“I Don’t Want a Cool Cat!” by Emma Dodd

One of the advantages of having more than one child is that you get to read more picture books. When my older son was at preschool, I discovered Emma Dodd’s “Dog’s Colorful Day” A Messy Story about Colors and Counting. (You can read about it in my 2012 March Archives)  Now that my younger son is a toddler and we go through another round of old and new picture books, I was lucky enough to stumble upon another gem by Ms. Dodd, “I Don’t Want a Cool Cat!”

The story is pretty basic. A little girl is telling us what cat she would like to have and what feline she wouldn’t care about. But the wording and pictures are just delightful. 

She doesn’t want a “stuffy, over-fluffy cat” or “a slinky, dinky, twinky cat”. My favorite phrasing was for a greedy cat that she didn’t want:  “A “Meow, meow, please feed me cat.”  But she wants a “purry “cat, “a glad when I come home cat”, that she can call her own cat. 

I can’t tell you how many times my son demanded to read this book to him, over and over again. And I can’t tell you, how much pleasure it was to read it. This book virtually reads itself. It flows so effortlessly that you just want to keep enjoying it page after page after page.

Now the book has returned to the library, but the story still rings in our heads and we frequently recite our favorite lines.

“Mom-to Be & Mom-I-Am” by Agnieszka Chapas

“week by week

rolling

strolling

on two hearts

my wheels”

No, no, not me this time. My turn is over.  But I have just heard the big news from a friend. And y brother and his girlfriend will become parents in a few months. Another friend has just become a mom. The Miracle of Motherhood happens all the time and everywhere! And this little book of poetic reflections is dedicated to everyone expecting or living it.

http://www.blurb.com/b/5612959-mom-to-be-mom-i-am

“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” by Judi Barett

I’ve seen this book many times in bookstores and libraries but somehow I never felt like even browsing through the pages. I judged it by the cover and decided that the title and the illustrations (by Ronald Barett) seemed too weird-kind-of-absurd to me. But now that my son is in Kindergarten and this book was a part of his weekly reading assignment, I had no choice but read it through with him. I’m glad I did.

It truly is an amusing story.

In a town called Chewandswallow, it was raining food. Orange juice and eggs for breakfast, salads for lunches and spaghetti for dinner. Who wouldn’t be content with such convenient and delicious weather? Until the climate changed and the town was getting hit by most unpredictable menu and long spells of storms, floods, fog and hail of huge and undesirable portions. The people of Chewandswallow had no choice but to flee the town (on boats made of stale bread). And that’s how they discovered that in other places food came from stores. 

A very imaginative story with numerous puns and humorous illustrations, that start black and white and get brighter and more colorful as the story unfolds. My favorite image was the jello sunset. My son laughed at most of the inventive images, like a tree covered with fried eggs and a man covered with noodles.

I know that the story is meant to entertain but somehow I can’t help thinking that it must contain some hidden message. Perhaps it warns us about the effects of the climate changes caused by our ignorant misuse of natural resources and our selfish lifestyles, and calls for action before the ozone layer vanishes and the glaciers melt. Or perhaps it insinuates that our food portions have expanded out of proportion. Anyone has eaten at The Cheesecake Factory for example? Hope you came very, very, very, very hungry.

 

Say Thank You!

I admit, some of my posts might seem harsh. Okay, many of my posts. I’m not shy to criticize other people’s practices. Don’t let me started on bad services! I would be even more open about my dissatisfaction with a poor business, if the bad business allowed me to complain. But try to complain to Comcast, for example. We all know that they are notorious for bad service. But if you’re unhappy, all you will let you do is a tricky phone survey, consisting of even trickier yes or no questions, which will basically lead you to praising them for their performance. Go figure! The same was with my son’s preschool, which badly needs an overhaul. I was hoping to give the owner some constructive feedback, since I genuinely cared about her business and I wanted to keep my son there. But do you think I was given an option?

Anyways, what I’m trying to say is that nagging, venting  and badmouthing is not what I really enjoy writing about. My favorite thing to write is actually a “thank you” note. Not the customary one, but the one that is unrequested and unexpected.

Last week my boys finished their swimming boot camp. It was an amazing experience. My toddler basically learned to swim by himself and my kindergartener has enhanced his strokes. I’m thrilled with the results, but, even more, with the whole vibe of the classes. The instructors were not only competent teachers, but also most friendly people. I just had to let them and their bosses know what a great job they had done and I was thrilled to hear that they really appreciated it.

In a few minutes I’m going to thank another crew of great instructors at my son’s TaeKwonDo club. My son is having such a great time at their camps that this morning he was seriously debating whether he should continue the camp or go to Maui with us.

