Gracie’s Summer Reading List…”The Bad Guys: Mission Unpluckable” by Aaron Blabey

Gracie’s Summer Reading List

Recently while shopping for a new fan to keep my chickens more comfortable during these hot summer months, I found these books on display. I had to take a look!

The illustrations were fun, and when I saw one of the books in the series was titled “Mission Unpluckable,” I knew they would make excellent bedtime reading for my chickens (or perhaps summertime reading for your children or grandchildren). They ended up in my cart, and I couldn’t wait to show them to my chickens.

These books tell the adventures of Mr. Fox, Mr. Snake, Mr. Piranha, and Mr. Shark who have all been labeled as “Bad Guys” but who want to do heroic deeds to prove they really are “Good Guys.” (What else can you do when people don’t understand you?)

While it’s not necessary to read the books in this series in order, it does help. Except for the first book, each starts with a recap of the previous book and end with a teaser for the following book.

We obviously had to start with “Mission Unpluckable.” (Some children can be very particular about reading books in a series in order. It’s not so important to chickens.) Here is what Gracie and the others thought.

“I’ve never really cared much about foxes or snakes because I’ve seen them in our own backyard. They are dangerous guys. After hearing these stories, I have a better understanding of them. They may not be as bad as what I had imagined them to be…but I’m not letting them in our home!” – Gracie

“I was a little nervous when the snake started drooling when he was thinking about chickens, but I clucked for joy when Mr. Fox said, ‘It’s time to save the chickens!’ That kept me on the edge of my perch the whole time! Sunnyside Chicken Farm is a scary place.” – Bessie

“The jokes were absolutely wonderful! Hilarious and funny! Their comedic timing was perfect! Any of those Bad Guys would make a great addition to my next Comedy Coop extravaganza! Mr. Shark is my favorite because he likes to wear disguises. I couldn’t stop laughing!” – Pearl

“The illustrations were great, and I may just get out my crayons and color them in!” – Emily

“The Bad Guys are truly sharp dressers. The black suits and ties are perfect, and when they are wearing their sunglasses, you just can’t get much cooler than that. We can all sleep better knowing these heroes are out there protecting us.” – Amelia

The price on the back of each book was $5.99 which isn’t bad considering there are a lot of pages. (It feels like a bigger book than what it really is, so for some children that could be important if they look at number of pages and thickness.) The books fall somewhere between a comic book and a chapter book.

While intended for children ages 7 to 10, I enjoyed reading them too! Reading aloud to Gracie and the others was fun because I got to act out the different voices and the change in font size and style gave me clues on how to read like the different characters.

These books by Aaron Blabey are available through Barnes & Noble, but I bought them from our local Target store. If you’re having a Fourth of July cookout with children, these would make a great gift for summertime reading!

Just so you know, “My Life With Gracie” isn’t getting anything from sharing this book series with you. We don’t collect anything if you click the link here. Some websites work that way, but for us, it’s about reading. Children (and chickens) need to read and be read to, whether it’s what we write or not!

Morning Assurances

Morning Assurances

Would you let me know how this reads? I’ve been working my way through the books at the library about writing, and particularly about writing a novel. I’m feeling I may need to switch from first person narrative to third person narrative as it will allow me to give greater depth to the characters. Does the use of third person narrative still connect with you? Less? More? About the same?

The sun was beginning to come up, at least there was a faint blue glow in the sky. The old man took out the large bamboo salad bowl. It could hold enough for a large family or his own small flock of chickens.

He began making their breakfast salad the same way he did every morning. First he chopped some leafy greens. Usually it would be kale, but sometimes collards or even Swiss chard, but mostly kale.

When there was none in the garden, he would buy it in bunches or by the pound. It all depended on which gave him the most for his money. Kale had almost doubled in price since he got his chickens. They loved kale. Even the stems were chopped up into bite sized pieces.

“You need your calciums,” he would always tell them. They didn’t know what “calciums” were, but they trusted him. The kale tasted good.

Then there was usually something different, a special treat for the day. It might be from the garden like peas in the springtime, but that day because it was fall, he gave them eggplant. They lasted well past the end of summer. He peeled and then chopped the eggplant and added it to the bowl. The peel would go into the compost pile to feed the worms and the worms would feed the chickens.

Next he grated carrots. How long had he been using that grater? The bamboo handle had come off years ago, or so it seemed. Then again, it might have been just last week. The metal underneath was still good for holding. About a half carrot for each chicken was enough. The tops which didn’t work well on the grater would be added to the compost pile.

