A Memoir of Mother Goose

All I ever really needed to know, I learned long before kindergarten, from the adults who loved me.

Mother Goose was my first exposure to literature. I grew up with my dad reading it to me, and now I read it to my child. I’ve found that having a child is not like reliving my childhood, but enjoying, in a different way, the things I once did.

1991 (4).jpg

My dad, when I was a little girl.

For more than twenty years, I didn’t swing on a swing (just in porch swings, like my grandparents) or jumped on a trampoline. While my daughter colors with crayons or plays with Play-Doh—smells that bring back memories of burnt sienna and purple meatballs—I am not brought back, but rather, the past is brought to me.

That rhyme about the old woman in the shoe, who had so many children she didn’t know what to do? I remember the mother kissing them all sweetly and sending them to bed, not “whipping them all soundly,” as I have since discovered was the original rhyme. The children were also going to bed hungry, with nothing but broth and no bread to soak it up.

I grew up on Disney and its sanitization of fairy tales.

In that way, I had a magical childhood, and that is what I strive to give to my daughter. There is time enough for her to learn the not-so-good things that exist in our fallen world.

Childhood is precious and fleeting, for when else do we get to be kids, to believe in Santa Claus and friendly animals and always-happy endings?

Whenever my dad read me “Little Boy Blue,” before he would get to the part about the boy crying (if awakened), I would beg him not to finish it. When you’re a kid, you never cry because you’re happy—that’s what laughter is for.

Now I can understand why “Little Boy Blue” would cry if someone woke him up, as I feel like crying when my alarm goes off in the morning.

Rub-a-dub-dub,
Three men in a tub,
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick maker,
They all jumped out of a rotten potato.
Turn ‘em out, knaves all three.

When I was a “sack of potatoes,” as my dad called me, my uncle Bill would run me through the rhyme above, just to hear me say, after the first line, “Three foul balls in a tub.”

I’m sure he taught me that.

Bill.png

My uncle, as I knew him when I was a child.

This was the same guy, after all, who said there was a certain hair in your nose that was connected to your brain, which would kill you if you pulled it.

I think we do things for our parents because we want to please them, but in the case of my uncle, I think I liked the laughs.

Perhaps, even then, a funny seed was planted, and a funny bone was developed.

I just wouldn’t know it was there until many years later.

Hearts, like doors, will open with ease
To very, very little keys.
And don’t forget that two of these
Are “I thank you” and “if you please.”

Every summer, from ages nine to thirteen, I spent my summer vacations in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, with my grandma and grandpa.

My Grandma Booker, a mother of two boys, always told me roughhousing was for outside and to chew with your mouth closed. She showed me the only palatable way to eat peanut butter, which was drizzled (or, in my case, drenched) with Karo syrup. She taught me that a word was only a curse if God was in front of it, which I didn’t really understand, because my parents never used the Lord’s name in vain.

Grandma and Jacques

My grandma, as I knew her when I was a child, with their dog, Jacques.

Even though she also said drinking coffee would turn your feet black, and if you swallowed a watermelon seed, melons would grow out of your ears, she still possessed plenty of wisdom. Even though I wouldn’t understand everything I heard until adulthood, I did understand when she said the three most important phrases were “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.”

It is from your elders that you learn your manners, which are the earliest form of soft skills.

When I was a nanny in Sidney, Montana, I was chastised for calling my boss “sir,” and he said something like, “I know in the South, you do all that sir and ma’am business, but we don’t do that around here.” That was the first time I had ever been criticized for my manners.

Since I was not comfortable calling him by his first name (even Alice called Mike and Carol Mr. and Mrs. Brady, and she was practically part of the family), I just didn’t call him anything.

Now, when someone calls me ma’am, like the math tutor who is technically young enough to be my son, it makes me feel old, but I don’t ask him not to call me that, because it is a sign of respect—just like holding the door open for people, regardless of gender, is having manners.

The two signs my daughter knows more than any other is “Thank you” and “Please.” (“You’re welcome” in American Sign Language is the same as “thank you.”) I still remind her to mind her manners.

A wise old owl sat in an oak,
The more he heard, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why aren’t we all like that wise old bird?

In high school, I was the Bashful Dwarf, but one of my fondest memories was during my sophomore year. I had a such huge crush on an Environmental Science teacher—a man who looked like a Ken doll (except heterosexual)—that I chose a zero over getting up in front of class. Public speaking always made me break out in hives.

That said, it was all worth it not to look like a fool in front of Mr. Bauer, for whom I would’ve learned to become a botanist.

High school graduation night at Mr. Manatee's

Me, May 1999, at my high school graduation celebratory dinner at Mr. Manatee’s restaurant, which is gone now.

Years later, I would learn it’s the smart people that listened more than they spoke. Maybe that was why the other kids always assumed I was the brilliant one.

Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater,
Had another, and didn’t love her;
Peter learned to read and spell,
And then he loved her very well.

When I graduated from high school nineteen years ago, I didn’t know it, but I was looking for a place to belong; I thought I’d found it in the Mormon Church.

The Mormons say that the glory of God is intelligence. I always thought it was love, but when you think about it, intelligence increases compassion. I think that was why Jesus was so compassionate; He could see into people’s souls.

He knew why they were broken.

