Focus On Folklore

A study of folklore reveals stories to be the lifeblood of a particular culture.   While recurring motifs and archetypes found in these tales may bind peoples around the globe together, the specifics are a direct reflection of their origin.  The belief system of the people is woven into their stories.

This is why I have been a diligent advocate of the use of folk and fairy tales in an educational setting.  They are a bridge to understanding people; with understanding compassion replaces fear.  In support of the We Need Diverse Books campaign my final 2014 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge (hosted by educator Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy) post will feature three titles.

Noted Native American, Debbie Reese, tribally enrolled at Nambe Pueblo in northern New Mexico, blogs at American Indians in Children's Literature.  One of the titles she reviewed and selected for her AICL's  Best Books of 2014 is Chukfi Rabbit's Big, Bad Bellyache: A Trickster Tale (Cinco Puntos Press, June 24, 2014) told by Greg Rodgers with illustrations by Leslie Stall Widener.  Rabbit's healthy appetite for good food makes him regret several choices.

Down here in Choctaw Country most folks'll tell you that Chukfi Rabbit is lay-zee. And then they'll say, "And watch your food when Chukfi Rabbit is around.  Blink once and it'll all be gone."

An everybody-work-together day has recently been announced.  Ms. Shukata Possum needs a new house.  Chula Fox, Nita Bear, Luksi Turtle and Kinta Beaver are all going to help.  When Ms. Shukata Possum asks Chukfi Rabbit if he can come, he first replies he will be busy on that day (even though the day has not been mentioned yet).  When she happens to comment on all the food she is making, especially the homemade butter, he suddenly remembers the day is open.

All day long the members of the helpful crew work together.  Each time Chukfi Rabbit is asked to join them, he calls out from behind a pile of rocks saying he is sick.  What he is really doing is discovering the pot of homemade butter left in the stream to cool.  Lick by lick, paw scoop by paw scoop, he consumes every last creamy bit of it.

When Chukfi Rabbit finally announces his wellness, the sun is nearly setting and the house is done.  Imagine that!  Settling down to the meal all are surprised to find the butter pot empty.  Everyone denies being the one to eat it.

In another act of trickery Chukfi Rabbit manages to draw attention to Nita Bear as being the butter-consuming thief.  In the end bodily functions reveal the truth.  You might say a roll and the river play a final part in this everybody-work-together day.  Did Chukfi Rabbit learn his lesson?  Another tale at another time will tell.

Greg Rodgers definitely brings his gift as a storyteller to this narrative.  He welcomes us to the story with the introduction, blending together cultures by using both the Choctaw and English names for his characters.  A mix of narration and dialogue expand our knowledge of individual personalities; especially of the trickster Chukfi Rabbit.

Using repetition of verbs he adds to the cadence he has already created.  A sense of humor is noticeable in the questions asked of Chukfi Rabbit and his replies.  Chula Fox is asking about his health; Chukfi Rabbit is replying in reference to the condition of the butter pot.  Here is another passage from the book.

When the working started, Kinta did the saw-saw-sawing.  Chula did the dig-dig-digging for the corner posts.  Ms. Shukata did the sweep-sweep-sweeping while Nita Bear and Luksi Turtle did the ham-ham-hammering. Since they didn't really have hammers back in those days, Luksi kindly agreed to be the hammer.  And Rabbit?  Well, as usual, Chukfi had disappeared.

Spread across the matching dust jacket and book case is an illustration taken from the interior of the book.  Rabbit is reaching for the butter pot as Fox, on the other side of the rocks, is calling out his name.  All of the double-page full color illustrations throughout done by Leslie Stall Widener wrap around the text.

These pictures look to be rendered in a medium she is said to use, ink, watercolor and pastels.  There is gentleness, softness, in the settings, facial features, and details.  Native cultural designs are mirrored in the animals' clothing.

One of my favorite pictures is when all the animals are gathered around the food table, after discovering the missing butter.  They have decided to eat all the food regardless of its absence.  Rabbit is looking less than eager to eat, his stomach full of butter.

A note at the beginning of this book further informs readers about the story.  Links are embedded in both the author's and illustrator's names allowing you to gather more information about each of them.  Sadly Greg Rodgers passed away this month at a young age.

My second selection, recommended in The Guardian The best children's books for Christmas, is based upon an old Chinese folktale.  The Dinner That Cooked Itself (Flying Eye Books, December 16, 2014) is written by debut picture book author, J. (Jennifer) C. Hsyu with illustrations by Kenard Pak.  Rewards for a life well-lived can come to one by mysterious means.

