Friday, October 31, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Blog the Vote and Nikki McClure

I like to keep a jump on deadlines so I submitted my ballot by mail two weeks ago. For any of you out there reading this, I know you will not forget or be too busy to VOTE! I've been inspired by Mother Reader and her rally to change the status quo***** Note there will be a Blog the Vote roundup on November 3rd at Chasing Ray. I'm also inspired by artist Nikki McClure. She has a traveling show titled, Vote for Survival. It's only up for another week here in San Francisco so I better get on over to needles and pens to see it.

Yes, I know there are a lot of links in this post already, but I'll leave you with yet one more. This one you can listen to on NPR.ORG. As you know I'm a big advocate of reading aloud to children as long as they will let you. And this program in Harlem, as discussed on NPR, is more proof that literacy starts with infancy. More than wealth, more than nutrition, literacy is predictive of a healthy, happy life. VOTE!!! VOTE!!! VOTE!!! VOTE!!! VOTE !!!VOTE!!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Johnny Appleseed

T'is the season for apples and the story of Johnny Appleseed. We love this version by husband and wife team Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet. It's actually a wonderful poem that was written in 1933 for A Book of Americans.
Here's a sample:
Of Jonathan Chapman
Two things are known
That he loved apples,
That he walked alone.
At seventy-odd
He was gnarled as could be,
But ruddy and sound
As a good apple tree.
S.D. Schindler did an amazing job illustrating this book. His work is intricate, warm and sweet. He has illustrated over 100 books and although I was unable to find his website to see more of his art, I did find this cute image, Catwings from an exhibit of his work that runs now through January 18, 2009 at the Kenosha Museum in Wisconsin. Now I want to get these!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Los Gatos Black on Halloween

If you're a fan of Yuyi Morales author/ illustrator of Little Night, you may like Los Gatos Black on Halloween written by Marisa Montes and illustrated by Yuyi Morales. This rhyming Halloween book includes recognizable Spanish words scattered throughout the poem.

I think older children will appreciate this book as some of the illustrations are quite scary (no blood and guts but lots of skeletons and creepy zombies.) My little ones didn't want to read it more than once. Nevertheless, Yuyi's illustrations are splendidly scary and her palette is deep, rich and velvety. Mexican cultural heritage is depicted by glorious esqueletos in traditional dress. So this book is a crossover to both U.S. Halloween and Dias de los Muertos traditions.

Kim and our mom dipped into the archives to find this '70's Halloween Photo. Yes Kim, it proves you were a cute witch. And do you think those costumes are a little too puritan for kids today?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ghosts in the House!

After reading Nancy's blog (about home-made tinfoil Halloween costumes), I was reminded of this photo of my friend, the mother alien. I love her home-made costume and especially the tin foil antennae.

I think I will dress up for Halloween this year. My son insists that I dress as a witch. Only if I can be a cute witch like the one in Kazuno Kohara's Ghosts in the House!

This is one of the books I brought home from the fabulous Powell's in Portland. I really admire Kazuno Kohara's linocuts and was hoping to find a website which had more information on her and more of her art to view. I found out here that she grew up in Japan and is now studying for her MA in Printmaking in Cambridge, England.

This is her first book which was released in August 2008 as, Ghosts in the House. A paperback version was released in October 2008 titled, The Haunted House.

Here is one of one my favorite images in the book where the little witch decides to wash the ghosts she caught. It appears that Ms. Kohara uses rice paper for the ghosts which have been overlayed in the printing process as chine colle, a perfect combination as the ghosts become nearly transparent when overlapping the black ink.

The story of a little girl-witch and her sweet, black kitty who catch happy ghosts in the house and put them to work as tablecloths, blankets and curtains is not at all scary and is perfect for reading to little ones this season.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ghost Wings and Los Dias de los Muertos

In our little pumpkin town, Halloween festivities start the first week of October. Pumpkins are carefully scattered around our front walk. And this year we've grown a few of our own. The girls want to be princesses yet again on Halloween, but I'm hoping at least one of them will change her mind at the last minute. The little one suggested she could be a carrot, but they mostly laughed about it. I really miss all the homemade costumes I remember from my trick-or-treat days. You don't see too many cardboard box- tin foil robots around anymore.

