Eric Carle and Books about Mom

At the end of the school year, Max was talking about something other than baseball.

He kept bringing up writer and illustrator Eric Carle.

Like most families, his books are a staple in our collection and the kids’ early childhood. Carle’s bright colors, great art, fun stories make for good fun.

Max told me they were working on their own Eric Carle books at school and I could see it at Young Author’s Night. I asked his first grade teacher Ms. Brown about it.

“We have been studying the collaging technique used by Eric Carle,” she said. “The students can see that it is okay to see artwork in a non-realistic way.  The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse (watch Carle discuss on video!)  is an example of Eric Carle’s  passion for “thinking outside of the box” with his artwork.  To me, this is how most children start off thinking as well so I’m very excited to foster that!  Why not paint a horse blue or a giraffe green?  Right?”

The results were spectacular. Max’s book was The Very Energetic Komodo Dragon.

IMG_6113

The komodo dragon is one of Max’s favorites.

Young Author’s Night is one of thing that makes Fairview-Clifton German Language School special. The teachers and students work so hard and it’s a time to see their work.

This year’s books included books they made about me for Mother’s Day. I think most of my mom friends can vouch that these are hilarious and a sometimes a little embarrassing.

Besides stating that “win” is my favorite drink, here’s what I do with my free time, according to Calvin. When I relax, I like to lie on the couch.

IMG_6162

Art by Calvin. Note that I’m wearing pink!

A lot of it was sweet, like Max’s picture of us reading together:

Max and Mama reading

Max and me reading. Yes, we have a pink bed. It’s fabulous!

Eddie and I cracked up at Max’s take on what bugs me. He said, “Really? Isn’t it you guys that talk back?”

Talking back

Eddie is not the one who talks back!

You can bet these books will always be cherished!

What’s your favorite Eric Carle book? Better yet, what did your kids share about you at school?

Charlotte’s Web and Patrick Swayze

I made Max cry.

I didn’t mean too – he just kept badgering me – about the end of Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams.

He wanted to know what happened at the end of the story. His teacher was reading it to them at school.

Spoiler alert. I told him Charlotte died.

chweb

Max’s first grade class read this beloved book.

My sensitive boy burst into tears and I felt terrible.

“Why did Charlotte have to die?” he wailed.

“Well, spiders don’t live very long and it ends up ok,” I said. “She left behind lots of babies and some of them stay with Wilbur.”

I tried to empathize with him by saying I cried as a kid when I read that Jack the dog died in one of the Little House on the Prairie books. This didn’t help.

Did I mention he has a tender heart? The other day he cried because he accidentally killed a cicada he was playing with. This is the same day I had to break it to the kids that our favorite rabbit, the infamous Patrick Swayze and resident of the coffee shop Sidewinder Coffee, had died. This one got to me too. Patrick was a regular in our lives – Mama gets coffee, kids get to see Patrick. Both kids cried when I told them and I got teary too. I think squashing a cicada the day he found out about Patrick was a bit much for Max.

IMG_0618

Max and Patrick about four years ago.

He buried the cicada and put it in a hole with a post-it that said sycada.

We also put a peony on it. While I consoled him, I wondered to myself what Patrick’s owner Kim did with the stuffed bunny he used to hump. (You have to find humor, right?)

When I told Calvin about Patrick he cried and said, “I didn’t care when Patrick’s girlfriend died.” For a short while, Patrick had a girlfriend named Eppie who wasn’t as friendly.

bunnies

Patrick and Eppie in their salad days. 

I eventually calmed Max down about Charlotte and we talked about how maybe it was better to find out at home than in class – that was my spin on it.

I asked him about it later in the week and he said a couple of kids cried when they got to the end of the book in school.

I think this is beautiful. I’m glad kids are getting emotional about books – it tells me something is working.

And we’ll always miss Patrick Swayze.

Baking with Sarah Varon

We bought a lot of butter last week.

After reading Sara Varon’s delightful and touching graphic novel Bake Sale, the kids and I felt hungry for baked goods.

Varon’s book features Cupcake, owner of a bakery, and friend Eggplant. It’s a story about dreams, friendship and a lot of baking in Cupcake’s shop. Her illustrations are both charming and funny.

bake-sale-cover

Eggplant and Cupcake inspired the Rush kids.

Calvin suggested we follow Varon’s recipes and it seemed like a good Saturday morning plan. Of course, Max and Calvin couldn’t agree on a recipe, so I let them each pick one. Max chose cupcakes and Calvin chose the brownies – both requiring a lot of butter.

We set out to Clifton Market to buy the ingredients. Before we left, we read the recipes and made a shopping list.

IMG_5743

Calvin checks out the brownie recipe.

IMG_5746

Max made our shopping list.

