Posts tagged ‘family’

April 18, 2013

Peanuts and crackerjacks

Pete O’Brien was my favorite player. He played first base for the M’s, back when the Mariner’s had yet to have a winning season. If you are saying “Pete O’Who?”, that’s okay. He was mostly my favorite player because he wore glasses and so did I. And I’m still pretty sure that’s a good reason.

Ballpark

There is nothing I like more than playing or watching baseball on a sunny day. I remember playing ball with my dad in our yard and then cheering with him at the stadium. I remember thinking the Mariner’s were going to win (every time) even during the years when their bullpen lost it in the ninth (every time–except when they lost it in the eighth). I remember doing all of my homework with the games on the radio (Dave Neihaus, you are responsible for any bad grades). I remember getting into an argument about Dave Valle (catcher) with my Middle School Crush (now husband) that ended in him sitting (temporarily) on the other side of the movie theater. I remember wearing my M’s hat with duct tape over the “S” during the strike in 8th grade. I remember gleefully watching the postseason games with the Yankees in 1995 with a Yankee fan and personal foe. I remember Edgar’s double.

Betsy and Grandpa

As I’ve “grown up” (for lack of a better term), baseball still has me. At a recent Tiger’s game, I could feel my heart race just walking into the stadium, seeing the light reflect on the grass. I’ve lost a little of my loyalty to the major leagues, but paying attention to money and drugs will do that to you. And while you will never see me root for the Yankees, I’ve transitioned to a Tiger’s fan with little ado.

Which is why I was excited to see Betsy’s Day at the Game come across my desk. I love that the book is about a girl going to the game, as sports books often target boys. I love that it focuses on keeping memories along with the scores. And I love the way it integrates a story with a lesson on how to keep score, which is complicated business. I remember the first time I learned how to read a box score and to check player’s stats in the paper. Keeping score is a great way to watch a ballgame. It’s a great way to stay focused on the action. And it’s great for kids who are more numbers-oriented than sports-oriented: it might open up a world they never knew was there.

page 16

Betsy’s Day at the Game is the size of a picture book, but really an early reader, meant more for the adult to read to the child. It’s a text-heavy given the nature of teaching, but explains the game and score-keeping well. This is a book that brings it’s own family acitivity: simply read, head to the ballpark, and start keeping score! Don’t forget to include the family memories like Betsy does, and if you aren’t heading to a ballgame anytime soon, you could start your own memory book instead.

Betsy's_Day _at_the_Game-coverTitle: Betsy’s Day At The Game
Author: Greg Bancroft
Illustrator: Katherine Blackmore
Genre: Early Reader, Sports
Ages: 4 – 10

If you’d like to win a copy and help pass on the love of baseball to your sons and daughters, students, or grandchildren, please leave a comment below. Maybe tell me your favorite player, or favorite team. I’ll choose a winner with random number generator and forward on the copy the publisher sent to me. Good luck! [AND UPDATED NOTICE: YOU MUST LEAVE THE COMMENT WITHIN ONE WEEK OF POSTING, SO BY NEXT THURSDAY...I'LL GIVE YOU UNTIL MIDNIGHT EASTERN TIME] TO BE ELIGIBLE.]

And if you need some more baseball inspiration, I will end with a link to my absolute favorite essay ever, The Green Fields of the Mind, by A. Bartlett Giamatti.

November 24, 2012

You ain’t slick and I ain’t stupid

To quote a movie I cannot stand, this book had me at “hello” and held onto me all the way to goodbye. After a wonderful, family-filled, post-Thanksgiving day yesterday, complete with family, a workout, a walk in the snow, and an after-dinner movie, we joked about crashing the Michigan frat parties that were likely just starting up as we trodded off to bed, the hour still in the single digits. But if I’m not staying up for parties anymore (yeah, right, ’cause I used to all the time…) there is one thing that will keep my light on, and Like Sisters on the Homefront, a 1996 Coretta Scott King Honor Book by Rita Williams-Garcia, meant I didn’t turn it off until about one o’clock this morning.

