Friday, December 23, 2011

The Tiger's Tale: Chapter 3: Attack!

On another island, on the other side of the Caribbean Sea, there is another island. It is usually avoided since where the inhabitants of Striper’s island all live in harmony and peace, the animals on this island are terrible and cruel, and no one had ever survived an attack from them. Unfortunately, there is much on Striper’s island that their new chief wants. The animals on the island are getting ready for an attack. Several days later, their ship is spotted on the horizon of Striper’s island. A horn is sounded to warn the animals to stay in their homes. But Striper is frightened by the sound and jumps into a nearby bush. He is overlooked by the anxious eyes of his parents. Luckily though, the eyes of the creatures of the other island though much more ferocious, have no better eyes than those of Striper’s island so he is also overlooked by the evil eye of a jackal passing by at that moment. Oh, what is he to do?

The Tiger's Tale: Chapter 2: The Lesson

Striper’s parents are getting anxious, so they call a 8 year old tiger to teach him to be bold. The tiger’s name is Ms. Topaz and she is very strict, so Striper is reprimanded a lot of the time. The 1st lesson is reading of bravery, which he passes with flying colors, due to his love of learning. The 2nd Lesson is not so easy, however. He is to learn not to be caught off his guard, and no matter what Ms. Topaz tries, he always is alarmed at the slightest sound. On the 3rd night of Striper’s training, Ms. Topaz speaks to his parents. “I cannot see why he has such trouble in my classes.” she says. “He is afraid of everything! “He will have to work on many things.” Striper’s parents are still anxious. They can only hope for the best.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Tiger's Tale: Chapter 1: Striper

Far away, out past the Caribbean Sea, there is an island. The beasts that inhabit this island all live in harmony. One of these beasts is a tiger named Striper. He is 4 years old, and almost an adult. He attends the Academy of Education for Young Beasts. In 1 year he will graduate and go off to raise a family of his own. He has only one problem. He is afraid of everything. The sound of the owls fluttering by carrying their books at the Academy causes him to jump. The only time he is able to ignore his fears is when he is studying his hardest in a pouncing or history class. His friends Growlson and Scarletheart cannot understand him. No one can. His mother has tried many times to help him, but it has become clear to everyone that if it can be done, he is the only one who could teach this subject to himself. It may seem hopeless. But it is not. Not quite.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I Was There On The Night He Was Born (A Sheep's Tale)

My name is Fluffer. I'm a sheep from around 2011 years ago, and my shepherd is horrible with names. It's not very shocking, though, seeing that his name is Kevin Doobler. But enough about that. Let me tell you a story. One night, I was up at the pasture with Baason (another of Kevin's name-victims) and Kevin himself. Nothing ever really happened in my life until that night. I was quietly chewing a piece of grass when suddenly, a blinding flash made me choke on and throw up the grass. My eyes were bad enough already. I saw a golden, flying, person singing to the paralyzed Kevin and almost screamed. The whatever-it-was pointed towards a star, and I became blind (almost). Kevin began walking towards the star and I followed him. Eventually we came back to my stable-except there were many strange people in it! I quickly galloped to the manger to get a quick snack-but there was someone already in the manger! There were other shepherds surrounding it, and dudes in gold crowns too. There was even a funny little chap tapping on a little wooden drum. Only after this scene back in my stall did I hear what had happened. I never get let in on things. But then, who talks to sheep?

Monday, December 19, 2011

How to Make a Toy

Hi, I'm Santa. This year I'm starting making toys early, since last year I waited until February and I almost didn't make enough toys. Since Mrs. Claus failed to iron my work overalls yesterday I'm going to have to wear my suit which I usually only wear on Christmas Eve nights. Oh, well. To work, now! First, I'll make a teddy bear. Oh, which drawer had the fabrics in it again? Ah, here it is! Now, where are the scissors? Honey, where did you put the scissors? Oh, right, I left them on the work table! Alright. First cut the ears, the head, and the arms. Next cut the waist, the legs, and the feet. O.K., now to stuff him. Oh, frostbite, where did I put it? Ah, thank goodness. Okay, he's all stuffed. Now I need the sewing machine. Argh, where could it be? This is ridiculous. Thank you, Merry. This is going to be a looooooooooooooong year.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The First Time I Flew

