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Today we are pleased to share this guest post from Librarian and Diversity Coordinator Laura Reiko Simeon on ageism in children’s literature. Welcome, Laura!
Super Grandpaby David M. Schwartz was inspired by the true story of Gustaf Håkansson, who in 1951 at age 66 won a 1000-mile bike race in Sweden after being banned from entry on the grounds that he was too old. Before reading this inspiring tale to my elementary-aged students, I asked them to say the first words that came to mind when they heard the word “grandpa.” Some of them were positive to be sure (kind, gentle, loving, cheerful), but most were far less so: slow, bent, broken down, tired, sleepy, weak, cane, and, ahem, smelly! Of course, they cheered for Super Grandpa and were deeply indignant that he wasn’t even officially allowed to try to race (given how often children are forbidden from doing things on the basis of age, I suspect the injustice of this resonated on a personal level)!
However, I couldn’t stop thinking about their initial responses to the word “grandpa.” As I began to pay closer attention, I noticed that a significant number of picture books about older people seemed intended to help children come to terms with their grandparents’ death or mental deterioration. I also observed that older people were often shown as lonely, objects of pity, or cantankerous and vaguely alarming. The AGHE Book Award for Best Children’s Literature on Aging encourages “positive portrayals of older adults in children’s literature” to help counteract this, but is unfortunately not yet very well known.
Surveys of children’s literature confirm my impressionistic observations, but also offer reason for hope. Edward Ansello’s groundbreaking 1977 study found that the three adjectives most frequently used to describe old people in children’s literature of the time were “old,” “sad” and “poor.” In J.B. Hurst’s 1981 survey, older adults were referred to as “nice” or “wise” in three of the books sampled, but in the remainder were described as “funny, small, little, grumpy, lonely, poor, and weak.” In a 1993 study, Sandra McGuire wrote that, “The literature is almost void of older people; frequently fails to fully develop older characters; often focuses on illness, disability and death; and gives children little to look forward to as they age.” Jessica L. Danowski‘s survey of picture books published between 2000-2010 found that the elderly were disproportionately portrayed as white (77%) and male (60%), and that they comprised only 5.6% of all characters. On the bright side, however, the portrayals overall were positive in nature, and most frequently showed older adults who were physically active.
As increasing numbers of people live healthy, vibrant, active lives ever later in life, we need more of these types of picture books that reflect the true gamut of roles older adults play in our society. Given the reverence and respect shown to elders in many cultures, diverse literature is a natural place to look to fill this need.
An immigrant grandmother turns innovator in Frances and Ginger Park’s The Have a Good Day Cafe. Tired of her family’s leaving her at home while they go out to run their hot dog stand, Grandma declares, “I did not travel ten thousand miles just to stay home and rest my feet day after day.” Observing that the stand is suffering from competition from other vendors, she and her grandson come up with a plan to differentiate themselves by selling her Korean specialties, leading to an upsurge in business. This is an enterprising woman who isn’t about to let the grass grow under her feet!
You’re never too old to be a hula-hooping champion, or so proves Miz Adeline in Thelma Lynne Godin’s The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen, set in a gloriously diverse New York City neighborhood. After Kameeka gets distracted while running an errand, her mother is unable to make a birthday cake for their beloved elderly neighbor.
Far from being a pitiful recluse or a crotchety old scold, Miz Adeline is popular and high-spirited. Her friend and hula-hooping rival Miss Evelyn is no slouch either, and the two older women breathe life into the party! Godin handles this skillfully, making hula hooping something that forges a bond across generations rather than turning Miz Adeline into a “bizarre and comical” old person, another common stereotype.
In A Morning with Grandpaby Sylvia Liu, Mei Mei learns tai chi from her grandfather, Gong Gong, and in turn teaches him some yoga. The ebullient little girl struggles to achieve the fluid, deliberate grace of tai chi, while the older man has a bit of trouble with some of the more challenging asanas. Together they have a ball, laughing and encouraging one another, each doing their best while trying something new. It is a charming portrayal of a playful, loving intergenerational relationship.
In Holly Thompson’s touching The Wakame Gatherers, biracial Nanami heads out into the surf collecting seaweed with Gram, her white American grandmother visiting from Maine, and Baachan, who is part of her multigenerational household in Japan. Neither woman speaks the other’s language, but they are bound together by their love for their granddaughter and a spirit of open-mindedness. In this lovely story, two women who lived through a world war that pitted their countries against one another now embrace new cultural experiences, from trying new food to embarking on trans-Pacific travel.
Books that help children come to terms with the loss and bereavement, as well as distressing medical conditions, are certainly necessary—but these tragedies can afflict the young and middle aged as well the old. Greater diversity in picture book portrayals of the elderly benefit readers of all ages.
The daughter of an anthropologist, Laura Reiko Simeon’s passion for diversity-related topics stems from her childhood spent living all over the US and the world. An alumna of the United World Colleges, international high schools dedicated to fostering cross-cultural understanding, Laura has an MA in History from the University of British Columbia, and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Washington. She lives near Seattle where she is the Diversity Coordinator and Library Learning Commons Director at Open Window School.
