Fox Tales

fox -- head in profile
watercolor | Fox | copyright Liz Macklin 2015

A fox ran past our house the other night. I spotted it under the streetlight. My neighbor saw it, too.

My favorite book from childhood, The Anthology of Children’s Literature, included “The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story” by Joel Chandler Harris. You might also remember the story from the Disney movie, Song of the South. Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox trick each other. The fox catches the rabbit with a very sticky ruse, the Tar Baby. To avoid becoming barbecue, the rabbit pleads, “Please don’t throw me into the briar patch!” Of course, the fox flings the rabbit straight into the thicket.

Virginia Hamilton retells this story in her anthology, The People Could Fly, and the rabbit cries, “Hot lettuce pie! This is where I want to be,” as he lands in the briars — free and safe.

Peter Spier’s The Fox went out on a chilly night features a roguish fox that fares better. He races through town and country and arrives home with dinner for a den full of kits. Emily Gleichenhaus sings this melody on the CD for her program, Sing Books with Emily. You can catch her performances for children at libraries in Northern Virginia.

For glimpses of foxes — I paint the taxidermy specimens, alas! — in Arlington, Virginia, visit the nature centers at Potomac Overlook Park and Long Branch Nature Center.

Note: I noticed today (May 14, 2015) that my copy of The Fox went out on a chilly night, the seventeenth printing, has only “The Fox” capitalized in the title. The other words are written underneath in lower case. As the photo on Emily’s web site shows, more recent printings capitalize using familiar rules, The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night.

Holidays

Liz Macklin singing 1956I love the holidays, the friends, the lights, the music. I can barely sing a note, but that hasn’t stopped me. And then there’s the food…

BettyCrockerCookbook_72dpiBetty Crocker’s step by step cookbook for kids taught me to make Long John Silver Sandwiches, Canned Peas Deluxe — just think of the gastronomic flair — and Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes. Of course, I had lots of on the job experience with my mom, my grandmothers, a very talented dad and generous aunts. I loved the illustrations in Betty Crocker’s 1957 edition. On the cover, the young fellow is tasting, while the girls whip up the batter by hand. Imagine my surprise when I noticed that boys do all the campfire cooking and girls do most of the serving and dishwashing.  Thank heaven for all you feminists out there, because my husband knows how to wash dishes!

Now I’m inspired by authors, who write about food and celebrations with friends and families. Here are just a few:

How to Behave at a Tea PartyFrench toast by the author of Dream Boy and How to Behave at a Tea Party, Madelyn Rosenberg

Emily and CarloRecipes for griddle cakes, turkey soup, blueberry pie and more by the author of Emily and Carlo, Marty Rhodes Figley

The Bakeshop GhostA review of The Bakeshop Ghost by Jacqueline Ogburn in Books Together by Anamaria AndersonWhat a Way to Celebrate the New Year! A Rosh Hashanah StoryWhat a Way to Start a New Year! A Rosh Hashanah Story and The Ziz and the Hanukkah Miracle by Jacqueline Jules

The Gingerbreadman Loose on the Fire TruckThis Gingerbread Man has adventures all year round. Look for him in books by Laura Murray.

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update December 9, 2014: For those of you who are curious, the well-known illustrator, Gloria Kamen, created the drawings for Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls.

Celebrating with The Reading Connection

 

The Owl and the Pussycat

   In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
   Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
   And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
    What a beautiful Pussy you are,
         You are,
         You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”

The anthology includes a short biography of Lear, who was born in 1812 as one of twenty-one children. He began his career as an illustrator of nature studies and was known for his colored drawings of birds. While living in the home of the Earl of Derby, he entertained the children with silly rhymes and drawings, and those high spirited activities lead to the publication of his first  Book of Nonsense.  As a landscape painter, Lear divided his time between Britain and the Mediterranean. The article in the Anthology of Children’s Literature says that he taught drawing to Queen Victoria, but using a quick internet search, I’ve been unable to confirm the fact. Please let me know, if you find a source that gives an account of teaching the queen!

Lear is famous for his limericks, and you can find more information about his life and writing at the web site for the Poetry Foundation. One of my favorite poems is this verse about the Quangle Wangle. In March my first grade students will learn about animals and their homes. I hope to have them draw their own version of the tree with the Quangle Wangle and his houseguests!

