Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Radio silence

I've combined this blog with my original blog, Rockhound Place, as keeping up with four blogs is not something I can currently manage.  I still have lots of book recommendations in my posts, and hope to start participating in Poetry Friday again when things around here settle down a bit.  This blog still gets Google hits quite a bit, so I plan to keep it up, if not running, but all of my previous "A Habit of Reading" posts can now be found over at Rockhound Place.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Poetry Friday - Sara Teasdale, again

Another little bit of serendipity came my way this week in the area of music meets poetry. Last week my PF post was a poem by Sara Teasdale ("April"), and three days later I sat down in a choir rehearsal to begin working on a song called "A Blessing," by New Zealand-born composer David N. Childs (SATB, piano, flute; published by Santa Barbara Music Publishing, Inc.). The lyrics just happen to be based on another poem by Sara Teasdale that I find very moving:

Sara Teasdale

Peace flows into me
As the tide to the pool by the shore;
It is mine forevermore,
It ebbs not back like the sea.

I am the pool of blue
That worships the vivid sky;
My hopes were heaven-high,
They are all fulfilled in you.

I am the pool of gold
When sunset burns and dies--
You are my deepening skies,
Give me your stars to hold.

Poetry Friday is being hosted today at Becky's Book Reviews.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Poetry Friday - Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

Sara Teasdale

The roofs are shining from the rain,
The sparrows twitter as they fly,
And with a windy April grace
The little clouds go by.

Yet the back yards are bare and brown
With only one unchanging tree--
I could not be so sure of Spring
Save that it sings in me.

My sentiments exactly.

Poetry Friday is being hosted today at Carol's Corner.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A seasonal quote from Charlotte Mason

"A girl who knows something about wildflowers, for example, will be a popular walking companion with all kinds of people in various circumstances." ~Home Education in Modern English: Volume 1 of Charlotte Mason's Series
Love it! Thanks to the Hearts and Trees newsletter for the quote. A new blog entry at the Hearts and Trees blog titled A Few Spring Nature Study Ideas is worth checking out!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Poetry Friday - John David (b.1946)

"You Are the New Day"
by John David

I will love you more than me
and more than yesterday
if you can but prove to me
you are the new day.

Send the sun in time for dawn,
let the birds all hail the morning.
Love of life will urge me say,
you are the new day.

When I lay me down at night
knowing we must pay,
thoughts occur that this night might
stay yesterday.

Thoughts that we as humans small
could slow worlds and end it all
lie around me where they fall
before the new day.

One more day when time is running out
for ev'ryone,
like a breath I knew would come
I reach for a new day

Hope is my philosophy,
just needs days in which to be,
love of life means hope for me,
born on a new day.

Well, I don't know if it stands alone enough as a poem, but Welsh songwriter John David's song is very moving, especially as sung by The King's Singers (try to ignore Barney and the Teletubbies--I do):

The local community chorus with which I sing is singing an SATB arrangement (by former King's Singers member Peter Knight) of this song in our upcoming spring concert, along with some other lovely choices.

Poetry Friday is being hosted today by children's book author Julie Larios over at The Drift Record.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What's in your TBR stack?

Melissa of Here in the Bonny Glen posted a picture of her TBR stack, and I thought it would make a nice meme to get others to share what is in theirs. Here's a pile of my TBRs:

What's in yours?

Hey--I just noticed that if you click on the photo the picture gets bigger and the titles are actually legible!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Poetry Friday - Nancy White Carlstrom

Today, in honor of Alaska's Last Great Race, the 2009 Iditarod, which begins tomorrow at 10 a.m. Alaska time (2 p.m. EST), I am posting the "spring" part of a poem celebrating the four seasons by Nancy White Carlstrom, from her book, Midnight Dance of the Snowshoe Hare--Poems of Alaska (1998), with the author's permission. The book's lovely illustrations are by Ken Kuroi.

from "Raven Cries River"
by Nancy White Carlstrom

Snowshoe Hare, white on light,
Sled Dog dreaming big race
Grouse family comic
Roosting tree like joke
Red Squirrel carries sunshine.
Gangly Moose
Dangling new buds
Stamping mud from snowmelt.

