“Edwina: The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct” by Mo Willems

 

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Edwina was known for more than her accessories. She would lend her tail at the playground when children needed a slide, and she would gladly change a lamp light in the street. She also baked the best chocolate chip cookies for everyone.  She shouldn’t be doing any of those things though. She shouldn’t be. As any other T-Rex, she should be extinct. Was Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie the only one to realize that? How could he make everyone listen? Well, he couldn’t convince everyone, but Edwina was willing to hear him out. Reginald was right. Now Edwina also knew she was extinct. And it didn’t change a thing. 

In other words,  with the right attitude, anything is possible. The facts might be what they are, we don’t need to deny them, but it is up to us to decide how we want to feel about them. We can simply choose not to be bothered.

The other day my almost 4-year-old son was standing next to a girl with quite irregular facial features. He looked at her for a while and then he simply said: “You look weird.” He wasn’t trying to be rude, rather inquisitive, but since I wasn’t sure how the girl or her parents were interpreting it, I pulled him quickly aside and tried to explain that such comments could seem hurtful. “How would you feel if someone told you that you looked weird? What would you do?” I confronted him hoping for some remorseful reflection on his side. I forgot I was talking to my own little Edwina, though. “I would say it back”, he responded light-heartedly.  And I have no doubt he would. Just like Edwina, my son can’t be bothered. (And just like Reginald, my other son just needs to be heard.)

 

“Maple & Willow Apart” by Lori Nichols

 

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Maple is a big sister and starts a big-girl school. Willow is a little sister and has to stay at home. Maple brings home endless exciting stories about kindergarten. Willow has to learn to have fun around the house by herself. Maple makes new friends at school, Willow meets Pip by an oak tree. Now Willow has stories to share too. As the girls learn to build their separate routines, they realize that they miss each other and find a way to reconnect and share their new worlds. Willow might be too small to go to school with Maple, but Pip isn’t. 

Yesterday was my son’s last day of the summer vacation. However nervous he felt this morning when I dropped him off at school,  I am positive that when I pick him up, he will be bursting with excitement.  I’m sure that his younger brother, a preschooler, will notice the difference between the summer with his brother and the fall without him.   And that’s why we will read the story of Maple and Willow tonight, to remind my boys that they should never allow the school routine to drift them apart.

“Maple and Willow Apart”, with its sweet pencil illustrations, is certainly a heart-warming celebration of the sisterly bond.  And it is a wonderful book to read at this time of the year, to prevent the school-separation drama.

“Mean Soup” by Betsy Everitt

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Horace had a bad day. He blanked out during a test, got an embarrassing love note, had to drive home with crazy Ms. Pearl.  He felt so mean. His mother tried to start a conversation but he only wanted to growl back. Clever mother had a clever idea. She suggested making a soup. The recipe required a pot of water and salt, like any regular soup.  But when mother and Horace started adding screaming and growling into the pot, as well as twenty stuck-out tongues and Horace’s dragon breath,  there was no doubt they were cooking something more than an ordinary soup.  It was called “Mean Soup”. A few spoon bangs on the pot and Horace began to smile. The recipe was working. It was a perfect way of “stirring away a bad day”.

What a genius story! What a perfect recipe for averting a disaster!  What a fantastic parenting tool! As a mom two boys, I can tell you that at the age of 7 and 3 your lives can be filled with a lot of drama and misery. Your homework might not get showcased or you might miss a 3 pointer basketball.  You will have to take a nap at preschool even though you’d like to play instead. Loudly. Or there might be green beans for lunch and you don’t eat green food so you are hungry and angry. Bad mood can be infectious. One person’s tantrum can easily ruin the day for the whole family. But maybe it doesn’t have to. Maybe cooking a “Mean Soup” together can save the day? I’m ready to try it. How about you?

 

 

 

“Tickle Monster” by Jossie Bissett

Yes, I know, I said I wouldn’t be writing for a while. And I meant it. Yet somehow, as soon as I verbalized my frustration,  I felt some overpowering need to challenge myself. I am not a person who gives up. I am not a person who can’t. Where there is a will, there is a way, after all. And so, I’ve  magically been finding both an inspiration and a way to fit my blog into my days again.IMG_0889

The book I’d like to recommend today is meant to both entertain you and tire you out. From wiggling and giggling.

A monster that is not scary? That can only be a Tickle Monster from Planet Tickle. Tickling is his greatest talent and when he visits you, no part of your body is safe. From your “adorable footsie” to “boney knee” and “little tum-tum”, Tickle Monster won’t stop tickling you until he is exhausted from fun and laughter.  There will be only one thing left to do before he leaves…

In order to find out what it is, you need to read this hilarious story, filled with amusingly inventive expressions and so brightly and whimsically illustrated by Kevan J. Atteberry.

Reading and writing about monsters reminded me of a bedtime conversation I had with my son (2.5 y/o) the other night.