To conclude, if you appreciate what other people do, let them know about it! It makes their day and their happiness will make your day. Besides,  our kids will see first hand the magic of gratitude.

 

Let them be bored!

The other day I was leaving  Junior Gym (a fun and safe place for kids to run the energy out) with my toddler, I overheard a mom talk to her son. “Do you want to have a camp here this week? You’ve had camps all summer so I think that if you stay home this week you will be bored.”

Hmm. Really? He will be bored? Three questions here:

Firstly, is he really going to be bored, or perhaps enjoying a little downtime, without socializing, instructions and schedule?

Secondly,  even if he were to be bored, would it be such a horrible thing to happen for him? Kids need to be bored from time to time. Just like necessity is the mother of invention, boredom is the mother of creativity. Depriving a child of occasional boredom means basically depriving them of an opportunity to think creatively and to learn to play by themselves or with a sibling. (This boy had a younger brother.)

Thirdly, mom, were you really worried about your son’s lack of stimulation or were you rather concerned about your own over-stimulation?  Don’t take me wrong, I don’t blame you. I’ve spent lots of time with my boys this summer and I must say, I’m grateful we are leaving for Maui tomorrow. Otherwise I would need either some therapy or yoga. Or both. But I know that sending my kids to camps for the whole summer would have not been a healthy compromise either. Unless I worked full-time, of course. We ALL have enjoyed lazy mornings, late breakfasts and spontaneous activities. I can’t say that I had a time of my life with all the sword fights, races and play dough stuck to the carpet, but one thing I can say for sure: I don’t remember my boys complain about being bored.

“You’re Finally Here!” by Mélanie Watt

Mélanie Watt, a Canadian author and illustrator has a talent for creating  memorable picture books with even more memorable characters. You must be familiar with the resourceful, yet a bit cautious, Scaredy Squirrel, or the sassy and arrogant Chester the cat.  Today, I’d like you to meet the bunny, a bit needy, emotionally unbalanced and at the same time quite hilarious creature.

In “You’re Finally Here!” the bunny, gives the reader a hard time for showing up late. Apparently the reader has kept him waiting long enough to learn “accordion solo”. It’s so unfair to keep the bunny waiting. It’s just like “being too short to go on a ride” . And as annoying as “an itchy sweater”. Not to mention how rude it is. Just like “sticking gum under the sofa”. Finally the bunny starts feeling bad about the whole emotional meltdown and appears very happy to see the reader, if they promise to stay with him forever, that is. And then Vernie calls and the reader basically stops existing. Who is rude now, right?

However obnoxious the bunny is, I must say that he is quite a character. My son got some good laughs from this self-centered carrot lover, with most expressive eyebrows.  Next to the laughs, though, I wouldn’t mind if my son learned a thing or two about being less self-centered, more understanding, more patient, more forgiving, more accountable for his words… I know it’s a lot to ask and it’s not going to happen overnight but I think it’s always good to talk about it.

To sum up, “You’re Finally Here!” is a an amusing read with lot os wit in the text and tons of humor in the cartoonish illustration. The book reminds me of the Pigeon series by Mo Willems. It’s written in the same format, in which the character speaks with the reader. What do you call it, by the way? A silent dialogue? Whatever it is, it makes a good book even more engaging and memorable.

 

“Lost for Words” by Natalie Russell

“Lost for Words” by Natalie Russell was a quick pick at the library, that turned out to be both inspiring and sharing-worthy.

Tapir (what an original choice for the main character) and his friends had new notebooks. Giraffe felt inspired and wrote a little poem about her favorite tree. Hippo was more into short stories and wrote one with a perfect beginning and ending. Flamingo wrote song lyrics. Only Tapir could not think of anything to write about. He decided to walk away. Suddenly, as he was  watching his friends from a distance, he got an idea. He took out his pencils and started drawing. Page by page, the notebook was filling up with colors. Tapir rushed to show the drawings to his friends. They all liked what Tapir told them without using a word.

What an uplifting story and what a powerful message!

We all have talents, just not the same ones. We all have something to say, but perhaps not in the same way. Perhaps using a different medium. John has a gift of the gab, but Mike can dance his story out and Chloe will do it with a piano.  I personally love words, but I realize that others might be more expressive, touching and to the point when speaking the language of art, music or even science.

It’s a great responsibility of a parent, and even a greater privilege, to help our children discover their own ways of expressing themselves. Children have so much to say. In so many ways. We just need to activate all of our senses.

I guess I couldn’t avoid talking about parenting after all. Just like all roads lead to Rome, all picture books bring us to parenting, don’t they?

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