I am so very happy to welcome back Sylvia Liu onto Miss Marple’s Musings as part of the blog tour for her debut picture book, A MORNING WITH GRANDPA. This manuscript won the 2013 Lee and Low New Voices Award … Continue reading →
That we refuse to have a pet cat is an ongoing source of frustration for my kids (if you’re curious as to why, several of the reasons are covered in this article) and so when M and J discovered Poppy’s Place: The Home-made Cat Café they hungrily swallowed it whole, making notes as they read, plotting quietly with each other when ever they though I wouldn’t notice.
Isla is cat crazy, but her mum refuses to let her have one as a pet. Isla’s mum works as a veterinary nurse and the last thing she wants after a busy day at work is to come home to more animals who need looking after. But then Poppy appears in their lives…
This especially lovely cat, in need of a home, turns up at around the same time as Isla’s granny comes to stay for the first time since becoming a widow. Gentle strands exploring family relationships, the grieving process, and the adjustments that have to be navigated as family shapes change all come together in this sweet story where Isla comes up with an entrepreneurial way to persuade her mum to finally let her dream come true and have a cat at home.
And as the title alludes to… not just one cat, but a full on fantasy for many a feline fan: the creation of their very own cat café, a place where you can not only get great cake, but can enjoy a coffee with a cat purring in your lap. The experience of reading books is often about escaping into dreams you wish could become reality, and for my girls this was definitely the case with Poppy’s Place: The Home-made Cat Café!
This is a feel-good, gentle comfort-read of a story, ideal for fans of Holly Webb’s animal stories, or perhaps those who like Jacqueline Wilson’s younger fiction. Isla’s persistence and her tech savvy big sister’s kindness are great, and the way the community comes together to support a project is another charming side to this story. Both my kids are very pleased there is to be second book later in the year following the characters they’ve met in Poppy’s Place… even if they’re still getting nowhere when it comes to persuading me that we should have a cat. At least now they can live vicariously through Isla!
I wouldn’t want you to think that I have a heart of stone, even though I refuse to have pets. I really do have a soft side, and I even let it show one day after school when the kids came home to this:
The girls ordered from the menu…
Can you spot all the different feline-themed food?
We may not have had any real cats in our café, but we certainly had a few who stepped out from stories. Who can you spot?
If you’d like to make your own cat café at home, please feel free to use our menu template. It has endorsements from all sorts of fictional cats (Garfield says of the café: “Paw-sitively the yummiest place to eat even if there isn’t any lasagna…“), and also some cat-themed book recommendations on the back. You can download the menu cover here (pdf), and the inside (ready for you to fill with your own choice of food) here (pdf).
Except for the book covers and the silhouette cats, all the images used in the menu come from the British Library Flickr Stream, an amazing set of over a million images from British Library held material, free for anyone to use, remix and re-purpose.
Whilst dining in our home made cat café we listened to:
C Is for Cat by The Pop Ups
Walking My Cat Named Dog by They Might Be Giants
Kitty Fight Song by Joe McDermott
Other activities which might work well alongside reading Poppy’s Place include:
Maria Had a Little Llama/Maria Tenia Una Llamita and Knit Together author and illustrator Angela Dominguez creates heart-warming tales about family and togetherness. Angela Dominguez is a two-time recipient of the American Library Association’s Pura Belpre Honor (2014 and 2016).
It’s kind of a love letter to my mom.
— Angela Dominguez on “Knit Together”
Angela’s picture books are rooted in the themes of family, tradition, and friendship. Several of her books including Maria Had A Little Llama/Maria Tenia Una Llamita;Let’s Go, Hugo; and Knit Together pull from relationships with family members and artifacts from her childhood. A wind-up toy inspired French bird Hugo. Angela’s memories of wanting to be a skilled knitter like her mother led her to write a book to remind children they can be talented in their own way. An aunt’s interest in indigenous cultures informed the writing of a version of Mary Had a Little Lamb with a Peruvian twist.
Angela’s books aren’t only an option for children growing up bilingual; they are excellent for those who want to expose young readers to the Spanish language and Latino culture.
Aspiring illustrators will enjoy hearing about Angela’s process and seeing what a book looks like from start to finish.
We’re giving away three (3) sets of books from Angela Dominguez. Each set includes signed copies of Maria Had a Little Llama and Knit Together. Enter now!
All entrants must reside in the United States and be at least 13 years old.
ABOUT THE BOOKS
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers
From an award-winning illustrator comes a sweet story of mothers and daughters, drawing and knitting, and learning to embrace your talents just right for Mother’s Day. Drawing is fun, but knitting is better because you can wear it Knitting isn t easy, though, and can be a little frustrating. Maybe the best thing to do is combine talents. A trip to the beach offers plenty of inspiration. Soon mom and daughter are collaborating on a piece of art they can share together: a special drawing made into a knitted beach blanket. For every mom and daughter, this is an arts-and-crafts ode creative passion and working together.