Sisters grabs you from the first page, when Gayle’s mother, hearing the bathroom door too many times in a row, immediately knows something is up. And immediately knows what that something is. Gayle’s voice rings and sings through perfect prose as the defiant 14-year-old is dragged to an abortion clinic by her mother and then sent away from her beloved New York City to live with relatives down south. Gayle already has one child, a baby who comes with her on the journey, and is indeed with her every moment of the day. Gayle struggles mightily against her God-fearing, Jesus-worshipping family, but even as you know what’s coming, or think you know, this book will have you turning the pages quickly.

Whether you fall for Gayle immediately (like “Great” does, the family matriarch who lies dying in her bed and shares life-changing stories of the past with her) or whether it takes you some time to warm up to her (like her cousin “Cookie” who can belt out the Lord’s music like nobody’s music, might depend on who you are and where you’ve been. But that you will fall in love for her I have no doubt. True, this book deals with adult themes–a very young girl is a mother, and on top of that, she’s experiencing the pains of abortion throughout much of the story. But this isn’t pain for pain’s sake. This book feels real. You meet these characters so intimately, you will ultimately feel like your mother sent you down South to live with them. Some mothers might shy away from a book like this, but to the extent that it’s appropriate for me to do so, I would discourage that. This book is filled with positive messages, the good kind that are honest, learned the hard way, and rooted in a messy but caring family.

Title: Like Sisters on the Homefront
Author: Rita Williams-Garcia
Genre: Fiction
Age: 7th grade and up

If you read this book with your daughter, there are a lot of good conversations you could have at the end. (Hint: one of them does NOT start out with the phrase “and that’s why you shouldn’t have sex until you are 35!”) :) But Gayle has been using sex to get something she doesn’t have anywhere else. What is it? And why doesn’t she have it. Gayle talks about about the baby’s daddy and her latest boyfriend, but we don’t see them at all in the book. Why not? Ask your daughter about it. What is the difference between Gayle and Cookie when Cookie finally admits her own crush? And what happens that fateful night when Cookie rushes to the car? What is Cookie thinking and why does what happens next happen?

If you’re not ready for the romantic/sexual side of the conversation, this book has a lot more to offer about family and history. Why is everyone so keen to hear the “Telling” before Great passes away? What does it mean to know one’s own history and why does that matter? There’s a wonderful passage where Great tells Gayle she should never be angry at another African because they could be family, separated by slavery, time, and geography. Isn’t that something we could all learn?

The last line in this book is still whispering itself softly between my ears. The imagery of the scene is dancing in my mind, even after a good night’s sleep, even after a morning with my own family, who I appreciate through the lens of this newly-read book, resting on my brain, now a part of me.

As Gayle often says, she “ain’t stupid”. But that doesn’t mean she has nothing to learn.

And that’s why we read.

November 16, 2012

A crazy summer, but a phenomenal book

I had the wonderful opportunity to work with the author of this book at a recent Highlights writing workshop. She was awesome. A faculty at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, Rita Williams-Garcia had a way of asking simple questions about your story that would expose profound issues. She was also phenomenal at the details…my story, for example, starts off with a girl stealing a diary from a woman. But as a reader, we didn’t see the diary until the girl had stolen it. Rita pointed out how the reader needs to see the diary, just as the girl does, zoom in on it, get closer to it, and then take it. Another writer had a car accident scene and we spent 30 minutes just taking apart who sees what when. The driver and the passenger both see the girl–but who should see her first? And who says something, if anything, and what do they say? And would the driver scream and then put a foot on the brakes or vice-versa?

That she is a master of her craft is obvious before you meet her of course, and this book (which is a Newbery Honor Book, a National Book Award Finalist, and a winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction and the Coretta Scott King Award–seriously, if this book had more awards, you wouldn’t be able to see the cover) really has it all.

Title: One Crazy Summer
Author:
Rita Williams-Garcia
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age: Upper Elementary and Middle School

It’s a story of three sisters off to visit a mother who left them while the youngest was still a nursing baby. The book covers so much: it’s a story of daughters searching to define themselves in the shadow of a woman who doesn’t appear to want them at all. It’s a story of girls from a rural town who find themselves in Oakland, CA. It’s a story of African-American kids who learn about a new kind of pride in their race as they are dropped into the middle of the 1960s black panther movement.

