Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I've been noticing lately how my skin is not as elastic as it used to be or how I've lost that sense of youthful reckless abandon (probably a good thing.) I flash forward, first to my kids as teenagers and then as young mothers, or not.

And then there is, My Little Grandmother Often Forgets by Reeve Lindbergh, illustrated by Kathryn Brown. Yes this book is lightly about Alzheimer's. There is a good review over at The PlanetEsme to check out. The illustrations of the grandmother character remind me of Shirley MacLaine. But I digress.

Anyway, the story is told in rhyme from the perspective of the grandson who spends a lot of time with his grandmother making sure she finds her misplaced items, buying groceries, helping her get home and basically keeping her safe. In the end she moves in with the family. This is a wonderful book to discuss with children. What happens when people get old? Because I'll never get old. What responsibility do we have to our aging parents? The author Reeve Lindbergh, is the daughter of Anne Morrow and Charles Lindbergh. I wrote a post some time ago about one of my favorite books by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea. Reeve has written a touching introduction for the 50th Anniversary Edition of that book. I'll have to check out My Hippie Grandmother, Reeve's previous book. Here's a sweet review at the blog Creation Corner.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Zen Ties cute! Wish I could crochet like this!

Jon J Muth's 2008 book Zen Ties is a follow up to his Caldecott Honor Book, Zen Shorts . Stillwater the panda gets a visit from his nephew Koo (who only speaks haiku!) The lessons taught in the story is our interconnectedness with one another and caring for each other....oh, and also reusing paper cups!

The two pandas meet with the three siblings from Zen Shorts, Addy, Michael and Karl. They all get to know Stillwater's elderly friend Miss Whitaker who the children had previously thought of as their mean and grouchy neighbor. In the end they find she is actually very kind and caring. She was an ill, lonely and scared elderly woman and the children soon learn that with a little love, caring and patience, her true personality shines through.

The other lesson in the story is when Stillwater tells Koo to keep his disposable cup to reuse later. Here the author was inspired by the teachings of Soen Nakagawa Roshi (1907-1984) who once led a retreat where students were told to reuse their disposable cups all week during his teachings. At the end of the week the students all kept their cups calling them "precious." He is an important figure in bringing Japanese Buddhism to the West through beautiful teachings of art and poetry.

The luminous watercolor illustrations of the characters are bright and lots of fun. Jon Muth is so talented and I love that he is bringing fresh ideas and art to picture books for children.

Native Grasses

My little ones have been cranky with coughs and runny noses. I woke up with a scratchy throat but I usually override the minor symptoms with ginger tea and honey and coffee. *Not in the same mouthful.

About a year ago I grew some native grasses from seed. (I love the way the grasses look blowing in the strong coastal winds.) They're easy to grow and now I've been pulling them out in clumps and replanting them in the back and giving them away to neighbors.

I found a great little kid's gardening book at a yard sale some years ago by Klutz Press. It's really useful for the novice gardener not just for kids, and there is a lot of information on vegetable gardening. If there is an unplanted bank or area in your yard where you want to plant grasses get your kids involved there's no way to mess up. It's fun to watch those little tufts of grass come up everywhere.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Tree / Happy Arbor Day!

A simple story told from the perspective of an (800 year old) ancient Douglas fir tree living in the Pacific Rain Forest. The Tree by Dana Lyons (a Skipping Stones Award Winner) tells of the many things it has seen and of the wildlife it has sheltered.

I especially love the foreward by Julia Butterfly Hill (author of Legacy of Luna)Remember that Julia had spent over two years living in the branches of an ancient redwood. She says "Trees and our earth take such good care of us and all they ask in return is that we do the same for them. This beautiful home we all live on wants to give to us forever. But if we don't take good care of it and if we continue cutting down all the trees, eventually it will have nothing left to give us."

At the end of the story, there is a page about the Pacific rain Forest which is very informative.

The illustrations by David Danioth are Stunning and powerful. They are realistic and almost 3-dimensional. Each has a different point of view, ex.) looking up at the tree, swimming under water with the salmon, looking down at a Grizzly bear.

