Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Day Devoted to Giggles, Guffaws, and HaHaHa's

July 1st is International Joke Day, which we have celebrated before here at Bugs and Bunnies. And since I do so sincerely love to laugh, and since we had such a good time last year, we're gonna celebrate again this year, too:

What's in a name?
A burglar broke into a house one night. He shined his flashlight around, looking for loot, when a voice in the dark said,

"Jesus knows you're here."

The burglar nearly jumped out of his skin, clicked his flashlight off, and froze. When he heard nothing more, he let out the breath he was holding and continued his search.

He found two iPods and shoved them in a bag. Then he spied a Wii. Just as he pulled out the game console to disconnect it from the TV, he heard the voice again,

"Jesus is watching you."

Freaked out, he shined his light around frantically, looking for the source of the voice. Finally, in the corner of the room, his flashlight beam came to rest on a parrot. "Did you say that?" he whispered to the parrot.

"Yep," the parrot confessed. Then it squawked, "I'm just trying to warn you that Jesus is watching you."

"Warn me, huh?" The burglar relaxed, then asked, "Who are you, little birdie?"

"Moses," replied the parrot.

"Moses?" The burglar laughed. "What kind of people would name a bird Moses?"

"The same kind of people that would name a Rottweiler Jesus."

Who's who?
One day a mailman was walking his route to deliver the mail, when he came upon a little boy and a huge dog. The mailman said to the boy, "Does your dog bite?"

"No," replied the boy.

Just as the mailman reached down to give the dog a scratch behind the ears, it whipped its head around and bit the mailman's hand.

The mailman yelled, "I thought you said your dog doesn't bite!"

"He doesn't," replied the boy. "That's not my dog."

Lost in translation:
Some psychiatry students were in their Emotional Extremes class. "Let's set some parameters," the professor said. "What's the opposite of joy?" he asked one student.

"Sadness," he replied.

"The opposite of depression?" he asked another student.

"Elation," he replied.

"The opposite of woe?" the professor asked a young woman from Texas.

The Texan replied, "Sir, I believe that would be giddyup."

A matter of perception:
While proudly showing off his new apartment to friends, a guy led the way to his living room, where there was a big brass gong.

"What's the brass gong for?" asked one of his friends.

"It's not a gong. It's a talking clock," the guy replied.

"A talking clock?" his friend asked. "Seriously?"

The guy smiled. "Watch this," he said. He picked up a hammer, gave the gong an ear-shattering pound, and waited. Soon after, a voice on the other side of the wall screamed, "Dude! It's 2:00 in the morning!"

Q. Why did the cowboy buy a dachshund?
A. Because someone told him to get a long little doggie.

Q. What do you get if you cross an elephant and a kangaroo?
A. Big holes all over Australia.

These jokes each turned up on myriad pages via Google searches for "clean jokes" and "clean story jokes."

Friday, June 11, 2010

Book Review: Surviving the Applewhites, by Stephanie S. Tolan

...The old man grabbed his hand and shook it in both of his, nearly crushing Jake's fingers in an amazingly powerful grip. "Welcome to Wit's End - Furniture Factory, Gallery, Studio, Goat Compound, and Creative Academy," Zedediah Applewhite said.

When the old man let go, Jake shook his hand to make sure the blood could still get to the tips of his fingers. Then he said a few of his favorite words, just loud enough to be sure they were heard.

Zedediah Applewhite didn't so much as blink. "You ought to spend a little time with Cordelia," he said. "She's taught my parrot the French for that. Spanish, Italian, and German, too."

Jake Semple curses, smokes, and has various piercings, with hair dyed scarlet red and styled into points all over his head. He also has quite a rep for a thirteen-year-old: he's been kicked out of every public school in Rhode Island, and only lasted three weeks before Traybridge Middle School - in North Carolina - kicked him out, too. Which is how he ends up slouching on the front porch of almost-thirteen-year-old order-and-structure-loving E.D Applewhite, in the middle of September, blowing smoke in her face.

Jake is about to join Creative Academy - the Applewhite's homeschool, which is the only place left that will take him. E.D. and Jake soon find themselves "cooperatively grouped," an experimental first for the family's independent-learning-focused beliefs, and a situation that neither is pleased with. As they each try in their own way to navigate through the creative chaos that is the Applewhite family, not one person's life is left untouched...or unchanged.

For Teachers and Librarians:
Surviving the Applewhites is about finding your way in this world, but more specifically: finding out who you are and where your place is in this world, instead of letting the world make you fit what it wants you to be.

