Book: Seven Blind Mice

Seven Blind Mice
Ed Young
1992

This is a very cute story about seven blind mice trying to identify something in their environment. They have no idea what it is, so they each take a turn touching it to find out about it. Each one touches a different part of the object and comes to a different conclusion about what it is based on the part they touched. So one feels a column, while another feels a rope and a third thinks the object is a cliff. The seventh mouse runs all over the object and figures out that it is actually an elephant. The story is simple, but there is a lot of depth there.

The illustrations are wonderful. They are simple black backgrounds with seven different coloured mice. The elephant is always gray, but the objects that the mice think it is are whatever colour that particular mouse is. Thus, the purple mouse stands on a purple cliff and the red mouse touches a red column. The use of colour is really nice, since it clearly distinguishes the otherwise nearly identical mice. It also reinforces what each mouse experiences.

The writing is also excellent. It uses a lot of repetition, but that works very well for this story. I really like how this story focusses on sense of touch, which is fairly rare in books that aren’t touch and feel. It encourages kids to think about the way things feel. That isn’t done terribly often in children’s literature, especially not in high quality literature.

This really is a book that hinges on the combination of pictures and text. The text is simple and clear and the illustrations are simple and expressive, but without both the book would be very much lacking. They really work together to make a memorable and impressive book.

This is a great book and I highly recommend it. It is simple enough for the very youngest children, but it is interesting enough to use with older children too.

Publisher’s Description
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Runway Thoughts: Aquascutum

Today’s runway collection is the fall 2006 show from Aquascutum. I have had no real exposure to them before, so this was all new to me.

AquascutumDress1

The collection started out black and white, but it wasn’t at all oppressive like some of the others. Many of the pieces felt very light and airy. I like the pleats and movement in this dress. It’s cute and looks comfortable for a semi-dressy dress.

AquascutumCoat1

The coats in this collection were really interesting. They were very different. I love how this coat is just different from any other I think I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure about it’s practicality, but it’s interesting to look at would definately ensure that you are remembered! Many of the coats had something unique like this one. They were just about my favourite parts of the collection.

AquascutumOutfit1

I am not entirely sure what’s going on here, but I like this look. I think it’s a trench coat inspired waist cincher (probably without any real cinching) over a blouse. It’s very unique. I have honestly never seen anything like it. And I think it looks cool! I would totally wear this!

The end of this collection was spring colours with flower patterns on skirts and coats. Overall I liked this collection. There were pieces that I wouldn’t wear (most of the pastel stuff), but there were a lot of pieces that I would wear. The best thing about this collection, though, was that it was actually *designed*. Nothing looked generic. There were creative touches and things that I’ve never seen anywhere else, like the trench cincher. I liked the creative force of the show. It really felt like something different, which is all too rare!

Book: No Roses for Harry!

No Roses for Harry!
Gene Zion
Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
1958

This one of the “Harry the Dirty Dog” books by Gene Zion and is just as adorable as the others. It tells the story of Harry and his birthday present from Grandma, a sweater with roses all over it. Harry hates the sweater and tries every way he can to get rid of it. Eventually he manages to rid himself of the rose-covered sweater, but the Grandma comes to visit and wants to see him in it. He feels bad and wants to explain what happens, so he gets Grandma to take him for a walk and shows her what happened to his sweater. She forgives him and praises his generosity.

The story is very cute. I loved the episodic nature of it as each attempt to “lose” the sweater is shown. The department store scenes are particularly adorable, especially for Harry’s facial expressions each time someone returns the sweater to him. His shock when he actually manages to lose the sweater is also nicely done. Each picture fits the action described perfectly and expands the story. The pictures are mostly black and white with colour in important places (the sweater is green). This is nice, since it draws attention to the important items (like the sweater) and makes Harry (who is black and white) fit in well. The drawings really are adorable.

The writing is simple and clear. It uses a good deal of repetition, but never feels repetitive. This could be a good book for a beginning reader due to the simple sentence structure and strong picture clues. I like that there is almost a rhythm to the writing so that when you read it aloud the story flows beautifully. I really think the writing is a big part of why Harry stories are such classics.

