struay.  In fact, Grandad flies a helicopter!  Katie Morag manages to get Granny Island to go for a ride with her husband but it is obvious from the illustrations that she isn't enjoying the trip. Grandad Island and his wife DID enjoy the wedding and even took to the dance floor.  But there is no happy ending.  Although Katie Morag does manage to get Granny Island to go for a helicopter ride, with her husband, the reader is told that "Grandad Island loved travelling and never stayed in one place for long.  'East, West, Home's Best!' insisted Grannie Island, clinging to her seat  like a limpet. Katie Morag knew then, that Grandad Island would be leaving soon."  Katie Morag asked him, " 'Grandad, when you go travelling can I come too sometimes?' "  He replied, 'Certainly, Katie Morag -- anywhere in the world.'  Katie Morag was thrilled.  She looked forward to visiting Fuay, the city on the mainland and now, anywhere in the world!  But it was good to know that Grannie Island would always be there on the Island of Struay when she got back home."

The detailed illustrations are delightful.  Here are some photos of our favourites:

Katie Morag pushes her brother Liam home
 after a visit with Grannie Island.  On the way, Neilly
 Beag gives her a stack of wedding invitations to
 take to the Post Office.

I love these "fish wives" -- carrying their shopping
 with sheep in front and fishing nets and traps behind them!

Neilly Beag is definitely in love ... and grabbing
 his beloved's bottom!  Or is he saving her
 from falling off the stool?  The 'Wedding Menu'
 consists of Lobster Claw Soup or Stuffed Turnip,
 Haggis Burgers or Carrot Steaks,
 Chips and for dessert, cake and ice cream.

Neilly and Gramma Mainland are celebrating! 
They are married .... at last!

Grannie Island is happy, too --
 dancing and celebrating with her long lost husband.
The bride and groom set off on their honeymoon ... via boat, of course!
Destination - the Island of Fuay.  It is uninhabited (except for sheep).
Note - There is a box of "Sheep Dip" in the boat!
A crowd bids the honeymooners farewell. 
The kilted boys are hanging up a sign saying "Haste Ye Back!"

Grannie Island 'clinging to her seat like a limpet!'

Monday, 18 July 2011

REFLECTIONS ~ "Lose The Training Wheels" Camp ~ Victoria

It's been quite the week!  Last Monday morning Alisdair could not ride a two-wheeler.  But this Monday, he can!  And it is all thanks to a wonderful non-profit organization called "Lose the Training Wheels," some dedicated volunteers and the Queen Alexandra Hospital for Children in Victoria, British Columbia.

One Sunday afternoon in mid-May, Alisdair and Isobel and I went down to the local school.  Both kids were on their bikes (with training wheels) and I was walking between them.  One would get stuck, and then the other, and I'd have to take turns, pushing them a bit to get them going again.  Some insensitive folk drove by and stared at Alisdair, as he is almost 12, and I suppose they hadn't seen such a large kid using training wheels to ride.  The whole incident frustrated and upset me.  I wondered what we could do about the situation and began to search on the internet.

Yes, there were special bikes that could be purchased for large sums of money.  But, even if we bought a special bike for Alisdair, he would still be singled out from other children of his age group.  And then I found what seemed like the answer... "Lose the Training Wheels!"

As I watched a video of a camp held in Victoria, British Columbia, a couple of years ago, (see previous video post), the tears streamed freely down my face.  Although Alisdair made fun of my emotional outburst, he, too was inspiried by the clip.  He phoned his grandma and told her about our discovery and mused about how wonderful it might be if only he could attend a "Lose the Training Wheels" camp.

