November 25, 2011

Children's book suggestions for Christmas giving

Well, that was fast. It's time again for our annual Christmas shopping post. You probably know how it works: if you click through any of the Amazon links here, place an item in your shopping cart (whether it's something we've linked to or not) and eventually purchase it, we will get a small percentage from Amazon that doesn't add to your cost. We greatly appreciate any purchases you may throw our way.

I've tossed various irresistible electronics, cheese baskets (by popular demand), favorite DVDs and CDs (not just Sinatra), and of course books into our Amazon store. I've organized the books into categories: non-fiction, fiction, parenting, cookbooks, etc.

The titles I'm most enthusiastic about are the children's books. Our large family loves to read. I've highlighted some of our favorites.

Recommended books for children: 

Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody: When boys were boys. Think of this autobiographical book and its sequels as Little House with a male protagonist. Thank goodness no one had yet come up with Ritalin in the early 1900s when Ralph was a boy; if they had, he would have been dosed early and often, and these great American stories wouldn't exist. Young Moody possessed what they once called "initiative" in spades. He was a cowboy, a farmer, and an entrepreneur par excellence. Little Britches makes an excellent read-aloud, along with Man of the Family, Mary Emma and Company, and The Fields of Home. (There are more titles in the series, but these are the best.)

The Tripods series by John Christopher: A riveting four-book series about what happens when horrifying aliens take over the earth with the help of mind-controlling "caps" that destroy the human will. A tale for our time. (Read the prequel last.)
The White Mountains
The City of Gold and Lead
The Pool of Fire
When the Tripods Came

Tintin in America and others by Hergé. Entice that reluctant reader with non-stop adventure, humor, and great drawings. These comics could never have been written today. My kids have read them over and over.

Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert Heinlein: Aliens, faster-than-light travel, and sliderules. #3 son says it's the second best book ever. (Best: The Hobbit.)

The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet and others by Eleanor Cameron. Irresistible:
WANTED: A small spaceship about eight feet long, built by a boy, or by two boys, between the ages of eight and eleven. The ship should be sturdy and well made, and should be of materials found at hand. Nothing need be bought. No adult should be consulted as to its plan or method of construction. An adventure and a chance to do a good deed await the boys who build the best space ship. Please bring your ship as soon as possible to Mr. Tyco M. Bass, 5 Thallo Street, Pacific Grove, California.
I rest my case.

Anything by Marguerite Henry: We hope the current disturbing obsession with vampires hasn't killed off the American girl's passion for horses and horse stories. My daughters loved Misty of Chincoteague, Stormy, Misty's Foal, Sea Star, Orphan of Chincoteague, and King of the Wind, among others.

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. The first book of a dozen about imaginative British children who live in the Lake District, sailing about in boats and having adventures. A much-loved classic. #2 daughter has collected all twelve.

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot. This book and its sequels were written for adults but teens will also fall in love with Herriot's Yorkshire and its inhabitants, both human and animal. Hilariously funny as well as dramatic and poignant. Try to save the excellent BBC series for viewing after you and your kids have finished the books. Like dessert.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A teenager I know recently remarked of the current cinematic incarnations of Holmes, "They had to change the stories to make them interesting." Wrong! For Sherlock Holmes fans or mystery lovers in general, it doesn't get any better than this suspenseful, other-worldly tale set on the desolate moors. (See Roger Kimball's How to Reform Primary Education.)

Also not to be missed:

Half Magic and others by Edward Eager. A huge favorite of daughter #4. Maybe I can get her to say a few words about it. (Asked her -- she says Edward Eager is like E. Nesbit but better.)

The Moffats and others by Eleanor Estes. The Moffats books make my top-ten list of kids' fiction.

The Freddy books by Walter Brooks. Silly old-fashioned American fun with a multi-talented pig as the main character. Twenty or so books in the series.

The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen. One of the most beautiful stories ever written.