The voice of the main character is at once lovable and mesmerizing. She could tell me about canned soup and I’d listen. But she’s not: she’s telling me about a cross-country adventure, a dangerous political movement, police arrests and double-crossers, friendships and crushes, and a family that grows closer through it all.

I think any middle-grade girl, and many boys, although it’s more traditionally a “girl” book, considering the main character, would love this book simply for the characters and fast-paced, colorful story. That they would learn about an important point in American history, well, they probably wouldn’t even realize it until the book ended and you started asking them questions. Asking them what THEY would do if they were asked to participate in a movement like that? What kind of dangers would they face for something they believed in? You could also use the scene at the end, where the girls recite a poem, as an excuse to get your own daughter to pick out a poem that is meaningful to her. And then maybe she could recite it at the Thanksgiving table. :)

What do you think? How do you talk to your kids about questions of ethics and equality? Do you think you might use this book to introduce some of those ideas?

February 9, 2012

Meet my family

Everyone else has WAY cooler blog names for their family than I do. Ironic Mom Leanne Shirtliffe calls her twins Thing 1 and Thing 2. Kathryn Apel, children’s writer and author of This is the Mud, interviews a young writer named Squashed Cupcake. And Chase McFadden blogs at Some Species Eat Their Young while referring to his four children as Slim, Perpetual Motion, The Hellcat, and Tax Break #4.

After a lot of brainstorming with my husband, I’d like to introduce my family. Although it’s only fair to note that my husband did NOT agree to his own nickname. Tough luck on that one.

Middle School Crush: My husband, whom I met in seventh grade, likes to fuel my enthusiasm for my own writing with comments such as “what was your book about again?” And a personal favorite, said not too long ago as I was plotting out my chapters on sticky notes all over the walls, “Is that really helpful, or is it like rearranging deck chairs?”

The Wizard of Why: My 3-year-old makes me realize how much I don’t know about the world with all the questions he asks. Things we’ve talked about in the past 24 hours:

  • whether or not robots live in outer space
  • why robots don’t “live”
  • why some robots don’t have faces
  • why trains don’t need steering wheels (this was upsetting)
  • why large cats with sharp teeth eat meat and what exactly meat is (also upsetting, but not as much as not steering trains, partially because he doesn’t believe me about the meat)
  • why a T. Rex eats “real meat” and why that may or may not be made from animals (this was a heated discussion)
  • why an hour is 60 minutes and why a minute is 60 seconds and how long that all takes exactly
  • why the dashboard of my car tells me how much gas we are using
  • why some cars use a lot of gas
  • why using too much gas is bad for the planets like Earth
  • why Gyroscope’s birthday comes before his, even though Gyroscope is younger

Well, I think there was more, but you get the picture. Plus, to say we are obsessed with the Wizard of Oz is a huge understatement. We are coming up on the one year anniversary of that obsession, so that will be a good 25% of his life. So that’s the reasoning behind that one.

Gyroscope: Gyroscope, who is almost one, hasn’t stopped moving since he entered our lives, which he did as quickly as he does everything else (a mere 3 hours after announcing his intentions and a short 30 minutes after we crawled (he and I, that is) into the hospital). Favorite activities include: playing with anything the The Wizard of Why is currently playing with, crawling on the dining room table, standing on his head in a downward dog position.

So–even if you don’t have a blog, what would be your blog names for your family?

February 3, 2012

Bright orange soup gets “Sam I Am” approval from 3yo

It’s another installment of The Family That Eats Together Fridays!

Here’s the way I usually make a new dish: I look up a bunch of recipes online and get the general idea of the process. Am I sautéing, roasting, or boiling? (Side note: if there is any debate, I always choose to sauté or roast over boil as it’s way more flavorful.) Is there a general order in which people put ingredients? Is there a general trend to flavors–do a lot of the recipes have similar herbs and spices? And then I usually make it up with a combination of what I like and what I have on hand.