I highly recommend this book for all ages. It teaches a love for nature and how we must act now in order to save our beautiful forest trees from disappearing forever.

Happy Arbor Day!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What's in the book bag?

We visit the library a couple of times a week and sometimes we look for new books, sometimes we reread old favorites.
Here is what's in our book bag today. Primero is reading Summertime Waltz in the library.

Little Night

Whopper Cake

Mr. Davies and the baby

I'm Dirty

Wow! School!

The Mitten


Monday, April 21, 2008

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Happy Earth Day! Actually..... everyday should be Earth Day.

I spent a lot of time at the library today trying to find books about keeping our planet clean. Most of the books I found were geared for 2nd grade and up. There is a great one called Recycle! by Gail Gibbons which discusses paper, plastic, glass, cans and polystyrene. It teaches kids how to recycle, tells why it's necessary and its benefits. But I had to leave that one on the shelf because it's beyond my 5 year old's attention/comprehension.

Then, with the help of a really nice librarian (at the new Pretlow branch), we came across an amazing "caring for the earth" series of Pebble/Capstone books. Titles in this set: Let's Recycle!, Let's Reduce Garbage!, Let's Reuse!, Let's Save Energy! and Let's Save Water! PERFECT for early readers with big photo images and few simple sentences with big font.

Earth Smart, How To take Care of the Environment by Leslie Garrett is another early reader published by DK. It was a little too lengthy for my 5 year old but still quite simple with great big photos and text. It's more for the 6-8 crew.

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss was my biggest score for the day! If you're not familiar with this one, it teaches a lesson not to mess with mother nature. When the truffula trees are all cut down to make products for human consumption and in the end only a tiny seed exists....

Our fate now rests in the hands of a caring child who becomes our last chance for a clean, green future.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Nina Bonita

Nina Bonita is a Kane/Miller import by Ana Maria Machado and illustrated by Rosana Faria. It was first published in Brazil under the title, Menina Bonita, and there is also a Spanish version. I love the way picture books show culture. That's a simple statement but here is an example: "Her hair was curly and pitch black, as if made of unwoven threads of the night. Her skin was dark and glossy, just like a panther in the rain." I know the Portuguese language is lyrical, but this translation is well done. The story is about a white rabbit who falls in love with a little girl who, "... would look just like a princess from the Continent of Africa or a fairy from the Kingdom of the Moon." The rabbit asks her many times why she is so dark and pretty. She tells him a few silly reasons like, "When I was a baby I ate lots of blackberries."

Finally he learns the secret. She looks just like her grandmother. The illustrations appear to be colored pencil drawings. The fine detail shows many scenes of Brazilian life. There are illustrations of musicians, dancing, people gossiping, preparing the table for a meal, and time spent at the beach. This is not a new book, but one worth checking out at your library for all the wonderful cultural references and way of looking at racial differences.

My friend Maria had a great idea for her birthday this year. She raised money for Room to Read, an organization that provides long-term scholarships to girls in rural areas around the world. Their mission is, World Change Starts with Educated Children. They work to publish local language children's books, establish bi-lingual libraries, and set up computer labs. Maria raised enough to sponsor a girl's education for a year and buy more books. Way to go Maria! -Makes you think of all we take for granted and grateful for what we have.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


WE LOVE THIS BOOK. I have read it at bedtime every night for 2 weeks. My son thinks it should be released on DVD and I think maybe that's a good idea!
Ayano Imai is both a childrens book illustrator and author. She takes classic phrases such as "Counting Sheep" or "The Grass is Greener" and breathes new life through them to tell enchanting stories.

Her first book, The 108th Sheep is a fantasy, bedtime story for little ones who have trouble falling asleep. Instead of becoming self absorbed in her own sleeplessness, a little girl becomes preoccupied with helping one of those poor little sheep she has been counting. Was it all a dream?

I picked up Chester because I am in love with the art. Ayano studied mineral pigment painting in Japan which, I believe is something like watercolor. Very soft, yet with natural imperfections.