And Raven,
Bold rascal Raven
Cries River
Ice chunks crashing
Water rushing
Spring breakup!

The rest of the poem tells of each of the other three seasons from the animals' perspectives. The other poems in the book are also told in the voices of various Snowshoe Hare--young ones, wise grandfather hare, and others. Carlstrom's usually spare verse doesn't verge into cutesieness, so, although this book is likely aimed at the four to eight crowd, older readers will also enjoy it.

We've read the Jesse Bear books by Carlstrom, and have copies of Who Said BOO? Halloween Poems for the Very Young and Thanksgiving Day at Our House--Thanksgiving Poems forthe Very Young that we get out each fall. The author has a website, with a list of the Jesse Bear books, plus a list of all of her other books to date.

For more of my posts about the Iditarod, including lists of books, dvds, and other resources concerning the race, Alaska, and the Arctic, visit one of my other blogs, Rockhound Place.

Poetry Friday is being hosted today at Picture Book of the Day. Check it out!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Poetry Friday - Dante, and more

"Divine Geometry"
from Dante's Divine Comedy
translated by Dorothy L. Sayers

As the geometer his mind applies
To square the circle, not for all his wit
Finds the right formula, howe'er he tries,

So strove I with wonder--how to fit
The image of the sphere; so sought to see
How it maintained the point of rest in it.

Thither my own wings could not carry me,
But that a flash my understanding clove,
Whence its desire came to it suddenly.

High phantasy lost power and here broke off;
Yet as a wheel moves smoothly, free from jars
My will and my desire were turned by love,

The love that moves the sun and the other stars.

from The Pythagorean Liturgy

Though in noon's heaven no star you see,
Know well that many there must be.
And with your soul's extended ears
You'll hear the music of the spheres.

Read about Pythagoreanism here. And for an interesting look (and listen) at one man's attempt to hear literally the planets as they orbit the sun, visit Carmen of the Spheres.

Poetry Friday is being hosted today at The Holly and the Ivy. Head on over and check it out!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

100+ Books List

Saw this without the meme on Suji's Funschooling blog, then with the meme at LB's. (Am I using the word meme correctly, LB?)

I love lists. Especially lists of books. Changed the name to 100+ because I'm a recovering type A and there are more than 100 on the list.

Bold those you have read.
Italicize those you intend to read.
Do audio books count? You decide. Movies, decidedly no.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (many times over--one of my all-time faves)
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien (read in high school, much to the dismay of my BFF who couldn't understand how I could disappear inside books the way I did these).
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (read it because I wondered what I was missing in high school--BJU textbooks, don't get me started!)
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 1984 - George Orwell (college? can't remember)
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (have read parts)
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (have read some for the same reason as #5)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien (see #2--read all four in almost unceasing obsession--um, succession)
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger (ooh, tried this one and found it annoying)
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell (another high school read that annoyed my BFF)
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (loved it, especially the answer)
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll (favorite of mine)
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame (another favorite--but can't get it to work as a read-aloud for some reason)
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis (hmm, wasn't this just mentioned, at #33?)
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini (won't read it)
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis de Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden (as part of a book club)
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (started it, never finished)
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins (started to read)
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery (another all-time favorite)
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Started, don't think I finished it)
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas (Did I? Might be confusing it with The Scarlet Pimpernel)
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding (laugh-out-loud book)
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson (had this on my "to read" list last summer)
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath (for college class)
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt (loved it)
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (these are right up there with the Austen canon for me)
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (read so long ago I want to read it again)
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams (started, never finished)
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Well, that was fun. What a great reminder of some classic titles I've been meaning to read. I'll set a goal to read at least one of the italicized books this year.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Poetry Friday - Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

After the Dazzle of Day
Walt Whitman

After the dazzle of day is gone,
Only the dark dark night shows
to my eyes the stars;
After the clangor of organ majestic,
or chorus, or perfect band,
Silent, athwart my soul, moves the
symphony true.

