Mothers, Daughters, and Stories

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This past Saturday I stood in front of a very small group to read an essay that is probably the most personal thing I’ve written outside of the pages of my journal in years.  That group will decide whether I will be offered an opportunity to read my essay in front of a much larger audience as part of the 2014 Listen to Your Mother show.  I won’t hear until the end of the week whether my audition was successful.  In all honesty, I’m not sure which outcome I’m rooting for.  

Most of the writing and speaking I do these days is focused on books.  I like it that way.  It is much more comfortable to talk about books than it is to talk about myself. The essay I entered for consideration in LTYM is not at all comfortable.  There are no books.  It’s just me.  I felt a little naked up there without a stack of books to take the eyes and attention away from me.  Maybe more than a little.

My essay is about the mother-daughter relationship.  If I were to turn it into a booktalk, I would have to start with the dedication page of Dreamer, Wisher, Liar by Charise Mericle Harper:

“For my mother and my daughter–I wish we could be twelve together.  Just for a day.”

I should note that in this advance copy of the book nothing is final.  Perhaps the dedication will change before the book is published, but I hope it doesn’t.  It’s what made me pick up the book.  I can’t help but wonder what that wish would turn into for me.  

When I read What the Moon Said by Gayle Rosengren I felt myself getting teary eyed more than once at the relationship between Esther and her mother.  It’s a small book and perhaps a bit old fashioned, but it isn’t far off from my story.  Maybe you’ll see some of yours in it too.

If you are an 8 to 12 year old girl or just remember what it’s like to be one, you might like Dreamer, Wisher, Liar or What the Moon Said.  

Meanwhile, make a note of the date: May 8th.  Whether or not I am part of the show, Listen to Your Mother will be a good one.

Thursday 3: New Teen Fiction

Teen fiction is my preferred reading material, and I’ve been rather immersed in it in recent weeks as I prepped for a presentation at the Minnesota Educational Media Organization Conference in which realistic teen fiction was my responsibility. Here are a
few of my favorites from my part of the presentation.

  • Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon – It’s a novel set in hospice care, so be ready to cry. But it’s also pretty funny.
  • The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider – This romance/coming-of-age novel reminded me a bit of Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas, which I loved.
  • Hostage Three by Nick Lake – I read this modern day pirate thriller in one sitting. It doesn’t come out until November, so add it to your library hold list now.

  • My apologies for the lack of links and pictures in this post. I am having some computer issues, and I used the WordPress app on my phone to write this post.

    It’s okay to notice

    “You probably noticed what’s different about me,” I said to a group of second and third graders this weekend. Their Unitarian-Universalist Sunday School class is celebrating differences this quarter, and I was invited to talk to them about my difference.

    I had two main points I wanted to share with the kids. It’s okay to notice, and it’s okay to ask. But kids always have their own concerns. This group wanted to know how my fake arm worked and how I could do stuff with it. Are you left handed? Can you ride a bike? Can they make a robot arm for you? Yes. Yes. I wish! :)

    It’s funny how the concerns tend to correlate with ages. Younger kids–the preschoolers and kinders in my daughter’s class–are less concerned with the mechanics of my prosthesis and how I live my life. They stick to the basics. How did this happen? Are you okay? These are more difficult questions to answer because the answers seem so incomprehensible to them. The idea that someone can be born without a body part just doesn’t make sense. And it often takes some convincing to get them to believe that my little arm doesn’t hurt.

    “Everyone is born differently,” I say. “This is just another kind of different. Like hair or skin.” Sometimes kids will ask the same question again and again with slightly different phrasings. Parents cringe with each question, but I keep smiling. I’ve been through it before.

    Back to this weekend, I read a book to the kids to close. Harry and Willy and Carrothead is about a boy who was born with one arm too. He’s a regular kid, of course. He even plays baseball. It’s odd at first, but by end end of the story, his limb deficiency is no different than another kid’s red hair. It’s my go to book for normalizing my difference.

    I recently found another book to add to my first choices to talk about being different. Maybe next time I find myself in front of a group of kids I will read Jacob’s Eye Patch. It is essentially the book I’ve always said I would write one day. Instead of being about a little girl with one arm, it’s about a little boy who wears an eye patch. He gets lots of questions, and usually he’s happy to answer them. But this one time he’s in a bit of a hurry. (I’ve been in that situation, and I always feel bad when I can’t answer a question.)