Last week I had a five-pound bag of carrots to use up. I also had a jar of my favorite ginger, which I always keep in the fridge because I love to cook with ginger, but not so much that it makes sense to keep the fresh stuff on hand. Plus, this stuff is delicious and really easy to use. So after looking up a bunch of carrot-ginger soup recipes, here’s what I did.

1. Chop a large onion and sauté in coconut oil. (It’s unlikely to be a good soup if it doesn’t start with sautéing onion. You could use any other oil or butter here, but I’m on a coconut oil kick right now. Plus, coconut-ginger is a great combo of flavors.)

2. Squeeze in some garlic paste. (I would have normally put in fresh garlic here, but I was out. Oftentimes, I will put in both.)

3. Put in two heaping tablespoons of ginger.

4. Put in about 2 pounds of chopped carrots and sauté a little first.

5. Add in a bunch of vegetable broth, a little less than a quart.

6. Cook for a while, at least until carrots are really soft, but soup is always better the longer it cooks–I love to make soup early and then let it simmer for hours. Yum! Or even cook it in the morning and reheat it at night. Also yum!

7. I used my favorite kitchen tool, the blender on a stick, and made it nice and creamy and bright orange. You could also put it in a regular blender, but BE VERY CAREFUL. Don’t fill it up very full, and hold the lid on TIGHT. Trust me, I have exploded hot soup all over the kitchen before, and it is not fun. (It’s even less fun when you do it at your dad’s house, just FYI.)

8. Add some milk at the end to make it creamy. Coconut milk would have been perfect, but I didn’t have any. I also didn’t have any cow or goat milk, so I used rice milk, which was just fine.

The soup was incredibly delicious! My husband raved, I raved. My 3-year-old didn’t eat a lot, but he ate some, and after trying it, he said, with the same emphasis I use when reading Green Eggs and Ham, “Say! I DO like it!” And then we went through the whole routine of eating carrot soup on a boat and on a train…

January 27, 2012

When the bananas are screaming

Welcome to the first edition of The Family that EATS Together Fridays, which will focus on recipes you can make and eat with the kids.

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like banana bread. It’s even harder to find someone who doesn’t like banana bread with chocolate in it. And it’s almost impossible to find a family that doesn’t, at least occasionally, forget to eat all the bananas before they turn that wonderful color of brownish black that screams “time to make the muffins!”

Here’s what my 3yo and I did a few days ago, when the baby was asleep and we heard the bananas screaming.

First, we printed out my absolute favoritest banana bread recipe. It is SO banana-y. (And to my mother-in-law, who accounts for about 2% of my subscribers, I love yours, too.) :) You can find it by searching for Tyler Florence and banana bread.

Then we got out the muffin pan, because no matter how many recipes I have tried, I have NEVER made a loaf of banana bread that was perfect. It is SO hard to get the inside cooked before the outside is too brown. I solve that problem by making muffins, which are cuter anyway.

Then we followed Tyler’s directions, with a few exceptions. One, I used whole wheat pastry flour. Whole wheat pastry flour is my new true love. I use it almost exclusively now, and find that, with the exception of really delicate recipes like crepes (which I think it makes too bland), it is completely interchangeable for white flour. Two, I used coconut oil instead of butter. Why? Well, I thought banana-coconut was a good combo, although the coconut flavor didn’t come through too much. But also because I’ve started cooking a lot more with coconut oil. True, it’s a saturated fat, but it is made up of medium chain fatty acids, which people are realizing might help in certain areas like heart disease, and might also help raise the good kind of cholesterol. There are also claims that it helps with a myriad other things, including weight loss. It’s also a great moisturizer for skin and hair (and one of the only things I use on my own skin and hair–I just keep a jar in the bathroom!). Three, I used half sugar and half honey. If your bananas are really sweet, you can cut down on the sugar, but while mine were definitely overripe, they didn’t smell ubersweet, so I used a half cup of sugar and about a third a cup of honey. (He says to use a cup of sugar, but that’s crazy talk.)