Baking with little kids is an adventure and I summoned my most yoga-like self as they cracked eggs and helped me measure. We started with the cupcakes.

IMG_5750

Calvin tests the cupcake batter.

By the time we started mixing up the brownies, the kids lost interest but I carried on like the sugar addict I am.

The results were delicious. Max thought the cupcakes were best, Calvin liked the brownies. I think the cupcakes may have been my favorite.

IMG_5754

Success!

We love this story and its adorable illustrations. Here are the recipes below:

IMG_5782

Cupcake recipe.

IMG_5783

These brownies us a lot of butter! Yummy.

IMG_5784

Varon also has a recipe for peppermint brownies in the book.

I’m not the only blogger who has featured this book. Read Jama’s Alphabet Soup for a very charming description of this book.

 

Meet Clare and Wolf Hollow

My friend Clare suggested I read Wolf Hollow by Lauren Volk.

Did I mention Clare is in fifth grade?

I love talking to this bright, interesting girl about our shared passions – Project Runway and reading. We both thought it was scary the first time we read about the panther in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods.

Fox Hollow is one of my favorite books this year – it packs a punch. It’s the story of Annabelle, a young girl, in 1943. Annabelle is dealing with a horrible bully at school, prejudices that come from the war and an odd, but kind and reclusive neighbor, Toby.

This book is for ages 8 to 12 but I think any adult would love it.

ClareGraff (1)

Clare picks out great books.

Clare rode her bike over to my house to talk about the book. Here’s our conversation:

What was your favorite part about Fox Hollow?
I just liked the whole theme of the book. The specific parts I don’t want to give away. It was so beautifully written. I just really loved it.

I really liked Annabelle – she was 12 and I’m 11 and I could relate to her. I just really like her – she’s so powerful. She’s so cool.

Even though the story was set in World War II, why could you relate to Annabelle, the main character?
She was good at keeping secrets and got down to business and didn’t play around like her other friends. I can relate to her being aware of what’s going around her.

She helped a lot of people – and I like to help people.

I can also relate to Annabelle because many people misunderstand people right now and also, people are very unjust.

Wolf-Hollow-by-Lauren-Wolk-Book-Review

Wolf Hollow is a John Newbery Medal winner.

Can you tell me about your mother/daughter book club?
We started three years ago but it barely feels like a year. We usually choose a book that’s based on girl power and being strong. We like reading about girls facing adversity who are strong. After we read the book, we have a meeting and a discussion. The moms talk and the girls act out the book in the living room.

What are some other books you’ve read?
Pippi Longstocking, I am Malala and I love Harry Potter.

My mom usually reads us books before bed – we’re reading Hatchet about a boy surviving the wilderness. He’s successful! Brian’s Winter is his (Gary Paulsen) second book. It’s an awesome book.

More about Clare
She is a competitive swimmer for Cincinnati Marlins, she’s in choir, plays the clarinet and likes art and acting. She has a pet tarantula named Rose.

Thank you, Clare!

This post is dedicated to the memory of author Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Thank you for giving us Little Pea (and more).

Ghosts make for a great bedtime

What’s the sign of a good book – fighting over it with your kid!

After starting Raina Telgemeir’s Ghosts at bedtime, Calvin and I both wanted to take it to bed with us. (Yes, he sneaks reading after hours – just like I did as child.)

This graphic novel’s mix of realism and fantasy are compelling. Sisters Catrina and Maya move to a new California town because it’s better for Maya’s Cystic Fibrosis. They find out that it’s also home to a lot of ghosts and the townspeople don’t seem to mind. In fact, they celebrate their dead with Dia De Los Day Meurutos (Day of the Dead) celebrations.

img_5669

Our new favorite read.

There is a lot under the surface of this book – life changes, friendship, and mortality. I’m not sure if Calvin picked up on all of this but the important thing is he loved it.

We had different reactions – Calvin found the ghosts “a little scary at first” and wants to know, “why do ghosts like orange pop?” These ghosts are friendly and love orange pop.

Being hugely sentimental, I’ve always been attracted to the Day of Dead tradition. I’m the girl who still misses her grandparents.

img_5652

I’ve always been fascinated by Day of the Dead. Check out my glamorous skeleton.

Here’s what’s also different – when talking about the book, Calvin can rattle off the names of the characters. His 40-something mama had to look them up for this post.

We’ve both read it more than once and are looking forward to Max’s take.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this great read comes out in conversation at our house. We’re also reading Telgemeier’s book Sisters. Stay up late and read these books.

img_5670

These friendly ghosts like orange pop and Maya.

Using books for the tough stuff

Parenting can be heart wrenching.

Right?

A few weeks ago, Calvin and I were snuggling as I tucked him in for the night.

