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Scheherazade

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About this blog

One thousand and one tales to while away the bleak hours of the night.

Entries in this blog

 

Of Bicycles and Freedom

It’s been a frustrating week at the Zingarella house. We’re all fine, but our van is in need of major, and expensive repairs, to the point that we’re looking for a new vehicle. We live in an area where having a car to get anywhere is essential, although we make do with one for the whole family. Since there are six of us, that means a van (a total mom-mobile, too). Hopefully we are nearing the end of the process of replacing the broken one, but it has not been fun. I think I find it particularly irksome because, for years, I didn’t own a car at all. When I was single and living in the city, I got around via public transit and my beloved bicycle. A bicycle has been a symbol of freedom for me since I was a teenager—even more so than a car. From the time I was eleven or twelve, I would ride my bicycle around the smallish town I grew up in for hours. And, since this was before everyone had a cell phone (gasp!) my parents would have no idea where I was. I did have a watch and strict orders as to when to be home, which I usually followed, but I could go anywhere I wanted on that bicycle and no one could stop me. My favorite place to visit was a bridge out in the country that went over the highway. I would stop there on that bridge and watch the cars speed by under it, knowing that one day, I was going to leave that little town and never come back. This was one of the things that got me through my childhood alive—that and being able to make music.  When I lived in the city with my bicycle, my favorite time to ride it was at two o’clock in the morning on summer nights. I would ride home from my job as a grocery clerk, taking side streets and drinking in the warm air. There would usually be no one else around at all and it was wonderful to be alive, flying along on my bicycle in the dark. It’s the most freedom that I’ve ever felt. I have a lot of responsibilities now and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I’m a long way from my bicycle at 2:00AM as I drive my mom-mobile to baseball practice and church. My bicycle sits in the garage and I don’t get much chance to ride it these days. Unfortunately we live on one of those streets where everybody drives too quickly and sight-lines aren’t good, and it’s hard to find time to myself even if that weren’t the case. But, my son likes to ride his bicycle around our driveway and in our yard, and I can tell that he feels just as free as I did. It makes me happy to watch him and to know that my bicycle is there in the garage, waiting for me. When I am ready, it will be ready too, and I suspect that this time I’ll have company when I ride.  

Noelle Zingarella

Noelle Zingarella

 

Egoriy the Brave

While we're on the topic of St. George and the dragon, I wanted to highlight a series of animation produced by the Pilot animation studio. Pilot is a privately held Russian animation studio, and their project, the Mountain of Gems is a series of thirteen minute long animated shorts telling fairytales from all over Russia. The styles of animation vary, some are stop motion, some are hand drawn, etc. The quality is a little uneven and some of the shorts are much better than others, but the sequence that opens each short is done in a wonderful, stop motion style.  My favorite of these is Egoriy the Brave. This short tells the story of St. George from his birth through his saving of the princess from the famous dragon, and his taming of said dragon, with all of the accompanying miracles. The film is charming, funny, and sports a lovely folk-music sound track. It's a favorite in the Zingarella house and, the next time you've got thirteen minutes to kill, I'd say it's worth your time.
 

St. George and the Dragon

In the interest of #keepingitreal I'm going to come right out and say that I am frequently too exhausted to play with my children. Mr. Zingarella, fortunately, more than makes up for this, but I sometimes usually feel a bit guilty about it. I have found that reading aloud to the little Zingarellas--even and perhaps especially to the older ones--is an activity that I can do in lieu of physical play. All I have to do is sit on the couch and read the words off of a page and--like magic--we're all sharing something and having a moment. This is not to say that story-time at my house is a picture perfect Norman Rockwell painting. Far from it; there are lots of interruptions and sometimes there is bickering over what to read, and sometimes the two-year-old starts sitting on my head, etc. But, even with all of its imperfections, reading aloud is an activity that gives so much return for the little effort that it takes. So, today I wanted to write about one of my favorite children's books. For some sad reason, so many children's books are insulting to children. They are written as though children are stupid, or their illustrations are ugly and/or perfunctory, or both. Many are simply marketing ploys to get your child to ask for the next toy, or movie, or video game, or other product. And this is a shame, because a beautiful picture book is a work of art and--in my experience at least--children are drawn to beautiful things.  One book that consistently makes it onto every list of books worth your time is Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges and Trina Schart Hyman.   Margaret Hodges's retelling of this adventure from Edmund Spenser's The Fairie Queene is excellently done. The story is clear, without being "dumbed down" and interesting enough that it will not drive you insane if your children go on a kick and only want to hear it over and over again. Trina Schart Hyman is one of those rare artist who excels both in figure drawing and ornament and pretty much any book she has illustrated is an owner in my opinion.   
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