Miss Rumphius

Author and Illustrator: Barbara Cooney

On a balmy day in Bath Maine, in July 1989, a soft-spoken woman with a snow white braid winding through her hair, became my friend. Her name was Barbara Cooney. Several of my teacher friends and I were attending a small conference of authors and illustrators.  Ms. Cooney was among them, exuding a presence of gentleness. When sharing her books with those attending, she would most often quote entire passages by heart, and with such enthusiasm and feeling that those of us listening sat in complete awe. Among those books was Miss Rumphius.

The story of Miss Rumphius is based on Ms. Cooney’s great-aunt.  Beginning as young Alice living by the sea, then traveling all over the world, and finally becoming “the Lupine Lady,” Miss Rumphius never forgot the admonition from her grandfather as a child. “You must do something to make the world more beautiful,” he had told her.  Planting a small garden of her beloved lupines by her house by the sea, she wonders just what that could be.

I have several reasons for choosing this book as one of my favorites. Having personally met the author was, of course, special.  That I adore fresh flowers in my home all the time and delight in the “Lupine Lady’s” act of  beautification – yes! But perhaps most of all is the root of the story; the grandfather’s admonition to make the world more beautiful. Why?  Because I can hear my own dear mother saying to me and my sisters as we were growing up, “Girls, always leave a  place better than you found it!” But that is a story for another time. . .

Please go buy some flowers, put them in a prominent spot, and just enjoy their beauty. Then curl up and read this lovely book and thank Miss Rumphius for making the world a little more beautiful.

Mary Byrne Kline

 

 

 

Book review: Charlotte’s Web

Author: E.B. White
Illustrator: Garth Williams

It’s ironic that I chose this book as one of my favorite children’s books, being that the heroine is the very thing I fear the most – a spider! And yet Charlotte has become a cherished friend over the years, more so with each reading of this endearing story.

As a first grade teacher, I gathered my students on the carpet after recess each afternoon and for weeks read this book aloud to them.  We sectioned off our room to make room for our (gallon milk cartons painted pink) “pigs,” and hung “spiders” from the ceiling. Why? Having grown up in Iowa, around farms, pigs, haylofts, and county fairs, I yearned for my students to gain an insight into this totally new world.  By the time we had finished the book, most of the kids were wanting pigs for pets. Wilbur had certainly become more than just “SOME PIG”  to them.  Even Templeton, the rat who never did anything for anybody unless there was something in it for him, learns about friendship. It is the story of the magic of childhood on a farm, of Fern, the little girl who understands the language between the animals.

Will Charlotte’s clever plan to save Wilbur’s life work? Let’s just say both the book and the ending are “TERRIFIC!”

 

Mary Byrne Kline

“Eeny, meeny, miney, moe…”

When Deni told me our theme for September was “My Favorite Book,” I thought she must be kidding. Seriously?! That’s like asking me to choose which of my four sons is my favorite! (Although I think he knows who he is!)  So I’m going to take the liberty of choosing a favorite theme instead of book.  My granddaughter, Rachel, called me this week and asked me to help her find a book report book for school with a science fiction theme.  We had fun locating just the most interesting book for her. That made me think of my favorite theme and remember a special friend I had a long time ago.

One of my earliest friendships began in second grade with a girl named Debbie.  She and I had quite vivid imaginations. Our sleepovers never involved playing with dolls or dressing up; we were spies. Not just ordinary spies, oh, goodness no! We were private eye spies! We crept around her house solving crimes of monumental importance – often scaring ourselves in the process as we climbed around in her family’s dark, dusty basement. These escapades lasted until we needed a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of Tang.  Have you guessed what type of books I loved reading? Yes! Mysteries. And Nancy Drew was my heroine.  The Hidden Staircase, The Secret of the Old Clock, The Haunted Showboat, The Secret of the Golden Pavilion, were just a few of the treasured copies my sisters and I had in our collection of Nancy Drew books.  My friend Debbie and I would often get ideas for our private eye adventures from these books.  We let our childish imaginations go wild and would often lay in bed, unable to sleep because we knew “things” were lurking everywhere! Even today I can’t look at a Nancy Drew book without smiling at the memories I made with my friend Debbie.

Mystery books remain my favorite genre, and I must admit, I sometimes still read one that causes me to have difficulty sleeping. My imagination may wonder if things are “lurking” about. Oh goodness! But isn’t that the delight of being completely caught up in a great book?

This month I’m going to share four of my favorite children’s books with you.  Notice I said, “four of my favorite” because I have oh so many favorites.   What is one of your favorite children’s books?  I wonder if we’ll choose the same one?

Welcome to September & FirefliesBlog!

Mary Byrne Kline

“How I Spent My Summer Vacation”

How I Spent My Summer Vacation
Author and Illustrator: Mark Teague

Here’s another fun book to share with your children as you wrap up another summer of creating memories together.

Wallace is determined that this year, when asked in school to share how he spent his summer vacation, his story will not be like the rest of the class.  He is a boy with an incredible imagination and once he gets started on his summer’s adventure, well,  he just continues to increase the excitement!  It begins rather innocently with his parents putting young Wallace on a train to visit his Aunt Fern.

But I was captured by cowboys, a wild-looking crowd,

Their manners were rough and their voices were loud.

The Cattle Boss growled, as he told me to sit, ‘We need a new cowboy, our old cowboy quit.

We could sure use your help, so what do you say?’ I thought for a minute, then I told him, ‘Okay.'”

After reading this entertaining book,  you might just plan a backyard barbecue or an adventure of your own!

Mary Byrne Kline