Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Van Gogh Cafe

Have you read this book...The Van Gogh Cafe by Cynthia Rylant? 



This is one of those rare books that is appropriate for almost all ages. It is a great read-aloud to share with your younger child and your independent readers will stay engaged throughout the entire book. In fact, at one point my daughter looked up at me and said, “I LOVE this book!”
 It's just that good!

The opening paragraph starts:
“The Van Gogh Café sits on Main Street in Flowers, Kansas, and the building it is in was once a theater, which may be the reason for its magic. And it’s true, the café is magical. All kinds of interesting things happen here.”

The theater is struck by lightning one day and the food starts cooking itself, and it does so perfectly. Marc, the owner, writes poems which are accurately predicting the future.

There’s a visiting 'possum that inspires a sad, recently widowed man to open an animal shelter.

A bus full of children caught in a surprise snow storm are brought to the café, Marc’s daughter, Clara, feeds them gumdrop muffins given to the café by a glamorous woman on her way to New York City. The woman only gave Marc and Clara two gumdrop muffins, but, tucked away in the refrigerator, they’ve multiplied to fourteen! The exact number of children on the bus.

The book concludes with the chapter titled The Writer. This character had given up hope on pursuing his dreams because he was rejected for his unique writing style. Being at The Van Gogh Cafe revitalized his aspirations when he realized that Vincent Van Gogh had only sold one painting during his lifetime. This artist was shunned because he was unconventional.

The Van Gogh Cafe helped the Writer recognize his gift.
What a great message to convey as a way of concluding this excellent story!

Each chapter perfectly melds into the next and each introduces a new piece of magic, giving you the perfect opportunity to practice predicting and foreshadowing with your children. 


My favorite chapter was the Magical Muffins, so after we finished the book we made our very own Magical Gumdrop Mini Muffins…funny thing is that instead of multiplying, they disappeared sooner than expected. If you’d like to try making them here is the recipe:


Magical Gumdrop Mini Muffins

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 pinch salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup milk
2/3 cup chopped gumdrops {omit the black}
Mini muffin wrappers {I used foil to go along with the muffin wrappers in the book}

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.


3.  In a large bowl whisk the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla to blend


4.  Stir in gumdrops.

5.  Scoop the batter into prepared mini muffin tins

6.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and tops spring back.

7.  Cool in pan for about 10 minutes then remove from pan and let
     cool completely on a rack.

8.  Spread the icing over the top.


The original recipe can be found here



Buttercream Icing:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla 
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk


Directions:

1. In a large bowl cream together the shortening, butter and vanilla. 
2.  Blend in the sugar, one cup at a time, blending well after each addition.
3.  Blend in the milk and continue mixing until light and fluffy.

recipe from allrecipes.com

 “Magic doesn’t have to be eaten in order to work. 
It needs only to be believed…"

Just so you know, the only connection to Van Gogh is the name. The artist makes no appearances in this book. However, don’t skip the opportunity to introduce the artist and his work to your children. 

You may even want to check out this book:



 And here is a good starting place for teaching your children about Van Gogh. 




Then have fun making your own vase of Funky Flowers:





I even saw this and thought it would be a cute idea:



Source

I love children's literature and have been known to curl up on the couch or slide into bed next to one of my children so that we can share a good book. Even as independent readers(we are talking two teens and a tween) we enjoy the time spent reading & creating together... I'm pretty sure they would deny it if you ever asked them.. but I know the truth!


Give The Van Gogh Cafe a try. Let me know what you think!

What is a Plucky Girl you Ask?



A plucky girl is a girl who has courage in the face of challenges.

She may be young or old or any age in between.
She strives to create a safe space for herself and for others so that they feel safe to dream, safe to live with their weaknesses, their frailties, and their differences. She lives in the safety of her strengths and accomplishments; the safety of knowing who she is and how she is and what she is and who she wants to become.


She reminds others how capable they are especially when they are not feeling capable at all. She celebrates the talents, strengths and skills of others while living her truth and she refuses to shrink for others.


She is resilient, strong and powerful! She uses her power to make her life and the life of others more joyful.

She overcomes, restores, changes and perseveres amidst some of life’s most awesome challenges. She uses her power to create things that have never been created before. She is an artist. She strives to make the world a better place!


She bravely shares her stories to inspire others, even when she yearns to keep them hidden. She is a storyteller.

She creates an environment where all people feel encouraged to seek out and find their personal missions in life and then encourages them to go out and live them. She encourages others to try new things, to forgive, to be happy in spite of their obstacles, to speak, to listen, to create. She tries to create real and lasting connections with others in which they take care of each other and look out for one another. She encourages others to seek out truth and beauty in their own lives.


She is brave, bold, daring, spirited and alive!

She is a soccer player, musician, artist or scholar.

She is your teacher, your mom, your sister, your best friend, your partner, your daughter…She is you!