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text 2018-12-28 18:27
24 Festive Tasks: Door 23 - Hogswatch, Task 3 (Pumuckl's Footprints, or, "Do you believe in Santa Claus?")

No "still believe" about it for me even by age 5, and by age 7 I was well over them all; Santa, Saint Nick, the Easter Bunny and the rest of the lot.  I think the last year when I still genuinely believed, or very much wanted to believe, in Santa Claus and in presents being brought by him and by "the Christ-child" (as childhood lore has it in Germany) was at age 4.  At some point after that, I'm fairly even before Christmas at age 5, I had wised up to the fact that the giver of my Christmas presents was really my mom -- and ditto the Easter Bunny (whose existence had really never made sense to me to begin with ... a bunny laying eggs?!).  So when my mom sat me down one day after I'd started elementary school for a "you're a big girl now, so I'm going to have to tell you something because I think you'll now be able to understand this" talk she had obviously prepared very carefully, I just looked at her and blurted out, equally to her puzzlement and relief: "Oh, I haven't believed in that for a long time anyway .."

 

All of which doesn't mean in the least, however, that I wasn't easily fooled as a kid, especially if I really wanted to believe in something -- and particularly so, by my two elder cousins (the daughters of my mom's elder sister, with whom we spent a lot of vacation and other time when I was little). 

 

Some of the things they came up with, I just went along with and pretended, simply because I'd have found it much more annoying to have to discuss the whole thing: E.g., while I didn't like the stuff that Germans call Quark (any attempt at translation, e.g., as "curd" or "cottage cheese", is doomed to utter failure -- it's manifestly NOT the same thing), I very much liked cherry compote and preserve, so for a while they tried to get me to eat Quark and cherry compote, calling it "cherry ice cream" and telling me that unfortunately the freezer had failed to work properly ... all of which I wasn't fooled by for a second, but hey, anything for extra stuff with cherries in it (even Quark) -- and if pretending to go along with their story meant I didn't have to discuss that no, I still really didn't like Quark as such, but I did very much like it with compoted or preserved cherries in it, thank you very much, then that was just fine by me.

 

BUT the one thing they produced and which downright drove me to distraction were Pumuckl's footprints!  Pumuckl is the hero of a series of German children's books; a little kobold / gnome who one day takes residence in a master carpenter's shop, where he instantly proceeds to cause all sorts of havoc.  I used to love those books, as well as the TV series based on them (with Pumuckl's voice done by Hans Clarin), so imagine my surprise when, one day while we were vacationing on the North Sea coast, my cousins suddenly pointed out to me that Pumuckl had to have been around, because look, there were his footprints!  And they were all correct, too, with a big toe print and only three smaller toe prints (since Pumuckl only had four toes -- and he was always walking barefoot).  And of course, shortly thereafter small things started to happen -- my bath towel or my little scoop or something else would disappear and reappear somewhere else entirely; just the sort of tricks and practical jokes that Pumuckl was known to play.  Since as a rule he was invisible, and since I very much wanted him to exist (even though deep down I knew he didn't), for a while I was seriously thrown, all the more since I couldn't figure out how my cousins, or anybody in league with them for that matter, had produced the magical footprints.  So this went on for quite a while, with me skeptical but very much wanting to believe, and my cousins producing more and more evidence of Pumuckl's existence ... until I finally found out how they'd created his "footprints" (namely, by pressing the undersides of their fists into the sand for the main foot impression and then using their fingers for the toe imprints), at which time of course the game was up.  I still think of this whenever I'm on the beach, though -- and whenever I see one of the Pumuckl books somewhere, or come across a rerun of the TV series.

 


(On the beach in Spain, with my elder cousins (left and center),
a year or two before the appearance of "Pumuckl's footprints")

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review 2018-12-23 22:01
24 Festive Tasks: My Final Books (Doors 16, 17 and 19 -- Human Rights Day, St. Lucia's Day, and Festivus)
A Christmas Guest - Anne Perry,Terrence Hardiman
Skandinavische Weihnachten: Die schönsten Geschichten von Sven Nordqvist, Hans Christian Andersen, Selma Lagerlöf u.a. - Hans Christian Andersen,Selma Lagerlöf,Various Authors,Sven Nordqvist,Josef Tratnik,Dirk Bach,Jens Wawrczeck
A Woman of No Importance - Full Cast,Oscar Wilde
Model Millionaire - David Timson,Oscar Wilde


Anne Perry: A Christmas Guest

The third book in Anne Perry's series of Christmas novellas, each one of which has as their protagonist one of the supporting characters from Perry's main series (William Monk, and Charlotte & Thomas Pitt).  This installment's starring role goes to Charlotte Pitt's vinegar-tongued grandmother, who -- like another remote relative, recently returned to England after having spent most of her adult life living in the Middle East -- finds herself shunted onto Charlotte and her husband Thomas at short notice, because the family with whom she had been planning to spend the holidays have made other plans.  While Grandma pretends to despise her widely-traveled fellow guest, secretly she develops a considerable amount of respect for her, so when the lady is unexpetedly found dead, grandma takes it upon herself to seek out the people who had unloaded her on the Pitt household; convinced that something untoward is afoot.

