Monday, December 28, 2009

Cadie's new clothes!

Everyone in my family loved my Christmas pictures of Cadie so much, I am going to share them!

Cadie, don't take off your clothes!
OK, lean on me!
The arms...
I'm shy again.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Our Savior Is born

I was looking for a Bible verse to use when I found this website comparing the stories of the birth of Christ as related in Matthew and Luke. The article cites similarities in the two versions and then differences. Even as a struggling seeker of religious faith, I have no problem with conflicting stories in the Word of God, for I do not see them as conflicting, but as parallel, as another slant to the same story. Who ever tells identical stories is actually revealing coordination. The differences lend credence to the authenticity of the Bible.

Christ was born. Jesus lived and was crucified. He accepted his role. It seems an escape clause when we say we are not meant to understand the ways of God, to simply accept by faith. Obedience is required. Humility. Submission. Questioning. I've already stepped out of the circle. Control issues bother me. The garden and the forbidden fruit--the first of the obedience tests, yet the questioning, the choice of Will over submission that occurred so early in the human story.

Ah, but I digress. I came here to celebrate the birth of Christ and the beauty of forgiveness and salvation. A new life. A pure life. With a very old soul, the oldest inside. Wisdom. Peace.

May the Spirit of God be with you every minute during this time of family togetherness. It wasn't easy for Mary and Joseph and it may not be for us, but we have the Spirit of Christ with us, in us.  May God also grant you a properous New Year.

And please check out this website:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Beauty of Shreveport

Visitors and others in love with the beauty of nature comment every year that Shreveport is one of the most beautiful places in the world during the spring. Mostly reasonable temperatures, fairly frequent rains, and a slight humidity contribute to a climate conducive to engendering the birth of flowers--of every variety (or close to it!)

In my one little corner under a giant cedar tree (which drops its little needle-leaves all year), here are some shots of what grew this summer. It only took me five years to reach this point, but I oohed and aahed all summer into fall until the first freeze.

Monday, December 21, 2009

SHREVEPORT, LA by Eric Brock

Mention Eric J. Brock’s name in Shreveport and almost anyone can identify him as “the history guy.” Local history has been his passion since he was a child, so compiling this book of photographs, Shreveport, La,  detailing the history of Shreveport for the Images of America was a work of love.

“Shreveport was born about the same time as photography,” is the first sentence, but Brock laments the lack of early photographs. The ones that make up this book come largely from his own collection, which began with several early photos shot by Bill Grabill of Grabill Studios, founded by his father in 1918.

History has a way of beginning auspiciously. Capt. Henry Miller Shreve, one of the most influential navigators of the 19th century, invented what he called a snagboat which broke up logjams. The Red River in the 1830’s was beset by a 180-mile logjam. Once this jam was opened, the area now known as Shreveport was right on a crosshairs path for prosperity: located where the area meets the old Texas Trail (roughly Interstate 20 today) and Red River, then as now open to river traffic to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico.

Capt. Shreve and his company established the westernmost city in the United States in 1836 with Shreve Town, later renamed Shreveport. Shreve himself never lived here, choosing St. Louis instead.
As Brock points out, Shreveport has always been a city of contradictions, e.g., a city of many religious structures, but home to the largest (and legal) redlight district in the nation in its time.
In addition to a number of photographs of the logjam, an early photograph shows the first mayor, John Octavius Sewall in 1839, oddly enough, a native of Maine.

Exemplifying Shreveport’s early religious diversity is a photo showing parts of St. Mary’s Convent, B’nai Zion Temple, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, and First Methodist Church. Only the convent is no longer in existence; all others extant.

If you ever go through one of the museums in New Orleans depicting the cotton and paddleboat industry, you will see something similar to this photo of men standing over their cotton bales (c1880), waiting for their transfer to steamboats to New Orleans. Caddo Parish was the largest producer of cotton in Louisiana during the 19th century.

An early engraving shows tar being burned to fight the yellow fever plague of 1873, during which time the city’s population was reduced by 25 percent.

A photograph marks the grave of Mary Doal Cilley Cane, “the Mother of Shreveport,” the first white woman who set foot in Shreveport. She founded Cane City, later renamed Bossier City, just across Red River from Shreveport, and was married to two of Shreveport’s founders, William Smith Bennett and James Huntington Cane.

Brock includes an impressive array of old, most now demolished, a few still standing, imposing residences built in downtown Shreveport. One which caught my eye is the E.B. Herndon house located at 947 Jordan St., site of of my school, St. John Berchmans Catholic School. The original Herndon House was built in 1875, remodeled in 1897 with a second story addition, then demolished and St. John’s built.

