Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

unnamed

  • Title: Blueberries for Sal
  • Author and Illustrator: Robert McCloskey
  • Published: 1948
  • Main Characters: Sal (a very young child), her Mother, a mother Bear and her child Little Bear…

Short Synopsis of the Story: It is late summer and on Blueberry Hill the blueberry bushes are ripe for picking. Sal a young child and her mother laden with metal pails head over to Blueberry Hill to pick blueberries to can and preserve for the long winter ahead. Sal’s mother picks blueberries industriously but most of Sal’s blueberries make it into her mouth!

On the other side of Blueberry Hill a Mother Bear and her small cub are similarly employed in gathering blueberries. The Mother Bear wants to eat as many blueberries as she can before she and her cub hibernate for the long winter.

As luck would have it, Sal and her mother and the Mother Bear and her bear cub find themselves separated in their blueberry picking endeavours. Sal comes face to face with the Mother Bear who being very shy moves away from Sal. Similarly Sal’s Mother is caught unawares and finds herself face to face with the Little Bear.

Sal’s mother alarmedly rushes to search for Sal.

She hasn’t looked very far when she hears the familiar sound of blueberries plopping into an empty pail.

Little Bear’s mother has not searched very far before she hears a familiar hustling, munching and swallowing sound.

Little Bear and his mother and Little Sal and her mother are reunited and laden or filled with a great many blueberries they make their way home down opposite sides of Blueberry Hill.

Notes:  The favorite part of the story for me were the lovely line drawings of Robert McCloskey. The beautiful endpapers depicting a cozy kitchen scene where Sal and her Mother are busy canning blueberries are particularly charming. The story conveys the message that the animal instinct of storing food in scarcity is preserved across different species. The blubbery picking scenes are reminiscent of Maine where it seems McCloskey stayed. This is a gem of a book.

Particularly endearing are the descriptions of Sal plopping blueberries into her pail with a ‘kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk ‘ sound.

FullSizeRender

Tuesday by David Wiesner

Title: Tuesday

Author and Illustrator: David Wiesner

Published: 1991

Main Characters: Some frogs on their airborne lilypads, sleepy inhabitants of a town, some pigs…

Short Synopsis of the Story: ‘Tuesday’ is the tale of a series of animal invasions that strike at a particular time and place, namely Tuesday evening at around eight o’clock in a small suburb. Frogs invade the skies in hundreds of thousands, flying along on lilypad aircraft. They invade backyards or dark sitting rooms where people are dozing off in front of the television. Neither the press nor the police know what to make of it the morning after, when the town is strewn with abandoned lilypads. It is a great inexplicable mystery.

All is well until next Tuesday at the same time… a shadow of a flying pig is seen eerily set against a barn door…

Conclusion:  This is a book that both children and adults can enjoy. The pictures tell the story of their own accord. There is little need for words to accompany the excellent pictures. ‘Tuesday’ has a mysterious, eery air to it. It will make you use your imagination and lends new meaning to the idiom- ‘pigs might fly’.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Title: Goodnight Moon

Author: Margaret Wise Brown

Illustrator: Clement Hurd

Published: 1947

Main Characters: a little bunny, an elderly lady bunny.

Short Synopsis of the Story: It is seven o’clock at night and a little bunny in striped blue pajamas is lying in bed in his green bedroom. There are many objects in the green room that are described in great detail- a telephone, a balloon, some kittens and a pair of mittens and also an elderly lady bunny sitting by the fire knitting, willing the little bunny to go to sleep. The large bedroom window is partially draped to reveal a midnight blue night sky with many stars. The bright lights in the green room gradually grow dim, casting light and shadow across the objects in the room, lulling the little bunny into sleep. As we say goodnight to each little object in the room, the bunny gets sleepier and sleepier, the rooms gets darker and darker, the stars get brighter in the night sky and the moon appears like a white lump of cheese. Soon the green room is completely dark except for the light shining in the red doll’s house and the red flames of the fire. The little bunny falls asleep.

Favorite Part of the Story:  This is the quintessential bedtime book. Visually it is a very appealing book. The details of the little objects in the room are captivating. The pairing of the beautiful images with the simple repetitive rhyme of the story lulls us into sleep. The transition of the lighted green room into the darkened green room, illuminated by the starry night sky outside and the doll’s house lights inside is perhaps the most memorable part of the story.

