Several months ago, my daughter decided that jumping rope was her new favorite thing to do. Since most of my family’s favorite things to do are not even close to strenuous physical activity, I was happy to encourage her interest in jumping rope.
The problem? It was winter, and we live in an apartment.
It didn’t take too many thumps on the floor for us to declare, “No jumping rope inside.” But I admit I had a vision the apartment life in The Brownstone by Paula Scher in which the residents of an urban apartment building shuffle living spaces to create just the right sense of harmony. It isn’t easy when you have hibernating bears living below tap dancing kangaroos or a jump roping eight-year-old.
I’m happy we live on the first floor with no neighbors beneath us. I’ve lived in all sorts of apartments as a child and as an adult, and I can tell you from experience that it isn’t easy to live so close to a kangaroo when you’re a bear. These days, I’m just trying not to be the kangaroo to anyone else.
Fortunately, it’s spring, and we can finally send our jumping roping eight-year-old outside.
Whether you live in an apartment with kids or not, The Brownstone is a humorous look at problem solving and getting along with whoever you happen to live near. Recommended.
More about The Brownstone:
I quit school after sixth grade. I’d already already attended five different elementary schools and one middle school in six states, and the twelve-year-old me felt like I’d seen all that public school options had to offer. I was pretty sure I could do just as well educating myself as many of the schools I’d experienced. Probably better in the case of the last school I attended.
So I spent the summer between sixth and seventh grade convincing my parents to let me quit, to let me take charge of my own education. It took all summer, but it worked. That was how we became homeschoolers. It was a wonderful and empowering experience for me, and while I have chosen public school for my daughter, I still strongly support homeschooling as an option. It has become much more mainstream in the years since my family homeschooled, but it’s still really rare to see a homeschooling family in a children’s book. That’s why I was really excited about Jonathan Bean‘s new semi-autobiographical picture book, This is my Home, This is my School.
I completely agree with what Jonathan Bean says in the author’s note: “Homeschooling never ends.” The mindset behind my family’s decision to homeschool has stayed with me. I still look for opportunities to learn wherever I am, to explore my community, and to take on new projects. I hope that no matter where my daughter attends school, she picks up on the values that I still hold from my homeschooling experience.
Read more about This is my Home, This is my School:
Moving isn’t easy. I should know. I moved twelve times before I was twelves years old. I considered myself quite the expert. I knew how to pack boxes and say goodbye, and I knew what to expect on the first day at a new school. I can tell with certainty that it was never easy. I never wanted to move. I never wanted to leave friends or belongings behind. I never had a choice.
There were many times when I felt like Callie in Yard Sale or Peter in Lenny & Lucy, and I don’t remember having books like this back then. I had to find my own way.
I’ll be honest, books like these still affect me deeply. They tell a story that I can feel in my bones: moving can feel like more than you can bear, but you will bear it. You’ll lean on your family or you’ll find some other way to cope. But you will be okay.
If my childhood taught me nothing else, it is that you will begin to feel at home anywhere if you try.
My most recent moves have been by choice. They’ve been less about emotional upheaval, and more about the usual physical upheaval of packing and unpacking. This last move was only a half a block from old to new, so the disruption of life and routine was minimal. Still, in any move, it takes conscious effort to feel at home in the new space, to create new habits, and to find the comfortable feeling that makes us happy to be there.
I am happy that books like Yard Sale and Lenny & Lucy exist. I hope they are shared widely with a wide variety of readers. I think they will resonate with anyone saying goodbye, settling in, or trying to adjust to a new set of circumstances. They certainly did for me.
We have just returned from our second road trip of the summer, and I offer you these bits of experience for any future car travel you might undertake, especially with a child.
- The right music is key to a good road trip. You want crowd pleasers and sing alongs for the ultimate road trip soundtrack. The day we left happened to be a beautiful, sunny day. Naturally, we listened to The Cure and Depeche Mode for the sing-along portion of the trip. Later we threw in some Schoolhouse Rock for our daughter–well, maybe for us too. ;)
- Don’t miss an opportunity to include an educational activity. This is pretty much my motto in life for both myself and my daughter, and in this case I made a Road Trip Scavenger hunt that my daughter mostly just doodled all over. Hey, I tried.
