I’m delighted to be featured at All the Wonders this week talking about one of the most often heard phrases in our home – bring a book!
Summer has always been analogous with reading for me, as far back as I can remember. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the other summery things too—the swimming pools, the backyard barbecues, the roasted marshmallows, summer camp, the fireflies, the road trips, all of it. But for me, those things all had one thing in common—the book that was (and still is) always tucked safely in my bag. Just in case.
Now, as a mother of two young boys, these are the reminders as we get ready to leave the house:
Did you brush your teeth?
Yes, you have to wear shoes!
Bring a book!
And at least one member of our family takes that last reminder very seriously.
|Reading at Six Flags…|
|and at Go! St. Louis marathon…|
|in between customers…|
|and at the beach. Like mother, like son here.|
Today, I’d like to share a few book recommendations for all the places you or your children might find yourselves this summer. They range in age from picture books to young adult. So, brush your teeth, grab your shoes, and above all, bring a book!
Please continue to All the Wonders to see my recommendations for books for the beach, summer camp, the pool and more …
My very first post at All the Wonders is up today, and it’s been such a joy to work with this team of talented and creative people who love to talk about children’s literature as much as I do.
Today, I’m on the site exploring the theme of courage in Kate DiCamillo’s newest book, Raymie Nightingale. I adore Kate DiCamillo’s work. For me, she is right up there with Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume when I think of authors who authentically capture the heart of children in their writing. Her latest book is no exception, and I’d encourage you to pick up a copy to share with your kids. It’s a perfect summer read.
Raymie didn’t even have to think about the answer to this question.
“Yes,” she said.
Raymie Clarke is certain that absolutely everything depends on her. Everything having to do with getting her dad to come back home where he belongs, that is. And she has a plan. She is going to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, and when her dad sees her face in the newspapers, he will realize he has made a terrible mistake and come home.
Please visit All the Wonders to continue reading …
I love introducing readers to new books for kids, and today, I’m excited to introduce you to someone whose own love of children’s books inspires her music. Meet Emily Arrow!
Emily Arrow is a music educator, singer, and songwriter who has carved out her own musical niche she calls kidlit tunes. You already know how I feel about children’s books, and many of you have seen the plentiful ukuleles that adorn the walls of our home. So, when I first heard this talented, ukulele-strumming artist singing a song about Be a Friend, I became an immediate fan.
I had a chance to catch up with Emily and ask her a few questions about her music. She had some great things to share about her sources of inspiration, favorite books, and more.
What artists/singers/songwriters influence your music?
Music is a huge part of our family’s life. I started singing to my kids before they were born, and this blog is named after the Bob Dylan song that was our morning anthem all through their preschool years (though we usually sang the Elizabeth Mitchell version). Now our home is filled with instruments and music of all kinds. How do you encourage families to incorporate music into their daily lives? What about parents who don’t feel particularly musically-inclined themselves – any tips for sneaking more music into the day?
What was your favorite book or books growing up? What are some of your favorites now (that aren’t featured in music on this album)?
What’s your favorite part of performing for children?
Emily’s debut album, Storytime Singalong, features songs based on some truly delightful picture books including Louise Loves Art, The Curious Garden and The Dot as well as several original pieces. The sweet and memorable songs are a great way to extend the pages of picture books for your youngest readers.
It’s voting day in Missouri. In a couple of hours, I’ll head up to the polls to cast a vote in the presidential primary, after what felt like the longest campaign on record. And it’s not over yet. The behavior of the some of the candidates on the campaign trail has most of us ready for the finish line. I can’t open Facebook without seeing a parent bemoan the behavior of the current presidential candidates, and with fair reason. The content and conduct at the debates has been embarrassingly less than presidential, and the rhetoric off stage far worse. I’ve seen teachers say that their kindergartners have better manners and parents compare the tantrums of one candidate in particular to those of their toddlers.