Then we mixed. It’s a great recipe for a 3yo: he loved mashing the bananas with a potato masher. He always loves a recipe that involves turning on the mixer. (This one has you wisk two bananas with sugar and mash two others, so you get a nice combo of taste and texture running through the muffins.) We poured in the flour (this is much less messy at almost-four than it was at almost-three, I’m happy to say). And we added chocolate chips, even though these were not, strictly speaking, in the recipe. But I add chocolate chips to almost anything I’m making.
My husband likes these best plain. My son likes them best with chocolate chips. I like them best with chocolate chips and nuts. So sometimes I separate the batter at the end and make three different ones before baking. I like to use an ice cream scoop to fill the muffin pans–it’s easy and almost mess-free. (Nothing is completely mess-free with a 3yo is doing it, but that’s kind of the point.)

P.S. Since these are muffins, not a loaf, you will need to shorten the baking time considerably. I set the timer for 30 minutes the first time around and that worked great. You might want to try 25 minutes and check them, then put them in for another 5 or 10 depending on how you like them. You can stick a fork in the middle to see if the inside is done.

I hope you enjoy the recipe, and if you try it, let me know what you think. Do you have a favorite recipe you like to make with your kids?

November 1, 2011

natural parenting if it kills me, aided by THE RHYTHM OF THE FAMILY

“Look, look at that one!” my son screams from the back seat. “And that one. It’s Very, Very, Very beautiful!” There is nothing my son loves more than the fall colors on the trees, and nothing could make me smile more than to hear him wax on about their beauty. Introducing my children to the world they live in is something truly important to me, and it’s something that can be too often overlooked.

In addition to instilling an appreciation for nature in my children, it’s also important for me to bring nature into the home. Right now, I’m on somewhat of a crusade to buy natural items. I consider it an important part of creating a healthy home. Alway in the back of my mind are two things: a responsibility for the planet that seems to have been ingrained in me since growing up in the 90s (when people cared about such things) and the memory of my mother dying way too young from a disease about which we know way too little. I remember the oncologist telling her she couldn’t have conventional strawberries anymore and she should try to eat organic as much as possible. I think about that conversation almost every time I’m at the grocery store, wondering if the $3/pound apples are really worth spending the entire paycheck on. These two thoughts are always with me and since having kids they’ve been percolating, growing, until my desire to buy natural has become somewhat of an obsession.

For example, my kids don’t have a lunch box without at least an hour on the internet trying to find the safest material to transport food. Those plastic cups he used to like to drink from? Sorry, they had BPA; they are gone. And the other ones, without BPA? I’m just going to stay a step ahead of the research this time and get rid of them, too…what are the odds that there is a kind of plastic that is actually healthy for us?

No new purchase is safe from scrutiny: I recently spent probably no less than five hours researching puppet houses and puppets as a present for the kids from their great grandmother. It’s frustrating to me that I can’t find out exactly what things are made of. I finally chose one theatre because I saw a reference to “environmentally-friendly wood” and “non-toxic” paint, although I have no idea what either of those things mean. I found some wool and felt puppets to go with it.

As I take my role of nurturer more and more seriously, I find myself going further and further back to nature. Today, it’s a stainless steel lunch container. Tomorrow, it’s chicken-farming in the backyard. (My husband is really excited about that one.)

Which is why I loved finding this book at a country store in Mazama, Washington. I grabbed it immediately and flipped through it, but I knew I was going to buy it before I even opened the pages. I’ve already read it more than once. I’ve made the strawberry muffin recipe and purchased the ingredients to make my own lotion. The book is a great reminder that you don’t need to buy all the stuff you think you need. There are so many alternatives for making better, simpler, and cheaper options at home.

Chemicals, be damned. I will be a natural mom if it kills all of us.

And my husband thinks it might.

Title: The Rhythm of Family
Author: Amanda Blake Soule with Stephen Soule
Genre: Parenting
Age: Adults

Summary and Review: This book is part how-to guide, part story of a family, part annotated calendar of a wonderful year. Co-written by the mother and father of a family with four (now five if you read their blog) children, they talk about the beautifully natural ways in which they celebrate the seasons, living outdoors and in concert with nature as much as they can. The book itself is a wonderful celebration of the importance of family and the world in which we raise our families. While there are specific recipes and craft ideas, I found it to be more inspiration than resource.

