Friday, August 29, 2008

I Like Myself

Today has been a day of connections close enough to write about. First it was Obama, his nomination and this post from Haven Kimmel's blog titled Our Better Nature. Don't skip that link!

Then, I was reading a favorite book of my friend Celeste's,
I like Myself by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow. I love this verse****

"Inside, outside, upside down, from head to toe and all around, I like it all! It all is me! And me is all I want to be."

Free Spirit Publishing carries the title on their website and they are a great resource for books that "meet kids' social and emotional needs." Truly, their site is worth browsing for just the right books.

And then I got an email about an anthology by poet Nikki Giovanni titled Hip Hop Speaks to Children due out in October with an accompanying CD. The list of hip hop artists includes A Tribe Called Quest so I had to play a bit of Old School and revisit my 20's. Hmmmm I wonder what connections I'll find tomorrow?????

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Did anyone stay up as late as I did to watch the closing ceremonies for the Olympics? Was it because you wanted to catch a glimpse of Jimmy Page? The fold-out double decker London- bus- becomes- a- stage was amazing, but seeing him play made me realize my age..... and of course it was also a reminder that us older folks can still ROCK!!!!

My D loves Go-Go-Go! by David Goldin because he can read it and also because the illustrations are cartoonish and extremely funny.

Maurice wants to win the gold cup in the bike race that's held once a year. He's a sweet, big, goofy character and you can't help but cheer him on through all his trials. His arch nemesis, Stinky is a scraggly character with a big nose that has green polkadots and stink squiggles always surround him. He's very mean to Maurice and(you guessed it...) in the end Maurice triumphs over evil to win the gold cup!

It's a wacky and zany adventure with words and characters flying all over the pages and David's pink puffy trees remind me oh so much of Dr. Seuss's, which makes me wonder who his influences are. His site features Tetanus Toys that have me laughing out loud. The things you can do with an old paddle racket and a shoe!

Every evening, since the start of the Olympic games, we've been hosting our own olympics right here in the backyard. You're invited, just don't forget to bring the bug spray because the mosquitoes in the South are at full force this time of year! Lots of volleyball with beach balls between his team, USA (which includes Daddy) and mine(avec la bebe sister) is Russia. And you can guess who always wins.

We also host track and field, swimming, diving and bike racing.

But I think we'll have to have closing ceremonies when school starts.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


I was so pleased to find a shiny new copy of Veronica on Petunia's Farm by Roger Duvoisin at our local library. First published in 1962 this is a timeless tale that teaches social grace (which you can't teach enough in our modern-techno society.) I was reminded by my 4.5 year old who was busy actively ignoring anyone who spoke with her at the library including a sweet grandma who complimented her shiny shoes and a good friend of mine and her two sons who asked her if she was ready for school, that she needs to practice some manners! All you have to say is Thank You and acknowledge that someone is talking to you my dear child.

If you don't remember Veronica, she is a hippopotamus who arrives by truck at a farm. Much like the first day of school, Veronica wants to make new friends. Despite the amiable accommodations, a little pond- "just the right size for one hippopotamus," and a beautiful meadow-"just the right grass for eating," Veronica is excluded and gossiped about by the farm animals until she is miserably depressed. She will not come out of her house for a week! Finally the farm animals, one-by-one, feel compassion for her and bring her food until she is better. They decide that Veronica's very big hippopotamus smile is lovely and shows how kind she is. And it doesn't matter if she muddies the pond or smashes down the grass. Veronica is accepted in the barnyard and Veronica decides that her new home is indeed just right.

The story of Veronica brings me to the WKM. Yes, that's the World Kindness Movement! Created in Japan in 1997 their declaration states, "In acknowledgement of the fundamental importance of simple human kindness as a basic condition of a satisfying and meaningful life, we hereby declare the establishment of the World Kindness Movement. Through the individual networks in each country and the formation of this global network we pledge to join together to build a kinder and more compassionate world." For a network in the United states visit . Now if I could just teach siblings to be peaceful and kind to each other on long trips (or even short ones) in the backseat so I don't have to pull-over?????

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


This gorgeous photo is of Tuscany at dusk (taken by my dearest childhood friend on her family summer trek through Europe). It's an image that seems to come from my dreams and reminds me immediately of Little Night by Yuyi Morales. A fantastic review of this book (that I cannot find better words for) is found here at Seven Impossible Things.

While we are still dreaming of Italy, I brought a classic Italian story home from the library this week: The Story of Pinocchio, (based on the original by Carlo Collodi) retold by Katie Daynes. This is a 2006 Highland Picture book award winner.

The warm and charming pastel illustrations by Italian artist Mauro Evangelista immediately caught my eye. Although I must admit I am no fan of "padded hardbacks" (which remind me of those tacky 70's upholstered toilet seats), the art alone won me over.

Even my 5 year old son who will not let us read him this story at bedtime because it is too scary, loves to just look at the imagery.

Here is yet another photo from our amazing summer vacation in California. I badgered my sister to dig this one up from our Disneyland trip. Yes, now I can see how the story of Pinochio can be a little bit scary to a child.....

Sweet Dreams.

Friday, August 15, 2008


A couple of days ago I saw the news footage of a wild dog-like animal some are calling the fabled Chupacabra. Didn't Scully and Mulder find one? Anyway I was reminded of Haven "Zippy" Kimmel's picture book, Orville A Dog Story.

