I have a confession: I never read Beowulf in high school. Or college. I read Canterbury Tales more times than I can count (yet only remember a handful of the stories). I read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight ad nauseum – and I like that story. But no Beowulf. How did I miss it?
I’ll tell you how, we tried to cram so much into such a short amount of time. We spent hours and hours in school, but spent very little time actually studying. Somewhere along the way, Beowulf was lost to me. I’m not sure if I was ever really exposed to it or not. It might have been something I breezed through in a Norton Anthology and regurgitated the next day for a pop quiz, only to be quickly forgotten. I couldn’t tell you. I only know that I had a vague idea that it was an epic poem involving something named Grendel when I began working at a bookstore as an adult. Even then, I couldn’t tell you if Grendel was the monster or the man.
As we began our Middle Ages/ Early Ren. (450 AD to 1600 AD) year while classically homeschooling, it dawned on me that this was the year for Beowulf. I had already read the picture book by Eric A. Kimmel to kiddo when she was a wee one, but I’m sure she was so tiny she had fallen asleep; now was the time to embrace the story.
And we did. I read her the picture book shortly before my trip to Atlanta. It fit right in with all the Celtic and Norse mythology we’ve been reading to bridge the gap between the ancient times and our exciting year ahead. “What a guy! He tore off the monster’s arm! I can’t even do that,” she exclaimed. She was very pleased that this particular picture book could give the story in “one-sitting, all today” as opposed to the stories of Odysseus and Troy which all took weeks of chapter by chapter to finish. I foresee reading this again and again over the coming months, she loved the story so much; I have to admit, I did too.
I liked it even more when I discovered there was a cartoon made in 1998 starring Joseph Fiennes as the voice of Beowulf – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKjcoFZmKuA. We got to watch that and call it school. It was a lot of fun. (There’s one for Don Quixote we’ll be watching next year when we make it into the 1700s.)
Naturally, I was curious as to the accuracy of these versions. I won’t ever truly know, because everything is a translation, but I thought I’d give an adult version a go. There’s so many versions out there, I think I’ll just try a different one every Middle Ages cycle. So I took the Constance B. Hieatt version with me to Atlanta and enjoyed it immensely, especially the little extras at the end.
The kiddo, of course, keeps asking me why we are using “fake stories as lesson books, they aren’t real stories mother!” I keep telling her, very ineloquently, that these stories help us understand the people who told them. Read them to her as bedtime stories and naturally she’s thrilled at the excitement of them.
We’ll collect more versions over the years and by the time she is grown she will know the story well – and remember it. Next go around we’ll even tackle it in poem form, and eventually we’ll read Gardner’s Grendel.
Do you have any favorite versions of Beowulf? Or, more importantly, do you know any great stories of the time period that should not be missed?
Today I am storyboarding for a children’s book for my mother-in-law… we’ll hand the pictures off to a real artist when I’m done.
“It was a dark, rainy day.”
We received this book in the mail from the author right before I left on my book signing tour to San Antonio. I was mean, I was so excited about it, I made kiddo wait until I got back from my trip. Daddy was under strict orders that this book was not to be read while I was away.
I thought about it while I was away a lot. All the colors of the front cover kept coming to mind while I was faced with all the colors of San Antonio.
It was worth the wait. Grandmother’s Cabin lived up to my own mental hype. Kiddo snuggled up in my lap last night and settled in for the new book to review, ready with opinions.
It seems to be a snugly sort of book in general, my favorite kind, as during story time today everyone was reaching for their mothers and trying to get into laps. That’s not typically the case with other stories. Instinctively, children know: this book is for families and heritage, and appreciation of the good things that calm our souls.
The front cover is simply one of many exciting illustrations. The further into the story you get, the richer the images, and more vibrant the colors – or maybe it’s the story that makes me feel like they’re richer and more vibrant…
Rout maintains a splash of color on the right side of the page and ornate pencil sketches on the left side along with the text.
It’s whimsical, magical, and even won a “Moonbeam” award. If that doesn’t sound mysteriously romantic, I don’t know what does.
Dedicated to all things grandmothery and cozy, the book is about spiritual healing found by looking back to your ancestors, finding comfort in tea, and relaxing with a good book and favorite activity.
“I like to paint too!” My kiddo squealed when Grandmother revealed an easel and paint tray among the tropical forest.
When Grandmother did her super hero pose, Kiddo did hers too. Later when we went over the discussion questions Rout provides on the last page, Kiddo answered that she wants to be like Grandmother. “I can heal like Grandmother – by licking – like Helo.” Helo is the dog. Clearly, my child needs more grandmother interaction and less puppy play.
“When I’m happy I don’t fly high in the sky,” Kiddo lamented. “And I get sad when I’m sick. And I get upset when Dad plays with MY frisbees.” Well, then.
Finally, I read the last question to my daughter:
Grandmother’s love makes Mother feel happy. How can we connect with our ancestors and our loved ones who have lived before us? What can we do to help them be of service to us? As an example some people tell stories, remember them, pray for them, learn about them, or celebrate their accomplishments. What does your family do?
