Fall has fallen.
I’ve never truly been surrounded by Autumn. In Singapore, we have either sunny or rainy days whole year round. There isn’t Spring. Well, not exactly. There is a twelve-month Summer, only not entirely. Some cooler days feel like Autumn, I’d imagine. And Winter in Singapore would be as far-fetched as living on Mars. (Shorter-fetched these days because more believe that both dreams will come true. Sooner than we think.)
But the stories I’ve read, as a child and adult, set in autumnal beauty, are glorious. They are the ones which help me picture the season. The different shades of orange and red. The slowing breaths. The harvests. The gratification. The reunions.
There is something sentimental and warm about Autumn. At times, it could be sad and scary for little leaves having to leave their mother trees. But in the end, as we all learn from the stories, the little leaves will do all right. The mother trees will sprout new children and live on. One fine day, the previous batches of leaves will return to the roots, to the ground, to the earth, and connect to their mothers again.
Here are some excellent picture books that depict Autumn as I imagine it: With layers, contrasts, bursting with colours, sometimes with Death added, and Re-birth awaiting.
· We Gather Together: Celebrating the Harvest Season
Wendy Pfeffer & Linda Bleck
· Animals in Fall: Preparing for Winter (Cloverfield non-fiction series)
Martha E. H. Rustad & Amanda Enright
· I Know It’s Autumn
Eileen Spinelli & Nancy Hayashi
· Wild Child
Lynn Plourde & Greg Couch
· The Little Yellow Leaf
· Fletcher and the Falling Leaves
Julia Rawlinson & Tiphanie Beeke
· The Stranger
Chris Van Allsberg (This is an autumnal mystery I love and just have got to add to the list.)
Are there any books that draw you in to the wonderful season?
If there’s Autumn in Singapore, I would enjoy watching leaves turn yellow and red; I would enjoy taking a walk in the crisp cool morning air; I would have the most fun watching stray cats attack falling leaves or leap into a stack of fallen ones. What about you guys? What is it that you and your children love about Autumn? Please tell me more, so I can better picture it in my head.
“The streets of Heaven are crowded with angels tonight.”
That was a line from President Bartlett (of ‘The West Wing’) in an episode about a bomb attack in a school, in which many terrified students tried to escape and more than a few clambered back to rescue fellow students (and ultimately died).
Remembering heroes and victims has been a shared theme around the world this past week.
Children, especially, need heroes. They may not entirely understand the evils and tragedies of the world, but they certainly know enough to appreciate the importance of heroic figures who’ve kept them safe.
Back in childhood (not too long ago, I assure you ...), stories were where I'd gotten my dose of heroic pride and comfort. Real and fictitious heroes have protected and comforted me since young. Today, I’d like to share my heroes who’ve given me courage in trying times, and goaded me into becoming a little braver and more determined:
Picture Books, Middle Grade Novels, Non-fiction, Young Adult Books, Comics &
· The Lupine Lady from MISS RUMPHIUS Barbara Cooney
· Ted from MY PARENTS ARE DIVORCED, MY ELBOWS HAVE NICKNAMES, AND OTHER FACTS ABOUT ME Bill Cochran & Steve Björkman
· Matilda from MATILDA Roald Dahl
· Laura from LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE Laura Ingalls Wilder
· Jo March from LITTLE WOMEN Louisa May Alcott
· Jesse & Leslie from BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA Katherine Paterson
· Coraline from CORALINE Neil Gaiman
· Nobody Owens from The Graveyard Book Neil Gaiman
· Gandhi from GHANDI - YOUNG NATION BUILDER Kathleen Kudlinski
· Johnny Appleseed from THE SUN, THE RAIN, AND THE APPLE SEED: A NOVEL OF JOHNNY APPLESEED’S LIFE Lynda Durrant
· Michael (or Mikha’el) from THE SONG OF THE WHALES Uri Orlev
· Alex from THE ISLAND ON BIRD STREET Uri Orlev
· Christopher from THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME Mark Haddon
· Will Halloway & Jim Nightshade from SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES Ray Bradbury
· Holden Caulfield from THE CATCHER IN THE RYE J.D. Salinger
· Chihiro from SPIRITED AWAY Hayao Miyazaki
· Hanamichi Sakuragi from SLAM DUNK (a Japanese comic series that my sisters and I can read over and over again.)
· Bertie Wooster from the JEEVES series (I know, he’s the unconventional, squirmy kind of hero who can always make me laugh. Humour in distress, eh?)
