Monday, January 5, 2015

Time Keeps on Slippin' Into the Future

Oxford Carfax Clock
(By Motacilla (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

It's been awhile since I posted, what with work, family, holidays, and all. What I've been told is true--time goes faster the older I get. As a measurement, each minute is the same length. But as we experience it, some minutes drag on for hours, while others are a mere blip.

The time-space continuum has interested and puzzled people for ages, and the idea of time travel captures our imaginations. Award-winning author Connie Willis has written several time travel novels, including the one I just read, To Say Nothing of the Dog. This delightful romantic romp was first published in 1997 and won the Hugo and Locus awards in 1999. It was nominated for the Nebulae Awards in 1998.

The characters go back and forth from England in 2057 to Oxford in Victorian times to WWII Coventry during the bombing. The main characters, Ned Henry, an intelligent bumbler trying to do the right thing--whatever that is in his current time period--and Verity Kindle, a smart beauty also trying to do the right thing, also prod the reader to consider the impact of an individual on history and what difference small incidents can make on the future. What if Terence had not met his intended? What if Princess Arjumand had drowned? What if Ned and Terence had not pulled Professor Peddick out of the river? Though we are assured that the time space continuum repairs problems so that things turn out the way they should, sometimes it takes years.

What if we fail to smile at the person we meet, hold open a door, make a call, or give a helping hand where we can? We can't rewrite history, but we may be able to make the present--and the future--a better place. Happy New Year!

In the meantime, Steve Miller is right, "time keeps on slippin' into the future..."

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Celebrate: South Dakota, Bison, Picture Books!

Today is South Dakota's 125th Birthday. (North Dakota's, too, for that matter, but that's not what this post is about.) Yesterday was National Bison Day, and November is National Picture Book Month. That's a lot to celebrate!

South Dakota's best-known icon is probably Mount Rushmore, pictured above, in western South Dakota. South Dakota author Jean Patrick has written several books for the Mount Rushmore Society, including the picture books
Four Famous Faces (brand new) and Who Carved the Mountain? , both illustrated by Renee Graef.


Nearby, another mountain turned memorial stands as tribute to the first people who lived here. The work on Crazy Horse Memorial continues (pictured above), though carver Korczak Ziolkowski died in 1982. The grounds themselves provide The Indian Museum of North America,  the Native American Educational and Cultural Center,the carver's studio and home, a gift shop, and more.

The picture book Crazy Horse's Vision by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by South Dakota-born S.D. Nelson, tells the story of how Crazy Horse becomes a brave warrior.

Though South Dakota's official state animal is the coyote, the mighty bison has long played a part in state history. Once nearly extinct because of over-hunting, bison herds now thrive across the state, including at ranches that raise them to sell for meat. 

One large herd that attracts tourists lives in Custer State Park in the Black Hills. We once found ourselves amid a herd of buffalo trying to cross the road we were on. Believe me, there's nothing to do but wait, and you do not want to get between a mother and baby!

South Dakota artist Donald F. Montileaux's picture book, Tatanka and the Lakota Peopletells part of a traditional creation story with the buffalo (tatanka) as hero. The story is told in illustrations, English, and Lakota.

This post is just a brushstroke of everything that is South Dakota. South Dakota is proud of its history and its resources and is ready to meet the next 125 years. Come and visit! In the meantime, find out more facts about South Dakota here.

(photographs copyright Jane Heitman Healy, 2012, all rights reserved)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Zombies in the Real World?

(Zombie walk Pittsburgh 29 Oct 2006CC BY-SA 3.0view termsOriginal work by MissDeeCS; Original uploader at en.wikipedia was PNG crusade bot; The PNG crusade bot automatically converted this image to the more efficient en:PNGformat. The image was previously uploaded as "Zombie894.gif". - This is my own photo. Originally from en.wikipedia; description page is/was here.)

As Halloween approaches, zombie images and events appear. My own town is hosting a Zombie Walk tonight!