Truman Capote’s father, Arch Persons, lived in Shreveport, and is shown with little Truman Persons on his lap. The writer later took his stepfather’s name. Another person of note is Van Cliburn, one of the nation’s–and world’s– premiere pianists, shown in concert with adoring female fans hugging the stage-top.

A very historic photograph is this one: the roof garden of the Washington-Youree Hotel in 1924. Perry Como made his radio debut from here. In its heyday the hotel took up three-fourths of a city block, had seven restaurants and a multitude of other shops and amenities. The hotel was imploded in 1980.
The final two photos show Brock’s vision of Shreveport. One is a 1920s view of Betty Virginia Park, typifying “the natural beauty” of Shreveport, its “beautiful, lush foliage and tranquil scenery.” The other is modern–angles and verticals of buildings downtown, which Brock calls, “the heart of Shreveport both spiritually and economically.”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Ugly Duckling

In a talk to a high school fine arts class, the local symphony conductor told a story about his neighbors. When their daughter came to babysit, he asked if her parents were going to the symphony performance. "Oh, they've already seen this one," she replied. He was surprised, he told the class, because each conductor and orchestra have a different take on the interpretation of the music. To prove his point, he played--via cassette tape-- three different versions of one movement from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and discussed with the class those differences.

All this is background to the reason why someone would create another "version" of an established fairy tale. Dear Reader, this is a version of "The Ugly Duckling" you will want for your very own children, classroom, or library. It is gorgeous! Even better, the storyteller, Stephen Mitchell, has added elements not found in the original story by Han Christian Andersen. Illustrators Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher also show us a new way of seeing. Just as that conductor demonstrated with music, each writer and illustrator "sees" the story in a slightly different way. In this book that way is remarkably different.

The question is: Is this "Ugly Duckling" worthy enough for print? Walker Books (publishers) thought so in 2008 when they published this version. Let's examine it for ourselves.

1. The illustrations are simply eye-popping. Once you stuff those eyeballs back in their sockets, take a close look at the texture and patterns on every page, especially duckling's feathers. There are swirls and twists, criss-crosses that resemble a type of lace. Extraordinary! Inquisitive children love to look all over the place in an illustration just to test their knowledge of things. It's Field Day here!

2. The author also adds his take on events. This is my favorite. It concerns mother duck, who is initially disappointed to find a huge egg that takes too long to hatch. Later, when neighbors in the barnyard say snitty things about her "ugly" child, she defends him: "He may not be pretty, but he has a very good heart. He's kind and considerate, and that's worth at least as much as good looks." There is a return to this theme at the end of the story for a wrap-around effect. I like that very much!

(I cannot help but look at all these illustrations as I turn the pages. How long did it take to create all these patterns then tediously draw each all over the place?)

This is one of those books I found on the discount table at a local bookstore. Why in the world would THIS book be discounted? Anyway, I bought it with my own money with the idea of giving it to the library where I work. However, some books attach to my heart and make me keep them. "The Ugly Duckling" will now join my Olivia series and the Fabian and Hondo books, Mirrette and her high wire, among other books special to me. Yes, it is definitely worthy.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Read Anything Good Lately?

 Quick! How many types of reading material can you name? Twenty-six? That's exactly what Susan Allen, Jane Lindaman, and Vicky Enright create for a playbook a teacher or librarian might use. Actually, more than twenty-six, but that's for you, dear reader, to discover in reading "Read Anything Good Lately"?

The question begins innocently enough. A boy and girl, apparently neighborhood buddies, are out walking their dogs together. The girl, a bookworm if ever I saw one, gets the question, just a conversation-starter, a good question for this particular girl. By the time she reaches the end of the alphabet, deliberating exactly what she has read, they end their walk when they reach his house. Even so, the girl returns the question: "And what have you read lately?" He thinks of four things right off.

That's the fun of this book--the creative, clever alliteration, suggestive but not imitative of the rhyming repetition of Dr. Seuss, without the tricky tongue work. Not one of these alphabet ditties is a stretch of the imagination, as you will find in some alphabet books. Here are some examples:

An atlas at the airport
Comic books around the campfire
Fairy tales by the fireplace
Joke books in the jacuzzi
Literature at the library
and so on.