This is a nice book to introduce to children from a very early age as a daily bedtime ritual. It is understandable why this is a timeless classic for children.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

IMG_1862

Title: Owl Moon

Author: Jane Yolen

Illustrator: John Schoenherr

Published: 1987

Main Characters: a little girl, her father

Short Synopsis of the Story: One moonlit winter night, long past the little girl’s usual bedtime, a girl and her father embark on a special expedition into the deep woods. They trudge through the white snow. The only sounds are that of the winter night: a train whistle, a dog answering the train with a howl. You have to be as quiet as you can when you go owling. The owling expedition has been a long time in coming and the little girl is excited to at last have the chance to go on this adventure with her father. Pa reaches a spot in the woods and mimics the call of a Great Horned Owl. Pa calls many times and is not rewarded with an answer. The little girl’s brothers have forewarned her of the possibility of not spotting an owl so she is not unduly disappointed. The girl’s face becomes icy with cold but she doesn’t complain. They move deeper and deeper into the forest, into the depths of the dark trees until they come to a clearing. Pa mimics the owl’s call once again and this time there is a response through the trees. Pa and the little girl smile with anticipation and the owl moves closer until Pa shines his torchlight on the owl’s face just as it is about to land on a branch. For what seems like an eternity the owl, Pa and the little girl hold each other in a long stare. Then the owl lifts its great wings and disappears into the night. The girl and her Pa, walk home with lifted spirits and the knowledge that you don’t need warmth or words to go owling. All you need is  a night with an Owl Moon and a heart full of hope.

Favorite Part of the Story:  Author of the story Jane Yolen, had three small children who frequently went owling with their father, David Stemple in the wintry woods surrounding their rural Massachusetts home. The illustrator, John Schoenherr fills the pages with vivid, evocative images that pair with the simple, beautiful writing perfectly. Some of the scenes and landmarks in the book are taken from Schoenherr’s personal experiences walking with his children around the Schoenherr farm. Owl Moon is an unforgettable book to read with your children, particularly on a cold, wintry night. It is filled with a great spirit of adventure that both adults and children will find heartwarming.

September 2015 Favourites : Books, Audiobooks, Bookish Blogposts, Movies, Library Hauls and Much More.

IMG_1804

September 2015 was a slow but good month for new books, audiobooks and movies. It took a little time getting into our normal routine after our month long trip to India. Here is a round up of my September (and a little bit of August) favourites …

In the month of August the only two books I had read from my Holiday Reading List were coincidentally Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim (a fantastic read) and Tempestuous April by Betty Neels.  Both of them contained April in the title but here the similarity end. I will leave you to arrive at your own conclusions…

Enchanted April is the perfect read for a summer vacation and found it into my September blogpost that lists Eight Books that Remind Me of Summer. Set in Portofino, Italy, Enchanted April tells of a sort of ‘re-birth’ of four different women who travel to Italy to spend time in a rented medieval castle, to find solace in the beautiful surroundings.

In September we frequently visited our library.

Little M and I are continuing to read from the Time Magazine’s list of Top 100 Children’s Books. Two books on this list are Tuesday by David Wiesner and Owl Moon by Jane Yolen.

Tuesday is more of a picture book with terrific illustrations. It tells the tale of a series of animal invasions that strike at a particular time and place, namely Tuesday evening at around eight o’clock in a small suburb. Frogs invade the skies in hundreds of thousands, flying along on lilypad aircraft. They invade backyards, dark sitting rooms where people are dozing off in front of the television. Neither the press nor the police know what to make of it the day after, when the town is strewn with abandoned lilypads. All is well until next Tuesday at the same time… when a shadow of a flying pig is seen eerily set against a barn door…

Owl Moon is another wonderfully atmospheric book. It tells the story of a young child setting out on her very first owling expedition with her father. The night sky glows with the golden glow of a full moon- the best time to view an owl in the deep, snow laden woods. It is a tale of patience and forbearance, excitement and anticipation.

We are really enjoying all the books on the Time Magazine’s list of Top 100 Children’s Books. I cannot recommend them enough. Not on the list but of great entertainment value to Little M, is another installment of the Sofia the First entertainment series (she missed her a great deal whilst in India).

My reading in September was slow. I’ve started The Land Where Lemons Grow  by Helena Attlee which is a history of the introduction of citrus fruit in Italy. In great detail it researches how this fruit  has invaded the Italian imagination, from Calabria’s Diamante citrons, the blood oranges of Sicily, to the bergamot thriving on narrow strips of coastline. There is a bit of everything in this part history, part horticulture, sociopolitical culinary book offering.

I finished the latest installment in Alexander McCall Smith’s Edinburgh series featuring philosopher Isabel Dalhousie called ‘The Novel Habits of Happiness’. As usual the book has a little bit of everything that I love, scenes from a Scottish city, romance, a light mystery, memorable characters and very large doses of reflection. It is the first book I reach for when I come back from our holiday.