Zombies are the walking dead, beings who seem alive and yet are not, controlled by some supernatural force. Which leads us to the question, "Are zombies real?"

That's the question that children's non-fiction author Rebecca L. Johnson asks to begin her book, Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature's Undead.

In this award-winning book, Johnson tells us how fungus "invades" a fly to support itself and turns the fly into a mechanically-moving, vacant creature. Johnson also explains how parasites and worms do their work to make "zombies" out of other living beings.

Johnson's science background draws her to write about topics like this, making them interesting and accurate for young readers. Many of the zombie discoveries occurred when scientists noticed something and continued to observe. Johnson writes in her author's note for this book: "Nature has no shortage of wonders. Scientists are finding new ones all the time. Even as I finished this book, a new zombie maker was discovered that infects honeybees. Who knows how many more are out there, just waiting to be found?"

Be ever watchful and have a happy Halloween!

Here's a classic from the Kingston Trio, "Zombie Jamboree"

Monday, October 13, 2014

Many Ways to Tell a Story

Today South Dakota celebrates Native American Day, as it has since 1990. Communities across the state commemorate this day in different ways, including with storytelling.

I was privileged recently to hear and see Lakota Kevin Locke , who told stories orally, with his flute,

and with his hoop dancing. In each case, he talked about all people being one and challenged each of us to be a bridge of understanding from one person to another. With 28 hoops, he created an eagle, a globe, a flower, a ladder, and a whirl of color!

He demonstrated his message of the importance of each individual by removing a hoop from one of his formations. The formation collapsed. 

This kind of storytelling--hoop dancing--takes a lot of energy! Kevin does it with such joy and grace, it is a pleasure to watch.  See him in this performance from last year:

What other kinds of storytelling have you experienced? Which ones are most meaningful to you?

(photos copyright 2014, Jane Heitman Healy)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Dappled Things of Fall

We're enjoying fall! These last couple of weeks have given us sunny, warm days and cool nights. The word "dappled" has come to mind as I see lawns dappled with dropped leaves...

Day lily leaves dappled with yellow...

Leaves themselves mottled with decay...

fruit dappled with ripeness and insect spots...

and sky dappled with clouds and green and yellow leaves.

All of that reminded me of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem, which you can hear here:

Pied Beauty

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
  Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;       
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:        
                  Praise him.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Autumn Leaves

Well, actually, autumn is not leaving, it's just on the cusp of arriving. It is, however, the time of year when we think about leaves turning color and dropping for us to rake or mulch.

Leaves here are giving us hints of color--a few flashes of yellow amid the green--that will peak in a week or two.

Otherwise, I don't give leaves much thought. Do you?

Someone who has given leaves a lot of thought is poet and author Laura Purdie Salas. Her award-winning book A Leaf Can Be..., explores the many ways leaves function in nature. Leaves can be cups, bathtubs, or lunch!

Easy for small children to understand, the book includes a glossary and information for older children (and adults!) to learn more about the science of leaves. The illustrations by Violeta Dibija of Moldova give the book a soft, fantasy look. 

Take a look at the book (I borrowed this copy from the library), and you will think of leaves in new ways year 'round!

As autumn advances, enjoy Eric Clapton's version of the classic song "Autumn Leaves"

(all photos copyright 2014, Jane Heitman Healy)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Back to School! Are you a Smartypants?

It's back to school time around here, which reminded me of one of my favorite books about school, Smartypants (Pete in School), written and illustrated by Maira Kalman. Released in 2003, I've read it many times since and love the humor and absurdity. I also adore the snarky side comments Kalman includes in her illustrations.

This book is for everyone who has had that "don't call on me" moment. Avoid eye contact! But when Pete comes to school (forbidden, of course!), he can answer every single question! As a student, are you really going to let a dog get the better of you intellectually? I think not.

My library is featuring back-to-school books in their displays:

Another of my back-to-school favorites is First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg. I won't go into details, but I will tell you that there's a surprise ending. Horn Book has a list of good back-to-school books here.

What's your favorite book about school? Make it a great school year, everyone!