Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Summer Vacation: GOALS!

Singing Songs of the Civil War Era with the 5th graders of Stowe Elementary
Technically, we still have two days until June, but I've finished up my school programs with Stowe Elementary, we had a gorgeous Memorial Day weekend, the Bowdoin seniors are officially graduated, and it simply feels like summer. So I'm going to pack up my blog for the next three months and head outside. I'll try to keep in touch over Facebook and the like, but I hope to be offline more than on.

As usual, I have a lofty and possibly unattainable to-do list this summer:
  1. Finish writing my current novel-in-progress by the end of June.
  2. Write a rough draft of a new novel I've been outlining.
  3. Create a bird-friendly garden in the backyard.
  4. Paint my writing room.
  5. Track down "wish list songs" for each of my music students.
  6. Unpack at least some of the boxes that are still in the basement from our move last summer.
  7. Play music.
  8. Sing.
  9. Spend time with my siblings.
  10. Read.
  11. Try some adventurous cooking.
  12. Walk in the woods as often as humanly possible.
Does that list sound like heaven or what? Do you have similar lofty, restorative, fun goals for your summer? I'm sure as always, I'll get off track, frustrated, and bogged down at some point, and that's when I have to remind myself that life does not conform to goal sheets and lists. I suppose that should be my lucky #13: Be Flexible.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hurrah for Lovely Maine

As part of my Songs of the Civil War Era school visits, I show the students how popular songs of the era often changed over time as people "borrowed" melodies and wrote new lyrics to suit their own agendas (a perfect example is "Bonnie Blue Flag," which I discussed during my Bowdoin College lecture/concert).

This spring, I've been visiting the fifth graders of Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School. After I visited each class, I worked with a group of twenty-five students who put together a rallying song of their own, to the tune of "Bonnie Blue Flag." The students did a great job collaborating. In fact, they were able to brainstorm an idea, come up with five verses, rehearse, and record all in the two hours we had together! Pretty impressive!

You can read the lyrics on the broadside below (click on the image to zoom in). You can also listen to the HBS fifth graders sing their song in the Songwriting for Kids Listening Room.

Don't you think they did a terrific job sticking to the original rhythm and getting their agenda across loud and clear?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Maurice Sendak on Illustration

Last week, we said goodbye to Maurice Sendak. As a child and as an adult, I've always appreciated that Mr. Sendak never, ever, underestimated his audience. He expected children to read subtext and layers, to grasp and embrace story in a complex yet effortless way. In the below interview, he says as a writer for children,
"...you can count on an audience that is so intuitive by nature...they take it in like air."
Betsy Bird put together a round-up of Sendak tributes on her blog a Fuse #8 Production. You can listen to and read a number of past interviews with Sendak on Fresh Air and at the Horn Book. There are his recent, hilarious, outspoken interviews with Stephen Colbert (part one and part two).

The best tribute of all, of course, is simply to go pick up a Maurice Sendak book and read...take it in like air.

Maurice Sendak on Illustration

Friday, May 4, 2012

Grab Bag Friday: The Herons Have Hatched!

Okay, I admit I've been glued to Cornell's Great Blue Heron Webcam for a full month. Has it been worth it? Absolutely. Five nestlings hatched last week, and the folks at Cornell say the tiny chicks will grow to be four feet tall within the next six weeks!

Ridiculously, after all the hours I spent watching Mom and Dad sit on the nest, I missed every single hatching (though I did get to watch Mom lay an egg, which was crazy). Chick #3 hatched when I stepped away for 30 minutes to go to the grocery store. I came home to a voicemail from my sister saying, "It's hatching! It's hatching! Where are you?"

Video: Great Blue Heron Egg #3 Hatch

Thankfully, the moment was captured on video (a sweet and hilarious video at that). I know we're not supposed to anthropomorphize, but their bedhead reminds me of the New Wave/Punk rockers in the early 80s.

Live feed: Cornell Lab Of Ornithology

Photo Screen Shot by phlegmmy