Long ago in China there lived an honest, respectful and hard-working man named Tuan.  As a child he had lost his parents and his kind neighbors Old Lin and Madame Lin had raised him instead.

In time Tuan left the couple to make a life for himself, living in another home, working in another field.  He found living alone to be lonely and longed for a wife.  Old Lin and Madame Lin sought the services of a matchmaker.

Three times the matchmaker tried to find him the right wife but either their birth animals, the characters contained in their names or their economic status were not compatible.  Tuan continued to work hard as a clerk in the magistrate's court during the day and in his field until dusk.  One evening as the moon was rising a large stone attracted his attention.

On closer inspection he discovered the stone was the biggest snail he had ever seen.  Believing this to be a sign of good fortune, he took it home placing it inside a large jar, feeding it cabbage leaves from his garden.  When he returned from work the next evening, Tuan is surprised by what he saw in his home.

A hot prepared meal was sitting on his table.  He thought Madame Linn must have done it.  She did not.  On two more nights increasingly delicious meals were prepared for him but no one claimed to have made them.  Tuan was determined to discover this kind person.  An altered schedule revealed an astonishing truth bestowed upon a man who had caught the attention of the Lord of Heaven.

The writing of author J. C. Hsyu makes us feel as though we have gone back in time to the source of the story, weaving customs and values into the telling. We learn of the importance of the Chinese zodiac, the basic elements such as earth, fire or wood, social hierarchy and beliefs in heavenly signs and beings.  In describing the meals set on his table for several of the evenings we are given insight into foods eaten in China.  Here is another sample passage.

First the matchmaker suggested the farmer's beautiful daughter.  But she had been born in the Year of the Tiger, and Tuan had been born in the Year of the Dog.  With a cat and a dog fighting for room under such a small roof there would never be peace.

A linen-like textured book case provides the background for Kenard Pak's signature artwork.  The front featuring one of the meals looks good enough to grace the cover of a cookbook.  On the back is a soft mountainous landscape with a tree, a tiger, a dog and a rabbit in the foreground.  The animals, all in a row, are looking to the right.  A lush landscape in greens, browns and black graces the opening and closing endpapers with Tuan's tiny home in the lower right hand corner. It appears to be done in watercolor.

Muted colors, in earth tones, enhance the narrative of J. C. Hsyu, as if we are reading some ancient scroll.  Shifts in perspective elevate the emotions felt by Tuan connecting readers further with his story.  Throughout the images, ranging in size from double to single page pictures, Pak has placed Chinese characters as if brushed by a calligrapher.

One of my favorite pictures is of the scholar's daughter kneeling on her home's porch practicing her calligraphy as Tuan walks to work in the distance.  Three characters have been added to the rabbit in a flame and the nearby dog, each a symbol of the compatibility of the two.  Wealth is the only barrier.  In this illustration, as in many others, readers will feel a sense of peace.

Two pages of explanatory information about Chinese characters are included at the end of the title.  For more information about Kenard Pak please follow the link embedded in his name.  It will take you to his website, offering links to his blog, Tumblr and Facebook pages.  This link is to the publisher's website.  There you can see many pages from this title.  Here is an informative interview of Kenard Pak at Fishink.

On December 3, 2014 Roger Sutton, editor in chief of The Horn Book magazine announced the 2014 Fanfare selections.  Included on the list is Little Roja Riding Hood (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group, April 10, 2014) written by Susan Middleton Elya with illustrations by Susan Guevara.  This may be one of the snazziest versions of this fairy tale yet.

There once was a nina who lived near the woods.  She liked to wear colorful capas with hoods.  

Her mother, watching soap operas in the kitchen, calls to her.  She asks Roja to take some very hot soup to her Grandmother who has a bad cough.  She warns her of dangers in the woods.

Hopping on her ATV Roja travels through the forest hearing a voice calling to her.  A wolf, hidden in the hollow of a tree, reveals himself.  He craftily recommends she stop to pick flowers for her grandmother.

Putting down her basket with the pot of soup and taking off her cape, Roja begins to gather a bouquet.  In a blink the wolf dons Roja's cape and sets off through the woods to Grandmother's house.  Of course Grandmother realizes Roja is simply not herself.

Through a series of oh-so-familiar questions and answers Grandmother quickly assesses her situation looking for a way to protect herself.  At the same time Roja arrives peeking in the window and noticing the trouble.  Grandmother and granddaughter act together to foil the wolf's dinner plans.  The value of a good pot of soup is priceless.

Readers are going to relish the way the words in English and Spanish written by Susan Middleton Elya roll off their tongues.  Reading this aloud is a total joy.  At the end of every two lines Elya has placed a rhyming word bringing a musical beat to the narrative.

