Friday, September 24, 2010

Books to read while the canning pot boils

I promised I'd share a booklist for what I've come to think of as our "squirreling away" project (our current investigation of storing up food for winter, focused in part on the comparison between us and animals, especially squirrels.) The books we're reading now have some overlap with last year's autumn book basket, but as we read, we have a different perspective found through the lens of our recent experiences foraging, collecting acorns, making jelly, and picking and eating apples.

I'm afraid this might become a marathon post, so I'll break it into a few smaller ones (you know I tend to go on and on about children's books!). These are the food-storage by humans ones.

Have I told you about Librarything? It's one of my all-time favorite online tools. I've used it to catalog all my books. It's super-helpful for teachers or parents who want to follow up on children's very specific interests, because you can tag all your books with whatever keywords you want. After years of going to the school librarian asking "can you think of any books about string?" (for one of my most-frustrating examples) and ending up with only one non-fiction title from the computer card catalog, I am thrilled to be able to find all the books I've got that show inspiring uses of string. (If your kids--like many of those in my past classes--happen to be into string, you may be interested in my collection of books tagged "string,"or in the books tagged "string" by anyone on librarything.)

So, for example, as I began to notice the children's interest in all the food preservation that was going on around them, and in acorns, and squirrels, I searched my librarything catalog for "food storage," "canning," "squirrels," "acorns," "apples," and "foraging." Here are some that I chose from those that came up (for a group that's currently a 1 1/2-year-old, 3 2-year-olds, a 3-year-old, and a 4-year-old).

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. Of course. Is there any more classic, more beautiful story about the experience of gathering food for the winter? And it's about both people and animals. And that picture of the kitchen on the endpapers? I could move right in, and I find myself spending as much time discussing that illustration as reading the rest of the book! (And the fact that Sal is playing with a spoon and canning rings rather than toys? Perfect.)

Autumn Story by Jill Barklem. The mice gather berries just as we're doing. And the illustrations of their well-stocked pantry shelves full of canning, and ceilings strung with drying food, and baskets and baskets of berries covering the floor? Fabulous.

Let's Find Out About Fall by Martha and Charles Shapp. One of the advantages of vintage books is that they come with vintage assumptions: like everyone's gathering stuff from their garden and preserving it for winter. Just a brief mention, here, but I like normalizing "weird" habits like local eating by having them come up in many ways in many books.

Frederick by Leo Lionni. A twist on the old "The Ant and the Grasshopper" fable, except that here, the "lazy" one is an artist, gathering the sun rays and colors and words the others will need as their food stores run low. A good reminder of the different gifts we each contribute to our communities.

Hurry, Hurry, Mary Dear by N. M. Bodecker and Erik Blegvad. What a score when I came across this one at a library sale! "Pick the apples, dill the pickles, chop down trees for wooden nickels. Dig the turnips, split the peas, cook molasses, curdle cheese." Etc, etc, etc...all the tasks Mary takes on to prepare for winter, while her husband lazes about. Great illustrations, so much to talk about, and a reflection of all the skills (and more) I'm trying to learn and share with the kids.

By the way...if you click on a link and find yourself at IndieBound, and then buy a book through there from your local independent bookstore, I should theoretically earn a bit of change (hasn't happened yet). If you find yourself at Librarything, it's because IndieBound didn't have it and I want you to see the book without finding yourself at an online giant retailer.

Coming up next...books about apples and acorns and squirrels, oh, my!


growandresist said...

Nice post! I also love the image at the end of Blueberries for Sal. Sweet!

Anonymous said...

I read Blueberries for Sal when I was young. I still have it somewhere. I always loved the pictures and the end one was most interesting to me. Thanks for bringing back a memory.