“Walk in the woods. I like to walk in the woods,” my child responded wisely. Yes, my darling, we do. And that’s why this book spoke to us from the front cover alone. Coffee and Tea Cups, Books, Paint Brush, Foliage… what more could a gal need to feel restful and restored?
Grandmother’s Cabin is lovely and enriching. It opens up a topic of discussion many people believe to be beyond what children can handle, but it’s perfect, and the children I’ve read this book to today handled it with grace and curiosity.
I read children’s books at the Half Price Books in Humble every Wednesday throughout the summer, starting at 10:30 am. Many of these titles are plucked from the shelf and are available for purchase right then and there. Some of what I read and share come from a publisher or an author and might not otherwise be readily discovered. Like today, Grandmother’s Cabin was sent to me from an author in Calgary, Alberta. If you have kiddos, live in the area and wish to join us, please do.
Every Wednesday during the summer I make an appearance at Half Price Books Humble, 10:30 am sharp. I make an announcement over the intercom – NOT my forte – place snacks on the children’s table, and pick out stories to read out loud to whoever arrives.
Sometimes I have crowds! Sometimes it’s just me and Kiddo hanging out reading as we would at home. Sometimes I have authors come and read their books to the kids. But ALWAYS it is a little bit magical.
How appropriate then that Edward Castro joined us for a second time with his book Hanna’s Magic Light.
Not available yet in a physical copy, Castro read to the kids from a bound manuscript while his agent showed the pictures on her tablet. The kids were riveted by the story about Hanna and her Daddy and the magical dome light in the car, turned lesson on finding your own inner light.
At the end, each kid received a cupcake and/or cookie as well as a “magic light” of their own to take home – Glow Sticks made into a necklace.
Tomorrow is Wednesday again. We won’t have Castro back this soon, but we will be featuring Song for Papa Crow, compliments of Schiffer Publishing.
Castro will return later in July. For those who cannot make middle of the week events, this will allow you to meet the author and purchase a hard copy of his picture book, as he hopes to have some in print by then:
Title: Song for Papa Crow
Author: Marit Menzin
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
I was delighted to have Schiffer Publishing contact me to review a selection of their picture books. There can never be too many children’s books here in the Klemm household, as kiddo devours them for breakfast, elevenses, lunch, dinner, and bedtime. We’re readers. We read. We’re also artists and we love admiring quality picture books.
As a homeschool mom of an aspiring birder, I couldn’t find Song for Papa Crow any more perfect.
This is a lovely story about how Little Crow loves to sing. He sings his heart out and in the course of teaching children what birds of North America make what sounds, we also follow Little Crow on a a journey of self-discovery and why it’s a beautiful thing to be yourself.
Menzin’s collage art is gorgeous. Kiddo and I adore all the rich colors. We spend a good deal of time outdoors and it’s wonderful to see nature portrayed with so much texture even while confined to the pages of a book.
Of course, after every book, I ask kiddo what she thinks. My three year old smiled broadly and responded, “I think it’s ridiculous.” Ridiculous, naturally, being pronounced ridicooooolous and said for the sheer enjoyment of using the word. Proven by the fact that she has asked for me to read “the Papa Crow one” at least twice a day since our first reading.
Now, a week later, I ask kiddo:
“Would you like to say anything about Papa Crow to our readers?”
“Yes,” she says decisively.
“What would you like to say?”
“Nothing at all, I just want it to be SEEN.”
Powerful words from a three year old, I think. She’s right, we could talk about how awesome Papa Crow is all day, but when all is said and done, Menzin’s collages simply must be seen.
Songs for Papa Crow will accompany us to Story Time at Half Price Books Humble for the next two weeks (July 2nd & 9th). We meet every Wednesday, all summer, at 10:30 am. Though we typically read multiple titles, we tend to choose a favorite to feature each week. We will also have a few Schiffer Kids Spring 2014 Catalogs for patrons of Story Time to peruse. Snacks are provided.
I look forward to reading more from Schiffer Books as well as Marit Menzin. The Klemms are officially fans for life.
The Weekly Low Down on Kids Books – selected by The Kiddo
Holiday reading with preschoolers can actually be quite fun. Although most people are doing a lot of Easter books, we’ve spent our focus on nature, enjoying spring, and covering the catechism this week. Easter bunnies and egg hunting a thing on hold for now.
Our daily go to during any season tends to be Cat in the Hat Learning Library and Magic School Bus books. We love these. They are highly educational and should be included in any homeschool student’s arsenal. Kiddo goes back and forth on which of the two she likes best. (A lot of times it’s Cat in the Hat Learning Library before bed and during day light hours it’s all about Magic School Bus.)
Life Cycles books are also great to read through when seedlings are popping out of the ground and butterflies are flitting from flower to flower. It’s nice to read through the book and then step out into nature and see how much we can find in the woods that resembles what we’ve just read.
Because it’s Earth Day season (the actual day is April 22nd, which falls on a Tuesday this year), we’ve been reading up on conservation and organic gardening. Of course, that also means that I’m letting my three year old water my tomatoes and walk in my garden. It’s a learning experience for her and a letting go experience for me.