I'm Dasher. Now, 3 days after Christmas with nothing to do, I start to remember the first time I flew. The rest of the crew and I were only 4 months old. Cupid was babbling about how he'd be the best flyer of us all, and Vixen was moaning about how the wind would mess up her newly combed fur. Comet was being a nuisance by doing victory dances and shouting "I can't believe I was chosen for the team!" in people's-no, reindeer's faces. Me? I was just plain nervous. What if I found out in the middle of the air that I couldn't fly? What if I crashed? What if I got left behind? From Rudolph's expression, I could tell he was feeling the same way, and gave him a comforting nudge. Then an elf emerged from the door. Santa was with him. Santa got into the sleigh. The elf gave all of us a carrot and told us to eat it when he said "Takeoff!" He waited a moment then "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, takeoff!" I gobbled my carrot. It tasted like sugar. For 1 moment, nothing happened. Then, I felt my feet lift up off the grass and saw the other reindeer's doing the same. So much for What if... No. 1! I was flying!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ode to a Chaotic House (inspired by Aunt Rita's card)

Crashing down the stairs,
Wait--what's that I hear?
I think somebody's drumming
On their new toy Mickey's ear.
The baby just woke up,
I can hear his cry.
I think somebody's dropping brand-new crayons
From the sky.

Oh, chaos here, chaos there, chaos up the stairs!
I'll always have to live with it--
Now, Henry, drop those chairs!
No, not on Maggie's foot...

Santa's Overalls

I'm Mrs. Claus. Yesterday was the day after Christmas and we had the usual long list of things to do. When I got back to the kitchen, Jingles had eaten all the leftover cookies. This morning I made peppermint pancakes for breakfast, and we all drank freshly-squeezed gumdrop juice. I sent Stockings out to give the reindeer their candied carrots. He should be back by now. I need to start ironing Santa's overalls, since he'll be needing them this afternoon. Actually, I should probably start the day with some fresh air, and go tend the peppermint sprigs growing in the garden. Oh, look! They're already turning red and white. They grow so fast. Okay, now I can start those overalls. No wait! Bell says she can't undo the locks on the reindeer's pens to take them out for their walks.. I'd better go help. There you go, Bell. Ah, now I can start on those--------wait, what's that my watch says? It's lunchtime already, and I still haven't ironed my husband's overalls. Sigh.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

'Twas the Day After Christmas

Hi, I'm Jingles. I'm an elf. Yesterday was Christmas and we elves are helping Mr. and Mrs. Claus tidy up the house. So far, I've gotten Mr. Claus's sack into the wash, helped Merry and Bell shine up the bells on the reindeer's harnesses (one of Bell's favorite jobs), and helped Mrs. Claus tidy up the kitchen by eating the leftover cookies. There were some presents that hadn't been needed so I helped Wrapper and Ornie (short for Ornamento) distribute them to our fellow workers. My best friend Stockings was sitting in a corner knitting hats and scarves when I found him. "Merry Christmas," he muttered, and handed me a pair of gloves. They were red and white striped and a perfect fit. "Thanks," I told him. I can't wait for next Christmas.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On "Girl with a Stick" by Pissarro

In the forest, I poke about in the dirt with a stick. I do not know why mother asked me to wear my hat today, since it is warm, sunny, and cloudless. I find a worm caught on the end of my stick. I shake it back into the dirt. It wriggles off towards the garden. Next I find a root on the end of the stick and accidentally uproot the whole delphinium. Oops. Mother won't be happy, the delphiniums are her favorites. A bee buzzes over and tries to land on my hat. Luckily, it changes its mind and goes for the uprooted delphinium instead. I am beginning to get hot. I decide to go back to the house for something to drink. What fun you can have in a forest.

