Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Summer Reading Assignment #1, 11 June, 2013: Henry Reed's Jouney by Keith Robertson

Summer is here, and while it's great to be outside doing things in the fresh air,it's also a great time to enjoy a good summer book! (Of course, you can do that outside in the fresh air too!) Over the summer months I'm going to talk about great 'summer' books to read with your kids.These are books set during the summer, so you'll feel part of the story. I'm in my 50's, so these are mostly books I read as a kid that I read to my kids when they were little. Some of them may be out of print, but they can be found at libraries,second hand bookstores,(Let's not forget to keep real stores alive.), on Amazon, Ebay, or your favourite auction site.
   First up is a book from a whole series of 'summer' books. Henry Reed's Journey by Keith Robertson is one of the Henry Reed series that also includes Henry Reed, Inc.,Henry Reed's Babysitting Service,Henry Reed's Big Show,and Henry Reed's Think Tank. They're all great books, and you may want to start with the first one, but this is my favourite. 

Henry starts out the first book as a 13 year old, son of a diplomat, who has travelled the world. Because he has never spent time in the U.S. Henry's father thinks it would be a good idea for Henry to spend the summer with his aunt and uncle in Grover's Corner,New Jersey, where Henry's mother grew up. Grover's Corner is a very small 'hole in the road' town of only a few houses, but Henry still manages to have adventures, even if they are unintentional.(Henry's uncle often chuckles and shakes his head, noting how something always seems to happen when Henry is around.) Henry Reed's Journey finds Henry flying into California, having been invited to travel across country with a family he befriended in Grover's Corner the previous summer. Henry spends a lot of his time searching for fireworks to buy, but he and his friend Midge still find time to start a gold rush, become honorary Native Americans, win an art competition,take in a parakeet and some horned toads, and create a commotion of one kind or another nearly everywhere they go. Remember that these books were written between 1958 and 1986, so a few references may not be familiar to your kids---or even to you! (For instance, at one point Midge is sure she has spotted movie star Tab Hunter.) But usually it doesn't matter, and if it does,that's what the internet is for, right?! Also, some things are outdated or politically incorrect these days:Native Americans are referred to as Indians, and Henry is a chauvinist. But you can use these as points to discuss the cultural differences of the times. Besides, Henry's chauvinist ideas are supposed to sound ridiculous. (It's very obvious that Henry's friend Midge is quite a match for him,intellectually, creatively,and otherwise.) The books are funny and clever and easily enjoyed by both kids and parents. The target age range for the books is supposedly 9 to 11,but depending on your child's interest I think you could start them a bit younger, and of course, I still enjoy rereading Henry every now and then! And what better way to kill some time on a hot, sweaty, summer car trip than to read about one?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday was my oldest daughter Emma's 22nd birthday, so we took a trip to the 'Big City' for shopping and a meal at The Cheesecake Factory. The meal was good, except I confirmed my suspicion that the only vinaigrette dressing I like really is the blueberry vinaigrette on the Bar Harbour salad at Red Lobster. (I love that stuff!) The shopping was mostly for clothes, (Although we did do Barnes and Noble),which is always a bit of a drag for me,since I am too fat and old for the clothes in the stores my daughter's shop in. Not that I don't like the clothes, I just don't like the me I have to put in them. (I like 'me' fine, by the way, just not the look of me. But I'm working on that.) If I fit in any of the clothes I wouldn't be so depressed by clothes shopping.I did some serious dieting last year and lost about 40 pounds. Some of it threatens to come back every now and then, but I have been able to keep it at bay and not gain any permanent pounds back so far.I've set a date (The day after my Dad's 90th birthday, in about 2 weeks),to start my diet up again in earnest. I have a lot more weight to lose and this time I need to gain some muscle too. For the first time ever, losing weight left me somewhat saggy last time. Age is catching up with me!
   Anyway, while we were shopping we came across the Disney Store in the mall. Gone are the days when any of my children actually want to go in the Disney Store I guess. It was only last birthday that it was Emma's idea to go in the Disney Store, and if they had had a cool Muppet, don't think she wouldn't still buy it. But this time it was me who asked to go in. They agreed somewhat reluctantly (time was an issue). I wanted to see if they had any cool Muppets too. Other than that, I really wanted to see the Animator's Collection dolls. I've seen pictures online and they looked really cute. I found out that in person they are still cute, and my favourites were Merida (I love that expression.) and Mulan.Plus I wanted to see what other really good dolls they had, especially the 11" Merida, from Brave. I have been wanting a Merida doll since they came out. (I wouldn't say no to her mother, either.) I wanted a Rapunzel from Tangled too.Then I recently went through a box of dolls I bought last summer but haven't done anything with yet,and found that I had one all along! She has the jointed wrists too, so I'm set. I saw  the 17" talking Merida, and she is nice. In fact, I was looking at her when I noticed the 11" Meridas that were on sale for $8! I totally embarrassed my daughters by suddenly exclaiming, "Eight dollars?! Eight dollars!" My husband started looking at them with me,(as my daughters scolded me for my outburst). Then my daughters said, "Just buy your wife one so she'll shut up." Aren't they sweet? Luckily my husband really is sweet, and for $8 he could almost afford to be. He helped me pick out a good one, and here she is.