Chester is the story of a little dog who becomes neglected when his family is too busy with work and school. They forget to take him for his walk and heartbroken and lonely, he decides to set out to find himself a new home. He is turned away by the forest birds and then taken in by a rich lady who treats him like a toy. In the end he discovers that his old home wasn't so bad afterall. He heads back to find that the family had been searching for him ever since he ran away. They are very sorry they had taken him for granted and "After that day, everything was different. He was a member of the family and was taken for walks at least three times a day!"
With Earth Day looming, this is a reminder that we must not take for granted all the beautiful living things that we love. We must take the time to nurture and cherish them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

410,000 Paper Cups

I always enjoy a fresh perspective and the art of Chris Jordan is a WOW. It depicts consumption in a way that statistics alone can not. Chris says, "My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 410,000 paper cups used every fifteen minutes."

This subject reminds me of a previous post Nature Education and Stuff. I've been thinking about how easy it is for kids to ask for stuff. OK I don't expect small children to consider the environmental impact of their desired toy, but parents can choose not to buy small plastic items for birthday party bags or rethink the usefulness of a toy impulsively bought to quell the screams of a toddler in the aisles of Target. (And I've done this more then once only to have it thrown into the bin of discarded desires- where it is fished out by me and given back to my child repeatedly.)

The art of Chris Jordan hit home, being the visually oriented person that I am. And since Earth Day is next week, I'll finish this post with a poem by Simon James from Days Like This A Collection of Small Poems.


Yesterday has gone
Tomorrow's yet to be,
Today is now
and always here
For everyone to see.

Friday, April 11, 2008

War Is Not Healthy For Children........

"War is not healthy for children and other living things."......(quote taken from my son's Volcom T-shirt!)

War can leave a country and its people in total devastation and poverty. Everyone and everything suffers. Boxes For Katje is a beautiful, uplifting picture book based on a true story which is set in Holland after World War II. The war has left the people of the town of Olst hungry and cold. They go without soap, milk, sugar and socks (all things which we take for granted). Katje's American pen pal, Rosie sends a goodwill package to help her and her family through the hard times. A relationship blooms between the two girls as they write letters back and forth and Rosie's efforts to help Katje and the poor people of Olst are answered when the whole community of Mayfield, Indiana becomes involved in Giving. Katje and her village receive boxes and boxes of sugar, chocolate, soap, warm coats, socks, powdered milk and canned goods to help them survive one of the worst winters in Europe. This story reminds us that it takes one person to bring about BIG changes.

Candace Fleming is the author of several children's books but this one probably has won the most awards. I counted over 20 on her website! She wrote this story based on her mother's experiences in 1945, when under the direction of a Children's Aid charity, she sent a box to her pen pal Katje. Then later, when the conditions in Holland improved, Katje and her family sent a box of tulip bulbs back to her American friends. I bet those tulips are still blooming all over Mayfield!

Stacey Dressen-Mcqueen is the artist from Portland, Oregon. This is her first book and her work is magnificent, done with a mixture of oil pastel, acrylic and colored pencil. She definitely researched the fabrics and styles of the period.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Who wants a puppy?

The March-April Issue of The Edge of the Forest is up with reviews of four picture books and much more. ***********A little Quiz: Who is Chico bon bon?

The timing couldn't be better for the release of The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! by Mo Willems because everyday I hear, "Mom I really, really want a dog. When can I have a dog?" My daughter has about 6 stuffed dogs one of which I recently sent to the "dog groomer" with my husband on his way to work because I put him in the dryer and his fluffy Silky fur looked like sheep's wool when he was done tumbling. (A warning to anyone who thinks all stuffed animals should be laundry machine compatible) Luckily Blackywhity had a brother.

Here is a quick review of Mo's new book. And if only that pigeon were right and puppies only needed plenty of sunshine and water once a month, I'd be a puppy lovin' mama!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Raquel Salomon

Kim was the first to spot Raquel Salomon's drawings and when she sent me the link to Raquel's site I immediately contacted her. She is an upcoming young Spanish artist whose folk art depicts allegorical references and personal mythology. She has recently compiled many of her drawings in a book and you can see photos of it here on her blog. She also enjoys photography and has her photos on Flickr. There's a wonderful stillness and contemplative quality to her work that is uniquely Raquel.

