Friday, January 29, 2010

Grab Bag Friday: The Good Old Days

This is a few weeks old, but I got a big kick out of John Oliver's bit on The Daily Show about "the good old days." I hope it makes you laugh, too!

And if I may, I'll preface with a quote from the President's State of the Union Address:
It’s tempting to look back on these moments and assume that our progress was inevitable – that America was always destined to succeed. But when the Union was turned back at Bull Run and the Allies first landed at Omaha Beach, victory was very much in doubt. When the market crashed on Black Tuesday and civil rights marchers were beaten on Bloody Sunday, the future was anything but certain. These were times that tested the courage of our convictions, and the strength of our union. And despite all our divisions and disagreements; our hesitations and our fears; America prevailed because we chose to move forward as one nation, and one people.
Again, we are tested. And again, we must answer history’s call.

John Oliver: Even Better Than The Real Thing

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ray Charles: Georgia On My Mind

I'm so glad to have my friend Matthew visiting from all the way across the country this week. There's nothing quite like old friends who know all your back-story and still stick around to see where the plot might take you next.

In honor of all the time we used to spend swapping Ray Charles tunes, here's an excellent live performance of one of his classics, written by one of my all-time favorite songwriters, Hoagy Carmichael. Believe it or not, Carmichael was working for an investment company, trying to write songs on the side when he composed this gorgeous piece.

Ray Charles: Georgia On My Mind

Monday, January 25, 2010

Newbery Awards!

When You Reach MeLast week the ALSC announced the big kidlit awards for 2009. I was so excited to hear that two of my favorite books of the year received Newbery Awards!

Rebecca Stead's mysterious novel When You Reach Me won the Newbery title and Phillip Hoose's enlightening book Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice won a Newbery Honor. (If you missed my previous posts raving about the titles, you can find them here and here.)

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward JusticeIf you haven't picked these books up yet, I guess now you have another reason. Hooray!

To see the rest of the winners, as well as the winners of the Caldecott, Corretta Scott King, and Printz Awards, please visit the ALSC.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Grab Bag Friday: Haiti Relief

If you haven't pitched in to help with the devastation in Haiti, please do consider donating to one of the many humanitarian groups that are trying to give aid. So many people have lost their homes and families and so many have been wounded that recovery will take a very long time. Even a small donation can make a big difference down the line.

If you don't know where to start, here are just a few organizations to consider:

If you want to make a donation that seems more concrete, here's a link my friend Kate sent me:
The Goods: Gifts That Give Back

Over at UNICEF, you can listen to a podcast of a young survivor telling his story.

Thank you for helping out. If we all pitch in, we really CAN make a difference.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star

Last night, one of my piano students chose "Swinging on a Star" as her "challenge" piece for the month. I've always loved this song. I remember singing it in the car with my siblings, cracking up at the depictions of the animals. My brother and I would always point to each other meaningfully when we got to the lines, "All the monkeys are in the zoo, every day you see quite a few."

"Swinging on a Star" was written for the movie Going My Way (which I highly recommend) with Bing Crosby. According to wikepedia, the song came about over dinner:
Song writer Jimmy Van Heusen was at Crosby’s house one evening for dinner, and to discuss a song for the movie Going My Way. During the meal one of the children began complaining about how he didn’t want to go to school the next day. The singer turned to his son and said to him, “If you don’t go to school, you might grow up to be a mule. Do you wanna do that?”
 Here's Bing singing "Swinging on a Star" with the boys from the movie:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Annie Dillard: The Writing Life

The Writing LifeWell, it's a new year, and I'm getting ready to send out my manuscript (a novel for kids) to literary agents. I always need a little encouragement and inspiration for these things, so in preparation, I've been reading Annie Dillard's beautiful musings in The Writing Life. I love this passage about why we read:
"Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? Can the writer isolate and vivify all in experience that most deeply engages our intellects and our hearts? Can the writer renew our hope for literary forms? Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power? What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered? Why does death so catch us by surprise, and why love? We still and always want waking."
This is the amazing thing about books. In 2009, I was swept away and shaken awake by The Hunger Games, The Book Thief, Olive Kitteridge, Robert Hayden's poetry, and Claudette Colvin. I can't wait to be inspired in 2010. What have you read that has caught you by surprise and pressed upon your mind the majesty and power of the deepest mysteries?