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Archive for February, 2017

Alphabits

Not long ago I was lamenting to someone about a childhood cereal I enjoyed, Alphabits. I liked how it was crunchy, how you could make words with the letters, and the taste. I can still taste it.

And then they had to new and improve it. I think that was some time in the seventies. It was new alright, new chemicals, new flavor, but it sure wasn’t improved. I never ate it again.

Until now. I was sure they didn’t make it anymore, but as I went down the breakfast cereal aisle at Wal-Mart, there it was, on the top shelf. Alphabits. So, I bought a box just to try it out. I didn’t think it would taste like what I remembered and it doesn’t. Not even close. There’s not even the right odor to it. It actually tastes like sweetened cardboard and has a weird texture. I won’t be buying it again.

As I’m eating it in the morning, I do enjoy the first taste, it’s sugary, like a confection, but I can’t place it. It doesn’t fill me up like my other cereals do, the ‘healthier’ ones. I’m kinda thinking they’re not as healthy as they claim, but I do love my cereals in the morning. Over Christmas my sister and I ate a coffee granola cereal I found in the discontinued cart. Not bad. Crunchy and solid. It definitely filled me up.

I’ll finish my Alphabits and as I do I’ll think of the toy I bought by collecting boxtops. I don’t know what type of cereal it came from anymore. I got Goldilocks and the three Bears, mainly because of the bears. Amazing what a cereal can make you remember.

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Eleven year-old Oscar and his father live for the train set they’ve put together over the years. Oscar dreams of climbing aboard the Lionel version of the Blue Comet as he lays his head on the grass of the layout to stare in the passing toy train.

The Blue Comet. The Golden State Limited.

Oscar lives for the trains.

The stock market crash of 1929 changes everything. Oscar’s father loses the house. And the trains. Oscar has to live with funless Aunt Carmen while his father looks for work in California. Then Oscar meets Mr. Applegate and goes on the biggest adventure of his life.

 

The book is illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline and his drawings add a ‘wow’ factor to the already wonderful travel, fantasy, adventure story. When I picked up the book I wasn’t aware of them, but as I started to read they really pulled me in.

I loved the real life characters interspersed within. I don’t know how many kids will recognize Dutch and Mr. H, but I sure did.

This book would be a great companion with the books Hugo and the Polar Express and for anyone who loves trains. Or just anyone who loves a good story. It reminded me of the Lionel Train set my parents old at a garage sale. I was crushed. I’m sure they pretty much gave it away.

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My last post made me remember me telling my mother that on all those houses they show on the HGTV channel we’ve seen any with bookcases full of books. Seriously. Some don’t even have a single book anywhere. Today we watched an episode of Property Brothers with a family of four in their cluttered home and I didn’t see a book anywhere. Sad.

My mother and I watch HGTV in the morning. First a look at the weather (my mother seems to think it’s always raining even when there is full on sun shine outside), then a scroll through the news (politics and more politics), and then HGTV. We don’t watch long, just during the time between she takes her first pill and she eats. She has to wait thirty minutes between the two events. To keep her occupied I turn on the TV. How long she watches depends on her headache and how interesting the show is. I was set to turn the set off today, but the amount of clutter the family had tossed around the house astonished us.

I also use HGTV to figure out what I want in a house. The draw for me is bookshelves. We saw a picture in a book where there was shelving in the hallway! Now that’s my kind of house. Mom asks where the library will be, the home library. I keep telling her the whole house is going to be one. I mean, she has it in her house. Even the kitchen has some books. At my old house the only room without books was the tiny dining room and that because there wasn’t any room after you put the table in. And the bathroom. I don’t want to potentially damage the books there.

I hope one day I will find a show in which the house owner has books, lots of books. I’d like to see how they cope with that, with the moving or the renovation. I guess I have to keep watching.

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I’m reading through the children’s section, going backward Z to A because that’s just how I decided to do it. As I go, I’m reminded of authors I’ve read long ago, books I’ve enjoyed. So when I get to an author I like, I’m all excited. Yes! I can reread by favorites. Except they’re not there anymore. Where is ‘The Bully on Barkham’ Street by Mary Stolz. Or ‘The Ornament Tree’ by Jean Thesman? Come on, I tell myself. If they have Robert Westall, they should have plenty of books by these authors.

I look in the card catalog. No ‘Bully on Barkham Street’ and it’s companion ‘Dog on Barkham Street’. I always thought it was so cool how one book was about the victim and the other about the bully. I was crushed there was no ‘Ornament Tree’. Hopefully I have a copy somewhere. With my books squashed and scattered about I’m not sure what I have at the moment.

It made me sad to think of all these great authors and all their work being disregarded and not read. Some of the books I see on the shelves just can’t compare. So many are so alike – kid spy, kid wizard, etc. But I guess if the kids read will read them, then so be it and it’s a good thing, but they sure are missing out.

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Barbary is tired of waiting. She’s already waited twice to board the shuttle to the transport ship that would, should, take her to the space station Einstein. If she didn’t make it this time, why bother? She has to get on board. Except it doesn’t look like she will, not with all these people going ahead of her and there’s only one seat left with two people vying for it. With her a nobody, just a kid waiting to join her new family, she doesn’t have a chance. Yet, at the last minute she gets her reprieve. She’s on her way, she and her secret she’s stored in her pocket, the reason why she can’t wait any longer – her cat, Mikey. They’d send her back if they knew.

Turns out Mikey isn’t the only secret. On board the shuttle Barbary learns why there are so many dignitaries are on board – an alien space ship is approaching Earth and no one knows if it is a derelict or manned.

 

This is one of the books on my shelves, that I bought and couldn’t give away over the years. When I first read this, when it came out in 1986 it was the book I wanted to write. Finally, a science fiction novel in which the main character is a girl. After all the Robert Heinlein and Lester Del Ray and Isaac Asimov children books I devoured, here was that bucked the trend of the science nerd boy who has a space adventure while his doll obsessed, noodle-headed, sister(s) stayed home baking, cleaning, or sewing.

No. This one featured a girl, two girls rather, and they went out in space and had an adventure. Mind blowing. I so waited for another book like this by Ms. McIntyre, but never got it. A pity. She made a seamless move from the early children sci-fi books. She includes technology information like the earlier greats, but not so you wanted to skip over it.

There’s plenty of action in this book. If you find it, it might be hard, it’s well worth the read.

 

 

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