    It’s a great book, but I especially recommend checking out the website linked above for the extra material aimed at teachers and parents. It’s an insightful resource for potentially avoiding the awkward situations when kids notice someone’s difference in public and you want to sink into the floor because they’ve pointed and loudly asked “What’s wrong with that lady’s arm?” Now that I have a kid myself, I’ve been on both sides of that situation, so there’s no hard feelings when it’s me the kid is pointing at. I promise.

    It’s okay to notice, and it’s okay to be curious. Everyone is different in some way. Mine is just a little more obvious that most.

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    Thursday 3: New Picture Books (and one bonus)

    Fall is a great time for books!  My Thursday Three for today features three newly available picture books:

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    • Welcome to Mamoko by Aleksandra Mizielinska – I love wordless picture books in general, but this is especially cool.  It gives a cast of characters at the beginning, and teh book is part seek-and-find, part story starter.  My daughter and I have had lots of fun with this one. :)
    • When Lions Roar by Robie Harris – Robie Harris is best known for her sex ed books for kids.  Here she teams up with one of my favorite illustrators to look at the things that scare us–from lions roaring to parents yelling–and how to calm down when we feel afraid.  Great for preschoolers.
    • The Tortoise and the Hare by Jerry Pinkney – This nearly wordless version of a familiar story is just as good as the author’s previous Caldecott-winning work.  Beautiful.
    • Bonus: Moo! by David LaRochelle – Technically this book isn’t on shelves until next week, but it is one you’ll want to watch for.  Super cute and fun.  Also minimal words, which seems to be a theme with me lately.  Here’s a trailer:

    Miss the last Thursday 3 post?  Check out Three Recent Reads

    Where are you from?

    I’m sticking with the theme from my last post and my new zine, Whereverland, for today’s Thursday Three post.  I have three books in which moving and/or exploring one’s roots plays a role.

    • Tlittlefishhe Language Inside by Holly Thompson – Emma spent most of her life as an American living in Japan–that’s home.  Now she’s back in the States re-orienting to the place her parents have always thought of as “home.”  Really beautiful teen novel in verse that explores connecting with people, places, and poetry.  Teacher/Librarian note: There’s a discussion guide here. (Teen Fiction – Find it at your library or indie bookstore)
    • Little Fish by Ramsey Beyer – Ramsey Beyer captures her first year at art school in this graphic memoir.  She’s a blogger, zinester, and an artist, so I was obviously a little biased toward liking this book even before I started reading.  It’s a more innocent look at college–no parties or hangovers here–than you might find in other books, and Beyer’s sincerity and sweetness make this a cute coming of age book that zinesters and other creative sorts will enjoy.  (Teen/Adult Memoir – Find it at your library or indie bookstore)
    • Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan – This is an oldie, but it is not to be missed.  When Naomi’s mom returns and wants custody of Naomi (and not her brother who has a birth defect), Naomi explores her father’s side with a trip to Mexico.  That one sentence description hardly does the book justice.  It is a thoughtful look at identity and family.  A long-time favorite of mine.  (Children’s Fiction – Find it at your library or indie bookstore)

    Have you read anything that fits this theme?  What would you add?

    August Book Pick: Hello, My Name is Ruby

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    My daughter is different from me.  She is our neighborhood welcoming committee.  She never misses an opportunity to meet a new friend at the park, at the store, or through our living room windows.  Frankly I get a kick out of it.

    That isn’t me.  In classic librarian fashion, I’m more introverted.  Sure, I’ve gotten pretty decent at faking extroversion over the years.  I can hold my own in a trade show booth and enjoy it, and I’ve done a fair amount of public speaking.  But I’m far from greeting random passersby out my windows.  And given the choice, I’d probably sit in the grass with a good book rather than approach strangers at a park.

    My daughter’s extroverted tendencies–and I always speak of these traits as tendencies rather than absolutes–are delightful and at times nerve-wracking.  Sometimes putting yourself out there can hurt.  Sometimes people are mean.  Usually, though, saying hello is great.  You might make a new friend, learn something new, or travel on an adventure.  Like Ruby in Philip Stead’s new picture book Hello, My Name is Ruby.

    Ruby is a little bird who says hello to every bird she meets.  Usually, it’s awesome.

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    But every once in a while, it isn’t, and Ruby feels a bit sad.

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    It’s an ode to the extroverted.  Just like Eileen Spinelli’s When No One is Watching is an ode to the introverted.  Together, the books make a an opportunity to appreciate everyone’s tendencies.

