Book Review: Black Bird, Yellow Sun

Black bird

As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp: https://sarahleastories.com/2019/06/08/post-k-summer-reading-boot-camp-2019/

Black Bird, Yellow Sun, is like a poor-man’s Eric Carle. This is down there with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, which is one of the worst kids books ever–in words and pictures. I try to keep in mind that I can’t expect (nor should I expect) a striking narrative for an early board book. However, the words are large and contain repetitions of blends (e.g. bl for black, sn for snake, etc)–great for early readers. That said, the illustrations are quite bad–the rocks don’t even look like rocks but gray blobs. The bird isn’t a character but rather, just some random bird who coexists with a worm (also random). If you don’t like this (and even if you do), I highly recommend Little Owl’s Day and Little Owl’s Night (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20307476-little-owl-s-day?from_search=true). The Owl books are the charming, narrative versions of the stark bullet points of Black Bird.

BBYS is one of those books you’d give to your child to play with and look at but not add to your library where they might actually last for the grandchildren.

Suggested activity: Use this book as a scavenger hunt guide (i.e. have your child look for pink flowers, gray rocks, et cetera).

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#Micropoetry Monday: Opposites

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She was Earth Science,
he, Astronomy.
She was as easy
as he was hard,
for she was the only world she knew,
even as he was everything else.

He was Math Lab,
she, Writing Lab.
She liked to make her case
by pointing out the existence
of word problems,
even as he liked to make his
by saying that the words
were the problem.

She’d graduated from the University of Strunk & White,
& he, from the School of Hard Knocks.
He taught her how to defend herself
even as she taught him how to present himself.

Book Review: Baby Monkey, Private Eye

Monkey

As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:  https://sarahleastories.com/2019/06/08/post-k-summer-reading-boot-camp-2019/

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.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #484: Summer

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Summer is Longer Here

She is the interlude who dances between the equinoxes,
her breath hot,
humid,
floral.
She is the intermission between grades–
not an interruption of education
but a continuance of all that is learned
beyond the glossy walls covered with old tape and dirty fingerprints,
of thin carpet pebbled with dried glue and freckled with chalkboard dust–
all of which make up the little factories that teach every child
like he or she was the same child.
She is the time for sleeping till not sleepy,
of standing in the rain without catching a cold,
and making messes outside that don’t have to be cleaned up.
She is the time for playing in the sun and sitting in the shade,
of lemon icebox pie on little saucers
and raspberry mint lemonade in tall glasses,
with more ice cubes than ade.
Then it is time to grow up,
and life is no longer measured in spring breaks
or summer vacations,
passing grades
or failing semesters.
Times such as summers gone by no longer come in huge swaths
but in moments strung together.
These former children find themselves wishing
they had enjoyed those summers even more,
but they did not know what they could not see
and now,
those moments stolen from themselves are spent
making their children’s summers everything they will remember
and one day long for.

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 485

#Micropoetry Monday: Opposites

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He was Shakespeare,
she, greeting cards.
She saw in him,
a man who took himself too seriously,
even as he saw her as a woman
who didn’t take herself seriously enough.
He exposed her to words
that meant something,
even as she exposed him to words
that had once meant something
to someone
on their best days &
on their worst days.

He wrote love stories,
she, romance novels.
Each believed the other
to be inferior—
hers in literary merit,
his in marketplace value,
though they both practiced
self-love
by doing what they loved.

She was finishing school,
he, vocational.
She made rumors people used
for the detriment
of their peers,
whereas he made things people could use
for the benefit of them.
When she decided she wanted
to “go slumming”
by trying someone new,
he told her that he only knew how
to work with wood,
not stone.

Truth is its own magic: A Mother’s Day message

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When you’re a mom, some of the things that come out of your mouth may sound strange:  “Don’t chew on Jesus,” “Will you just hurry up and poop?”, and “Stop putting chicken on your head!”, are some of my greatest hits.

