Thursday, May 31, 2012

Happy Birthday Edith Hope Fine - June 1

Happy Birthday Edith Hope Fine - June 1

A garden can bring worry -- even for the First Lady. "What if the seeds or seedlings were not set in correctly and we ended up with empty beds?  What if we couldn't control the weeds?" said Michele Obama when she was reflecting on the White House Garden project. ( In addition to worry, a garden can also bring lots of work -- the preparation and the WEEDS...the maintenance and the WEEDS!  Many families would say that it isn't worth it and would rather buy their produce at the local farmer's market or grocery store. However, consider what Edith Hope Fine and her co-author, Angela Demos Halpin, learned while making school visits for their book Water, Weed and Wait, "We've been startled at how little the kids we've meet seem to know about how things grow.  Few youngsters could tell a lima bean seed from a radish seed." (Writing on the Sidewalk). Michele Obama remarked that the White House garden became a "learning garden".  Maybe the dirty hands and feet, the sweating in the heat, and the sore arms and legs are worth it. Worth it not just for the delicious vegetables but also for what a family can learn together.

Edith Hope Fine has published sixteen books including many picture books, biographies, and education books.  Some of her more popular titles include Cryptomania: Teleporting into Greek and Latin with the Cryptokids, Armando and the Blue Tarp School, and Under the Lemon Moon.  She is a former teacher and loves to return to schools for author visits to interact with children.  She shared in an interview with BlogZone, "I like to wrap up my presentations by reviewing my three lives, introduced at the beginning of my talks: the regular life, the reading life, and the writing life -- because kids need adult models who are anchored in the joy of exploring words and literature."

Thankfully, we read Water, Weed, and Wait by Edith Hope Fine this week. On the first page, Miss Marigold, the garden lady says to the children in Room 9 of Pepper Lane Elementary, "Look how your seeds have grown!" She very well could have been talking about our seedlings that we planted many weeks ago.  However, they were sitting on our deck waiting to be transplanted. I had all but given up hope to having a garden at our new house this year.  My plan was to do a container garden, but resigning to this reality really bummed me out!  We had a fabulous garden the past two years at our old house.  I really missed the established garden plot and the good soil that my children and I worked so hard to attain.

Water, Weed, and Wait was just the book we needed to inspire us to experiment with an area along the side of our house.  Edith Hope Fine wrote this book along with Angela Demos Halpin after a San Diego Master Gardener told them that "there were no school garden books for teachers to read to students."  Edith responded with, "Aha! That proverbial 'hole on the library shelf" that writers are always looking for!" (California Readers).  In this picture book, the students at Pepper Lane Elementary learn from Miss Marigold and their grumpy neighbor, Mr. Barkley how to turn an undesirable piece of school property into a something worth celebrating.

We decided to start our garden in an area that was "hard as a rock" just like the Pepper Lane Elementary project.
My son added all the compost from our compost bin that was the result of collecting our kitchen scraps all winter long. 
He added peat moss on top of the compost and the existing soil.  We have had lots of success with peat moss in the past!
My son is always willing get a little dirty!
In the past, I had always planned the garden layout.  This year, I let my children decide where all the seedlings would be planted.  They were just like Miss Marigold and Mr. Barkley!
They planted pumpkins on the edge of the garden.  They will try to train them to go toward the backyard and not take over the rest of our garden!
Squash plants take up a lot of space but we all love to eat them!
Watering is a job that always has volunteers.
 I hooked up a rain barrel right next to the garden too.
We wanted a few decorations for our garden so we painted some old pots with leftover chalkboard paint from painting my kids' bedrooms.  Now every time it rains we will get to add new faces or write different messages. 
My son decided to add some silly faces to our pots. (On the day this post was to be published my son drew mean faces on the pots and said, "These mean faces will scare the squirrels and rabbits away!")
Thank you Edith for writing a book that encouraged us to bring a garden to our new home.
I asked Edith if she would share a birthday memory, story or tradition. This was her lovely response:

Eric's email asking for birthday memories took me back in time to childhood in Michigan, my mind wandering old pathways during my morning swim.

Birthdays. I share June 1 with Marilyn Monroe and others (including Morgan Freeman, Andy Griffith, and Pat Boone).  Excellent timing - halfway round the year from Christmas.

Back in the day, birthdays were not the extravaganzas staged today.  My mom, not being what you'd dub a perfectionist, allowed our house to have what she called "that lived-in air." Our balanced Bill Ding block structures could stay up a week, teetering between living room and dining room. Thus birthday cakes, always homemade, were often, not surprisingly, accidentally asymmetrical. Mom haphazardly plunged small plastic holders with spiky ends (a monkey and a camel? were they pink? note to self - ask bro) with their skinny candles into the crumb-tinged icing. But every time, right in the center, a candle to grow on.  Pointy cardboard hats.  Birthday horns -- with a coil of paper that shoots out like a frog's tongue. Simple gifts like Chutes and Ladders. Always, always a book.

Nowadays the family, four grands included, has graduated from the chocolatey Cockeyed Cake from Peg Bracken's I Hate to Cook Cookbook, glopped together in the pan and slathered with cream cheese icing, to Mrs. Teddy Donahue's Lemon Cake, a fab bundt cake. If you promise not to tell, I'll reveal the key ingredients as Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme cake mix and instant lemon pudding.  We pretty much quadruple the lemon, starting with juicy yellow orbs from the back yard, lots of zest, and more lemon extract than called for in both the cake and glaze.  Enough to make faces squinch at the contrast of sweet and tart.

For me, this year's birthday is one to savor especially, and not just for the lemony treat.  I've had fun visiting schools this spring.  Just signed a contract with Random House Children's book for a sleepytime book for littles (2014!), my seventeenth book.  KPBS, our public TV and radio station, let us know the exciting news that our Armando and the Blue Tarp School has been chosen by One Book, One San Diego to accompany Luis Urrea's Into the Beautiful North.  And Barbara McClintock: Nobel Prize Geneticist, my first ebook, is out.  This well-received biography of the remarkable scientist who discovered "jumping genes" and won a Nobel at 81 went out of print, so I'm delighted to have it available again for young readers, with new cover, color photos, and links (free for Kindle today, June 1: Click Here!).

So here's to you Marilyn, and all you other June 1 celebrants. Wishing you luscious lemon cake with a splat of lemon sorbet, enough to make your taste buds tingle.

Thank you Edith for sharing your birthday thoughts! We hope you have a wonderful birthday!

Click here to download her Kindle Book Today, June 1, 2012 for free!

1. Edith Hope Fine's website
2. Edith Hope Fine on Armando and the Blue Tarp School - Lee and Low
3. Interviews - Writing on the Sidewalk, BlogZone, California Readers
4. Blue Tarp School children's musical by The Park Dale Players - YouTube (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
5. Cryptomania Website - CryptoKids + Educator's Guide and CryptoFun activities
6. Grammar Patrol Website
7. Armando and Blue Tarp School Website

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