The Walt Whitman Archive has an incredible amount of information, photos, and, of course, the works of the poet--definitely worth a visit, so mosey on over if you have the inclination. There is even a photo of Whitman's original manuscript of this poem, among others.

Poetry Friday is being hosted at Big A little a. Check it out!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

20 in 2009 Challenge

While I've been slow identifying my 100 species, I think this challenge is definitely something I can accomplish within the allotted time frame--reading twenty books in the year and posting about them here. Remembering the books is more of a challenge for me than actually reading them (sporadic insomnia tends to leave me with stretches of time to read), but I welcome the task of organizing my thoughts about twenty books I read this year.

Updated 1/29:

I've finally realized that if I wait until I actually have time to review the books I'll probably start losing track of what I've read, so I'm going to start a list and update it with comments about the titles later. I can at least rate them, based on my enjoyment of them:

Don't bother.
☆☆ I didn't like it much, but you might.
☆☆☆ I enjoyed it and would recommend getting it from a library.
☆☆☆☆ I loved it--if I don't already own it, I'll probably buy a copy to keep.
☆☆☆☆☆ You've got to read this book!

1. The New Policeman, by Kate Thompson. (☆☆☆☆)
Have now passed this one on to O. (11) to read.

2. Mozart's Ghost, by Julia Cameron (author of The Artist's Way). (☆☆☆)

3. Tell Me, Pretty Maiden--a Molly Murphy Mystery, by Rhys Bowen (author of the "Evan Evans" mysteries). (☆☆☆½)

Updated 2/10:

4. O' Artful Death, by Sarah Stewart Taylor. (☆☆☆☆½). Uh-oh, I've found new mystery series to read. That generally means that other things get pushed to the back burner, though I have found I can throw in a load of wash while reading (who cares if those reds get put in with the whites?) and give my younger two kids a bath while reading (wow, look how wrinkly your skin can get!), amongst other things. Still, it looks like there are just three more books in the Sweeney St. George series for me to read, for now, anyway. Taylor's protagonist is smart, likeable, and just a tad melancholy. A bit of gloom suits her, though--after all, she is an art historian who specializes in funereal art!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Poetry Friday - Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)

I Am in Need of Music
Elizabeth Bishop

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

I'm continuing in my quest to find poetry about music. Elizabeth Bishop was born not too far from here, in Worcester, MA, though throughout her life she traveled far and wide, and her poems often reflect this fact.

Poetry Friday is being hosted today at Wild Rose Reader.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Well-Trained Mind release update

For those of you who care-- ☺

In a recent post I mentioned that the newest edition of The Well-Trained Mind was scheduled for release from Amazon on February 4th. Unfortunately the release date for the book has been pushed back. According to Amazon, it will now be out on May 6th. I couldn't find any information on the website of Peace Hill Press or on Susan Wise Bauer's blog about the potential release date, but then my morning caffeine hasn't kicked in just yet. I know there was a problem with the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia being out of print (though copies are still available via Amazon), possibly for good (Kingfisher got bought out by Houghton-Mifflin), so that certainly could have something to do with the delay.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Poetry Friday - Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

Snow in the Suburbs
by Thomas Hardy

Every branch big with it,
Bent every twig with it;
Every fork like a white web-foot;
Every street and pavement mute:
Some flakes have lost their way, and grope back upward when
Meeting those meandering down they turn and descend again.
The palings are glued together like a wall,
And there is no waft of wind with the fleecy fall.
A sparrow enters the tree,
Whereon immediately
A snow-lump thrice his own slight size
Descends on him and showers his head and eye
And overturns him,
And near inurns him,
And lights on a nether twig, when its brush
Starts off a volley of other lodging lumps with a rush.
The steps are a blanched slope,
Up which, with feeble hope,
A black cat comes, wide-eyed and thin;
And we take him in.

