Friday, September 28, 2012

That book is on Broadway!

“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan 

Peter and the Starcatcher @ Brooks Atkinson Theatre on Broadway

When we went to New York last summer we brought the kids to see Peter and the Starcatcher.  It is a slightly altered version of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson's Peter and the Starcatchers.  I had read the book a few years ago and really enjoyed it, so when I saw that it had been made into a musical, I knew exactly what show we would see when we went out to the big apple.  Nora (8) read the book last spring and really enjoyed it.  Amelia (11) tried it once, but didn't get into it and moved on to something else.  Maeve (5) can't read just yet, so the book hadn't made it onto her radar yet.  I didn't much care what the children thought, I knew I would enjoy it and just had to hope that they would too.

The production is recommended for ages 10 and up, so I was a bit concerned that it might not be a great choice for our family.  I didn't worry about Nora; as she had loved the book, and I didn't worry about Amelia since she's older and I figured the story would entertain even if she didn't want to spend time reading the book.  It was Maeve I was concerned about.  She's a kid who will tell you what she thinks.  She's not necessarily quiet about it either.  I read the reviews.  I was still iffy.  I visited the website.  I was still unsure.  Finally, I figured we'd go and hope that the twerp wouldn't be too vocal if she didn't like it.  I found the audio book on the Arrowhead site and downloaded it.  I figured we could listen to it on the way to New York and if everyone hated it, we could get tickets to something else.

From what I gathered by reading the reviews, this is a musical with less props than many of the other Disney stage productions.  We saw Mary Poppins a couple years ago, so we know how elaborate they can be.  It was also noted that many of the actors play more than one role.  My husband and I saw Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps several years ago, so I knew actors playing several roles could be masterfully accomplished.  The humor was found to be juvenile and at times confusing with it's 21st century punchlines in a story that is set in the time of Oliver Twist.  There were mixed reviews on whether these aspects of the show hit or missed.

We didn't listen to all of the book on our drive, but we listened to enough that the kids could grasp at where the story was going.  No one said anything about hating it, and that was enough for me to find the South Street Seaport TKTS booth and get the tickets.  For all of our trips to NYC, we've gone to at least one show.  We've always used the TKTS booth to get cheaper tickets.  You may not find tickets for everything, but you can check the website to see what shows frequently have seats available at the booths.  Since I don't have to see the same thing everyone else has to see, it works for me.  It's a bit more of an adventure.

How was the show?  Fabulous!  There aren't all that many productions (really, 2/11) that I would see again, but I would love to see this one again.  Maeve fell asleep shortly after intermission but, "I liked the part I saw".  The other two thought it was great, and we all laughed a lot.  Many of the  jokes were juvenile and others were about things that would not have been found in Peter Pan's time, but it amused me tremendously.  The actors moved seamlessly from one part to another.  The lack of dramatic effects left room for our imaginations to fill in the blanks.  It.  Was.  Awesome.  

It's a slightly different story than the book, but there was a clue in the difference of the titles.  Peter and the Starcatcher is the musical and Peter and the Starcatchers is the book.  Slight difference in titles, bigger difference in story lines.  In the same way that Wicked the book and Wicked the musical are different but both are good.  You have to think of them as separate stories.  I was fortunate enough to have read Starcatchers long enough ago that I didn't pick up on too many of the distinctions between the two.  The girls recognized the differences between the two, but it didn't seem to bother them at all.  Maybe that's something you lose as you get older.  I have to forget one version before I'm exposed to another.  

 It's been a couple of months since we saw Peter and the Starcatcher.  Nora started the second book not long before school started.  She's now onto the fourth in the Starcatcher series and it's often that she'll exclaim aloud while she's reading.  Naturally, she then has to share what she's read even though I haven't read any but the first in the series.  When I'm confused about what she's excited about she tells me that I should just read the rest of the books.  I suppose I should do that.  They're pretty thick books, but I don't think they'll take all that long to read.

If you're fortunate enough to get to visit New York City before the final Broadway performance on January 20th, I highly recommend you take this one in.  The show is planning a tour, but no dates have been announced yet that I can find.  If seeing a theatrical production is out of your price range, go to your local library and get the book by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.  The best part of the book is that it doesn't end after just a couple hours.  There are four books after the first one.

 Peter and the Starcatchers (Starcatchers Series #1)


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stranger danger, and the strangers who aren't so dangerous.

Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends.~~Shirley MacLaine

On our way home from preschool the other day Maeve brought up strangers.  As in, "Mom, you always talk to strangers."  I'm not entirely sure where this observation came from, but I thought it would make for a good blog posting.  What is the difference between strangers you can talk to and stranger danger?  At what point do you turn from fear of strangers into thinking them as just people you haven't formally met yet?   

"I don't talk to strangers, I bet they think that I can't talk."  I guess that explains why you can't tell a waitress how old you are.  At what point did I move from being afraid of strangers to realizing that strangers are people just like I am.  If I'm scared of them and they're scared of me, how ridiculous.  I'm not scary.  At least, not usually.  Strangers are just people I haven't met, and may never meet again.  No reason to live in fear of strangers.  They certainly can't all be dangerous.