I emailed the organizers to ask if they still had spaces available and was told originally that it was only for children within their therapy program, but they would let me know if, after the local registration deadline, there were spaces left.  True to her word, a few days later, Sara emailed back saying there was room if Alisdair wanted to come.  This was terrific news but there were still a lot of hurdles to overcome if we were to go.  After all, Victoria is a long way from our prairie home and we needed to get there, have a place to stay once we'd arrived, have transportation to the recreation centre where the camp was being held, to find a replacement for our paper route, find someone to look after Isobel, etc. etc.  I wasn't sure we could manage everything the whole concept entailed, but I emailed Sara back and asked for a few days to check out the possibilities.

And then, suddenly, all the pieces of the puzzle started fitting together.  WestJet announced a seat sale and, although the tickets would still be costly, they were now a bit cheaper.  In fact, the difference in price between booking flights and riding on the Greyhound bus, was only about $30.00.  Grandma and Grandpa were willing to look after Isobel and Alisdair's friend, Rolland, agreed to do the paper route for the week.  It seemed like God wanted us to get to the camp and so I told Sara we would come.  She kindly agreed to hold a spot for us.  Shortly afterwards, Canada Post went on strike and it took some time to get our application sent in.  But Sara patiently kept our spot for us.

So it was that on Sunday, July 10th, Alisdair and I flew out from Edmonton to Victoria to prepare for an exciting and unforgettable week.  It was actually a six-day trip, with five days at bike camp.  But in those few days, he was able to accomplish something that he couldn't manage to do in about five years of trying ... he learned to ride a bike without assistance.  We will always remember this amazing life-changing experience and the blessing "Lose the Training Wheels" has been to our family.

We both want to share our week with you, so watch for future posts about the camp and our trip to the west coast.  Once I get our pictures downloaded (and our suitcase unpacked) we'll be composing lots of posts about Alisdair's journey to "Lose the Training Wheels."

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

QUOTES ~ "The Power of Love..."

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will finally know peace."
                                                                           ~ Jimi Hendrix
                                                                             (1942 - 1970) 

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

KINDERGARTEN ~ Isobel Graduates ~ Off to Grade One

Tuesday, June 28th was a special afternoon ~ the elementary "Celebration of Success" was held in the school gym and, as part of the festivities, the Kindergarten students were honoured as "graduates."

The children made their own mortar board hats, which added to the atmosphere.  One of the mothers (who is from Hawaii originally) gave each child a helium filled balloon and a candy lei, to mark the occasion.

The Kindergarten class began the program by leading all those who had gathered in the singing of "O Canada."  Later, they sang two songs "Swimming" and "Beep!  Choo!  Zoom!  Honk!" and presented a story/poem "Going on a Picnic."

They were also presented with diplomas and "Winnit" awards.

Isobel's sheet of "Winnits" are for:

I Can Print My Name
I Know My Alphabet
I Know My Shapes
Terry Fox Run
Track and Field
I Know My Birthday
I Know My Phone Number and
I Know My Colours.

It's hard to believe that Isobel is heading to Grade 1 at the end of August.  So many adventures ~ with Miss Massey (who is coming from Ontario to teach a Grade 1/2 split class) ~ are yet to come!

... the mortar board hat fell off on the floor!

Mrs. Winsor and the Kindergarten graduates
Mrs. Winsor & Isobel
Kindergarten Teacher
2010 - 2011
Taken on Report Card Day - June 30th

BOOK REVIEWS ~ "Little Sure Shot: The Story of ANNIE OAKLEY" By: Stephanie Spinner

"The Story of Annie Oakley" is told in a "Step into Reading" book called "Little Sure Shot."  This is a "Step 3" book and is written by Stephanie Spinner and illustrated by Jose Miralles.  It was published by Random House:  New York in 1993.

Alhtough the 48 page book was too difficult for a beginning reader like Isobel, she still enjoyed the story of Annie Oakley and listened to the tale with interest.

