Mar 7, 2009

Launch on the Spacecoast

The spacecraft Kepler was launched last night at 10:49pm and we were there. We watched from a park on the water with a direct sight line to the launch pad about 5 miles away and listened to the countdown on a hand-held receiver. First we saw a huge light that grew and rose, and then we heard the sound that was bigger than the sky. We could follow the plume and when the rocket was almost out of our sight we could see the boosters fall off like fireworks falling. It was already hundreds of miles away. It was exciting to see all the people gathering -- lots of kids -- it felt like people were in a hurry for a festive, important event. Which it was. The Kepler will look for habitable planets, studying a patch of space for 3.5 years. I was kind of blase about going and much more thrilled than I thought I'd be when it actually happened. A keeping moment for sure.

Seems only right that we received our review copy of Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream yesterday. I'll review it when I get back from vacation.

Mar 4, 2009

Cigars, Casitas and Children's Books

We took a trip to Ybor City, once the cigar capital of the world,where Cubans, Spaniards and Italians lived and worked. The Ybor City State Museum, a Florida State Park, is housed in an old bakery. Along with exhibits detailing life in the late 1800's, there's a small representation of the room where workers rolled cigars, and it includes a raised area where a reader, El Lector, would read aloud the newspaper and literature such as Anna Karenina. Listening to the ranger's talk, I had a foggy memory of a related children's book, and sure enough, when I looked it up back home found El Lector by William Durbin.

Mar 2, 2009

A Carousel Tale

I've loved Elisa Kleven's work for sometime now but have never reviewed one of her books. It would be easy to go right into gush mode but let me try and write something a little more substantial. A Carousel Tale begins "Ernst, a young blue crocodile, loved the carousel in the park. Every day he would say hello to the wooden animals. His favorite was the honey-colored dog." (Yes, sweet Ernst and his brother Sol are back.) On the day the carousel closes for the season Ernst finds the honey-colored dog's tail on the ground but it's too late to return it for all the animals are tucked away. The carousel keeper asks Ernst to take care of the tail until it's warm again. He decides it looks lonely just sitting on the shelf and so he decorates it, transforming it into a beautiful bird that becomes his winter playmate and enters his dreams.When spring arrives, Ernst hesitantly returns the tail and the keeper wholeheartedly agrees "This is a wonderful bird you've made. As lovely as any carousel animal!" And to make everything perfectly right again, Ernst finds the perfect piece of wood to form another tail for his favorite honey-colored dog. All the different pieces to this story -- creativity and artistic expression, honesty, friendship, positive solutions -- come together so organically. Kleven's detailed collages with watercolors and pastels are so bright and full of light and just seem to shout "all is right with the world." And the endpapers are great too.

The Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog has a fine, fine interview with Elisa Kleven with many photos.

A Carousel Tale by Elisa Kleven
Tricycle Press, hardcover (9781582462394) $15.99
ages 3-7

Mar 1, 2009

Campers we're particularly fond of . . .

on the back of a lovely Airsteam in Christmas, Florida (Nope, I'm not kidding!)

Blue Spring State Park in Florida