Archive for March, 2011
In My Opinion:
A Book Review of Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt
This very popular parent’s guide to nurturing young readers, originally published in 1969, is now in its fourth edition. The book is probably best known for its detailed lists of quality literature for children, separated by age appropriateness, but there is much more to Honey for a Child’s Heart than just the reading lists. In a few short chapters, Hunt provides inspiration for parents to encourage children to read and help them to love reading. Her ideas are simple, completely realistic, and fantastic.
Hunt borrows the terms “milk” and “honey” from writer Erich Fromm, explaining that children need both of these from their parents. Milk refers to physical needs being met, such as the needs for food, drink, sleep, and shelter. Honey refers to the “sweetness of life, that special quality that makes life sing with enjoyment for all its holds.” Honey would mean times spent playing with a child, long conversations together while taking a walk around the neighborhood, and of course, reading good books together. In Hunt’s view, a family that reads together will bond together in more ways than one. She says, “I can’t imagine any pleasure greater than bringing to the uncluttered, supple mind of a child the delight of knowing the many rich things God has given us to enjoy. Parents have this wonderful privilege, and books are their keenest tools. Children don’t stumble onto good books by themselves; they must be introduced to the wonder of words put together in such a way that they spin out pure joy and magic.”
This book describes the importance of reading to a child, the importance of choosing meaningful, beautiful books, and how to find books that are suitable for children of different ages. The entire second half of this 231 page book consists of the book lists, which are divided into sections such as “A Child’s First Books: Ages 0-3,” “Picture Book Classics: Ages 4-8,” and “First Books for Beginning Readers.” These sections also cover historical novels, poetry, young adult novels, and choosing books for special occasions, such as holidays. The lists are annotated, and the brief descriptions are perfect for guiding a parent’s selection of books based on a child’s interests and abilities.
I love Honey for a Child’s Heart. This is a must-read, must-buy book for parents who want their kids to love reading. It inspires me to be more deliberate in the choices my family makes and the way we emphasize reading as a superior pastime, a worthwhile hobby, and a daily priority.
There was a time, not long ago, when I made some foolish assumptions about children’s literature. Without giving it any thought, I assumed that all children’s books were pretty much created equal. On trips to the library for my kids, I walked up and down the aisles selecting books at random. I grabbed many books based solely on the cover illustrations, breaking a cardinal rule, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Doing this, I missed several important things about children’s books. Lesson one: the covers are designed by book publishing companies to sell books, and they are made to be attractive and look interesting regardless of whatever contents are inside. Lesson two: children’s books aren’t any different from adult literature, which I already know varies greatly in quality. Some books just are not worth reading, and this applies to all literature, including children’s books. Lesson three: childhood is precious and short, and there are many wonderful books for children that should not be missed. I wasted time reading some worthless books to my kids when I could have been showing them the best of the best.
I’ll give an example of a bad experience we had with a child’s book. This story makes me cringe even now, but it was instrumental in teaching me to be more careful about the books I read to my kids. Around Halloween one year, we were browsing the children’s section of the library, and I saw a beautifully illustrated copy of a children’s scary story book sitting out on display. Based on the title and cover art, it appeared to be interesting, age-appropriate and not too intense for my young children, so we sat down in a cozy corner of the library and started to read. Within a few pages, my mistake began to show itself. Although the book’s title indicated that it was a story about jack-o-lanterns, the actual story featured Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, complete with a cartoon drawing of the devil himself. The picture is vivid in my mind even now, because truthfully it frightened me; though it was a cartoon, it was not comical and featured disturbing details like glinting yellow eyes, a wicked smiling face, and cloven feet. There I sat, halfway through the reading of this book, feeling a little stunned and not sure how to proceed. Do I finish the book in order to show my kids that it’s only a story and not worth getting upset about, or do I shut the book and tell them, “Mommy picked up a bad book. Let’s find another one.” In the end, I made the wrong choice. I wanted to know how this version of the story ended, and some part of me believed that it would end on a positive note and we would all feel better. I was wrong. As I read the last sentence on the last page, I slammed the book shut and sat in shocked silence. The kids were suitably scared. Mommy messed up. Happy Halloween, kids.
I wish this was the only time I have made this kind of mistake, but sadly it’s not. I am making a vow to never choose my children’s books again with such cavalier carelessness. I am reading the highly acclaimed Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt, which contains an annotated list of recommended children’s books for all age levels, and I intend to make this list my new library handbook. Book review to follow soon!
Dramatic works are intended for the stage and not usually for the pleasure of reading. The plays of Henrik Ibsen are a notable exception to this. Upon re-reading A Doll’s House, I am strongly reminded how engaging, socially relevant, and enjoyable this play is now, over 130 years after it was written. A Doll’s House has been called the birth of modern drama. The natural dialogue and descriptive notes contribute to the play’s easy readability; the reader has no trouble visualizing the action as a theatrical production or as a real-life story. I read the acclaimed Rolf Fjelde translation, which does a wonderful job preserving the cultural integrity of the text.
