Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category
Thursday, June 9th, 2011
Summer might be approaching and school winding down to a close, but we’re hoping that your summer is still filled with LOTS of books and leisure reading. Around this time of year grateful parents start asking us for suggestions for end-of-the-year gifts for their children’s teachers. Here are a few of our favorite ideas:
BIG BOOKS FOR THE CLASSROOM
These oversized picture books are hard to find in stores, but seem to be on every teacher’s wishlist. While they might not make the cut in a teacher’s classroom budget (especially when most supplies are bought out of the teacher’s own pocket), they have huge impact on the students. With these big books, everyone can clearly see the pictures during story time, and the large size makes independent reading and art exploration even more fun.
You can never have enough tote bags! Great for carrying papers and materials back and forth to work, storing your lunch, using for quick trips to the store, or even for just toting around town to show off your love of children’s book character.
THANK YOU CARDS
Teachers can always use thank you cards and these Very Hungry Caterpillar ones are super cute!
Teacher/Librarian memberships to The Carle are only $35 and would give your child’s educator the chance to visit the Museum free of charge for the year, get a discount in the store, and get invitations to exclusive museum events – including our fabulous annual Educator night (plus free Membership goodies).
Want more ideas? We’ve made it easy for you. Visit our “For Educators” section of our online shop. Readers, share some of your favorite teacher gift suggestions with us in the comments.
Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
As Mother’s Day approaches, I can’t help but share a picture book that is very special to me and my mother. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney (Viking, 1982) is one of our favorite books to read about this time of year. Cooney’s delicate watercolors, rich hues of purples, blues and pinks, perfectly capture the misty Maine landscape when lupines are in bloom.
As a child, Miss Rumphius knew that she wanted to travel the world and see many exotic faraway places and then spend her old age living by the sea. Her grandfather reminds her there is something else very important she must do in her lifetime, as well. She must “do something to make the world more beautiful.” After traveling around the world, Miss Rumphius retires to a small house in Maine by the sea, but still can’t think of what she can do to make the world a more beautiful place. After planting her first lupine seeds and seeing how they naturally spread with the help of the wind and birds, bringing beautiful pastel blooms to the countryside, she finally gets an idea. With pockets of lupine seeds, Miss Rumphius sows and spreads the beauty of the wildflowers across the town and countryside so that years later, every spring and early summer, everyone can enjoy the beauty of the flowers.
This book was an instant favorite of my mother’s as she searched out picture books to read to her children and, in turn, it became a favorite of mine. It’s a quiet and cozy book, with a longer text than many picture books. Perhaps more contemplative than action-packed, it suited our two creative, nature-loving minds perfectly. We would read the book together and be taken to all the faraway places that Cooney’s delicate watercolors went – a tropical island, snow covered mountains, the rocky seaside of Maine. While my mother lived her whole life in Massachusetts, the coast of Maine always had a special draw for her and, like Miss Rumphius, I think she would like to spend her days by the sea. We both lived vicariously through this special picture book.
For Mother’s Day one year, I gave her a copy of Miss Rumphius (to replace the beat-up old version I had since commandeered for my own personal picture book collection) for reading to her grandchildren and for keeping in the new library of her very own Maine house. Yes, finally a house in Maine by the sea, made more beautiful by this Lupine Lady mother of mine.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!
Do you have a book that’s special between you and your mom? And for you mothers out there, is there one book that is particularly important to you and your child? Share with us in the comments below!
Saturday, December 4th, 2010
While we all get excited about the newest books of the season, when it comes to gift giving, an old-favorite is often a perfect fit. This holiday season, I asked fellow Carle Museum staffers what children’s books they felt particularly close to – whether it was a book they remembered from their childhood or a well-loved standby that they read over and over to their own children. The result is a wonderful list that can be a helpful guide for anyone wanting to give a classic book that will truly stand the test of time.
Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton.
“Katy is a strong female protagonist that does a great job under difficult conditions. This book has beautiful graphics and it’s fun to read!” (Heidi, Collections)
Time for Bed by Mem Fox, illustrated by Jane Dyer.