The addition of more modern elements, soap operas, ATV and a security system, bring this traditional tale into the here and now.  All three of the women, Roja, her mother and grandmother, are strong characters, ready to support and care for one another.  Here is another sample passage.

Then Roja walked up with her lovely bouquet.
Somewhere she'd misplaced her capa that day.

She peeked in the window and saw her red hood,
and inside it, Lobo.  !Caramba! Not good!

There is no doubt about the meaning of roja in the title of this book as Susan Guevara portrays illustrations on her matching dust jacket and book case framed in red scroll work.  Roja's wolf enemy is skulking through the woods on his way to see Grandmother on the front.  On the back in an oval the fearless Roja is riding her ATV to Grandmother's house.  The same bright color decorates the opening and closing endpapers.

Except for the title and final pages all of the illustrations cover two pages.  Rendered in watercolor, ink and gouache they vividly heighten the spirited story. Marvelous details will have readers lingering over every single page.  In Roja's bedroom books of fairy tales are stacked or placed in a basket.  The three blind mice follow her everywhere as does her cat.  Careful viewers will see symbols of love in the steam coming from the soup.

The forest discloses even more elements.  Magpies speak words of warning on ribbons coming from their beaks.  All of the flowers set among flora of the southwest have watchful eyes.  Who are those two little devilish beings who fly along with the wolf?  No page is without the touch of Susan Guevara's artwork.

One of my favorite illustrations is when we first see the wolf lurking in the tree hollow, skull hanging around his neck, kerchief tied on his head.  Roja is traveling on her ATV with her cat in front, the basket and the three blind mice passengers on the back.  Her head is turned listening.  The magpies are calling out care !Cuidado! in Spanish.

Prior to the beginning of the narrative a two-page glossary defines the Spanish words used in the story.  Please follow the links embedded in Susan Middleton Elya's and Susan Guevara's names to access their websites. At you will find wonderful resources about both the author, illustrator and a guide for using folklore in the classroom including this title and others developed by Penguin Young Readers Group.

Each of these books, Chukfi Rabbit's Big, Bad Bellyache: A Trickster Tale, The Dinner That Cooked Itself and Little Roja Riding Hood are excellent titles which should find a home on all professional bookshelves in classrooms and libraries.  For parents I highly recommend them for use in the home to further expand children's understanding of other cultures.  I extend my gratitude to the authors, illustrators, and publishers for bringing them into the children's literature world.

The whole of Brond is on Youtube

I am not sure how long it will stay there, but watch Brond while you can. It has its own Youtube channel.

The extract here shows the most outrageous wink in television history.

Martin Carthy: January Man

Wishing all my readers a happy new year.

Happy Non-toxic New Year!

Less toxic may be a better title but "Non-toxic New Year" has such a nice ring to it! 

The following tips will help you make 2015 is the healthier year for you and your family.

Know what’s in the stuff you buy. As a general rule, if you can’t pronounce it, you may not want to eat it or put it on your body. The Environmental Working Group has a variety of consumer guides to help you find the least toxic options for foods, pesticides in produce, personal care products, cleaning product, meat, sunscreenand more. These guides are helpful and easy-to-use!

Buy less stuff! This builds on the tip above – do you need five moisturizing skin products or can coconut oil (one amazing ingredient!) take the place of many of them? The less stuff you buy, the less stuff you have to figure out safety ratings for! Also, the less stuff you have to pay for and that you have to dispose of. Before you buy something ask yourself – Do I need to buy this? How often will I use it? What will it add to my life? Is there something healthier that can fill this need?

Leave shoes at the door. This basic advice keeps the toxins that we all pick up on our shoes from parking lots, playing fields, and treated landscapes from being tracked throughout the house. Toxins from outside get trapped in house dust and contribute to indoor air pollution. We all breathe in and even eat much of that dust.  Lower the toxins in your dust by taking shoes off at the door – a nice basket of slippers and house shoes may help guests to do the same.

Wash hands often. Similar to the tip above, washing hands in soap and water keeps toxins from the toxic world out of our eyes, nose and mouth. Think of all the items you touch each day and what kind of toxins from dust could be on them. As you probably know, washing hands can prevent the spread of illness. Washing hands is especially important before eating and after using the restroom.

Commit to a safe and healthy yard.  Weed and bug killers are toxins that most of us come into contact with on a daily basis whether in our homes, day care centers, schools, or yards.  Use common sense gardening methods to care for your own yard safely. Focus on creating healthy soil to promote a healthy yard. Check out these useful Common Sense Gardening Guides!