Monday, December 12, 2011

One Christmas Eve

I'm Comet, Santa's reindeer. Santa just saddled me to the sleigh and I'm next to Cupid, as usual. Jingle, an elf, is waving the take-off flag. We push off the icy ground and the sleigh soars high up in the air. I wish Cupid would lose that flea. The first stop is a little house in Finland. Rudolph (you know, that super-shy reindeer at the head of the sleigh) touches down on the roof and Santa slips down the chimney. I hear the tree rustle as he stuffs the stockings with goodies. He did the same in Brazil, Africa, China, and Australia, and many other places as well. At our last stop, where we are bringing a pillow pet, fire truck and squinkie carriage, I smell carrots. When we get back to the workshop at 3:00 a.m., I hungrily devour my share of the scrumptious vegetables. Joy to my stomach, I think as I drift into a deep Christmas sleep.

On "Victoria, Princess Royal and Albert Edward, Prince of Wales" by Thomas Musgrave Joy

In the living room, my baby brother Albert sits with his rattle. I am giving Blackie, our dog, his morning biscuit. Albert can't help because he is only 6 months. My name is Victoria and I am 4 years old. Blackie is 1. He is old for a dog. Albert giggles and shakes his little golden rattle rapidly. There is a ball on the floor. Blackie, after devouring his biscuit, sinks his teeth into it and rolls about. He is so funny.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Once in Ratopolis, 2 rats named Victor Swissenstein and Henry Gouda finished at Muenster College. At that time, the city was going through the Great Cheesepression (they could not find enough cheese) and Victor decided to help by creating a snake that could reach places rats couldn't. When he was almost finished, he decided that to help it see better he would install a light on the top of its head. He found one and managed to get it on. For one moment, he thought it had worked- but then a spark of electricity flew down from the bulb and sizzled on the snake's head. The snake swelled and hissed a great hiss, and though Victor tried to stop it it slithered out the door of the lab and into the streets of Ratopolis. A giant form of one of ratkind's greatest enemies was loose in the city.

During the weeks that followed, there were many close calls and much damage was done to the city of Ratopolis. No one could think of a way to stop the giant terror and Victor still confided in no one that he had been the monster's creator. Almost a month passed before finally Victor realized he would have to tell someone, and so late one night he and Henry Gouda sat together as he told him the whole story. Henry sat for a long time until he finally told Victor "We need to get rid of the light bulb."

The next morning the plan was ready to be carried out. Victor lured the snake to his lab with an egg, and when they got there Henry was ready with a large jar. Victor tossed in the egg and the snake stuck its head in to grab it but got stuck. It thrashed wildly until finally the light popped off and it became motionless . The light landed in a test tube and inspired the invention of what we call the "flashlight." That was the end of the Great Cheesepression since the cheese miners could then see what they were doing.

The End

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On "The Secret Garden"

Title: The Secret Garden
Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
Main Characters: Mary, Dickon, Colin, Martha, and Ben Weatherstaff
Summary: Mary Lennox's parents die and she is sent to live with her Uncle Craven at Misselthwaite Manor. There she finds out about a garden that no one has entered for 10 years and a robin shows her the key which has been buried. She enters with a boy named Dickon and they help bring the garden back to life. Back at Misselthwaite Manor Mary meets a boy named Colin whom everyone believes will not live and shows him the garden. By the the end of the book, Colin can walk. My favorite part is when Colin stands for the first time.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On Renoir's "Julie Manet with Cat"

In the living room, I sit in a large, comfortable chair with my cat, Ginger, asleep on my lap. It is 12:00 in the afternoon and I have just finished my grilled cheese sandwich. Ginger fell asleep with her face in her milk during lunch, and my brother Pierre yelled across the table when he saw her. We mopped her up and now she's curled up on my white and golden skirt. She's a tabby, and some of her stripes look golden, too. I am thinking about falling asleep. Pierre is apparently thinking about it too, because he is arranging a pillow and blanket and lying down on the sofa across the room. Ginger purrs in her sleep. It sounds like she is having a good dream.