Orville is a stray dog, ugly and half-starved with a crooked ear and a brown spot above his eye. He's also very large and loud. He barks to communicate with the farmers who take him in, but they don't understand him and he is tied to a chain as all his previous owners have done. Mostly we're in Orville's head as the narrative is in third person.

"Night after night, Orville thought about the world, and all his sadness turned angry. He knew about the broken hearts of people, and how they failed to love or do right, and knowing what he knew just made him want to bark. He took to barking."

Perhaps this tale holds more meaning for an adult, but children understand the sadness of a kicked around old hound. Orville finds a companion in Sally Macintosh. "She was as alone as a person can figure out how to be, and she wished: To visit a county fair. To learn to knit a sweater. To be loved, just once in her life." The best part of the story is that everyone ultimately gets their wishes over time and in a way that is not purely coincidence.

Orville reminds me of yet another children's book that crosses over into adult fiction. It's called, A Day, A Dog, and I blogged a bit about it back in May here. These books would be a great read together to spark discussion and creative writing. And if you haven't yet seen the Chupacabra footage...

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Last night we watched the opening ceremonies for the summer Olympics in Beijing, China. At one point in the ceremony they had over 2,200 Tai Kwon Do masters all dressed in white, moving in beautiful formations and running at high speeds, all so graceful. It amazes me that they didn't make any mistakes or run into one another!

It's almost too ironic that my girlfriend in Ashville just emailed me some sweet photos of her little ones dressed for Tai Kwon Do.

Below is another photo of Lucas with his friend who just happens to be a chef at a Chinese Restaurant in Memphis (R.I.P. Isaac Hayes).....which brings me to carry on with the theme of China and restaurants to....

Chopsticks by Jon Berkeley.

This is a beautiful picture book about a little white mouse named Chopsticks who lives inside of a Floating Chinese restaurant in the Hong Kong Harbor. Outside the restaurant are 2 enormous pillars with carvings of wooden dragons. On a magical New Year's night, one of the dragons speaks to Chopsticks. He wishes to come alive and fly, so Chopsticks visits the old wood carver who holds the secret to granting the old dragon's wish. This is the start of a wonderful and unlikely friendship and the beginning of an exciting adventure. The two fly over gorgeously illustrated foreign scenes and mystical Chinese landscapes.

Jon Berkeley sure is one talented guy. He's also a husband and the father of 5 kids, 6 cats and a dog. How does he do it? Must be his sense of humor! Be sure to visit his website and click on his great portraiture/charicatures. Don't miss the one of Robert Smith's hair!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Guji Guji

While I was excited to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit at SF MOMA, the kids had fun with the Contemporary Chinese Art exhibit. Can you see the Made in China stamp on the belly of this giant red dino? Or is it a godzilla-like creature? Or is it Guji Guji the "crocoduck?"

Guji Guji, by Chih-Yuan Chen was first published in Taiwan. It's an ugly duckling tale without the teasing (at least not from the ducks) and a twist.

Guji Guji was hatched by ducks and was completely comfortable as a duck until he met 3 nasty crocodiles who pointed out that Guji Guji was indeed a crocodile just like them. And crocodiles were supposed help each other eat fat delicious ducks. What a dilemma. Guji Guji felt terrible. "I am not a bad crocodile. Of course, I'm not exactly a duck either." Ultimately he gave those nasty crocodiles a mouthful and it wasn't of fat delicious ducks! He is a "crocoduck" hero!

On the jacket flap Chih-Yuan Chen says she was inspired by an American friend of Korean ancestry who was adopted as a baby by a non-Korean family, and how he often felt isolated for being noticeably "different" looking. She goes on to say, "It is my hope that childen from all over the world can learn to accept different people and things, and see the world with broader views and minds. The birth of every single child is a miracle, worthy of our respect."

I am reminded of the lovely Motherbridge of Love , illustrated by Josee Masse, with the text submitted anonymously to Mother Bridge of Love, a charitable organization founded by Xinran that reaches out to Chinese children and helps bridge a cultural gap for those children living outside of China, and also, "to help bridge the huge poverty gap that still exists in China." The book is beautifully presented and read by Amy Tan HERE. Really if you haven't already seen it, or even if you have it will tear at your heart-strings. Lastly I thought I would end this post with a little musical love from the past.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Charlotte's Web on NPR

FYI *******Listen to this wonderful essay on Charlotte I heard today on NPR by Melissa Block. It includes fascinating insights on how E.B. White studied spiders and his ideas about what Charlotte should look like and how the character may be inspired by his wife of 52 years.

Charlotte is a spider's spider, a character who teaches us something profound about love and commitment."

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Fish Facts

My best friend from high school just emailed me some great photos from her summer camping trip in Mammoth. This one is my favorite (note the cute flower hat!) and it looks like it was taken on Lake Mary. My sister,brother and I would go fishing on this lake every summer as kids. Ahhhh....... a dose of good old summer day childhood nostalgia.

Last night I read another Lemniscaat book, Like People by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert ( a German husband and wife team). Although it was a bit long for my restless little ones (probably because of the ice-cream/sugar high before bed), it did have some amazing and fun facts that stuck with my son. For instance, "Some fish fathers brood their kids in their mouths. When there is danger, the children swim back in quick." I think he saw that one in Nemo, although this explains it.

The Schubert's watercolor illustrations are quite realistic and beautiful and the animal characters in this book are sweet and whimsical, like the image of a bear petting and cuddling a baby hedgehog. I must say, some of the animal scenes are absolutely hilarious, like this one of a father kiwi protecting his young. Ouch!!!!!!!