The Princess and the Goblin and others by George MacDonald. An enthralling read-aloud.

For pre-schoolers:

Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik: Don't let your kids or grandkids grow up without Little Bear. No need to bother with A Kiss for Little Bear, but the three linked above are required reading.

Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel: Also necessary to childhood. You have no idea how often we've finished up a house-wide search for missing keys with the phrase, "What a lot of trouble I have made for Frog."

Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown. I love this book. I've tried to link to the tiny, fur-covered edition but it's hard to tell, so buyer beware.

A House is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman. A tour-de-force in ballad form, in which everything is a house for something else. Infectious, in a good way.

Browse here for many more titles. I'll be adding others to our Amazon store in the coming days so check back if you've got young readers on your list.

A few other items recycled from last year's post:

Classic television:

Get Smart -- Kids watched and found out where dad got all his jokes.

All Creatures Great and Small -- Wonderful, and not just for anglophiles.

The Prisoner -- Be seeing you!


3 Godfathers (1948) directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne. One of my all-time favorite westerns, and a Christmas movie to boot.

Gaslight (1944) starring Ingrid Bergman at (perhaps) her most incandescently beautiful. Excellent villain played by Charles Boyer. Very satisfying.

Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight

Bye Bye Byrdie (1963) starring Ann-Margret, Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh, and Bobby Rydell. What's not to like?

More movies and TV here.

Our Amazon store categories:
Books: non-fiction
Books for children
Books: fiction
Music: Various
Music: Sinatra
Toys & Games

Again, your Amazon purchases through this site are greatly appreciated. They're also sometimes surprising, like the reader who purchased not one but two Red Green video collections. I hadn't thought of that in decades. I think we might have an old taped-off-the-TV video cassette of Mr. Green and co. lurking in the recesses of our basement. Is it possible the show has improved with age?

Most recent posts here. Twitter feed here. Amazon store here.

November 11, 2011

The cowards of Penn State

Megan McArdle tries to understand the motivations behind monster Jerry Sandusky's enablers:

Actually, I can forgive the walking out. No, really, I can. I can imagine myself walking in on a scene so horrible that I couldn't quite believe that it was actually happening. I can imagine it taking me as long as five minutes to convince myself that no, really, it actually happened, and either walk back in there and do the right thing, or fetch someone else who would do it with me.

Like everyone else, however, I cannot imagine how a bunch of people somehow tacitly agreed not to do anything about it. [. . .]

But perhaps because the heart of the darkness seems so incomprehensible, we've mostly been talking around the edges--stating the obvious, over and over, as if the mantra could reassure.  It really goes without saying that we are outraged and saddened by these events--I literally almost vomited upon reading some of the grand jury report.  We are all agreed that this is awful, and also that yes, we should never forget the potential for evil that breathes within all of us.  It is virtually redundant to note that everyone involved in this scandal should be fired, and made to feel their bleak shame for the rest of their lives.

Saying all these things may be necessary, but it is not sufficient.  We're all still left with a large, unanswered "why?"  I am fundamentally a cynic: I believe that people will do almost any awful thing.  But I need a reason. And I cannot find one in any of this.
Perhaps it was simple cowardice. Brad Thor tweets:
Brad Thor: #Paterno & #McQueary are #PennState cowards who abetted a monster. Did the least amt possible. Real men do the right thing. #shameonthem.
Search "McQueary coward" and you get 38,000+ results. I'm tempted to add that our culture doesn't exactly promote children as a precious asset worthy of our protection, but maybe that's taking it too far?

See also:
Paul Campos: The Mystery of Cowardice
Now here is the detail that, among all the details in the Grand Jury’s extensive depiction of the morally depraved behavior of Sandusky, Curley, Schultz, Paterno, PSU president Graham Spanier, and McQueary, is perhaps the most shocking: Five years after this, in the spring of 2007, Sandusky was attending PSU football practices with his latest rape victim: a 12-year-old boy who he had met through a Second Mile camp conducted at PSU, and who he was in the process of, among other things, orally sodomizing.

