“Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” by Kevin Henkens

If we have already talked about shoes, we might as well touch upon other accessories. How about purses? If you are a parent of a girl, you are probably nodding. If you have a son, you are most likely about to skip this post, right? Well, don’t. For one, the book is not only about purses. Secondly, little boys are more open-minded than we might think. The other day, I complemented my son’s friend on his bag. He corrected me. “It’s actually a purse.” I said that purses are more for girls. But he assertively responded, “this is a purse, though.” How can you argue with that!

Anyway, as a mom of two boys, I had no idea that purses are such a common accessory of little girls these days.  My son, like other boys, would bring his lunch to school in a regular backpack. But girls pack their tasty snacks in the most (un)tasteful purses. LOL! Fashion on the verge of kitsch, and the more tacky the thing, the more popular it is. Plastic mixed with plush, Hanna Montana with Hello Kitty. Feathers, fake gems, a stuffed puppy sticking out of the bag… It’s as mind-boggling as hilarious!

If your daughter is one of the purse-loving-fashionistas, she might enjoy reading about Lilly and her purple purse.

Lilly was so excited about her new purse, that she brought it to school and wanted to show it to everyone, including her favorite teacher. Unfortunately, he was not exactly happy to see that his usually attentive student was not only distracted but also distracting other children. He took the purse away until the rest of the day. Now Lilly was the one who was not exactly thrilled…The war has begun, as you can tell. If  you want to see how it ended, I can only add that the magical “I’m sorry” did the trick again. 

As you can tell, the story is not only for girls and the purple purse is just a pretext to talk about broader issues: how to deal with distractions and negative emotions. Children like bringing toys and other gadgets to school in order to show or share them with their friends. It is a natural way of sharing joy. But children should be reminded that it is not show-and-tell every day. Toys and other items from home might be disturbing to the teacher and distracting for the rest of the class. Not to mention that things can get lost,  trigger jealousy, etc. In other words, as a parent and a teacher, I would keep it minimal.

As far as the other aspect of the book, how to deal with negative emotions, I think the book paints a very realistic picture. We all have some negative feelings from time to time, so it is not a matter of teaching our children to suppress them, but to control them and be accountable.

I wonder if your children have any favorite toys or accessories that they can’t part with and drag to school in their backpacks.  Please, let us know. My son has always had a little hot wheel car with him. And it took him a few lost cars, a few upset friends (there were more friends than cars) and one annoyed teacher to learn not to bring his treasures to the classroom.

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“Pink Me Up” by Charise Mericle Harper

After my younger son was born, a befriended nurse brought him a little gift: a hat. What’s more, a pink hat. I found it quite odd, considering we are in America, where the pink-blue color code goes without saying. But I didn’t say anything. The nurse did. “A wrong hat!” She exclaimed as she looked at my baby boy. “He can’t wear pink,” she added. “Not in this country!”

Not in this country indeed. While my husband seemed quite relieved that his son got the “right” color to put on his head, I was amused with the whole incident. Not as amused as  I saw the truly blue set of clothes my mom sent her grandson. Well, she shopped in Poland, where blue is for girls. LOL! Go figure!

If I have to choose between pink or blue, I go for brown or green. These are my favorite colors and I make sure that I see them on my sons as well. My four-year-old likes red, black and orange, so his wardrobe is quite colorful. I don’t mind. If children can’t dress like a rainbow, who can!

How did we arrive at this dual dress code anyway? Is there any explanation and justification for it? Please, enlighten me. In my opinion it is as arbitrary as relative. I know of cute blond boys wearing pink T-shirts because it suits them. I know of serious grown up men wearing pink dress shirts, because they feel like it. I think it’s great. It takes a strong ego to buck the trend like that. Especially in this country.

As a parent you need a strong ego.  “Pink Me Up” explains it with a lot humor.

A little girl was looking forward to a ‘Pink Girls Pink-Nic’ with her mom. But mom got sick. Who was going to take the girl to the party, if the only other girl in the house was the cat?  Surprise, surprise, daddy was ready to fill in for mom. But was daddy pink enough with his pink tie? Daddy needed to be pinked up. Pink stripes here, pink dots there, and daddy was “perfectly pink” for the ‘pink-nic’. 

Is there anything a dad will not do for his daughter?

A hilarious take on the color drama that many of you may know first hand. Little girls might find the book inspiring, dads might deem it encouraging. Even my orthodox blue husband said he might pink himself up if he had to. If we had a daughter that is.

 

 

 

 

“Shoe-la-la!” by Karen Beaumont

Nothing defines a girl better than the passion for shoes. Wouldn’t you say? I know many moms who can’t wait  until their daughters will be big enough to go shoe-shopping together. It must be in little girls genes, I guess. It starts with princess and fairy shoes that they get to wear on Halloween, and before you know it, their shoe collection outgrows yours. Boys are perhaps less into the shoe business. If my son could, he would wear Crocs for half a year and sneakers for another half. But he sure has an opinion on what shoes I should wear: red stilettos. Go figure!

Anyways, if the interest in shoes comes to little girls naturally, why should we fight it? I don’t mean we should promote the shoe-mania, but we could use their love for shoes as a source of inspiration, the “Shoe-la-la!” -way

Four little girls need shoes for a party. What do they do? They hit the store.  Assisted by a stylish salesman with a curious mustache, the girls get to try all kinds of shoes, from ballerinas, to cowgirl boots. Lacy shoes, stripey shoes, with ribbons and with beads. All  colors and patterns you can think of. It’s fun trying the shoes on, but can the girls possibly choose from so many styles?  Of course not. They wouldn’t be typical girls if they could. So what do they do? They head back home and… design their own shoes. All they need to use is some buttons, paper, ribbons, scissors… and last but not least, their imagination. 

