Back to Basics . . . of the Summer Sort

Remember summer vacations as a child? To me, Southern California’s June Gloom meant swimming lessons. I still love gray mornings. And hot afternoons were perfect times to read, read, read.

So I made a book store trip to see what’s available. It was a nice surprise to find a display of reprints of old favorites—lots of Newbury Award books that have stood the test of time.

Because a friend, Noa Nimrodi, has written a picture book titled BIRDS CAN FLY, AND SO CAN I: A Giraffe Soars from Dream to Reality (Grassroots Publishing Group, 2011), my eye was drawn to another picture book starring a giraffe.

GIRAFFES CAN’T DANCE, written by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees, and published by Orchard Books in 2001, reveals Gerald’s problem on the cover. The other animals tango, waltz, and cha-cha with rhythm and pizzaz . . . in rhyme. A wise cricket tells Gerald that he has to find the right music for him and then he will be able to dance.

All the elements in this book swirl into a concoction for primary children. Remember

OK, it’s not a giraffe. It’s the dragonfly that came back to the pond on the first day of summer. He darts and swoops and tries to catch a lady’s eye with his own dance.

dancing on your dad’s feet or trying to find a way to transform your tennis shoes into something you could use for tap dancing? The rollicking language in GIRAFFES CAN’T DANCE engages very young children also.  In 2012, Scholastic, Cartwheel Books printed it as a baby board book.

The illustrations for a picture book on a more mature theme also caught my eye. THE LIBRARIAN OF BASRA, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter, published by HMH Books for Young Readers in 2005, is the true story of Alia Mohammed Baker, the librarian who moved the books out of the library before the library burned down in the war. She first moved them to a restaurant and then stored the 30,000 volumes in her home and the homes of friends to await the return of peace to Iraq.

It’s an inspiring story of quiet courage and a reminder of how much value the written words hold. This small book begins with a quote from Alia Mohammed Baker, “In the Koran, the first thing God said to Mohammed was “Read.””

Something old and something new for older readers:  I pulled out Cynthia Voight’s SEVENTEEN AGAINST THE DEALER, published by Ballantine Books 1989, from my stash of books to reread. Apparently I’m starting at the end of the seven books in the Tillerman Cycle.

The Tillermans are a family of four children held together by Dicey, the oldest, after their mother abandons them . Dicey is thirteen years old in HOMECOMING, the first book in the series. DICEY’S SONG won the Newbery Award and others have been honor books .In SEVENTEEN AGAINST THE DEALER, Dicey is 21 years old and dreams of building a boat.

Dicey knows how to work hard. She is honest, responsible, and driven to get her business going. Although she is practical, she has painful lessons to learn about the grown-up world.  And her concentration on pursuing her dream almost causes her to lose what is more important to her.

This almost twenty-five year old story moves at a pace that feels slow today. I wasn’t sure I was going to finish the book. But it pulled me in as I recognized some of Dicey’s battles as my own.

If you need a summer story that moves faster and tickles your funny bone, try CHOMP, written by Carl Hiaasen, the author of HOOT, and published by Random House Children’s Books in 2012.

If you’ve ever watched a survivor show and felt skeptical about just how much danger, discomfort, disorientation, and disgusting dietary dishes the wilderness expert actually faces, you will most likely enjoy this light read and it’s mostly appealing characters, including an alligator named Alice.

Jane Yolen has long been one of my favorite authors. She defies categorization since she writes in so many genres. But when I saw that she’s written a graphic novel, I stopped in my tracks. I don’t usually read graphic novels, but, hey, this is Jane Yolen we’re talking about. So I bought CURSES! FOILED AGAIN. I’ve barely started it, but already her masterful use of language has grabbed me and I will be able to tell you more in a few days. At this point, I’ll just say it has the most memorable table of contents I’ve ever seen.

What’s in your reading bower?