So, of course, this made me think of children’s books. Wait, stay with me for a minute. Think about it. Our children learn so much through the books they read. As Kathleen Kelly so famously said in You’ve Got Mail, “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” I believe this is true, and it also makes me wonder what kind of books a few of our candidates read as children.
Maybe they need to go back to the basics and pick up a picture book. They might learn a few valuable lessons they missed the first time around. Here are a few that come to mind:
“It’s okay to change and grow.”
The classic narrative arc of a picture book features a character who changes or grows over the course of the story. Maybe they change a previously held belief, or grow to unearth something they had within them the whole time.
In Julius, the Baby of the World, Lilly is unimpressed with her new baby brother Julius, but when another family member makes fun of him, she finds a fierce sisterly loyalty exists within her.
Without these character changes, we’d end with Max living with the wild things forever (and possibly being eaten up) or Lilly perpetually spiteful to a new sibling. It’s the characters’ capacity for change and discovery that makes them memorable and relatable.
Yet, in current American politics, to admit to a change of heart or policy in the face of new information or experiences is considered a weakness. We end up with a candidate doubling down on racist speech rather than owning mistakes. We end up with candidates refusing to confront their own past rather than admit to being a normal human being, capable of new ideas and discoveries.
Be like Max. Be like Lilly. Embrace change and growth.
“Show, don’t tell.”
Sometimes, our candidates do express a change of opinion, but it still rings untrue to voters. This is because they told us, but they didn’t show us.
The best children’s books let the readers come along for the ride of discovery. Rather than page after page of past tense narrative, they offer readers a chance to see the growth and change in the characters through their actions rather than their words.
In Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, Mr. Tiger is tired of the way things have always been. He’s ready to leave behind convention and get a little….wild. The readers get to travel with Mr. Tiger as he sheds some of his formal self and heads into the wilderness on a path towards discovery. He doesn’t just say, “I’m tired of the way things are. I’m ready for them to change.” He changes himself, and in turn, the town is inspired to get in touch with their wild side too.
When candidates say they stand for something, but nothing in their records or personal history or even present behavior demonstrates what they say, it reads false. And we don’t believe them.
Be like Mr. Tiger. Show, don’t tell.
“Give the reader a reason to turn the page.”
Voters are looking for a leader who casts a compelling vision for the future and invites us to join in that course of action. Anyone can stand at a podium and talk about what they believe, but it is harder to cast a vision that is both inspiring and achievable.
In One Word From Sophia, Sophia wants a pet giraffe more than anything, and she has a plan to get one. She casts her vision to every member of her family, using the stories and language she knows will resonate with each of them. It’s a lofty goal, yet we keep turning the page and rooting for Sophia the whole time. She makes the readers believe in her vision by telling us exactly how she can achieve it, even if it seems a little too big to accomplish.
Our candidates could learn something from Sophia. Tell us what you want. Tell us how you plan to accomplish it. Spend less time explaining how someone else won’t be able to accomplish his or her vision and instead invite to us to come with you while you get the job done.
Be like Sophia. Cast a vision that keeps readers turning the pages.
There’s still six more months until the general election. Plenty of time for the candidates to pick up a few children’s books and learn something. Because President Squid, though a wonderfully funny read for our bookshelves, does not belong in the White House.
I’ve got THE BEST money-saving, freebie deal to share with you today. This is the big one friends. A completely legit, no coupon code required, money-saving deal that will blow your mind.
Listen, in all seriousness, I can’t sing the praises of the public library loud enough. Our local library has been a cornerstone to the experience of raising my children. I started started bringing them to story time as babies, and by the time they were precocious preschoolers, they knew some of the librarians by name and these wonderful ladies knew them too. They knew what books my boys would want to read, and before long, knew which children’s books I would want to read myself. I met mamas and their kids at the library that are still friends today. Our family has had the opportunity of meeting some of our favorite authors in this public space, and the privilege to be inspired by their stories. These experiences are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what our local library offers. If you want to start a business, the library offers myriad resources on how to go about doing that. Want to know more about your family tree? The library has people on staff that will help you sort out your genealogy (but they won’t help you sort out your family … there has to be a limit to what these wizards can accomplish). Need to use a computer? They have one for you, for free! Test coming up? The library offers practice exams for academic, civil service, military and many professional industries. Need help with your taxes? The library has accountants on hand during tax season to answer your questions. Our local library even brings in adorable, furry dogs to snuggle up and read to if you just really love dogs.
