Margaret Susan Got Married


The home is the child’s first school,
the parent is the child’s first teacher,
and reading is the child’s first subject.
—Barbara Bush

When Miss Margaret Susan got married
& became Mrs. Peggy Sue,
she, who had been a cosmopolitan traveler,
became a domestic goddess,
defined & deified as such by her husband,
her conversation sparkling like the windows,
her cooking nourishing like the rain.
When she gave birth to Suzy & Margie,
she taught them all she had learned
from the days she had backpacked her way
through the lands of her lineage.
She read to them about all the places she’d been,
told them about all the places they’d go,
& what wasn’t in the books,
she could fill in.
She taught them that there was a time to travel,
a time to stay home,
& a time to bring home with her;
now was that time.
And when her husband saw her
under the Tuscan sun & Parisian moon,
he saw her in a different light.
He saw that he had fallen in love with a woman
who wasn’t all she was because of him
but of all who had come before him.

Bebe shoes

Book Review: Fox the Tiger

Foxy tiger

As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:

Fox the Tiger is a collection of sweet, colored-pencil drawings accompanied with a simple message:  Admire traits in others while remembering that you have traits others admire.   

This book used four of my favorite animals in children’s literature:  foxes, turtles, rabbits, and squirrels, as well as two things my daughter loves:  race cars (she actually likes monster trucks but close enough) and robots.  

The squirrel at the end was sweet, though I would’ve liked a tiger (what the fox wished/pretended to be) to make an appearance and show his appreciation for one of the fox’s traits. However, it’s pretty cool that the squirrel saw the exact same qualities in the fox as the fox did in the tiger.

The repetition may seem tedious (and less fun than Dr. Seuss), but this is necessary for an “I Can Read” book; if there are different words on every page, such would make memorization difficult.  

My daughter enjoyed this one, and so did I, which is the Holy Grail of children’s books.  It’s like “The Dating Game” when a woman’s looks choice and personality choice belong to the same man.

A great choice for early readers!

Suggested activity:  My daughter loves robots, and you can build robots out of practically anything:  There is a lot you can do with old cereal boxes, aluminum foil, and baby food jar lids.  Although it would be fun to build the real thing, if you’re on a budget, this is a great way to get your children interested in robotics, which blend technology and creativity.

Book Review: How Raven Got His Crooked Nose


As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:

From the title, I thought I would be led to a clever reason why the raven had a crooked nose, but such was not the case.

I know this is a retelling–one I’m sure the authors wanted to honor–but this fable wasn’t compelling enough to warrant a retelling.  The graphic novel format was a huge turnoff, and the illustrations were paint-by-the-numbers. The segments with the grandmother and granddaughter could’ve been eliminated; just tell me the story directly rather than show me someone telling the story.  

What’s more, the main character (i.e. the raven, Chulyen) was bland.  

I liked that there was a glossary, though I’m thinking some context clues embedded in the story would’ve been better for young children.  The “More About” section in the back as well as the further reading suggestions and map were great additions (albeit for those who enjoyed the book), but the story itself was awful.  

Maybe legends like these are better told in the oral storytelling form; I feel the same way about Greek mythology, which I’ve always loved.  Sometimes, one’s imagination does a better job of painting the pictures in one’s mind than an illustrator does.  

Suggested activity:  Read “Just-So Stories” by Rudyard Kipling instead.  If you’re a writer, you could try your hand at one of these prompts: further honor the oral storytelling tradition, I will write (or retell) a piece, send it to my Kindle (a phone screen is too small and too distracting), and read it aloud.  Reading without visuals teaches your children to listen more and to not depend on pictures all the time to get their information. Listening, especially active listening, is a skill.  (I believe this is one of the many reasons people prefer texting over telephoning, and I confess that I’m one of them.) When your children are listening to you and not looking at the book, they are also looking at you–they are making that eye contact.  That’s why singing to your child is so important as you tend to have the lyrics memorized.

Book Review: Baby Monkey, Private Eye


As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:

When I picked up this book, I thought it was made of magnetic paper, it was so hefty and downright luxurious to the touch.  Baby Monkey, Private Eye is a classic example of style over substance. Even though I find monkeys creepy (like clowns and puppets), the black-and-white pencil drawings with lots of negative space were easy on the eye.   

