Raisin Reads: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Raisin and I saw the musical of The Wizard of Oz two years ago (when he was two years old), and he greatly enjoyed it. Somehow, he loved the movie too, even with the scary monkeys. Over the past two years, I’ve occasionally spied him acting out the story line (four friends go on an adventure down the Yellow Brick Road) with his stuffed animals. It definitely was time to visit the original story.

It’s hard to read the original for a story well known in another format (in this case, the well-popularized movie is much more familiar to me than the novel on which it was based). It’s probably scandalous for me to admit that the original story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (originally published 1900) leaves me unsatisfied. True lovers of classics, especially children’s classics, will probably be upset with me. But I can’t deny it: I don’t particularly like the book (and I’m ducking to avoid the rotten tomatoes). I feel that while the movie’s plot is tight and clever1, the book fails to do anything more than tell a silly story with little to hold it together. Continue Reading

  1. Because this post is about the book and not the movie, I’ll relegate these thoughts to a footnote: In the movie, Dorothy, who doesn’t believe in herself, must find the strength within herself to get home, and in the end her dreams come true as she does so. I love how the entire movie story was actually a dream, and yet it still helped her find her place.

The Clutter Cure by Judi Culbertson

The Clutter Cure by Judi Culbertson (McGraw Hill, 2007) helped me refocus my efforts at keeping my home nice. In her book, Ms Culbertson helped me identify my weak areas for accumulating clutter, recognize what I really want out of my space, and undertake some easy solutions for eliminating clutter without guilt. As I read her short book about clutter, I felt inspired to walk around my home with a garbage bag and box (for donations).Continue Reading

Play and Learn Spanish by Ana Lomba

My son Raisin has expressed an interest in learning Spanish. Although this interest comes and goes, I’ve decided to embrace his interest as much as I can. I studied Spanish extensively in college and spent a few months in South America, but in the past decade, I’m sorry to say I’ve let my Spanish usage and training lag. I am a long way from where I used to be. Language learning is not like learning to ride a bicycle: if you don’t use it, you lose it.

Enter: Play and Learn Spanish by Ana Lomba (McGraw Hill 2011), a audiobook/textbook combination providing a series of conversations full of vocabulary that children really use. My son and I loved the songs, and after listening to some of the conversations a few times, I find it much easier to incorporate Spanish in to my daily conversations with my children.

In the reviews of the program, there were some complaints about how it seems impossible to “learn Spanish” by using this product, so I feel it’s necessary to re-emphasize the author’s instructions for how it works. This is not a program that works by handing it to a child and saying “go for it.” This is a program for a parent to use if he or she is interested in providing a child with an immerse experience in a second language. In other words, the parent needs to learn Spanish along with the child as they listen to the dialogues together.

The accompanying book has the Spanish and English translations written for the parent (I do not believe the book is as helpful for the child, although the pages are bright and interesting, and my son always wanted to turn pages along with the CD). As the parent learns the phrases, he or she should then begin using said phrases in daily conversation with the child. I found the CD to be very successful in helping with pronunciation (reminders in my case, since I was at one point familiar with it). Ms Lomba speaks with an accent from Spain; my previous Spanish had been South American. After listening to the CD a few times, I found myself pronouncing the s‘s and z‘s as “th” as they do in Spain. It was interesting to me how, even with my previous training, listening to vocabulary repeatedly gave me a subtle change in my own pronunciation.Continue Reading

Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson

Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson (to be published October 2012 by Basic Books) captures not just culinary history but cultural history, describing the foods eaten throughout history based on the tools available to prepare them. Continue Reading