He shared some tough things. We all have tough days but to hear it from your seven-year-old…ouch!

He told me was sad because at recess his friends like to jump rope and he found it hard.

I took a deep breath and told my oldest twin, “You know what, Calvy? You had to learn how to walk TWICE and I bet none of the other kids did. You are really strong! But when you were sick, it might have made it hard to jump rope, but that’s ok. You’re still awesome and don’t forget that.”

Then I told Calvin that it was my job and his dad’s to take on the hard things, so he could go to sleep and forget about them. Ok, I didn’t make this one up – I borrowed it from an essay Glennon Doyle Melton wrote about an interaction with her son.
(Thank you, G!)

Calvin hugged me hard, seemed ok, and went to sleep.

I’m not bringing this up to show that I’m some superhero mom – because I’m not. We all have our stuff and one of Calvin’s is that he had a brain tumor at two and there are some residuals. But he and Max don’t remember or know the details (right now) and just live their lives.

I’m sharing this because I think parenting is tough and coming up with answers is hard and seeing your kids hurt is the most difficult of all. But maybe if we keep reading and sharing, we can all help each other.

After this happened, I thought about some of the books we’ve been reading. Many children’s books about famous people share the obstacles they’ve overcome.

Max and Calvin seem drawn to these books. My hope is that they are internalizing these messages.

Here are some of our favorites:

img_5622

Alta wants to be like Wilma Rudolph

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Frank Morrison. In this story, young Alta wants to be like her hero, Wilma Rudolph, the fastest woman in the world, from Alta’s hometown. Alta and her rival Charmaine, who has new shoes, eventually join forces and watch Wilma in a victory parade. Not only did Wilma overcome polio and poverty to become the fastest woman in 1960, as an African American athlete, she insisted that her homecoming events be integrated and open to everyone. (This story is important on so many levels and it’s Black History Month!)

Hello, My Name is Octicorn by Kevin Diller and Justin Lowe, illustrated by Binny Talib lures my kids in by its seemingly silly illustrations and subject matter. Who has ever heard of a half octopus, half unicorn? But sometimes it’s hard to be Octi – he’s the only of his kind and sometimes he gets left out because he’s different. He’s different on land and on sea. But Octi points out all the things he’s good at – making s’mores, eating cupcakes, and hugs. He makes a great friend.

img_5621

Octi’s family tree.

Brad Meltzer’s books have become a constant in our lives. After Calvin and I had the aforementioned conversation, we read his book I Am Helen Keller. The kids were pretty amazed by Helen’s achievements and there is braille in the book which they loved. I Am Albert Einstein shares that he wasn’t thought to be very bright! And even Lucille Ball had to be persistent. I Am Lucille Ball‘s  message helped me with something I was going through at the time.

img_5623

Great advice from Lucy.

“This isn’t a joke: Don’t let other people change you. Be true to who you are.”

My friend Ryan had a great suggestion for Calvin – trying to turn the rope for his friends. When I told Calvin this, I could see the wheels turning in his head. Whatever happens, I’ll keep trying to say the right thing and I’ll keep turning to books for help!

Our country’s history and saying thanks

If you want to have an interesting conversation with your children, read President Barack Obama’s Of Thee I Sing, a Letter to My Daughters.

img_5568

I pulled it off our shelves as a personal way to recognize our 44th President. I bought this book for my one-year-old twins when it came out in 2010. (Cincinnati friends – it’s illustrated by a local – author and illustrator Loren Long. How cool is that!?)

Now that Max and Calvin are first graders this book really makes an impression. When we read Obama’s beautiful tribute to his daughters, they are thrilled that they knew the people in history he referenced.

“I love this book because I know all these people!” Calvin exclaimed.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Albert Einstein, Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller… to name a few.

They’ve been learning about Martin Luther King Jr. and love talking about him. It’s important and sometimes difficult  to talk about our nation’s history and I find that books (and their school) are helping me navigate this.

img_5566

Martin Luther King Jr. by Calvin.

Rosa Parks (not in this book) was during Martin Luther’s time,” Calvin commented.
“People stopped riding the bus for awhile.” (People stopped riding the bus in solidarity.)

“He had a dream and he got killed for that dream,” Max said solemnly.

We talked about this. And we talked about why George Washington’s “barefoot soldiers crossed wintry rivers, forging ever on.”

Calvin asked me about Maya Lin, designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I explained that it honors those who gave their lives in the war his Pop Pop fought in. I’m not sure he totally understood – he wanted to know why MLK’s name wasn’t on it. But it’s a process.

This book’s text, message, and illustrations are gorgeous.

img_5570

“Maybe I’ll be one of these kids and be famous,” said Max.

Thanks President Obama – for everything.