Raquel I really like your drawings. When did you first start getting recognition for your art?

I’ve been drawing all my life, for fun. On september 2006 I put a few drawings on Flickr, and in a couple of months I decided to open a store on Etsy to give it a try. When I sold my first drawing a couple of days after I couldn’t believe it! Still today I’m amazed there are people hanging the paintings from my head on their walls. I draw for fun, but in the last year I've been offered some “serious” projects. I feel tremendously happy when people like what I do.

You are in school studying to be a teacher is that right?

Actually, I already have a major in Early Childhood Education. I’m studying Pedagogy at the moment, to be a “better” teacher. I love education and I love kids. I would like to work as a teacher rather than anything else.

Living in Spain it must be easy to travel around Europe. Do you travel often?

I travel all I can, more in Spain than Europe, to say the truth. Being a student is more difficult to get the resources to travel long distances... But I would like to visit a lot of European places: Iceland, Italy, Warsaw, Prague, etc. And of course I would like to visit the U.S. but it's sooo big and there are so many things to see that I’d have to go several times!

I know the food is very good in Spain. What is your favorite Spanish recipe?

Oh yes! I love the food of my country! If I have to choose a recipe I would probably choose the arroz con leche or the paella ...mmm... croquetas de jamón serrano are great too. I don’t know, there are so many! These are simple recipes you can make in any place in the world.

A lot of your drawings are of animals or natural elements like, Learn to Fly, where there is a boy sitting in a large nest. Are you a nature girl or a city girl?

Although I live in the city, I rather prefer being in nature. A lot of my ideas when I draw come from nature. Forests, trees, flowers, animals... are a big source of inspiration for me. I think they are wonderful masterpieces.

What is the inspiration for your art?

I get inspired a lot by other’s work. I love to search on the Internet looking for new artists, ideas, textures, techniques... Books and movies are a great inspiration too. I consume a ridiculously big amount of movies and tv shows (Carnivale, Deadwood, Galactica...) And classic authors like Chejov, Gorki, Virgina Wolf, Goethe, etc.

I notice a fable or fairytale quality to many of your drawings. Have children's stories been a big influence?

Yes, I read a lot of children's and youth literature. I particulary like the Grimm brothers, Andersen and Gorey. I’ve illustrated a lot of stories of them (for myself) like “Bearskin” or “The Snow Queen”. I also love traditional tales (like Russian or African folk tales) and illustrated children's books. They are very rich literary speaking, and feed the imagination and the intelligence of children of all ages.

Tell us a little about your childhood.

I have very happy memories of my childhood. I grew up with my 1 ½ year younger brother so we played a lot together. He taught me how to use the slingshot, I taught him how to comb the dolls. We had a small garden below the house and there used to be cows there, and chickens, and even a donkey! I used to spend most of the day out of the house, playing with branches, stones, flowers... Maybe my love for nature comes from that.

Where in the world would you most like to visit tomorrow?

mmmm... I think I’ll say Iceland. Every time I see some of this wonderful piece of earth on TV I want to take a plane immediately and flight over there to see these amazing landscapes.

Who are some of your favorite musicians or bands?

I listen mostly to oldies from the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s... I love love love Billie Holiday, she is my favorite singer ever! I also like Bessie Smith, Sonny Boy Williamson, Louis Armstrong, Nina Simone... And about more current music: Cat Power, Beirut, Regina Spektor, Neko Case, Logh, Sigur Ros and Clem Snide to name a few.

You write a blog called
Forest Eyes and you write in both Spanish and English. What do you enjoy most about blogging?

What I enjoy most is that I can speak of whatever I want whenever I want: books I loved, artists I discover, photographs I’ve taken, etsy favorites... or just show the whole world some little pieces of my personal world. It is very cathartic. It is like a mixed media of communication where you can interact with other people like you.

I'm excited you will be doing the illustrations for a children's poetry collection with Bees Knees Books. Could this be the first book project with more to follow?

Yes, of course! I’m so happy I’m in this project! I’m enjoying it a lot. Thank You so much for considering me to do it, Nancy. You’re doing a great job here.

