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Friday’s Vintage Find:: The Story About Ping (and some Go-Alongs and an Art Activity, too)

The Story About Ping probably doesn’t need much of an introduction, but I wanted to share a few of the books we read and an activity we did in relation to this story.  For those who are unfamiliar with this classic tale, it’s Marjorie Flack’s story of a little duck named Ping who lives with his large family on “a boat with two wise eyes on the Yangtze River” in China.  The ducks all leave their home during the day to hunt for food, but once the sun begins to set, the Master of the boat calls them back.  It is unfortunate, though, to be the last duck to return; this duck always receives a spank on the back.  One day, Ping is running late, and rather than be the one to get the spank, he decides to not return at all that night.  What follows is a short little series of adventures which end up with Ping almost becoming a duck dinner.  He learns his lesson, though, and decides that home’s best, spank or no spank.  Marjorie Flack (who also wrote and illustrated the Angus stories) first published this book in 1933, so it’s a real classic.  Kurt Wiese‘s illustrations are colorful and depict the action in the story very convincingly for the preschool set.  (As a side note, Kurt Wiese spent some time in China and later in Australia as a prisoner of war of the Japanese.  This is where he discovered and honed his talent for illustrations.  Interesting, huh?)  The Story About Ping is really too good to miss, which is why it’s included in the first volume of Five in a Row.

We didn’t “row” this book fully, and I decided to dispense with the lapbooking this time.  As much as I want to, I just can’t always make myself love lapbooking.  It’s a love-hate relationship, I guess.  I think that if my children were older and had the motor skills necessary for lots of writing, etc., I might like it more.  I’m not crossing it off the list yet, but I think it will be something we do sometimes instead of all the time.  What we did, though, is share several other books set in China, as well as celebrate Chinese New Year with the reading of The Story About Ping
The book I liked the most that we read is Arlene Mosel’s Tikki Tikki Tembo, a book which certainly deserves its own Friday’s Vintage Find post.  Tikki Tikki Tembo is a book I remember from my own childhood–I loved it!  It takes some practice (or familiarity, at least) to read it well, but the effect is worth it.  Another more recent book we enjoyed is The Moon Lady by Amy Tan.  I was curious to read something by an author I previously knew only as an author of adult fiction, and neither I nor the girls was disappointed.  This book, as well as the books I highlighted here, were perfect to go along with the Chinese New Year festival.  We read a few more, including some nonfiction titles to provide some visual images of the Yangtze River and life in China, etc., but these two were the best picks.

In addition to doing a lot of reading, we also incorporated an art activity into our “study.”  Storybook Art by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Jean Potter is a resource I often turn to for suggestions of art activities to really focus on some of the techniques of famous children’s book illustrators.  It’s chock full of good ideas.  One hundred illustrators are highlighted in this book, so in all likelihood, if it’s a classic story, it’s included in Storybook Art.  This is where we got the idea to make a duck template and repeat the pattern.  (Please excuse the glare and the shadow of my head, etc., on the pictures.  I took these in the afternoon, and while the afternoon sun streaming through our schoolroom windows is lovely, it makes it difficult to take good pictures.)

This first picture includes the one I made.  Until baby brother arrives and is old enough to participate, I suppose Mama will always have to create art, too, to fill up our three frames!  🙂 


Louise once gain had her own idea about how this art activity should go.  Her boat does have “wise eyes,” though.

Lulu included not only the ducks, but also a fishing bird that appears in the story.  (I think the birds are actually cormorants.)  Do you see the “wise eyes” on her boat?

Last, no study of another country is complete without at least looking at a map!  I’ve still yet to get our map up on our school room wall, but I did pull it out so we could find China and the Yangtze River.  The girls loved this! 

I’m linking this post to this week’s stART at A Mommy’s Adventures.  This is a great meme to which bloggers link their children’s literature-related art activities.  Won’t you consider joining in?