I better put in an order for candy tomorrow. I want to get some naturally sweet lollys this year. I just can't have all those bite sized snickers around and they're not so great for kids' tummys either. A couple of years ago I gave out Halloween stickers, but they didn't go over so well with the older kids. The neighborhood parents probably weren't too keen on scraping stickers off walls either.

So in keeping with my theme about wanting a Halloween celebration that is a little off the mainstream this year, I've been reading the girls books about the Days of the Dead, or Los Dias de los Muertos fiesta, which is celebrated between October 31 and November 2. It is a Mexican holiday that is both noisy and fun but also pays respect to loved ones that have passed on... passed over... and are still with us in spirit.

Ghost Wings by Barbara M. Joose is about a young girl and the bond she shares with her grandmother. Every autumn they visit the Magic Circle, a place in the Mexican forest where the Monarch butterflies arrive by the thousands. One year the grandmother is thin and frail and she asks the little girl if she can still feel the butterfly that has just flown away from her arm. Her grandmother tells her that the butterflies, "carry the souls of the old ones, and the old ones never really leave." The symbolism of death and spirit is so beautifully rooted in the butterfly imagery. While the girl grieves her grandmother's death, she celebrates her memory with the Days of the Dead festivities and her return to the Magic Circle. Giselle Potter's illustrations were done in ink, watercolor and colored pencil and they are gorgeous. One of my favorite illustrations is of the girl choosing a chocolate and sugar skull from a stand in the Mexican outdoor market.

I will write about two other similarly themed books in the next few days. I like to talk about both Los Dias de los Muertos and Halloween traditions at home. Perhaps we'll go to the Oakland Museum this year. For the past 15 years they've installed a Dias de los Muertos exhibit and I'm told it's worth the trip across the bay. The girls will probably ask me, "Why are there skeleton princesses?"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Military Mom (Interview)

Last week we visited the Pretlow Library in Ocean View near our old house. When we came home, I discovered a book in the diaper bag that I did not check out. Love, Lizzie (Letters to a Military Mom) by Lisa Tucker McElroy. I'm not sure if C or D put it in there....but when I opened it and saw this image, I knew it was a sign. It looks just like my friend Mari and her little daughter M and it tells a very similar story of their lives.

I first met Mari at the Soap and Suds Laundromat in Ocean View five years ago. Both armed with new babies and loads of laundry we vowed to meet every Tuesday at 9 as the laundromat manager was a mean lady who disliked crying babies. Power in numbers, we stuck together as best friends do and our kids grew up close like brother and sister.

This summer Mari (who is enlisted in the Navy) was deployed overseas. She has been gone for a few months now and M's Daddy and Grandma are taking good care of her. It was almost ironic that the day after I found this book I got an email from Mari. I emailed her back a few short interview questions and these are her answers:

Tell us a little about how things are in Iraq, the landscape, culture, people.
Very dusty and brown. Hot. Wide open spaces....

I know that you miss your home. how do you keep in touch with M and Dan?
Her teacher helps her to email me from school and I call when I get a chance. With the 7 hour time difference and my work schedule, sometimes it is hard. I try to write letters, but don't always have time.

What things do you miss most, special foods, places that they don't have there?I miss my daughter and my best friend (you!). I miss freedom. I miss Azteca (Mexican Restaurant). I miss my own bed and my own house and privacy and long showers. And I miss cooking for myself. I miss feeling clean. I miss my cell phone and texting.

Do you ever get to roam around outside of your domain, shopping, eating cultural foods...etc? No.

What percentage of women to men would you say exists in your camp? Are there other moms to talk to? Ok. 10 males to 1 female. There are other moms here.

How many months will you be deployed? All together about 9 to 10 months.

Do you have any thoughts "words of wisdom" you'd like to share with other moms in the military who are preparing for deployment? Enjoy what you have. It can always be worse!

Love, Lizzie is one of the best books published for young children on the tricky subject of how to handle the separation of overseas deployment for families. There are many children in America like Lizzie, whose parents are posted overseas. In her letters to her Mother, Lizzie speaks to all those kids,offering hope and asking important questions about war and her mother's service to America.