The type was large and in a non-fancy font, so this was a great book for beginning readers.  However, each of the five chapters contained eight pages dedicated to the monkey putting on his pants.  I understand that kids enjoy repetition, but these pages could’ve been condensed to one, saving a few trees.

As for the mysteries, they were practically nonexistent.  The first time, I honestly thought two of the pages had stuck together because the monkey solves the case just by following a trail out of his office.  He goes from Point A to Point C–just like that.

However, I did like that the monkey read books, ate healthy snacks, and took notes, showing that he needed to do these things to do his job well.  I appreciated the “noirish” atmosphere and the references embedded in the office scenes (e.g. maps, paintings, sculptures, et cetera) that correlated with each case.  The newspaper headlines at the end of each chapter could’ve been cleverer, but like everything else, I believe these stories were meant to show patterns–giving children a chance to guess (and guess correctly) at what would happen next.

The last story was strange because it made you realize that you were reading about a crime-solving, crib-sleeping tot; a grown-up monkey would’ve made more sense, but maybe this monkey was a prodigy and the vics coming to him for help were dullards who wouldn’t know a detective from a hole in their head.  

Another goodreads reviewer pointed out that Baby Monkey met his clients pantless but put on pants (with great difficulty) before investigating, so the vics would see Baby Monkey’s junk but not the perps.  The whole pants angle should have been squashed; he should’ve been wearing something the entire time rather than being “in the buff” while on duty.  

One interesting thing I noticed was that when Baby Monkey was in his crib, all his stuffed animals were the same animals as the perps, so perhaps his “cases” were all a dream, which would make this story make more sense. To me, the idea of a baby monkey acting adult-like was as creepy as the baby in Toy Story 3.

Overall, the idea of this book and the illustrations are what made it worthwhile as a library read but not as something to add to my daughter’s personal library.  I feel like the story was written for the pictures rather than the pictures were drawn for the story.  

My daughter enjoyed it, but then, with awesome illustrations and enough imagination and storytelling finesse, you can make even the most lackluster story shine.  

Suggested coordinating activity:  Create a scavenger hunt, but customize it to fit your child’s needs.  For me, I like to do a prepositional hunt by having my daughter look for a book that I’ve placed somewhere (with the title her only clue), making sure as I have her search that I tell her it’s “above this/under that”, “next to this/next to that,” et cetera.  She’s got her verbs down, so this exercise helps her learn how to find things by following directions and using the powers of deduction.

Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp 2019

Hannah (1)

Many moons ago, I read a blog post that we only have 18 summers with our children, and then they are gone.

So I wanted to do something different with my daughter this season–something besides spending lots of time in the pool, making (and helping her meet) educational and life skill goals, and taking weekenderly (just feeling Shakespearish here) field trips to various places (e.g. museums, the beach, free family events, et cetera).

I searched for a list of books to start my own post-kindergarten summer reading program and found this list of “notable” children’s books of 2019:

Being a fan of goal and to-do lists, this was it for me.  There are 37 books on the list, and because I will be reading them multiple times (in addition to her favorites), this is plenty.  I had originally planned on coming up with an activity pertaining to each book, but that was just a bit too ambitious for me.  I’ll save that for next year.

After every reading, I will post a review of the book.  If I can pry any thoughts out my daughter, I will include those as well.

My daughter’s at the age where she is just starting to learn to read; I want to make reading and the love of doing so a tradition that will become a legacy.

Library Times

Library Times

Bibliophilia was contracted amongst the stacks–
between the covers,
both soft & hard,
some covered in dusty, peeling plastic.
Some sheets were glossy,
others, matte–
all with a font print
ranging from Caslon to Garamond.
Sometimes the words were ugly & raw,
& sometimes they were polished & very beautiful,
but no matter what,
the pages always cut.
For reading was still,
in these modern times,
a tactile activity for many.

Then came the e-readers,
& with one swipe,
a genetically-modified generation would never know
the feel of paper,
the smell of ink,
the act of turning the page versus scrolling,
& yet,
books in the ether
were free from ban & burn.

On Books

Books are little things that lead to big experiences:
They open minds and doors,
they let you live large,
even while of meager means.
You open a book,
you open up a whole world,
wider than you could ever have imagined.
The words on a page
are like a roadmap to discovery,
but the spaces,
that reading between the lines—
that is where the imagination goes to work.