Tuesday, June 16, 2015

SHEN OF THE SEA  -- 1926 
by Arthur Bowie Chrisman

This is another Newbery Medal winner that I have known about but had never read. It is a charming collection of Chinese folk tales. "Shen" is not a person, I learned, but the word for a demon. Some of the stories are "just so" --  Ah Mee's is the hapless boy who ends up inventing printing; lazy An Fun invents gunpowder; Ah Tcha the Sleeper introduces "cha" or tea.  

The illustrations are wonderful silhouettes, in imitation of Chinese shadow puppets. (I learned all about those in a splendid book I reviewed a year ago at this time.*) 

Given the date and the culture, it's not surprising that most of the heroes are boys.  There is no historical or geographical context (other than "long ago in China")--are the tales common to all regions? Taken only from one? And how did Arthur Bowie Chrisman choose these tales? The jacket flap says only that "He spent several years in California....and during this period he spent much time studying the history and literature of India and China." A bibliography and source notes would be helpful to the adults who may use the book in elementary classrooms and to students who are curious enough to want to learn more. 

Shadow Woman by Grant Hayter-Menzies

Monday, June 15, 2015

DWM: Monday, and a delightfully convention-al weekend

These three blocks are on my design wall. Lately I've been using 1.5" postage stamps as leaders-and-enders. I had made several 16-patch units without any idea of how I'd use them.  I found a pattern in McCall's America Loves Scrap Quilts (Winter 13/14 issue). It's called Midnight Sky and it uses 61 of these 8" blocks. Ordinarily I use the cutaway corner method for flying geese units but each block generates 8 little triangles. I decided that I will use the four-at-a-time method [cut background 5-1/4", cut four contrast squares 2-7/8"].  The background is dark blue.

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This weekend was the 113th convention of the Illinois State Chapter of the P.E.O. Sisterhood at the Crowne Plaza in Springfield.  I served in two capacities: as the delegate from my chapter and as a member of the Lulu Corkhill Williams Friendship Fund, an Illinois project that provides funds for emergency assistance. Recipients must be Illinois residents and must be referred by local P.E.O. chapters. [From 7/1/14 to 6/10/15 there were 64 Lulu awards totalling $104,600.  All the funds are raised by gifts from P.E.O. chapters. (No outside grants.)]

In recent years the state board and convention committee have worked hard to condense the convention without discarding too much tradition. There were 355 voting members and 474 visitors. I knew quite a few people -- about 10 are both AAUWs and P.E.O.s -- and I met many more.  A library colleague came as delegate for her chapter. Neither of us knew the other is a P.E.O.  An Alpha Gam sister and I reconnected, too.   My roommate was my long-time friend Fran. She lives in Carbondale, at the opposite end of the state from me. She was the convention registrar and was so busy that we did not have much opportunity to catch up.

The theme this year was "A New Day-Z: the Renaissance of P.E.O." The Lulu display got lots of attention!

 Pat is coming onto the committee and Ann is leaving. Laura continues and I will be chairman.

My quilting program made the list of "Program Ideas."

Ann liked the totebag (with books, a mug, tea, and chocolate) that Laura and I gave her.

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There won't be much quilting progress for the next two weeks. I leave for California on Wednesday:  June 17-21 in San Diego for the AAUW National Convention and June 25-30 in San Francisco for the ALA Annual Conference. In between I will rent a car and drive up the coast. Pictures to come!

I'm linking up with Judy's Patchwork Times   and Beth's Love Laugh Quilt 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Newbery Reviews

By Hendrik Willem Van Loon

TSOM was the first book to win the Newbery Medal..  I had been aware of it for years, and I had seen it on library shelves, but I had never read it. I approached it with skepticism.  Its age and authorship surely meant white, male, Eurocentric, Western.   He does acknowledge his viewpoint.  “I was born and educated [in Holland] in an atmosphere of the old-fashioned liberalism which had followed the discoveries of the pioneers of the 19th century.”  To write this sweeping history he considered, “Did the country or the person in question produce a new idea or perform an original act without which the history of the entire human race would be different?”  So, yes, the emphasis is on classical , European, and American history with a glance at Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Though much was left out there was a tremendous lot to cover.  I learned and re-learned a lot.

The book has been updated several times.  Van Loon wrote about the rise of Communism, Nazism, and Fascism. His son wrote a chapter about World War II and the Cold War, emulating Van Loon’s charming style. The concluding chapters go up to 1984, written by other historians, with the impression of compressing a tremendous amount and adding some political correctness.

The 1984 edition I read was a photographic reprint of the original with Bodoni bold typeface (including some broken pieces of type with at least one hand-corrected).  The illustrations, originally color lithographs, did not reproduce well and are somewhat blurred black-and-white.   The absence of footnotes or bibliography (omitted in the reprint; Van Loon refers to the bibliography several times)  is a shortcoming – they would provide needed context. 

I enjoyed TSOM very much, making my own adaptations and exceptions for Van Loon’s bias.

By Hugh Lofting

The 1923 Newbery winner, VODD is the second of twelve books in the series.  I read most of them when I was in grade school. I remembered the pushmi-pullyu. (And my husband promptly said, “Oh, Dab-Dab the duck.”)  The fantasy is fun, but appreciated best by kids.  I kept thinking about the improbability of some (most) of the story.

I was interested to learn that Lofting was a civil engineer who studied at MIT.  The Dolittle stories began as letters to his children when he was in the British Army during WWI.  After the war he moved to Connecticut.