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Harry N. Abrams
Dominguez presents a humorous and endearing portrait of a stubborn French bulldog and a determined little boy.
Everyone knows about Mary and her little lamb. But do you know Maria? With gorgeous, Peruvian-inspired illustrations and English and Spanish retellings, Angela Dominguez gives a fresh new twist to the classic rhyme. Maria and her mischievous little llama will steal your heart.
Let’s Go, Hugo! Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers
Hugo is a dapper little bird who adores the Eiffel Tower — or at least his view of it from down here. Hugo, you see, has never left the ground. So when he meets another bird, the determined Lulu, who invites him to fly with her to the top of the tower, Hugo stalls, persuading Lulu to see, on foot, every inch of the park in which he lives instead. Will a nighttime flying lesson from Bernard the Owl, some sweet and sensible encouragement from Lulu, and some extra pluck from Hugo himself finally give this bird the courage he needs to spread his wings and fly?
Marta! Big & Small (August 23, 2016)
Written by Jennifer Arena, illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Roaring Brook Press
Marta is “una nina,” an ordinary girl . . . with some extraordinary animal friends. As Marta explores the jungle, she knows she’s bigger than a bug, smaller than an elephant, and faster than a turtle. But then she meets the snake, who thinks Marta is “sabrosa” tasty, very tasty But Marta is “ingeniosa,” a very clever girl, and she outsmarts the snake with hilarious results. With simple Spanish and a glossary at the end, this fun read-aloud picture book teaches little ones to identify opposites and animals and learn new words.
Hello “Hola.” Some people speak Spanish. Some people speak English. Although we may not speak the same language, some things, like friendship, are universal. Follow two young giraffes as they meet, celebrate, and become friends. This bilingual tale will have readers eager to meet new friends and “amigos.”
COMING IN 2017 Sing Don’t Cry
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Henry Holt & Company
Pura Belpre Honor winner, Angela Dominguez, based this musically driven story on her beloved grandfather. Her abuelo always encouraged her to stay positive and carry on.
ABOUT ANGELA DOMINGUEZ
Angela was born in Mexico City, grew up in the great state of Texas, and lived in San Francisco. She’s the author and illustrator of picture books such as Let’s Go, Hugo!, Santiago Stays, Knit Together, and Maria Had A Little Llama, which received the American Library Association Pura Belpré Illustration Honor. When she is not in her studio, Angela teaches at the Academy of Art University, which honored her with their Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013. She also enjoys presenting at different schools and libraries to all sorts of ages. Angela is a proud member of SCBWI, PEN America, and is represented by Wernick and Pratt Literary Agency.
I bet your dad is not like other dads. It might be nice to remember this on Father’s Day – yes it’s just around the corner, but with fab picture books like these celebrating the quirks and qualities of fatherhood available now, why wait. My Amazing Dad by the very amazing Ezekiel Kwaymullina and Tom […]
Out this September from the Children’s Book Press imprint of LEE & LOW, Maya’s Blanket/La manta de Mayaputs a child-focused Latino spin on the traditional Yiddish folk song “Hob Ikh Mir a Mantl” (“I Had a Little Coat”) about a piece of fabric that is made into smaller and smaller items. We interviewed author Monica Brown about how she’s been inspired by the book.
1.What inspired you to write a children’s book based on the Yiddish folk song “Hob Ikh Mira Mantl”?
I’ve always loved the idea song, which is as much about creativity as it is about recycling and creating something from nothing. The song has inspired several books, in fact, and still inspires me. I often draw on my cultural heritage for inspiration, and Maya’s Blanket/La manta de Maya is no exception, paying homage to different aspects of my Jewish and Latina identity. It celebrates the two languages I speak, side by side on the page, along with a history of multigenerational storytelling passed down from both sides of my family.
I love the message of the song–that an object can be transformed again and again, and ultimately into something intangible and lasting through effort, creativity, and imagination. I like the idea that we can extend the life of things we love—with our own two hands or our imagination.
2.Did you have a favorite lullaby that your parents sang to you growing up? What about a lullaby that you sang to your daughters?
My mom sang me wonderful songs in Spanish. As a child I loved in particular Tengo una muñeca vestida de azul, which translates into I have a doll dressed in blue. When her granddaughter and namesake Isabella was born, my mother, Isabel Maria, made up a special song for her. It started with this line “Isabelita, Chiquita bonita de mi Corazon” and ended with “Corazon de melon!” It was a silly sweet line, but I’ve forgotten the lines in between, and now my mother is gone.
As a child, my only babysitters I knew were my tías and my Nana, my paternal grandmother, who taught me to embroider and sew. I stayed overnight at my Nana’s often and when I did, “the sandman” would visit us at night. For those who don’t know, the Sandman myth, which originates in Europe, is of a character who sprinkles sand on children’s eyes, bringing them happy dreams. My Scottish and Italian Nana would be sure the sandman visited each night. If I behaved just okay during the day the sandman would sprinkle regular sand on my forehead to help me fall asleep. If I was good, I would get silver sand, and if I was very, very good, I would get gold sand sprinkled on my forehead. I could feel the different types of sand as my Nana’s hands smoothed across my forehead, hair, and closed eyes.