As I was getting my daughter ready for bed the other night, thinking about what I wanted to read to her (praying she wouldn’t mention Minnie, as in The Mouse), the Beatitudes of Jesus came to mind.  I realized then that I’ve spent so much time reading and singing to her and teaching her the things she will need to know to get on here–like letters and numbers, saying “thank you” and not littering–that I hadn’t focused much on the religious part of her education.

Thinking back, that’s exactly how my parents raised me.  For them, church was something you needed if you were an ass.

When I was in high school in the nineties, a lot of kids were self-proclaimed “Jesus freaks,” wearing “True Love Waits” rings and WWJD bracelets.  There was a lot of talk about the rapture and born-again virginity.  Church was their social life, Praise and Worship music their vibe.  Some of them even carried their Bibles around at school.  

Just as Felicity (remember that WB show?) followed a boy to college, I, a freshman, followed a senior boy to his church.  One evening, after service had ended, we sat in a pew as he led me through the salvation prayer, and I was like, “That’s it?  Are you sure? It’s that easy?”

I had been expecting a feeling–a total transformation like Saul’s to Paul–and now I wonder when Jesus told Doubting Thomas that (and I paraphrase) blessed are they who don’t see but believe, that “see” could also apply to “feel.”

Four years later, I joined the Mormon Church.  All the good feelings I had expected to feel when I had gotten saved, I felt then, but who isn’t going to feel good when they’re around so many friendly people who open their hearts and homes?  Even though it’s been years since I sent my name to Salt Lake to be expunged (er, removed) from the records, I will admit that the Church made me a more spiritual person.

In the Church, I was taught that the glory of God is intelligence and yet, according to these same people, for those who had mental challenges, the devil could not touch them. 

To my understanding, a lack of mental capacity (e.g. intelligence) saved a soul.  It seems contradictory, and yet, it somehow makes sense to me.

As I gaze upon my child, I see that light and intelligence.  She knows so much more than she communicates, which can be frustrating, but I have learned to overcome the need to explain why she is the way she is to people who don’t know her–to explain why she doesn’t respond when people ask her her name–but then, I have had several people who’ve taken one look at her and ask if she’s autistic.

I may never know how much she understands, but I do know that I will teach her everything I know and believe, whether it’s that adverbs are the enemy of good writing or that respect doesn’t have to be earned but it can be lost.  (You don’t disrespect people until they “earn” your respect.)

I’ve striven so much to give her a magical childhood through imagination and storytelling.  (Children’s author, Nancy Tillman, is a master at this.)  Nearly every night, since my mom passed from this earth, I ask my daughter to tell Grandma “good-night” and “I love you” and to blow her a kiss.  And then I seemingly catch that kiss in midair, letting her open my hand and take it; sometimes I place my palm on the crown of her head–a blessing from Heaven.

Of course, I don’t really know how things work up there, but part of parenting, for me, has always been teaching truths with just a pinch of magic.

C.S. Lewis did that very thing with his Narnia series, just as I will someday do with mine.

#Micropoetry Monday: Strong Women

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She was Miss before she married
& took,
upon herself,
by her own free will & choice,
her husband’s name.
When people called her Ms.,
she didn’t bother correcting them,
for her husband had been a Mr.
before her,
& was a Mr. still.
But when someone addressed her
as Mrs. Jameson Adamson,
she did not answer to it,
for her identity was not
in who her husband was—
it was in who she was.

She was stripped of her pride,
but not of her dignity,
which she wore like a mink coat.

The graduate learned in her thirty-seventh year
that life was not about balance but priorities,
for the former was an unattainable ideal;
she learned that there was a season for everything,
for everything was beautiful in its time.
There was a time to learn
& a time to apply what one had learned.
There was a time to read
& a time to write about what one had read–
just as there was always a time to write,
a time to edit,
a time to share,
& a time to read what others shared.
There was a time to speak what she knew
& a time to listen to what she did not.
There was a time to go
& a time to stay,
a time to be something,
but more importantly,
a time to be someone.
There was a time to rise up
& a time to be content,
& it was in that latter time she would stay
until she mastered the tasks entrusted her
so that she could move on
to master
something else.