Are You Ready to Play Outside?

Written and Illustrated by Mo Willems.

Hyperion Press, 2008.  64 pages.  Tr.  $8.99.  ISBN 978-1-4231-1347-8.

Mo Willems’ beloved Piggie and Gerald are back and eager to play outside.  Except that it is raining.  Disappointed, Piggie frets about what to do.  When Gerald timidly suggests a way that they can still have fun, the day is saved, proving “elephants make the best friends!”

This Elephant and Piggie Book is perfect for beginning readers who are building confidence in their new skills.  The pair is delightfully expressive in the tradition of emergent reader texts from Dr. Seuss and P.D. Eastman.

Other Information:

Awards won by this item

Author/Illustrator website

Author/Illustrator biography and interviews

Subjects/themes that could be used in programming

  • Friendship
  • Rainy day
  • Emergent reader titles

Series Information

Programming Ideas and/or lesson plans

Advertisements

Comments Off on Are You Ready to Play Outside?

Filed under Picture Books, Reading Aloud

Ten Years Later

When I was a kid, one of my ambitions was to become famous and have my birthday declared a national holiday.  Not so much in the vein of Washington or Lincoln, but perhaps in the way that Theodore Geisel’s birthday is celebrated as Read Across America Day.  So on that Tuesday morning ten years ago, in the midst of my dismay, I thought, “This is not what I meant at all.”

Where were you?

My older relatives tell stories about where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news of President Kennedy’s assassination or Martin Luther King, Jr’s.  For a brief period of time the only vaguely similar experience I had was the news of Princess Diana’s fatal accident.  I didn’t know what it felt like to live with such an indelible before and after.

My roommate Velika woke me up that morning after having taken a phone call from my husband (then my boyfriend of two years).  He was on campus for his weekly ROTC muster and called to tell us to turn on the news.  Velika and I were are not morning people.  After she relayed the (wildly understated) message that a plane crashed in New York, we both went back to bed.  It was probably at least two hours more before we were functional enough to begin to take in the scope of the tragedy.

The night before, I had been in a multicultural literature class and the professor had emphasized the importance of viewing the world from varied perspectives, especially those that clash with our own.  “There are only so many stories,” she insisted, “but infinite points of view.”  In our first post 9/11 class meeting, she simply stated, “The world has changed.”

Where are you now?

My husband and I have been married for eight years, parents for six.  We lived on the east coast for four years.  I was a teacher for three.   Yet that journey seems more like a big circle than a straight road that stretches out behind me.  Maybe I feel this way because my house is 7 miles due east of the apartment I was living in ten years ago.  For all the experiences I’ve had in the past ten years, how much have I changed?

I just finished reading an NPR article discussing American life in the aftermath of 9/11.  The article raises the same questions—has the world changed?  Has American life changed?

Freelance journalist Alex Chadwick feels, “since Sept. 11, Americans are ‘more angry, more sorrowful, as though we’ve gotten about 20 years older — or even more — in a decade, but without any of the wisdom or grace that comes to some with age.’”

In many ways, I feel that I’m much the person as I was back then, for better or for worse.  And it seems the same may be said of our nation.  Older?  Definitely.  Wiser?  To be determined.

Where do we go from here?

9/11 is at once distant and personal for me.  My mom and her family are New Yorkers, but no one connected to us was directly affected by the tragedy.  In San Diego, CA, I was about as far away from Ground Zero as I could have been while still within the continental US.  Yet it is always with me.

Today is my 32nd birthday.  I feel neither old nor young.  Ten years from now I think I will have figured out what I want to be when I grow up and achieved a few more of my life goals.

Today, the thought of the people who died ten years ago still brings the sting of tears to my eyes.  Ten years from now I hope it still does.  As much as I may wonder at the unaltered aspects of American life, I would never deny the irrevocable way in which so many American lives were shattered by 9/11.

Today is Patriot Day.  Ten years from now I hope I finally understand what that means.  Or, at least, what being a patriot means to me.  Because for the past ten years, I haven’t felt particularly patriotic when I’ve tired of the solemnity of the memorials overshadowing one of the few days of the year that I really want to celebrate.  In fact, I haven’t felt particularly patriotic for much at all of the past ten years because I was one of those people who, in 2001, agreed with Arundhati Roy’s controversial post-9/11 essays “The Algebra of Infinite Justice” and “War is Peace” in which she harshly criticized my country and its government.