3. Do you have an object today that’s your “Maya’s blanket,” i.e. that you are continually finding new uses for and don’t want to part with?
As an adult I have more of a subject than an object, and it is the subject of childhood memory. I think I became a children’s writer so I can go back and be in that moment of childhood innocence to remember what it feels like to be comforted by a beloved grandmother or my mother, to remember those minutes and hours, forever gone, of days spend with my Nana, who patiently taught me to embroider, and to sew and stitch or my mother, who shared story after story of her childhood in Northern Peru, and her dreams and her art.
I’ve never used an electric sewing machine, but thanks to my Nana I’ve still managed to stitch and mend and sew my daughter’s things—even a Halloween costume or two with those basic stitches my grandmother taught. I have my Nana’s sewing basket still, just as I am surrounded by my mother’s paintings each time I pick up a pen or open up my computer to write.
5. MAYA’S BLANKET provides an important message about recycling! Do you have any tips on how people can be more eco-friendly?
As a teacher, I always think the place to begin with is education and The Environmental Protection Agency has a website with lots of resources for children, parents, and especially teachers: http://www2.epa.gov/students. I also love that the Sierra Club has a student coalition for high school and college students that trains and connects young environmental activists: http://www.sierraclub.org/youth. Finally, well, I want to give a shout out to my fellow writers by highlighting Authors for Earth Day: http://www.authorsforearthday.org, a group that supports conservation through literacy.
It is my hope that children and the adults in their lives can become more aware and conscious of the challenges using our natural resources responsibly, and looking to for more creative solutions to persistent problems.
About the Book:
Maya’s Blanket/ La Manta de Maya
by Monica Brown, illustrated by David Diaz
Out September 2015
Ages 5-9 ~ 32 pp. ~ bilingual
Learn more about the book here.
We’ve seen some wildly adventurous and hilarious new release picture books available for Father’s Day, now it’s time to celebrate with some more tender, but just as lively, titles that will melt your heart with their precious innocence and charm. Daddy, You’re Awesome, Laine Mitchell (author), Renée Treml (illus.), Scholastic Australia, 2015. It’s the […]
Grandparents Day- September 13th- is a great reminder for us all to show our grandparents how much we love and appreciate them (& their impressive ability to never run out of reasons to send a card). From their tremendous accomplishments and contributions to those warm and magical memories we have, finding a reason to #DoSomethingGrand in their honor is never that hard. Freshly baked cookies, anyone?
But these special bonds between the old and the young do not need to begin and end with the familiar faces that surround your dining room table. Intergenerational opportunities for younger and older generations to come together can be found through partnerships between families and community organizations, senior centers, nursing homes, church groups, and even schools, helping to bring the community together across generations. Best of all, creating these opportunities for younger and older generations to come together has shown to have a number of positive benefits and can really make a difference in each other’s lives:
Social and emotional:
Empathy and compassion
Fine/gross motor skills
Academic skills (literacy, STEM, history)
But what kind of activities can the old and young do together? How do you help these types of relationships grow? According to the Penn State Intergenerational Program (PSIP), it’s important to think about activities that best match their developmental abilities, emphasizelearning, promote discussion, and involve sharing skills and insights:
For example, Sunday Shopping, a book about a young girl and her grandmother who go on an imaginative shopping trip together every Sunday, could serve as a great jumping off point for many different activities:
Literacy/Communication Skills: Read Sunday Shopping aloud together and then discuss what you each like to buy when you go shopping. First or second reading: Download and print the Sunday Shopping Activity Sheet and use the shopping bag cut-out and items from the story to follow along and add items to the bag as Evie and her grandmother shop in the story.
Literacy/Communication/Fine Motor Skills: Use what you learned from your discussion and browse various catalogs, newspapers, and magazines and circle/cut-out your shopping choices with the listed prices. Cut-out items that you think the other person would be interested in and explain why you chose those items. Then, create a written or typed shopping list of the items you want to buy and go shopping for.
Dramatic Play: With a little imagination and some creative props, such as a shopping bag or cut-out shopping bag from the Sunday Shopping Activity Sheet, pretend to go to all kinds of different stores, putting the cut-out items into your bags. When you’re finished shopping take turns being the cashier.
Math: Choose a budget. Then, with your shopping list and pretend money help keep track of the total while you shop. After shopping, “check-out” and see if you have enough money to pay. If not, use problem-solving to take items off the list, or figure out how much more money he/she needs to pay for their items. Challenge: figure out the price of discounted items or incorporate sales tax; create coupons to use at the checkout.
Art/Fine Motor Skills: Take the cut-out items from your shopping trip and create a collage together.