  They had varying amounts of blush on various parts of their faces. My youngest, Ivy doesn't approve of my choice. She thinks blush on her forehead is going too far, but I liked the ruddiness on the bridge of her nose.

The regular line of Merida dolls sold elsewhere are always  super pale, which I also like. (I told my husband that I still want one of those Meridas too, and if I find one at a yard sale I still won't hesitate to buy it.) These Merida dolls have a more natural complexion, but still not as Ruddy as the character was animated in the movie. The eyes look slightly crossed, but she looks that way in the movie too.

I like that she has a bow and arrow, but why is the bow sort of flesh coloured? Look at it compared to her hand.

Ivy also complained that she has only one arrow. "Who only has one arrow?"

Maybe she has been shooting? Maybe she lost them. It's not going to be very much fun for the child who gets this doll and tries to fire the arrow. How long before they lose that one and have nothing to shoot? I know when I was a kid I would have been making her shoot that arrow. (Ivy says, "Who are you kidding? You were trying to do it now.") At least if they had given her more arrows there would be more of a chance she'd have some left. It wouldn't have added more than a couple of pennies to the cost of making the doll.So that's a thought.
  Here are some points:
  She has jointed wrists, so she can be posed as if she were shooting the arrow. Or whatever...
   Her dress is very similar to the dress she wore in the movie, although I see it more as wool, or maybe velvet, but it definitely shouldn't be shiny. I know the toy companies think little girls want everything to be shiny and pretty, but even as a kid I wanted things to be as realistic as possible. There must be kids like that out there too.And there are beautiful things that aren't shiny and tacky. They could have put some fake laces at the bust where her dress laced up too. Come on.Make it like the real one!

Her cape is pretty cool. Love the little clasp detail.

Her hair is darker than in the movie, and darker than most of the regular line of Merida dolls. I love Merida's hair. I used to have Merida's hair. 
Here I am in the 80's with my big Merida hair. Please try to ignore the unfortunate patch of sunshine on my nose! (And mouth, and chin...)
Apart from the colour, they don't make it curly all over like it should be. In the movie the curls  are smaller and all over her head, but the dolls just have big curls about halfway down. And I just know this hair is going to be stiff and probably parted in the back semi permanently, from the way they have it all pulled to the front to make it look full in the box.
   They make it almost impossible to get her out of the box. In order to take out all the stitches and twisties and tape to take her out you have to take the whole box apart. This is why very few kids will still have the box to this one!


And here she is out of the box,looking slightly perplexed.

Her hair isn't quite as stiff as it looked. It did have that part in the middle though. With some careful combing I managed to get it to join together,but it still wants to part there.
Kids would probably ruin the curls trying to fill that hole. With all the stiffness in the hair combing is probably going to create a frizzed out mess
  She's more jointed than I thought she'd be. Besides her neck,shoulders, and hips, she's also jointed at the elbows,wrists, knees, and ankles. Her head is on sort of a ball joint, because she can look up,down, and around a bit, and not just side to side. I forgot to take pictures of this, but it's only my second post. I'll get better.
  For being so jointed she's not as poseable as she could have been. She can't get her hands very near her face for example.
I read somewhere that you can file down the inside edges of the joints (where they rub together when the joints are bent) so that the joints can bend further. It looked like it worked pretty well on the before and after pictures they showed of the doll they tried it on.I haven't tried it, but I might experiment on a Liv doll.  
  She could also have done with a waist joint, like a Liv doll for example. And when she sits her legs go out to the sides. (Not a very ladylike pose.)

Her bow is just strung with string, not elastic, so you really can't shoot the arrow. I'm very disappointed!
  Just for the heck of it, here's a doll I'm making that my husband keeps calling "The 'Brave' girl". She's not very pretty, but she has personality...and some awesome hair.

You can't really tell in these pictures, but her eyes are glossed so they look wet like real eyes, and her mouth is actually open, not just painted that way.
 I gripe about the inaccuracies of the Merida doll, but I realize no one is ever going to make a doll exactly like the character looked in a movie. Usually you would have to combine the qualities of a lot of doll versions of the character to get one that came really close.Toy companies seem to spread the accurate points around;one doll with the right hair, one with the right dress,one with the right face, etc. This is why collectors took the head from the Audrey Hepburn doll and used it to replace the head of the Barbie as Eliza Doolittle dolls. The same thing happened with the Mattel Scarlett O'Hara doll head, and the Barbie as Scarlett  costumes. All in all I really like this Merida doll. I think kids who love the movie character will think she comes pretty close to the animated version. I just still wish I could shoot that arrow...