Use green cleaning methods. Green cleaning is easy and fun. Especially with a list of go-to green cleaning recipes. Making your own green cleaners can save money. If you prefer to buy your cleaning supplies, look for products without the signal words Danger, Poison, Warning, or Caution. You can also find safer products through the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.

Get rid of what you have, safely!  HazoHouseis the location to dispose of unwanted household hazardous products for free. Anything with the words Caution, Warning, Danger or Poison on the label should be disposed of at HazoHouse to protect our health and our drinking water. 

If you make one change at a time, eventually you will develop habits that reduce your exposure to toxins throughout your daily life! A new year is a great time to start. 
If you have questions or would like some guidance, please call us. We love to help!(360) 867-2674

Happy New Year!

Liberal England in 2014: Part 3

Read part 1 and part 2.


Suddenly I was an authority on New Zealand footpaths and John Buchan. What is more, I found a video of Cyril Smith and Geoffrey Dickens dancing to Bananarama.

By changing buses at East Midlands Airport I was able to visit St Mary and St Bardulph's at Breedon on the Hill.

Down in London, I interviewed Tim Farron and Ed Davey at the Social Liberal Forum conference.

I also looked at the scandal of Sir Peter Morrison,


I explored what will soon be the new campus of Northampton University but is currently a site of fascinating industrial dereliction.

The rapid degeneration of Lord Janner's health was noted, and I discussed the troubled image of the RSPCA among pet owners.

I wrote an article about Charles Masterman, one of my political heroes, for Liberator. Meanwhile Lord Bonkers introduced us to the inflatable Julian Huppert.

Homophobic monks were everywhere and I argued that the housing shortage was the fault of builders not councils.


My friend and Liberator colleague Simon Titley died.

I wrote about the remarkable ancestry of the Labour leader John Smith and recalled the dark side of Doctor Barnardo.

If I kept a writer's notebook I would have put this exchange in it. And I wrote about my forebear who defied Queen Victoria.

I found that I had performed on the same stage as Steve Winwood (about 18 months after he did).

Still in showbiz, I wrote about Brond - a long-forgotten Channel 4 series - and got a tweet from John Hannah.

Police Scotland and Katie Hopkins

The tweet is depressing. Did the Twitter joke trial never happen?

The very existence of Police Scotland is depressing. It is a reminder that the SNP believes in centralisation not devolution.

But most depressing of all are the replies to the tweet, a good number of which ask Police Scotland to arrest Katie Hopkins.

I am not surprised that the police have picked up on the modern fashion for claiming offence. They know a good repressive ideology when they see it.
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
But I wish there were more on the left who would stand up for free speech - or at least for common sense.

The Doctor is Sherlock Holmes

The two series Sherlock and Doctor Who are rapidly converging, not least because they share a strong belief in their own cleverness.

But then Sherlock Holmes and the Doctor have long had much common.

To prove it, here is Peter Capaldi as Sherlock...

Navy Prepares for Jan. 20 Communications Satellite Launch

By Steven A. Davis, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Navy military and civilian engineers are preparing the latest military communications satellite for a planned Jan. 20 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The satellite is part of MUOS, or Mobile User Objective System, which operates like a smartphone network from space, vastly improving secure satellite communications for mobile U.S. forces. Unlike its predecessor system, MUOS provides users a global, on-demand, beyond-line-of-sight capability to transmit and receive high-quality voice and mission data from a high-speed Internet Protocol-based system.

This third of five MUOS satellites was encapsulated into its payload fairing Dec. 19, representing one of the final steps in preparation for its upcoming launch. The payload fairing protects the satellite from forces during the early stages of its journey.

"This third MUOS launch is another major step toward achieving a fully operational MUOS end-to-end capability by 2016," said Navy Capt. Joseph Kan, the MUOS program manager. "The Navy, in close collaboration with the Army, Air Force and our industry partners, is bringing the future of worldwide mobile satellite communications into reality for the United States and potentially allied nations."

The Navy plays a key role in national space efforts by providing narrowband satellite communications for the DoD and other government agencies. While MUOS was designed for mobile users who require worldwide, secure voice and mission data at higher data rates, services are also available for ships, aircraft and vehicles.

MUOS is more than just a five-satellite constellation. It additionally comprises four ground stations across the globe, complex software to manage the network and a Wideband Code Division Multiple Access waveform that serves as an interface for end-user radios.

Two MUOS satellites, launched in 2012 and 2013, are already providing legacy communications capability from their geosynchronous orbit locations 22,000 miles above Earth. Ultimately, the satellite constellation and associated network will extend narrowband communications availability well past 2025.