· Ned Kelly from TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG Peter Carey
· Mabel Stark from THE FINAL CONFESSIONs OF MABEL STARK Robert Hough
· Lucy Snowe from VILLETTE Charlotte Brontë
· Captain Woodrow F. Call from LONESOME DOVE Larry McMurtry
· Alessandro Giuliani from A SOLDIER OF THE GREAT WAR Mark Helprin
· Lord Aragorn from THE LORD OF THE RINGS J.R.R. Tolkien
· Peter Lake from WINTER’S TALE Mark Helprin
And some strange ones
· Jack Skellington from The Nightmare before Christmas (I don’t know why …)
· Beetlejuice (This one I really can’t explain!)
What about you and/or your children? Who are your heroes from books and animation (or even films)?
Here in Singapore (and in many Chinese-speaking countries), we'll be celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival in a few days.
Children also call it the Moon Cake Festival. Sounds romantic, huh?
When I was a child, my sisters and I held paper lanterns, and burned up a few too many of them when the candle within toppled. My father was always around to help put out the fire ... and to light another lantern for us. Nowadays, children lift battery-operated lanterns. Ehhh ~ that's too cute for me, not quaint or adventurous enough, I think. But ... I'll admit, batteries don't explode into flames that easily.
In my grandparents' times, the poetic elderly would sip tea, eat moon cakes and make up poems about the moon. Something like a Poetry Session. I think it must have been very cool! The themes: the moon, or Chang-E, the beautiful lady who stole her husband's elixir (a dark, pearl-like immortality pill), nibbled it and became so light she floated to the moon, thus separated from her husband forever. (I believe it was to warn us against Greed, and Thievery, and the main lesson: Reach for Immortality and Ye shalt be banished. To be alone. Forever!)
Even though I think the fable is a tad silly, I enjoy the romanticism of the celebration itself. Especially the parts about children in the neighbourhood gathering for an under-the-moon walk, the paper lanterns, the toppled candles, the fathers rushing in aid, the tea, the extremely sweet Chinese cakes with salted egg yolks, and the glancing up at the full, ivory egg yolk of a moon.
That's the cozy style of celebration in the neighbourhood. For elaborate styles, huge lanterns are lit and set on the river, and people flock to play games, including solving Chinese riddles.
How do you (and your child) celebrate the Moon Cake Festival?
For our overseas readers, did you know about this festival? Ever tried a mooncake?
A burly, ferocious something from last week's post sparked an idea for this week's blog. (Hint: The Gruffalo)
Creepy, growling, drooling beasts ~ A-ha!
I love monsters who chill the spines of children around the world, and the lovely ones who stretch a claw out to form friendships from their dark, damp, wailing haunts.
Monsters Are Important to Children
The horrid ones (uh, I mean the monsters, not the children) force young, quivering hearts to clamber out of their shells and face evils in their own ways. Children love to imagine themselves as bravehearts, but aren’t necessarily so in reality. Showing them how to grow braver through stories can light a blazing path towards their expression of courage in real times of difficulties, like combating their fear for Darkness or bullies in
The sweet monsters, on the other hand, demonstrate another kind of teaching: that little monsters live and love in their ghoulish world just as little children live and love in our insane one. Their world isn’t that different from ours. And for the monsters, who are rejected in our world just because they appear different or prefer weird food, really need us to reach out and touch their claw with our pinky. They need us to accept them!
Friendship & Embracing Diversity: how could we not adore what those monsters mean to us?
In Picture Books
Of course, not all monsters are as frightening as they think they are! Here are some books on monsters, and others on children defeating their metaphoric monsters that are precious:
· The Gruffalo Julia Donaldson & Axel Sheffler
· Eek! Creak! Snicker, Sneak Rhonda Gowler Greene & Jos. A. Smith
· Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak
· There Are Monsters Everywhere Mercer Mayer
· The Beastly Visits Mitra Modarressi
· My Monster Mama Loves Me So Laura Leuck & Mark Buehner
· I Need My Monster Amanda Noll & Howard McWilliam
I have read all of the above, except the last. (Couldn’t resist sharing ‘I Need My Monster’ here after reading its synopsis and review. I intend to check it out from my library soon.) Have to say, I’ve really enjoyed the second, fifth and sixth books!
Do you (and your children) love monsters, too? Please howl about your favourite beast (or beastly tales) here!