On Manet's "Gare Saint-Lazare"

At the train station, my mother and I wait for our train. We are going to my Aunt Lauren's wedding and I am to be the flower girl! My dress is short-sleeved and light blue with an indigo sash. Our train should arrive at 11:00. It is 10:45. Our dog, Mr. Tiny, yips. Apparently he either does not like the silence or the story in my mother's lap upon which he is sitting. I calm him down with a dog biscuit. My mother sighs. The train should be here in 5 minutes. To keep myself from growing too bored, I try to read over Mother's shoulder but the words are too hard and I give up. Finally, I hear the train's whistle. Time to trail flowers at Aunt Lauren's wedding.

Monday, December 5, 2011

On Catherynne M. Valente's "Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Title: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Author: Catherynne M. Valente

Main Characters: September, Ell, Saturday, and the Green Wind

Summary: A girl named September is bored with her life, so a Green Wind whisks her off to Fairyland on the Leopard of Little Breezes. Once there, she meets two witches, Hello and Goodbye, and a wairwulf, Manythanks, and goes on a quest to steal Goodbye's spoon back from an evil Marquess. On the way she meets a Wyverary (his parents were a Wyvern and a Library) whom she nicknames Ell, and a Marid named Saturday. They have many adventures. My favorite part is when Ell tells September about how his father was a Library and his mother was widowed by an real estate agent.

Friday, December 2, 2011

My Life as a Slave

Questions from by Julia Eileen Moser

Imagine the year is 1870. You were once a slave who escaped on the Underground Railroad. You have been asked to share the story of your courageous journey and to describe the brave people who helped you along the way. Answer any or all of the questions below.

To help you answer these questions, think about what you’ve learned in this online activity, from the background slideshows to the story of the slave who escaped from Kentucky. If you want to learn even more, read the “Slave Stories.”

Type your answers in the box under each question. When you’re done, you can print out your story to share a hard copy with friends and family.

QUESTION 1Tell me about your life as a slave. Where did you live? What kinds of work did you do? What were some of the hardest things about your life?
Answer: I lived in Kentucky. I watched Ms. Barry's children for her in the afternoons, and in the mornings I picked cotton in the fields until 11:30. My siblings Mary and Gregory worked in the corn in the mornings, and then Gregory swapped to "waiter" duty- delivering lunch for Ms. Barry and her children while Mary doubled back with an ear of corn for her to split with our 2 year old brother Paul in the slave cabin, until Gregory and I got back at 8:59 for a quick "dinner" before settling on the hard straw mattress on the floor.

QUESTION 2Tell me about your escape from the South. Why did you decide to flee? How did you travel? How did you find your way? How did you survive? How did you feel?
Answer: One night, when I came back to the slave cabin after a particularly long and tiring day, I walked in the door and looked around- and decided that we had to leave. I conveyed this message to the family when Gregory came back with tomato sauce all over himself and a scared expression on his face, which soon turned into a determined one when we decided on a plan. At midnight the next day, Gregory, (who knew the kitchen best) stole 4 pears, 7 ears of corn, and 1 large turkey. He signaled to us and we each took a share of the load and hit the road. We walked quite a long way before anything happened. It was a bit scary as we followed the North Star, occasionally feeling for moss on the trees.

QUESTION 3Tell me about the people you encountered on the Underground Railroad. What kinds of people did you come across? What are some of the different ways that they helped you? How did the abolitionists influence the Underground Railroad?
Answer: The next night we were traveling by the Ohio River when we saw a black man standing in the thicket. He beckoned to us. We were about to go over when we heard a pack of dogs. They obviously knew we were gone back in Kentucky. I shouted "Quickly!" and pulled everyone into the water just as the dogs rounded the corner. I then remembered that none of us could swim. I grasped frantically for something, ANYTHING, to pull us to safety. I grabbed a ledge, pulled,--and yanked us onto the other side of the Ohio River! We had crossed without knowing it. We waved to the black man on the other side-and the dogs-and left. I soon saw a candle in a window and led everyone to the door. That is how we traveled for weeks, knocking on doors, hiding in the Underground Railroad.