Nora’s story fascinates me because it is such a simple story on the surface, but it makes you think about so many things that are not at all simple. In a non-feminist reading of the play, I think the central image of the play is the contemporary concept of marriage and the transformation of Nora. She begins the play as a doll, trained from birth to believe in the authority (and superiority) of her father, which she later transferred onto Torvald, her husband. Her realization that this subservient, blind faith in Torvald is misplaced causes Nora to become undone, and the shell of their marriage crumbles. Once she understands that Torvald is not the all-knowing, gracious master of their mutual destiny, Nora says grimly, “I’m beginning to understand everything now.”
I don’t like the way A Doll’s House concludes, but I am haunted by it, and I understand it. Rather than interpreting this play as a condemnation of marriage in general, I would call it a condemnation of ignorance and a call for mutual power and purpose in married partners. Both spouses should know who they are and have a purpose in life before cleaving together in a marriage. Unfortunately, Nora, who was treated as a plaything and thus believed herself to be one, discovered this too late: “I have to try to educate myself… I have to stand completely alone, if I’m ever going to discover myself and the world out there.”
A few days ago, I received an email with the absolutely baffling request, “Thoughts Needed.” My curiosity was peaked; I read the message and discovered the sender was notifying friends about a sick relative, and she was asking people for their thoughts. Not as in, “Advice Needed,” but as a lame substitute for “Prayers Needed.” My conclusion is that, in order to hedge around asking for prayers and risk offending any acquaintance who doesn’t believe in prayer, the sender of the message decided to ask simply for people to think about her sick relative. This boggles the mind.
Everywhere I look lately, it seems like I’m seeing phrases such as, “You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers,” or “I’ll be thinking about you during your surgery,” or “Your family is in my family’s thoughts and prayers.” I’ll admit, I’m perplexed and annoyed by this trend. Prayers are undeniably a good thing. Even if a person doesn’t have a personal faith in God, when you’re going through something difficult, it doesn’t hurt to have someone else lifting up your name to the God he or she believes in. It does seem like during the most violent storms of life, such as when a loved one is hospitalized, someone has died, during a natural disaster, when a child is injured or missing, or a couple is facing divorce, the social barriers around religious faith seem to be temporarily lifted, and it is suddenly okay to use phrases like, “I’m praying for you,” and “May God give you comfort and peace.” But even this safe haven of religious expression is being compromised. It’s being compromised by those darn “thoughts.”
There seems to be a spreading notion that the word “thoughts” can be substituted for the word “prayers” when people want to express compassion but aren’t willing to tread into spiritual territory. Sit back and think about it for a moment. If you are going through something difficult and a friend says, “You will be in my thoughts,” what good does that possibly accomplish? It almost implies that the human brain, the organ of thought, has some power to send out positive, healing vibrations, and just by thinking about someone, we are helping them. This is ridiculous. On the flipside, there is innate value in praying for a person. Prayer is asking for divine intervention, and whether you believe in its power or not, at least the person doing the praying believes it! Like I said before, prayer can’t possibly hurt, and at least there is a chance for it to work miracles. (I could write pages on existing proof that prayer does work, but I’ll save it for another time.)
Don’t fall prey to this modern convention of speech. If someone is down and you want to express sympathy and concern, don’t hide behind weak words. Pray for the person, and let them know you did it!
Enjoy these inspirational, thoughtful, and funny quotes about the change of season.
Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer. ~Geoffrey B. Charlesworth
It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. ~Charles Dickens
It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! ~Mark Twain
Hoe while it is spring, and enjoy the best anticipations. It is not much matter if things do not turn out well. ~Charles Dudley Warner
I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden. ~Ruth Stout
Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. ~Doug Larson
Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day. ~W. Earl Hall
If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. ~Anne Bradstreet
The year’s at the spring
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hillside’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven -
All’s right with the world!
No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn. ~Hal Borland
Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world. ~Virgil A. Kraft
April is a promise that May is bound to keep. ~Hal Borland
Where man sees but withered leaves,
God sees sweet flowers growing.
That God once loved a garden we learn in Holy writ.
And seeing gardens in the Spring I well can credit it.
~Winifred Mary Letts
Every spring is the only spring – a perpetual astonishment. ~Ellis Peters
Spring is sooner recognized by plants than by men. ~Chinese Proverb
The naked earth is warm with Spring,
And with green grass and bursting trees
Leans to the sun’s kiss glorying,
And quivers in the sunny breeze.
