Friday, October 2, 2009

Mid-Autumn Festival Reading

I enjoy selecting October literature for my children. With school work already underway, our books need a chance to cackle and show their toothless grins as well. It's a good change because the sights and sounds of these books bring the outdoor spirit into our homes and reminds us to get outside. It's the most perfect season of the year!
According to the Chinese calendar Moon/Mooncake/Mid-Autumn/Lantern Festival is observed on October 3, 2009. This brings us into a lunar phase that reminds our families to observe the whispers, the crackle, and the crunch of autumn.
Smoke signals beckon autumny woods, crunchy acorns underfoot, candy corn in crimson candy dishes, orange-bellied pumpkins, saints and sinners, toothless scarecrows, spicy pumpkin recipes, and browning blistered hot dogs. A spiritual finger beckons me and my girls to the bookstore for a change of page.
This is exactly where Annie and I found ourself this October day. Armed with an icey, shaved lemonade for her and a hot, whipped, chocolate-caramel macchiato for me; we haunted the bookshelves. It's always a celestial experience for my daughters and I.
What will we read this month? What book cries out for us to save him from the purgatorial spaces which gasp for breath?
First we found Cake Girl by David Lucas and read it right there on the floor surrounded by the prying eyes of Strega Nona, Alexander, Harold, Fancy Nancy, and Corduroy. This book bewitchingly reminded us of another Halloween book we enjoy biting into: The Bake Shop Ghost by Jacqueline K. Ogburn. Both books are enjoyable reads for young readers which show how sweetness and acceptableness are the confectionery way to handle life...whether you're a grouchy old lady, a ghost, a witch, a new baker, or an edible girl made of cake.
For Garrett I decided on Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow because nobody takes you on a better tour of the autumn countryside than Irving.
"It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day, the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet. Streaming files of wild ducks began to make their appearance high in the air; the bark of the squirrel might be heard from the groves of beech and hickory nuts, and the pensive whistle of the quail at intervals from the neighboring stubble field."
Then there was the platter of food laid out for us foodies. Irving knows how to tempt:
"Fain would I pause to dwell upon the world of charms that burst upon the enraptured gaze of my hero as he entered...the ample charms of a genuine Dutch country tea table, in the sumptuous time of autumn. Such heaped up platters of cakes of various and almost indescribable kinds known only to experienced Dutch housewives! There was the doughty doughnut, the tenderer oly kock, and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes and shortcakes, ginger cakes and honey cakes, and the whole family of cakes. And then there were apple pies and peach pies and pumpkin pies; besides slices of ham and smoked beef; and moreover delectable dishes of preserved plums, and peaches, and pears, and quinces; not to mention broiled shad and roasted chickens; together with bowls of milk and cream, all mingled higgledy-piggledy, pretty much as I have enumerated them, with the motherly teapot sending up its clouds of vapor from the midst---Heaven bless the mark!
Only Laura Ingalls Wilder does it better. But this is a book post, not a food one, so I'll move on...

We will also read (and listen to) Arthur Miller's The Crucible as part of our early American history study and to witness how marketing frenzy, public hysteria, and uneducated bigotry can malign the most rational person.

For Chelsea I have selected The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. For the month of October, Chelsea will put aside her World War II reading and focus on early American history as well as understanding the dangers of making hasty judgement calls. Annie will be invited inside the Magic Treehouse for the first time and join Jack and (another) Annie on a visit to the Haunted Castle on Hallow's Eve to meet Merline the Magician then on to New Orleans where she will meet Louis Armstrong on A Good Night for Ghosts.

Happy Moon Day! It's a beautiful time of year.

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