Still, every year the wish I make when I blow out my candles isn’t for me, but for our world.  You know I can’t tell you exactly what my wish is…but if you had a birthday wish today, what would it be?

 

Comments Off on Ten Years Later

Filed under Reflections

Reading in the Dark

The region-wide blackout last night brought back so many childhood memories!  I was one of those kids who complied easily at bedtime because I always had my pink Ever-Ready flashlight stashed under my pillow.   

So I didn’t let the power outage interfere with my daughter’s storytime and it was actually so fun that I think we’ll have do this again every once in a while!

I have to admit, I’ve never read by candlelight.  A few years ago my mom gave me these clever, rechargeable tealights that are constantly repositioned around my house.  I just love them.  They give off a flickery, orange glow that’s quite similar to real fire—a nice alternative when you want to go all Smokey the Bear /Don’t Play with Matches on your kid.  (Of course my daughter has seen me dangle satin ribbons in candle flames when I’m crafting, so I’m probably confusing her with my mixed messages).

The tealights do not offer good reading light, but Halloween is coming and they create a perfectly creepy effect, don’t you think?

And I do have a booklight which my husband gave me in hopes I’d use it instead of my bedside lamp when I’m reading at night.  But I don’t really like it.

Now, does reading in dim light really hurt your eyes? According to this article, not necessarily, though eye strain–as most avid readers already know–is hardly desirable.

Wherever and whenever you’re reading, be kind to your eyes!


Comments Off on Reading in the Dark

Filed under Family, Reading Activities

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

Written and Illustrated by Simms Taback.

Viking Juvenile, 1999.  32 pages.  Tr. $16.99.  ISBN 978-0-670-87855-0.

Using the die cut technique he popularized in his book There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, Simms Taback presents another award winning story, this one about a Jewish farmer named Joseph whose resourcefulness allows him to continually remake his overcoat into something new.  Taback’s inspiration for the story comes from a Yiddish folksong which is included at the end of the book.  Young readers will enjoy the predictable pattern of the text, and older readers will find numerous interesting bits of Jewish culture sprinkled throughout the richly textured illustrations.  A joyful story with a moral readers of all cultures can take to heart.

Cited in Essentials of Children’s Literature 6th Edition pages 94, 97, 113, 224, 311 and the 2000 Caldecott Medal winner:

Other Information:

Other in-print formats available for this title:

  • Gagne, P.R. & Reilly, M. (Producers) & Ivanick, D. (Director).  (2001).  Joseph had a

little overcoat .  Norwalk, CT:  Weston Woods.

Awards won by this item

Author/Illustrator website

Author/Illustrator biographies

Subjects/themes that could be used in programming

  • Jewish culture
  • Reusing Resources
  • Folk songs

Programming Ideas and/or lesson plans

Additional Resources

Comments Off on Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

Filed under Picture Books

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

Written and Illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein

Roaring Book Press, 2003.  40 pages.  Tr. $17.95.  ISBN 978-0-7613-1791-3.

Philippe Petit is a street performer who loves to entertain crowds with his juggling tricks and his unicycle.  His favorite trick is walking on a tightrope high above the ground.  Once, in his hometown of Paris, France, Philippe walked (and even danced!) on a wire between the steeples of Notre Dame Cathedral.  Now living in New York, Philippe spots twin towers, each 1,340 feet tall.  And he has an idea…

Mordicai Gerstein recounts the remarkable story of Philippe Petit who, on August 7, 1974, walked on a wire strung between the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.  Gerstein’s ink and oil illustrations capture Petit’s charisma and daring, as well as the astonishing height of the towers.  The post-9/11 perspective of this story preserves the memory of Petit’s amazing feat and the magnificence of the World Trade Center.  This book may serve as an introduction to 9/11 history for children born after 2001.

Other Information:

Other in-print formats available for this title:

  • Gerstein, M.  The man who walked between the towers [compact disc]. (2005).  Pine Plains, NY:  Live Oak Media.
  • Sporn, M. (Director). (2005). The man who walked between the towers [DVD]. Norwalk, CT:  Weston Woods Studios, Incorporated.