I posted this poem today at the request of ds (11 - today!). Besides being a favorite poem of his, he wants to know if "inurns" is right or if "inturns" as is in one of our poetry books is correct. Thoughts? Links? Comments? All welcome. : )

Poetry Friday is being hosted today at Adventures in Daily Living.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Poetry Friday - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

The Arrow and the Song
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I know not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I know not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

These words have been set to music many, many times, usually for solo voice and piano. Two better known composers that have written art songs with this text are Charles Gounod (who also wrote a setting of Ave Maria with Bach's C major Prelude, BWV 846, as the accompaniment) and New England's own Amy Beach.

Poetry Friday is being hosted today by Laura Purdie Salas. Check it out!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New word: effortful

"Everyone else had made it look so effortless she hadn't even noticed how they'd done it... She felt like her one talent in life was for making things effortful." ~Ana in 3 Willows, by Ann Brashares

Ah, a kindred spirit. This book is now on my "to read" list. Thanks to Jen Robinson's Book Page for the review, and the quote.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sending a message to kids

"Well, I own a bookstore, and when kids come into contact with books, I see them loving them. But I think we have to be a little more passionate about getting books to children--which includes putting books in our own hands. I see a lot of parents not reading, but instead spending hours and hours on computers. It sends a strong message to kids that books are not important. The book is still the best transportation device to take us through time, to new worlds and ideas. Once you've tasted it, it's hard to give it up. I think we just need to give kids more opportunities to taste it."--Peter H. Reynolds, children's author and illustrator, co-owner of the Blue Bunny bookstore, Dedham, Mass., and co-founder of educational media firm FableVision, in a Boston Globe interview.

Note to self: it's okay to sit down with a book of my own during the day. Probably better for my eyes than all that reading with a booklight in bed, too!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Poetry Friday - Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)

Everyone Sang
by Siegfried Sassoon

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on - on - and out of sight.

Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away. . . O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never
be done.

Look here for more about this 20th century English poet, and be sure to check out the external links at the bottom of the page. Many resources for learning more about the poet and links to his poems online are included.

Poetry Friday is being hosted today by Karen Edmisten.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Astronomy activity and living books

I should be getting ready for tomorrow's homeschooling day--photocopying math pages, printing out spelling sheets, deciding which Egyptian activities to attempt (where does one buy natron, anyway?), but, since I recently sat down and went through the stack of astronomy books I got from the library with the intent of seeing what would work for our spring study of the stars and planets, I thought I'd upload my thoughts before they disappear into the ether. Can you tell my memory is failing as I approach forty? ☺

One book I thought I might use is Galileo for Kids, part of a long list of resources from Chicago Review Press that has Lewis & Clark, Darwin, and other historical figures or events as the basis for activity books. Kind of "Williamson Kids Can" for the logic stage, I inferred from reading the synopsis. I think I will use it, but later, when we hit the Renaissance (Spring or Fall 2010 if all goes according to plan, which it never does) again in our history studies, especially if DS (now almost 11) is still interested in astronomy then. The information contained within the text, and there is a lot of it, contains loads of history. Some of the activities are history-based, as well, but the bulk of them are science- and/or math-oriented, with historical side-notes. There are twenty-five of them! It seems extremely through, and, (dare I say it?) slightly reminded me of a textbook, albeit a well-written, singly-authored one. The age range on the book states ages nine and up, but I'd push it higher (12 and up), unless you have a really interested and willing child, and even then I highly suggest being selective amongst all those activity choices.

