On Saturday March 28, 2015, we will have an opportunity to talk to the moon.
From 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. people everywhere are encouraged to turn off their lights in recognition of Earth Hour. For those of us who live in the city, there are too many lights to fully appreciate the night sky. Earth Hour is a chance to do just that–to really see and appreciate the night.
After participating in Earth Hour while living in New York City, artist Naoko Stoop turned her experience into a beautiful, fable-like picture book. Red Knit Cap Girl caught my attention with the lovely illustrations, but the opening line was what really stuck with me: “In the forest, there is time to wonder about everything.” In this book, Red Knit Cap Girl wonders about the moon. How would you talk to the moon? Would you throw it a party?
It is a simple story with curiosity at its core. It is a favorite of mine, and I hope you will give it a chance. Perhaps you will even find yourself talking to the moon on a dark night this weekend.
“Let’s all slow down,” I said as I introduced one of my favorite picture books in a recent presentation to a group of librarians and teachers. I always seem to have a weakness for picture books that focus on little things. Simplicity. Patience. Observation.
I suppose I wish my life were simpler and that I were more patient and observant.
I was reminded of how much I value slowness and observation as I listened to a recent episode of Pratfalls of Parenting in which visual artist Karen Kasel spoke of the role that slowing down played in her life and art–having kids forced her to slow down. Now that her kids are school-aged, she wants to share the idea of slowing down and looking closely with them. How do you convince a kid that slowness and patience are worth it when you have to compete with tech and all the other distractions we have?
I don’t know. But I know that I would start with a few good picture books.
How To by Julie Morstad is one of my favorite picture books of the year for its look at the everyday beauty that we often overlook.
Little Bird by Germano Zullo reminds us to cherish small things.
And for you? Once you’ve let the picture books settle a bit, stop by the Hidden in Plain View exhibit–currently at the Minneapolis Central Library through October 26th–for several perspectives on everyday beauty from local photographers. The exhibit is quiet and thoughtful. The photographs contain people and places we’ve probably seen-but-not-seen a million times. Here is your chance to stop, to remind yourself that there is much to see if we take the time to look.
Books, art, music. These are my touchstones. When I need to reorient my perspective to my values, I turn to these things. How do you recharge? What reminds you to live your values?
The National Book Award Finalists were announced last week, and mistakes were made that resulted in Lauren Myracle, author of Shine (which I loved) being asked to step aside from the competition. A lot of people feel pretty strongly about this. Whoever you feel mishandled the situation aside, I think the moral of this story is that Shine is a great book and more people should read it. At least that’s what I got from it. :)
“As I looked about me I felt that the grass was the country as the water is the sea. The red of the grass made all the great prairie the color of wine-stains, or of certain seaweeds when they are first washed up. And there was so much motion in it; the whole country seemed, somehow, to be running.”
–from My Antonia by Willa Cather
I fell in love with the prairie when I read My Antonia several years ago, and I quickly read several more of Willa Cather’s books in search of more. Years later, I find myself still drawn to books that seem like they will capture the same depth and beauty that Cather portrayed in her books. I read A Lantern in her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich only to find a story, less of the prairie, and more of a woman’s choice to give up everything for her family. It wasn’t quite what I was looking for. Later I read Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker. This was closer to what I wanted. This coming-of-age novel follows a young girl as she determines what is important to her and gets to know her parents for who they are. It was a good book, but not quite it either.
Then I found Giants in the Earth. In this story, which feels like a saga but only covers about 4 or 5 years, several Norwegian families settle in an isolated area in the Dakotas. The struggle of life on the prairie is particularly illustrated in one family in which the father/husband seems almost manic in his drive to success and the wife/mother falls deeper and deeper into depression due to loneliness. It was quite powerful, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a story to explore the pioneer life further after reading Willa Cather.
If you want to put a visual to the quote above from My Antonia, you might take a look at Elsie’s Bird by Jane Yolen. This picture book, illustrated by David Small (I blogged about his memoir here), follows a young girl adjust from city life to pioneer life. Small’s illustrations really capture the movement and beauty of the prairie. The book is perfect to share this particular time and place with elementary school age kids. (It was a bit long for my preschooler.) Highly recommended.
From the cover, you might peg Shoe-La-La as another annoying girly-girl picture book. I can’t deny its girliness, but I believe it rises to the top of the pile of girly picture books with the DIY attitude it promotes. The girls shop and shop for the perfect pair of shoes, but they can’t find what they are looking for. Their solution? Just decorate their old shoes into the perfect party shoes.