Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Homeschool Sick Week

Josh has been sick with a case of a stomach bug this week so our homeschool studies have consisted of:

- Being prostrate on the couch, sipping 7 Up and ginger ale while nibbling on crackers and watching LOTS of the History Channel.
- Birding out the family room window while lying on said couch.
- When feeling up to it checking on the Iditarod Race on the computer and while there checking the NHL webiste too.
- Birding out the front window while on said computer and yesterday morning spotting a roadrunner (yes I did say roadrunner) sitting on top of our neighbor's roof across the street.
- Commiserating with oldest sister each morning as she stops by and who is dealing with this very same stomach bug.
- Listening to mom read MANY times throughout the day from a fast becoming favorite book, The Tale of Holly How (The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter) by Susan Wittig Albert.

I have read both books in this new series and have shared a few things from them. Josh was interested, as he loves a good mystery - The Hardy Boy series is one of his favorites and asked if I would read from one of them. This is actually the second in the series but no matter. The author, who also writes two other mystery series, is also the author of many young adult novels. While browsing her website I read comments on how she wanted these books to be appropriate for that audience also as well as adults. The main character is as you may have guessed the famed children's author, Beatrix Potter. Albert has done meticulous research on the life of Beatrix Potter and incorporates many factual items in the fictional stories. Josh is especially enjoying the way in which Albert incorporates the animals of the village into the story.

"Normally, I'm a disciplined writer who controls her material, but in this case, the material took control. To my surprise, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle began to talk about herself, and about The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, and about Miss Potter, and the other animals all chimed in.6 I immediately realized the value of these characters to the story, and to the whole series, and began to incorporate them, not as mere "colorful" characters, but characters who are instrumental to the plot, and who may even have plots of their own. And I used this franchise to create other animal characters—animals that live at the farm, in the village, and in the countryside. Galileo Newton Owl and Bosworth Badger XVII are two of my favorites.

In this imaginative effort, of course, I am following the model Beatrix herself followed: stories featuring animals whose interesting adventures usually point up some sort of important moral lesson, a kind of Aesop's fable. I am also following models of contemporary mystery writers such as Lillian Jackson Braun, Rita Mae Brown, and Carole Nelson Douglas, all of whom have introduced animals into their mystery fiction. (Of course, I had to get permission from Frederick Warne & Co., the owners of Beatrix's copyrights, in order to incorporate Beatrix's creations into my fiction.)

Bringing the animals into the books also broadened the audience, for with a little extra work, I could make the series suitable for a middle-grade and young adult audience, as well as adult readers. These would be books that could be read and enjoyed by whole families, in fact."

This is a quote from Albert's website about her experiences in writing these tales.


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