I had one absolute dud in the pile that I had thought sounded promising, and that is The National Wildlife Federation's NatureScope Astronomy Adventures. It's out of print, but then so are many books recommended either in The Well-Trained Mind (the new edition has a release date of February 4th, according to Amazon) or listed in The Complete Home Learning Sourcebook. The activities were either (to use a forbidden word in our house) stupid ("create or decorate an invitation to a cosmic party") or require lab materials many homeschoolers may not have access to (spectrum tubes of helium, hydrogen, sodium???). There were some "okay" activities or experiments in the book, but they were all ones I had seen in other books, as well.

One book I'm on the fence about is Janice Van Cleave's Constellations for Every Kid. I may get it from the library again and use it selectively in the spring. Things I liked about it--it has instructions (aimed at the student, not the teacher) on how to use a star map, and how to locate constellations; and each constellation/atronomical sight covered has a related experiment (e.g., demonstrating why the Lagoon Nebula has dark areas). My general thought about the book is that I could probably replace it with a couple of trips to the Museum of Science in Boston, but, conversely, and possibly easier to implement, we could focus on finding a constellation per night (weather permitting) and then complete the corresponding activity in the book the following day. Most activies/experiments use household materials. I looked at Astronomy for Every Kid, too, but wasn't impressed enough to even write down the title in my notes, evidently.

A book I loved the looks of is How the Universe Works, another out-of-print recommendation listed in The Well-Trained Mind.
  • It's very visual, like a DK Eyewitness book
  • It has easy to follow instructions for each activity
  • It has plenty of activities that seem easy to implement and seem like they would be fun to complete
  • The experients occasionally call for more than household materials (e.g., lenses for a "make-your-own-telescope" activity; a large battery and wires; foamboard, etc.)
  • The activities are sometimes complicated--the "build your own Galileo model" activity has one cutting out 26 different shapes to specific dimensions
  • One could get bogged down amongst all the choices--must be selective when choosing experiments or one could burn out on a subject before getting through all the material
In reference to this last negative aspect, I know of which I write, unfortunately. We tried using another book in this series, How Nature Works, and were done with plants well before we got to very many of the activities.

The absolute keepers:

1. The Stargazer's Alphabet--Night Sky Wonders from A to Z. Okay, I admit it. I'm a sucker for rhyming couplets. But, who wouldn't like
"A is for Andromeda, our neighbor galaxy;
B is for the Big Dipper, that's an easy one to see"
accompanied by stunning photographs and a few sentences' to a couple of paragraphs' worth of information about each alphabetical astronomical item? Author John Farrell also includes pronunciation guides for many names (wish he'd written a dinosaur book back in the day): "IO=EYE-oh or EE-oh"; "Halley rhymes with Sally"; and many, many more. This is one for my younger two (DD7 and DS4), but I bet the eleven-year-old will be hanging over the back of the sofa while we read, and may even sneak it up to his room to be tucked away with other favorites.

2. Exploring the Night Sky by amateur astronomy giant and science writer, Terence Dickinson. This is not an activity book, either, but a great general introduction to astronomy for ages nine and up (so says Amazon, and I agree, for once). The first section is très cool, in my book. Called "A Cosmic Voyage," it consists of two-page spreads with one of those pages being a full-page illustration and the other page being text with some smaller visuals. At the beginning of this section, Dickinson starts 1.3 light-seconds from Earth, briefly explains light-speed, and proceeds to describe the moon as if the reader is there. The next two pages are 4 light-minutes from Earth, the next are 4 light-hours from Earth, then 2 light-months from Earth, then 4.3 light-years, and so on until the last two pages of this section, which explore galaxy clusters and the expanding universe (300,000,000 light-years from Earth).

The other two sections are equally entertaining. Part two, "Alien Vistas," has the same two-page spreads as before, but now with more text and less full-page illustrations throughout. Topics covered are The Solar System: Our Sun's Family (nine planets, of course, as this book dates from 1987, and was updated in 1998. A more recent edition I could not find, but I'm hopeful one will be released soon),which has a chart of information about the planets (diameter, length of year, known moons, distnace from sun and length of day); Venus & Mercury: Two Broiled Worlds; Mars: the Most Earthlike Planet; Jupiter: King of the Planets; Saturn & Beyond: Rings and Ice Worlds; Planets of Other Stars; Nearby Stars: Our Sun's Neighbors; How Stars End Their Lives; Black Holes: Gravity Whirlpools in Space; Quasars: the Beacons of Deep Space; and Extraterrestrials: Is Anyone Out There?

