Tag Archives: literacy

Five Winnie-the-Pooh Moments that I Refer to in Real Life

A special edition of My Life in Picture Books to celebrate (admittedly a few months late) the 90th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh’s introduction*!

Some classic children’s books aren’t necessarily uplifting to read, like Mary Poppins (spoiler alert: in case you don’t know, the Disney version of the character is sugary-sweet by comparison to the real MP).  Some classic children’s books are problematic due to racism or sexism or imperialism, like…well, anything written by Rudyard Kipling.  Some classic children’s books are difficult to read aloud because of language or dialect issues, like The Wind in the Willows.  Some require a LOT of background information, so much so that to read them to a modern child is to give line-by-line commentary, such as the Little House series or the All of a Kind Family series.

And some classic children’s books are every bit as sweet and charming and relate-able as you remembered from your own childhood, like Winnie-the-Pooh.

Christopher Robin Milne and Edward Bear (aka Winnie-the-Pooh) c.1927

Here are a handful of vignettes from the classic books about the stuffed animals that live in a fictionalized version of Ashdown Forest that have become part of our personal Darmok in the Surton household:

1.  “Really as blue and as bracing.”  We use this phrase to mean “it was all it was cracked up to be” or “it was even more wonderful than I expected/remembered”.

Piglet wasn’t listening, he was so agog at the thought of seeing Christopher Robin’s blue braces again.  He had only seen them once before, when he was much younger, and, being a little over-excited by them, had had to go to bed half an hour earlier than usual; and he had always wondered since if they were really as blue and as bracing as he had thought them.

2.  “French word meaning bonhommy.”  An exclamatory phrase used to explain that a word or phrase is difficult to define or untranslatable, or is so obvious a cognate or etymology that it stands for itself.  Eeyore is perhaps the oldest inhabitant in the forest; he has the sarcastic and cynical attitude of a teenager at least, whereas the other characters behave like little kids.  When the other animals forget Eeyore’s birthday and he is trying to get Pooh to ask why he’s upset, he is in rare form.

“Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing.  We can’t all, and some of us don’t.  That’s all there is to it.”

“Can’t all what?” said Pooh, rubbing his nose.

“Gaiety.  Song-and-dance.  Here we go round the mulberry bush.”

“Oh!” said Pooh.  He thought for a long time, and then asked, “What mulberry bush is that?”

“Bon-hommy,” went on Eeyore gloomily.  “French word meaning bonhommy,” he explained.  “I’m not complaining, but There It Is.”

3.  “Aha!”  The other animals kidnap baby Roo and leave Piglet in his place.  Piglet tries desperately to carry out Rabbit’s plan (everyone would say aha! to Kanga so she understands that Roo has been kidnapped and will only be given back once she agrees to leave the forest forever).  We use this phrase, and its repetition, to indicate that a Cunning Plan has come to fruition and we want other people to notice.

“Aha!” said Piglet, as well as he could after his Terrifying Journey.  But it wasn’t a very good “Aha!” and Kanga didn’t seem to understand what it meant.

“Bath first,” said Kanga in a cheerful voice.

“Aha!” said Piglet again, looking round anxiously for the others.  But the others weren’t there.

4.  “I think the bees suspect something.”  From one of Pooh’s most famous escapades, in which he dresses up as a cloud and rides a balloon up into the sky next to a beehive in an attempt to steal some honey.  We use this phrase pretty much exactly as Pooh did– for indicating that someone has caught on.

After a little while, [Pooh] called down…

“I think the bees suspect something!”

“What sort of thing?”

“I don’t know.  But something tells me that they’re suspicious!”

“Perhaps they think that you’re after their honey.”

“It may be that.  You never can tell with bees.”

5.  “Spotted or Herbaceous Backson.”  A phrase used to stand in place of bullshitting.  Poor Owl, who can’t really read or write but is far too proud to admit it, is presented with a note from Christopher Robin, who is just learning to write (“Gon out, backson.  Bisy, backson.  C.R.”), and tries to pretend he can both read and understand it.

“It is quite clear what has happened, my dear Rabbit,” he said.  “Christopher Robin has gone out somewhere with Backson.  He and Backson are busy together.  Have you seen a Backson anywhere about in the Forest lately?”

“I don’t know,” said Rabbit.  “That’s what I came to ask you.  What are they like?”

“Well,” said Owl, “the Spotted or Herbaceous Backson is just a–”

“At least,” he said, “it’s really more of a–”

“Of course,”  he said, “it depends on the–”

“Well,” said Owl, “the fact is,” he said, “I don’t know what they’re like,” said Owl frankly.