That’s why the woods being by the house is best for us. It’s where I can really let her go and frolic and be herself.
When we get to the open fields she gets to pick as many flowers as she wants.
Whether you want to make it part of your normal routine or you’re just celebrating Earth Day, check out kiddo’s favorite books and find a good outdoor park this weekend. The fresh air and sunshine is amazing.
I’ve had Patricia Von Pleasantsquirrel by James Proimos for quite sometime. It’s been one we’ve read in spurts since kiddo had the physical ability to hand me books from a stack – so, yeah, quite awhile. My inner monologue while I read it aloud it always pretty much the same. So, naturally, I thought I had reviewed this book for my Weekly Low Down on Kids Books series. Apparently, I hadn’t. Or, I just really stink at using my own search feature.
Anyway, we read it tonight, and I wanted to be sure I shared this with the world.
Patricia Von Pleasantsquirrel is a snotty little girl that thinks she’s supposed to be queen of everything. Her mother won’t let her stay up past midnight, her dad won’t let her eat cake before dinner, her baby brother has the audacity to act like a baby instead of be her servant, and her dog has the bigger audacity to be a dog instead of being a great white stallion. She is one who suffers from the great illness of entitlement, when she hasn’t done a darn thing to earn any titles.
“Patricia was certain that a one-level, three-bedroom, moatless cottage was no place for royalty.”
Part of me wants to say, “No kidding, sister.” The other part of me says, “Hey! I love this one-level, three-bedroom, moatless cottage that’s literally falling apart at the seams…” Oh, we’re not actually talking about MY house…
So then, in protest to a life that is not exactly what she’s dreamed, Patricia puts on her frilliest dress, takes out all her books, and settles on one…
If you haven’t felt the familiar tingle of a child who has “made mischief of one kind and another,” we can spell it out for you – as Proimos does. Patricia decides to read Where the Wild Things Are.
This is the point in the book when I gently close it and actually pick up the Caldecott winning children’s book by Maurice Sendak. This is where we jump into Max’s adventure… we roar with beast… we gnash our terrible teeth… and come back home to settle into Patricia’s story.
Where Patricia thinks:
“If a silly boy with no social graces could be made king with no effort at all, then imagine how easy it would be for me to find my princessdom.”
I won’t give away her whole story. I won’t riddle this review with spoilers. But I will say, my favorite parts include two jelly beans named Edith Wharton and Louisa May Alcott as well as a hippo named Elvis.
The only thing that could make this reading experience more complete would be if I finally bought a copy of The Giving Tree. Maybe then, kiddo and I could read it to our non-existent fish and after a long discussion decide we have no idea what it is really about.
Weekly Low Down on Kids Books and Adventures in Homeschooling with an Octopus and Tolkien…
Title: Squishy the Octopus
Author: Mary Reason Theriot
Illustrations: Zoie Mahaffey
The last few weeks have been exciting. With the start of fall and the new school year and kiddo turning three in October, we’ve been diving more heavily into “school time.” There was a video floating around on facebook, courtesy of the Libertarian Homeschooler or maybe Practical Homeschooling – not sure which, dealing with the camouflage abilities of the octopus.
The video we watched (Where is the Octopus?) is here: http://www.sciencefriday.com/video/08/05/2011/where-s-the-octopus.html.
Add in discussions of legs, all things regarding the prefix “oct,” and an a event where Mary Reason Theriot debuted her children’s books, we’ve had quite a big week!
Theriot is quite a popular novelist on Amazon. Living in Louisiana with her husband and daughter, she avidly writes spooky thrillers with a southern twist that only the home of the Cajun seem to be able to offer. But most recently, with the aid of her extremely enterprising daughter, she’s branched out and started writing children’s stories as well.
In Squishy the Octopus, a little octopus with a big anger management problem learns to control his temper with the help of his other sea creature friends. On various pages, like in the video above, Squishy changes color. My own little kiddo got really excited when this happened, “Let me see the picture!” she’d exclaim, “What color is he now?”
Unrelated to sea creatures, but highly related to our homeschooling life, is the fact that this week is Tolkien week. September 21st was the 76th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. An day that was celebrated with the first annual Fall Festival at
Good Books in the Woods. There was a costume contest, a toast to Tolkien, Mary Reason Theriot doing a book signing, Aoristos portraits being drawn and more. It was a pretty neat event, which we wrapped up at home with the kiddo indulging in a long time favorite The Lord of the Rings cartoon (the 1978 one, we have it on VHS… and yes, we still use our VCR).
September 22nd (yesterday) was Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’ birthday! They were born in different years, but on the same day! Something, I suppose, only truly geeky Tolkien fans care about. So this week is Tolkien week.
I may work for Half Price Books, a company I absolutely adore for so many reasons, but I spend a good chunk of my spare time at Good Books in the Woods. It is definitely my home away from home these days. My kid plays in the garden and with the toybox set up in the kids section while I absorb the ambiance of a house taken over by books. If my husband ever let me, the inside of my house would look exactly like Good Books…