The Story of the Little Black Sambo, by Helen Banneman.
A story about a boy who meets (and outwits) a bunch of tigers in the jungle. In the end, the tigers turn into a big puddle of melted butter, which the boy’s family uses to make pancakes for dinner. Originally written by a British woman in India, the story has a complicated story of its own, due to the controversy about racism and racial stereotyping in the character names and original illustrations. (The name of the protagonist, contained in the book title itself, is considered to be a racial slur.) Recent updated versions have kept the tigers, but lost (at least in many people’s eyes) the racist overtones. (To see how people respond to this book today, it’s interesting to read the reviews on Amazon of the original, as well as the updated books The Story of Little Babaji and Sam and the Tigers. You can also read the full text, without illustrations.)
Eeny, Meeny, miny mo: A children’s chant, used to select (or rule) out people as part of a game. (To pick who is “it.) Also somewhat tainted by racial controversy, though I’d never heard of the offensive variants till I was an adult.
Eeny, meeny, miny, mo
Catch a tiger by the toe
If he hollers, let him go
My mother says to
pick the very best one
and you are not it.
Life of Pi, by Yan Martel. The main character gets to know a tiger when both are shipwrecked.
Shere Khan. Mowgli’s nemesis (a tiger) in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book stories.
Leo the Late Bloomer, by Robert Krauss, Jose Aruego. A picture book about a tiger cub who takes his time growing up.
Hobbes. Calvin’s tiger companion. Looks like a stuffed toy when other people are around.
Tigger. The beloved and very bouncy tiger from A. A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Woods. Close friend to Winnie the Pooh.
To cheer you up on this holiday season evening, allow me to offer you a platter of freshly baked cookies. Actually, I don’t have any cookies, but I can offer you this Themed Things list of cookie-related goodness.
Some Cookies for You
That’s the way the cookie crumbles: an expression suggesting the resigned acceptance that an undesired event or outcome can’t be changed.
“Faraway Cookies:” Sandra Boynton’s touching love song about a yearning for cookies. (Off Philadelphia Chickens):
Oh, Chocolate Chip Cookies
so high on the shelf
hiding inside of the jar
I’m not tall enough
to reach you myself.
So near, and yet so very far
Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar? A song usually sung with young kids. Usually without any actual cookies or theft thereof.
Cookie Monster: a blue Muppet from Sesame Street who likes to eat cookies. And other things. Also known for his battle cry of “cookies!!!!” (He also sings, which you can hear on YouTube.)
The Gingerbread Man¹:
An folktale about a human-shaped cookie who comes to life and runs off, taunting those who chase him:
Run, run, as fast as you can!
You can’t catch me!
I’m the Gingerbread Man!
Cookies for Santa: A tradition of leaving a glass of milk and a plate of cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve.
I like to imagine improbable fortune cookie fortunes, but in case I can’t think up any of my own, there are fortune cookie generators available. This one is also one I lifted from the Raincoaster cookie jar. (She’s going to have to find a safer place to hide her cookies.³) This is the fortune I got:
In Amy Tan’s book The Joy Luck Club, one of the characters works in a fortune cookie factory and tries to nudge a suitor to propose by carefully planting fortunes in his cookies.
Girl Scout Cookies. Traditionally sold by Girl Scouts. (In fact, during my brief tenure as a Girl Scout at the tender age of 10, the only Girl Scout activity available to me was selling Girl Scout cookies.) I am also reminded of this scene from The Addams Family movie (1991):
Girl Scout: Is this made from real lemons? Wednesday: Yes. Girl Scout: I only like all-natural foods and beverages, organically grown, with no preservatives. Are you sure they’re real lemons? Pugsley: Yes. Girl Scout: I’ll tell you what. I’ll buy a cup if you buy a box of my delicious Girl Scout cookies. Do we have a deal? Wednesday: Are they made from real Girl Scouts?
¹ If you want to see some very attractive gingerbread men, Mad just posted some photos that make me want to get baking. Or at least make me want to visit someone who does some baking.²
² As further proof that this is the season for cookies, BipolarLawyerCook has posted not once, but twice on cookie-related topics. Cookies!!!
Slow and steady about sums up a lot of the work I do. Well, slow at least. Slow like a turtle.