The Navy's Program Executive Office for Space Systems, located at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego, is responsible for the MUOS program.

Sleep! I Need Sleep!

A good book, a movie marathon, a cleaning frenzy or a game night with friends may be one of the reasons we gladly relinquish the necessary eight hours of rest recommended for adults.  On the other hand sometimes our not-so-good friend insomnia may pay us a call.  Eventually these types of nights catch up with us until we can hardly stay awake; craving rest at all costs.

On those days when we visualize sleeping every waking minute, snuggling cozily under the covers, and drifting off into a dreamless doze, there is a chance our plans may change.  In Goodnight Already! (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, December 2, 2014) written by Jory John with illustrations by Benji Davies, a bear and his next-door neighbor, a duck, have decidedly different desires.  Their needs and wants simply don't mesh.

"I've never been so tired.  I could sleep for weeks. Months, even!"

"I've never been so awake.  I wonder what ol' Bear's up to?"

Being the proverbial bright-eyed and bushy-tailed character, Duck walks over to Bear's front door, knocking and shouting.  A dazed Bear opens the door as Duck rushes in, exclaiming his boredom.  His desire to do something, actually anything, with Bear is the only thing on his mind.

Bear does not want to play cards, watch a movie, start a band, or make smoothies.  He wants to sleep.  He needs to sleep.  After receiving seven negative replies to his questions, Duck leaves slightly annoyed.  Bear, safely nestled in bed again, can feel sleep wrapping around him like a warm blanket.

What?! Who's that at his bedroom window?! What's Duck doing there?!  It seems his feathered friend has acquired a deep desire to whip up a batch of cookies.  As Duck quacks off a list of ingredients, Bear's series of "No." is getting more and more emphatic. This time he makes it clear to Duck

"Goodnight already!"

Sound asleep Bear is startled awake by a white wing tip tap, tap, tapping on his nose.  As you can well imagine Bear is not on his best behavior at this point.  A classic twist in the final pages will have readers chuckling.

Told entirely in dialog by the two characters Jory John reveals to readers his keen sense of humor.  Duck's persistence in the form of his queries, some normal, others outlandish, and Bear's consistent single word responses generate the perfect comedic contrast.  When Duck's initial parting sentence becomes Bear's frustrated, desperate pleas for peace and quiet, the laughter factor is elevated.  Here is another short sample.

"Ahh. Bed. Yes."


"Psst! Bear! It's Duck! From next door!"

Most readers are well aware of the look in Bear's eyes as shown on the front of the dust jacket.  The bewildered expression from lack of sleep is familiar.  I can hardly keep from bursting out laughing when I see the tiny pink bunny in his paw.  Duck is curiously peering around Bear giving us a little wave.  On the back of the dust jacket we see one of the interior illustrations of Duck strumming on a guitar, ready to start a band.

On the book case an orange on orange print provides the background for an image of Duck reading this book in his bed.  Bear on the left is in bed but still maintains the stare.  The blue shade from Bear's bedding is used on the opening and closing endpapers.  Benji Davies wastes not a single page beginning the story for readers on the title page.  Bear is seated in his chair, holding his bunny and yawning.  With a page turn the verso on the left and the dedication on the right show the Duck's and Bear's houses at night, a crescent moon hanging in the sky.

Using a limited color palette to great effect throughout, Davies only has three double page illustrations in the entire book.  The impact of each magnifies the moments in which they are used.  The remaining pictures are single pages, backgrounds shifting from Duck's house to Bear's house.

During the Q & A dialogue sections a series of smaller illustrations portray the text.  Davies' interpretation of this narrative adds to the hilarity; Duck carrying a bowl of popcorn, Duck covered in pink goo from a smoothie making gone wrong or Duck stretching out from behind the refrigerator door with butter in his wing.

It's fantastic the way a line or a dot made by Davies conveys an array of emotions on the characters' faces. Careful readers will notice the changes on the pink toy bunny too.  Three of my favorite illustrations are: a wordless visual of duck drinking a cup of coffee sitting on a stool next to his kitchen table reading 101 Ways To Stay Awake, Duck looking in Bear's bedroom window (on the second floor) just as he is drifting off to sleep for the second time and Duck's wing tip poking Bear's nose.  In the first one the stage is set for conflict.  In the second we know Duck's tenacity is going to make Bear crazy.  Bear's eyes and his pink toy bunny's eyes in the third, wide-eyed in disbelief, are sure to elicit giggles and grins.

I've said it before but it bears repeating, there is nothing better than shared laughter.  This title, Goodnight Already! written by Jory John with illustrations by Benji Davies, is sure to result in memorable humorous storytime sessions.  Be prepared to hear a chorus of "read it again."  This is one of those books with appeal across ages.  I am sure parents can readily identify with Bear.  Guys and gals will see themselves in Duck.