The last section is simply titled "Stargazing," and covers how to recognize planets, stars, and constellations;"easy sky guides"; how to use fingers and hands to measure star patterns; and stars and constellations to look for in each season; plus it ends with a page about binoculars and telescopes.

3. A Child's Introduction to the Night Sky, by Michael Driscoll. This book's conversational tone and basic information augmented by sidebars with interesting tidbits, like how planets got their names, won me over. I would like an updated edition of this book, as well, since the "Night Sights" section at the end of the book, which is a recap of when to see planets, comets, and shooting stars only goes through 2008--aaargh! Two of the most interesting (to me) sections in this book have the titles, "What We Can See--Stars; the Sun; Planets (9); Hunks, Chunks, and Flying Objects; and Galaxies," and "What We Can't See--Gravity; Dark Matter; Black Holes; and a New 'Neu' Puzzle." Other sections include one about Astronomers--what they do and the tools they use, one called "A Brief History of Space," and a short list of resources (books and internet links), as well as chapters on the constellations.

It occurs to me now that none of my "keepers" are activity books! It's not for lack of trying, however. Another I looked at and decided would be hard for us to implement was Keepers of the Night, by Michael Caduto. I used a little bit of Keepers of Life in our study of plants this past fall, and while I liked the Native American tales that went along with each section (as did my children), Keepers of the Night has only one chapter of six devoted to astronomy--the others are about nocturnal animals. Some of the activities require a group of children larger than the three I have here at home. And some of them are too easy for my eleven-year-old (e.g., the flashlight-globe activity that shows daylight vs. night), which makes sense since I think this book is aimed at elementary aged kids. It would probably make a good co-op class for that age, in fact.

One activity book I may try to use is the GEMS publication, Earth, Moon, and Stars (Grades 5-8) from Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley. It's very classroom-oriented, however, with worksheets to go along with activities, etc., but it seems like it may be easy to adapt for home use. Some of the activites include making star clocks, drawing constellations after learning to use star maps, and modeling the phases of the moon. I own this book ("got it in a shrewd business deal") so I'll do further contemplating at a later date.

All of the books I've checked out so far have two things in common--with the exception of How the Universe Works, they are orientated for the Northern Hemisphere, and they all need updating! I've seen some newer books at bookstores that feature the dwarf planets, and plan to check them out--look for an update soon. I'll also post about Jacqueline Mitton's beautiful books, and other picture books I come across.

Happy stargazing, and stay warm!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Poetry Friday - Elizabeth Coatsworth (1893-1986)

Cat on a Night of Snow
by Elizabeth Coatsworth

Cat, if you go outdoors you must walk in the snow.
You will come back with little white shoes on your feet,
little white shoes of snow that have heels of sleet.
Stay by the fire, my Cat. Lie still, do not go.
See how the flames are leaping and hissing low.
I will bring you a saucer of milk like a marguerite,
so white and so smooth, so spherical and so sweet--
stay with me, Cat. Outdoors the wild winds blow.

Outdoors, the wild winds blow, Mistress, and dark is the night,
strange voices cry in the trees, intoning strange lore,
and more than cats move, lit by our eyes' green light,
on silent feet where the meadow grasses hang hoar--
Mistress, there are portents abroad of magic and might,
and things that are yet to be done. Open the door!

Elizabeth Coatsworth was an American author of more than sixty children's books, including Newbery Medal Winner, The Cat Who Went to Heaven.

Poetry Friday is being hosted today at Picture Book of the Day. Check it out!