#5 Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne Chapter 1: in which we are introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh and some bees, and the stories begin

Note: Jen and I decided to decorate Colin’s room with a “Classic Winnie the Pooh Theme” complete with A.A. Milne’s original stories. While I will not rigorously read to Colin the entire collection in one sitting, I will return to these texts from time to time.

The opening chapter (which is really a short tale) introduces the reader to Christopher Robin, his bear Winnie the Pooh, and the narrator who is assumed to be the father of the boy. One day, WtP is out walking in the Hundred Acre Wood and he comes across a tree. At the top of this tree are bees and therefore a beehive and therefore honey  (the driving mechanism of the story – the conch shell if you will). WtP climbs to the top only to find that the last branch collapses underneath his weight and he falls to the earth. Refusing to be deterred, Pooh goes to Christopher Robin who lives behind a door in a tree (what?) where he procures a blue balloon. He then cakes himself in black mud (isn’t that called oil?) so that he might appear to be a little black rain cloud. Unfortunately the bees are not fooled and WtP finds that being suspended some 50 feet up in the air to be quite terrifying so he asks Christopher Robin to shoot the balloon with his gun (again, what?). The boy is successful in hitting the balloon, and the story ends and then the real Christopher Robin an WtP take a bath.

End of Chapter/Story.

Observations:

1. An interesting use of framing by Milne in the book so far since it begins with Christopher Robin asking his father to tell him a story about Winnie the Pooh, because he (the bear) likes hearing stories about himself. CR also interjects at different points in the story adding commentary when necessary.

2. British colloquialisms are HILARIOUS. Such as WtP’s revelation that “These are the wrong sort of bees,” and “You didn’t exactly miss…but you missed the balloon.”

3. Why does Christopher Robin’s father allow his son to SHOOT A GUN in this story???

4. Doesn’t Christopher Robin know that bears are godless killing machines?!?!?!

5. Ultimately, WtP seems to be another story (or set of stories) that deal with the world of child. Christopher Robin has a specific view of the way things are (his explanation for WtP’s name) and there’s nothing anyone can tell him otherwise. After all, Winnie-the-Pooh told him so.

While this line does not occur in this story, I certainly can’t wait to get to it:

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?””

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Published in: on November 29, 2008 at 4:40 am  Leave a Comment  

#3 The Pigeon Wants a Puppy by Mo Willems

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The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! is a simple story about a pigeon (with a fashionable collar, not popped) who wants a puppy. While this bird is certainly likable and entertaining, she is also unfortunately self-centered and a little too fierce for her own good (I am assuming gender based on the plethora of hearts in the text and the bird’s penchant for puppies). After we meet the pigeon, she immediately introduces us to the fact that she has always wanted a puppy…at least since Tuesday. The pigeon argues that she’ll water the puppy once a month and reveals that she is aware that puppies also need a lot of sunshine. The pigeon then suspects that the audience is not taking her seriously; she assumes that we are against her desire to take a piggyback ride on her puppy, and then accuses the audience of not being apart of the real America (hey guys! that’s called topical humor!). Tension builds as a “woof” grows louder and louder, causing fear and distress in our heroine. The pigeon is then confronted with the thing that she wants most and the audience realizes that this pigeon is a normal sized bird and not a giant (my bad!). Fortunately no one gets hurt, and the pigeon learns her lesson, concluding that a Walrus would suit her much better. The End.

Wait…what?

Exactly.

Seriously.

Observations:

1. Mo Willems’ name sounds a lot like the shooting guard of the Milwaukee Bucks. 

12.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 4.5 APG

Career Stats for the Author: 12.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 4.5 APG

That’s a pretty poor pseudonym there Mo Williams.

2. This actually is Mo Willems:

Hmmmm…I wonder who he looks like…hmmm…hmmm…hmmm

3. It seems that Mo Willems is not a real person, but rather a composite of a great name and a great image. Oh, he’s also really funny.

4. There’s really no point to TPWAP; it’s ironic and sardonic and every other hip, $5 word I can think of that would also describe videogum. Take a look at this:

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4. Mo Willems is the winner of the Caldecott Medal (the Pulitzer of Children’s Books…I think). He also lived in Brooklyn and now records radio cartoons for NPR’s All Things Considered. I’m just going to let that sentence sink in for a second. Radio. Cartoons. Radio Cartoons. Cartoons, Radio.

Ultimately, this is a book written for the emerging hipster/new parent demographic; it is safe for any age and is more ironic than an Arj Barker joke. That means I loved it.

Radio Cartoons?

Published in: on November 28, 2008 at 4:01 am  Comments (2)  
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#2 – Chapter 9 from the Gospel of John

Jen (my wife) needed a little extra time to sleep this morning, so I threw a fresh onesie (onesy?) on Colin and we headed downstairs to hang out. He settled down and we enjoyed a quiet morning together; it’s actually one of my favorite times of the year – the last couple days before a big holiday. I’m making lists of things to clean, things to fix, food to purchase – bursting with anticipation for Thursday. Anyway, to begin our morning we read from the Gospel of John this morning, chapter 9.

This section of John’s account is better known as the healing of a man who had been blind since birth. Jesus spits into the dirt and then cakes the man’s eyes with mud. He then tells this man to wash his eyes at Siloam, and behold! he is then able to see. The rest of the story is then about the interrogation of this man and his parents by the Pharisees with the eventual explanation from Christ.

Observations:

1. This story is one of many to appear only in John’s gospel. It should be noted that John’s gospel is written much later than Luke’s writings (the Gospel of Luke and Acts) and even possibly some of Paul’s letters, so John could be writing his account with an awareness of things that have happened among the apostles and the early church, especially in the development of early Christian theology.