In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours. ~Mark Twain
I think that no matter how old or infirm I may become, I will always plant a large garden in the spring. Who can resist the feelings of hope and joy that one gets from participating in nature’s rebirth? ~Edward Giobbi
Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. ~Rainer Maria Rilke
To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring. ~George Santayana
The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month. ~Henry Van Dyke
If you’ve never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom. ~Terri Guillemets
April hath put a spirit of youth in everything. ~William Shakespeare
Yesterday the twig was brown and bare;
To-day the glint of green is there;
Tomorrow will be leaflets spare;
I know no thing so wondrous fair,
No miracle so strangely rare.
I wonder what will next be there!
Now every field is clothed with grass, and every tree with leaves; now the woods put forth their blossoms, and the year assumes its gay attire. ~Virgil
First a howling blizzard woke us,
Then the rain came down to soak us,
And now before the eye can focus -
Crocus. ~Lilja Rogers
The seasons are what a symphony ought to be: four perfect movements in harmony with each other. ~Arthur Rubenstein
Welcome to spring! As the weather turns warmer and the days grow longer, our thoughts turn to flowers, green grass, blossoming trees, and – you guessed it – spring cleaning! Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be a dreaded process if you regard it as a time to organize and refresh your life and gain some perspective. Spring is a time of birth, renewal, and starting over. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to my Tupperware cabinet, I definitely need to start over. Here are some tips to get you started on your own spring cleaning adventure.
- Go through your books. This chore should be number one on everyone’s list. Sort through your collection of books and pull out anything that you don’t want, don’t need, and know you’ll never read again. Take your castoffs to the computer, visit www.bookjingle.com, and get an instant quote to sell books online. Pack up your books with BookJingle’s free shipping label, and you’ve got one area of the home decluttered, plus you’ve earned some easy money.
- Clean your upholstered furniture. To remove dust, take the cushions outside and gently beat them by hand. Use your vacuum cleaner attachments to clean under the cushions and down in crevices. Clean any stains per your furniture manufacturer’s instructions. (For my couches, all it takes is a little carpet cleaning solution and a clean cloth. Go over the cushions with the vacuum attachment to freshen them up.)
- Make your home fire safe. Change batteries in smoke detectors (you should do this twice a year) and dust the smoke detector units. Check the condition of fire extinguishers and discuss fire escape plans with your family.
- Wash window screens. Make a cleaning solution in a bucket with warm water and dishwashing liquid. Remove the screens from the windows, scrub with solution and a brush, and rinse thoroughly.
- Clean window treatments. Clean curtains as indicated on the care labels; many curtains are machine-washable. Wipe wooden blinds with a damp cloth. Clean metal and vinyl blinds with a solution of warm water and dishwashing liquid.
- Dust refrigerator coils. Turn off the power at the circuit breaker. Clean coils with a vacuum cleaner attachment or a specially-designed refrigerator-coil brush.
- While you’re in the kitchen and have the power shut off, defrost the freezer. Empty the freezer and wipe the interior with 1 quart of hot water mixed with 2 tablespoons of baking soda.
- Flip your mattress and clean the pillows. Most pillows are machine-washable.
- Organize closets, attics, and basements. If you don’t have time to do a top to bottom cleaning job in these spaces, take a plastic bag or laundry basket and quickly toss in items that you no longer need, want or use. Anything that hasn’t been used in over a year should be tossed. Donate your cast-offs to a charitable organization, or have a yard sale.
- Vacuum and shampoo rugs. Carpets with waterproof backings can be cleaned with a shampooing machine. Oriental rugs and others without backings must be professionally cleaned.
- Clean the garage! Many people dread this task, but I always look forward to giving the garage a good cleaning in the spring. Sort your belongings in piles to keep, toss, or donate. Once you’ve cleared out some space, sweep out the cobwebs, dirt and other debris and give the floor a good spray with the hose.
This list isn’t comprehensive, but I hope it gets you started on your spring cleaning projects. Happy spring, everyone!
BookJingle is the answer when you need to sell used books, plus it’s a great way to go green. Another answer for going green is to try making your own household cleaners from natural, environmentally-friendly ingredients. This is also a great way to save money. Most homemade cleaning formulas are multi-purpose and can be used for a variety of cleaning tasks, and the ingredients to make them are inexpensive. Save money, go green and have a clean, chemical-free house – sounds like a winner to me!
Multi-Purpose Spray Cleaner:
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
Mix in spray bottle. Use on kitchen surfaces, appliances, bathroom fixtures, and floors.
1 cup rubbing alcohol (isopropyl)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon white vinegar OR 1 tablespoon clear, non-sudsing ammonia
Mix in spray bottle. Use on mirrors and glass surfaces, buff with clean cloth.
1 cup olive oil
½ cup lemon juice
Mix in spray bottle. Apply to cleaning cloth and spread over furniture surface.
