Monday, August 30th, 2004
A new page in our family album: Summer Vacation, 2004.
Saturday, August 14th, 2004
Tonight we watched "Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers". Sylvia gives it "lots of thumbs up!" -- highlights included "when they ride on the toy train" and "all of it!"
That's all for a while -- Monday we'll be heading out of town for our vacation. We are spending the week in Sodom, NY, deep in the Adirondacks.
Friday, August 13th, 2004
Tove Jansson is taking over my reading life... Yesterday I read the totally captivating book Moominsummer Madness in which the family's house is flooded out and they are forced to take refuge on a floating stage... They end up producing a tragedy written by Moominpappa, with help from a crabby stage rat, leading to her reunion with her Fillyjonk niece and other hijinks. This morning on the train coming in, Sylvia and I reread Chapter VI of Finn Family Moomintroll, the story of Thingumy and Bob. This afternoon I will start Moominvalley in November -- I am sorry there are only a few more Moomin books for me to read after this, but happy that they make such good re-reading matter.
Thursday, August 12th, 2004
We got another Babar book this weekend, one of the originals by Jean de Brunhoff: Babar and Zephir. (Also got some more Moomin books, about which more later.) Sylvia loves it (Arthur and Zephir are her two favorite characters in Babar) and said last night that she wants to have it for her bedtime story every night.
Sunday, August 8th, 2004
The saga of repairing my patio continues...
The story so far: when we moved into this house it had a broken-up, uneven bluestone patio in the back yard, and I thought I would like to learn how to fix it, make it flat and even. Ellen's cousin Danny came over and offered to donate some slate flagstones he had in his side yard toward the cause. (At that point I thought the patio was made of slate.) After getting them home I realized they would not work in the back yard, and decided instead to build a walkway/garden border in the front yard. I did that last summer -- it came out really well (or at least "really well for a first masonry project by someone who didn't have much of a clue") and I had some slate left over. This spring I extended the walkway back past the side of our house, next to the garage. And I was ready to start on the patio itself!
So two weeks ago I drove down to Brick, NJ, where there is Bedrock Stone, excellent stone yard that I recommend wholeheartedly. Bought a pallette of 1 1/2" rectangular bluestone and a pallette of broken bluestone pieces; and on the way home I stopped at Maplewood Garden Supply to get 3 cubic yards of bluestone dust. (Note: the dump truck which brought the dust would not have been able to get into our back yard, were it not for the new gate I built. Nice feeling.) That stuff has been sitting in our driveway for the past 2 weeks; and when my father came to town this weekend, I asked if he'd like to help me work on the patio. He was game, and we completed the work I was hoping to get done -- namely, the narrow part of the patio (4' X 27') that runs from the driveway to the main patio. This part had previously been extremely broken up -- hence the new flag stones -- and repaired in patches with slate. We put in a layer of dust to even the ground beneath it, and laid in new stones, and built a low border from the broken stone pieces. The old flag stones that I could salvage are stacked in the driveway, waiting to be used in extending the main part of the patio back into the yard a little ways, which may happen as soon as this fall. First I need to get to evening up the main part of the patio, where the stones are mostly whole or else cleanly broken, so I will be able to use the existing stones. (This is good because they are 1" thick and thus possible for me to lift without a second person.) That will be happening at the end of the month, if all goes according to plan.
Friday, August 6th, 2004
Have not blogged about this yet but I've been reading an excellent book, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg. Hogg is a 19th-C. Scot who uses the religious and political strife of late 17th-C. Scotland to paint a disturbing picture of the human soul afflicted by zealotry. Essentially the story of an ardent Calvinist who takes the doctrine of Predestination a bit farther than it is useful... Rather more relevant to our own troubled times than I would prefer.
Sunday, August first, 2004
As Sylvia was looking through Finn Family Moomintroll last week, asking me who the characters in each of the pictures were, she became enchanted with Thingumy and Bob, two diminutive characters who hold hands. I don't know whether it's mainly because of their names, which she finds highly amusing and loves to repeat, or the pictures -- the two taken together make these her new favorite characters. We've taken to reading Chapter VI together, which starts off with a picture of the Hemulen offering them a saucerful of milk -- at first she tried reading it to herself, coming up with: "There is a first time for everything. It was Thingumy and Bob's first time going to the doctor." and so on, I didn't catch the details of their doctor visit -- she modeled this story on on of her favorite Berenstein Bears books.