This photograph of Annie was on Page 4, however in the copy we were reading, it was slightly ripped, so we could not see her face:

Annie Oakley
The story begins in the fall of 1869.  Phoebe Ann Moses is nine-years old and "sits alone in a run-down farmhouse.  She is worried her family is very poor.  They work hard, but they have no money.  They never have enough to eat.  The girl wants to help.  She has an idea.  That is why she is in the house by herself.  The idea scares her a little.  The girl looks at her father's gun.  No one in the family is allowed to shoot it.  Her mother says it is only for protection.  But the girl knows guns are good for hunting.  She has watched men shoot birds and animals for food.  Now she wants to try.  The girl takes the gun off the wall.  It is heavy.  It is taller than she is.  It smells of oil and gunpowder.  Mama will not like this, thinks the girl.  But I cam going to do it anyhow.  I have to" (Pages 5 and 6).

And so the reader is introduced to the girl who would eventually become famous as "Annie Oakley."  Phoebe takes the gun into the woods and shoots the first things she aims at ~ a squirrel.  "Her family will have a good meal that night.  She has found a way to feed them." (Page 8).  "Life was never the same for the Moses family after Annie picked up that gun.  She put food on the table.  She even sold the game she shot.  A fancy restaurant bought the quail and grouse.  A trader named Frenchy La Motte bought the foxes, minks and raccons for their skins.  For the first time ever, Annie's family didn't have to worry about money" (Pages 9 and 10).

But the hard times didn't completely end.  Annie's mother remarried but she still "struggled to work as a country nurse and take care of her children.  They wore old, raggedy clothes.  Often they went hungry.  There was never any money for books.  That meant Annie and her brothers and sisters couldn't go to school" (Pages 10 and 11). 

"Annie wished she could read and write.  Once she even took a job so she could go to school.  But the other children made fun of her hand-me-down dresses and her worn-out shoes.  They even made fun of her name, calling her Moses-Poses.  Annie never went back" (Pages 11 and 12).

Annie's mother wanted her daughter to get an education.  Her mother wanted Annie to "act like a lady" and felt that "guns were for boys."  "Annie wanted to be a lady.  But shooting was important to her.  Why couldn't a lady be strong, and brave, and a crack shot, too?  Annie just couldn't understand" (Page 12).

So, when she was fifteen, Annie was sent to Cincinnati, Ohio to live with her sister Lyda and her husband Joe.  Lyda told her mother that in the city Annie would be able to go to school and become a young lady.

"Annie did like Cincinnati.  She liked the crowds, the bright lights and the steamboats on the Ohio River.  But best of all she liked the shooting galleries.  There she could shoot to her heart's content.  The tin ducks gliding by were so much easier to hit than live birds!" (Page 14).

"One day Annie noticed a man watching her shoot.  When she put down her gun, he came over and tipped his hat. 'Miss, would you like to earn some money doing that?' he asked.  'How?' said Annie.  'In a shooting match,' he said.  'Winner gets a hundred dollars.'  Annie was amazed.  A hundred dollars was a lot of money -- more than many people earned in a year" (Page 14).

Annie agreed and a date was set.  "She was up against a famous sharpshooter named Frank Butler.  He went around the country giving shooting exhibitions to crowds even bigger than this one.  When Frank Butler saw Annie, he laughed.  'That little thing?' he said.  'She's only a girl!'  Annie's cheeks burned.  Suddenly she didn't care that Frank Butler was famous.  Or that he was wearing medals from all the contests he'd won.  She forgot about being nervous.  I am going to win this, she decided.  Butler fired the first shot.  It was a hit.  Then Annie fired.  Her shot was a hit, too.  Target after target was thrown into the air.  Time after time, both Annie and Frank hit them.  Then, on his last turn, Frank Butler missed.  The crowd got very quiet.  This was Annie's chance.  She raised her gun.  She took aim, fired -- and hit the target.  She had won!  The crowd cheered.  They had never seen anything like Annie.  Neither had Frank Butler.  'That little girl is one heck of a shot!' he said.  'One heck of a shot!  After the match Frank could not stop thinking about her.  She was not only a heck of a shot, she was also very pretty.  Frank called on Annie at Lyda's house.  They began to see a lot of each other.  A year later they were married" (Pages 17 to 19).

