Archive for January 2011

Idioms and Other Sick Stories

January 28, 2011

What do you do when you wake up with sniffles and sneezes and you’re supposed to go to work?

In A Sick Day for Amos McGee written by Philip E. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead, Amos McGee stays home from his job at the zoo when he’s feeling ill. He is pleasantly surprised when his zoo friends, penguin, elephant, owl, rhinoceros, and tortoise, come for a visit and take care of him. This is a delightful story, and Erin Stead has created beautifully detailed illustrations, using soft colors that continue to soothe as you turn each page. No wonder it was awarded the 2011 Caldecott Medal!

But what if you can’t stay home like Amos McGee and you have to drag yourself out of bed and go to work? Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and do what you have to do. That’s what I did this week. When I greeted the kindergarteners as they filed into the library, I was immediately asked, “What’s wrong with your voice?” My reply, “I have a frog in my throat.”

That cracked up the entire kindergarten class. They had never heard of that expression. Since I rule the roost, I took advantage of the teachable moment and marched over to the 400 section of the library and pulled out There’s a Frog in My Throat! by Loreen Leedy and Pat Street. I introduced the word, idiom. The kindergarteners cracked up again. “Idiom,” I repeated, “not idiot.” I shared the most common idioms and had them draw pictures to accompany them. It was a mini lesson and an activity all in one. How’s that for killing two birds with one stone? It turned out to be a pretty good day even though I was feeling under the weather.

More of my favorite sick stories:

Bear Feels Sick by Karma Wilson (Margaret K. McElderry, 2007),  A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon (Blue Sky Press, 1998), Imogene’s Antlers by David Small (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2010)


When a Home Becomes a House

January 25, 2011

“It takes hands to build a house, but only hearts can build a home.”  ─ Author Unknown

In the past nine months, both my mom and dad passed away. My brother, sisters, and I will miss the laughter and love that made their house a home.

Now we are left with the daunting task of dismantling the house and getting it ready to sell. This is not an easy thing to do. What do you do with all the belongings? How do you share the work when brother and sisters are spread across the country and there’s only so much time when everyone is together as a family? When is it the right time to choose special items that carry sentimental value for each of the siblings and grandchildren? Sometimes when you think you’re doing the right thing, life throws you curve balls that smack you in the noggin. And let me tell you, there are lots of things in my parents’ house to smack you in the noggin!

There are treasures stored in every conceivable place throughout the house – drawers, closets, cabinets, trunks, dressers, attic, and garage. For once I was happy that my parents chose to retire in Florida. They had no basement to squirrel away more things.

My mom and dad saved everything from the time each of us was born. We found baby cards, birthday cards, graduation cards, Christmas cards, and report cards. There were suits, jackets, dresses, Easter hats, baby shoes, and family linens. There were drawings from grade school, papers we did in high school and college, newspaper articles about our achievements, and a ton of unorganized family photos. There were numerous ceramic Christmas trees made by my mom, old ornaments, and boxes and boxes of Christmas decorations. And still there was more. Along with all of this came a few mouse droppings and a dead cockroach or two!    

As I made my way from one box to another, one word came to mind as I thought of my own house, PURGE! I can remember a conversation I had with my dad as we sat in his office, cleaning out some old papers last year. His exact words were, “Someday, you’re going to have to get rid of all this.” I wish someday didn’t have to come so soon for many reasons.

Before leaving, I looked around. I still have memories of my parents in that house, and there are still things that have sentimental value that need to be taken care of, but it feels empty without my parents there. It’s no longer a home. It’s just a house with things in it. A home is a place where you feel love wrapping its arms around you as soon as you walk through the front door. It’s the hugs, kisses, and smiles that are shared by the special people who live there. Those people don’t live there anymore. It’s time to let someone else make my parents’ house a home.

Some of my favorite books about houses:

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 1978), The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster (Michael Di Capua Books, 2005), The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2008)

In Memory of a Great Man

January 11, 2011

“His heritage to his children wasn’t words or possessions, but an unspoken treasure, the treasure of his example as a man and a father.” — Will Rogers Jr.

My dad passed away on Saturday. His love and guidance made me who I am today. Humor Me blog is taking a break to share time and memories with family.

Number Please

January 7, 2011

Do you know the secret code behind a book’s ISBN?

The ISBN on a book without a bar code on the back cover has long been an annoyance to me. I tend to transpose the numbers when I’m adding them to the computer program in our library. I really didn’t care much about the numbers as long as I got them into the computer correctly. Then along came a Q & A in the local paper explaining the meaning of a book’s ISBN. Lo and behold, their secret code was unlocked for me!

Many of you probably know the code behind the numbers, but for those of us who are ISBN challenged, let me tell you what I found out.

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. Beginning in 2007, the ISBN has been a 13-digit number. For 30 years previous to that, it was a 10-digit number. Every book has a distinct number that identifies one title or an edition of a title from one particular publisher. These numbers can be used to search or order a book. There are five parts to an ISBN, and each of the parts is separated by a hyphen. It begins with a standard number, 978. The next part signifies a national or geographic grouping of publishers. The code is 0 for the United States. That is followed by numbers that identify the publisher within a group. The fourth part identifies a particular title or an edition of a title. The last part of the ISBN is a single digit that’s known as a check digit. Its purpose is to validate the ISBN.    

Okay, you may not be interested in cracking the ISBN secret code, but think of the new information you’ve just packed away into the recesses of your brain. Aren’t you glad you have all this knowledge?

Good Friends and Good Friend Books

January 4, 2011

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.” – Unknown

We celebrated the New Year with my dear friend from high school. Sharing a new beginning with an old friend was a perfect way to spend the weekend.

True friends are hard to find, and I am happy to say there are some very special people in my life I call my true friends. They are rare treasures and light up each day of my life.

Books can be your friends, too. Some of my favorite books are about friends and friendships. Four series immediately pop into my head. The Frog and Toad series written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel, the Mouse and Mole series written and illustrated by Wong Herbert Yee, the Cork and Fuzz series written by Dori Chaconas and illustrated by Lisa McCue, and the Ivy and Bean series written Annie Barrows and illustrated by Sophie Blackall are perfect selections for young readers who are looking for books about friends. Each of the series has endearing characters, playful humor, and artwork that enhance the stories. The Ivy and Bean books are longer and are great for a more advanced reader. These books are a fun read whether they’re read alone or shared with an adult.                

It’s a new year. It’s a good time to make new friends be it a book or a real person. As the song goes “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.” A good friend makes your heart sing!

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