By Charles Finger

These Latin American folk tales pit the forces of evil (witches, giants, wicked monkeys and other monsters) against the good (quick-witted boys, girls, men, and women, and the animals who are on their side). The formulas and situations are similar to folk tales from other cultures. The buildup is lengthy and the resolution is swift.   I am one of those readers who wonders, “What happened to them after ‘happily ever after’?”
I didn’t know what the “silver lands” referred to until I read the blurb on the jacket flap. Had the book not had a jacket I would have had no idea. That is, no context is provided: no foreword or afterword, no author biography, no bibliography.  (A contemporary volume of folk tales would include supporting references.)  The author says, “In Colombia a man told me this tale…” and he writes, “My friend Pedro of Brazil told me his tales when we were in the midst of the snows of Tierra del Fuego…we were gold digging.”   Pedro left their hut to find food “and it was not until five days had passed in search that I found Pedro. And he was frozen.”   How tantalizing – and how frustrating not to learn anything more.

The Wikipedia entry for Charles Finger is short. “He was born in Willesden, England….He traveled extensively as a young man, visiting North America, South America, and Africa. He eventually settled in the United States in Fayetteville, Arkansas.”   The dedication of TFSL is “to the golden hearted Carl Sandburg and his friends, my children Helen and Herbert.”  His autobiography, Seven Horizons, was published in 1930. I'll need to look it up. 

P.S. TFSL is illustrated with wonderful woodcuts by Paul Honore. I didn’t know anything about him, either.  Here is more information: (http://brierhillgallery.com/paul-honore/)
Painter, illustrator, writer, and lecturer Paul Honoré was born in Little Cooley, Pennsylvania, in 1885. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and subsequently apprenticed for a year with Frank Brangwyn at his studio in England. For much of his career, he made his home in metropolitan Detroit, Michigan. Honoré accepted a number of important mural commissions throughout the area for educational, public, and private clients. In addition, he was an accomplished woodcut artist and illustrated a number of books for various publishers. He died at Philadelphia in 1956.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Midweek update: another bookshelf

From start to finish in three days! This is bookshelf quilt #35, if my count is correct.  It's for one of the ZBPL department heads who is retiring at the end of June.

Unfortunately for me I cannot attend the retirement reception on June 22 because I will be in California between the AAUW national convention and the ALA Annual Conference.  I will wrap the gift and drop it off at the library office. They'll be sure to put it out at the reception.

I use Christine Thresh's pattern (here) for all the bookshelf quilts I've made. My procedure has gotten pretty efficient. I have a box of motifs fussy-cut from novelty fabrics already backed with fusible web.  I like to use the same black-on-black print for an entire wallhanging so I don't pre-make the blocks (in case I run out of a particular b-o-b).

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A field trip to Cantigny

South portico
 We could have puttered around at home on Saturday, but none of the chores was urgent. Besides, the sun was shining. We headed to Wheaton, about 75 miles away, to visit Cantigny , the country home of Col. Robert McCormick (1880-1955), publisher of the Chicago Tribune.  (When he lived there it was the country. Now it's surrounded by suburbia.)  In the 1890's his grandfather, Joseph Medill, built a clapboard farmhouse on the property and called it Red Oaks Farm.  When McCormick inherited it he renamed it Cantigny ("canteeny") for the battleground in France where his unit, the Army's First Division, won a victory. McCormick and his wives (Amie died in 1939; he married Maryland in 1944) Amie enlarged the house to 35 rooms, furnished it with antiques and art, and entertained hundreds of people over the years.  The McCormicks had no children. Upon the Colonel's death the estate was turned into a park.

We were in time for the 11:00 tour of the mansion. (No interior photography is allowed.)

"The Allee" 

The grounds and the gardens are beautiful. 

Also at Cantigny: the First Division Museum. It chronicles the history of that unit ("the Big Red 1") from the Revolution to Desert Storm. There are walk-through exhibits replicating a WWI trench, a WWII camp, and a Vietnam War camp. Outside are two dozen tanks. 

Cantigny's operation is supported by the McCormick Tribune Foundation.  Admission is just $5.50 per car for parking.  We enjoyed lunch outdoors at the Cantigny restaurant.

We thoroughly enjoyed the day's outing, and we were home by 3 p.m.!

DWM: another tote, two finishes, and a start

On Thursday I took the next-to-last bag of rhubarb out of the freezer. It turned out I rationed it very carefully -- the bag was labeled 6-5-14.  Time to go back to the farm stand for a new supply. I bought all they had.  I wish I could say this rhubarb bounty is from our garden, but I will be honest.  We love rhubarb!

Laura liked the totebag I made for Ann so much that she asked if I took commissions. She'd like to give one to her mother for her birthday. I said I'd be happy to make another if she'd make a contribution to the Lulu Corkhill Williams Friendship  Fund -- Laura, Ann, and I are the 2014-15 committee members.  (This will tell you a lot more about LCWFF . I will be referring to it often in the near future because I am the 2015-16 chairman.)  I didn't have enough of the fabric I used in the first bag, but I had another white/black/yellow print that would work.

The new bag is on the right.   Both bags are 12" high, 19" wide, and 5" deep.

I quilted and bound two flimsies this week:  Chocqua Strings and  Blue Rails -- 6-3/4 yards used!

Next up: another bookshelf quilt for another coworker who is retiring. Will I finish it in time?

I'm linking up at Love Laugh Quilt   and Patchwork Times .