QUESTION 4Tell me about when what happened after you reached freedom. Where did you settle? Why did you choose that place? What kind of work did you do? What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you feel starting your new life?
Answer: Finally, we made it to Canada. We started looking around, to see if anyone knew where we might make a living. We tried a door. It was locked. We knocked. There was something strangely familiar about the voice that told us to enter. "We were wondering if you------------" Gregory gasped. The woman standing in the doorway gasped. When I looked in, I saw why. "Mom? Dad?" We had a group hug. We're still living here today, happily ever after.

On "Study of a Lady Feeding Goldfish" by Edward Coley Burne-Jones

Outside tonight, my mother feeds the goldfish in our little outdoor goldfish tank. Their names are Minnie, Laurie, and Sharky. The eldest is Laurie, then Sharky, and finally Minnie. Minnie swims to the top to get her share first, but Sharky and Laurie stay by the bottom, waiting for some to float down to them. Laurie floats up a bit. As they swim about, mouthing the fish food, Mother rushes back inside the put the can back away. We would not want to lose it. She returns with a cloth and dabs at the outside of the tank a bit, so that they/we can see us/them better. My fish are so funny.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

On Charles Barber's "Suspense"

In my bed, our dog Phillip and kitten Toffee sit on my covers as I say grace. Phillip drools on my egg. Toffee looks longingly at the milk in my cereal bowl. I intend to give them each a bit, but I will have to cut the pieces off with my fork, because I have the flu and do not wish them to catch it. I finish grace and cut off a small piece of toast for Phillip and a small spoonful of milk for Toffee. When he finishes, Phillip trots over to the other end of the bed, and brings back a bunch of red flowers from on top of my get-well cards, and Toffee brings the card that came with them. I give them each a pat on the head and with a soft ''Mrow'' a ''Ruff, ruff,'' (and the sneaking of 1 last piece of toast) they left the room. I love my pets.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom

Titles: Eight Cousins-Rose in Bloom

Author: Louisa May Alcott

Main Characters: Eight cousins-Rose, Uncle Alec, Phebe, Rose's cousins. Rose in Bloom-Rose, Uncle Alec, Charlie, Mac, Phebe.

Summaries: Eight Cousins is about a girl named Rose who has been adopted by her Uncle Alec. He begins to use a cure for her miserableness and by the end she is fine again. Rose is scared of her cousins at first, but she soon gets to know them well. She makes friends with the cook's helper, Phebe. In Rose in Bloom, the sequel, Rose comes back from a 2 year journey with Phebe, and suddenly any number of young men are in love with her, including her cousin Charlie. Towards the end of the book, Charlie dies and Rose and her cousin Mac fall in love with eachother. My favorite part is when Mac writes Rose a book of poems.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On Landseer's "Monarch of the Glen"

In the glen, my dad the head stag stands in one of the only un-singed patches of grass left. He has just led the rest of us back safely from the area of the wildfire and is standing, tired but triumphant, at the head of a line of deer who followed him to safety. There is still smoke in the air behind us. My mother rushes from the end of the line and ushers us away quickly to see if we can find any thing left for us to eat. We search for a long time before the stamp of a hoof from over by a dried up stream makes us run over to a ledge. I gasp. A whole field of berries and plenty of shelter, just waiting for us to move in. We gallop down and I hope we'll be living here for a long time yet.