Awards won by this item

Author/Illustrator website

Author/Illustrator biographies

Subjects/themes that could be used in programming

  • Tight rope walker
  • Street Performer
  • 9/11

Programming Ideas and/or lesson plans

Additional Resources

Gallery of Mordicai Gerstein’s art:  http://www.rmichelson.com/Artist_Pages/Gerstein/Mordicai_Gerstein_Gallery.html

Comments Off on The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

Filed under Picture Books

Back to School Picnic

The purpose of this get-together was for the children in my daughter’s first grade class to have some fun and get reacquainted prior to the first day of school.  As a former teacher I know how crazy things can be on the first day in the classroom.  As a parent I wanted to do something to help the back-to-school experience go well.  Several of the children, my daughter included, were quite anxious about the new school year so this event helped ease some of their nerves.  It was also an opportunity for families new to the school to meet returning families and the new students were able to make some friends.

My husband and I sponsored the event at a nearby military recreation spot.  Since we paid the reservation fee, I wanted to keep all of our other costs at a minimum, which allowed me to be creative with the decorations.

With a school year theme in mind and the school colors as my starting point, I rooted around in our garage, gathering up anything blue or yellow and school related.  I also collected things that could work as picnic/playground games.

Things I repurposed:  plastic water bottles, toilet paper tubes, stop signs, scrap wood, tin cans, alphabet magnets, alphabet flash cards, blue valences from our first apartment

Things I had on hand:  several white tablecloths and sheets, plastic cones, white & colored paper, river pebbles, paper napkins, small clear cellophane bags with twist ties, tissue paper, ribbon, mini clothespins and regular clothespins, paper bags, chenille stems, felt, wooden dowels, paint, paint chips (well, okay, I got to make a trip to Lowe’s and Home Depot for those, but they were free)

Things I bought:  bag of Navy beans, black chalkboard spray paint, white plastic IKEA picture frames, white IKEA vases, 3 white sheets from the IKEA As-Is bin (yes, I’m kinda obsessed with IKEA)

Things I made:  2 welcome banners that hung from trees around our picnic site, 3 chalkboard signs to direct people where to park, 12 centerpieces including pennant flags featuring the school uniform plaid and 5 dozen paper bag flowers, 48 tablecloth weights that turned out to be the most important items I brought, a whiffle ball toss game, 8 paint chip garlands and two “Happy School Year” paint chip banners.  (I shared a few pictures of the process in this post.)

Some confessions:  It was windy at the picnic site, so basically all of the decorations ended up being pointless.  I didn’t get to hang any banners or garlands except for the welcome ones.  The parking lot was extremely crowded because so many events were going on all around the park that day.  At one point, the lot was closed and people were turned away at the gate, so the chalkboard signs were essentially useless.  Despite my best intentions, I took only about six pictures at the event.  This must be why event organizers and event photographers are not one in the same person.  Most of the pictures featured here were taken at my home, after the fact.

On the up side, more than 60 people attended the event and everyone had a blast!

I don’t think I’ll be taking on another project like this anytime soon.  For the Fall, I’ll stick with decorating my own house where I have greater control over the elements.  Here’s a preview of what I’m working on:

Comments Off on Back to School Picnic

Filed under Family

My First Time…

…and I’m nervous!  Tomorrow my husband and I are “sponsoring” a back-to-school picnic for our daughter’s class.  I’m not sure if “hosting” is quite the right word for our role.  I’m the event organizer/coordinator but it’s a BYO event at the park.   More than 60 adults and kids are attending, which is why I’m a bit anxious—it seems like a huge group!  A far cry from the small birthday or dinner parties I’ve had in my home for family and close friends.

Yes, this is a huge departure from my usual subject matter here, though it does reflect my recent reading habits.  Pretty much all summer, I’ve been wandering the web in search of ideas and inspiration for party ideas and decorations.  There are so many amazing ideas out there and I’m excited to share what I pulled together for this event.

Here are some “before” pictures.  Please bear with me when it comes to the quality of the pictures—a better camera and better photography skills are on my wish list.  This is also my first time blogging something like this…

The picnic area, a playground is adjacent

Some decorations in progress

All the stuff we have to haul to the site, including welcome banners, garland, games, table décor, etc., etc.

I plan to take plenty of pictures tomorrow so you can see how it all turns out.

1 Comment

Filed under Family