Annie was happy.  "It was fun being married to a famous sharpshooter.  Annie loved to watch his act.  Frank could hit three glass balls that were thrown into the air at the same time.  He could shoot the number off a playing card.  He could even shoot an apple into pieces -- off the head of his dog!" (Page 20).

When Frank went on tour, Annie went to stay with her mother.  She finally learned to read and write so she could write letters to her husband.  She also spent time, on the farm, learning how to do trick shooting.  "She wanted to surprise Frank when he came back.  So every day she went out into the fields to practice.  And by the time Frank returned, Annie could do all the stunts he did" (Pages 21 and 22).

When Butler's regular partner, in his stunt show, "got sick and couldn't perform there was no one to take his place -- except Annie.  Annie was not used to stages, or bright lights, or large audiences.  She missed her first shot, and the audience groaned.  There were boos and hisses.  'Go, home, girlie!' someone shouted.  Annie's eyes flashed.  She took a deep breath and shot again.  This time she scored a hit.  Each shot after that was perfect.  Soon the audience was clapping and cheering.  The little girl with the big gun had won them over.  And Frank Butler had a new partner for his sharpshooting act!" (Pages 22 and 23).

It was at this point in time, that Annie took the stage name "Annie Oakley."  "She remembered the shooting match where she and Frank first met.  It was held at a place called Oakley.  That's it, she thought.  And from that time on, her name was Annie Oakley" (Page 24).

Frank and Annie traveled all through the Midwest.  "Annie loved going from town to town with Frank.  And her shooting kept getting better.  Soon she was doing things no one else could do -- not even her husband.  She could shoot a dime out of his hand.  She could shoot the end off a lit cigarette that he held in his mouth.  She could shoot bending over backward.  She could even shoot behind her by looking in a mirror -- or a knife blade!  It is no wonder that her fame grew." (Page 24.)

When Sitting Bull came to see the show he jumped to his feet and yelled "Watanya cicilia!" which means "Little Sure Shot" in the Sioux language.  Oakley became friends with the Chief.  He even adopted her and made her a Sioux princess.  Soon the whole world would know about "Little Sure Shot" -- thanks to Buffalo Bill and his traveling show, which was part circus and part rodeo.

Annie's act in the Buffalo Bill "show went something like this:

'Ladies and gentlemen!' cries the announcer.  'The Wild West presents the lovely lass of the Western Plains, Little Sure Shot -- the one and only Annie Oakley!'

Annie comes riding in on a fast little pinto pony.  She wears a buckskin dress with fringe and a big hat pinned with a silver star.  Her long brown hair flies out behind her.  She smiles at the audience.

A cowboy rides into the ring.  He races past Annie hurling clay targets into the air.  Annie leans way down from her galloping pony.  A pistol is on the ground.  Now it's in her hand!

"Bang! Bang!  Bang!  She hits each target at a full gallop.  Then she leaps off her pony.  She runs over to a table and picks up a rifle.  Her husband, Frank, throws six glass balls into the air.  Just for an instant they are points of light.  Then Annie aims -- and they're gone.  Frank whirls a glass ball on a string.  Annie watches it in a mirror.  She aims her gun backward.  Bang!  The ball disappears.

Now Frank holds up a playing card -- the ace of hearts.  Annie stands thirty feet away.  She takes aim.  Bang!  Her bullet goes right through the heart at the center of the card.  But Annie's not finished yet.  Frank turns the card sideways.  Is it possible?  Can she do it?  Yes!  She shoots the card in half.  Thousands of fans leap to their feet, shouting Annie's name.  She smiles and curtsies.  Then she's on her pony again, racing out of the ring.  She takes the hearts of the audience with her.  And makes Buffalo Bill's Wild West show the most popular entertainment in America" (Pages 29 to 32).

