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Friday, May 17, 2013

Nothing New

The second graders have just finished listening to chapter five of Robert McCloskey's Homer Price. Because the book was published in 1943, I have to stop often to explain terms or concepts foreign to them. Uncle Ulysses' Lunch Room is not like the lunch room but more like a diner. Men often congregated at the barber shop. At the filling station, the attendant came out to pump gas and usually cleaned the car windows and checked the oil. Calling on someone meant stopping by to visit (and usually was motivated by love in the case of the sheriff or Uncle Telamachus). Those kinds of things.

This story - "Nothing New Under the Sun (Hardly)" - required short summaries of two well-known other stories: Rip Van Winkle and The Pied Piper of Hamelin. When a mysterious stranger arrives in Centerburg, the townspeople are suspicious of his appearance and curious about the contraption hidden under a canvas on the back of the man's truck. His long beard gets wrapped around his steering wheel and dipped in his gravy. He whistles a strange tune and seems to attract the children. The sheriff and the librarian deduce that he is like Rip. Only when he is hired by the mayor to trap the town's mice with his musical mousetrap and is followed to the city limits by the children does the children's librarian think she has associated him with the wrong story. Would the children of Centerburg be lured away by the odd man? They are not. They devise a clever plan to save themselves. But the intertwined stories and the wonderfully detailed drawings make this yet another favorite story in the collection.


  1. I live with an artist... and I often say AND have even tried "Crap, why can't I do that?"
    Then, I too want to dream like Rip.

    1. Don't you wonder why what is in your head never comes out the same way as you imagined?

  2. The Pied Piper of Hamlin & Rip Van Winkle were deeply memorable stories for me in childhood...Scary, but memorable. How wonderful to be reading aloud to the older kids & interpreting!