This is an adorable book and I definitely recommend it. It could be a really fun book for a beginning reader as well as a great story to read aloud to a group! One can’t help but love Harry!

Publisher’s Description
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More on Standardized Testing

It was reported today that Pearson misgraded a good number of the SAT tests they had graded this year by up to 400 points (a full quarter of the 1600 possible total). The worst part of the story is that they only found out because two students complained. By this point, however, scores have already been reported to colleges in applications. And this isn’t the first time that the SATs have been misscored. Scores were done wrong for some students in Minnesota a few years ago causing them to be unable to graduate high school and sparking a lawsuit.

Why does our education system rely so heavily on standardized tests like the SAT? They are unable to accurately measure anything, yet we rely on them for everything from who gets to move to the next level of schooling to who gets into what colleges. There is a huge market in materials designed to give students the secret to high scores. Clearly there are some major problems with the system, and yet our education system relys on it more and more every year.

Why do we cling to this stupid system? Wouldn’t it make more sense for teachers, who presumably have a good grasp of how well their students are doing, to decide things like if a student should graduate high school? And what does it say about our college system that so many major schools ask only for test scores and grades to admit someone to college without requiring letters of recommendation or writing samples (essays). I think that only one of the colleges that I applied to six years ago actually required an interview. So what do colleges know about their applicants? Not a whole lot.

I just think that there needs to be a better system. I think that our current system of standardized tests is deeply flawed. Even if the tests truly were good at measuring anything, how can we rely on them so heavily when the scoring system is not only prone to inaccuracy, but missing any way of checking if the scoring is accurate? Students never see their tests again after they take them, so it isn’t very fair to rely on them to question their scores (especially when it is so difficult to do so even if you want to). Students cannot be expected to police the scoring system, particularly since they are so far removed from it.

If we want standardized test scores to mean anything (and given how the college application process works, I’m not convinced that it actually matters that they do), then the scoring needs to be consistant and accurate. I’m not reassured that the problems are fixed, especially given that they say that every time errors happen! I don’t understand the process well enough to be able to suggest a solution that has any hope of success, but someone must!

I would love to eliminate standardized tests completely, but barring that I still think the system needs to be heavily revamped. I find it rediculous that these problems are tolerated. There has to be a better way!

Runway Thoughts: Ralph Lauren

Today I’m looking at Ralph Lauren‘s fall collection. It’s classic chic, exactly what he is known for.

RalphLaurenOutfit1

What I like about this outfit is the shape and how much fun it is. I doubt I would wear it, but it’s cute. I could see wearing the top with jeans or something. It’s just cute and feminine and fun! The shape is pretty typical of this collection, too.

RalphLaurenOutfit2

This, again, is pretty typical Ralph Lauren. The jacket is wonderfully tailored to show off the model’s figure and she looks smart, attractive, and ready for business. The green color carried through much of the collection and looked very sharp, as well as different in a season full of black!

RalphLaurenCoat1

I love this coat! It has such a pretty, tailored shape and is so flattering. I could absolutely see wearing a coat like this nearly every day in winter. It’s just so pretty and feminine. I love the color, length, buttons, pockets, everything!

RalphLaurenDress1

This is really elegant dress. I could see a femme fatale wearing it! It’s elegant and sophisticated. It’s not quite what I usually look for in gowns, but it is beautiful and flattering. I could absolutely see someone wearing it to an awards show or something.

This collection was pretty typical Ralph Lauren, but for a brand that has such lasting appeal, that isn’t a bad thing. The pieces were beautifully tailored and very flattering. I was quite impressed. I would absolutely buy many of the seperate pieces in this collection. The gowns weren’t quite to my taste, but the business and casual wear were!

Book: You Are Special

You Are Special
Max Lucado
Illustrated by Sergio Martinez
1997

This is a very interesting picture book. It is a story about little wooden people with a very Christian undertone to the story (and is sold as a religious picture book). The story is about a village of little wooden people made by a man living on the hill (the man’s name is Eli). The wooden people walk around all day putting stickers on each other. Some people get star stickers because they are pretty or talented or just well-liked while others get gray dots because they are the opposite. There is one little puppet who always gets dots and is sad about it. Then he meets a little girl puppet who has no stickers at all. When people give her stickers they fall off. She says it is because she visits Eli every day. The little puppet visits Eli and is told that the dots only stick if he lets them and that Eli made him and loves him just the way he is.