Here’s a list of turtles for this week’s Themed Things Thursday. We’ve got turtles and tortoises, and possibly even some terrapins (though I haven’t identified any as such).
A Stack of Turtle Things
Yertle the Turtle, Dr. Seuss. As Lisa Simpson says, “this is quite possibly the best book ever written on the subject of turtle stacking.”
What Newt Could do for Turtle, Jonathan London.
A picturebook of friendship between 2 friends, a newt and a turtle, who live in the swamp.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Comic book characters, of the mutant turtle persuasion. And presumably adolescent. And possibly also Ninjas. Have branched out to TV, movies, and of course, merchandising.
Bert the Turtle, from the “Duck and Cover” film on preparing for a nuclear attack. (You can watch it on YouTube, and learn how even covering yourself with a newspaper can help protect you from a nuclear blast.)
Bert has a catchy song:
there was a turtle by the name of Bert
and Bert the turtle was very alert
when danger threatened him he never got hurt
he knew just what to do
he’d duck…and cover
The Tortoise and the Hare: A fable attributed to Aesop. A fast hare has a race with a tortoise, but loses since he figures he has time for a nap. The tortoise wins since he kept moving. “Slow and steady wins the race.”
The Great A’Tuin: The Giant Star turtle in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. The world (which is disc-shaped) is supported by 4 elephants standing on the back of this giant turtle. This is most likely based on…
Chukwa, from Hindu mythology. A giant turtle who supports the earth, sometimes also with an elephant on its back. (The turtle may also be standing on more turtles, such that there are turtles all the way down.)
chocolate turtle: Not really a turtle at all. Or at least not the reptilian kind. A confection of nuts (usually pecans) covered in caramel and chocolate, typically forming a dome shape that resembles a turtle.
turtle trap: When I was little, maybe 4 or 5 years old, I thought that people had called this one Sausalito shopping center a turtle trap. I’m not sure at what point it became clear to me that people had called it a “tourist trap.” Not being clear on the concept of tourists, I assume I’d interpreted the word I’d heard as “tortoise,” then remembered it as “turtle.” To this day, I still think of that place as the Turtle Trap. Especially since I can’t remember its “real” name.
“Turtles are quiet.” A page from Leslie Patricelli‘s most excellent book Quiet LOUD. The book is full of quiet things, and loud things. But somehow this is the one we remember when trying to encourage Phoebe to be quiet: “Quiet like a turtle.”
“I like turtles” I just saw this in a post on riddlebiddle, but it has apparently been making the rounds for months. And kicked off a lot of video responses. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, have a look at this video on YouTube (It’s only about 17 seconds long.)
A turtle at our local zoo. Or a tortoise at our local zoo, if you want to be particular. Or if you want to be British about it.
Halloween’s around the corner. One thing this means is that people break out the creepy crawly decorations to get festively creepy. It’s harder to get much creepier or crawlier than spiders. So I offer you a whole mess of festively creepy crawly eight-legged critters for this week’s Themed Things Thursday. Enjoy. (Or shield your eyes, depending on your feelings towards spiders.)
A Few Spiders
Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White. A novel featuring a very smart spider who could weave a remarkable web. One of my favorite books of childhood.
Little Miss Muffet
A nursery rhyme about a little girl who was frightened off her tuffet by a spider.
“The Spider and the Fly”, a poem by Mary Howitt. A poem best known for a first line that doesn’t actually appear in the poem: “Step into my parlour, said the spider to the fly”. Here’s how the text actually begins. (You can read the full text here.)
Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly,
‘Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I’ve a many curious things to shew when you are there.”
Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.”
Seven Spiders Spinning, a kid’s novel by Gregory Maguire, an author best known for writing Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.
Anansi: A spider who is a trickster character in many West African folktales.
Spider-Man. (Or Spiderman.) The superhero of comics, cartoons, and the more recent liveactionmovies. A man was bitten by a spider and got spider-themed superpowers. Such as a spider sense. Which tingled. (When I’ve been bitten by a spider I’ve gotten a red welt. I guess you could say it tingled. But I wouldn’t.)
“Spider-Man,” the song. The theme song from a cartoon version of Spider-Man. Since performed by a variety of artists, including Moxy Fruvous and the Ramones.
