Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Many Moons

I have a special picture book review today. It might take some work to find it at your local library or bookstore because it was written many moons ago, in 1943, but it'd be worth it:

Many Moons by James Thurber, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin

I picked this book up for two reasons:

1) It's written by James Thurber, a humorist who grew up in and began his writing career in Columbus, OH. I would have loved to have met him. He traveled in the same circles as Dorothy Parker and E.B. White, had a career at The New Yorker... Oh, I just love it.

2) It won the Caldecott medal in 1944. My favorite book award is the Caldecott. I love picture book art. The illustrations are often what draw me to a book in the first place.

So, I curled up in bed last night and read this fantastic fantasy-fairy-tale of a picture book after the kids were in bed. I savored every word. I honestly felt myself smiling as I read it. It's light and fun, but also sweet and a little sentimental. It has a nice message about the innocence and creativity of children. You could even say that it's sort of a cautionary tale about over-thinking things and the difficulty in making a choice when you're presented with too many options.

As I read this tale (about a young princess who has taken ill and tells her father that the only way she'll get better is by having the moon), I once again had the feeling that kids' books today lack description. They lack language--beautiful language.

Without being wordy, Thurber incorporates lovely detail into this story.

For example, Princess Lenore is 10 years old, going on 11. A minor detail, yes, but what kid wouldn't pick up on that and identify with it? My 3 year-old is offended if we don't remember to tack on the "and a half" when we tell someone his age. And, his birthday is three months away, but he is already in a birthday-excitement-frenzy.

There's just a little extra something that "10 years old, going on 11" adds to the tone of the story as well as to the character.

I also enjoyed the fact that Thurber introduces each new character. They don't just pop in; they are introduced and have a backstory.

Many Moons is definitely an "escape" read. Each little detail, paired with the narrative and the illustrations sweep readers in. So refreshing! Check it out.

And, for those of you who are local, have you ever visited the Thurber House? I'm disappointed that I haven't yet, but I'll get there.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


For my birthday last year my parents got me the coolest gift. A mosaic photo frame from It's hard to believe almost a year has gone by and I've not posted about it.

MOO is a site that takes your photos/designs and prints them on a variety of products, one of which are the mini-cards. These cards are approximately 1 inch by 3 inches and are the perfect size for storing in your bag (inside the handy MOO holder) and whipping out to share when asked for recent pics of your kids. But, they also fit into a mosaic-style picture frame to make really cool, interchangeable wall art.

Right now I'm having trouble deciding which of my cards I want displayed, so I've been playing around with different themes and layouts... I could go with calming scenery stills:

...or showcase the many {silly} faces of my kiddos:

I also think it could be fun to scan in J's artwork and create a mini-card mosaic of his masterpieces! Like these watercolors he painted this week:

I really like that idea, actually! Arranging the tiles would seem to him like putting together a puzzle, only there is no "right way" to do it, so the process would be completely open-ended and creative. Then, there's the added bonus that the images he's manipulating are his own creations. And, once he's older he would have ownership over swapping new images in and out of the frame--creating sort of a fluid, fluctuating portfolio!

What do you think? How would you MOO?

{And, whether you're new to MOO or not, check out their blog for inspiration!}

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Good Grief

I've found myself missing my mother-in-law a lot lately. All of us who have experienced loss know that it is so hard to wrap your mind around the fact that someone is gone. For good.

If I see a purpleish-bronze PT Cruiser I automatically look at the driver to see if it's her. It's strange how ingrained these things are. Strange and very jarring at times, but I think it's also probably a comfort to us. It's comforting to know that we can remember so easily, or in this case, forget so easily that someone is no longer with us.

Here are a few things that always make me remember her. (And I hope this does not read like a eulogy.)

Books. Fran loved to read, and I think my career as a librarian gave me an automatic "in" with her. We read some of the same books, and she usually liked my recommendations. I remember when she borrowed my childhood copy of The Secret Garden, she couldn't believe she had never read it before. She liked to read outside her comfort zone; she'd go from Stephen King to historical fiction, from Harry Potter to some inspirational book about Catholicism. She also loved David Sedaris and went to see him speak the same night C and I went. It was a little awkward to laugh at his readings, knowing that my MIL was a few rows back!

Coffee. C and I were lamenting our home-brewed coffee recently, as it's just as savory as the cups we've been splurging on at some of our local coffee shops. C's mom drank coffee practically all day. She always got her pot ready the night before and set the timer. C remembers weekends as a kid when he'd go out to the kitchen, pour his mom a cup, and bring it in to her in bed. Even way back then he was a gentleman!

The Sunday Ads. What goes better with coffee than lounging on the sofa on Sunday morning, flipping through the ads? We used to go to Fran's a lot on Sundays for church and then breakfast and then camp out in the living room leafing through the newspaper.

This ring. Isn't it kind of neat? The family recently went through some of her jewelry, selecting pieces that were significant to us. I chose this. It's kind of fun to jiggle it around and try to line the little beads up in different configurations. If you sometimes get restless or fidgety like I do, then this is the right jewelry! I know that she bought it at one of the summer art shows, which she loved to shop.

And the summer art shows remind me one of the more "memorable" Christmas gifts she gave me. A leather fanny pack. It was beautifully made and probably pretty expensive, but...not my bag. Literally.

But, of course the passage of time can make things seem funnier than they were at the moment. Although I was raised in a strict it's-the-thought-that-counts environment, at that moment I was thinking, "has she ever seen me wear a bag like this? Does she still not know me after all these years?" Now, it's a funny story that gets an eye-roll and a smile before everyone starts up telling of their own worst gifts.

Maybe like worst gifts, we endure grief because we're going to come out better on the other side. With greater compassion. More understanding. More ready to laugh things off. And more hopeful that we'll remember it all.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

For the Love of Pete! {the Cat}

Have those of you with young kids seen the picture book Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin? Pete the Cat loves his white shoes, and we love Pete the Cat!

If you have a toddler, preschooler, or young elementary student, you'll want to check it out. Jazzy rhythm, cool illustrations, and a feel-good moral. Plus, there's this really cool YouTube video of the author doing a live reading. We are having fun watching it at our house.

I hope to be posting about some other exciting new picture books that have been getting repeated readings over here. Blogging has taken a backseat to the back-to-school frenzy!