The Quangle Wangle’s Hat

by Edward Lear

I
On the top of the Crumpetty Tree
      The Quangle Wangle sat,
But his face you could not see,
      On account of his Beaver Hat.
For his Hat was a hundred and two feet wide,
With ribbons and bibbons on every side
And bells, and buttons, and loops, and lace,
So that nobody every could see the face
            Of the Quangle Wangle Quee.
II
The Quangle Wangle said
      To himself on the Crumpetty Tree, —
“Jam; and jelly; and bread;
      “Are the best of food for me!
“But the longer I live on this Crumpetty Tree
“The plainer than ever it seems to me
“That very few people come this way
“And that life on the whole is far from gay!”
            Said the Quangle Wangle Quee.
III
But there came to the Crumpetty Tree,
      Mr. and Mrs. Canary;
And they said, — “Did every you see
      “Any spot so charmingly airy?
“May we build a nest on your lovely Hat?
“Mr. Quangle Wangle, grant us that!
“O please let us come and build a nest
“Of whatever material suits you best,
            “Mr. Quangle Wangle Quee!”
IV
And besides, to the Crumpetty Tree
      Came the Stork, the Duck, and the Owl;
The Snail, and the Bumble-Bee,
      The Frog, and the Fimble Fowl;
(The Fimble Fowl, with a corkscrew leg;)
And all of them said, — “We humbly beg,
“We may build out homes on your lovely Hat, —
“Mr. Quangle Wangle, grant us that!
            “Mr. Quangle Wangle Quee!”
V
And the Golden Grouse came there,
      And the Pobble who has no toes, —
And the small Olympian bear, —
      And the Dong with a luminous nose.
And the Blue Baboon, who played the Flute, —
And the Orient Calf from the Land of Tute, —
And the Attery Squash, and the Bisky Bat, —
All came and built on the lovely Hat
            Of the Quangle Wangle Quee.
VI
And the Quangle Wangle said
      To himself on the Crumpetty Tree, —
“When all these creatures move
      “What a wonderful noise there’ll be!”
And at night by the light of the Mulberry moon
They danced to the Flute of the Blue Baboon,
On the broad green leaves of the Crumpetty Tree,
And all were as happy as happy could be,
            With the Quangle Wangle Quee.
————————
Note added February 27, 2012: I amended the biographical info to say that I was unable to confirm that Lear taught drawing lessons to Queen Victoria. Also, I have seen his first book called both Nonsense Book and Book of Nonsense.
Note added February 26, 2012:
The Anthology of Children’s Literature, which, since my childhood, has been  one of my favorite books of stories and poems, was edited by Edna Johnson, Carrie E. Scott and Evelyn R. Sickels and illustrated by N.C. Wyeth. It was published by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. The copyright for the first edition was 1935, and my edition was copyright 1948.
watercolor painting copyright Liz Macklin 2012

Egyptian Inspiration

Bird
Bird | embroidered and hand dyed silk inspired by Egyptian jewelry | copyright Liz Macklin 2011

Shops open in Cairo today. May peace, religious freedom and respect for individual rights prevail in Egypt, in the United States and throughout the world!

Who can resist browsing through galleries with elaborately decorated coffins, mummified ibis, bronze cobras, linen baboons  and gold amulets inlaid with stones in brilliant blues?  Egypt, your antiquities provided inspiration for me time and time again.

I send my gratitude to  the young people standing  guard at the Egyptian Museum. When its website reopens, visit the collection. Until then, take a virtual tour of the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Two of my  favorite books for children include

ABC: Egyptian Art from The Brooklyn Museum by Florence Cassen Mayers, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1988

Aida, the story of an Ethiopian princess who falls in love with an Egyptian warrior, as told in the opera by Giuseppe Verdi, retold by Leontyne Price and illustrated by the award winning artists, Leo and Diane Dillon, Harcourt Brace and Company, 1990

Wings, Woodlands and Watercolor

Korean Garden (detail) | watercolor | 3.5″ by 5.5″ | copyright Liz Macklin 2010

Sunday afternoon at the park. Enjoy the  animals — owls, hawks, tortoises, snakes. Drop by to watch and talk or bring your sketchbook and your paints.

Students from HB Woodlawn school will host activities for kids and demonstrate a variety of art techniques.

I’ll be painting, and I’ll be eager to discuss  gardens, nature drawing, book design, popups and inspiration from the far east, especially Korean kimonos and embroidery.

Stop by and say hello!

Potomac Overlook Regional Park, — Marcey Road off Military Road, Arlington, Virginia

Sunday, June 6 — 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm

Books. Discoveries. Fun.

Pink and Yellow Lilies
Pink and Yellow Lilies | watercolor | 7" by 7" | copyright Liz Macklin 2010

Revelations. Power. New friends. Browsing through the library to find new books for children and teens by Virginia authors…

Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White tells  the story of a teenage girl who, after the death of her mother, enters boarding school and discovers her unique ability to create bouquets that bring to life the language of flowers. There’s more than just a splash of scent and color in that long-stemmed rose. White says her favorite flower is the lily, associated with beauty, elegance and sweetness. Read with your own floral bouquet in mind.

Mockingbird by Kathy Erskine also relates a young girl’s quest for friendship and acceptance, as well as  the healing potential of a shared project, as she tries to cope with the death of her brother. Gentle humor marks her conversations with classmates, teachers and her dad as she describes the world through the lens of Asperger’s syndrome.

Boys join in and Saturday Night Live take note! Bo, the lively main character in Sara Lewis HolmesOperation Yes, learns to love improv. Can he also raise his academic standing at his school on an Air Force base and then mend a rift with his dad that seems as persistent as an F-16 jet racing down  the runway? Theater might be fun, but it has nothing to do with deployment and war — or does it? Bo and friends emerge as an ensemble cast as the plot takes a couple surprising twists!

And for those looking for fun with young readers…

Jackie Jules has a new series. The first book is out now, Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off.  A pair of purple sneakers catapults young Freddie across the school yard and straight toward adventure.

Two whimsical picture books recently released in paperback are Alphie the Apostrophe and Penny and the Punctuation Bee by Moira Donohue. Who knew that commas, periods and apostrophes have personalities?  In Donohue’s world, punctuation marks lead cheers, tell riddles and perform magic tricks.

Happy reading!