30 May 2010


Summer Study, Volume 2

One thing I wish my brothers and I had done while reading Maniac Magee was put up a progress tracker. The natural reader in me finds such props superfluous (My growing/working/living library--I have yet to decide on the perfect participle--is the ultimate progress tracker for me!), but I can't afford to be a snob where my brothers' reading is concerned.

I showed them one of my many "teacher's guides" and told them we could: a) thread beads on a string, b) raise a caterpillar, c) heat up a thermometer, d) slice up a necktie, or e) grow a beanstalk . . . And for some reason, they really went for the beanstalk.

Though I wanted to take pictures of the beanstalk as it grew--so that the progress tracker could have its own progress tracker, because it's fun to be really anal like that--we simply keep forgetting to replace the batteries in our digital camera. So the only thing I'll be posting is the final picture of our paper plant. Expect it in a couple of weeks.

The original design is supposed to be 3D: run a green ribbon between the ceiling and the floor, and attach leaves all around this stem, spiral staircase fashion (or whatever works), for every chapter completed. (For advanced readers, I suppose, it is one leaf for every book read.) We improvised with a 2D model, taping the stalk to the refrigerator and adding leaves on each side to track our progress.

We reached a different sort of landmark the other night, the kind that requires more than a leaf. Cue-card Boy was reading from our current novel, Sixth Grade Secrets by Louis Sachar:

"'Laura walked very slowly out to recess. She stood on the steps in front of the school and watched the other members of Pig City salute each other; five girls and two boys. She was their leader. Somehow, she had to be strong. George Washington never complained about the cold weather when he was at Valley Forge--'"

Camera Man interrupted: "Who's George Washington?"

I answered: "The Emilio Aguinaldo of the United States."

Then Cue-card Boy asked, "What's Valley Forge?"

And I heard the glorious angelic choirs of serendipitous opportunity.

"Valley Forge," I began, "is the place where . . . Maniac Magee spent part of his winter when he was between homes!"

Then we took the battered copy of Jerry Spinelli's great novel back off the shelf and reread the passage proving that Maniac was at Valley Forge. And I silently patted myself on the back for being such an excellent reading guide.

Yes, Valley Forge also has something to do with the US Continental Army, but that's not really the point here. What is important is that my brothers and I have reached our first cross-reference. To commemorate this, our beanstalk is going to have to grow a magic bean . . . or something.

Image Source: Sixth Grade Secrets by Louis Sachar (1987)


paul bowman said...


paul bowman said...

(And here I'd succumbed to thinking of Valley Forge as an exit outside Philly. Isn't there a mall there or something?)

Sullivan McPig said...

"And I heard the glorious angelic choirs of serendipitous opportunity."

I can so picture this scene! :-D

Enbrethiliel said...


Mr. Bowman: I really wouldn't know! =P But as far as Maniac Magee goes, the place has been conserved as a historical landmark (which is only right) and the only new infrastructure are replica cabins and such.

Sully: And hear it, too, I'll bet! ;)

paul bowman said...

I joke a little. It's been preserved as a historic site. There is a mall or two in the neighborhood as well, I believe.

christopher said...

Paul: King of Prussia Mall.

Sorry, ma'am, just had to share my knowledge :)

Enbrethiliel said...


King of Prussia Mall?!?!

Are you serious, or is this an American joke I can never hope to understand?

*goes to Google*

OMG. It's true.


Thank you for sharing your knowledge, Christopher. I'm impressed and moved, as always.

christopher said...

When I was in high school, I'd skip and drive to every historical place/landmark within three hours driving distance (when I wasn't going to the track...). I used the bathroom at that mall once, maybe twice lol

Enbrethiliel said...


I think the boys will be more impressed by your visit to Valley Forge's than by Maniac's!

christopher said...

But the "boys" probably think I SERVED at Valley Forge, don't they?

Enbrethiliel said...


Wait a minute. You mean you didn't???