In 1887 Annie, and the entire Wild West show, traveled to England to help celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.  "The show set up its tents and tepees on a huge field in London.  Annie got ready to perform in front of forty thousand people.  It was the biggest crowd she had ever seen.  But if Annie was nervous, no one could tell.  Her shooting was perfect.  The audience went wild.  The next day newspapers called her Annie Oakley of the Magic Gun.  After that, everyone in London wanted tickets.  Then a message came from Buckingham Palace.  Queen Victoria herself was coming to the show -- but only for an hour.  Everyone was very excited.  The Queen almost never went out in public.  Annie came on at the end of the show.  She could see Queen Victoria far across the ring -- a little old lady in black sitting on a platform covered with flowers.  The show was running late.  The Queen's hour was almost up.  Annie was disappointed.  Guess she won't see much of me, she thought.  But the Queen did not leave.  She sat through Annie's entire act. And when it was finished, she asked to meet her  The Queen was tiny and frail.  But her eyes sparkles as she pinned a medal to Annie's buckskin dress.  'You are a very, very clever little girl,' she said" (Pages 34 to 38).

Annie's next brush with royalty was when she was invited to shoot for the Emperor of Germany and his son, Crown Prince Wilhelm.  She went to Germany and "as usual, Annie put on a great show.  She shot clay pigeons.  She shot glass balls.  Her audience began to applaud her.  They were German princes, generals, and military men -- all good shots.  They had heard about Annie.  But they had not believed this tiny American woman could shoot so well.  She had surprised them.  Now their stern faces were smiling.  Things were going smoothly.  Annie was pleased.  Then she got the surprise of her life.  Crown Prince Wilhelm stepped into the ring.  He lit a cigarette and put it in his mouth.  An aide came up to Annie.  'The prince commands you to put his cigarette out by shooting off the tip,' he said.  'He says he has seen you do this and now you must do it again.'  Annie's heart began to thud.  She had done this trick many times before -- with her husband, Frank. But Crown Prince Wilhelm was the future emperor of Germany!  What if she missed?  What if she hit the prince?  That was too terrible to think about.  Annie gathered up all her courage.  She walked thirty paces from the prince.  She raised her rifle and smoothly took aim.  Crack!  The prince's head jerked back.  His cigarette was only a stub.  Annie had made the shot.  The audience broke into wild cheers.  Crown Prince Wilhelm gave Annie a bow.  She smiled sweetly.  Then she left the ring. Frank was waiting for her.  'That was really something, Annie," he said.  'That was the scariest moment of my life,' she answered" (Pages 40 to 44).

After spending three winters in Europe, Annie and Frank returned to the United States.  The couple settled in New Jersey but before long, Annie was once again starring in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.
"Annie stayed with the show for almost seventeen years -- longer than any other performer.  Then, one night in 1901, the show was in a terrible train wreck.  Annie was hurt badly.  The shock was so great that her long dark hair turned completely white.  It was time, she decided, for a change.  She and Frank left the show for good" (Page 46).

Later, Annie starred in a show called "The Western Girl, which was written just for her.  She competed in shooting matches, won a fortune in prize money, and gave a lot of it to charities that helped poor children.  She taught thousands of women how to shoot.  She performed for the troops during World War I.  She raised money for the Red Cross.  And when the war was over, she kept on shooting.  She celebrated her sixty-second birthday by hitting a hundred clay pigeons in a row!" (Page 47).

Annie Oakley died on November 3, 1926 in Greenville, Ohio.  Frank died eighteen days later, on November 21. They are buried side by side at Brock Cemetery in Greenville.

"Annie first picked up a gun more than a hundred years ago.  Life was very different for women then.  They stayed at home and took care of the children.  They did not shoot guns.  They did not compete against men.  They did not move freely in the world, winning fame and fortune.  Annie Oakley did all of those things.  She was one in a million."