For more information about both Jory John and Benji Davies please follow the links embedded in their names to take you to their official online presence.  John Schumacher, teacher librarian extraordinaire, interviewed Benji Davies on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  Enjoy the extras below.

Liberal England in 2014: Part 2

Read part 1.


I photographed the Empire Hotel and hydropathic institution in Newfoundpool, Leicester, before it was too late. I enjoyed the next-door ruins of St Augustine's too.

Jeremy Browne's use of the concept of a 'global race' did not inspire me. (For the record, I did buy and read the book afterwards.)

I recalled the three times I have been mentioned in Hansard. (For the record, Charlotte Henry did give up.)

My next Leicester discovery was the giant redwoods of Humberstone.

I was not impressed by Nick Clegg's handling of the Cyril Smith revelations. And then it was off to Olney, where William Cowper is honoured, and you can find this angel in ivy in the churchyard.


I explored the grounds and precincts of Peterborough Cathedral and Leicester City had a victory parade - how long ago that now seems!

Lord Bonkers reminded us how he dealt with Nick Clegg's spot of teenage arson, while I was worried by the right to be forgotten.

I praised the courage of Theresa May's speech to the Police Federation and the courts ruled that Richard III should be buried in Leicester. Top judging.

My Comment is Free article - "It's not just outdoor play that's gone – so has a whole genre of children's fiction" - attracted a lot of comments.

"If changing the leader isn't the answer, what will the Liberal Democrats change?" I asked. Pointedly.


I spent a few days in Shropshire - one of my favourite discoveries was the Institute in Llanfair Caereinion.

The Stiperstones Inn, the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway, The Old Gaol, Montgomery and Montgomery Castle also featured.

I took to writing occasional columns for the Leicester Mercury. That one was partly written at Stokesay Castle.

An unusual choice popped up as a Sunday music video: Carl Orff and his Music for Children - Trees and Flowers.

Snow on Hampstead Heath and the fall of Western civilisation

Six of the Best 483

"The reason Occupy and the Tea Party were such uncanny replicas of one another is because they both drew on the lazy, reflexive libertarianism that suffuses our idea of protest these days, all the way from Disney Channel teens longing to be themselves to punk rock teens vandalizing a Starbucks. From Chris Hedges to Paul Ryan, every dissenter imagines that they are rising up against 'the state.' It's in the cultural DNA of our times, it seems; our rock ‘n’ roll rebels, our Hollywood heroes, even our FBI agents. They all hate the state ... But here’s the rub: only the Right manages to profit from it." Thomas Frank on the success of the Tea Party and the failure of the Occupy movement.

Roger Proz relates the sorry saga of the rise of Britain's giant pubcos.

From America, Lenore Skenazy looks at the Top 10 Nanny State Fails of the Year.

"Paddington is an effective challenge to the country that made it: if you are proud of your purported decency show it consistently. Rather than showing grave suspicion followed invariably by inevitable acceptance, cut out that initial unpleasant and unbecoming phase of hostility. Which is I think you’ll agree an impressive message to convey via a film about a marmalade obsessed bear!" Matter of Facts has been to see Paddington.

Peter Miller reviews a bad 2014 for the England cricket team and concludes that the game must go back to terrestrial television: "The most famous cricketer in England is still Andrew Flintoff, who hasn't played for his country since 2009. The correlation is obvious. Cricket cannot be loved if it cannot be watched."

Emine Saner surveys Maggie Smith's career.

Goodbye Mr Snuggles

Robert Hardy's screen career dates back to 1951. Because he was a child star, James Fox's dates back to 1950.

Here they are together in a short from 2006.

Snow...Snow Friends...Snow Marvels

Choosing the next book to read from our TBR (to-be-read) stacks can be challenging especially this time of year.  We are valiantly trying to read those books published in 2014 while keeping our eyes wide open for new titles being announced by our reading colleagues and friends and in professional journals.  We are well aware of those books from previous years still patiently waiting on our shelves ready to join our reading lives.

On this Friday past Julie Danielson, author (Wild Things! Acts Of Mischief In Children's Literature Candlewick, 2014 with Betsy Bird and Peter Sieruta) and blogger at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, mentioned a winter title in her post, What Happens When It Snows, at Kirkus.  When I was visiting my favorite indie book shop, McLean & Eakin Booksellers on Saturday, I found it waiting for me.  As I opened the cover of Outside (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 21, 2014) written and illustrated by Deirdre Gill, the quiet talk of the other customers and shopkeepers faded away, replaced by the quiet of a snow covered landscape.  I was caught inside the Outside.  