I feel like I forgot to mention that all of this is free.
Wait…if you’ve stuck with me this far, don’t leave yet! I’ve got one more deal to offer you today. I’d like to introduce you to Tammi Salas, writer, artist and fellow library enthusiast. I first discovered Tammi last November when she took part in a “Rainbow Friday” event with other bloggers. Rainbow Friday was offered as a kind of antidote to Black Friday, an opportunity to shop for handmade, meaningful gifts that also give back. Tammi was selling her “Library Junkie” totes and donating 20% of her sales to fund a library in Pastures Preschool, a one-room schoolhouse in Bodega, California. I did what anyone would do and immediately bought one as a gift and then kept it for myself. Thankfully, there is still a chance for one of you to own this bag, as Tammi is graciously donating a bag to one lucky reader!
Here’s what you can do to increase your chances of getting your hands on this bag:
1. Comment on this post below and tell me your favorite thing about the public library.
2. Share this post and tag me (so I see it).
3. Visit your library and share a picture (and let me know if I can share it too!)
I’ll enter your name into a drawing once for each of the above actions and choose one name at random on January 31st to receive this cute and handy tote. In the meantime, please take a moment to visit Tammi on her blog where she shares beautiful stories on motherhood, community, art and more. You can also visit her Etsy shop (which she’ll be re-stocking in the coming months with additional items) or follow her on Instagram (@tammisalas) for artistic inspiration. Thank you so much Tammi for sharing your many gifts and sweet tote with us, and for your generous spirit.
Written and Illustrated by Kelly Suellentrop
Publisher: Striped Socks Publishing
Category: Picture Book
Our culture is awash with declarations of love for weekends. From the old TGIF catchphrase to the 80’s classic “Everybody’s Working for the Weekend” there is little doubt that those 48 hours hold a very special place in our collective hearts. They represent a respite from work and school, a chance to engage in the things we want to do with the people we love most, or even just an opportunity to sleep in. And for Lulu and Milo, they mean absolute mayhem.
In Absolute Mayhem, we meet Lulu and Milo, two siblings who work hard all week to follow the rules, complete their schoolwork and eat their vegetables all in an effort to arrive at Friday where the rules go out the window and absolute mayhem ensues. If you can imagine what your home would look like if weekends were a free-for-all, that gives you some idea of what you will find in the pages of this book. What starts as innocent, imaginative fun quickly gets out of control and much like many a family feels at the end of summer vacation, everyone seems a little ready for routine again come Monday. The illustrations range from black and white during the weekdays to increasingly colorful as the mayhem starts to spin out of control and are a great complement to the story. My kids spent quite a while going back through the book after our initial reading to “explore the drawings” in more detail. They were delighted when they did because they discovered new things as well as a hidden friend on all of the pages we missed the first time around.
I’m particularly excited to share this book because it is self-published by a first-time local author Kelly Suellentrop. She shared more about the process behind the writing of this book in the Idea Chasers series. One of the things she shared was that the idea for Absolute Mayhem came from her own children, and that to this day, when the whole family is home on Friday, someone yells out “absolute mayhem” and the fun begins. Not long after reading this book I heard an interview with Jamie Oliver on NPR about his new cookbook, Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food: The Ultimate Weekend Cookbook, in which he confesses to eating primarily comfort foods on the weekends after a week of clean eating and I immediately thought of Absolute Mayhem and wondered if both he and Kelly weren’t onto something that I am absolutely missing. Now I’m counting the minutes to this weekend and dreaming up my own version of absolute mayhem.