Ode to Joy

Last week I rushed to complete a quilt for a show at my church. The theme is “Ode to Joy.” My inspiration was, of course, the music by Beethoven plus our garden, Melody Bells, and a book called AMARANT: THE FLORA AND FAUNA OF ATLANTIS BY A LADY BOTANIST.

I’ve always thought we are much better off finding the joy in our life rather than pursuing happiness. And one sure way for me to find joy is spending time in the beauty of nature—especially if trees are involved. So a tree became the first element in my quilt design.

Right now the garden has passed it’s spring prime of abundant poppies, ranunculus, daffodils, love-in-the-mist, and nasturtiums. Now lilies, geraniums, roses, and passion flowers bloom. Only a few butterflies flit around the pond, but little chompers on the passion vine promise an abundance later in the season. Flowers and butterflies became the second

Future butterfly, current glutton

element to show joy—sigh, such a cliche.

AMARANT: THE FLORA AND FAUNA OF ATLANTIS BY A LADY BOTANIST, written by Una Woodruff and published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in 1981, popped into my mind. My mom gave me that book years ago, and her impulse buy at Pic ‘n Save became one of my treasures. Old-fashioned botanical style drawings of things such as “wayside plant” with pods like double peas that grow into free-flying beetles abound. Other flowers transform into ladybugs . . .  or butterflies. Maybe this quilt could inch a little farther, no longer quite so cliche.

I cannot match the artistry of the author/illustrator Una Woodruff. But she did inspire me to employ a skill I do possess. I cut out lots of fabric butterflies. (Have I mentioned I live close to Rosie’s Calico Cupboard, known to me as Fabric Heaven.) Big butterflies, tiny butterflies. Purple, blue, pink, red, even brown butterflies. Then I cut apart individual wings from some of the big butterflies and used those sections as flower petals. The undissected butterflies fill the sky as if the flowers themselves took flight. Well, I hope that’s what it looks like.

The tiny butterflies and the Melody bells, you ask how they play in the design? Well,  wired ribbon rises from the tree trunk. The tiny butterflies become notes on a musical staff. The butterflies are color-coded to match five musical chimes, taking the place of the Melody Bells inspiration. A little mallet hangs from the quilt border so an art appreciator can “read” the butterflies and play “Ode to Joy.”

My version of being part of the digital age is to make an “interactive” quilt and post it on the blog. So be one of the first to view this work. If only I could figure out how to let you play it on-line!

In the post of 10/18/12, we talked about some children’s books featuring quilts. You’ll be glad to know, we haven’t exhausted the list. One of my sisters, who’s quilting skills outshine mine in every way but weirdness, gave me THE QUILT MAKER’S GIFT, written by Jeff Brumbeau, illustrated by Gail de Marcken, and published in 2000 by Pfeifer-Hamilton. Wow! Beautiful story about greed, giving, and joy. Enough stunning illustrations for two or three books. On top of all that—it has a bear!

QUILTS FROM THE QUILT MAKER’S GIFT by Joanne Larsen Line and Nancy Loving Tubesing with illustrations by Gail de Marcken was published by Scholastic also in 2000. It has twenty patterns for quilts from the story. The blocks range from easy to challenging.

Any picture book about quilts should be ashamed of itself if it is not beautiful. SHOW WAY can hold its head up with beautifully justified pride. This lovely book, written by Jacquiline Woodson, illustrated by Hudson Talbott, and published in 2005 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, pieces together the history of eight generations of the women in the author’s family. The mamas “loved those babies up so. Yes, they loved those babies up.” The Show Way quilt of the title shows the way to freedom. Bet you can’t read it with dry eyes.

Oh, and my quilt? I raced to get it in on time only to find out I was a week too early. That turned out to be a good thing since there were technical difficulties. I hear some of you ask, “What kind of technical difficulties can a quilt have? Ones that aren’t actually too complicated. They have been resolved and the quilt is to be hung tomorrow.

Last year’s quilt, “As a Deer Longs for Flowing Streams,” based on a chant by John Philip Newell. Find out more about him at