 

As Perry's Christmas novellas go, this is one of my favorite installments to date, and i loved seeing it told, for once, not from the point of view of an easily likeable character, but from that of Grandma, who is a major pain in the neck to others (even though you'd have to be blind not to recognize from the word "go" that her acerbic tongue and pretensions are merely part of her personal armour).  I also wondered whether the murder victim's character might have been inspired by pioneering women travelers like Gertrude Bell, even if the story is set a few decades earlier than Bell's actual life.  I had issues with a couple of minor aspects of the plot (and characters / behaviour), but they didn't intrude enough to seriously impinge on my enjoyment of the story.  And since Grandma, for all her overblown pretenses, is certainly a strong woman character -- which she shows, not least, by eventually admitting to her own fallibilities -- I am counting this book towards the Human Rights Day square of 24 Festive Tasks.

 

 

 
Various Authors: Skandinavische Weihnachten

A charming anthology of Christmas short stories and poems from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Finland; chiefly geared towards children, but more than enjoyable by readers and listeners of all ages and generations.  I knew some of the entries (no Scandinavian Christmas anthology without Andersen's Little Match Girl, I suppose), but many of the stories were new to me, and they made for delightful listening on this 4th weekend of Advent. -- Set in Scandinavia, and thus I'm using it as my book for the St. Lucia's Day square.

 

 


Oscar Wilde: A Woman of No Importance

Wilde's second play; an acerbic take on the narrowness of fin de siècle English morality; or more particularly, supremely hypocritical perceptions of women's role in society.  Unlike in Wilde's later plays, the beginning comes across as a bit of an over-indulgence in the author's own clever wit, with a veritable fireworks of sparkling onelines and repartees following in quick succession without greatly advancing the plot (which is what earns the piece the subtractions in my star ratings -- it's the perfect example of too much of a good thing); but once the plot and the dialogue centers on the opposing protagonists, it quickly finds its feet. -- As Festivus books go, it's rather on the dark side, but it's a satire nevertheless, so I'm counting it for that square ... and though (unusually for Wilde) the last line is telegraphed a mile and a half in advance, I nevertheless enjoyed saying it along with the play's heroine from all my heart.

 

 


Oscar Wilde: Model Millionaire

My encore enjoyment to follow up A Woman of No Importance; a story that couldn't be any more different in tone and intent -- the tale of a gentleman who believes he has done a kindness to a raggedy beggar modelling for his artist friend ... only to find that he could not possibly have been any more mistaken, and that in fact it is he who is ultimately at the receiving end of an unexpected kindness.

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review 2018-09-10 05:58
A Light in the Attic
Light in the Attic - Shel Silverstein

A Light in the Attic is a poem book that contains fun to read poems. This book can be used in the classroom as a reading center or and early finishers activity. Students in pairs can also  take turns reading poems from the book and practicing fluency. 

 

 

Level R

Grade 3-5

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review 2018-09-10 05:55
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Where the Sidewalk Ends - Shel Silverstein

Where the Sidewalk ends is a book that contains enjoyable poems that are fun to read. This book can be used in the classroom as a reading center or and early finishers activity. Students in pairs can also  take turns reading poems from the book and practicing fluency. 

 

Non-Fiction

Level Q 

Grade 3-5

 

 

 

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review 2018-09-10 05:49
My Mouth is a Volcano
My Mouth Is a Volcano Activity and Idea Book - Julia Cook,Carrie Hartman

"All of Louis thoughts are very important to him. In fact, his thoughts are so important to him that when he has something to say, his words begin to wiggle, and then they do the jiggle, then his tongue pushes all of his important words up against his teeth and he erupts, or interrupts others. His mouth is a volcano!" This book can be used in the classroom to introduce classroom rules, expectations and routines. It can lead to a discussion on what should be appropriate to ask the teacher and what the student should ask a peer. The book is a great engaging materials that allow students to learn how to follow procedures.

 

Fiction

PreK-3

Level J

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