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Posts Tagged ‘Children’s Books’

I’m feeling like a two year old. It’s a rainy, cold morning in the mountains and I just cranked up my Twitter account to read about some middle-of-the-night GOP shenanigans. It would seem that Congress has voted to dismantle the Office of Congressional Ethics! So somebody please sit me on your lap, get me a blankie, and read me Rebecca Patterson’s book, “My No, No,NO Day.”

Won’t somebody make it stop?!

After nine days in Nashville without cable news of any kind, I was almost looking forward to watching some CNN. Y’all know I’m a news junkie, an ex-reporter and school board policy wonk with a taste for irony. When West Nile began swelling my brain until my eyes turned beet red, I didn’t go to a doctor until I couldn’t read that new-fangled news crawl. But I’ve been quickly disabused of this notion – it would seem that media coverage today consists of deconstructing Mr T’s Tweets.

And I refuse to follow him on Twitter. NO.

SO, since throwing a temper tantrum isn’t an option, today we here in MountainMornings Land will be observing Opposite Day! I am in opposition to this whole damn Electoral College business (this is true) and Mr T is NOT my President-Elect! Get it?

Today I will dress up funny, I will say the opposite of what I mean to say, and probably mumble. A Lot. Kids love doing this in Middle School; they learn about antonyms and might play a game of Opposite BINGO in their classroom. When the Rocker was very little, we were playing a board game with a group of adults, the one where you can’t actually say the word in order to get your team to guess your word and win…his word was “Negative.”

“The opposite of affirmative.”

That’s what he said, and we all looked at each other. This response has been etched into our family’s history.

In some ways, I feel as if our country is living in a perpetual state of Opposite Day. Since journalists are now trying to parse what, how and when to use the word “LIE,” and translating Tweets has become a common practice. It’s only because I have Twitter on my phone that I read about Mr T’s New Year message to his “enemies.” Tasting like a bad clam, I wish I hadn’t.

Nancy Pelosi said, “Ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.”

Elizabeth Warren said, “Tell us, @GOP: Who, exactly, thinks that the problem with Washington is that we have too many rules requiring the gov to act ethically?”

And I say, shall I list the antonyms of ETHICS? Corrupt, Dishonest, Immoral, Improper, Unjust, Unrighteous….

Some friends and family have stopped watching the news on TV altogether. But being an ostrich about current events isn’t the answer. In fact, this beautiful, tall bird has gotten a bum rap all these years. They actually DON’T stick their heads into the sand! http://mentalfloss.com/article/56176/why-do-ostriches-stick-their-heads-sand

So let’s suspend all our belief systems for the day, or maybe the week, or even this New Year. My cookie broke and ballet is too itchy and… Put on your big girl boots and get ready to March on Washington ladies on January 21.

 

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I was always a Stones girl. The Beatles did catch my attention in high school, and the boys all cut their hair into Beatles’ bobs. But they were too upbeat in the beginning, too melodic. My first memory of being moved, really moved by a song was hearing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” over the loudspeakers, echoing across the lake at Camp St Joseph for Girls. Yeah, preteen girls and boys separated all summer by a lake. It became an anthem for our generation. One of the highlights of my adult life was seeing the Stones perform at the Meadowlands for my 50th birthday.

So of course I’m going to rush right out and buy (or maybe I’ll just click and send on my laptop?) the Love Bug Keith Richards’ new children’s book, Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar. Richards’ daughter Theodora, named after her Great Grandfather Augustus Theodore, did the illustrations.

The characters and story required no embellishment. Theodore Augustus “Gus” Dupree, Richards’ maternal grandpa…was a big-band jazz musician who had seven daughters and owned and played a number of instruments. And he often took grandson Keith, also the name of the boy in the book, on outings like Gus & Me’s journey through London’s streets and a music store. http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2014/09/08/keith-richards-keeps-it-all-in-the-family-for-kids-book/15121597/

It’s that eight year old brain that can determine a life’s work. Richards loved the singing cowboy, Roy Rogers, he was the super hero in his life, and it took a real hero like Gus to show him that he didn’t need the horse or a gun to have fun.