Follow up with your family:

After reading this book, I’ve been inspired to cook more with alternative ingredients–coconut oil instead of butter, brown rice syrup instead of sugar. I bought BPA-free canning jars and am about to start canning my own food. I now make my own face wash and shampoo, and even though those recipes aren’t in this book, it’s the beauty and persuasion of this book that started me on that path. (And the face wash, let me tell you, is amazing! Here’s a link to another blog that describes a make-at-home oil wash if you are interested.)

I have no doubt that if you read this book you may get something entirely different out of it. Maybe it will inspire you to sew or knit. Or maybe it will just make you smile and appreciate how good the simplicity of life with children can be.

August 16, 2011

Life, death, and EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS

One of the hardest things about being a parent is watching a perfect, innocent baby grow up in a world that is neither perfect nor innocent. My heart wrenches as he asks the tough questions “does the fish break when the dinosaur eats it?” or “when will the bug be undead?” But learning about the cycle of life is something that everyone must do, and I’m lucky that so far my son has only had to learn it when it comes to the food he eats and the bug his friend stepped on.

(It’s especially hard because my son seems to have inherited my tendency to over-empathize with anything and everything. As I read this book on the airplane, I had tears streaming down my cheeks. And, as my husband will attest to, that’s not a spoiler, because I often cry when I’m reading or watching a movie, whether it’s happy, sad, or just is.) :)

But when you do have to tell the tough truth and talk about the tough issues, there is absolutely nothing better than a good story. Something that gives meaning to the world, something that tells you that you are not alone. Something that says you will be okay.

I am so glad that I found this book. Or did it find me? It seemed to jump off of the table at a small independent bookstore when I was on vacation. The message in the story–that we should celebrate life to its fullest is one that everybody should hear. It’s a story that anyone would love, whether they are seeking solace from a recent loss, or just picking up a book to enjoy.

Title: each little bird that sings
Author: Deborah Wiles
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Age: Middle Grade, 9 and up

Summary and Review:

I love, love, love this book. I love the wacky character names (Dismay the dog, Declaration the friend, Comfort the narrator and main character). I love the extended family of interesting characters all crammed into one house. I love the small town and the closeness that brings to the community. I love the unique setting–the funeral home where the main character lives with her family. And I love the younger sister, Merry, the toddler who asks of almost anyone she sees who stops to rest for a minute (or longer): “Dead?” The one word question is funny when she’s wrong and poignant when she’s right.

The main character is a girl, and I think this will appeal to mostly girl readers, although she is very tomboyish. One of the main plot hurdles the character encounters is also girl-related, when her best friend betrays her confidence and their friendship in a hurtful way at a time when she was needed the most.

The narrator goes through a lot in this book, and she learns a lot along the way. It’s the best of middle grade fiction–tackling a topic that an adult book would handle poorly. It’s a reminder of why I like this genre: any adult fiction in which this many characters die (I’m not giving away much here–they do run a funeral home) would be depressing, dark, and take itself WAY too seriously. But this book doesn’t need any pretense. It’s about life, from friends and family, picnics and tuner sandwiches, dogs and cousins. And so, so much more.

It’s a well-deserved National Book Award Finalist.

Follow-up with the kids (SPOILER ALERT – SPOILER ALERT)

If you are reading this just to read it because it’s such a great story, there’s a lot you can talk about. Why does Declaration turn on Comfort? If you told the story from Declaration’s perspective, what might she say? Why does Comfort hate her cousin so much and what helps her to change her mind?

You could also talk about Comfort’s relationship with Great Great Aunt Florentine and compare it to any of the relationships your own children have with older relatives.