Each page is fully illustrated by Diane Patterson with wonderful drawn out letters and colorful maps of Lizzie's stories. On one page she draws a map of the stars and tells her mother to look up at night and "make a wish on the bright North star." "Use the Big Dipper to help you find it, like you showed me, and look for the Little Dipper too" "Hey! They're sort of like you and me!"
Diane's website is interactive with lots of fun things for kids to do and I just found out by visiting that she is the illustrator for several books and my most treasured childhood book "Fiona's Bee."
The very last page of this book gives tips to help kids through what can be a difficult time. Tips like planning ahead, physical reminders of the parent who is departing, keeping up with routine, being straightforward when talking about safety, connecting with other military families and to take advantage of the programs the military has to offer.

So Mari, we'll miss you while you are away.....especially on Halloween, but we'll see M on Saturday at the pumpkin patch and I'll be sure to take lots of pictures for you!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

C is for California

Tomorrow I will have the good fortune of meeting with Marjolein Varekamp who is visiting California and staying in Monterey only a couple of hours from my home! Marjolein and Bees Knees Books are working together on a redesign and Fall 2009 release of her book, A Wonderful Week. Here is her interview from last February.

I'm sure I will have updates after our visit. She had a recent exhibition of her illustrations near her home in the Netherlands and sent us photos.

So, I've been thinking what might she like to take back from California? And I found C is for California. This little board book, written by kids with the organization California Poets in the Schools was published by WestWinds Press who has published similar titles for other states. C is for California but A is for Alcatraz!

The photography, design and simple text make these little geographically informative books worth having in a child's library. Or perhaps a great gift for a visiting children's book illustrator.

So, we're off to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to meet Marjolein tomorrow. Oh! and she's bringing boterbabbelaars candy : ) Don't you love the spelling of that word, boterbabbelaars? And I'm bringing my camera!
Here is another photo of Marjolein's exhibit.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Yom Kippur For Kids

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement falls on the eve of the tenth day after Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). That's when the fast begins too. It's a big one.......twenty-five + hours! This year, 2008 Yom Kippur starts at sundown, Wednesday October 8th and ends Thursday evening, October 9th with the sound of the shofar (ram's horn trumpet).

I found Sound the Shofar! A Story for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur at the library today. It's written by Leslie Kimmelman and geared for children ages 3-6 with simple and colorful illustrations by John Himmelman. You can click the link above to view/read the book.

Yom Kippur is the holiest and most solemn day of the year, a day of fasting and prayers. On this day, Jews refrain from work. It is also customary to wear white, no washing, bathing or cosmetics and no leather shoes.
The day before Yom Kippur is devoted to eating traditional foods like potato kreplach, chicken soup with matzo balls and especially sweet foods like round challah bread and apples dipped in honey, sweet potato soup, pumpkin kugel and ice cream, to symbolize the "sweetness and good fortune" of the new year ahead. My mother gave me a wonderful cookbook with over 100 Jewish family recipes called At Oma's Table by Doris Schechter. It has the BEST menus for all the Jewish holidays and every day life intertwined with sweet little family stories.

Here's a sweet and messy clip of Yom Kippur for Kids. Sound the shofar!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Bailout and Hubert Horatio BB-T

We've been talking a lot at home about, greed, corruption, government scandals- the AIG Bailout.
Remember what happened less than a month ago:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Key Republicans on Capitol Hill blasted the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve on Wednesday for orchestrating an $85 billion bailout of insurance giant American International Group, and the White House for not informing them of the plan.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid -- who also complained that he didn't know a bailout of AIG was in the works -- said Congress won't change laws immediately to address the rapidly unfolding financial crisis because "no one knows what to do."

"We are in new territory here," Reid added. "You could ask [Federal Reserve Chairman Ben] Bernanke, you could ask [Treasury Secretary Henry] Paulson. They don't know what to do, but they are trying to come up with ideas."

Well, you know what I think? They should have called Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent and his best friend Stanton Harcourt III to Washington. After some 5.33 minutes of calculations those boy geniuses would have found a solution! Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent was first published in the US in 2005. Hmmmmm that's the same year AIG was in hot water for accounting fraud. Hey! that should have been a tip-off. Is Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent the only one who knows... "money, indeed, does not grow on trees?"

