What’s The Nine-Year-Old reading this week?


Our mostly-weekly survey of the books that cross The Nine-Year-Old’s desk. This week, Mommyo learns that Jo Nesbo, a mystery writer she’s been meaning to read for a while, also writes books for kids, and The Nine-Year-Old continues to gear up to read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

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Wordless Wednesday: Cows in Museums

Photo: Shala Howell

Photo: Shala Howell

Moooonwalk, created by Craig Wartman and Robert Finzel Patron in 1999. Currently located in the space wing of the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, thanks to a generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. Howard Feinstein.

Photo: Shala Howell

Photo: Shala Howell

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What’s The Nine-Year-Old reading this week?


Our mostly-weekly survey of the tidbits that cross The Nine-Year-Old’s desk. This week, The Nine-Year-Old reads all kinds of books related to Harry Potter, but doesn’t actually read Harry Potter. (She’s stuck on Book 3. I get the sense she’d like to continue, but she’s too freaked out by Sirius Black. You can see the problem this poses for me. I want to help her get over it, but can’t figure out how without spoiling the storyline. So I continue to wait and watch her seek out Potter-aligned stories. It will work out eventually, right?)

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Wordless Wednesday: Cows in Malls

(Photo: Shala Howell)

(Photo: Shala Howell)

The Holy Cow! created in honor of American sportscaster Harry Caray, currently located near the elevators in Water Tower Place in downtown Chicago.

(Photo: Shala Howell)

(Photo: Shala Howell)

Also, go Cubs!

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We interrupt this blog for a writing day


(Photo: Michael Howell)

The Nine-Year-Old has a day off from school today, and she asked me if she could spend it having a writing day with me.

It promises to be an exciting day for her, sitting across from me at a table while I type earnestly, stare out the window for a while, flip through a few notes, and then type some more.

We’ve got her typewriter set up opposite my laptop on the dining room table. She even has a story assignment, and an important lunch meeting. It’s the Caterpickles version of Bring Your Daughter to Work day.

So, now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go teach The Nine-Year-Old that the most important part of being a writer is simply making time to write.

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What’s The Nine-Year-Old reading this week?


Our mostly-weekly survey of the tidbits that cross The Nine-Year-Old’s desk. This week, The Nine-Year-Old’s imagination is taken over by hybrids, superheroes, and aliens, but not, at least as far as I can tell, by hybrid alien superheroes. Yet.

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Wordless Wednesday: You’re playing it all wrong, CatMom

(Photo: Shala Howell)

(Photo: Shala Howell)

The punishment from Canelo for misplayed notes is both harsh and lightning fast.

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“What’s the difference between thee, thou, and thy?”


Word cloud generated using Jason Davies’ online Word Cloud Generator.

Wouldn’t you love to know why The Nine-Year-Old asked this question? Yeah, me too.

Sadly, this question came up during my annual August vacation, and while I dutifully wrote it down to answer later, I failed to include any information on its context. (At the time I probably thought I was doing well to write the question down at all. Not that that helps me in any way this morning.)

Let’s just assume that it was something The Nine-Year-Old read.

So, what’s the difference between thee, thou, and thy?

Thee, thou, and thy are all archaic singular forms of the second person pronoun you, which is pretty much why we only hear them in religious contexts these days. According to Quora, thou is used as the subject of a sentence, thee as an object, and thy to indicate the possessive. Wrapping all that into a sentence or two:

“Would thou like a pastry with thy tea? I would be happy to bring it to thee.”

So where does thine fit in?

Thine is an alternative version of the possessive form, typically used before words that begin with a vowel. You would use thy if the possessed noun begins with a consonant. In either case, you would use thy or thine when addressing only one person.

Thy grasp of grammar is remarkable, if slightly old-fashioned.”


Thine octopus ate my dictionary.”

What if I need to talk to more than one person?

Thee, thou, thy, and thine are all used when addressing only one person. If you need to talk to a crowd, you would use the plural form, ye.

“Gather ye octopus while ye may, for octopus meat is tender and yummy when served with chorizo and potatoes.”

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The 5 best books of The Nine-Year-Old’s year (so far)

This weekend, I found The Nine-Year-Old in her reading nook puzzling over a stack of books. Every once in a while she’d put one in her mini steamer trunk. The rest she scattered over the sides of couches, across the floor, and next to her bean bag. In a valiant attempt not to derail whatever magic was going on in her brain with an untimely shriek of “Are you going to pick those up?”, I asked her what she was doing.

“Picking out my five favorite books of the year,” she replied.

Now that was a project I could get behind. So I left.

A while later, I came back, eager to know which books she’d picked. She obligingly spread them on the floor for me.