Undiluted white vinegar can be used for hard water deposits or soap scum and to scrub the inside of the toilet bowl. To clean a shower head with mineral deposits, put ½ cup of undiluted vinegar in a plastic bag and fasten it to the shower head with a rubber band. Let it sit for several hours, then rinse and buff the shower head. Undiluted white vinegar can be used in the washing machine’s rinse cycle instead of fabric softener.
Baking soda is great for cleaning sinks, bathtub rings, and other hard surfaces. Make a paste of baking soda and water for scrubbing tough spots.
Selling used books online is a great way to get some cash. After doing a little research about some of the most valuable books in the world, I wish that I owned a copy of one of these books. Talk about a great way to get some cash!
The Gutenberg Bible. This one’s a no-brainer. Published in 1456, the Gutenberg Bible was the first book to be printed with moveable type. Only 21 intact copies of the book remain. An intact copy of this book is valued at $25-35 million.
The Codex Leicester by Leonardo da Vinci. This book is owned by Bill Gates, who paid $30.8 million for it in 1994. It is a 72-page notebook containing the writings and sketches of da Vinci and is, needless to say, one of a kind.
Tamerlane and Other Poems by Edgar Allan Poe. Only 12 known copies exist of this first published book by Edgar Allan Poe. One of these copies was sold in 2009 for $662,500.
First Folio by William Shakespeare. The First Folio collection of 36 Shakespeare plays was published in 1623. The book was 900 pages long and has only 228 surviving copies today. A copy of this book is worth an estimated $22.6 million.
Birds of America by John James Audubon. One of the 120 remaining copies of this 19th century book was sold in 2000 for $8.8 million.
Autographed manuscript of 9 symphonies by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This manuscript autographed by Mozart holds the record for any music manuscript; it was sold for $3.6 million in 1987.
Action Comics #1. Now the most valuable comic book in the world, this edition introduced the first superhero, Superman, in 1938. A copy sold in 2010 for $1 million.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. The world’s most valuable children’s picture book was first printed in 1963. An original copy in excellent condition is valued at $10,200.
I first read this book in college, in a class about Greek tragedies and comedies. When I saw the title A River Runs Through It and Other Stories on the course syllabus, I wondered if it was a mistake. This was in the late 90’s, a few years after the Robert Redford movie was released, and I was quite familiar with the movie. I wondered what, if anything, this story had to do with Greek classics.
That class and the professor who taught it made a huge impact on my college years, and at the beginning of it all was A River Runs Through It and Other Stories. In case you don’t know anything about the book, it was the first book written by phenom Norman Maclean, written in his seventies, and it won a Pulitzer Prize. The book is comprised of three novellas, one titled “A River Runs Through It,” and it is the title novella that holds the most power and significance in the collection. I’m assuming most people have seen the movie at least once, and I’ll admit the movie is a good interpretation of the story of a Montana family that turns fly fishing into a form of art and the dynamics between family members when one is on a path of self-destruction. The movie is beautifully filmed and gave me a good visual sense of fly fishing, a sport I have never witnessed personally, and since the novella contains pages of descriptive text about the sport, this is helpful. But it was in my Greek class, having read the novella, that I began to understand the importance of this story, and my way of thinking was changed.
The beauty of the story lies in the relationship between the narrator and his brother, Paul, who has a natural toughness and a stubborn determination to prove it to the world. The narrator says, “Paul was tough by thinking he was tougher than any establishment. My mother and I watched horrified morning after morning while the Scottish minister tried to make his small child eat oatmeal. My father was also horrified – at first because a child of his own bowels would not eat God’s oats, and as the days went by, because his wee child proved tougher than he was.” This determination increases as Paul grows to adulthood, and the family is faced with an unspeakable dilemma – utter helplessness as they watch their beloved, charming one destroy himself systematically. The narrator confesses, “He did not want any big brother advice or money or help, and, in the end, I could not help him.”
As it turns out, the connection between “A River Runs Through It” and the Greek tragedies was pretty significant after all. I could not begin to estimate the number of times “A River Runs Through It” has crossed my mind in the years since then. Every time I struggle to understand a loved one, find myself falling short, and decided to give up and be content to just love the person, I think of Norman and Paul. The story has become a part of the way I think and the way I relate to my family. That is why A River Runs Through It and Other Stories is a life-changing book.
In case you have ever wondered, here is a listing of the top selling books in modern history. I have never even heard of some of these…
- The Bible (a 1992 survey estimated 6,000,000,000 copies printed in more than 2,000 languages and dialects)
- Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung (Little Red Book)
- American Spelling Book by Noah Webster
- The Guinness Book of Records
- The McGuffey Readers by William Holmes McGuffey
- A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard
- The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care by Dr. Benjamin Spock
- World Almanac
- The Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
- In His Steps: “What Would Jesus Do?” by Rev. Charles Monroe Sheldon