Does whatever a spider can
Spins a web, any size,
Catches thieves just like flies
Here comes the Spiderman.
“The Itsy Bitsy Spider” A children’s folk song. About a small spider, itsy bitsy even, who went up a spout. Then down, then back up.
“Spiders,” a song by Joydrop
When love was fresh like a web we’d mesh
Nothing felt better than your flesh against my flesh
One fatal slip one rip a tear
Touch me now and every single hair on my body stands on end
So don’t touch me anymore
‘Cause it feels like spiders
Like spiders all over me
Like spiders all over me
It: a book by Steven King and miniseries based on the same. Involves a big evil spider. (And a clown.)
Shelob: A giant, nasty spider from the Lord of the Rings
Aragog: A giant, nasty spider from the Harry Potter books and movies
Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)
A TV movie with William Shatner, about evil, venemous spiders that infest a town.
A movie about evil, venemous spiders that infest a town.
A few other random spiders include: spider(a type of pan, basically a frying pan with legs), web spider, Alfa Romeo Spider, Spider (2002), and spider veins.
Fall has fallen here in the northern hemisphere, and in my neck of the woods, this means it’s apple-picking season.¹ Which seems like as good a reason as any to pick apples for this week’s Themed Things Thursday.
Apple of my eye. An expression meaning one who is most dear to the speaker.
The Big Apple. A nickname for New York City. One source identifies its origins from usage by African-American stablehands at a New Orleans racetrack in the 1920s. (Wikipedia says it was first used by touring jazz musicians in the 1930s.)
Snow White. A fairytale in which a girl falls asleep after eating a poisoned apple.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. A saying suggesting that eating apples is good for the health. I found a bit on origins of the saying:
From “Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings” by Gregory Y. Titelman (1996): “An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Eating fruit regularly keeps one healthy. First found as a Welsh folk proverb (1866)” ‘Eat an apple on going to bed,/ And you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.’ First attested in the United States in 1913…”
Adam’s apple. A bump on the front of the neck, tending to me more prominent in adult males, from the “forward protrusion of the thyroid cartilage.” Likely nicknamed based on the Biblical story of Eve giving an apple to Adam.
Newton’s apple. A falling apple (which may or not have bonked him on the head) may or may not have contributed to Newton’s theory of universal gravitation.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. An expression meaning that the offspring will often turn out like the parent(s).
Apple Inc.² A company. Makes computers. One line of which is named after a type of apple, the macintosh. Has a logo shaped like an
apple with a bite out of it. Has a variety of iProducts: iMac, iPod, iPhone, iCup…
An apple for the teacher. An apple is known in the US as traditional gift to give to a teacher. (The fruit, not the computers. But I bet most teachers would appreciate getting an Apple.) Has (probably) led to apples showing up on greeting cards and coffee mugs as symbols of the teaching profession (along with rulers, blackboards and squid). (No wait, scratch that last one. I was just checking to see if you were still reading this.)
¹ We live in an area with many apple orchards, and Phoebe even got to go apple picking with her daycare last week. I hope we’ll get to go together some time this year. Late October last year, we went to a nearby orchard that grows over 50 varieties of apples. Pick-your-own season was past, so our experience was less about apple picking than apple choosing. But it was still fun. And the apples were yummy.
² I read that Apple Inc. officially dropped “Computers” from its name earlier this year. I hadn’t even noticed.
Parrots are frequently to be seen on the shoulders of pirates¹, specifically of fictional pirates. Captain Flint was a pirate’s parrot in Treasure Island, the pirate novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. More recently, we’ve seen the pirate in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
Parrots have been featured in various folktales from around the world, like 2 Buddhist folktales from India “The Brave Little Parrot.” (who puts out a forest fire²) and “The Steadfast Parrot” (who is faithful to a tree) and an Italian folktale (involving a prince who has himself turned into a parrot).
Other moderately famous parrots include Waldo the Parrot, from Twin Peaks (who seems to have been present, and biting, the night of Laura Palmer’s death) and Parrot, the parrot with biting sarcasm from the Terry Pratchett novel Faust Eric
Our blueberry-picking excursion of the weekend has me thinking about berries. Mmmmmm, berries.