- Stop to appreciate your current location when you can. We were in a bit of a time crunch on this trip, so there were minimal stops. We did, however, have lunch in Champaign-Urbana on our way home, which was really cool. I hadn’t been back to my alma mater in years, and it was a neat, nostalgic side adventure.
- If anyone in your party is prone to car sickness, stick with audio books. On this trip, we listened to the first Harry Potter book. My husband and daughter hadn’t read it yet or seen the movie, and it was fun to see them experience the beginning of the story for the first time.
- For those little travelers who can read in the car, share Are We There, Yeti? by Ashlyn Anstee for a comical school bus trip that will charm readers and maybe make them forget they are stuck in a car for hours at a time. It publishes later this month, but here is a preview:
“Dads are so in,” Elissa Cedarleaf Dahl said in the latest episode of Pratfalls of Parenting. I laughed when I heard that, but I think it’s true. At least when it comes to picture books. Prove it, you say? Here are a few new picture books that come to mind:
Dad’s First Day by Mike Wohnoutka is about a little boy’s first day of school. The little boy is completely ready for school, but the dad isn’t quite there yet. This is exactly how I felt when my daughter started preschool. Very cute story for parents, especially dads.
Ask Me by Bernard Waber follows a father and daughter as they walk and talk on a fall day. The little girl’s loquacious inquisitiveness will be familiar to many parents, and the lovely art by one of my favorite illustrators adds to the sweet father-daughter story.
Tad and Dad by David Ezra Stein is a bedtime book about a little tadpole and his very patient dad who just wants to sleep. We’ve all been there, right?
Want more? Try these links:
There is something extraordinary about a wish. A wish can set your imagination free and open up possibilities. Sometimes those wishes even come true, though perhaps they’ve always been true. Perhaps what is happening around us is as wonderful as all the things we can imagine.
That is what I took away from Ben Clanton‘s new picture book, Something Extraordinary. I have to admit to a particular weakness for picture books that encourage readers to slow down, observe the world closely, and appreciate it, and this book certainly falls into that category.
But I also love the idea that wishes do come true, and that our world is more vivid when we take the time to notice what is happening around us.
Read more about the book:
Asking is better than staring at me. Asking is better than avoiding me. Asking is better than making up something about me that isn’t true. I have been saying these things for years–mostly assuring embarrassed parents that it’s okay that their child asked me about my prosthetic arm–but now I’m not alone. In addition to the fantastic Jacob’s Eye Patch, now there is It’s Okay to Ask from Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. Two picture books and me all saying the same message will surely convince people, right? ;)
On MPR News, Tom Weber spoke with a Gillette doctor and a young patient about the book and their experiences talking about disabilities, and he expressed surprise that it was okay to ask about someone’s disability. “Has that really been the thing we said about how we should interact?” he asked more than once. The guests assured him that questions aren’t necessarily rude. It’s the intent behind the questions that is either friendly or rude. I found myself nodding along at what the guests were saying over and over again.
Here’s what I know about questions:
- “What’s wrong with you?” is probably not the best question, but even if your child does ask it that way, it’s okay. It’s a teachable moment. Encourage them to rephrase it without making them feel bad for being curious.
- Questions are better than assumptions, and the best questions assume the least. “How did you lose your arm?” for example assumes I lost an arm, which I did not, but I understand that it isn’t always easy to come up with the best phrasing on the spot. Don’t stress about the best way to put it. It’s usually pretty clear when someone means a question nicely.
- Equipment makes questions easier. I get way more questions when I am wearing my prosthetic arm than when I go without it. It seems people are usually more comfortable asking about a piece of technology than they are about a physical difference.
I offered more points to consider in this post on The Blogunteer back in 2012. In that post, I said:
“It’s okay to be curious. That is probably the most important thing I want to tell people. The key is how you express your curiosity.”
That is still true. Questions are okay. Even poorly worded questions are okay. The important thing is that we move past staring at or avoiding people with disabilities or physical differences. I’d rather have to answer an impolite question than always be Other. As in the book It’s Okay to Ask, once we get past our differences, we can get to what we have in common.
Have a question about my limb difference or prosthetic arm? See Fake Arm 101
for answers to some common questions or send me an email with some question I haven’t covered yet: email@example.com.