But that's not all the book is about. Each letter gets a full page, each FILLED with colorful things to look at. Here's "literature at the library." The girl is sitting on a red beanbag, reading "literature." Oh, silly me. She's reading "Charlotte's Web." Each full-page illustration shows a bubble of the page she reads. This bubble shows a pig on a farm talking to a spider on a web. That one's not difficult to discern! Also in the library illustration is a blue-napped carpet. The girl is leaning against rows of books in a low bookcase designed for children. On top is a glass cage with a little white mouse running on a wheel. Books are displayed atop the bookcase. One reads "Kente Color" (in reference to African cloth, I think). At the upper left of each page is the alphabetical letter for that page. In this case are a capital L and a small one with a picture of a vibrant lady bug designating the letter. There's plenty to look at and talk about for a reader and small child learning her letters and words and adding to her prior knowledge so that she is reading ready when the time comes.

Also in all applicable illustrations is either the girl's cat--an orange tabby-- or her dog-a black lab. In a tree house the cat is asleep on a limb. In the park is the dog sitting patiently on the bench with her. Oh snap! He's not sitting patiently! He's at his wit's end. Look at that face! He's on the bench with his back turned to her. She is reading poetry-- aloud! He's dismayed, but dog-like, he suffers nobly. The two squirrels looking over her shoulder are loving the poetry and chuckling delightedly!!

Another great thing found in this book is family! In several illustrations the girl sits with her daddy, who also demonstrates a love of reading! She's out with her mother in other illustrations--at the supermarket, at her office. Family scenes --eating breakfast is one--shows a typical family getting ready for the day.

I LOVE this book and know just how to use it with my library students!! It will make a great catalyst for creating our own "library" book, A to Z. Maybe a collage? A pop-up book? Mixed media? "An author in an autobiography" is a good start. Hmmmm.

The companion book to this one is Written Anything Good Lately?, another great catalyst book.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tea sets as collectibles

Remember when you were young and had a tea set? And all your friends drank imaginary tea with you? 

There are some things that do not require growing up. Drinking tea is one. Drinking tea out of lovely cups is another. Weren't your tiny cups just the most beautiful in the world? Now the question is where will you get your adult cups? And that teapot?

                             I never gave tea or cups or teapots a thought until I first traveled in France in 1976. Two friends and I were participating in a two-year French program for teachers and sponsored by the French government, which was desirous of continuing its language around the world. The French were concentrating their efforts on Maine and Louisiana, both states heavy with French history and culture.
The above is a link to CODOFIL the program in which I participated. Please click for more information.
CODOFIL means the Council on the Development of French in Louisiana. 

We were granted study scholarships for five weeks, which paid for our dorms, food, airfare, and even supplied expense money. Because we were so immersed in the culture for those weeks, I acquired a taste for three things French (among other things): red wine, expresso with lemon and sugar, and hot tea with milk. 

I think their tea habit came from the English from whom many French learned their English. Oh? How do I know? That lovely British accent coming from French throats that spoke English. Incidentally, it was in France where I learned that I do not speak English--I speak American--and not only that, but Southern American.

I remember one time going to a local Italian restaurant  at home with the ex-husband, (Italian as in run by Italians from Italy) and ordering lemon with my expresso. The owner who did business my ex-husband was quick to disdain my preference for lemon. I explained that's how I learned to drink it. "Where? In France?" he queried. "Well, yes, as a matter of fact," I explained. He wanted me to drink it without lemon (he, the ex, not the owner, but I wouldn't).

The first in my collection came from France--Avignon to be exact, in 1976. I had gone to France to study French exponentially. Our base of operations was Montpelier in southern France. 

For more information about Montpellier, please click on this link: 

On the weekends we took our Eurail passes ( ) and hit the road, or tracks to see the countryside and practice our French. We arrived in Avignon, a small city not far from Montpelier. I still hold a great fondness for Avignon, for we arrived during their annual crafts fair, much on par, I think, with our local Red River Revel. What an adventure!!  

For more information about Avignon, please click on this website:


One of the items I bought from a craftsman or artisan was this squatty teapot and sugar bowl. Either there was no creamer or I didn't buy it--I don't remember now. The problem was trying to carry that package, which the artisan carefully wrapped for me. You see, I went to France with a crushed heel, wrapped in an ace bandage, trying to make my way on crutches. I had to figure out how to carry things while on crutches. I finally discarded one crutch to free one arm and off I went! I became quite adept at getting around with only one foot and one arm, the matching pair occupied with the heel.

It is no telling how many many times I had tea from my Avignon teapot over the years. See the picture for its quaintness.

