Happy Pig Day (on video!)

I had this great idea but Max and Calvin had their own plans.

One way I get them to practice reading is “suggest” they each take on a character in a book.  This works with Mo Willem’s delightful  Elephant & Piggie books.

They love this so much,  I thought it would be cool if I could record them reading  Happy Pig Day! for this blog.

But when we would read, they would get really wound up, make funny voices and laugh hysterically. I would try to get them to “be serious.”

What was I thinking?

I realized I had to let go and quit trying to stage manage them. The end result is so much better when they are being themselves.

So here it is – scroll ahead to 1:03 if you want to see Calvin joyfully cracking up.

And do yourself a favor – adults and kids – go get an Elephant & Piggie book.

Two goofballs read Happy Pig Day from julia mace on Vimeo.

Before you do your holiday shopping..

One of the best Christmas presents I ever received was the Little House on the Prairie set. It was a gift I enjoyed for years and still do since I recently pulled them out with my own kids.

Before you head out with your holiday shopping list, I asked Max and Calvin for their input:

Max’s holiday picks:

  • Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski
    “It shows what people eat and what animals they love. It shows what sports they play.” A
    ll ages.
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Calvin and Max check out Maps.

Calvin’s holiday picks:

  • Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson “People might like it because they might like the roller derby.” 7 and up.
  • Happy Pig Day! by Mo Willems
    “I love it because it is very funny and I love doing the voices.” (Look out for a future blog post on this one.) All ages.
rollergirlcvr

Calvin loved Roller Girl and I did too!

The three of us agreed on:

  • I am Helen Keller by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
    It’s amazing to read the story of Helen Keller and the book has braille in it. All of Meltzer’s books are winners. All ages.

My suggestions, Max and Calvin approved:

  • The Night Gardner by Terry Fan and Eric Fan
    This book is beautiful! One of our favorites this year. All ages.
  • The Imaginary Garden by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Irene Luxbacher
    A lovely tale about a girl and her grandfather. We adore this book, illustrated by the author of Mr. Frank. All ages.
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The Imaginary Garden is a sweet story about Theo and her Poppa.

For ages 1 month to 100:

Anything by Todd Parr or Mo Willems.

Do you have any memories of books you received? What are your ideas for the holiday gifts?

Saying Goodbye and Talking to Todd Parr

Kids can be blunt.

As Max and I started to read Todd Parr’s The Goodbye Book, he asked me a question.

“Are you going to cry again?”

He wasn’t being mean, his mama had been crying a lot this summer. My parents’ bestie Tim was in hospice and the kids knew I was visiting  daily.

I had been honest with Max and Calvin about where I was going and why. And of course, they had a lot of questions and comments.

They wanted to know what Tim looked like when he was sick and if he could eat cookie dough everyday when he went to heaven. Max said he thought heaven was “orange with lots of angels.” Calvin suggested he visit an amusement park on the last day of his life.

I checked out Todd’s book from the library, probably more for myself than Max and Calvin.

Its message really did help me, so I can imagine it would soothe a child experiencing loss.

goodbyebook

Using a goldfish who has lost his friend, Todd writes, “It’s hard say goodbye. You might be very sad. You might not feel like talking to anyone. Eventually you’ll start to feel better. You’ll remember how you laughed.”

I felt better when my sweet Max said during the reading, ”Mama, you don’t have to worry about Tim anymore. He’s in heaven.”

We love Todd Parr at our house and I missed his visit to the kids’ school last year. Todd was kind enough to answer my questions about The Goodbye Book.

Todd, you wrote that this was the hardest book to write. Can you tell me a little bit about that? Is some of it based on your experience with your dog Bully?

For years people have been asking if I had thought about doing a book about grief and loss. I knew this would be a great topic for me to write about but only if I could figure out a way that would be honest but not too sad or scary. The Goodbye Book came about one weekend when I was looking through some old images of The Family Book. There is a page in that book that says “All families are sad when they lose someone they love.” It was the fish! That’s how I knew I was on the right track for The Goodbye Book.

My kids are very curious about death and hard topics. Do you find this as well when you talk to kids?

Yes, kids are very matter of fact. But you don’t want to scare them.

I cried the first time I read The Goodbye Book to my kids. I think it’s ok that they know I’m sad. Do a lot of adults tell you the emotions they have from your books? 

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Yes, I have received many emails from adults telling me how The Goodbye Book helped them deal with their loss. One email from was a 75-year-old woman who had just lost her husband of 50 years. She said my comforting words had helped her sleep for the first time in a week. It made me feel good after I shed a few tears.

Were you always funny – my kids never tire of the silly underwear in your books! Does this come from your own childhood?