Friday’s Vintage Find::Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys by H. A. Rey

Did you know that Curious George appeared in a book before he had his own series?  I think this is possibly the most excited and tickled I’ve ever been over a picture book.  That’s big.  🙂

Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys is the perfectly delightful tale of Curious George, his eight siblings, and their mother, who has the giggle-inducing name of Mother Pamplemoose.  All of the little monkey siblings (with the exception of the baby and the twins, Punch and Judy) have distinguishing personality characteristics.  Of course, it’s Curious George who is clever.  But the story isn’t all about him.  It’s more about the fun they have once they are rescued by Cecily Giraffe, a lonely giraffe whose family has all been taken away to the zoo.  Cecily G. not only rescues them from their plight when their tree-top home is destroyed due to the cutting down of the forest; she also provides them with a home now that her family is all gone.  The best part of the book, though, is all the fun they have with Cecily G., who happens to be a very accommodating giraffe.  For example, they use Cecily as a see-saw, a sailboat, and a slope for skiing.  That’s friendship.  🙂  My girls think all of this is hilarious, and so do I.   The book ends with a fun song, and although my girls don’t usually like for me to sing while I’m reading, they always request this one.  Why?  It’s because the song is written using Cecily G. as the treble clef and the monkeys as the notes.  Lulu is learning to read music, and Louise has a really basic idea of notes, etc., so this is interesting and amusing to them.  And to me.  🙂

I’m just really smitten with this book.  Our library copy looks like the green one above, and the only hint that it’s a Curious George book is the little note on the front which reads, “the first book about Curious George.”  While I do think I probably noticed that when I checked it out (and perhaps that knowledge actually piqued my interest since I thought Curious George was the first Curious George book), I don’t think I expected it to be like the rest of the Curious George books since the cover is different.  However, it appears that the only version of Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys that’s available now is one with the trademark bright yellow cover (as well as the tell-tale red band across the top with a modernized picture of C.G.).  I understand the marketing behind this, but sometimes I wish they’d (whoever they are)would just leave things be.  Lulu even noticed that there is a subtle difference between the coloring of the illustrations in Cecily G. and Curious George

The other observation I wanted to make about this is that if my memory serves me correctly, Cecily G. was copyrighted in 1942 and Curious George in 1941.  Although this doesn’t mesh with the Wikipedia article about Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys, it just makes me wonder that if it’s so, maybe Curious George actually did hit the shelves first.  Anyone out there a real H. A. Rey fan and know the answer to this one?

All of this really makes me want to find a copy of The Journey That Saved Curious George (read Stephanie‘s review here) and learn more about him.  Oh, and I’d love to read his other, non-C.G. books. 

Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys earns a definitive Highly Recommended from the House of Hope, as well as a spot on my Best Picture Books list.  Check it out!

Friday’s Vintage Find::The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader

Just in case I haven’t shared enough books about show this week, I thought I’d share one more.  (You can read my other posts here and here.)  😉  The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader was published in 1948 and won the 1949 Caldecott Medal.  (Newsflash:  I just realized that I usually refer to this as the Caldecott Award, when its title is actually the Caldecott Medal.  I stand corrected.)  This book is as deserving of this medal as any I’ve seen; reading this book is like looking through an artist’s nature sketchbook.  The illustrations alternate between color and black and white.  It’s very vintage-y, as one would expect from a book over fifty years old.  It was probably just that familiar musty smell, but our borrowed library copy reminds me of something (old encyclopedias, I think) that I used to read at my grandparents’ house.  The story itself is very simple–a huge variety of animals get ready for a big snow.  In the end, many of them depend on humans to feed them.  Reading this book made me want to get out in the freezing (for Alabama, anyway) cold weather and finally put up those bird feeders we bought back in October. 

I give this one a Highly Recommended.

Friday’s Vintage Find::Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton

I chose Katy and the Big Snow as our first Five in a Row selection for the new year.  Weather forecasters began predicting snow for our little neck of the woods last week some time, and although this happens several times a year and rarely ever materializes, we live in hope.  This week, though, we did get some snow, but it hardly compared to the blizzard in Katy and the Big Snow.   This is probably a good thing, though, since here in the Deep South the grocery stores run out of bread and milk at mere mention of the “s” word.  Oh, and we don’t have any nifty snow plows like Katy to get us moving again (not that we usually need them, but still). 