Thanks Raquel, for taking time on this interview and I'm really looking forward to the poetry project too!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Spring Cleaning

No matter under what circumstances you leave it, home does not cease to be home. No matter how you lived there, well or poorly.
- Joseph Brodsky

My thoughts are about home this morning, maybe because it's time for some spring cleaning. I need to remove "stuff" from the girls room: toys and games that are missing pieces, old artwork, clothes that are too small or never worn... you get the picture. In Busy but Balanced, author Mimi Doe says, "Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner proposed that children's immediate physical home environment shaped their future emotions and approach to life."

What will the girls remember about our current home? Will it be the sound of music and conversation, the messy papers and art supplies aways spread over the dining table, flowers and stones inside, too many clothes strewn over the floor, dishes in the sink? A friend recently told me we could keep up to two hens in the yard. They would remember that! maybe a black and white hen named Clarice?

What do I remember of my childhood home? It was tidy. Mom enjoyed baking in the kitchen and dad liked working on the cars in the garage. I liked to read and watch TV at the same time- probably not the best idea. I remember jumping on the bed, playing barbies in the yard, and sitting on the warm concrete driveway during summer evenings watching cars pass by.

We don't watch tv news at home, so I like to browse a few sites online and see what is happening in the world. And because it's a fitting theme for this post, Amnesty has a recent article about the territory along the Israel Palestine border. Given Rudolf Steiner's proposal that children's immediate physical home environment shapes their future emotions and approach to life, think of the impact of having your home bulldozed?

The sun is now peeking through the coastal fog- time for that spring cleaning!

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Power of Music

In our house the oldies station plays throughout the day. Our kids seem to move around much more harmoniously when it's on. Not only does it get the kids dancing and the baby bopping up and down to the rhythm, it's also educational.... as I've found that my son has learned all the lyrics to his new favorite, "Me and Julio." We always keep instruments in reach too. There is a kazoo, tambourine, shaker and mini microphone to play along with. It makes a fun family activity. As the great saying goes, "The family that plays together stays together."

When we first read The Deaf Musicians, my son didn't know what "deaf" meant. It's the story about a jazz piano man named Lee who loses his hearing and is let go from the band by the bandleader. He goes to a school for the deaf to learn sign language. There he meets Max who used to play sax. A bass player named Rose and singer/ sign language interpreter, Ellie join them. Soon they have a sign language band that performs in the subway every night. And Lee, who once thought his jazz life was over, finds himself playing for audiences larger than ever before.

Pete Seeger, the author, has always been a great storyteller and has put together so many hit songs, including "Where Have All The Flowers Gone," "Turn, Turn, Turn" and "If I Had A Hammer" with Lee Hays. I never knew Pete had so many childrens books published besides the very popular "Abiyoyo."

He has collaborated with reknowned poet Paul Dubois Jacobs as well as on "Abiyoyo Returns" and 2 others.

Brooklyn artist, R. Gregory Christie is a Three-time Coretta Scott King Honor award winner. His work should be familiar as it has graced numerous jazz albums, historical biographies and New Yorker magazines. His art is available to purchase on his site.

"The Deaf Musicians"(2007 winner of the ALA Schneider Family Book Award) is a about the power of music, overcoming obstacles and all the different ways to hear the world. Now my son has a greater understanding of the word "deaf."

So,"Who will listen to a deaf musician?"


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Grandma Caroline

The painting is by my 103 year-old Grandmother Caroline who passed away almost 2 years ago. Kim and I are starting to catalog her work into a photo book for our next family reunion. She was an amazing woman who raised six children as a single mom on a teacher's salary, with the use of only one arm during WWII. She had Polio as a child and painted holding the brush in her right hand and used her left arm to prop up and move her right arm. I love this painting- Thanks Aunt Charline.

The workers in the field remind me of a grassroots meeting in town I went to with the girls. We watched a screening of a film by Two Angry Moms. Well my little one fell asleep, but the meeting was about what the schools serve kids for lunch and how we parents and teachers can organize to oust the vending machine junk food and provide healthy meals with a lot more fresh fruits and vegetables then they currently get. Here is a little clip from the film.