Three years later one friend and I returned to France for our second five-week study period in France, this time in Dijon, a central French location. During the weekend we traveled to England, I bought my next teapot: a Brown Betty teapot. At the time I did not know what it a Brown Betty was. I have used that teapot hundreds of times over the years!

A friend gave me the next teapot --and I confess to never having used it--you'll see why--Look! Could you drink tea that came from a carrot with a rabbit in it? It doesn't seem decent, now, does it? I simply display this one.

The next came in parts--a cup, a spoon, a plate, at a time as gifts for various occasions from my two best friends, Betty and Donna.

For my display I added a lovely pink flowered print in a pink frame, a pink sherbet dish, and four lovely pink wine/liquer glasses. The basket on the left holds a box of scone mix. In the back right corner is a cup and saucer which belonged to my grandmother. It is at least 60 years old and works nicely as a companion cup and saucer to my set of two cups, saucers, and dessert plates.

This delightful Hello Kitty and Hello Little Tom cup and saucer I bought in Thailand. It seemed so out of place, but please notice how many items are made in Thailand. Check out your labels to learn how many Southeast Asian countries are responsible for many many products.

I left it large for the details!
                                                Don't you love it!

Then I acquired a couple of set from eBay. Since my favorite color is orange, I just had to have this orange set I discovered on eBay. Wouldn't it be really nice to learn the history behind some of these pieces?
                                                                                My eBay set

That was so pleasant, I followed up with a really lovely, handpainted Japanese set:  Just behind it is a more modernistic teapot in the chocolate hue. (See below)

The pale pale pink teapot on the left I acquired from eBay. The one on the right is a gift from a friend.

One day I will host a tea party with themed rooms and a different set in each room with conversation drifting around the themes. One of these will be Chinese and focus on green tea--the real green tea. The teapot and cups I will use came from my sister as a gift for earning my master's degree which took me several years. This has been my go-to set for several years until this summer. I took a close-up of the birds so details would be more evident. These are lovely hand-painted pieces.

I love Blue Willow china from England and had a complete set which my mother-in-law gave me, well, she gave us. At the divorce the ex would not let me take it as it "belonged to the family" and I was no longer family.

So I acquired this teapot, a sort of look-alike Blue Willow. The real thing was too expensive. But you've figured by now that I don't spend a forture on this hobby.  The teapot has a good feel in the hand and pours beautifully! A great acquisition!

Then one day I found it! I found the perfect Blue Willow teapot on eBay. It's a Winston Churchill brand but still suffices as Blue Willow and in perfect condition. Usually on eBay I lose at the last minute, but this time I won and did not pay an arm or leg for that matter. My Blue Willow: (see above)

But the piece de resistance is the complete white set given to me by friends at my retirement from public schools. The cup is my own contribution.

Next: teas

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Book Fair Ends Its Run

 Book Fair Fall 2009

                                                       packing up another fair

This is my fifth year at my school as librarian and the second best fair monetarily since I've been here. A fair is only as successful as the volunteers who donate their time and energy to make it run smoothly. Regina S. has worked with me four out of five years (we didn't have a fair last year--normally we have two per year). Her two girls and one son attend high school next door and her three younger boys go here. Valerie S. has two girls, one in third grade and one in pre-school. What I really like about both these wonderful volunteer workers is that they take initiative without trying to assume authority. I wish a Regina and a Valerie on every librarian who sincerely wants to have a good book fair. They are the life blood of the volunteer domain.

Two of our volunteers were new--everyone loves to have new volunteers come in. The more involved parents are, the better it is for everyone. Most children love to see their parents participate at school events. It means something.

Observations made over a week:

1. Someone put two little items on the cashier's desk on Monday. All the little ones whose heads peered above desk level picked up those items and asked what they were. I had to tell them I didn't know. They stayed there all week until Valerie's younger daughter found where one came from and replaced it (from a pre-school "first purse"). The little red flat coke can less than an inch long is still on top of that desk. The point I'm making is that honesty prevails in my school. Several children asked if they could have the items. I kindly said no because  I wanted to see how long they would remain.

2. Little ones in PreK-3 and -4 memorized where the books of their choice were located. When their parents came in with money, those children ran straight to those books to show them! I found that fascinating that they could remember something like that!