Katy and the Big Snow is, in my opinion, mostly about the pictures.  Virginia Lee Burton obviously put a lot of time and effort into developing the town of Geoppolis–the story is complete with a map, and many pages even include a compass rose so that readers can discern in which direction Katy must travel to rescue the snowbound town.  The color scheme, which is showcased on the book’s cover, is perfect for this cold and snowy story.  The text is good, too.   As we read it, we really got a sense of Katy’s determination to get the job done.  First published in 1943, this is a book I’m glad is still around in 2010.  In fact, I like it so much I’m adding it to my Best Picture Books list. 

Stay tuned in the near future for more snowy fun!

Friday’s Vintage Find:: The Romance of a Christmas Card by Kate Douglas Wiggin

I’ve been wanting to share for the past week about this little gem of a Christmas story I re-read last week, and I’m finally getting around to it.  🙂  First published in 1916, The Romance of a Christmas Card by Kate Douglas Wiggin is the sweet story of a how a hand-drawn Christmas card brings home two prodigal sons to their families.  Dick Larrabee is a local pastor’s son who could never live up to what his father’s parisioners thought he should be, so he left home to make his own way in the world.  Dick’s friend David Gilman followed Dick’s lead and ended up with the same reputation.  However, David “married in haste” but only had to “repent at leisure” long enough for his wife to give birth to twins and then die.  He promptly left town, leaving his babies under the care of his dutiful and loving half-sister, Letty.  This is a very short novel (more of a short story or novella, really), so I don’t want to give anything away.  If you like old fashioned stories with a little bit of romance, this is a cozy little story to curl up with and enjoy by the light of your fireplace (or your Christmas tree).  I think I first read this story as a an older teenager; I think it would be perfect for girls, especially, from about age twelve or thirteen and up.

I have to mention, too, that Kate Douglas Wiggin is the author of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, a book I greatly enjoyed as a youngster.  I haven’t read it in a while, but I’d like to revisit it.  Wiggin also wrote The Bird’s Christmas Carol, a title I’ve heard before but never read.  Has anyone read it?  The short author biography at the back of my paperback copy of The Romance of a Christmas Card (which looks nothing like the book above, I’m sad to say) states that Wiggin “argued for wholesomeness, not hypocrisy, in fiction.”  For all its sweetness, I would say that this Christmas story passes the test, and I can only assume her others stories do, too.

Friday’s Vintage Find::The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson

My girls and I finished our latest chapter book read-aloud after an intermission from it which was precipitated by the Thanksgiving holiday and all the accompanying hullaballo.  We read The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson.  I had seen this title repeatedly on numerous homeschooling message board threads, etc., so I thought we’d give it a go.  It turns out that it was a winner and it was also a timely read in that it is set during the Christmas holiday season.

The Family Under the Bridge is set in Paris.  It is the story of the Calcet family:  a mother, an older sister named Suzy, a brother named Paul, and the baby sister named Evelyne.  After losing their home, they inadvertently occupy the home of a longstanding homeless man named Armand.  Armand is an older man who is rather happy with his lot (or lack thereof) in life, but he is not happy about giving up his abode under the bridge to three winsome little children.  Of course, as one would expect from such a story, Armand begins to take the children under his wings, and the story ends up promisingly and happily for them all.

This story was first published in 1958 and is a Newbery honor book.  Much of the story itself and the attitudes, however subtle, are dated.  This really didn’t bother me too much, but I’m not too politically correct anyway.  One example:  there is a huge group (family?) of gypsies in the story, and while they are portrayed positively, some of the stereotypes (i.e. the idea that they are thieves, the inevitable fortune-telling, etc.) are brought out, but it seemed to me that most often Carlson was trying to combat those stereotypes.  The other issue that occurred to me is the issue of homelessness.  Armand really is portrayed as a little bit lazy; he seems perfectly happy to be homeless and without responsibility.  However, he is “rehabilitated” by the love of this little family in the end. 