Konrad: “Mommy, I want more milk.”

Me: “You’ve had enough milk. It’s time to sleep.

Konrad: “I want more.”

Me, trying to be clever: “I can’t bring you milk. There are monsters in the kitchen.”

Konrad, after a bit of thinking: “There are no monsters there. Monsters are only on TV.”

Me, feeling guilty for adding to my son’s nightmares: “You’re right. Monsters are only on TV.”

Konrad: “Go bring the milk then!”

LOL

“Library Mouse” by Daniel Kirk

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Sam was a literate mouse, who lived at the library. He ate cheese like a rodent and swallowed books like a bookworm. When his head was spilling over with information and ideas, it was time for Sam to write a book of his own. His autobiography, “Squeak”, was followed by a picture book and a whodunit, which Sam put on bookshelves for children to read. Everyone wondered who the mysterious author was and the librarian decided to write him a note and invite him to the library. Sam knew that he was too shy to read in front of people, so what was he supposed to do? He put his creativity to work and children got their meet-the-author event indeed. 

The ending of this story is so creative that I just can’t spill all the beans. You need to read it for yourselves. But for the rest of my post to make sense, I must mention that clever Sam found a neat way to inspire children to write their own books. In Sam’s mind, writing wasn’t as hard as people thought. “If only they would try, they might find out that writing was really lots of fun.”

Considering Sam’s approach to writing, I have a feeling that he must have been acquainted with the work of Carol S.Dweck, Ph.D. In her book “Mindset”, she proves that we can do a lot more than we think, if only we set our mind on learning and try our hardest. From Picasso to Mozart, from sports stars to writers, the most achieved individuals got to the top and stayed there, not because they had some incredible, beyond-human talents, that we, normal people, don’t possess, but because they worked extra hard to fulfill their dreams.

Back to writing, I don’t claim that the love of writing will make all of our children published authors, but following Mrs. Dweck’s research and Sam’s way of thinking, it might be fun to try and learn a new skill. Our potential is unknown.  Who knows what might happen when we encourage our children to put their ideas, thoughts and dreams on paper?

An immensely inspirational story, greatly valuable for libraries, schools and writing workshops.

“The Birthday Fish” by Dan Yaccarino

I don’t even want to know how long it’s been since the last post. I could start this entry with trying to explain my long absence, but why would I bother? Most of you are either parents or writers, so you know everything about parent’s block, writer’s block, or what happens when they both hit at the same time. Besides, starting with explaining myself, I would run a risk of running out of my blogging time. So, let’s just start with “Hello, Everyone!”

Today’s post and the book are about birthdays, expectations, and making lists.

Last month in our family was definitely about all of the above. As our son was waiting for his birthday, he was making and updating his I’d-like-to-get list. When he came up with the whole list idea a couple of years ago before Christmas, I was a bit skeptical. I was worried that it would lead to mutual frustration. Our family (friends and Santa) will have a hard time finding things from his list, and he might feel disappointed when getting something else. And what about surprises? But list by list, I was getting more and more convinced that his input was actually quite helpful. The things he wanted were mostly inexpensive, useful, and in line with his interests, from markers to ‘speedy’ clothes, and books about dragons. Instead of throwing money away on what we thought he would enjoy, we’ve found a golden compromise.

But of course, the whole list system begs a question: is it always good to give children what they want? No, it is not. (That’s why we don’t have a video game system in the house yet) Not getting what they (and ourselves) want and dealing with it is a crucial life lesson. Not only does it teach our children patience, humility and perseverance, but it also teaches them flexibility. It broadens their horizons, exposes them to new experiences.  As parents, we should feel good about disappointing our children from time to time, even if it sounds like a paradox. 

In “The Birthday Fish”, one thing Cynthia always wanted was a pony. She kept putting it on her Christmas lists but she kept getting everything but ponies. She was hoping to get one for her birthday, but no, her parents thought a goldfish would be a better gift. Cynthia was frustrated. She was about to dump the golden present down the drain, when her fish suddenly spoke. She offered to make Cynthia’s wish come true in exchange for freedom. Cynthia didn’t hesitate. She wished for a pony.  Off to the lake they went.  But as they walked, something miraculous happened… 

In order to know WHAT happened and WHAT came back home with Cynthia, you have to read the book. I can’t spill all the beans, but I can tell you that whatever it was called Marigold.

A smart story with a lot of humor. Typical Yaccarino-style illustrations. A great book to add to anybody’s reading list.

“My Buddy, Daddy” by Agnieszka Chapas

If I’m going to die as a self-published author, at least I’m going to be a prolific one!

Check out my tribute to the father-son bond, inspired by my own sons and their bigger buddy, Dad.

 

http://www.blurb.com/books/5650861-my-buddy-daddy-agnieszka-chapas-dagna-ziolkowska

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