From a writing perspective (and here’s where the spoiler comes), talk about why the dog has to die. What does that add to the story. Why is the dog’s death (and here I’m giving my own opinion) so much more powerful to Comfort–and even sadder perhaps–that the people who die? I might hypothesize that it’s because it’s unexpected–living in a funeral home, she’s used to dead people. It’s also untimely–the dog died in an accident, the people of old age. The author alludes to a comment by an editor in her acknowledgements that implies that there wasn’t a dog in the first draft. How do you think the first draft might have been different? Is your budding author working on a story that might benefit by adding a character, canine or not?

If you are reading this book specifically to help a youngster think about death, talk about where Comfort got to by the end of the story. She realizes that the only thing to do is to keep on living and enjoy life. Why is that so hard to do sometimes? And why does death help us realize that?

At the end, tears or no, this is a happy story. It just sometimes takes some sadness to get to the truth about happiness.

January 11, 2011

Challenge yourself and your family to read!

I just started a reading challenge for January – March of 2011 and I’m really excited about it.  It’s not that a reading challenge is so profound, but it’s already got me thinking about what kinds of books I’d like to add to my list.  I’m joining other members of a Goodreads group to try to read books that start with author last names from A – Z.  These people are pretty serious about their kid lit (yea!) and so there is a complex point system that includes bonuses for new genres, Goodreads authors, and more.  The first book I’m reading for the challenge is Sherman Alexie’s Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which I’ve been meaning to read for some time.  But since X is one of the exception letters (it just has to be IN the name, not at the beginning), this counts for one of the hardest ones to get!  I’m loving it so far–sat down with it last night and am halfway through.

This would be a great challenge for kids of all ages.  Write the letters of the alphabet on a large piece of poster board and hang it somewhere in the house with a column for each family member.  Then write the name of the book read when someone is done and see how long it takes your family to fill up the chart.  Of course, whether or not you want to give out a prize for winning, a prize for everyone who finishes or everyone who tries, or just celebrate the joy of reading with exhilaration itself, is bound to differ from family to family.  But have fun with it!  This would be a great activity for a Spring or Summer break, a family vacation, or just something for the New Year.

Enjoy your books!

January 3, 2011

As a mom, I think I’m more the dirt than the backhoe

But still, this is a great book. Most books from Tricycle Press are, in fact. I love their Eco Babies, Foodie Babies series and their ethnic food series. So I wasn’t surprised to love this one, too.

Title: I Am A Backhoe
Author
: Anna Grossnickle Hines
Genre
: Picture Book
Age
:0 – 7

Summary and Review:

So, I knew only two things about this book before buying it: the title and the fact that it was on the Kirkus Book Review 2010 list.  But in reality, I only needed to know the title.  I gave it to my son approximately four hours ago, and despite the fact that we’ve been out of the house for two of those hours, we’ve still managed to read it over six times.  The seventh reading is currently in progress upstairs as Dad does bedtime.  He LOVES this book.  And so do I.  The text is simple yet elegant–perfectly written and edited.  The illustrations are also great.  They are simple, but with brightly brilliant backgrounds that rainbow throughout the book.  The book, as you would imagine by the title, focuses on a boy who pretends to be various construction vehicles.  It emphasizes, with its pictures and words, the actions he takes–digging with his hands to be a backhoe or rolling on the floor to be a roller.

I also like it because the parent character is a dad.  Some would say that it’s sexist to have a truck book with just a son and a dad, but so many picture books are all about the moms, and it’s nice to see a good role model dad in there.  And as for being sexist, well, I just don’t know.  I tagged this book in the category “mostly boys”.  It’s not that I don’t think girls would like it, or that you shouldn’t buy it for a girl.  But I do think there is some kind of magical bond between small boys and construction vehicles that isn’t necessarily there for girls.  And that’s just my way of saying that this is a very typically boy book.  It’s up to you if you want to buy typically boy books for your boys or your girls.

Follow-up with the kids:

Books, TV shows, and anything else that encourages physical movement is really in right now, for obvious reasons if you’ve read any of the studies on childhood obesity.  I’m not sure if that was part of the author’s intentions, but it’s there.  This book encourages physical movement, creativity, imagination, play, and family interaction.  All good things.  Get down and dirty!

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