The current reigning favorites (Photo: Shala Howell)

The current reigning favorites (Photo: Shala Howell)

You will notice there are six books there, not five. I am pointing this out immediately, because given my recent numerical troubles, I wanted you to know that I can still discern the difference between five and six.

That extra book on top isn’t one of her favorites, nor is it her all time favorite. It’s brought her great enjoyment this year (although not the greatest), so she wanted to include it as an honorable mention.

Many of these books have appeared on Caterpickles before, but in the interest of saving you some clicking, here’s a brief summary of the books and what The Nine-Year-Old likes about them.

Is That a Sick Cat in Your Backpack? by Todd Strasser

sickcatWhat the book’s about: The bad news opening the second installment in Todd Strasser’s Tardy Boys series, is that the Tardy Boys parents have been captured by aliens. The good news is the Tardy Boys now have a cat. From The Nine-Year-Old’s description I can’t tell whether the Tardy Boys actually put all that much effort into recovering their parents. They do, however, seem to put an incredible amount of effort into feeding the cat and, as a sideline, saving the world from the despicable Cat Spy Scratchy from the Planet Hiss. Apparently, in the great tradition of felines everywhere, Cat Spy Scratchy has discovered how to use mind control to make people (specifically grown-ups) do whatever he wants. It’s up to Leyton Tardy to save all of mankind using only the toe cheese from Barton Slugg’s gym sock.

Why it made The Nine-Year-Old’s list: “It’s hilarious.”

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater

popperpenguinsWhat the book’s about: Mr. Popper is a house painter who spends his off-hours reading about (and writing to) explorers in the South Pole. One day, one of those explorers sends Mr. Popper a penguin in the mail. Since it’s winter, and the season for painting houses is over, Mr. Popper becomes very involved in the comfort and care of said penguin (and the eleven other penguins that quickly follow). In the end, he transforms his basement into an ice rink (an idea my daughter wholeheartedly supports), and spends more than his wife ever thought possible on fish and canned shrimp. I won’t tell you how an out-of-work house painter manages to pay for all that (wouldn’t want to spoil the ending), but I will say that the process is highly entertaining for all involved.

Why it made The Nine-Year-Old’s list: “Mr. Popper’s Penguins is just a mix of giggles and happiness and it’s surprising too.”

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny – Detectives Extraordinaire! by Polly Horvath

bunnydetectivesWhat the book’s about: When a pack of foxes kidnap Madeline’s parents, naturally she turns to Mr. and Mrs. Bunny for help. The fledgling rabbit detectives promptly put on their best fedoras to crack the case, mothering Madeline a fair bit along the way. Translated from the original rabbit (and marmot) by Polly Horvath, this book is packed with unforgettable characters with suitably nefarious (and silly) schemes.

Why it made The Nine-Year-Old’s list: “It’s just really funny.” (I’m sensing a theme, here. Are you? This book, by the way, is hands-down the best children’s book I’ve read all year.)

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

secretgardenWhat the book’s about: This one has been on The Nine-Year-Old’s favorites list for a long time. A budding gardener herself with a fondness for mysterious places and exploring hidden nooks, The Nine-Year-Old has been captivated by the story of the orphaned Mary Lennox, the animal-whisperer Dickon, and their attempts to bring a forgotten garden back to life ever since she first read it as a mere Eight-Year-Old.

Why it made The Nine-Year-Old’s list: “It has some magic that touches me. It’s amazing.”

Going Solo by Roald Dahl

goingsoloWhat the book’s about: Action! Adventure! Laughs! This book, according to The Nine-Year-Old, has it all. In Going Solo, Roald Dahl shares funny, weird, exciting, and sometimes unsettling anecdotes about his time working for the Shell Oil company in East Africa, and later, his career as an RAF pilot in WWII.

Why it made The Nine-Year-Old’s list: “I like Going Solo because it’s the story of the WWII exploits of the famous author Roald Dahl. He writes such good books as Charlie and the Glass Elevators. The Witches, though, was creepy. I don’t know what his inspiration was for that.”

The Twelve Million Dollar Note by Robert Kraske (Honorable Mention)

12milnoteWhat the book’s about: Part of the strange but might be true genre of stories that fascinated me as a child, The Twelve Million Dollar Note recounts the odd stories behind messages placed in bottles and sent off to drift across the sea.  Most of the stories are fragments, and I suspect, if I were to read this book as an adult, I might greet them with a more skeptical eye (as Kirkus does), but the imaginative possibilities of finding a bottle on the beach in which there’s a will leaving the finder a 12 million dollar fortune are just marvelous, and certain to appeal to a child with a trip to Florida in her future.

Why it made The Nine-Year-Old’s list: “Mom gave me this book. She read it as a kid, and it’s fairly surprising and rather weird — both stuff I like.”

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Wordless Wednesday: Good Grief!

(Photo: Shala Howell)

(Photo: Shala Howell)

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