“A beautiful book where animals put their babies to bed. It’s a great book to snuggle with as you put your own child to bed. I began reading the book when I was pregnant with my first child and it quickly became a favorite amongst my three children.” (Sandy, Marketing)
The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey, illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren.
“I loved The Poky Little Puppy. I remember my mom and grandmother reading it to me over and over. Whenever I see the title around the museum, I remember being a child.” (Chuck, Education)
The Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
“My all-time favorite childhood stories were the Little House books. I learned a lot from Laura – she was a spunky, strong and smart girl who seemed like me. She had such imagination and energy, and it was hard to be good, but she persevered. I can’t even count how many times I read these over and over again, and I still love these books to this day.” (Rebecca, Development)
Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary.
“I loved Beverly Cleary books. In them the kids always tried to solve their own problems before going to an adult and sometimes that meant creating an even bigger mess. I read everything she wrote because I really connected with the characters.” (Diana, Art Studio)
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina.
“I probably read this one to my daughter a million times!” (Nick, Collections)
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper, illustrated by George & Doris Hauman
“I can still remember the way I felt when my kindergarten teacher read The Little Engine that Could. It gave me the feeling of pure joy, hope and exhilaration that the world is filled with possibilities. That, if you think you can, then you most certainly can! No matter your size, you can still be mighty.” (Lillian, Bookstore)
And me? While it’s so, so hard to pick just one book, I’d say it’s this:
I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew by Dr. Seuss
I still have my childhood copy, which is roughly held together by some old-school brown packaging tape. My dad read this book to me every night before bed. And every night he’d read the book in the same way, with the same cadences in his voice as he went through the sing-songy verse. He even had little sound effects he’d always do at certain points, like when the character fell down (ba-wee-boom!).
Not only was this book a great entertaining story of a character going on a crazy journey to escape his troubles, but it also has a great message that sometimes the best thing is to face your problems instead of running away from them. Most of all, though, it was the book that brought my father and I together, and now in my mind, they are forever connected. To this day, I can still recite this book in the exact same way as my dad read it to me 20+ years ago. And that, my friends, is something very special indeed.
I think it’s so interesting that our memories get so entwined with objects sometimes. In this case…books! You can look at a picture book, turn the pages, read the words, and be transported to a time when your child was so small in your arms, or you yourself were little and reciting the pages with parent. Books for us at The Carle are a portal back to our favorite times – memories of reading. And I think there is no greater gift than that.
So here are just a few of our personal favorites, but we’d love to hear about the classic books that are special to you and your family. Do you have a favorite book that would make a great gift? Let us know in the comments below.
Wednesday, November 24th, 2010
I am a murderer. Twenty-three years ago, in the basement of The Children’s Bookstore in Chicago, I was roused to action by the cries of our bookkeeper. “A rat! I will not work in an office with a rat!” I bought a trap, set the spring, and baited the thing with peanut butter. The following morning I was shocked to see a dead beast beneath the sprung bar. On approach, I realized my error: the rat was wriggling. In disgust and terror I grabbed a four-foot-long scrap of wood and bludgeoned. My adrenaline did the trick. Grasping the trap so as not to touch the yucky dangling animal, I darted out the back door and pitched it in the dumpster.
Some may not grasp the degree of my crime’s horror, but they are probably not purveyors of books featuring such benign and clever characters as Ratty of The Wind in the Willows, or Templeton of Charlotte’s Web.
In his memoir Critical Path, Buckminster Fuller recalls how in 1927 while wheeling his tiny daughter in a stroller through the urban canyons of Manhattan he noticed the child pointing upwards. Following her finger he saw not a bird, but a plane. Fuller mused how a modern urban child must see ordinary animals in picture books as mythical beasts, far less real and personal than are the well-known mechanical contraptions of contemporary daily life such as cars, planes and vacuum cleaners.
Children’s book animal depiction practices acknowledge this distance between modern children and real animals: when rats are not to be feared by children as scary biters, then rats are available to be presented as charming and intelligent book characters. (I acknowledge the class element in this analysis, remembering Gil Scott-Heron’s scalding 1969 song that begins, “A rat done bit my sister Nell, with Whitey on the moon.”)