Obviously, the story is pretty straight forward. That said, it’s not terribly preachy, which it very easily could have been. It reads like a story about little puppets and stickers, rather than a parable. Many of the religious picture books out there are so busy hitting you over the head with a message that they are not much fun to read. This story is well done and the story would be fun to tell or listen too. I think that kids with strong Christian backgrounds might get the message without being told, but other kids could easily enjoy the story just as well without clearly getting the message. It’s very well done.

The writing is excellent. It uses simple words, but doesn’t sound childish at all. There is repetition, but not too much that it gets boring. I would have liked a little more depth in the characters and world, but it doesn’t feel terribly lacking (and only so much depth can be realized in a short picture book). Perhaps the other books in the series would round out the world and characters a little more. I haven’t read any of Lucado’s adult books, but he has a nice voice that could lend itself very well to either genre. The book doesn’t seem written to be heard, but it reads aloud pretty well just the same.

The pictures are wonderful and full of expression. The little wooden puppets are each unique and the paintings have a nice old-world feel. In some ways the illustrations reminded me a lot of Pinocchio, but that isn’t surprising in a story about animated wooden puppets! The colours are muted, but do a good job of drawing your eyes to the most important things in the pictures. I loved the facial expressions, they were wonderfully expressive and real. There were also tons of details in the backgrounds of the pictures (tools on Eli’s desk, people walking around, trim on houses, etc.) that made them highly entertaining to look at!

This is a very well done picture book. It is clearly religious and carries the strong message that “God loves you”, but I could see it being used to teach the message to children of other religions as well as Christian children. And it is a good story even without looking at the religious overtones. I would have no problem reading this to a room full of children of different religious backgrounds (or no religious background at all). I do recommend this book. It is beautiful and entertaining.

Publisher’s Description
Max Lucado’s Website
Sergio Martinez’s Website
Buy it from Amazon

Runway Thoughts: Matthew Williamson

I’m looking today at Matthew Williamson‘s fall 2006 collection. I’m not usually a big fan of his designs, but his dresses tend to be pretty.

MatthewWilliamsonDress1

Look! Color! I had almost forgotten what it looked like! I like the shape of this dress and the way the skirt swishes too. It’s a pretty design and looks like it should be comfortable.

MatthewWilliamsonDress2

And then there was this dress. And several like it. It’s just a bit too much for me. The metalic scale part of the dress is just so gaudy! There were some in gold too. And the ruffles. It’s just all so much! I can’t handle it!

MatthewWilliamsonDress3

Ok, I like the skirt on this dress, but I’m not sure about the bib top. I just can’t picture how it would work on a woman who actually had breasts and I can’t help but feel that it’s very baby-bib-ish. But I love the layered skirt, it looks really pretty.

Most of this collection was fairly unappealing to me, but it has elements that I like. I guess I just kind of felt “eh” about this collection. I can’t say I would buy any of it, but there are pieces that I might wear or take apart and modify to wear.

Runway Thoughts: Temperley

Today I’m going to look at the fall collection from Temperley. I liked this collection a lot. It was, again, largely black and white, but it was brimming with beautiful details that gave it variety and distinguished it from the crowd.

TemperleyOutfit1

This top is fantastic. Look at the cool pattern! It just has so much drama. Everyone would notice if you wore this top! I think I’d want it lined in cream fabric or something, though. There were a number of showstopping pieces like this in the show.

TemperleyDress1

Every piece in this show had great details. I love how this dress flows and the flowers are a wonderful touch. This dress is just so feminine and pretty, but not overly precious. It is something I could see a very strong woman wearing when she wants to feel extra pretty for an event!

TemperleyDress2

Many of the gowns in this collection were beautiful goddess gowns like this one. It flows wonderfully and I love the simple trim. I know that goddess gowns are very trendy right now, but they are also pretty timeless and this dress shows exactly why. It’s classic and elegant.

I really liked this collection. It wasn’t quite my favourite of the season, but just about! The details were beautiful and the pieces were so elegant and detailed. Everything was just designed so beautifully. I would absolutely buy one of the gowns from this show if I had somewhere to wear them!

