Amy’s Books & Writing

Musical Setting of Little Beaver

 

Here’s a short video of me reading Little Beaver and the Echo to a musical setting composed by Bill Trevaskis and performed by pianist Lois Shapiro at Waterman’s Community Center on North Haven Island (Maine).

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Tooth Sleuth!

tooth-sleuth

The Princeton University Cotsen Children’s Library has come up with a great activity around losing a tooth, inspired by Cousin Ruth’s Tooth. Thanks to everyone who dreamed this up and put it on their creative blog! Click here for instructions.

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The Way a Crow

The way a crowGE DIGITAL CAMERA

shook down on me

a dust of snow

from a hemlock tree

has given my heart

a change of mood

and saved some part

of a day I had rued. 

              –Robert Frost

This poem popped into my head one day when I’d gone skiing through a hemlock forest after a really bad morning. And it really and truly did give my heart a change of mood. Thank you, Robert Frost.

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Kennedy’s Death: The Day Before

I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in an event at Symphony Space in New York called “Nov. 21: The Day Before” which asked artists to create work around the idea of the day BEFORE Kennedy’s assassination.  Here’s the short essay I wrote, from the perspective of the 12-year-old I then was. (NY Times review of event.)

The photo is of me with two other artists who participated in the event: Sabrina Small (center) who created artwork to accompany my reading; and Mimi Herman, poet.

symphonySpace.jpg

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Why Read Fiction?

 “It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” –William Carlos Williams

In  a hard economic world, where classrooms at every level seem increasingly designed to be vocational training grounds and little else, where the three RRR’s (which included reading and writing) are being replaced by the hot new acronym STEM, where the new Common Core language arts standards insist on a shift away from fiction into non-fiction (and by non-fiction they include maps, and menus and manuals), in a world where the man who spearheaded the Common Core notes that employers are not apt to ask someone to produce a “compelling account of his childhood” before tackling that market analysis…In such a world, why should fiction be a part of a child’s education?

Because fiction, as William Carlos Williams notes, provides life-giving sustenance:

It can be a friend when we’re lonely, a refuge when we’re overwhelmed. And children are often lonely and often overwhelmed.

It supplies the pleasure of recognition—wow, someone put my own thoughts into words—as well as wonder at the new: who knew?

It takes us inside ourselves. It takes us outside ourselves.

It makes us explore, as nothing else can, the most intriguing question of all: What if?

It makes the strange familiar—we don’t ever have to have lived on a farm to know exactly what Wilbur and Charlotte’s barn looks and feels and smells like.

And it makes the familiar strange: a boy’s bedroom becomes a kingdom of wild things.

It makes us stretch our minds and use our imagination and ask uncomfortable questions. It comforts, inspires and reassures. It scares and stimulates.

Absolutely, it’s important to be able to read maps, and menus, and manuals. And market analyses. It’s also important to be able to journey to where the wild things are, and back home again.

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Email of the Week

224028-LDear Amy
,

My husband Jim was curious where you learned the math trick that Aunt Mattie and Uncle Philbert talk about in the book [No More Nasty, p. 91]?  Do you know if it has an official name?  He was curious how the 3-digit method works.  My husband is good with numbers and my daughter was amazed that she could put the numbers in the calculator as quickly as her dad could solve them on paper using this new method.  Any information would be appreciated.

Thank you, Kim

Dear Kim,

The official name is “Multi-Qwik, Uncle Philbert’s Patented Homework Reducing Time Saving Three Step Multiple Digit Multiplication Method.” Really. It was invented by a friend of mine when he was in grade school, and it really does work. He figured out that he could do his math homework quicker that way, and he actually DID get in trouble with his teacher for doing his math this way, instead of how the book said to do it.
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. And it really is patented.
Yours,
 Amy MacDonald
P.S. Click here for Classroom Activities related to the Multi-Qwik math trick.

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Nice Review of “Big Front Tooth”

Review of “LIttle Beaver and the Big Front Tooth”

In the Daily Mail (gulp). Huge circulation but not my favorite newspaper.

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Little Beaver Illustrator Shares Her Sketchbook

Sarah Fox-Davies, illustrator of Little Beaver and the Echo as well as the just-out (in England) Little Beaver and the Big Front Tooth, shares some of her process in illustrating the new book. Read about it here.  Several sketches and a finished illustration are below…

Image:

Image

Thanks, Sarah! It’s a beautiful book!

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“I like words”

Uncle Philbert & Aunt Mattie

“I like words.”

That’s how a would-be screenwriter once started a job application letter. “I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady…. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde.”  Aside from landing the author a job, the wonderfully witty letter (here)  is a testament to the amazing richness of English, a language that combines the best of Anglo-Saxon’s bluntness (ooze), Greek and Latin’s multi-syllabic gravity (mortician), and the Romance languages’ elegance (demi-monde).

I too like words. For years I collected strange words: words I heard old-time Mainers use; words I gleaned from reading the dictionary (yes, I read dictionaries for fun; how else am I going to find a word like fubsy?); archaic phrases no longer in use; or nonsense words my mother’s family invented. My file bulged with weird words.

When I started my chapter book series (No More Nice, No More Nasty, Too Much Flapdoodle), I found the perfect use for them. I had created eccentric characters—Great Aunt Mattie and Great Uncle Philbert—and I wanted them to have distinct ways of speaking.  Mattie was somewhat refined, so I had her use my favorite archaic words, like Pecksniffian or rodomontade.  Philbert was a farmer, more earthy than Mattie,  so it was natural for him to use the old-fashioned Maine terms, like jizzicked.

Lastly I had Mattie and Philbert use some whimsical made-up words. Like Mattie, my mother used to greet her children each morning by asking “How does your corporosity seem to gashiate?” To which the answer was: “Very discombobulate, great congruity, dissimilarity.” I didn’t know what the words meant, it was just what you said in the morning. (Nor did I suspect that ours was the only family to greet each other this way.

   Favorite 5th grade words

Children, too, like words. Many children’s book writers are afraid to use language that is above grade level, but during school visits I’ve found that kids love the challenge of strange new words.  In fact, they liked the obscure words so much, they were doing things like searching dictionaries to find their own weird words (above).

The strange vocabulary did create some problems. I had to do battle with Flapdoodle copyeditors who insisted on changing downstreet into ‘down the street’ and putting a would in front of druther. I’ve also gotten lots of queries from readers about what the made up words mean (not to mention from the German translator having a, well, conniption, over how to translate gashiate). To all of whom I say: you’ll have to discombobulate an answer yourself.

Some favorites from Too Much Flapdoodle:

Flapdoodle: nonsense.

Fub: mess up or mess around.

Weewaw: crooked.

Muckle: grab.

Whiffet: a small, unimportant person.

Hole in the snow: worthless (like a hole created by, well, whatever).

Teakittle up: tidy up.

Gormy: slow-witted, clumsy.

As in: That gormy cuss has been fubbing around with my fence all morning  and it’s still weewaw. He’s a real hole in the snow. As for you, you young whiffet, cut out the flapdoodle, muckle onto that mop, and help me teakittle up.

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Maine Debut of Little Beaver

Had a great time watching Scarborough 1st and 5th grades perform the Maine stage debut of Little Beaver and the Echo last night. Thanks!

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