Outside, snow falls silently on the house.  

In a house there are two boys.  One is ready for some action.  One is ready to play; the younger of the two.  He bundles up in all his winter clothing and heads out the door.  

Without a second thought he first falls back into the deep snow, making an angel.  Feeling in awe of what he sees up and around him, he knocks on the window again asking his brother to join him.  Slighted but determined to make the best of it, he starts to roll a ball of snow.  Winding his way through the nearby woods it gets to be larger than he is.

When it gets too big to move, he shapes a snowy companion.  They don't waste a single minute; building a structure to rival those fabricated in medieval Europe or in our imaginations.  This daring residence, dear readers, invites a creature to swoop into their presence.

The boy soars to new heights with this fantastic friend.  They fly over the familiar landscape until it appears in miniature below them.  As the sun sets that which came from the snow returns to the snow.

Trudging back to his home, the boy, his mind filled with his day's adventures, is greeted by his brother.  In the fading light of day and the glow from within the house, the two decide to do one more thing.  You never know what playing outside will bring into your world.

Deirdre Gill fashions her narrative in such a way to slowly build toward several page turns which astound readers. (There are only ten sentences in the entire book.)  Her sentences start out reflective and observant.  Some are spread over two, even eight pages.  She cleverly lulls you into a pause which makes the surprises even better.  She never waivers from the simplicity of carefully chosen words.

Rendered in oils the illustrations clearly convey the wonder to be found outside in the snow, if you are willing to seek the extraordinary.  Images on the matching dust jacket and book case depict beings formed by our minds' eyes and hands.  A cool wintry blue provides color for the opening and closing endpapers.  A toy resting on the window sill beneath the title foreshadows events later in the story.  Our eyes follow a trail of footprints beginning on the verso and continuing to the dedication page.

To make a point or represent an emotion Gill shifts from double-page pictures to single page visuals or a grouping of smaller pictures on a page.  Several of her illustrations are wordless.  Her perspective of the younger brother looking at the sky contains the faintest hint of possibilities.  These choices coupled with her placement of text supply the flawless flow of the story.

Details, words written on a frosty glass, footprints on stairsteps, evergreen branches laden with snow, combined with her skillful use of light and shadow create the feeling of being a part of remarkable moments.  I think one of my favorite illustrations is when the boy is back in the forest after his flight.  We are looking down on the scene of him small among the gathering of towering trees.  His hand is resting gently on his trusty mode of transportation.  You can feel the awe.

If you are ready to really see what is in front of you every day by using your imagination, Outside written and illustrated by Deirdre Gill is the perfect title for you.  If you are ready to explore the snowy outside world in winter, Outside is the best choice.  If you want excellence in storytelling don't miss Outside.  

To discover more about Deirdre Gill please follow the link embedded in her name to access her website. There are seven other images from this title featured there.  This is her first picture book.  

New Year Health Tips

New Year Health Tips
New Year Health Tips
Today, I am going to share few of the very interesting articles on New year health tips for everyone.

While i was surfing online for the best new year health tips for the coming year 2015, I could see few articles that makes me to publish on my health tips blog so that people would be benefitted from reading and following those tips.

Health Tips for a New Year 2015

20 Tips to Help You Keep Your New Year's Resolutions

Once we have put some thought into our vision for the future, and set goals that are based on health rather than perfectionism, then the following simple steps can help you develop and maintain the resolve to achieve your goals.

1. Be realistic.
2. Aim for self-improvement and learning.
3. Line your goals up with your priorities.
4. Set a realistic time frame for change.
5. Focus on self-care and nurturance through the change.
6. Develop your patience.
7. Be honest with yourself - change requires commitment.
8. Look for ways to reduce stress, as it will undermine your discipline and your health.
9. Be prepared to try something new.
10. Be prepared to learn from your mistakes.
11. Celebrate the small steps.
12. Be curious and open to the learning.
13. Look for balance in life.
14. Stay focused.
15. Use self-care and self-reflection to help you accomplish your goals.
16. Look for others who share your goals, and support each other.
17. Have 'safe' people who will encourage you during your highs and lows.
18. Take actions to commit to good decision making.
19. Be non-defensive and open to examining poor decision making.
20. Have some fun along the way - joy can fuel positive change.

Top 10 Healthiest New Year's Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are a bit like babies: They’re fun to make but extremely difficult to maintain.