Many happy returns, silly old bear!


*While A A Milne wrote several stories and poems about childhood and his young son and even Edward Bear in the late 1910s and early 1920s, the first story about Winnie-the-Pooh was published in the Christmas Eve edition of a newspaper in 1925.

Find the Magic

We spent our weekend (our WHOLE weekend, friends!) cleaning and reorganizing the house.

Yep.

That means there was plenty of dust and laughter and reminiscing, and lots of frustration and more than a little yelling, lots of going up and down stairs and hefting and hauling, some sadness and some serendipity, and the smell of vinegar and the sound of the Pandora station I created to bridge the gap between Robert’s taste in work music and mine.

It also means that the smalls spent the weekend Being Tested: listening, following directions, performing difficult tasks, staying focused, managing their compulsions to derange sorting piles and run around unaccustomed places, being responsible for their choices, and proactively communicating their own needs.

Unsurprisingly, then, today everyone woke up feeling pretty grumpy and low-energy.

On grumpy, low-energy days, even ones that you have earned by dint of hard work and awesomeness, it can be difficult to find the magic in your life.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

So this afternoon, while I was feeling like ugh and yuck and blerg and blah, I walked around my home and captured these little bits of magic:

artwallAn updated art wall (now with figural art, perspective cues, symbols, and some child-written labels!).

knitting in progressA big project edging toward completion.

soft toys in a rowRe-discovered pretend friends.

new saltNew salt, white and pure and beautiful.

lettuceLate-planted seeds racing toward the sun.

garlic harvestThe first garlic harvest of the year, laid out to dry.

toys put awayCreative tools ready for new inspiration.

took and henhouseA laying flock.

reading nookA quiet, comfortable hideaway for book lovers.

spring raindrop baby dollSweet reminders of a spring well-spent.

blackberry blossoms and ripening fruitAnd the promise of blackberries to come.

Happy summer to you and yours!  May you find the magic wherever you look!

 


Stay tuned for more on the knitting!

Soft toys from L to R: homemade rocket ship (following this tutorial), sea turtle, warty pig, trilobite from PRI, and manatee from Sea World (from a trip I took in my childhood; I would NEVER go there by choice).

Toys from top L, clockwise: train, dragon, bushel basket, American maple hardwood school blocks, rocket ship, homemade storage cubbies.

Reading nook: The Hare and the Tortoise, Goodnight Oregon, C is for Cthulhu, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Basket is an old one from Ten Thousand Villages, shark bean bags are homemade based on this photo.

Spring raindrop baby was homemade, inspired by the work of a now-retired Etsy seller.

 

Banned Books Week

This is the second-to-last day of Banned Books Week 2014— there is still time to make a trip to your local library or independent bookstore and flaunt the would-be censors of literature!

To celebrate, here’s a round-up of the banned books we picked out this year for our small children:

And Tango makes Three by Justin Richardson.  This is a sweet book about the real-life same-sex penguin couple in the Central Park Zoo and how they became a family with the addition of an adopted egg.  The illustrations of Tango’s daddies being in love and of baby Tango herself are adorable, and the narration tells from the beginning that families come in all kinds.

King & King (series) by Linda de Haan.  This was a slow read for us because there’s so much to see on every page!  In a send-up of the usual fairy-tale conventions, King Bertie and King Lee fall in love and get married and then go on an outlandish jungle honeymoon adventure, where they see all kinds of families and eventually start their own.  Ithilien enjoyed “reading” it to himself by listing all the things he could see in each spread and giggled quite a bit over the cat wearing a crown.

The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein.  A pretty long and wordy book which probably isn’t appropriate for the more wiggly audience, this one had a strong “It gets better!” message for kids who are teased and bullied for being “different”.  Númenor was close to tears at the climax, in which the protagonist’s closed-minded father is wounded by hunters and left for dead by the flock, but both smalls loved the illustrations showing Elmer the duckling being his fabulous self, and there is a happy ending.

In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak.  This is a wonderfully absurd little work in which our hero is a naked toddler who is up after his bedtime– or maybe it’s all a dream– to help the cooks of the Night Kitchen prepare the morning cake.  Sendak considers this the prequel to Where the Wild Things Are, and, like its more-famous cousin, this book is a wonderful showcase of a child protagonist actually behaving like a child.  Númenor and Ithilien, who are 4 and three-quarters and nearly 4 years old respectively, found the story uproariously funny (especially the part where the child says “I’m not the milk and the milk’s not me!  I’m Mickey!”) and were red-faced with laughter by the time we reached the last page.

What books are part of Banned Books Week at your house?