Another book that I have started is a ‘cozy’ post-WW1 mystery set in Leeds called ‘Dying in the Wool‘ by Frances Brody. Speaking of mysteries, September marked the 125th Birth Anniversary of Dame Agatha Christie which I celebrated with my blogpost ‘An Ode to Agatha Christie: Celebrating Her 125th Birth Anniversary with Eight Memorable Books’.

I bought an audiobook from Audible in September called ‘In and Out of the Kitchen’ by Miles Jupp and cannot recommend it enough. It is a BBC 4 radio drama about a ‘cookery writer’ Damien Trench and his writing and domestic struggles.The writing is so very funny in a wry sort of way… really enjoying it.

As the mother of a 3 year old I find it impossible to visit the cinema nowadays and watch ‘non-princess themed’ movies. One of the bonuses of the Emirates flights to and from India was the excellent selection of current movies . On the way to India I watched ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ which I loved and has inspired me to give this favourite Hardy a re-read. On the way back to the US, I was lucky enough to watch the dramatized version of Vera Brittain’s poignant WW1 memoir ‘Testament of Youth’ which was epic. I cannot recommend these two movies enough.

Lastly, the whole family watched not one but two dramatized versions of C.S. Lewis’s classic -The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe… and Aslan made it into my art journal.

IMG_1839

Hope you had a wonderful September. See you in October xxx.

Martha’s Vineyard in 30 Memorable Moments

0001-39911927

Last month we spent 3 glorious days on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. Surrounded by sandy beaches on all sides, we had fun, we frolicked and we explored every nook and cranny of the island. We cooked comforting meals in a huge hostel kitchen, ate lobster rolls and lobster bisque, drank too much blueberry beer at the pub and went on ‘wild’ carousel rides in the pursuit of elusive brass rings. I visited most of the bookshops on the island, wanted to browse through the public libraries, but was able to visit only one. Here are some of the more ‘bookish’ moments of the trip, accompanied by many ‘non-bookish’ moments…

The night before the trip we discovered that it was necessary to book a ferry crossing if traveling with a car in advance. Hence, the only crossing times from Woods Hole in Cape Cod to Vineyard Haven available were at 7 am in the morning! Luckily the previous night we were staying at my Aunt’s house, only an hour’s drive away. IMG_1140 Although the ferry crossing was painfully early, we did manage to see the sun rising in the eastern sky on a beautiful, balmy day in June.

 IMG_1152 IMG_1149

The first call of duty upon arrival was breakfast at the Black Dog Bakery in Vineyard Haven. I opted for their delicious breakfast sandwich along with a cup of coffee…

IMG_1167 IMG_1184

IMG_1187

IMG_1188

We strolled along quiet Main Street of Vineyard Haven before the shops had opened and the locals and tourists had started milling the streets. We took delight in noticing little inconsequential details in the houses and shops and taking numerous pictures. A few early-bird locals looked on with a mixture of amusement and scorn. We waited outside the doors of ‘The Bunch of Grapes Bookstore’ like guards outside Buckingham Palace, waiting for it to open. We whooshed in when the clock struck nine and perused all the books. The air was still hot and humid from the lack of air-conditioning…it had only been switched on a few minutes before… The store was packed with books about the sea, summer, the Vineyard, it’s history and it’s stories…

IMG_1197 When we left, we noticed the tall, quaint clock with ‘Bunch of Grapes’ inscribed on it’s graceful face.

IMG_1168 Here is the signpost of the Black Dog Tavern in Vineyard Haven. So beautiful… now that is memorable branding! IMG_1303

IMG_1219 The highlight of the morning and in fact the trip was the Flying Horses Carousels in Oaks Bluff. There is something very liberating about riding make-believe horses even if you are an adult. The green fuzzy man depicted in the photo was very energetically plucking metal rings out of the holders as the horses periodically whizzed past the ring dispensing station. The person who picks a brass ring as opposed to the silver ones gets a free ride!

Top tip: the carousel rides are double the fun after a pint of blueberry beer at the Offshore Ale Company in Oaks Bluff 😉

In the afternoon we came back to the hostel (HI Martha’s Vineyard) and made cheese and cucumber sandwiches and ate them with hard-boiled eggs. We took a short nap in our hostel room… In the evening, we packed a few snacks, a blanket and a few beach chairs and took them to Menemshah Beach to watch a memorable sunset. Menemshah Village is famous for being the location of the fishing village depicted in the movie Jaws. The beach was humming with families, enjoying their evening with friends…

IMG_1265

Next morning, Little M wanted to ride the ‘horses again’. We visited the gingerbread cottages in Oaks Bluff. They were all so uniquely themed…

IMG_1231

IMG_1229

IMG_1234

We visited the Museum Cottage which was a peek into what the cottages look like on the inside. They are surprisingly small and claustrophobic.