I love berries. And so do lots of other people. Berries show up in muffins, pies and other baked goods. Also in lots of books and folktales, and few songs. Plus a few other places you wouldn’t expect to find berries. Which is how berries ended up in my list of themed things.
Jamberry, by Bruce Degen
A book of a bear, a boy, and many, many berries. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. And silly rhymes.
Pick me a blackberrry
Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey
A picturebook of berry-picking and bears, and mistaken identity.
Blueberry. The name of my stuffed bear I got from my mother for my fourth birthday. I still have him.
Violet, the gum-chewer of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the book by Roald Dahl, and the moviesbased on it) turns into a giant blueberry.
Firefly & Buffy. Maybe Joss Whedon has a thing for strawberries. In Firefly, strawberries are a luxury item and valued commodity. A box of strawberries is what Book uses to convince Kaylee to take him on as a passenger in the pilot episode. In the Buffy Season 6 episode “Wrecked,” the creepy Rack tells Willow “you taste like strawberries.” (I also feel like there was a scene in the bronze at some point where some random dancing person gets briefly turned into a giant strawberry. Am I imagining this?)
Strawberry Shortcake. The doll. The cartoons. The empire. I still remember the commercials for the doll from when I was little. I can still hear the song, with it’s mockable swellness:
My she’s looking swell!
Cute little doll
With a strawberry smell.
The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear, by Don Wood Another picture book. About a mouse. And a strawberry. Also some mention of a bear.
Blackberry . One of the rabbits from Watership Down, by Douglas Adams.
BlackBerry. An electronic device. John had one for a couple of years. He would sometimes throw it when he got email because it would irritate him so much with its onslaught of interruptions.
Blowing a raspberry. Okay, it has nothing to do with berries. It’s when you make a sort of continous spitting noise by sticking your tongue between your lips and blowing, or by blowing through loosely closed lips. I have no idea why it’s called a raspberry.
Knott’s Berry Farm. Not actually a farm, and not so much berry-ish. It’s a large amusement park. But the founder did sell berries.
Frankenberry. A cereal. Berry-flavored. Also a cartoon character from the cereal box and commercials. Has a bit of a cult following. (There also seem to be some other meanings to Frankenberry, as seen on Urban Dictionary, but they seem pretty lame to me.)
Finally, here are a few berry songs that I picked for you:
Raspberry Beret, Prince (Okay, not really about raspberries)
Blueberry Hill, Louis Armstrong (Not really about blueberries)
Strawberry Fields Forever, the Beatles (…nothing is real…)
Shall I part my hair behind?
Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers,
and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing,
each to each.
The peach story of Zhang Daoling, founder of a sect of Taoism. Followers had to prove their faith by leaping an improbable distance to pick peaches. (Did they dare to pick a peach?)
James and the Giant Peach
The book by Roald Dahl, and animated movie (1996) based on the book. Involves a boy and a journey in a…giant peach.
momotaro The old Japanese folk tale about the “peach boy.” An old woman finds a giant peach floating down the river, which turns out to contain a boy. She and her husband adopt the boy and name him James. No, wait. Taro.
Another, possibly older version of the momotaro tale involved the older couple eating an unusual peach they found, being rejuvenated by said peach, and then…gasp…having sex, leading to the birth of the peach boy.
Peaches have often been associated with sex, and their cleft shape has been likened to buttocks. Apparently in several cultures, such as in Japan. There’s also A Pathan song (which I read mentioned in M. M. Kaye’s The Far Pavilions) is said to contain the following lines:
There is a boy, across the river
With a bottom like a peach
But alas, I can’t swim.
There’s a South Carolina roadside attraction that is a water tower shaped and painted like a giant peach. It’s said to look like a big orange butt.
Peaches, by the Presidents of the United States. (Hear the song, and see the video. But I warn you, this is a song that can get stuck in your head. It was once stuck in my head for days. Insidious, I tell you.)
moving to the country
gonna eat a lot of peaches
I’m moving to the country
I’m gonna eat me a lot of peaches
peaches come from a can
they were put there by a man
in a factory downtown
if I had my little way
I’d eat peaches every day
The Ripest Peach, a poem by James Whitcomb Riley. Likens a woman to a peach (that’s out of reach):
The ripest peach is highest on the tree —
And so her love, beyond the reach of me,
Is dearest in my sight. Sweet breezes, bow
Her heart down to me where I worship now!