At this point, McQueary was no longer a graduate assistant, as he had been promoted to an administrative assistant position on the football staff a few months after his meetings with Paterno, Curley and Schultz, and was made a full-fledged assistant coach the following year. So Mike McQueary and Joe Paterno were at the PSU football practices to which Jerry Sandusky was showing up with his latest child rape victim in tow. They saw him, there, with his latest victim. They could not have had any doubt, at that point, about what they were seeing. [. . .]

Football is a hyper-masculine world, within which it’s a common insult to use women’s genitalia as a synecdoche for insufficient toughness and bravery, but I’m quite confident the women I know best would have displayed far more sheer physical courage in a comparable situation than McQueary did – and that most certainly includes my 4’10” 100-pound Aragonese grandmother.
Much more. Read the rest. Also see:

Rod Dreher: Don't Be Like the Coward Mike McQueary

Mike McQueary Becomes Enemy No. 1

McQueary’s dad: ‘it’s eating him up not being able to tell his side’
I can't imagine anything he could say that would excuse his walking away from that boy.

For those with strong stomachs, here's the grand jury report.


Updated to add David French: Penn State and the Wages of Cowardice
It was cowardly for a 6′4″ graduate assistant to witness the rape of a child by an older man and not only take no action to stop it but also not even call the police. It is a sign of extended adolescence — no, extended infancy — that instead of doing anything to help a child in distress, he called his father, acting not like a man but like a child in distress himself.
Read the rest.


Just noticed this from Adrienne, which begs for inclusion: Where have the real men in this country gone?... are there any left? Any??

Many thanks to Doug Ross for linking.


Most recent posts here. Twitter feed here. Amazon store here.

November 10, 2011

Spirits about to get brighter

Forget all that stuff about Rick Perry's frozen brain, Herman Cain's female troubles, or Obama's impending Gangsta term. Let your hearts be light.

Mark Steyn and Jessica Martin's new Christmas CD is out!

Just ordered mine. I'd go for the instant gratification of the downloads but I love the decorative cases. Collect 'em all!

I'm very pleased to see that Mark's perfect "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" is on the CD. That's one of his greatest hits.

From SteynOnline:
The twelve tracks on Making Spirits Bright embrace songs from the 19th to the 21st century, by a wide range of writers from Johnny Mercer and Frank Loesser to Mariah Carey and Andrew Lloyd Webber, and in an eclectic range of styles from a full disco megamix of "A Marshmallow World" to the beautiful chamber orchestration of "O Little Town Of Bethlehem" and "It Came Upon The Midnight Clear". But throughout the album Mark and Jessica are committed to making spirits bright with breezy, swinging songs of Yuletide cheer, starting with the opening number, "All I Want For Christmas Is You", in which Steyn hits a new high, so to speak. From there, Mark and Jessica take off on a wild sleigh ride through "Jingle Bells", followed by their extra-nutty take on "Sweet Gingerbread Man" and the tale of "The Christmas Glow Worm".

We take things at a gentler pace for two Auld Lang solos: Mark asks "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?", and Jessica responds with "The Perfect Year". Then we bounce back with the brand new seasonal romp "Runnin' On Eggnog"; a jazzily romantic song from the Nineties, "Snowbound"; and a medley of J Fred Coots' perennial "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" with his lesser known "He'll Be Coming Down The Chimney".

"A Little Town At Midnight" is Mark and Jessica's re-telling of that long-ago night in Bethlehem. It's followed by the merriest "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and the "Marshmallow" megamix to end them all. Featuring sparkling arrangements by Kevin Amos and some of London's best musicians, Making Spirits Bright is sure to brighten your spirits this Christmas season.
Still no "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Maybe next year?

Mark talks a bit about the CD in part two of his excellent interview with Brian Lilley here. Enjoy.

Most recent posts here. Twitter feed here. Amazon store here.