Monday, November 28, 2011

On "Comical Dogs" by Landseer

In the living room, our dogs Maria from Spain and and Commander Chihuahua from Scotland, are dressed up in Mother's bonnet and Father's beret. They look adorable!
Commander Chihuahua: "Yip, yip!" (We look ridiculous!)
We decided that it was too cold for them to go without clothing, and now they look snug as 2 bugs in a rug.
Maria: "Ruff!" (Says who?)
No, no! Maria! Commander Chihuahua! That's Mother's favorite bonnet! Oh dear. They're trying to take off the hats.
Maria: ''Yip ruff ruff.'' (If you thought we were cold, a blanket would have sufficed.)
Mother , I think maybe we should give them a blanket instead.
Dogs: '' Bark!'' (Great idea!)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On "Girl Rocking a Cradle" by Nicolaes Maes

In our living room, I rock the baby to sleep. Her name is Sally, and mine is Cynthia. Sally was just born last month. She is so cute! The week after she was born, almost all our relatives came over to our place to meet the new baby and congratulate my mother. That's where she got this blanket. It was a gift from Aunt Sarah and Uncle Patrick. The cradle was mine when I was her age. Now I'm 4 years old and I get to be a big sister! When Sally gets older, I can teach her all sorts of things. I love to be a big sister. This morning Sally gurgled at me when she woke up, and I gave her her bottle. She makes a lot of funny noises. Thanksgiving is coming soon and we'll have everyone here again. I hope Sally likes it. It'll be her first Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On "Picking Apples," Part 2

Today, in our kitchen, we helped Mother with the party preparations. We made rainbow paper chains (and Grace got glue in her hair), wrote party invitations (and Pete accidentally blotted his envelope), and helped Mother bake the pie while the apples were still good (and Lauren forgot to wash her hands first). Then Pete wanted to soak some apples in maple syrup for party favors, but he found that we had none left so he decided to use just plain apples. "That's fine with me." I told him. "Grace can't really afford to get any stickier at the moment." We had to get some more apples, since we'd used the ones we got before to make the pie, so we did, and when we came back Grace had leaves sticking to her gluey hair, and Pete was trying not to laugh at the sight of poor Lauren who was covered with dirt. What a day, what a day!

Monday, November 21, 2011

On "Picking Apples" by Frederick Morgan

In the orchard, my younger siblings and I pick apples. Their names are Lauren, Pete, and Grace, and I am Sarah. We are picking the apples so Mother can make an apple pie for the party we're having on Saturday, for my 13th. birthday. Grace holds an apple and looks over her shoulder when Lauren and Pete call out "Sarah, there's a nice juicy one over here.'' I come over and pluck the apple. Then I place it into my basket. I do the same to several other apples, because Mother requires at least 20, and we only have 4. Lauren's sleeve catches on a twig. I run over and untangle it, and she picks the apple she was trying to reach. We now have 10 apples with 10 more to go. Grace picks an apple up of the ground, and places it in the basket. Pete jumps, and snatches 3 more of a very high up branch. Only 6 to go! "Good jump, Pete," I tell him. At last, 1 apple over 20, we walk to our front door so Mother can make my birthday pie.

Friday, November 18, 2011

On Picasso's "Child Holding a Dove"

In the garden, my little sister Lucia holds a white dove gently in her hands. The dove coos. Lucia is wearing a white dress and green sash. The dove softly pecks at the sleeve, and flies down to rest on the brightly-colored ball sitting on the grass next to her, and examines the fake daisies on Lucia's shoes. She giggles as it tries to peck one off. Frustrated, the dove flits to her shoulder and coos once again. She turns and waves to me. I wave back. The dove, seeing me, flies over and coos to me, too, before flitting back to Lucia. I realize what the dove is after, and run to the kitchen, returning with a handful of wheat. The dove flies over, and I pass a little to Lucia, so that she can help. She scatters a bit on the ground, and the dove flies down there, eager for its lunch. Speaking of lunch, Mother is calling us for ours. We leave the rest of the wheat on the windowsill, and run to the table for lunch.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

On Da Vinci's "Lady with her Ermine," Part 2

This morning, Cecilia awoke me with a grape under my nose. ''Get up, silly, it's 9:00. Time for breakfast.'' I grab the grape and trot down the stairs before her. I make the mistake of stopping to take a bite of the grape on the last step and slide onto the floor, gripping the grape hard. I curl at a chair leg, chewing my grape, and waiting for Cecilia to stop fussing about how 'Prince could have been seriously injured' and carry me through the closed kitchen door. She finally does and I finish the grape. We go to the basement when she is done, and I leap onto her desk. Her father starts their algebra lesson. I watch him write strange symbols on the blackboard and Cecilia and her brothers raise their hands and call things like ''74!'' and ''180!'' I grow sleepy. I crawl under Cecilia's desk. When I wake again it will be lunch. I am hoping that there will be grapes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On "Girl with Kitten" by Emily Farmer