IMG_1239

IMG_1240

IMG_1238

In the afternoon we visited Edgartown and of course ‘Edgartown Books’. It has a nice set of stairs leading upstairs and a small but good selection of books…

IMG_1322

IMG_1323

IMG_1329

We walked to Edgartown Lighthouse. Little M and her Uncle went all the way to the top of the lighthouse and waved down to us from the top.

IMG_1333

IMG_1345

The lighthouse keeper (pictured on the left) very kindly lent Little M’s Uncle some special props which made for great photos! … Memories are made of these…

IMG_1335

The spiral staircase of the lighthouse as photographed looking upwards.

IMG_1358

The following morning we visited the very picturesque ruddy Aquinnah Cliffs. The lighthouse has recently been lifted and moved (by a friendly giant) further inward to avoid the perils of coastal erosion. I really love how all New England’s lighthouses look so unique.

IMG_1366

In the afternoon the car rode on what must be the smallest ferry in the world- the little Chappy Ferry. It took us to the island of Chappaquiddick. We visited the Japanese Mytoi Gardens. We also combed the beach of East Beach for variegated rocks and pebbles. We spent nearly one hour scouring the beach and amassed what may be several kilos of stones which are now to this day (a month after the trip!) lying unceremoniously in a plastic bag in the boot of our car (go figure!).

The trip is coming to an end and so must the blogpost. I will leave you with some random moments…

IMG_1275

A tube of Jane Austen toothpaste seen at Alley’s General Store in West Tisbury where President Obama visited on his trip to the Vineyard.

IMG_1286

A strange creature reading a book in the ‘Field Gallery and Sculpture Garden’, West Tisbury.

IMG_1309

A final hurrah on the ‘horsies’…

IMG_1374

…and lastly a small memento to remember an unforgettable trip.

A Visit to Brattle Book Shop

0001-37817450

One of my most favorite things to do is to visit independent bookstores. Sadly, they are a rare species nowadays. Whenever I visit a new city I try to pinpoint interesting bookstores and public libraries to possibly visit. I like to browse the shelves of these small bookstores. I like to guess the personality of the bookstore owners through the books they choose to display. One such memorable book shop I visited just recently, is the famous Brattle Book Shop in Downtown Boston.

Boston and Cambridge are cities renowned for their educational institutions. The city as a result is inundated with a rich student population. It is not uncommon to see a slightly unkempt backpacked student, reading Dostoevsky with furrowed brow on the subway. Literally everyone is reading something on the public transportation system, be it a newspaper, a library book or an e-reader.

This is a city closely associated with literary stalwarts like Transcendalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Louisa May Alcott, poets Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Oliver Wendell Holmes, writers like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe.

Henry James talked in a satirical tone about the city and the etiquette of its intellectual class in the book ‘The Bostonians’. In more recent times the romance of the city has been captured in Erich Segal’s books ‘Doctors’ and ‘The Class’.

To bring this long-winded discussion to a conclusion- literary Boston is most-deserving of a bookstore of the acumen of the Brattle Book Shop.

IMG_1411It may be a little easy to overlook the location of the bookshop. Whilst walking past the crowd of tourists and Freedom Trail enthusiasts conglomerating on Boston Commons, you might never know that such a delightful book haven awaits you on a quiet side-street to the right. There is nothing very striking about the bookstore facade until you come upon what seems like an unused parking lot adjacent to the shop, crammed with cart upon cart of used books. They are sorted according to topic and price. Here is a shot of several dilligent book browsers. I could easily have spent the whole day looking through the various treasures. What struck me the most was that these used books were not just your run of the mill cast-off books that are often seen at library sales. Most of the books were older, vintage books which had interesting titles. Here is a closer look at some of the book carts.

IMG_1425IMG_1426

I also found some quaint painted doors which resembled book covers. When you actually enter the Bookstore interior you find yourself in the good company of shelf upon shelf of fiction books, mystery, sci-fi and the upper story also has a dedicated travel book section among others.

IMG_1430IMG_1432IMG_1429

I also found an excellent nook crammed with children’s books. Here is what it looked like and some of the shelved books.

IMG_1439IMG_1440

Lastly I will leave you with the spoils of my treasure hunt.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I picked up two books by one of my favorite authors, H.E. Bates and a Jeeves short story collection. You can never have enough of PG Wodehouse in your life. I found a vintage children’s book called ‘Singing Games’ for Little M. I thought it might be fun to research some of the songs mentioned within and try to learn them together as a fun activity. Lastly I found an interesting volume named ‘Literary Landmarks of London’, that looks very serious inside but might have some interesting information.

Lastly, there is a gorgeous illustrated map of Germany. The small illustrations next to the towns and villages are just too cute.

I would love to learn about any favorite book stores you have visited on your travels. Till next time.