When you see a title like Wild About Shapes, you probably think you know exactly what kind of book you’re getting. Circles, squares, triangles, etc. No surprises. File it on the shelf next to the math concept books, and call it a day. Most of the time, you’d be right on.
Not this time.
Wild About Shapes by Jeremie Fischer is nothing like you’d expect. It is one delightful surprise after another. The “shapes” referenced in the title are really, well, abstract blobs of color that don’t look like much of anything until you turn the acetate page. Then you can see the animal–that’s where the “wild” comes in. In the end, it’s almost magical that way the animals appear out of nowhere.
The spiral binding will probably mean that most libraries pass on this book, and that’s a shame. It’s a fun, kid-friendly book that will have readers of all ages considering visual perspective, color, and space.
This is a book to be experienced. I think it will surprise you.
Thank you to Flying Eye for providing me with a review copy. Opinions are my own.
Last year I kept my Thursday 3 posts over on my photo blog for the most part. This year I thought I’d bring them over here. This week I want to share three picture books from 2014 that did not win any big awards (that I know of) and may have slipped through the cracks.
Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear by Monica Carnesi is a sweet friendship story with a twist. When winter comes Bear is ready to hibernate and Beatrice (a rabbit) tries and fails to sleep through the winter with her friend. Instead, she finds a creative way to share her experience with her friend while allowing both of them to be who they are. I loved the messages (be yourself! find creative solutions!), and the fact that the messages were subtle compared to the sweetness of the story. Well worth sharing with your little ones whether they have found themselves in a similar situation or not.
Brimsby’s Hats by Andrew Prahin is another story of friendship and creative problem solving that may have some appeal to the maker/DIY crowd. In this picture book from a debut author/illustrator, Brimsby’s friend moves away, and he is lonely. He struggles, at first, to make new friends, but he uses his talents as a hat maker to get the attention of some birds. It is a gentle, quiet story that I found quite charming.
100 Things That Make Me Happy by Amy Schwartz isn’t a story at all. It is, as the title suggests, a list of everyday happinesses in fun rhyming couplets. I am an admitted idealist who can’t help but be drawn to a book that promises such positivity, but this book is sure to warm the hearts of readers of all ages and liven up storytimes with its bouncy rhymes.
You can check out the books that did win big at the Youth Media Awards here. It was a great year for books!
How old should a child be before he or she should be allowed to ride public transit by themselves?
I don’t have a good answer to that question, and I don’t know that one exists. If you go by the discussion I heard on my drive to work this morning on MPR News, it certainly seems like the two sides (free range parents vs. helicopter parents) will never find common ground. I fall somewhere in the middle, probably closer to helicopter than I might like to admit.
The truth is that I know more than a few adults who are afraid or extremely hesitant to ride public transit by themselves. I feel like I am forever assuring people that the city bus seems scarier than it really is while they counter with stories that begin with “I heard…” and end with something terrible happening. The idea of convincing parents that their children should ride a bus solo seems rather ludicrous in that context.
Just a few hours after listening to experts and callers weigh in on the topic, I happened upon a picture book that provided another perspective. In The Bus Ride by Marianne Dubuc, a little girl rides a bus by herself for the first time. Her bus ride looks a little bit different from my usual bus rides. Her world is populated by what appear to be scary animals. Wolves and bears board the bus with her. They seem intimidating, but in the end, they are friendly, or at least benign. The girl’s solo trip is not without adventure, but it is a quiet sort of adventure. It seems like a just-right adventure in this book.
It doesn’t answer any questions or set any guidelines for solo bus travel, but it does portray public transit as a gentle place full of community, much like Last Stop on Market Street did. That is a message that I can firmly get behind. I still have no idea when I will allow my daughter to ride public transit on her own, but I sincerely hope that she will feel comfortable doing so as an adult. Until then, we’ll be off in search of just-right adventures of our own, in books and in life. Some solo, some together.
- Lenore Skenazy’s writes about letting her nine-year-old ride the NYC subway alone (and the response she got after she wrote about it) in this essay.
- The recent NPR story about free-range parenting.
- A review of The Bus Ride from one of my favorite kidlit review blogs.
- Peek inside a bit of The Bus Ride on the publisher’s web site.