In my kitchen, I pour a saucer of milk for my kitten, Shadow, out of an old chestnut-brown jug. I wear a cotton, yellow, dress, with small bits of lace at the neck. Shadow pokes her head out of her basket, sniffing the milk. Her large blue eyes watch the milk slide into the saucer. I set it down on the floor in front of her. She eagerly laps it up. She is very thirsty. Come to think of it, I'm hungry. I pour myself a bowl of porridge and a glass of milk. We both eat our breakfasts quickly, and I wash my hands before running upstairs. I hear my baby brother crying. Shadow tries to follow me, but cannot, because her little paws cannot reach the steps, and she is afraid of heights. I sigh, picking her up and walking slowly to my brothers' room. I will now have to help both of them reach the shelf where the porridge is kept. I sigh again, wishing mother and father would come home from church quickly. Shadow purrs and rubs against my leg. I laugh. ''Not right now, Shadow, not right now.''

Monday, November 14, 2011

On Da Vinci's "Lady with her Ermine"

In the sitting room, I curl up in my mistress Cecilia's lap. She strokes me gently as she listens to her six brothers talking about the approaching wedding of their cousin Stephania in June. Cecilia has a new white lace dress to wear to it, and when she tried it on, from where I was watching on her bedside table, it looked quite lovely on her. She seems tired out from her lessons this morning, but I, who have just awoken from a nice nap taken during her French lesson, am quite awake and begin to softly paw her sleeve. She has forgotten my supper. She looks down and reaches into her pocket, drawing from it a grape, which I hungrily accept. It is juicy and sweet as I sink my teeth into it. She laughs. ''You're such a nutjob, Prince-or grapejob might be a better term.'' Yeah, that's the spot. I fall asleep-again.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Rat blog: Meet Mickey and Melchisedec

Mickey and Melchisedec are 2 adorable brother pearl-mearle dumbo rats from Lancaster. They love to wrestle, and they live for food. Go anywhere near their cage, and they climb up the side, hoping you have a bag of Pirate Booty, or a piece of vegetable samosa hidden behind your back. They are mostly only awake in the morning and evening. In the afternoon they just give you a look and go back to sleep if you try to wake them up, but an apple or banana slice will always get them up. If you give one of them the first piece, the other comes over and attacks him until you give him his piece, too. Their favorite night of the week is Indian food night, when mommy and daddy share their vegetable samosa. They love fruits and vegetables, fried food, and snack food. They're not allowed to have sweet things, though, unless you count their yogurt-covered rat treats. They have a see-through neon ball that sometimes we let one of them use to run around on the floor. Once the ball's lid came off, and I had to scream for mommy to come help me get Mickey back into the cage. They're so funny!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

On Landseer's "Princess Mary Adelaide with Nelson"

In our family room, our Newfoundland Nelson balances his dog biscuit on his nose. He is about as tall as I am. I am wearing my warm forest-green dress. It is made of velvet, and there are puffs of cotton around the edges. Nelson sticks out his tongue. I take it to mean that he would like to stop balancing and eat the biscuit. I oblige and take it of his nose and reposition it on his tongue. He gobbles it up. He then goes for the biscuit I have in my left hand. He misses and gets me with his warm, wet, tongue. ''I'm saving this one for your dinner. Get off it,'' I tell him. He gives me a look. I laugh. ''Nelson, honestly!'' He licks me again. I wipe my arm on a towel. Mother calls us for dinner. ''Okay boy, now you can have it,'' I laugh. I run to the dining room, Nelson following close behind. He was probably hoping for some of the steak, the scent of which was drifting out of the kitchen.