Then he would dice an apple. Today it was a red delicious, much better than the one yesterday which seemed a little mealy and had a brownish spot he hadn’t seen until he cut into it. Their favorites were Fuji and Pink Lady. They were always the right firmness and juicy. This one cut nicely and juice oozed out as he chopped up the slices. It was going to be a good day.

There was half a banana from last night. He sliced and then chopped it too, including the peel. It still surprised him how his chickens would eat that part. Banana was the one thing Gracie had a difficult time sharing, so in the evening, he always tried to give them extra. What was in their big breakfast salad was for whoever could find it first.

Finally he sliced some lettuce into long shredded pieces. It topped off their salad nicely.

The old man took a can of beans from the cupboard and placed it on the kitchen counter. There was probably some leftover rice in the refrigerator, if he remembered right. There was still part of a fresh sweet pepper left from the garden. They were always a late summer and early fall treat. It would be nice to add to his beans and rice.

He chopped it up into small pieces to make it go further and put it in the chicken’s breakfast salad. They would enjoy it much more than he would anyway.

Maybe the half onion wrapped up in the refrigerator was still good. He would add it to his beans and rice instead. He never gave his chickens any onions because it would make their eggs taste strange, or so he had read in a book once.

The can of beans on the counter gave him an odd assurance throughout the day. He knew his dinner would be waiting for him ready to be prepared. It was a kind of prayer to help him arrive home safely. No one died away from home when there was dinner sitting out ready to be prepared at the end of the day. Did they?

He needed some type of certainty he would make it back home safely. Otherwise who would secure the chickens for the night? Who would watch over them? They could make their way back up into their coop for the night. That wasn’t a problem. But when they came down the next morning and found he hadn’t come home, found he would never come home, what then?

Enough for now. It was time for him to welcome his chickens into their new day.

I have used a vertically formatted illustration for a different tone and to fit on a printed page. This may not be an illustration style I will use, but it does help to point out this is written differently. Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Family Photo Friday!

Family Photo Friday

Yes, you’re right! That is not a chicken. It’s a young crow, and one of our new bird friends.

This little sweetheart showed up on my screened-in front porch last Friday morning, and I’m still unsure how. Maybe the door wasn’t closed all of the way when the newspaper was delivered or something like that.

I would not have known she was there if it hadn’t been for the sound of her wings beating against the porch screening. She didn’t seem to mind being picked up and held for a moment while she caught her breath. Her heart was beating so hard that it felt as if it filled her entire body.

She was quite gentle with me and didn’t try to peck me. Even her small sharp talons barely gripped my finger. She seemed relieved and knew that I would help her, not hurt her. When I opened my hands at the porch door, she flew off towards the little river branch across the street.

In all the time that I’ve lived in this house, nothing like this has ever happened. Our visitor’s timing is very interesting because of a recent short series of story posts titled “Just Farm Animals.” These were about Gracie and some crows. (You may want to read Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them.)

Crows seemed like they would be a “natural” as bad characters for a story. Yet one of our readers, the author of “The Red Box,” shared a different perspective on these remarkable birds. Crows and ravens are viewed very differently in her area of Germany when compared to my area of the States.

Here we think of crows as scavengers and pests who rob our cornfields. But in Northern Europe they can be viewed as messengers who represent memories and thoughts. As the author of “The Red Box” shared with me, “Only fearless personalities can deal with information and news about trends or changes because you have to face the possibility that in response to the changing world, you and your life will need to change too….no matter if you like it or not.”

One aspect of writing on the WordPress platform which I enjoy most is being able to exchange ideas which help to shape my writing. I am now considering adding another crow to our story, one who will be a positive messenger who assists one of my chickens in some way to make a change which will help answer the questions of her heart and then find her destiny.

Please visit “The Red Box where you will find a wide variety of carefully curated articles and posts, including some original drawings and poems. (Anything in German is always accompanied by an English translation.) You may even want to leave a message to say, “Hi! Gracie sent me!”

This is a sketch of a possible friendly crow character. Interestingly, baby crows have blue eyes. This changes as they mature. This crow will keep her blue eyes as she grows older as a sign of being special and being able to see things differently than my chickens and the other crows who had been bothering Gracie.

In this drawing she is somewhat scruffy to match this snippet of dialogue which was written well before this little treasure visited my house: “You may be my only friend…and my only hope,” the crow said to Gracie.

Isn’t it interesting how life and writing can intertwine?