Read more Top 10 Healthiest New Year's Resolutions

15 health tips for the new year

Year after year we make resolutions to exercise regularly, eat well, and give up smoking and other bad habits. Following such basic rules can cut heart disease risk by 80 percent, diabetes risk by 90 percent and cancer risk by 50 percent, according to the Harvard Nurses' Health Study.

Read more 15 health tips for the new year

9 Healthy New Year’s Resolutions

Want to downsize your figure? Start downsizing your dishes. Studies show using smaller plates and bowls promote weight loss because they help to curb overeating.

Read more 9 Healthy New Year’s Resolutions

8 Tips for Making and Keeping Healthy New Year's Resolutions

If you are the type of person who makes but never keeps New Year's resolutions, these suggestions can help you make healthy -- and attainable -- goals this year.

    1. Don't abandon the idea of setting resolutions because you have broken them in the past. You may need to simply readjust the type and number of goals you're setting for yourself.

    2. Do be realistic. A resolution to run a marathon by year's end is likely unrealistic for an inexperienced exerciser. Likewise, resolving to stop all your unhealthy habits at once is likely to fail. Pick a safe, attainable goal with a realistic time frame. For example, if your resolution is to eat healthier, begin by eliminating one unhealthy food from your diet at a time, not all unhealthy foods.

5 Diet Resolutions for New Year

Are you making bold resolutions on January 1 to "eat right" -- whatever that means? Stop trying to overhaul your entire diet in a day! Resolve to think small and you can reach any diet goal -- one focused step at a time. Why not start with these simple tips?

10 Tips to Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolution

Chances are at some time in your life you’ve made a New Year’s resolution — and then broken it. This year, stop the cycle of resolving to make change and then not following through. If your resolution is to take better care of yourself and get healthy, you will have a much better year if your resolution sticks. Here are 10 tips to help you get started.  

1.  Be Realistic

The surest way to fall short of your goal is to make your goal unattainable. For instance, resolving to NEVER eat your favorite food again is setting you up to fail. Instead, strive for a goal that is attainable, such as avoiding it more often than you do now.

2.  Plan Ahead

Don’t make your resolution on New Year’s Eve. If you wait until the last minute, it will be based on your mindset that particular day. Instead, it should be planned well before December 31 arrives.

3.  Outline Your Plan

Decide how you will deal with the temptation to skip that exercise class or have that piece of cake. This could include calling on a friend for help, practicing positive thinking and self-talk, or reminding yourself how your “bad” will affect your goal.

4.  Make a “Pros” and “Cons” List

It may help to see a list of items on paper to keep your motivation strong. Develop this list over time, and ask others to contribute to it. Keep your list with you and refer to it when you need help keeping your resolve.

5.  Talk About It

Don’t keep your resolution a secret. Tell friends and family members who will be there to support your resolve to change yourself for the better or improve your health. The best-case scenario is to find a buddy who shares your New Year’s resolution and motivate each other.

6.  Reward Yourself

This doesn’t mean that you can eat an entire box of chocolates if your resolution is to eat a better diet. Instead, celebrate your success by treating yourself to something you enjoy that doesn’t contradict your resolution. If you have been sticking to your promise to eat better, for example, reward yourself with new fitness clothing or by going to a movie with a friend.

7.  Track Your Progress

Keep track of each small success. Short-term goals are easier to keep, and each small accomplishment will help keep you motivated. Instead of focusing on losing 30 pounds, focus on losing the first five. Keep a food journal to help you stay on track, and reward yourself for each five pounds lost.

8.  Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Obsessing over the occasional slip won’t help you achieve your goal. Do the best you can each day, and take one day at a time.

9.  Stick to It

Experts say it takes about 21 days for a new activity to become a habit and six months for it to become part of your personality. It won’t happen overnight, so be persistent and patient!

10. Keep Trying

If you have totally run out of steam when it comes to keeping your resolution by mid-February, don’t despair. Start over again! Recommit yourself for 24 hours. You can do anything for 24 hours. The 24-hour increments will soon build on each other and, before you know it, you will be back on track.

10 Better-for-You New Year’s Resolutions

Making a New Year’s resolution this year? If it’s to lose those pesky 10 pounds—for the sixth year in a row—why not consider making a new, more doable resolution with equally big health payoffs? Take your pick of these 10 attainable resolutions that you can actually tackle this year.

100 Ways to Start Your Year Off Light

Healthy Tips for the New Year

With the new year comes new expectations and goals, often accompanied by the fear of falling off the resolutions wagon by month’s end. Make this year different. Put aside over-blown resolutions and commit to making small changes all year to make this year your lightest ever. The benefits: Lose weight, put a bounce in your step, get some calm in the kitchen, and become a healthier you without feeling deprived.