There’s the expression “be a peach.” As in “you’re a peach,” “he’s a peach,” or “she’s a peach.” Means more-or-less “be nice.” There was a Bloom County comic strip once about Reagan, where one character argues for his impeachment, and another talks about what a nice guy he seemed, leading to the line “impeach the peach!”
¹ It’s Summer now, for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, just today is the Summer Solstice, starting off the official Summer season by some calendars.
It’s time for another helping of Themed Things Thursdays. It being vegetable week here, in honor of my first pick-up of my CSA veggies, this Thursday Theme for Things is vegetables. Okay, the list is a bit heavy on the onion bits (with apologies to those who don’t like onions), but you can pick them out.
Jack and the beanstalk, a fairy tale featuring magic beans that grow a towering beanstalk.
The cartoon character Popeye (The Sailor Man) gets super-duper strong when he eats a can of spinach. Even has a little song he sings when he gets all juiced up: I’m strong to the finish, ’cause I eats me spinach…
The Kids in the Hall offers Cabbage Head, a man with cabbage for hair. (There are also the Cabbage Patch Kids, scrunched-up looking dolls that were all the rage in the 80’s, and that now have their own urban legend.)
Peter Peter pumkin eater. A nursery rhyme. Also a song you can play on the piano using only the black keys.
Peter Peter pumpkin eater
Had a wife and couldn’t keep her
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well
peppers Peter Piper A nursery rhyme and tongue twister: “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers”
carrots Bugs Bunny is known for his trademark carrot-munching. But did you know that his carrot-munching was a Clark Gable immitation?
Bugs Bunny’s nonchalant carrot-chewing stance, as explained many years later by Chuck Jones, and again by Friz Freleng, comes from the movie, It Happened One Night, from a scene where the Clark Gable character is leaning against a fence eating carrots more quickly than he is swallowing, giving instructions with his mouth full to the Claudette Colbert character, during the hitch-hiking sequence.
Everybody’s favorite spud has got to be the ever-dignified, interchangeably featured Mr. Potatohead (Apparently, there are many new Potatohead varieties that have sprouted, including the venerable Star Wars Darth Tater
“Sweet Potato,” by Cracker. (Off the album “Kerosene Hat”) A rockin’ romp of a song. Be my sweet potato, I’ll be your honey lamb
yams Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. Yams play a central role in the Nigerian community depicted in this novel. (See? I can get all literary, too.) (By the way, these yams aren’t the same as sweet potatoes, which are often called yams in the US)
You can’t get blood from a turnip, or “You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip” (You can also find more garden-variety cliches) An expression meaning that it’s not possible to extract something from a source that doesn’t contain that thing.
The Onion (“America’s finest news source”) My own favorite Onion article? This eerily prescient one from January, 2001.
Shrek (2001) An animated movie featuring an ogre who likens himself to an onion:
Shrek: Ogres are like onions. Donkey: They both smell? Shrek: NO! They have LAYERS. There’s more to us underneath. So, ogres are like onions. Donkey: Yeah, but nobody LIKES onions!
The End: Book the Thirteenth, the final installation of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket begins with the following layery, teary-eyed, oniony sentence:
If you have ever peeled an onion, then you know that the first thin, papery layer reveals another thin, papery layer, and that layer reveals another, and another, and before you know it you have hundreds of layers all over the kitchen table and thousands of tears in your eyes, sorry that you ever started peeling in the first place and wishing that you had left the onion alone to wither away on the shelf of the pantry while you went on with your life, even if that meant never again enjoying the complicated and overwhelming taste of this strange and bitter vegetable.
Bok Choi Boy, the story of a young lad raised by vegetables to become a legendary leafy-green fighter for truth, justice and better nutrition. (Okay, I made this one up.)
a whole bunch o’ different oversized veggies June 29, 1999 written and illustrated by Caldecott award-winnder David Wiesner. A picturebook featuring gigantic vegetables raining down from the skies. A beatifully illustrated, beautifully absurd book:
Cucumbers circle Kalamazoo. Lima beans loom over Levittown. Artichokes advance on Anchorage.