Simple but catchy rhymes, fancy characters and bright and lively illustrations by LeUyen Pham make “Shoe-la-la!” not only a captivating read, but also an exciting pretend-shopping experience that your children will enjoy superbly and you won’t have to spend a dime.

What I especially like about the story is the surprising finale.  Who would think that the girls will leave the store without a single pair and end up making their shoes themselves? Isn’t it a solution that we should promote to our children?  We live in a material world and Madonna might be a material girl, but I would rather have a creative  child.

 

“Too Purpley!” by Jean Reidy

A little girl has a closet full of fancy clothes but not much to wear. (Whose fault is that, huh?!) One outfit is too purpley, another one is too stripey, too itchy, too feathery… Finally, the assertive toddler finds clothes that are just right. Clothes that are simply comfy.

A cute board book not only for toddlers. Greatly inventive illustrations, by Geneviève Leloup, full of playful patterns and vibrant colors. In a few catchy phrases and with a lot of humor, Joan Reidy sends an important message to us, parents: comfortable clothes are children’s first choice.  Should we respect that basic preference a bit more, we could avoid many morning  fits and getting-dressed drama.

 

 

 

1bookperday in March

Spring is in the air and spring collections are in the stores. Why don’t we spend some time thinking and reading about kids’ fashion?

This week, as I was listening to the radio, I heard a story about a mom, who decided to take her nine-year-old daughter underwear shopping to… Victoria’s Secret. Why not, right? After all, what nine-year old wants to wear cartoons on her bottoms! Sarcasm aside, I don’t think this resourceful mom is fully to blame. When I took my four-year-old jeans shopping, I felt like skinny jeans were my one and only option. Luckily, good Old Navy saved the day.  And jeans are not the only item of clothing that attracted my attention as overly fashionable and utterly impractical for an active boy. From Gymboree to Gap, from short, tight tops to long, leather boots, this stuff is sexier than anything I have in my closet.  And that makes me wonder. Is this really the way modern designers see our children?  Dressed in adult outfits? Should parents follow the trend?  And last but not least, what do children think about the whole catwalk on which they are forced to parade?

I have to admit, a lot of clothes for children are adorable indeed. Especially those for girls. I can see how parents give in to colorful dresses and snazzy leggings. Clothes for boys are not as cute, perhaps, but there are some cool ones too. I fell for dressy shirts, for example. Before I knew better, that is. My son, as much as he wants to copy his dad, wouldn’t even try those buttoned shirts on. And I don’t blame him. They are not as comfortable as the soft sweatshirts with a bunch of Avengers on them.

From what I have noticed, children don’t care about haute couture. They like clothes that are comfy and playful. As a mom of two boys, my experience might not be representative of all, but as usual, I do have a few cute picture books to support my argument.

To sum up, this month on my pages will be a few trendy and perhaps a few old-fashined thoughts to do with kids fashion. Ready, set, get dressed!

“Lady Lupin’s Book of Etiquette” by Babette Cole

My friends were invited over to dinner by a couple with two preschool age kids. The hostess placed a delectable fruit platter on the table.  Of course, the children wanted a taste. To be more exact, they wanted a taste of each and every piece of fruit on the plate. What did the parents do? In fear of curbing their children’s creativity, nothing. Quite a manner of approaching table manners, isn’t it?

When I was little, my parents didn’t go out or entertain a lot and our family meals were no fuss events. Unless on major occasions, we ate in turns at the kitchen table or, as my brothers preferred, on the couch. As a result, I might have not learned how to set the table for the British Royals, but I did learn something else, equally important. For example, that grown-ups should be served before children, that one shouldn’t speak with a full mouth, or that you shouldn’t leave the table without permission. These were all relevant life lessons that I am certainly going to teach to our children, together with how to eat snails and open oysters. After all, table manners are primarily about respecting others at the table and not about the best location for your napkin. Besides, many rules are arbitrary and culture-related. In one country, burping at the table is offensive, in another,  it is a great compliment to the cook.  Some people eat rice with silverware, others with hands or chop-sticks. Secondly, table manners, should never take away from the enjoyment of having a meal. Eating should be a happy and sensual experience.  How else can a child develop a healthy relationship with food?

The other day, our son was smacking his lips with satisfaction, as he was eating soup. I found it endearing. The soup obviously tasted good. Then, my hyper-correct husband reprimanded our son for making loud noises. I just couldn’t believe it! First of all, how could he not find it endearing, and second of all, our son is only four.  Certain things come with age and giving up smacking is like growing up too fast. Children do smack their lips, just as they splash in puddles.

But ruining a fruit platter upon parents’ approval, that’s too much even for someone with as relaxed table manners as mine. Such behavior shouldn’t be justified by the age. It is simply disrespectful.

If you think that your children are ready to learn about table manners, do it with Lady Lupin, as she explains to her pups the rules of being polite at the table, the importance of not squabbling over the bones and the right way of eating spaghetti (with a fork only).

“Lady Lupin’s Book of Etiquette” by Babette Cole is written and illustrated with a lot of humor and originality. Table manners might be a serious matter, but this book makes it fun.