My dad was funny. I’m not so sure about me. I do know that underwear makes kids laugh. I write about a lot of things that are hard for kids to understand like peace, the earth, being different. So using my simple images and humor helps me deliver my messages.

Thank you for showing kids (and adults) that families and communities are made up of all kinds of people! What’s up for 2018?

My pleasure. There is a new book slotted for next Fall. I’m not sure what the title will be yet. The Brother Book and The Sister Book will be in 2018.

Do you ever draw on the walls?

Yes, all the time. Only I don’t get in trouble anymore.

Thanks, Todd!

Dedicated to Timothy Neel a dear friend and “uncle.” You are missed. 

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Tim was a social butterfly!

 

 

A Thurber experiment

My friend Lisa, mother of Leo the boy and Doug the dog, casually mentioned they had been reading James Thurber at bedtime.

Excellent, I thought to myself, rubbing my hands together like a Looney Toon villain.

I’ve loved James Thurber since a friend introduced me to him in my 20s. I decided to give Thurber ‘s Dogs,  A Collection of the Masters Dogs Written & Drawn Real & Imaginary Living & Long Ago a try with Max.

He loved it.

Max and Thurber

This goofball gives Thurber a thumbs-up!

I was a little surprised. Some of the stories were written in 1926 and I guessed that the language, let alone the culture, is a little dated for a six-year-old.

But Thurber’s charm and humor grabbed Max, same as it did his mama, and he asked for the stories several nights in a row. Thurber’s tales include those about dogs from his childhood in Columbus, Ohio, adulthood, and his cartoons of the dogs, many that appeared in The New Yorker.

I asked Max what he liked about the stories.

“I’m just so interested,” my little chatter box said. “I like learning about the dog’s lives and I like hearing about the bad dogs!”

Thurber dog

This Thurber dog is crabby.

One night, Thurber inspired him to reference the “dog page” from one of my childhood favorites, Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm by Alice and Martin Provensen.  It took Max’s prompting for me to realize there was a theme. Maple Hill Farm also addresses dogs present and past.

With a child’s honest curiosity about the morbid, Max told me, “I like hearing about their lives. I even liked hearing about the dog that gets run over!”

I can’t wait until he’s old enough to read My Life and Hard Times with me.

Find out more about James Thurber by visiting Thurber House. The home he lived in with his parents is now a Columbus, Ohio museum. Road trip, anyone?

A New York Minute

Sometimes you need to treat yourself to a $25 cocktail.

In New York City.

My kids and I love reading about New York. That does not mean we took them on our 10th wedding anniversary trip to the Big Apple.

But we thought about them a lot (but had fun without them.)  I had to take advantage and visit some places we had read about.

Upon arrival, after walking in the wrong direction for several blocks, we visited The New York Public Library. It was a thrill for me to see the Library Lions and visit the children’s section.

In the children's section of the NYC library, these Lego lions reign.

In the children’s section of the NYC library, these Lego lions reign.

Oh my Lawd, I also had to go visit The Plaza where Eloise lives.  (Read about her in a past blog post.)

We explored the magnificent structure and visited the Eloise gift shop where the shop attendant told me the parents are usually more excited to visit than the kids.

I found Eloise at the Plaza.

I found Eloise at the Plaza.

We then had that $25 cocktail. I sipped a pink cosmopolitan, so I could channel Sex in the City and Eloise.

Eloise lives in the tower with Nanny.

Eloise lives in the tower with Nanny.

I don’t know if Max and Calvin were that impressed that we visited the home of Eloise. They were mostly concerned with finding out what we bought them. (An Eloise highlighter and New York City bus for Calvin; a Lego Chrysler Building and Yankees hat for Max.)

I can’t wait to go back.

Here are a few of our favorite NYC books:

This is New York by Miroslav Sasek (I’ve mentioned this one a lot but we love it!)

Eloise by Kay Thompson, illustrated by Hilary Knight.

B is for Brooklyn by Selina Alko (Read a past blog post.)

The Wicked Big Toddlah Goes to New York by Kevin Hawkes (Read our thoughts on Toddie here.)

Statue of Liberty

Just for fun, here’s my shot of Lady Liberty.

 

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-inside

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!

 

WordPlay – building communities

What happened with Libby Hunter saw some local teens acting out from boredom? She and friend Elissa Yancey decided to find a solution and founded WordPlay, Cincinnati’s Creative Learning and Writing Center, a place for kids to be creative and succeed.

Pippin Rush filmed Libby and I talking about WordPlay, how it’s changing young lives, and of course, books. Enjoy!

Music courtesy of David Hunter. Special thanks to Pippin Rush, videographer.

P.S. Max and Calvin have been to WordPlay and they loved it!

Word Play-HD from julia mace on Vimeo.