I remember putting the Rocker’s first guitar in his hands at that age, after enduring two years of violin lessons. Listening to him practice with his Corgi howling beside him.

The Music Corner of our Family Room

The Music Corner of our Family Room

This Thursday, September 11, the Parlor Mob will play in NYC at the Gramercy. The Rocker will be stage right again, playing the guitar and the keyboards. I know he remembers his first guitar and I hope he likes these old pictures from middle school. 9/11 is always a sacred day for me, a day to sit quietly and reflect. But my son’s soul was forged during that heartbreaking time; he ditched high school to watch the Towers burn across the shipping lanes from Sandy Hook with his friends. Playing in the City is a love song from our boys. We will never forget.

His First Guitar

His First Guitar

 

 

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It’s finally happening in the previous Capital of the Confederacy, ex-Gov Bob McDonnell’s trial is underway. Lawyers are picking a “jury of their peers” and charging him with accepting bribes loans and lavish gifts from a health/supplement company CEO/supporter. It’s rumored that much of the blame on the defense side will be placed on Maureen, who needed the pretense of a certain lifestyle in order to marry off her daughter. It seems misogyny is still rearing its ugly head in Dixie, particularly among Republicans. They are also contending that the ex-first couple of VA were simply extending “common political courtesies” like hosting and arranging meetings for his supporter…while also accepting loans of $165,000.

I’ve never served on a jury, but believe me this would be ripe material for a writer. I’ve heard that many have simply sat in the public section of a courtroom just to listen, to pick up the cadence of a jury trial, to spark an idea that might lead to a plot twist. I wonder if this Richmond trial will be televised? I’ve only watched two trials on TV, OJ and Anita Hill. But this is my kind of reality TV. Gentlemen get out the clapperboard – “Roll Cameras!”

The Bride sent me a video of the Love Bug reading a book at the airport last night. I love that it’s her favorite of the moment, and it used to amuse my daughter too, “Caps for Sale” by Esphyr Slobodkina. She was born in Siberia, Russia and immigrated to the US in 1929. A talented artist, this book became a children’s classic instantly. Probably taken from a Yiddish tale, the peddler is trying to sell his caps, while monkeys are doing what they do best. It is a cautionary story for parents and children alike, a kind of “monkey see, monkey do” parable play.

When I would laugh out loud in the car, I’d hear the Bug laughing behind me in her car seat. When I would say, “Thank you Mama for making us pancakes this morning,” she would repeat, “Thank you Mama.” When I would point out a lizard on the deck, she would repeat, “Lizard!” We hiked to the river, we looked for deer every morning, and she would repeat whatever we said, but more importantly, she picked up our feelings, like a tiny toddler empath. It was not just baby see, baby do, but baby feel.

And so, as I was aware of the constant push and pull of parenting once again, of the need to civilize our smallest citizens, and as I was modeling “Please” and “Thank you” and “Excuse me” a gazillion times – because not getting what you want when you want it is tough for anybody, especially a toddler – I thought about our poor ex-Govenor.

In a system that has become corrupt, it becomes harder and harder to distinguish between ethical and unethical behavior. If everybody is doing it, trading favors, on Wall Street or in the hallways of political power in our state capital, well then one might understand how a loan might be perceived as a common courtesy. But in a democracy, someone has to play the role of the parent, and put a stop to all that monkey business.   IMG_0927

 

 

 

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Yesterday was Bastille Day, so happy holiday to our French friends belatedly. I love following the Instagram pictures of the French student we hosted one summer, who is now a lawyer and mother of two young boys in Paris. Her shots are miniature art works: a still life of different flowers in bud vases; a building in the south with violet shutters; the backs of her boys in shorts entering a garden with dappled light; or the colorful play of fresh vegetables on her kitchen table “Retour de marche.”

Whenever I see Stephanie’s children, I think of Madeline.

