The wheels on the bus keep going

My family says, “There’s a bus!” a lot.

We’ve been saying this for four years. At two, Calvin discovered his one true love was a school bus.

He hasn’t stopped loving buses since – he’s now six. As we drive or walk around town, pointing out buses has become a family obligation.

He has branched out to city buses, Mega Buses, and the very-cool London double decker buses.

A school bus and his friend T-Rex.

A school bus and his friend T-Rex.

Bus birthday cakes, bus shirts, bus Halloween costumes, bus stickers, and yes, BUS BOOKS are just part of the daily experience at the Mace/Rush household.

Thanks to the kindness of friends, both Calvin and Max have had some real bus experiences.

When Calvin finished chemotherapy at age four (believe me, toy buses helped those long hospital stays), a friend arranged for our family to ride a school bus. A few months later, another friend was able to take the boys on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Cincinnati Metro bus garage. Both rated as the coolest days ever.

Calvin on a school bus.

Calvin on a school bus.

Calvin and Max at the Metro bus garage.

Calvin and Max at the Metro bus garage.

Bus Books

Calvin’s first bus book literally stopped his birthday party. He ignored everything and everyone to read School Bus by Donald Crews. He loves this book and now has two copies and still wants to check it out of the library. I guess you can’t have too many copies? Crews’ graphics are engaging and I recommend his other books.

Stop the party. I got a bus book!

Stop the party. I got a bus book!

A recent find is The Bus Ride written and illustrated by Marianne DuBuc. Both boys love this beautiful book. DuBuc uses the story of Little Red Riding Hood in a new way and includes a bus ride.

There’s the simple but sweet Bryon Barton book My Bus and Carol Roth’s funny The Little School Bus, illustrated by Pamela Paparone.

Night Light by Nicholas Blechman is also a graphically pleasing book and a great one for kids learning to count.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking for bus books. I’ve learned that books about school, cities, London, and transportation usually sport a bus.

Calvin’s buses

We also photographed the majority of his toy buses and made our own bus book. We used Shutterfly to create this. (I can send you the link if you would like.)

If you RIDE a bus, let us know.

More info

We love Marianne DuBuc’s book Animal Masquerade.

Donald Crews’ Freight Train was a big hit when the boys were younger.

At Christmas, Cincinnati Metro brings out Holly Jolly Trolley that give free rides around town. We caught one in front of the Westin. (I can’t find the schedule or I would link to it.)

Paris and Madeline

I had a different blog post prepared for this week. But the recent events in Paris made me change my mind. It seemed odd to go to business as usual even on my blog.

My friend Johanna, fellow book lover and bestie of one of my besties, posted a picture of Madeline on her Facebook profile pic.

Perfect, I thought, and copied it.


For many of us, our first and maybe only glimpse of Paris, was through a little girl who lived in house covered with vines with a nun named Miss Clavel.

Written and illustrated in 1939 by Ludwig Bemelmans, Madeline’s beloved illustrations introduce many children to The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, The Gardens at the Luxembourg,  Sacré-Couer, and the Louvre.

The rhyming and charming story came right back to me when I bought the book for my boys. We especially love reading out loud, “To the tiger in the zoo, Madeline just said, “Pooh-Pooh.”

A feisty child, Madeline is not afraid of tigers!

A feisty child, Madeline is not afraid of tigers!

We’ve read all the Madeline books and some of the books written by Bemelmans’ grandson John Bemelmans Marciano. Max, Calvin, and I highly recommend them.

In the 24 plus hours since I heard of the Paris attacks, like everyone, it’s weighed heavy on my heart. My boys, at six, are too young to know of it.

What can I do? Here’s what I’ve come up with – hopefully, through reading about the world and other cultures, I’m instilling in my kids a curiosity and love of other places and cultures.

Because even if you’ve never been to Paris, you can’t help but feel for all the girls like Madeline there and all the victims of violence in the world.

How you can help the victims in Paris (Provided by International Business Times)
You can donate to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), which directly supports the French Red Cross.

You can also donate to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, which provides worldwide assistance during emergencies and delivers medical aid to victims.  Friends of Fondation de France, Inc. is a charity that also helps during times of emergency.

Use Twitter to express support with these trending hashtags #PrayForParis, #Prayers4Paris and #PrièresPourParis. Or show your support on your profile image on Facebook.

For all things Madeline, check out the official site.

Brandon T. Snider – author and actor

Brandon T. Snider

Brandon T. Snider

You may recall me writing about my brush with fame at this year’s Book by the Banks event in Cincinnati. It was with someone I actually knew – Brandon T. Snider was a student when I worked at Mariemont Schools in my tender 20s.

He’s written multiple books including the award-winning The Dark Knight Manual, Minions on Ice, and Scribble and Sketch (Regular Show), to name a few.

Not only does Brandon act (think Inside Amy Schumer), sometimes, he does research during bachelor parties. He and I also have something in common – wearing fake hair on the Mariemont High School stage.

He graciously agreed to do a Q&A with me.

Do you have to do a lot of research for these characters or do you already know them? Or both?

The amount of research I do depends on what I’m working on. There are some characters I know backwards and forwards as was the case for the DC Comics Guide. I‘ve basically had all that information in my brain since I was a kid. However, to be safe, I consulted a variety of sources to double check statistics in order to make sure I get everything right.