Guidance counselors will love this book and the myriad possibilities to explore with their students: It's about kids (and adults) acting and interacting, exploring, pushing boundaries, thinking outside the box - sometimes way outside their comfort zones, and coming to surprising yet pleasing conclusions, and learning new things about themselves and others - whether they've known each other for just a few weeks, or for a lifetime. It's about cooperation, working toward a common goal, but using each person's unique abilities as advantages to be celebrated, instead of obstacles to be quashed, in order to come together and drive toward that shared goal.

Arts teachers of all disciplines will enjoy using this book to help their students explore and discuss various artistic venues - woodworking, theater, set design, dance, acting, singing (both well and badly, yet appreciating both), painting, writing, and many more.

Classroom teachers of all disciplines will rejoice at finding a book that makes their students laugh out loud, think twice before judging "the new kid" and those kids they've known since forever and even themselves, consider trying new things, and groan with disappointment when time's up and they have to close the book, because they really, really want to find out what happens next.

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
Family, and community, and acceptance are three very strong themes running through Surviving the Applewhites. Until Jake's appearance in the family, E.D. often felt like a fish out of water. She craves schedules, routine, order, and consistency, but she is surrounded by a family of super creative types that often forget to buy the groceries when it's their turn, and to whom "curriculum" is merely a suggestion to be pondered, but ultimately pushed aside in order to follow the whims of their creative and (to E.D.) willy-nilly pursuit of each one's particular art focus of the moment.

Jake, however, had been subjected to nothing but structure, routine, strict schedules, and harsh scrutiny that most certainly did not work for him, judging by his experiences up until the day he stood slouched on the Applewhite front porch, awaiting the beginning of life in Creative Academy.

Despite their opposing personalities, they share a common concern: neither kid feels as though they are understood, and neither kid feels like they "fit" in this world. Yet somehow, through the seeming calamity that is Applewhite life, each discovers something about themselves: Jake - that he has strengths and talents that others appreciate and which he never knew were there before, and that he is important to people close to him and cared about by them, just for being who he truly is inside, and E.D. - that her creative, free-flowing family needs precisely the organizational and system-loving skills she has had all along, and that her love of structure has as much value as the others' love of the unconventional.

For the Kids:
Surviving the Applewhites is a book that will make you laugh out loud with all of the crazy stuff in order-loving E.D. Applewhite's very crazy family: a pet parrot that can curse in at least four languages, a rescued goat named Wolfie that is "hostility personified," an aunt who insists that she converses with the nature spirits in her garden, one teenage brother who never comes out of his room, another very young brother who talks incessantly, a tempermental, furniture-making dad, a best-selling author mom, an older sister who glides between dance and art and flower-arranging or whatever direction her art muse points her in, and a wise old grandfather who seems to take it all in stride. Add to the mix one Jake Semple, a kid who's been kicked out of every school in Rhode Island, and has a bad reputation with the looks to match: lots of piercings, hair dyed fire red and gelled into get the picture.

Of course, E.D. and Jake do NOT hit it off, and of course, E.D. and Jake are paired in a group to study together in the Applewhite's homeschool, Creative Academy, which is so not what either one of them wants. Will E.D.'s carefully self-structured curriculum - and her sanity - survive being saddled with this "bad kid?" Will Jake find a way to make this last chance work? And just how many swear words does that parrot know, anyhow?

There's only one way to find out...

For Everyone Else:
Surviving the Applewhites is a book that will appeal to a wide audience: elementary-age kids, middle schoolers, high schoolers, and yes, adults, too. Plenty of laugh-out-loud moments mixed in with situations that will challenge you to push the limits of what you think you know to be true, make for a book that's hard to put down, and a story that sticks in your head well after the last page has been turned.

Wrapping Up:
Surviving the Applewhites - Find it, read it. You'll be glad you did.

Title: Surviving the Applewhites
Author: Stephanie S. Tolan
Jacket Art: Hala Witwer
Jacket Design: Henrietta Stern
Pages: 216
Reading Level: Ages 9-12 through Young Adult
Publisher and Date: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2002
Edition: 1st
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $15.99
ISBN-10: 0-06-623602-9
ISBN: 0-06-623603-7 (library binding)

Author Spotlight: Stephanie S. Tolan

Stephanie S. Tolan has been a "passionate and somewhat indiscriminate reader" and Story Teller for as far back as she can remember.
"...that joy in reading," she says, "made me want to be a writer, and from the time that I was nine years old, I never doubted that I would be one."

Ms Tolan majored in creative writing at Purdue University, and went on to get her Master's degree in English. Then, amidst a marriage and caring for three young stepsons, as well as bringing another son into the world, she still found time to wedge in writing poetry and plays for adults - all while teaching college English - in the late 1960's.

In 1978, Ms Tolan's first children's novel was published: Grandpa and Me. She went on to write over 24 books for children and young adults. Her work has garnered several awards, including a 2003 Newbery Honor for Surviving the Applewhites (2002) - which also was a New York Times bestseller, and the Christopher Award (given to media that "affirm the highest values of the human spirit") for her 2006 novel, Listen!.