Madeline at the Paris Flower Market 1955

Madeline at the Paris Flower Market 1955

She is turning 75 this year and is currently on exhibit at The New York Historical Society. “The Art of Ludwig Bemelman” will be shown until November 19 and then travel to Amherst, MA. “Bemelmans’ grandson, John Bemelmans Marciano, has continued his grandfather’s work with three more books of Madeline’s adventures. He says that Madeline is not French, but a real New Yorker.” http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28233820

Ludwig Bemelman immigrated to the USA in 1914 from Austria-Hungary. Because his mother was German, he was not allowed to go overseas in WWI, though he did serve in the Army. He was assigned to a mental hospital in upstate NY where he nearly suffered a mental breakdown.

He saved himself by creating what he called “islands of security”: “I have started to think in pictures and make myself several scenes to which I can escape instantly when the danger appears,” he wrote in a memoir, “instant happy pictures that are completely mine, familiar, warm, and protective.”

Like Bemelman, I will often see my prose in pictures first. He considered himself more of an artist and less of a writer, and like many artists he had to support himself over the years by working in the real world, and in his case it was the hotel industry. His first Madeline book was published at the cusp of WWII.

I find it fascinating that his red headed girl in the yellow hat was always the one in 13 girls who did not fit into her convent school life – she had a personality and some spunk. It’s as if he took a New York schoolgirl and dropped her into Paris to deal with an ancient regime, because God knows nobody likes what happened to France during the war. Whenever Madeline left her house covered in vines, in two straight lines of girls, we always knew she was in for an adventure. And we always knew she would step out of line. I must remember to get the first book for my Love Bug to read!

Here is a self portrait of my beautiful sister Kay, a gorgeous artist who also worked in the health industry, and sent her daughter to the Convent of the Sacred Heart on East 91st Street and Fifth Avenue. The school was founded by French speaking nuns in 1881. Thank you Kay for putting me up, and putting up with me, during Sue’s shiva. Your apartment was my island of security in NYC.

My Sister Kay

My Sister Kay

I believe we red headed girls think alike.

 

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I recently discovered a website called “Letters of Note.” http://www.lettersofnote.com Whoever thought of digging up old letters from famous, and not so famous, writers was genius. It all started with an obit that EB White wrote for his dog Daisy, who happened to be sniffing the flowers in front of a shop when a carriage careened into her. Most of us know White because of his spider named Charlotte; he is masterful at writing for children. I always thought that a good children’s writer had to have never really left childhood behind. There had to be a Peter Pan quality to him when he wrote about Daisy; that she was born, “an unqualified surprise to her mother.”

My Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Tootsie Roll, was extremely surprised when she delivered her brood in the corner of the living room, on the good rug, and NOT in the whelping box I had so carefully arranged in the family room. And as most doggie people know, each and every one of her puppies had a personality all its own. One was sweet and cuddly, one was aggressive and always first to dine. One loved to explore and one was always hiding. Blaze, the one we kept, was the alpha male. He seemed to know he was in charge of his siblings from the moment he opened his eyes. I was writing for the newspaper back then, but now how I wish I’d put pen to paper about the pups.

I am thinking of writing some small poems about our dog Buddha for the Love Bug. I’ve already asked my artistic sister Kay to illustrate a story or two. Buddha came from the SPCA at the Jersey Shore and looked a little like a polar bear – he was a hundred pounds of white fluffy Samoyed-mixed love! So tell me what you think of my first attempt at a beginning?

Buddha Springs into Action

Buddha awoke and stretched himself

Gently into downward dog

Looking up, he thanked the tree

Shimmering in the morning fog

The tree was full of birds

Singing sweetly, flapping wings

Dancing in her branches

A Blue Heron was the King

“Good Morning Buddha Bear,” he said

“Happy day to one and all”

The big white dog sat down at once

To hear the sea wind call

Buddha Bear in the Blue Ridge

Buddha Bear in the Blue Ridge

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Christmas used to be tough for me. Once the kids left home, Bob continued to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas, and I was left to my druthers. Sometimes, a newly divorced friend might join me at the movies, but most times I was on my own to ponder the meaning of the universe. Now that the Bride has followed in her dad’s footsteps, she finds herself working on Christmas too. And lucky for me, I get to hang out with the Love Bug in Nashville, my own personal little Christmas elf.IMG_2317