Intergenerational Program Ideas and Resources:
Grandparents Day Take Action Guide from Generations United: A call to action guide for grandparents/older adults, children/youth, grandfamilies, and intergenerational programs to #DoSomethingGrand not only on Grandparents Day but all year long.
Cool Intergenerational Program Ideas from Generations United: An extensive list of over 50 successful programs that differ in style and practice but share the same meaningful goals. From intergenerational pen-pal programs, schools, camps, pet therapy, community gardens, to foster grandparent opportunities, the ideas are seemingly endless.
Intergenerational Activities Sourcebook from Penn State: 53detailed activities and learning experiences ranging from getting-to-know-you exercises (if you’ve ever been involved in first-day-icebreakers you’ll be familiar) to crafts, writing tasks, outdoor exploration, games, traditions, technology, and more. Each activity description comes with step-by-step instructions, materials/resources, objectives, and academic/life skill connections.
Across Generations Activities from The Legacy Project: A list of activities organized by category (literacy, art, science, games, food, etc.) to enjoy with grandparents, grandfriends, and beyond.
Grandparents Day Books: A list of around 40 Lee & Low books to enjoy on Grandparents Day or any other day of the year!
And finally, for the selfie-inclined, don’t forget to #TakeAGrandie of you and your grandparent or grandfriend for Generation United’s “grandie” contest!
Veronicahas a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking or hanging out with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.
On Sunday September 13, the United States will celebrate National Grandparents’ Day. This annual holiday, held on the first Sunday after Labor Day, celebrates our grandmothers and grandfathers. Marian McQuade, grandmother to 43 and great-grandmother of 15, is widely credited with founding the holiday.
The very look and feel of families today is undergoing profound changes. Are public policies keeping up with the shifting definitions of “family”? Moreover, as the population ages within these new family dynamics, how will families give or receive elder care? Below, we highlight just a few social changes that are affecting the experiences of aging families.
Every now and again you come across a perfect book. Of course there's no such thing as perfection for everyone, but for you as a reader, the right book lands into your hands at the right time. This is how I feel about the Holm's Sunny Side Up.
It's 1976 and Sunny Lewin is being sent down to Florida to spend some time with her Grandpa. But where Gramps lives is no Disney World ... it's a retirement community where Sunny has to wear an ID at all times to prove that she belongs there.
Luckily, Sunny isn't the only kid in the community. The groundskeeper's son Buzz lives there as well. He is totally into comics and introduces Sunny to some of his favorites while she's in Florida. The two of them manage to make some money finding lost cats for the old ladies, and golf balls for the pro shop to fund their comic habit.
These all seems rather bucolic and idyllic on the surface, but readers learn through Sunny's flashbacks that there is a reason that she is spending time with Gramps far from home. It turns out her older brother is experiencing problems with addiction. Sunny doesn't understand what's really happening -- she just knows her brother isn't who she remembers him to be and he's causing all kinds of trouble for their family.
Handled deftly, Sunny's confusion and concern are heartbreaking. Based on true events, the authenticity in this title stands out. The push pull of Sunny's feelings for her brother are obvious and none of the characters are one note. Little things like the toilet roll doll and lifting buns from the early bird special may go over younger readers' heads, but are perfect for the setting and the time period.
I borrowed our copy from the library, but will be purchasing this one to live on my shelves. I can imagine future me pulling it from the shelf and shedding a tear or two each and every time.
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Illustrator Sam Usher burst onto the scene two years ago with with a riot of colour and pattern in Can You See Sassoon?, which was shortlisted for the Red House Children’s Book Award 2013. When your first book gets flagged up as a potential prize winner, there is some expectation and anticipation when it comes to future publications.
More than two years after Can You See Sassoon? was published, Usher is back, and like all good things, it has been worth the wait.
Snow by Sam Usher celebrates that wonderfully exciting feeling in the pit of your stomach when you open your eyes in the morning, draw back the curtains and… your world has been transformed by a deep blanket of snow. The potential for play, the white world waiting to be explored, the possibility to really make your own mark….ahh! Just how quickly can you get out there to delight in at all?
A young boy zooms through getting ready, frustrated by the time it takes his Grandfather to join him. Will it be worth the wait for other kids are already out there leaving footprints everywhere?
A whole lot of snowballs and a little bit of childhood magic later, Grandpa and child agree “some things are definitely worth waiting for“. With Snow, I couldn’t agree more.
Usher’s illustrations are full of life and energy; there’s a comfortable looseness about them, and I cannot help but draw comparisons (in the best possible way) with Quentin Blake. Perhaps it is because the Grandfather in this story physically reminds me of Blake, with his bald pate and avuncular manner. But it’s also in the noses, the wonky fingers, the hand gestures and I love this stylistic echo. Indeed I get a real kick from these potentially vulnerable pen lines that speak to me of a real person, drawing a line that connects creator, story, reader and listener together.
With another contender for my favourite page turn of the year, showing how an almost plain white page can produce both gasps and a burst of warm delight, Snow is a wintry classic that will bring much delight and joy, however long you have to wait for it.