Along related lines, the elimination of the depiction of the killing of animals from picture books is something that has taken place during the course of the Twentieth Century, and so our society’s ubiquitous killing of animals (pest extermination; leather and fur clothing; meat and fish), has become something about which children are not informed through their books.
It’s a huge ellipsis, this unwillingness to explain to children about humans being animal-killers.
As a child in the early 1960s I remember seeing the animated version of Lynd Ward’s Caldecott Award-winning The Biggest Bear as a featurette on the Captain Kangaroo television show. And I loved Andy and the Lion, James Daugherty’s adventurous reworking of the ancient Greek tale of Androcles. The presence of guns and the shooting of bears and lions in these picture books didn’t draw my special notice. Bloodless, stylized gun violence was everywhere on TV anyhow, including children’s television shows like The Lone Ranger.
By the 1980s, when I opened The Children’s Bookstore, shockingly gruesome gun violence was displayed to younger and younger children via the new cable television and rental movie media distribution mechanisms. But remarkably, guns were absent from newly published picture books, and from most fiction for school-aged children as well—changes that increased that peculiar gulf between the safe world of children’s books and the manipulative world of commercial children’s media. In this contest between the creators of the garden of children’s literature—authors, illustrators, teachers, librarians, booksellers and parents—and the profit-driven free-for-all of mass culture, those of us on the children’s book side developed and maintained startling power to participate in the molding of social attitudes carried by our kids into adulthood.
Today, young children can play violent videogames and see untold varieties of horrific violence on the internet, without parental oversight. Exploitative mass culture of this kind is very much implicated in the kinds of random violence we fear in school and street. In contrast, I think it’s no accident that the last few decades’ increase in concern for animal rights has coincided with the ongoing positive anthropomorphic depiction of animals in children’s books, with absence of guns and killing.
I feel glad that as a children’s bookseller I have played a small part in increasing the level of empathy our society demonstrates for animals. Perhaps some of that empathy for animals will even translate to increased empathy among people for one another.
This morning I came to an understanding that before winter comes we need to get rid of the mice who for months have been pooping all over the kitchen. This time, however, research on the internet has revealed a benign and clever alternative to murder. All we have to do is take a scrap of wood, lean it against a twenty-inch-tall plastic wastebasket, and put bait inside on the bottom. The mice will run up the wood and leap down. In the morning I can take the wastebasket to a park and release the beasts.
Maybe I can learn from the errors of my past.
Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
Here at The Carle, we pay homage to Leo Lionni every day with our logo (which includes, among its memorable Caterpillar and Wild Thing images, Leo Lionni’s iconic mice from Tillie and The Wall). And until November 28th, you can see our most recent exhibition of Leo Lionni’s work from his picture book, Geraldine, the Music Mouse in our Central Gallery.
You may know that Lionni’s modern design aesthetic and use of collage and white space was a major influence on many future children’s book illustrators like Eric Carle, but did you know that before either of them became children’s book creators Leo Lionni helped a young Eric Carle get his first job in New York as a graphic designer? Years later, Lionni encouraged Carle to try his hand at illustrating children’s books. Eric Carle once said, “Long before I myself was aware of it, Leo Lionni saw the picture-book artist in me.” You can read more about Eric Carle’s appreciation for Leo Lionni in our exhibition catalog from our 2003 show, Leo Lionni: A Passion for Creativity.
Leo Lionni was an art director for several advertising agencies and Fortune magazine before he began a long and successful career in children’s books, which earned him four Caldecott Honor medals. His very first picture book, Little Blue, Little Yellow, was a story he invented with pieces of torn paper to entertain his restless grandchildren, Annie and Pippo, on a long train ride. This same granddaughter, Annie Lionni, will join us at The Carle on Saturday, October 30th at 1:00 pm to share her memories of her grandfather in our Auditorium, followed by two live theater performances of two of his picture books.
We are excited to welcome back Picture Book Theatre, a children’s puppet and dance theater company, who will be performing Leo Lionni’s Tico and The Golden Wings and Geraldine, the Music Mouse. Tickets are $5.00 and performances are at 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm on Saturday. On this special day before Halloween, children are encouraged to come dressed in their costumes to enjoy a costume parade following the performance. If you miss Saturday’s performance, don’t worry! Picture Book Theatre will be back each Saturday at The Carle for the entire month of November.