3. One second-grade boy wanted his mom to buy a CD-ROM, which he claimed would play on his DS unit. She didn't want to get it until she knew for sure. He was adamant that it would because it played on his cousin's. They returned the next day and found that it had been sold. He was so disappointed. Then they returned the next day to find out if any more had come in. They hadn't. That child was so disappointed. Yes, they can find it elsewhere, but Scholastic had put all their CD-ROMs on sale for $5. What is the point of this story? That children do know what they're talking about? Not always. That mothers are behind in their technology? Not all of them. That life has disappointments which we must learn to deal with? Yes, we know that's true. The fact is that I don't know what lesson was learned here. I know I was sad for both mother and son and wish I could have done something.

4. Children love books until about middle school, then they go one of two ways: They stop reading except when forced to read. I'm sad for them, too. The others commit to a lifetime of reading.

5. The most popular subjects sold were books about monsters. The fair carried several. In May when the Twilight series was the rage, I could have sold copies right and left. Not this time. Not one copy of any of the three in the series sold. I guess those who were interested had already read the books.

6. The most surprising book that we sold out of was Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James Swanson. I am delighted!

7. Another surprising "hit" was Humphrey's First Christmas, a story of one of the camels with the Three Wise Men. It's a wonderful, delightful children's illustrated book and certainly an unusual approach to the traditional Christmas story.

November 6, 2009

Four guessing contests sparked additional interest in the Fall 2009 Scholastic Book Fair. 
 Only boys won the four guessing contests.  In one large jar were 235 pieces of Italian vegetable rotini. Andrew, eighth grade, (far left) guessed 239. The most amazing win was by Noah, fourth grade (in the black t-shirt), who guessed 1200 Cuban Black Beans in a container. Other students guessed far far less. There were 1263. Skylar, sixth grade, guessed 222 for the American Southern Pecans. The actual number was 230. The winner of the fourth guessing game was Matt, fifth grade, (far right above) whose number 227 was really close to the actual 237 in a jar of Italian spinach garganelli. Each winner selected a book of his choice from the Book Fair.

The Original Post
October  26, 2009 

At last it is time for another Book Fair! Oh how I love a good book fair! For one thing, my library fund has only moth holes in it. Yes, that must be mentioned first, although the real reason I love fairs so much is the delight I take in seeing how much the children LOVE them! Many of them return again and again to buy another book. On the last day--the fifth day--they return to buy the doo-dads, I call them. I want them to buy books, absolutely, but the doo-dads are a thrill for them, too.

 I read an article not long ago in argument against the pencils and pens and keychains and diaries and bookmarks--Wait, diaries and bookmarks? Aren't they part of the reading/writing experience? Pens? Pencils? Pens with feathers on the end? Reminiscent of quill pens, maybe? I cannot think of a single argument against doo-dads, as many ARE book-related and sub-related. Besides, kids think of those things as treasures (maybe for a short while), adding to the idea of the Book Fair as a  magical place!

(Click here to read the blog about doo-dads.)

This year's theme for the Scholastic Book Fair is "Destination: Book Fair (Read Around the World)." That is basically my library theme for the year. Decorations are a done deal. Seven huge metal cases arrived today and are lining the office hall until Saturday, when I will open and arrange them, put out the doo-dads, and weave all the world-travel and culture themes throughout. I can hardly wait!

Give up my Saturday to set up a Book Fair? That's not work to me, although I go home exhausted from pushing and pulling those big cases, picking up and moving boxes of books. Climbing up and down a ladder to place things. But a good fatigue. I'll return Sunday just to look it over. For a bibliophile, walking into a book fair is the equivalent of walking into a chocolate factor for the chocoholic, or a bar for the alcoholic.

On my way out to go home in a while, I will drag a chair over to that line-up of cases and take a peek--or a full gaze--into those boxes. Can't wait to see what they've sent this year!

The office manager called me downstairs to ask if we should move the cases into a locked room, so we did. She is as much a book lover as I, so along the way of moving, we opened and oohed and aahed at bunches of books. We've got great variety again this year!

 Our area had serious rains and flooding on Friday. Schools were closed. 

I jumped at my opportunity and worked until 9 last night. A Book Fair in progress:   
Getting displays ready: Phase 1 
Phase 2 (with one of my most faithful volunteers)

A favorite souvenir

A favorite souvenir
These are my two girls from Ireland!

Judy's shared items

Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)

  • *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
  • How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
  • The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
  • In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
  • *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
  • Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
  • The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
  • Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
  • Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
  • Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
  • Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
  • Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
  • *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
  • Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
  • *Ruined by Paula Morris
  • Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
  • Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
  • Silence by Shusaku Endo
  • *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
  • Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
  • *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
  • Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
  • *The Giver by Lois Lowery
  • *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski

School Library Journal - NeverEndingSearch


A semester course in one book about the Soviet Union. Click on image for my review.