The only real problem I had with this story is that I CANNOT pronounce French words AT ALL, so that hampered my reading.  (I took two years of Spanish and one year of Russian, believe it or not, in high school, so everything about French eludes me.)  I think my girls enjoyed this one, as evidenced by their cries of “one more chapter” every time I finished a chapter.  However, I’m beginning to wonder if this is an adequate measure of success for a read-aloud because I can’t remember a time in the past year when they didn’t say that.  🙂  This story didn’t resonate with me as much as a lot of our other recent read-alouds have, but I still think it’s a worthwhile read-aloud.

Friday’s Vintage Find::A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno

I have volume one of Five in a  Row to thank for introducing us to this wonderful book.  First copyrighted in 1960, A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno is currently published by a publishing house heretofore unknown to me:  Purple House Press.  The slogan for this company is “Bringing back the finest in children’s books!” and I don’t have to tell you how much I like that. I think this might be one company that bears further exploration!

A Pair of Red Clogs is the story of a little Japanese girl, Mako, who gets a new pair of red clogs for school.  The story describes the shopping trip of Mako and her gentle mother and how excited Mako is over her beautiful, new red clogs.  When Mako wears them to school, she participates in the traditional weather-telling game, in which shoes are flung off to “predict” the weather.  Of course, one of the clogs cracks, and Mako spends a miserable evening planning to deceive her mother and hopefully get another new pair of clogs.  However, her gentle and wise mother knows the truth, and the story ends both predictably and realistically. 

Two elements that make this book so appealing are the whimsical and expressive illustrations by Kazue Mizumura and the wonderfully descriptive way in which it is written.  My girls love for me to read the “sound” the clogs make:  “KARA KORO, KARA KORO.”  We’ve read and re-read this book, and my girls still enjoy it.  I give this one a Highly Recommended!

Stay tuned for more books about Japan in the next few weeks here at Hope Is the Word!

Friday’s Vintage Find::The Dragons of Blueland by Ruth Stiles Gannett

I mentioned in my review of Elmer and the Dragon that all I needed to do to complete the series with my girls was to happen upon the third book, The Dragons of Blueland.  I did just that in some of my bookish ramblings the past few months, either at my library’s wonderful used bookstore or at a consignment sale, I’ve forgotten which.  After reading The Trumpet of the Swan (my thoughts here) aloud over a period of several weeks, I knew we needed a shorter read-aloud for a little break.  The girls were glad to revisit Elmer and his friend the baby dragon, whose name, we learn in The Dragons of Blueland, is Boris.  In this short, focused little fantastical children’s story, Boris returns to his home to learn that man has encroached on his usually well-hidden home on Blueland, and he turns to Elmer Elevator for help.  Elmer must help Boris liberate his whole family, including his thirteen siblings, from the cave where they are held hostage by men outside with a net, poised to capture them if they escape.  Elmer’s  normal McGyver-ish ingenuity enables him to help the poor dragons in a way that couldn’t fail to bring a smile to the faces of young readers or listeners.  In fact, my girls and I had a brief but delightful discussion of how his strategy reminded us of one we’d read beforeThe Dragons of Blueland, copyrighted in 1951 and written by Ruth Stiles Gannett, is a vintage find I’m so glad I happened upon.  This book, along with its prequels, My Father’s Dragon and Elmer and the Dragonis a perfect choice for reading aloud to the youngest listeners.