Alas weather in our part of the world has been unseasonally warm so I don’t hold out much hope of snow any time this year. Ever the optimist, I instead made some snow to play with in the warmth of our kitchen.
Snow dough is a moldable yet friable substance akin to commercially available ‘moon sand’, made out of corn flour (corn starch) and oil. We mixed about one part sunflower oil to four parts corn flour, and just for good measure added in a few drops of peppermint essential oil so that our snow dough smelt like Christmas candy.
I smoothed out the snow dough to recreate that blissful untouched vista of snow, and brought out a load of playmobil people and plastic animals (matching those in the book where possible). A small pot of glitter, for pinching and casting over the scene to add a little extra sparkle completed the invitation to play.
Lots of tracks in the snow were made, and because the snow dough is moldable, caches of snowballs and even an igloo were also prepared.
The snow dough has a wonderful crunch to it when you mold it – satisfyingly just like real snow!
Cake and hot chocolate completed our afternoon playing in the “snow”.
Whilst playing in the snow we listened to:
Dean Martin sing Let it Snow!
Snow Day by Zak Morgan – we really love this one!
Snow Day Dance by The Fuzzy Lemons
Other activities which could work well alongside reading Snow include:
Creating your own snowstorm at home. Inspired by the ‘Snowstorm in China’ magic trick (click here to see in action – I’m assuming shiny trousers are optional), you – and the kids – could tear up large quantities of white tissue paper and then use fans to get the “snow” falling in your home.
Researching how to make the best hot chocolate. Why not make a “science lab” with different types of milk, cocoa vs hot chocolate powder vs melted chocolate, optional extras like marshmallows or flaked chocolate and investigate different ways of making this wintry drink; kids will no doubt enjoy coming up with their own recipes. Here’s a comparison of different recipes to get you started.
I know at least one of my readers has already got snow this November (Hello Donna!), but has anyone else had the chance to play in snow yet this year? Or are you heading into Summer?
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Snow from the publisher.
I love the way award-winning author Debra Tidball describes her view on valuing connectedness across the generations. I also love the sentiment in celebrating people’s personal histories and appreciating who they are now, and then. Having had a grandmother with whom I had a strong bond, ‘When I see Grandma’ really resonated in my heart. […]
When I moved from Ithaca, NY to Washington DC in 1998, I was missing my three granddaughters, ages 10, 8, and 6, and wanted to stay close to them. At the same time, I was going through a rebellious phase, resisting doing daily things we all need to do, cleaning, sorting mail, paying bills, etc. My therapist encouraged me to make friends with the “little girl” within me who was so angry about “shoulds” and find a way to work together. She also encouraged me to look for the “why;” why should I care about this task that I don’t want to do.
One day I told her that I had paid all my bills on time that month, and she said, “Good for you! Give yourself a gold star!” What an idea! So I started a little notebook, listed my accomplishments, and gave myself a gold star each time. I wanted to share this idea with my granddaughters, so I designed a two-way postal card out of oak tag. On the top part it said, “Here’s something I did that I’m proud of.” On the bottom half, to be returned to the sender, it said “Here’s what I think of your story.” I made up a supply of these cards, and for a while, we exchanged these messages with great joy.
When I shared these cards with my friends, they said, “This is a great idea; you should turn it into a product!” I didn’t want to just write up a boring “how to” pamphlet to go with them, so I got the idea to write a children’s story about a little girl named NoraLee Johnson who hates doing chores and misses her grandparents who have moved away. She is visited by Loofi Mondel from planet Ifwee, where the motto is “If we care, it’s magic!” They travel in a space ship to Ifwee, where NoraLee meets several residents who only do things they care about. Then they give themselves gold stars, and share their accomplishments with people they love. That’s GoldStar Magic!
They also show her the “magic two-way postal cards” so she can stay close to her grandparents by writing to them about things she’s proud of. The GoldStar Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit, ™including NoraLee’s Adventures on Planet Ifwee, two-way postal cards, gold stars, and a link to download the Ifwee song. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Terry Nicholetti, Founder and Chief Encourager of Speak Out, Girlfriend!, is a former teaching nun and professional actor/playwright and author, with nearly 30 years experience in sales and marketing. A speaker, consultant and member of National Speakers Association, Terry helps clients, especially artist/entrepreneurs, find their voice and tell their stories. For the past five years, Terry has been studying Mindfulness Meditation, and loves to share a simple yet profound process for becoming more “mindful or “present” at difficult moments, for example, when one is nervous right before a presentation. A member of Unity Worldwide Ministries congregations for more than a decade, Terry has built her Speak Out, Girlfriend! 9 Steps to Get from Fearful to Fabulous in part on Unity principles, especially that the spirit of God/Source/Universe lives in each of us, and that we create our life's experiences through our thoughts. Inspired by missing her own grandchildren after a move, Terry created and produced the GoldStar Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit ™, including the delightfully illustrated NoraLee's Adventures on Planet Ifwee, to help children and their grandparents get closer together, one story at a time.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: GoldStar Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit, ™ including NoraLee's Adventures on Planet IfweeGenre: children
Bringing children and their grandparents closer together – one story at a time!