Lauren Child's characters are brilliant which is common knowledge by now. And this is a brilliantly executed book. A simple review does not do it justice. You must find it in your library or bookstore. I will share one of my favorite page spreads. The "frightfully, frightfully rich" Mrs. Bobton-Trent is in the bath with two-year-old Hubert sleeping near the tub. She doesn't have a blanket and tucks him under a copy of one of her favorite gossip magazines.

"Upon waking, Hubert read the magazine twice front to back and once back to front. This was when Hubert found out he was a pretty good reader."

Sometimes I really, really like a book and my girls aren't as enthused. But Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent had us all engaged well after I finished reading it through.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Monsters on Machines

A whole week has passed since I brought this book home from the Kidlit'08 Conference in Portland and it hasn't gone a day without being read. I suspect my 5 year old has it memorized already and his favorite food this week (Surprise) ....... it's elbow macaroni/ AKA Monsteroni in our house!

Here's an excerpt from Deb Lund's new book,

From her basket she pulls out a black iron pot. It smells really good-like it's starting to rot."Mama, tell us what's in there!" they cry. "Pretty please?" "It's your favorite," she says. "Monsteroni and cheese! Remember your manners. Sit up now and eat." So they shovel it in with their hands and their feet.
Deb sure has a way with words and knows just how to evoke laughter from kids of all ages.

The illustrator, Robert Neubecker keeps a super busy schedule. Not only is he a fabulous and well-known childrens book illustrator but he also draws for Bill Gates' online zine SLATE twice a week (note the latest is a comic of VP candidate Palin!)

With Halloween quickly approaching, I've been searching for costumes for the kids and I think I just found the perfect one from rozzissweetpeas for my little monster.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie

You may know how much I adore The Hello, Goodbye Window from this post HERE. Well, 2008 has brought us a follow-up of the characters in the house with the hello, goodbye window. It's Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie by Norton Juster and Chris Raschka. Once again this picture book team gives us a seamless read-aloud. Here is a taste:

Sweetie Pie:
"When I get big and you get old, Poppy, I'm going to take care of you. You can do whatever you want as long as you clean up when you're done."

"I don't want to drive anymore. I have to go to the bathroom again. I feel sick. It's so boring. I'm going to throw up. Who wants to see where the pilgrims landed anyway? Why can't we stop for a frosty? Let's go home. NOW!"

The little girl's Nana and Poppy don't know who will arrive at the hello, goodbye window. Will it be Sweetie Pie or Sourpuss? Do I know those ever-changing moods!

Children will recognize their own behaviors on the pages and Chris Raschka is brilliant at depicting the light and dark temperament of a child.

As a parent I'm watching them grow. Every day there is some new discovery for us all. This is the first time I'm embedding music on this blog, well besides youtube, but Zach Gill's song, Watch them Grow is so fitting you'll have to give it a listen.

Watch Them Grow - Zach Gill

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Cybils Nominations and Reading Magic

It's time to nominate your favorite books of 2008. That's right, you have two weeks to submit your favorite 2008 titles to the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards nominating panel. Here's the link CYBILS. Why is it important that the public nominate books? Because there are a lot of really good books we need to be reading! Democratic nominations allow for winners that might otherwise be overshadowed by books that receive more publicity.

This is the third annual Cybils awards and a new category has been added. It's the Easy Readers category organized by Anastasia Suen. What a great message to send to parents, and kids. (I suspect teachers and librarians already know how good easy readers can be.) Many easy readers are well executed and entertaining. They are considered a bridge between picture books and chapter books and a necessary part of developing literacy.

Today I went out to Linden Tree Books and got tickets to see Mem Fox talk about her newly updated and revised edition of Reading Magic, Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. Following is a short excerpt from Reading Magic.

"Reading aloud to our sons and daughters also helps them to learn the best kinds of universal values, which will help them grow into being pleasant children now and good citizens later. It advances their speech, enlarges their brain, makes them happy, and helps them to be successful at school and in life. It also gives them sky-high self-esteem. They realize that we love them dearly."

I have high expectations for this presentation and I suspect I won't be disappointed.