Yesterday, she took me to the most amazing puppet show at the Nashville Public Library. http://www.nashvillescene.com/nashville/john-updikes-a-childs-calendar-at-the-library/Content?oid=1203840

Updike’s A Child’s Calendar is an illustrated collection of twelve poems describing a child’s life as the weather changes and the year goes by. This staging is the brainchild of Brian Hull, the Nashville Library’s director of children’s programming, who transforms Updike’s collection into a musical show populated entirely by child-sized puppets. Hull’s puppet fixation is part of a Nashville tradition dating back to 1938, when longtime library associate Tom Tichenor first began holding marionette shows at the main branch.

The puppeteers are dressed entirely in black while they manipulate an old man puppet and a young boy going through each magical month around a growing tree on stage. Birds fly overhead, and blossoms rain down from the sky. At one point a real boy tried crawling up on stage to catch a blossom, and the puppet motioned him away! The Love Bug danced and watched every move with wonder, her eyes open wide. I wanted to cry, with joy. Because this is one of those things we’ve forgotten as adults. The sheer delight of everyday life as seen through a child’s eyes. Here is what Updike had to say about January:

The river is
A frozen place
Held still beneath
The trees’ black lace.

The sky is low.
The wind is gray.
The radiator
Purrs all day.

Christmas holds hidden delights for everyone with children of a certain age. Some are watching a little elf who appears on a shelf every morning. He helps Santa keep track of every single child, naughty and nice. Some are going to see the Nutcracker for the very first time. And some are attending puppet shows and cuddling with their Nana. Instead of sugar plum fairies, grandparents galore are coming to visit!

Have a very Merry Christmas everyone! And tornado warnings or not, don’t forget that family comes first…and after that an egg nog latte helps. Cheers.

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Yesterday was Kale Day, but today is the official national book reading day for millions of children in libraries, homes and schools all across the country, and the idea is that we’ll all be reading one book. Well, you could read more than one, but doesn’t everybody love a tractor?

The book for Jumpstart’s 2013 Read for the Record campaign is Otis! Published by Penguin and written by New York Times bestselling author Loren Long, Otis is the timeless story of a friendship between a lovable tractor and a calf that live on a farm. On October 3, 2013 children and adults will come together to read Otis as part of Jumpstart and the Pearson Foundation’s Read for the Record campaign.

I packed a box full of toys and books for the Love Bug’s arrival. And her parents brought her favorite books with them as well. I’m even working on a children’s book inspired by the Bug, so here’s a little clue:County Fair 009

We started reading early to the Bride and Rocker, almost as soon as they could sit semi-steadily on our laps. And I’m happy to see the tradition continues. I found a beautifully illustrated book, I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love by Nancy Tillman. It’s about how we parents would always see through any animal disguise in pretend play, and recognize our beloved child.

And while talking all things literary today, let’s jump ahead to the next book on my list. I cannot wait to dig into Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, The Signature of All Things. I follow this author on Twitter so I was aware of its release date, then I caught her on the Today Show and later heard her interview on NPR.

http://www.npr.org/2013/10/01/225719994/fghfgh

The heroine is a botanist in the early 19th Century, who travels to Tahiti and discovers herself, along with “…varietals of vanilla pods; a sky-high waterspout; abolition…” and so much more, including a bit of Victorian pornography. Gilbert’s book, Committed, helped the Bride and many of her friends in their understanding of modern marriage. So I had to smile when Gilbert said she married a man who believes a wife belongs in the kitchen…”with her feet up and a glass of wine, watching her husband cook dinner.”

We read around here for the love it, to escape and be challenged, to learn and to laugh. For the record, ebooks, podcasts and iPads have their place, but in my life, nothing will replace the feel of a real book in my hands!  photo

 

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