Runway Thoughts: Calvin Klein

Today I’m going to look at the collection from Calvin Klein. I usually like the clean lines of Calvin Klein, but their clothes also usually have shape. I didn’t like this collection at all.

CalvinKleinDress1

This dress shows two of the main themes in this collection – herringbone patterns and sheer fabric. Each of these things can be great, but together in completely shapeless dresses like this one they are a terrible combination! And what is with those shoulder straps? I just can’t figure out why someone would want to wear this!

CalvinKleinDress2

Again, the shape thing. This dress makes the model look like something between a Japanese Lantern and an uninflated balloon. And the extra bit of fabric after the strange sinching around her legs just makes it look weirder. Ugh.

CalvinKleinOutfit1

Um… this really is taking the sheer fabric theme to a place it didn’t need to go. I really don’t care what kind of underwear the model is wearing, thank you! And I care even less to show the rest of the world what kind of underwear I wear! Why would I ever buy this? Why would anyone (short of Paris Hilton or Bai Ling) wear this? I don’t understand!

CalvinKleinDress3

Ok, they made a completely sheer halter dress. Great. So what’s with the black bra with regular shoulder straps under it? It makes it look completely weird to have the halter strap over shoulder straps (especially since it doesn’t even cover the bra cups either). And I really can’t say that I like the non-shape or design besides that either!

I really didn’t like this collection. I don’t think that there was a single thing in it that I would buy or wear. I like things that have shape, flatter me, and don’t draw attention to my panties or bra. And I don’t think I’m that unusual in those requests!

Runway Thoughts: Balenciaga

Today I’m looking at the fall 2006 collection from Balenciaga. I know that it’s a big fashion house, but I really can’t say that I know anything about them. I can’t remember anything that I know is Balenciaga. And I’m not wild about this show, so that may explain it (if their previous collections have been like this one, anyway).

BalenciagaOutfit1

The show opened with this suit in four different plaid fabrics. The idea of this suit is ok (I’m sure it looked good on paper), but the result leaves a lot to be desired. The skirt pleats are odd, the jacket falls in kind of an awkward way, and the proportions are strange. And I hate the shoes. Aren’t the models tall enough at 6 foot whatever? Why do they need freakish, nearly unwearable platform shoes? And I can’t help but wonder what she is doing with her hands.

BalenciagaDress1

Ok, there were a couple of versions of this dress in the show. It just doesn’t work somehow. I like the idea of it, the anchor being used almost like a tie and the slightly dropped waist both could be really good, but it just doesn’t look right! The pleats in the skirt make it stick out really strangely. The pleating issue you see here ran through the entire show. Many of the skirts and dresses and even tops had this problem. I do like the jacket. The curly-cue collar is very cute and unique and it looks comfortable and warm.

Oh, and the hats? I don’t get them either.

BalenciagaDress2

Ok, the ruffle on this dress is so weird. It looks strange and has the same pleating problems discussed above. How would you hold your arms down at your side? How would leaning back in a chair work? This is not only impractical, but also ugly! It’s so strange! And there were lots of times this weird little mini-ruffle thing appeared. It showed up on the bottom of skirts and dresses, the hems of tops, and some of the skirts were basically elongated mini-ruffles that stuck out from the waist to look like they had short farthingales under them!

BalenciagaDress3

I think that this was the only dress in the show that I really liked. I still think the mini-ruffle is a little odd, but it kind of works on this fitted dress. Too bad this was about the only one!

BalenciagaDress4

The show ended with this dress in four different presentations. Only one used different fabric (a black and white print). The others were all the same white dress. On had a white scarf like this pink one and one had a blue headscarf that tucked under the dress in the front. I think this dress could be pretty, but it’s so straight as to be unflattering. One of the models almost looks like she was stuffed into a pipe!

Overall, I really hated this show. It’s just so very strange. There are clearly a lot of sixties influences at work here (there was even a pantsuit with too-short pant legs and sleeves), but none of them really work to make attractive or flattering clothing. We know it can be done (Marc Jacob did it a few years ago), so why is this so off? I just can’t figure it out!

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