    Miss last month’s Book Pick? See Mouse Bird Snake Wolf by David Almond

    Check out Hello, My Name is Ruby at your local library or buy it at an indie bookstore. You might also be interested in When No One is Watching from a library or bookstore.

    National Library Week

    For most people, libraries equal books—shelf after shelf of books and maybe a computer or two off in the corner. I would like to challenge that perception. Not because I don’t love books. I do. As much as I love books and stories of all sorts, I also strongly believe that they aren’t what libraries are about. It’s National Library Week, and I am going to be posting about what libraries are about all week long. My hope is to open the equation about libraries that you have in your head to more than books, to show you that libraries matter—perhaps in ways you haven’t considered.

    Libraries are about community and education. Librarians are your guide to the world of resources out there from books, to technology, to people. We want to connect with you.

    The official theme of National Library Week 2013 is Communities Matter, so I’ll start with that tomorrow.

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    The Spotlight of Difference

    I don’t see many people who look like me.  Occasionally I would meet people with a limb deficiency or wearing a prosthetic device, and they would tell me stories of trauma and rehabilitation.  I would try to look for commonality, but often there wasn’t much to go on.  So I was surprised to see a contestant on a dating reality show who looked and sounded like me.

    Sarah Herron was very straightforward about her limb deficiency on The Bachelor.  She said basically the same things I always say.  It isn’t a disability.  It’s just different.  The moment probably seemed a bit overly dramatic to some, but I’d rather have a moment of drama by being direct than many moments of awkwardness if we avoid talking about the obvious difference.


    Herron expressed that she isn’t interested in being a role model or a spokesperson, but in my experience, there’s an undeniable “role model effect” to physical difference that you don’t get to turn off.  I am the only one-handed person most people know, and that isn’t likely to change any time soon.  It took me a long time, but I’ve come to understand that that’s just part of my life experience.

    People see the word “disability” when they see me.  If I am a spokesperson for anything, it is for the idea that people are more than what you see.  Sarah Herron is more than her limb deficiency, and so am I.  We’re both different, but the difference is just part of our stories.

    Read more about my experience at Fake Arm 101.

    Exploring Relative Size (Picture Book Preschool)

    Whether you are a big kid or a little kid doesn’t really depend on your age or size.  It depends on who you compare yourself to.

    With Emily Jenkins’ Small, Medium, Large as a jumping off point, we explored relative sizes in a way that included a vocabulary lesson, math skills, and art.  First a bit about the book: Jenkins and Bogacki’s collaboration brings odd little creatures–Ladybug decided that they were dogs, but they might be mice–of various sizes together as they compare their sizes as they generally illustrate the concept of S, M, L, and XL.  We follow “small” down to “minuscule” and “large” to “colossal” to the delight of my little word girl.The one-upsmanship  makes the book fun for little listeners when it otherwise might be a bit too “educational.”  The gatefold with the little creatures stacked up to equal one very large creature is pretty cool too.

    I thought it might be fun for my girl to see how she compares to various things, and what better way to do that than to make a life-size drawing of herself? :)

    And measure it:

    Then compare:

    7 of her own feet, 10 of her hands, a bunch of cars, and 42 paperclips.

    My only regret is that we didn’t manage to get to the Walker Art Center’s Lifelike exhibit before it ended.  If you happen to be in New Orleans, San Diego, or Austin, you might be able to make that happen.  It’s great for kids!  You could re-create the scenes to explore scale like little girl in this post on the Walker Education blog.

    See my Parents & Educators page for more Picture Book Preschool posts.
    Disclosure: Amazon.com links are affiliate links.   A portion of purchases made via these links earns a commission for this blog.  Thanks for your support!  (Book Reviewed from library copy.)

    Friday Finds: Colbert interviews Sendak and a few other not-as-funny links

    Books:

    • Grim Colberty Tales on the Colbert Report.  It is a must-watch.
    • Librarians looking for a February book display might be interested in this list of teen fiction with hearts on the covers on my Book Lists Wiki.

    Music:

    • If you, like me, were unable to make it to the Best New Bands showcase at First Avenue this week, you will be happy to know that you can live it vicariously on the Internet.  You can read Citypages‘ write-up here or read about local drummer Jared Isabella, who played in 3 of the bands, here.  Don’t forget that the hours are dwindling to support Bloodnstuff’s Kickstarter project.

    Family:

    And it’s all about me: