Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sugarplums Dancing In My Head

In the last two years the Nutcracker has popped back into my life in a big way.  Last year my cousin's daughter danced the role of Clara.  Watching her brought back all of my ballerina years of tutus and toe shoes.  She was just beautiful!

This year I am watching it with different eyes.  My critique buddy, Kyra Ties, has been working for months redesigning the costumes for the party scene in the Northeast Ballet's production.  I can't wait to see her costumes under the lights!    It has truly been a labor of love for her.  In addition, her daughter is dancing in the production!

Although this is the Northeast Ballet's 25th production of The Nutcracker, the ballet has a much longer history.  With music by Tchaikovsky it first premiered the week before Christmas in 1892.  The Moscow Ballet has been performing it ever since and, as you know, it has become a staple of the holiday season throughout the world.

The classic tale was originally written by E.T.A. Hoffman and has been adapted into many books.  I think my favorite is illustrated and retold by Susan Jeffers.

There are so many other variations you can find in bookstores.  My suggestion is to take your kids to a local production followed by a bookstore visit to let them choose their favorite book to commemorate their special day!  It doesn't get more magical than that!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Dust Bowl - Three Books For Your Shelf

Did you get to watch Ken Burns' documentary, The Dust Bowl, on PBS?   It was riveting.  I only wish it were longer.  So you can imagine how excited I was to see a copy of Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan's companion volume to the special in the bookstores.  The Dust Bowl: An Illustrated History chronicles the epic 1930s environmental and human disaster with more than 300 photographs and numerous first hand accounts.

Another great book to read is Albert Marrin's nonfiction book, Years of Dust.  Marrin goes right to the heart of the tragedy and discusses the causes that led to it.  If you're looking for a title for your classroom, this is a great one to share with your middle schoolers!

I would be remiss if I didn't include Karen Hesse's award winning work of historical fiction, Out of the Dust.   Her beautiful spare language puts the reader in the midst of the Oklahoma experience.  Hesse will leave you craving a deep breath of fresh air as you follow the ordeal of 14-year old Billie Jo.