Parents: Are you looking for ways to help your young children (ages 4-10) stay in touch with their grandparents?
Grandparents: Are your Skyping, texting, emailing, to stay in touch with your grandchildren? Do you remember how exciting it was to get something in the mail addressed to you?
The Gold Star Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit™ offers a really unique way to use first class mail to help children get closer to their grandparents – as well as build their self-esteem – one story at a time! The kit is built around NoraLee’s Adventures on Planet Ifwee, a delightfully illustrated, 32 page book about a little girl who hates doing her chores, and misses her grandparents. When she visits Planet Ifwee, she learns how to use GoldStar Magic! to solve both these challenges. NoraLee meets residents like Robinia Clarinda Gazaundry, who helps her dad with the family laundry. From her new friends, NoraLee learns to do something because she cares, give herself gold stars because she feels so proud, and use magic Two-way postal cards to tell her grandparents so they can be proud too.
The kit also includes:
6 Two-Way Postal Cards™ and sealers for children & grandparents to tell their stories.
Lots of Gold Stars.
A link to download The Ifwee Song!“ by Terry and Jan Nigro of Vitamin L Children’s Chorus.
Victoria Lane has made a successful career from writing; as an award-winning financial journalist for many years, editor and correspondent for many leading media publications, and of course, as a picture and chapter book writer for children. Today, we delve into Victoria’s writerly mind as she shares her inspirations behind her touching picture book, Celia […]
I have my first contender for the very best picture book I’ll read all 2015.
The Duck and the Darklings written by Glenda Millard, and illustrated by Stephen Michael King is a gentle and powerful heart salve. It is a tiny yet quenching oasis of love and hope. It is funny and quirky and lyrical and poignant and lovely in that way that makes your lips feel a little like singing when you read its words.
Grandpa and Peterboy live underground because the earth above has fallen into ruin. A quiet air of melancholy pervades their home whilst they remember happier, healthier and brighter times past. One day Peterboy finds a wounded duck which he brings home, even though they have little food to share. Compassion, thoughtfulness and generosity heal the duck, but once she is well enough she is drawn by instinct to leave and fly across the skies. The thought of losing his new friend makes Peterboy sad. Can he let that which he loves go?
Millard has written an exquisite story about hope and friendship. Rarely will you come across a picture book full with such glorious verbal imagery, where in almost every line words and sentences feel like they have been recast, hewn afresh from the language we use everyday. Melodic and evocative, I can’t remember the last time I read aloud a picture book and so enjoyed simply feeling and hearing the sentences blossom into the air as I shared the story.
With echoes of Leonni’s Frederick, The Duck and the Darklings explores the power of stories, real, remembered and imagined, to sustain us. For me it was also a metaphor for mourning and a way through, back to finding a sense of hope after experiencing depression, and how building relationships, even if they ultimately change and move on, is a that which brings us life.
M and J probably didn’t react the same way, I shall freely admit! As child readers of this book they adored its unconventionality, its playfulness, its whimsy. Grandpa in the book is highly inventive (there are many illustrations of his contraptions), Peterboy is brave, inquisitive and kind. He has freedom to roam and a valued role in the family and both these aspects also hugely appealed to my kids.
King’s illustrations are a perfect match for this very special story. With lots of black, dark blues and purples, mixing seemingly chaotic splashes and brushes with fine detail, humour and increasing use of colour as hope gradually fills the world between the book’s pages, King has created a beguiling landscape.
To paraphrase a line from The Duck and the Darklings, when I’m searching for books to share with my family and with you here on the blog, I wish “for more than crumbs and crusts”; I wish for “scrap[s] of wonderfulness.” And a piece of wonderfulness is truly what this book is.
A detail from the backcover of The Duck and the Darklings. This was the image which especially inspired our “playing by the book”.
Inspired by the darkness and the forest and flowers which grow as the earth heals, thanks to the blooming of hope and friendship between Peterboy, Idaduck and Grandpa, we created our own sculpture taking King’s illustrations as are starting point. To create the sculpture we used a large cardboard box, a piece of polystyrene (packaging from another box), jam jar and bottle lids, twigs, acrylic paint and tape.
First J painted the inside of the cardboard box and the twigs black, matching the black stemmed plants in King’s illustrations. She also painted the back of the lids black (where they weren’t already black), and the insides of the lids bright colours. For all of this it was important to use acrylic paint (rather than poster paint) as it adheres to almost any surface, including wood, metal and plastic.
Once the paint was dry we used the tape to stick the lids on the ends of the twigs to create “flowers”, which we embellished with paper leaves.
Then to bring light into our sculpture we used small batteries and LEDs to create pinpricks of magic.