2. John is presenting what seems to be his version* of a standard Gospel/Acts story, specifically the person who has been afflicted with some debilitation (disease, disability, demon possession) who is then healed followed by a curious response from the crowd. John 9 while not exactly aping, certainly echoes Mark 5 (the demon possessed man in Gerasa) or Acts 3 (Peter healing a disabled beggar). 

3. In each story, the writer is sure to point out the crowd’s reaction, specifically that they recognize not only who the healed person was, but also that he has been changed. I’ll let you create your own sermon from that observation.

4. The actions of Jesus strangely echo the creation story; the physical and symbolic healing begins by the combination of dirt (the earth) and God (John 9:6). The Genesis account describes how God created man from dirt and then breathed life into him (Genesis 2:7). While John’s story is perhaps a little bit more profane with the images of spit and mud (the sacred and the propane, right Little Carmine?), it still carries the same essence. Human beings are this combination of earth and spirit, not exclusively one or the other…

I think it should be said that Colin did cry a little bit during last night’s reading of The Cat in the Hat, yet was quiet and serene while I read this morning. Coincidence? Probably. Yes.

*When I say version, I’m working within the context of Narrative Criticism, which is the idea of a Gospel writer framing and “typing” the stories of Jesus in order to convey the particular story that he is writing. This accounts for the different placement of certain stories in the Gospels (for example: the previously mentioned scene at Gerasa occurs within the same specific contexts of Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8, but the greater context can be much different as Matthew inserts different accounts amidst Mark and Luke’s versions of the story and even places the event at a seemingly different location (Gadara). Since we know each Gospel writer was portraying a different aspect or at least different characteristics of Christ, then we can assume that they could mold the “biography” to fit these specific theme(s). This does not mean that these accounts are falsified or fictional, but rather that they represent a different way of viewing history. Instead of our Western linear line of thought, the Ancient Near East viewed history much more as a narrative, and the Gospels reflect the narrative biographies of other historical figures of that day.

Published in: on November 25, 2008 at 3:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Book #1 – The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat is the story about two children, Sally and her older brother (the nameless narrator), who are stuck at home on a rainy day. All of a sudden, a seemingly adult male cat emerges and introduces utter chaos to the house. Also, there is a goldfish who is able to talk and reasons that this cat in a hat should not be in this house creating such chaos. Eventually, the Cat in the Hat realizes that all of this fun has indeed created a path of obvious destruction. But don’t worry, he has a machine that is able to clean an entire house in mere seconds before the mother of Sally and her brother returns home. Phew!

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Colin prefers to read using his peripheral vision.

Observations:

1.) Why are these children left home alone? Sally cannot be older than 5 or 6 and the narrator cannot be older than 10. While level of maturity and responsibility should be included in deciding when a child can be put in charge of younger siblings, I have never seen any law that allows for any person younger than 12 to be put in charge of others for an extended period of time. 

2.) It should be noted that a father does not seem to be in the lives of this family. The narrator points out that the kite being flown by either Thing One or Thing Two hits the head of “mother’s bed” (p. 41). It should also be observed that Seuss drew what seems to be a single bed (p. 42). 

3.) Seuss said that he was inspired to write TCITH in response to the plethora of primers and books that taught children by means of well-behaved, abnormally courteous, and strangely clean children. So while many books tend to teach the skills of reading through safe and approved activities (see: Fun with Dick and Jane). So Seuss is writing in order to teach children how to read not through system and order, but through chaos.

Ultimately, TCITH is a story about responsible childhood independence. It is the story about the anarchy of imagination (notice that the Cat and the fish only exist in the absence of Sally and the narrator’s mother). It is a story of children left to their own wits and devices; of harnessing the fantasies of the mind. You could even see it as a story of two natures, reason and disorder and perhaps a place for each in the life of a child.

I think my favorite part of the story is the last page; the mother asks the two children what occurred during her egregious absence, and the narrator then opens up to his audience, inquiring what all the little boys and girls of the world would do in his situation. So in the end Seuss has created a story about the borders between adults and children, about how a mother could never understand what just happened. It is a story for every child who has tried to explain their world to an adult who only shakes their head and laughs.

Also, the wonderful Alec Baldwin starred in the movie adaptation!

Published in: on November 25, 2008 at 6:32 am  Comments (2)  
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a brave new world

Studies show that reading aloud is perhaps the most important thing that parents can do for their children. It establishes a bond between parent and child, indirectly teaches even a newborn the fundamentals of reading, and lays the groundwork for a lifetime love of reading and education. Reading also builds a child’s vocabulary, stimulates his or her imagination, and improves communication skills. In fact, studies show that simply reading together is not just as good, but superior to educational videos such as Baby Einstein. Even the almighty Sesame street is simply not as good.   

the enemy.

the enemy.

But what’s the point of all of this information?

My son, Colin James Robinson, was born on Monday November 17th, 2008.  

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Among the many things I want to pass on to him (faith, love, hope, etc.), I want to establish a love for reading and learning. So it is my goal to read aloud to my son at least 5,000 stories before the age of 5. This averages to about 3 individual readings (books, chapters, stories) a day. First a few ground rules:

1.) Repeats are allowed (especially if Colin develops a penchant for a specific story or author)

2.) While children’s stories will dominate this blog, I reserve the right to include readings from the classics (Melville, Fitzgerald, Salinger, etc.) as well as poetry and even stories from the Bible.

3.) Tyler is the boss.

Published in: on November 25, 2008 at 5:45 am  Leave a Comment  

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Published in: on November 25, 2008 at 4:33 am  Comments (1)