Discovering a Monster

When reviewing a new book with your children, reading on a night when they are exhausted is tough.

The first time I read Monster Needs To Go To School, they listened in tired silence and the usual cute insights, comments, and questions were nonexistent.

Let me rephrase that. It was a great bedtime for me, just not for my blog.

The newest in the Monster series, I was curious to receive this book from Mighty Media PressWritten by Paul Czajak and illustrated by Wendy Grieb, the bright colors and storyline appealed to me right away.


Monster’s friend boy suggests he go to school so he can learn.

As a parent, I was happy about the diversity of the children and adults in the book. I loved that it addresses bullying, a topic we have been talking about at home. Monster won’t play with some kids until they stop being bullies, so they stop!

My opinions aside, I approached the real critics a second time. I wondered what my kindergartners Max and Calvin thought of this story that could be used to prepare a child for school.

I brought up the book using a secret parent strategy – asking questions in the car.

“Were you nervous about going to school when it started, like Monster?”

“I was a little worried,” Max admitted.

“I was BRAVE,” countered Calvin.

I asked them what they liked about the book.

They both found it hilarious and puzzling that Monster liked school so much he planned to skip the next day so he could go straight to college.

“He’s going to college?” Max laughed. “How can he go to college?”


Never one to shy from a photo op, Max models the book cover.

The second time we read the book, they listened again. This was a good sign. They were WIDE awake and ready with comments.

Calvin was pleased that a girl liked Monster’s hair. Max wants to try pottery, like Monster.

Thumbs up for Monster!

Thanks to Mighty Media Press for the opportunity to review this book.


How I Celebrated National Poetry Month

I celebrated National Poetry Month by hanging with the best.  I signed-up to volunteer with WordPlay in Cincinnati.

Watch my interview with co-founder Libby Hunter.

I met a very cool young poet who was also volunteering.


Asylum Grape Soda.

A freshman at the University of Cincinnati, Asylum Grape Soda, is a performer, poet, and WordPlay volunteer. He won the Louder Than A Bomb youth poetry contest last year. Impressive, right?

The reporter/blogger in me couldn’t help myself at meeting this interesting youth. As we sat in the school office waiting to write with some adorable first graders, I grabbed a pen and paper and did a quick interview.

Here it is:

Why do you love poetry?

I love it because I get a platform to talk about what I want. I’m about being positive. But my poems can also shine light on things like mental illness in youth.

We live in a world that more often than not can be heavily influenced by hate and this is my way of helping it to end. I’m saving the world with poetry.

You mentioned that you focus on the positive. Can you tell me about that?

As far as positivity I believe it’s the only way of life that makes sense. Why not want to be happy?

Tell me about your work at WordPlay.

I like working with kids because you can be as creative as you want. I mostly work with the 13 to 20 year-olds at WordPlay. It’s easy to work with kids my age. I think the older you get, the harder it is to change. As a teen, you’re still absorbing information. I know when I was in high school and a guy in a suit showed up and talked to us. I wasn’t listening. I think these kids listen to me because I can relate.

Can you tell me about renaming yourself?

My name Asylum came from a rap verse I wrote when I said I call myself Asylum because I belong in one, but after my first open mic, I was told by a lady named Suzanne that I was Asylum, the safe place.

Asylum, myself and the other WordPlay volunteers helped Chase Elementary students write lines using inspiration from Sara Holbrook’s work, If I Were a Poem.  The poems will be hung on trees in Northside’s Hoffner Park in celebration of National Poetry Month. 

Read a article about Asylum.

Watch him perform.

You can see him perform this weekend at Present Tense Imperfect.

Find out how to volunteer at WordPlay. (I promise, you’ll be glad you did.)

Thanks, Asylum!

And in other poetry news…

That same day I attended an event celebrating my friend Pauletta Hansel’s designation as Cincinnati’s first Poet Laureate. It was held at the beautiful Mercantile Library.


Myself and Pauletta Hansel. Check out her cool boots. She’s rocking the Poet Laureate look!

The author of many beautiful books of poetry, she has a new book out, Tangle. I recommend that you treat yourself with a copy.

It was a pretty amazing day.

We could run the city

My friend Melissa says my book club could run the city.

Among us we can count a marketing expert, a photographer, an Emmy- winning video producer, a corporate attorney turned social worker, and a writer.

These are just our day jobs.

book club

My book club enjoying a cultural event. Because we’re cool like that.

For ten years, we’ve been a consistent thread in each other’s lives. For me personally, this at times has been life saving.

We’ve intentionally kept our numbers small. It just works. We’ve read more than 76 books, attended several plays, a few movies, had one overnight, and eaten countless meals together.

We’ve shared job changes, the birth of babies, big birthdays, a retirement, and kids inching their way toward adulthood way too fast.

Book club

We met Ann Patchett! It was book club heaven.

When I say life saving, I’m not kidding. My strongest memory of these women is the day we went to the movie “The Descendants.” It was also our book choice. Afterwards, sitting in a coffee shop, the emotional movie probably got to me because I was facing my own life challenge. It was early days in my son Calvin’s chemo treatment. I remember looking at my four friends and sobbing, “I don’t know how I’m going to do this.” My friend Mary grabbed my hand and said, “We’ll do it with you.”

And they did.

Heart-jerking memories aside, I asked this smart, talented, amazing group of women (Am I bragging? Yes, I am!) to share their favorite kids’ books:

Claudia: My favorite books were anything Nancy Drew. She did stuff and solved crimes!

Carolyn Keene’s first book about Drew, “The Secret of the Old Clock” was written in 1930. The girl detective is still going strong today.

Nancy Drew

Remember these yellow books?

Mary: I loved Amelia Bedelia. She took things too literally – it was really funny. When she held a wedding shower, she took a hose out and sprayed the people.

A new series has been created based on the originals by Peggy Parish and illustrator Fritz Seibel. The official website celebrates Amelia Bedelia books old and new.


Amelia Bedelia follows directions.


Alison: The Henry and Mudge books have really stayed with me. They are about a sweet boy and his slobbery dog. So few books about boys are about things other than cars and machines. This is about relationships.

Henry and Mudge are Max and Calvin approved! Cynthia Rylant’s books are a treat.

Henry and Mudge

Kathy: I’ve saved all the Sandra Boyton books. They have something for kids and adults.

Belly button book

Max and Calvin love this book.

Max and Calvin and I always enjoying pulling out Boyton’s joyful books. See them read them in a previous blog post.

Thank you, friends!