Friday’s Vintage Find::Angus Lost by Marjorie Flack

9780374403843I can’t take credit for finding this particular vintage find.  Marjorie Flack‘s Angus Lost is a Before Five in a Row selection, and since we’ve been working our way through that curriculum in preparation for Lulu’s kindergarten next year, it was next on our list. This little jewel of a book is worthy of the distinction of a Friday’s Vintage Find in its own right, though.  Marjorie Flack herself scarcely needs introducing; she is the author/illustrator who created such works as The Story about Ping, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, and Ask Mr. Bear, as well as other Angus books. Angus Lost is the story of Angus, a feisty little Scotty dog who longs for excitement outside his yard.  He gets it, too, when he escapes from his fence.  He meets several four-legged animals which give him more adventure than he bargained for, including a run-in with a “four-legged” automobile.  Angus learns his lesson, though, and in the end he finally makes it back to the security of his home.  What makes this book even more special are the illustrations.  Marjorie Flack’s illustrations are a mixture of black & white and color.  The illustrations in this book remind me of watching an old colorized movie–the colors are a little bit “off,” but in a nostalgic way.  For example, Lulu and Louise completed a lapbook for Angus Lost (more on this next week), and when they completed an activity in which they had to identify and color Angus the appropriate color (black), they both wanted to color him blue because of the colors in the book.  Flack also used silhouettes in a couple of the night time illustrations.  First copyrighted in 1932, this book features both automobiles and horse and carriages as modes of transportation, so it provides a little mini history lesson, as well.  Animal loving children would especially love this old-fashioned book.

Friday’s Vintage Find::Play with Me by Marie Hall Ets AND a Field Trip!

We have been slowly working our way through Before Five in a Row, doing the suggested activities as I see fit.  However, when I attended a homeschooling conference a few weeks ago, I found volume one of Five in a Row and four or five of the suggested picture books at the used book sale, so I decided to re-double my efforts at making a more deliberate attempt at “rowing” the books we have yet to do from Before Five in a Row in anticipation of making Five in a Row part of our day during Lulu’s kindergarten.  (For more explanation about the concept of Five in a Row and what it means to “row” the books, check out the Five in a Row website and message boards.)

imageDB.cgiPlay with Me, one of the Before Five in a Row selections, is the charming story of a little girl who goes out into a meadow to find a playmate.  However, each one of her attempts at coaxing the animals she finds there to play with her is met with rejection when the animals scurry away from her.  The little girl finally just sits quietly by the pond, and lo and behold, the animals return!  One of the last illustrations in the book is a sweet one of a fawn licking the little girls’ cheek.  First published in 1955, Play with Me is a Caldecott Honor book.  It is a quiet, contemplative, deliberate book that gets better and better with each reading.

After we read this book a few times, I knew it was time to take this experience outside the pages of the book!  My parents have a little less than 100 acres of property, including pasture land and a pond!  I was excited about the prospect of recreating some of what happened in the book for my own little girls.

Someone really needs to remind me not to anticipate all these little educational experiences too much–they rarely ever go as planned.  🙂  Lulu absolutely refused to go up into the pasture because the cows (who were then in an entirely different part of the pasture) might decide to go up to the pond.  She elected to stay at the house with my mom and watch the new kittens through the window instead (actually, I think she finally did come outside and hold them).

pondLouise, however, was game, so she, my dad, and I traveled up to the pond in his pickup truck.  We had high hopes of seeing the snapping turtle that resides in the pond, but he was too shy to show himself.  We did see quite a few insects of different varieties (mainly dragonflies), but we had no sort of experience at all like the little girl in the book.  We didn’t even see a frog, but we did hear lots of them.  Maybe we just weren’t quiet enough.

After walking around the pond and observing the wet-weather spring that feeds the pond, circumventing fire ant hills (Louise is extremely leery of them because she has had an unfortunate run-in with fire ants earlier this spring), observing a thorn tree (which I had never seen before), and wondering whether my grandparents had planted the rosebush that grows beside the pond (the property was theirs, and granny’s family’s before that), we climbed back in the truck to ride a little further and survey the pasture.  On the backside of the pasture, daddy asked me if I wanted to go down to the creek.  The creek figures heavily into my memories of summers with my grandparents, so I readily agreed.

It turns out that the path to the creek was just too overgrown to traverse with a three year old, so we only walked as far as the fence would allow.  However, Louise had a fabulous time collecting treasures like hickory nuts, acorns, and rocks, and I had fun trying out the macro setting on my camera:





Although it wasn’t exactly the experience I had in mind, there is something inherently worthwhile about just being in nature .  Sometimes you’ve just got to let it be.  The pure joy Louise exhibited was worth it, to be sure!

Louise running