In celebration of 100 years since Leo Lionni’s birth, one of Lionni’s publishers, Random House, has some wonderful resources about Lionni available on their website, including photos, videos, and even some fun activities to use at home or in the classroom in connection with his books. My favorite is the “Make your own Paper Mouse” activity. So cute!
Are you missing a Leo Lionni book from your collection? We carry them all in our store! Click here to purchase.
For about 50 years, Lionni’s books have been a part of children’s homes, libraries and schools. Maybe you have a special story to tell about your connection with a Lionni book. Maybe you use one of his picture books in your classrooms. I adored Lionni’s Swimmy when I was little (and still do!). I could stare and stare at those beautifully textured illustrations for hours. I was especially entranced by the illustrations of seaweed that looked like it had been printed with lace doilies and spent many hours attempting my own paper doily print art. I’m sure you have a Lionni book that’s special to you, too. Help us celebrate 100 years of Leo Lionni and tell us your story in the comments below!
Thursday, October 7th, 2010
A few weeks ago I was returning from a trip to Nantucket and the evening ferry was nearly empty. An energetic three-year-old boy was rushing about uncontrollably. His anxious mother announced that she was downloading a book for him. A few minutes later I heard a cartoon voice narrating a pirate story. I looked over, and saw the mother holding her iPad with the screen facing forward, as the now-rapt, standing child watched the “book” on the iPad screen tell its story. I admit I was appalled to understand that the machine had replaced the mother’s voice. Indeed, she was blocking the child from her body with this wall of a machine. What should have been a sensual, intimate picture book was reduced to a cartoon on a screen.
Years ago, when I travelled with young children, I always packed Arnold Lobel’s ready-to-read books in the diaper bag: the Frog And Toad series, Small Pig, and my favorite, Grasshopper On The Road. Coming back on a crowded plane from Florida to Chicago in February 1991, my wife, three-year-old son and two-year-old daughter found ourselves circling O’Hare Airport at midnight in a snowstorm. During this flight I had allowed my restless son to tramp up and down the aisles while I tagged along, eliciting irritated glares from fellow passengers. No one is despised like a parent who fails to control his undisciplined child. As the plane circled endlessly, I now held Sam firmly on my lap and read Grasshopper On The Road aloud with passion and urgency.
Among the foolish characters Grasshopper meets on his travels are a parade of Beetles marching in support of morning. They welcome Grasshopper when he says he likes morning too, but are furious when he adds that afternoon and night are also nice. Reading Lobel’s book made me feel better about being disdained for my parenting style by the other passengers on the plane. There are many ways to be a good parent; being supportive and indulgent just happens to be mine.
I have been a children’s bookseller for more than twenty-five years now. A few months ago the brilliant inventor and futurologist Nicholas Negroponte of M.I.T. told the world that the physical book will be dead in five years. This doesn’t leave much room for me and my life’s work. It’s easy to insult others by criticizing their incorrect actions, as I did when I reflexively felt critical of that mother on the ferry who used a cold machine to read aloud to her three-year-old. But I don’t want to be one of those know-it-all Beetles who insist they have the only answer. Rather, I aspire to be like the hero of Grasshopper On The Road, who embraces many alternatives. It is true that I am biased against eBooks–and against Professor Negroponte’s perspective–because I love physical books. But I am sure that if I had young children today, just like that mother on the Nantucket ferryboat, my child-rearing practice would include eBooks. She was demonstrating skill-sets that I don’t possess (just as Professor Negroponte possesses no children’s bookselling skills), and I judged her negatively without considering what her demonstrated skills said about her.
For instance, the book she had downloaded was about pirates. For a wild child on a ferryboat, this was perfect. In addition, her choice to have her son watch an animated book demonstrated her skill at rapidly reining in the child’s running. Finally, merely because she sometimes uses her iPad to acquire children’s literature doesn’t mean her family doesn’t also use traditional children’s books. Probably they love printed picture books, and the iPad is a useful addition to their reading practice.
I hope that just as I am willing to accept eBooks as fine additions to the arsenal of good parenting resources, those who tout eBooks like Professor Negroponte will leave room in their futurology for my beloved real-world picture books.