But later she asked me to read the story; I was thrilled and a little surprised to see that it held her attention all the way through the end of the chapter (which must run 10 or 12 pages), though with 2 short pieces snipped out à la The Princess Bride. I had the book along with me yesterday when we rode on the train to Coney Island and this morning coming back, nearly 4 hours in all, and we must have read it through 5 or 6 times, enough for her to know what is coming next in the plot and what the characters are going to say.
The trip to Coney Island was our first-ever overnight trip without Mom, and it was a lot of fun. We stayed over at Ed's apartment in Park Slope; I got to meet Ed's girlfriend Sonia, and lent him Tales from Moominvalley. Sylvia got her fill of rides -- various metal animals that would go up and down in circles, and we rode the Tilt-a-Whirl together -- and had a good time at the aquarium.
Wednesday, July 28th, 2004
Last week we went to the NJ State Aquarium in Camden, with Sylvia's friend Kimberlee and her parents (who were part of our travel group to China). Here are some pictures of the girls hamming it up on the aquarium grounds.
Tuesday, July 27th, 2004
This morning on the train I was reading Tales from Moominvalley, by Tove Jansson. This book is marvelous! I do not think I will give it to Sylvia though, until she is at least 6 or 7 -- the stories are a little dark and require, I think, some sophistication to really understand them -- as I say this I realize it may be true also of the other Moomintroll books; but as I was reading Finn Family Moomintroll, I was thinking "Sylvia would really like this once she's able to take in so many words"; not so much with this book.
Here is a Moomintroll home page, though I see it has not been updated in several years. And most of its links appear to be out of date. Alas! I will keep looking.
Monday, July 26th, 2004
I have been reading some children's stories. A few nights ago Sylvia was interested in hearing Babar the King for a bedtime story, which she had never heard before. So I tried it out and was surprised that it held her attention all the way through; it is wordier than most of of her books, and has more unfamiliar words. The next day, she was still talking about the characters in the story. Great, I thought -- let's go to the bookstore and get more Babar books! We went to the Montclair Book Center and picked up Babar's Little Girl, and ever since, whenever I read her a story during the day or at bedtime, she requests one or both of the Babar books.
Some notes about them, in no real order:
- I did not know this when I went to the bookstore but it turns out you should check the author before you buy a Babar book: The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant, Babar's Travels, Babar the King, and Babar and Father Christmas, and maybe some others are by Jean de Brunhoff. But many more are by Laurent de Brunhoff, whom I take to be Jean's son, and not his equal as a writer. That said, Sylvia does like Laurent's Babar's Little Girl a whole lot.
- In Babar the King, the tense switches around in confusing ways. In one paragraph "Babar proclaims", in the next, "the elephants cheered." I can't figure out why this is, it must be some vagary of translation.* This is not the case in Babar's Little Girl, which I am thinking might have been written in English, as it does not have any translation credit.
- Sylvia knows how to read the words, "Babar the king".
- I love the names of the minor characters! I get a kick out of saying "Hatchibombatar." (He is the street cleaner in Celestville.)
On the same bookstore trip, I picked up Finn Family Moomintroll and Tales from Moominvalley, by Tove Jansson (another series with excellent character names). I have fond memories of these books from childhood and am looking forward to introducing Sylvia to them, not quite yet but soon. Today on the train to and from work, I read Finn Family Moomintroll.
*Update: Or maybe it is something more meaningful. Here is the abstract of "Time, Narrative Intimacy and the Child : Implications of the Transition from the Present to the Past Tense in the Translation into English of Children's Texts", by Gillian Lathey:
The British version of Jean de Brunhoff's Histoire de Babar is a striking example of the transition from the present to the past tense in the translation of children's texts into English. With reference to theories of narrative time, this paper invites speculation on the impact of such a tense shift on the present-tense qualities of the original, on the performance of a shared reading by child and adult and, finally, on the relevance of the young child's developing understanding of the role of tense in narrative.The article is from Documents in Information Science, vol. 48, 2003, and is available at érudit.org.
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