How do you invoke a slight fear of strangers into a kid without making them so afraid of strangers that they can't "tell the nice woman how old you are"?  I'm glad I don't have to do it.  There are a lot of "stranger danger" books out there for kids.  A few of them have made their way into my house, and yet I have always felt uncomfortable telling my children that they should never talk to strangers.
Never Ever Talk to Strangers

I don't want my kids to be absconded by some devious stranger, and yet I don't want them to come away with the impression that all strangers are inherrantly out to harm them.  What's a parent to do?  Read the books to them, and then have conversations about what is and is not appropriate, and what to do in those situations. 

Did this fear of strangers somehow lead to our societal shift from community to self?  Did the fear of what may happen lead us to shut down daily life experiences that made us better as a society?  Did some people spoil things for the rest of us?  I kind of think so.  We were free to roam far and wide when we were kids, but my children have had to get much older than I was before they were allowed to go off on their own.  I need to know more about where they are and who they're with than my mother did.  I grew up in a rural area in the late 70's/early 80's, before small town kidnappings became big news.  Horrible things that happen to children are horrible, and hearing about it on the news has made us more cautious.  Not that that is a bad thing, but there is a difference between living in fear and living cautiously.

I suppose it's a learning process.  In our ever changing world, the dangers are always changing.  Dangerous one day, harmless the next; and vice versa.  Strangers are not inherrantly dangerous, but they can lead to situations that are.  It's knowing how to deal with those situations that makes the difference.  

I'm just glad that I don't have to try to explain this to a classroom full of kids.  I just get to muddle through this topic with my own children.

“If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them.” ~~Francis Bacon

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Toast with a great deal of butter

“your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”
Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Harvesting season is upon us again.  I finally got down to making zucchini relish late last week.  I finished cutting up all the vegetables and they looked so pretty that I had to take a picture.  Weird?  Maybe, but it sure is a colorful photo.  I love colors.  I love food.  I love reading.

My daughter came home from school last Thursday wanting a fried egg for her after-school snack.  What??  Where did that come from?  It certainly was a different snack request than I'm used to hearing.  Apparently, she'd been reading a Nancy Drew book on the way home from school and Hannah had made a fried egg for Nancy and it made her hungry for one.  I do have an interesting child.  She's also the kid who holds a great fondness for "toast with a great deal of butter".  This taste for toast done this way was acquired shortly after reading one of the Mercy Watson books.  Which one, I'm not sure.  Now, if only she'd pick up a book about sweet potatoes.

When you've spent your life immersed in the written word, books seep into everything you do.  I come from a family that reads.  I grew up loving peas porridge and hating split pea soup.  The exact same recipe was used to make each, but a nursery rhyme can't be wrong and everyone likes peas porridge no matter what temperature it is.  What other foods did we come around to because of what we read in books?  I don't know.  But I was intrigued by the idea of sugar snow via Laura Ingalls Wilder and visions of fair food danced in my head after Templeton's feast in Charlotte's Web. 

I may be older, but there is still a line that can be drawn between what I'm reading and what I'm making for dinner.  I'm much more likely to make pasta if I'm reading a book that takes place in Italy.  Reading Pearl S. Buck's books means we'll be having rice of one sort or another.  Because I'm older, I also spend more time reading actual cook books.  Perusing recipes leads to all kinds of adventures with food. 

Why not?  It's funny the way we can be altered by what we read.  One afternoon you're content getting an apple for our afternoon snack, and the next day; after a line or two from a Nancy Drew book, you may be requesting fried eggs. 

Our minds are like our stomachs; they are whetted by the change of their food, and variety supplies both with fresh appetites.
-John Quinton

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

School's in session!


You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives. ~Clay P. Bedford

I am so very happy to say that 2/3 of my children started school yesterday.  I'm even happier to say that the third child starts a four-day-a-week preschool next week.  I'm almost giddy with the thought of having a whole day to myself without anyone telling me they're bored, hungry, or don't want to do what I've asked them to do.

I love school.  I didn't love it when I went, but I love it when my children go.  They enjoy school as well.  At least so far they do.  I'm excited for them to begin a new year of learning new things with teachers that my kids are excited to have.  We've been very fortunate to have gotten great teachers over the years, and I certainly hope our good fortune continues.

There is a new reading program at the school this year.  As the libraries were all downsized, there are less books in the school library.  Many of the books are now in the classrooms.  Will my child break the school record for AR points again this year?  Somehow, I doubt it.  I found that many of the books in her room are books she's either read or are books that will only take her a couple hours to finish.  Granted, she's got a mother who works at a library and knows how to order books from other libraries, so she's got a chance.   

Sorry, not trying to start another fuss.  My kids are readers.  They read well above their grade levels.  They read fast.  I worry that they won't be challenged with the reading program.  But, it's only the beginning of the year and I'm sure they've got a plan for kids like mine.  If not, I work at a library and the girls can just let me know what they'd like to read and I can order it.  If you're in the same boat, you can order books for your child via the Arrowhead Library System site.  (Kids are so smart nowadays, it probably wouldn't take them long to figure out how to do it themselves!) 
You just need to know your library card bar code number.  If that's more work than you want, come into the library and talk to someone who works behind the desk.  Most of us have a pretty good idea about what kind of books your child might find enjoyable.

Right now, it's the first week of school.  It's still nice enough outside to just send them out once they get off the bus.  Once the cold air starts really blowing in, I'll get to work on searching out new books and authors for my kids to try.  Until then, they can re-read NERDS by Michael Buckley for the umpteenth time. 

National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society (NERDS Series #1)

You learn something every day if you pay attention. ~Ray LeBlond

Nerds are far more interesting humans in later life. ~Alyson Hannigan