When it comes to Adventure Time, Regular Show or any of the Cartoon Network stuff, I like to do marathon viewing sessions. I’ll watch newer episodes so I can get up to speed. If I’m focusing on specific characters I’ll make a list of relevant episodes where they appear.

Sometimes I get asked to work on projects where I don’t know a lot about the characters, as was the case with My Little Pony a few years ago. I got approached for that job as I was on my way out of town for a bachelor party weekend. The timeline was tight so I was sneak-watching episodes on my phone while people were enjoying themselves.

dc cover

One of Brandon’s many titles.

What do you love about writing?

Writing and language are how humans communicate. It’s how we share ideas. It’s how we express ourselves. I love challenging myself to go deeper, to find a way to connect to a new idea. The process of creation can be wonderful and heartbreaking but when you have a breakthrough it makes it all worth it. When I write something that speaks to a young person and gets them interested in reading and creating, it’s incredibly special. I love that too.

Another Snider book.

Another Snider book.

How do you balance writing and acting?

It can be tricky sometimes. I audition for a lot of commercials and when I book one it means that I basically have to drop what I’m doing for however long it shoots. If I’m on a deadline, that could be problematic. Thankfully, I work with some great editors so if something comes up we adjust the accordingly. Time management is an ongoing struggle but I find that if I can make a firm to-do list each day it really helps me focused on the task at hand.

You’ve come a long way since The Hobbit! Tell me about some of your acting gigs?

HAHA! I can’t believe you remembered that I was The Hobbit back in high school. One of the worst book-to-stage adaptations of all time. No disrespect to the source material but a bunch of high school kids trying to create a lush fantasy world on stage doesn’t quite work. My feet were covered in spirit gum and fake hair. But we had fun.

I went on to get a theater degree and moved to New York City after graduation. I’ve done an assortment of TV and theater but most notably I’ve been on Inside Amy Schumer a few times in recent years. I’m doing a short play in December with The Collective, a theater company here in New York. I do stand-up comedy from time to time. And you’ll even see me dancing like an insane person in a United States Postal Service commercial soon.

Max enjoying one of Brandon's Uncle Grandpa books.

Max enjoying one of Brandon’s Uncle Grandpa books.

What did you read as a kid?

I read a lot of comic books. I had major Justice League and X-Men phases. I was into the Time Machine series. As a very little boy I was obsessed with Barbapapa’s Ark. It was way ahead of its time in dealing with environmental issues and the ethical treatment of animals. It had a very hopeful message that didn’t sugarcoat humanity’s flaws. I also liked that the characters were colorful blobs.

Any advice for young readers and writers?

Keep reading and writing. And be patient. I was very anxious for growth and success when I was a younger person. I think that’s fairly natural. But you don’t hit a lot of life until your twenties and thirties. Sorry kids! Trust me, you’ll have so much great material to write about once you’re older. In the meantime, never stop writing and develop your skills.

What new books do you have coming out?

In 2016 I have a lot of cool stuff coming out: What Would Captain Kirk Do?, Adventure Time: Hero Time with Finn & Jake and my very first Mad Libs which was a dream come true to write because I freakin’ love Mad Libs.

Thanks, Brandon!

I myself wore a fake beard and wig as a Papa in Fiddler on the Roof at Mariemont.

More info

Check out all things Brandon on his website Cootie Kid.

Let’s stop being mean

Smallest girl As my boys make their way through their first year of full day school, they’re navigating a lot, including friendships.

It’s emotionally exhausting – for me.

As I listen to their reports, my heart feels happy when they talk about new friends and interactions. It cracks and feels like it’s been stabbed when someone makes fun of them or leaves them out.

Coincidentally, I picked up the book The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Class by Justin Roberts and illustrated by Christian Robinson.

Sally McCabe is the smallest girl in the smallest grade. Hardly anyone pays attention to her but she pays super extra special attention. She notices, “that time Tommy Tornino was tripped in the hall,” and “She saw Kevin McKuen get pushed off the slide – and the oncoming tears he wanted to hide.”

This book made me think of my own childhood. Not memories of being picked on but a memory of when I was in first grade. I remember leaving my friend Bonnie Jones in the dust for another friend. I knew it was wrong and felt bad when I left Bonnie crying. But I still did it. I can still see her in her 70s long dress and curly, brown hair.

We all have it in us, even us nice ones.

Bonnie – wherever you are – I’m sorry.

Unlike me, the smallest girl took a stand. One day at lunch, she “stepped out of the lunchroom line,” raised her hand in the air and said, “I’m tired of seeing this terrible stuff. Stop hurting each other! This is enough!”


Sally takes a stand.

Then, “like waves rolling in, “ students and adults raised their hands in the air in solidarity with Sally.

Things go back to normal but kids are nicer to each other…thanks to the smallest girl in the smallest grade.

As for Max and Calvin, they didn’t comment much except to ask, “why is everyone being mean?”

Let’s all be like Sally shall we?

Where to find the book and other info

You can find this book on author Justin Robert’s site. He’s also a grammy-nominated musician.

I just LOVE illustrator Christian Robinson. He illustrated two of our favorite books, Last Stop On Market Street and Gaston.