In addition to her work as poet, playwright and children's and young adult author, Stephanie S. Tolan has also become known as an advocate for extremely bright children. After co-authoring Guiding the Gifted Child (1982), she became a consultant to parents and educators, and speaks nationally and internationally about the social/emotional/spiritual needs of gifted kids and adults.

Born in Canton, Ohio, on October 25, 1942, Ms Tolan was then raised in Wisconsin. She now lives near Eagle Lake, in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband Bob, two dogs, one cat, two fish, and lots of outdoor critters.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Short Cuts, Or: Now You Don't Hafta Slog Through the Whole Darn Thing Just to Find the One Thing You Really Need

I have noticed that many of the First Time Visitors to Bugs and Bunnies (Welcome! by the way...) get here because they're looking for a book review, or they're looking for info about a children's author or illustrator, or they're looking for info about various and sundry Little-Known Holidays. Hopefully, those of you in the First Time Visitors group like what you see, and keep coming back.

In the meantime, for the convenience of both First Time Visitors, and Long Time Readers (Welcome back! by the way...), I've added a new feature which you can find right up at the top, and just below the header. It's a series of pages links. *This paragraph is edited from the original post, when I had the Short Cuts links in the sidebar with the below illustration. Though the illustration is gone from the sidebar, I left it here because, you know, I like it.

It's a quick and easy way for Bugs and Bunnies visitors to get right to the stuff they really need to see, and then of course, to come back to the main page to see what other random stuff I've posted lately.

Here's a quick tour of Short Cuts:
  • Home - It is what you think it is, and brings you to the main Bugs and Bunnies page. (You can also get back to the main page from whichever post you're browsing by simply clicking on the big picture header at the very top of the page.)
  • Nuts and Bolts of the Book Reviews (or, How It All Works Here) - This is where you'll find answers to questions about how I do book reviews: how I choose the books, what kinds of books I review, where I find author/illustrator info, how you can contact me about a book, etc. And if your question isn't answered there, you can always email me at bugsandbunnies (at) verizon (dot) net.
  • Book Reviews - One big list of every book review I've ever done, which will be updated with each new one I write. It's alphabetized, even! Just click on the book title, and you'll be taken directly to my review of that book.
  • Author Spotlights - Looking for information about your favorite author or illustrator? This is where you'll find a list (also neatly alphabetized) of each person I've written a brief bio about, with a direct link to each post. Just click the name, and you're there.
  • Little-Known Holidays - If I've written about any kind of holiday, observance, celebration, festival, or what-have-you, it will be listed here, organized by month and date it occurs. Click on the name of the event to get to the corresponding post for it.
  • Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series - Looking for a kids' book with quirky, different, eccentric, unique, weird, wacky, or misunderstood characters? Then you might want to check out this page. Started in September 2010, it is an annual occurrence, with posts every Friday in September.
  • A Literary Appreciation of Dragons Series - Dragons! Books about dragons! Books with dragon characters! And did I say dragons? Started in January 2013, it is also an annual occurrence, with posts every Friday in January.
  • My Artwork - Here you will find samples of illustrations I've done for Bugs and Bunnies, along with links to the posts in which they appear. Most are colored pencil and fine point Sharpie, but I also work with some cut-and-paste, some mixed media, and a bit of computer design.
  • My Photography -  This page houses some of my personal favorites of the photos I've taken to accompany posts. As with the Artwork page, you will find a link with each photo that takes you to the original post in which each one appears.
  • Contact Me - Sorta self-explanatory, right? Here's where you can find my email address.

This concludes the official Grand Tour of Short Cuts. I hope this feature makes navigating Bugs and Bunnies a more streamlined and pleasant experience for you. Please feel free to wander about, and perhaps find exactly what you've been searching for...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fair Warning, All Ye Who Enter Here: If Ye Have Six-Plus Legs - And Are Not A Butterfly or a Lady Bug - Abandon Hope

I have made no secret of my general dislike of most creatures of the insect persuasion.

Some of them creep me out.

Some of them boldly invade my home every spring as if they own the place.

Still others pester me to the brink of insanity.


In fact, I am firmly convinced that the Universe sends all manner of said Creepy-Crawlies marching into my humble abode purely for Its own fits and giggles. (And for the record? I am not amused. Do ya hear that, Universe? Not. Amused.)

It was, therefore, with great joy that I discovered that June is:

Fight the Filthy Fly Month.

And now, mere days after this fortuitous revelation, serendipity: June's first Worthy (?) Opponent has just this afternoon dared buzz across my threshold.

Bring it, Filthy Fly. I'm ready...