I think you can just about see in the photo series below how J loved the “magic” of being able to turn the LED on by positioning it carefully on the battery. A simple but exciting introduction to electricity and circuits! We used small CR2032 3V lithium batteries and 5mm LEDs, and what J had to investigate is what difference it made as to which side of the battery the long leg of the LED (LEDs have one long leg, and one short) needed to be on, in order for the LED to light up. Once she’d cracked the magic-making we used electrical tape to fix the LEDs in position, taping around both legs of the LED and the battery to prevent any movement.
J stuck her LED lights through holes in the boxes once we’d assembled all our flowers inside the large cardboard box she’d painting black. To help the flowers stand upright, I “hid” a piece of polystyrene packaging under the base of the box. Thus, when J made a hole for her flower to stand in, the flower’s stem also went into the thick polystyrene base, helping it to stay vertical. You can just see the polystyrene in the picture – under the flap at the bottom of the box.
Finally we turned off all the lights in our room and entered into our own Darkness, gradually filling with light and hope and renewal.
Whilst making our garden in the darkness we listened to music I think could light up any darkness:
As steals the Morn by Handel, sung here by Mark Padmore and played by the English Consort. Exquisite, soothing, restorative.
Bless the glad earth also by Handel, the last piece in Act 2 of his opera Semele. You can see the production which moved me to tears the first time I saw it here, with ‘Bless the glad earth’ starting around the 45 minute mark. Yeah, I know it’s opera, but don’t think the kids won’t enjoy it; in my experience the “dressing up”, the theatricality, and the whole pomp of it can appeal to kids quite a lot! Just like many kids can fall in love with going to see a ballet, I’m convinced just as many could enjoy opera if given half a chance.
Reading the Kingdom of Silk series by the same author and illustrator pair. It’s actually thanks to this series of short novels for young children that I discovered The Duck and the Darklings. The series is remarkable and I will be reviewing this hopefully next month on the blog, but I can’t resist an extra opportunity to bring it to your attention as it is something rare and incredible.
Have you read anything yet this year which has simply taken your breath away?
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of The Duck and the Darklings from the UK distributors, Murdoch Books (YES! This Australian book is easily available here in the UK, your local bookshop should be able to order it without you having to resort to Amazon).
Today’s Diversity Read/Review falls into categories #1 and #2. The author Matt de la Peña is half Mexican/half white and the illustrator Christian Robinson is African-American. Title: Last Stop Market Street Written by: Matt de la Peña Illustrated by: Christian Robinson Published by: G. … Continue reading →
When medical conditions affect children or the people in their lives, one of the most daunting aspects of their situation is how to cope. The management of a disease or disability is one thing, the understanding why they have it and why others react the way they do is another. Picture books are marvellous non-invasive […]
Walk Two Moons. Sharon Creech. 1994. HarperCollins. 280 pages. [Source: Bought]
Gramps says that I am a country girl at heart, and that is true. I have lived most of my thirteen years in Bybanks, Kentucky, which is not much more than a caboodle of houses roosting in a green spot alongside the Ohio River.
Did I love Sharon Creech's Walk Two Moons? Yes and no. On the one hand, it's a book that I know I would have either--as a kid-- avoided at all costs (if anyone had dropped hints of how sad it was) OR found myself hating, bitterly regretting having picked it up in the first place. There was a time I thought all sad books should be labeled. So at least you were making an informed decision before you got swept up in the story and invested a part of yourself in it. On the other hand--as an adult--I couldn't help finding it a beautiful and compelling story.
Sal--the heroine--is on a road trip with her grandparents (Gram and Gramps). They are on their way to "see" Sal's mother. That's what readers are told, and, as an adult I connected the dots early on. (Sal's world is upset when her Dad moves them to a new town after learning that the mom wouldn't be coming back.) But much is left a mystery for the reader. I can't honestly say how I would have interpreted the text as a kid. It doesn't really matter. The trip is enlivened by Sal's storytelling. She is telling the story of her new friend, her classmate, her almost-neighbor: Phoebe. (Readers also hear of other friends--classmates--including a boy named Ben.) Phoebe's life is also becoming something of a mess. Though Sal is better at spotting the signs than Phoebe herself. The book alternates between focusing on the past--Sal's new life, her friendships, her memories, her emotions--and the present, the road trip. Both stories are compelling. Mainly through dialogue, the grandparents become fully fleshed characters that you can't help loving and admiring. The way they love Sal, and, cherish her. There is just something sweet about this family. And readers do get to know them better than any other adult in the novel. Unfortunately, I think that is why the book leads me angry. Part of me angry anyway. THE ENDING. I did not see it coming. And it was beyond cruel to this reader. Was it realistic? Yes. Looking back were their signs that it was coming? Probably. But though I guessed one reason why the novel was one of those dreaded SAD books. I didn't the second. And the second HURT so much.
Walk Two Moons is the 1995 Newbery winner.
Have you read Walk Two Moons? What did you think? Like it? Love it? Hate it? Do you like sad books? Or do you avoid them when you can?