Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A long way from New York, too

Yesterday, one of our family's favorite authors was in town. Richard Peck, who wrote the hilarious A Long Way from Chicago, and the Newberry Medal winning A Year Down Yonder, spoke at our local library. He was also speaking that evening, as part of the local "Lit Fest". I wasn't able to get there very early, and was afraid of being crowded in the back. Instead, as you can see, if you check that first row of chairs, there was hardly anyone there. [Of course, the folks who were there really were somebody.] It made me sad, and a little embarrassed that our welcome was so weak. But Mr. Peck was charming, funny, and opinionated -- and had plenty of time to autograph the books I'd brought.

A Long Way from Chicago is one of our favorite books to listen to in the car. Its chapters can stand alone as short stories. My husband, especially, loves these stories. A few years ago, when he was coaching a DI team of 6th graders and they traveled to the national competition, he chose this book for a bedtime story. The first night, the kids responded with, "Oh Mr. H, we're too old for bedtime stories." But he made them listen to "Shotgun Cheatem's Last Night Above Ground."

The next night, they said, "Are you going to read that book to us again? Will you, please?"

What more can you ask from a kid's book?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Slow but Steady (mostly, slow)

Here's my recent progress on the surplice lace top. The finished piece is just a rectangle. Now I knit ANOTHER rectangle. Then the "bodice" pieces and the sleeves. I'm slow. I have had a couple of nice drives to knit on -- Saturday night it was still light when we drove to see my nephew's high school play. He was "Gaston" in Beauty and the Beast (Disney version). It was fun to see such a nice guy be despicable. And he can REALLY sing! He has some funny YouTube videos too - though I should warn you they are rife with silly bodily function humor.

Since my last post, about wishing I'd made the Lotus Blossom Tank with seams, I've been thinking. I'm musing about adding seams to improve the fit - basically, I think I'm going to try taking it in. Any wisdom?

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Higher Power of Lucky

We just finished reading the newest Newberry Medal winner, The Higher Power of Lucky. What a treat! This book has gotten a lot of press for its inclusion of the word "scrotum". I hope all the brouhaha makes the book MORE attractive to kids, even if it makes parents wary. It's a wonderful book.

As we've been reading this book, I've been guilty of wishing the author had chosen a different place for the dog's snakebite. It didn't seem to me that it would have ruined the plot if the dog had been bitten on the nose, say. This dog isn't even a character in the story -- we just hear the story as Lucky eavesdrops on one of the "anonymous" groups that meet in the "Found Object Wind Chime Museum". But last night, when we finished, I realized it was exactly right. This word is necessary to the artistic structure of the book.

It's a word that makes Brigitte, Lucky's guardian, wary, just as any good parent would be if a child came home asking about such a private word.

The title refers to 10-year-old Lucky's preoccupation with eavesdropping at various 12-step "anonymous" meetings. She would like to have the help of her own "Higher Power", and she is trying to act out the Serenity Prayer -- to have the courage to change the things she can, the serenity to accept the things she can't, and the wisdom to know the difference. There are lots of things about Lucky's life she could wish were different. Her mother died two years before in an accident. Her father has no interest in children. And her guardian, her father's ex-wife, may be going back to France. Patron creates a character in Lucky that has a kid's eye view of all this. She understands the power that adult decisions have in her life, but she doesn't know how to interpret these adults and their actions.

In this way, scrotum is a word that represents the reality of Lucky's life -- just as Lucky only has a sense of the meaning of this word, so she only has an inkling of the adult reality around her. She tries to change the things she can in a very kid-like way, colored by her own fears for her future.

If you enjoy good children's books, try this one. I've just been sort of grown-up and serious about some issues surrounding this book -- but it's not a grown-up or serious book -- just a good one.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Cast on . . .

Since my last post, I've swatched and cast on for the Surplice Lace Top. I've got some interesting gauge issues with this pattern. My stockinette gauge on size 6 needles was spot on. But I needed to go down two needle sizes to get the right gauge for the lace part. The pattern calls for the same size needles (6) for both parts of the garment. I cast on with size 3 needles (since the garter stitch at the bottom was to be with "smaller needles"), and am knitting the lace on 4's. What I'm wondering is whether I'll switch to 6's for the straight stitch at the top, or stick with my 4's. My last cotton hand-knit top, the Lotus Blossom Tank, is a tad big, and tends to stretch with wearing. I've got some knitting time to use thinking about it, I guess. This pattern is knit in pieces, unlike the Lotus Blossom. A lot of knitters like seamless knitting, but I wish the Lotus Blossom did have seams, because then I could easily alter it to fit better.

Isn't the pink pretty?

Thanks for the kind comments about my Noni bag. I'm enjoying it, though still feeling iffy about the green handles.