It’s strange, but when I was a Mormon, and a college education was encouraged (whereas a career outside the home, for a woman, was not), I was more interested in finding a husband, for a woman’s worth was so tied into being a wife, and especially a mother. It wasn’t till years after I left the Church and had a husband and one-year-old daughter that I was ready for that college education and learned that a woman was no more selfish for having a career and a family than a man was.

Perfectionism is stressed to Latter-day Saints, and whereas men take it in stride, women take it to heart. The irony is that when I stopped trying to be perfect I was happier, made more progress, and even felt closer to the God they’d recreated in their image.

Hannah Bantry, in the pantry,
Gnawing at a mutton bone;
How she gnawed it,
How she clawed it,
When she found herself alone.

I was almost thirty-two when I had my first child. It took me three days to get used to the idea (I was three months along before I knew), for I’d grown up seeing women with young children looking harried and unkempt; I didn’t want to become that, but the first time I saw my Hannah Banana in the ultrasound, I was transfixed.

For me, teaching and nursing were callings, but motherhood was a sacred calling.
I couldn’t find my cell phone half the time, and every plant I had ever owned died (so much for a botany career), so I wasn’t sure about having to keep up with this little being all the time, but a mother’s instinct kicked in when I held her for the first time.

With Hannah, I got a little more than I was expecting, though I didn’t know she wasn’t perfect, for she was perfect to me.

She still is.

Pink bundle

Me, with baby Hannah, fresh from the hospital.

My daughter is a Tuesday child, “full of grace,” and Hannah literally means grace. Hannah Beth Richards is a quirky kid, or “on the spectrum,” as some would say; I say she is every color in it.

She was so curious and into everything—opening the dishwasher and standing on the door, crawling into closets to play, and getting into the pantry, chewing through the onions and potatoes. A refrain that could often be heard was, “Hannah, out of the pantry,” though she probably thought, “Dammit, Hannah!” was her name for a while.
Though we no longer have a pantry, we have cupboards, and now our refrain is “Hannah, out of the kitchen.”

Multiplication is vexation,
Division is as bad;
The rule of three perplexes me,
And practice drives me mad.

When Hannah was a year old, I decided to enroll at Pensacola State College as a Health Information Technology student. Though I was married (and still am), I knew I’d need to make more money—I had an extra responsibility now.

I’d let math scare me away from college—just because I wasn’t naturally good at it.
When I went back to school, I took all my other classes first, pushing the math till the end. It helped to have “the wind at my back,” as my dad would say, because it was that wind that pushed me forward.

In the spring of 2018, I took College Algebra and Elementary Statistics (which was anything but elementary), so I could still qualify as a work-study student. If there’s anything I hate more than math, it’s looking for a job.

So, I stressed out for sixteen weeks, spending eighty hours in the Math Lab, ending up with two B’s; I’d never been so proud of B’s in my life.

My uncle said his brother was the only one he ever knew who went to college to “get an education.” Apart from a little substitute teaching on the side and doing taxes during tax season, Dad never used his degree for money.

Had I gone to college for the same reason as my dad, I might not have sallied forth.

For Dad, education was its own reward.

For me, it was as much about the education as it was about the experience, and the most important lesson I learned was that I was smart enough for college after all.

A dillar, a dollar, a ten o’clock scholar!
What makes you come so soon?
You used to come at ten o’clock,
But now you come at noon.

241 (1)

Me, December 2018, at my college graduation.

An abridged version of this piece was published in The Kilgore Review (2019), having placed first in the nonfiction category of Pensacola State College’s annual Walter F. Spara Writing Contest.

 

Book Review: The Wall in the Middle of the Book

Wall

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

Take away the painfully obvious reference to Trump’s wall, and what do you have?  A dull story. 

This is another classic case of the message getting in the way of the telling.

The book has a fair amount of negative white space, which is a good thing.  However, what is there isn’t much; The Wall reads like a Dick and Jane basal reader, and the illustrations are ho-hum (or fee-fi-fo-fum).

That said, using the physical structure of the actual book to serve as the brick wall in the middle of the book is clever and the best part of it.

As I read this, I found myself not enjoying the story but rather trying to figure out what the author meant when the large (and typically scary) animals on the other side (who are trying to climb over the wall) freak out over a mouse, instantly making these rotund, exotic animals (who are more or less indigenous to the African continent) less scary.

The missing brick, for me, represented that no matter how good a firewall (or a border wall <cough, cough>) is, there is always a way around it (or under it, etc.).

About halfway through, the little knight is proclaiming how safe his side of the wall is while his side turns more and more treacherous the higher he climbs up the wall.  The animals disappear, and now there is a giant (seemingly scary) ogre on the other side.  However, the boy is so focused on how safe his side is and how unsafe the other side is that he doesn’t notice the dangers on his side until it’s almost too late, and the ogre saves him.

My take?  The water levels rising below the little knight with a shark ready to make a snack out of him represent global warming and Americans involved with child trafficking. 

The other side of the wall is portrayed as downright “fantastic”⁠—where ogres are lifeguards and wild animals are herbivorous and there is only imagined danger.  Apparently, people risk their lives to go to the little knight’s side because it’s so good on their side and not on his, and drug cartels are a myth.  I don’t blame anyone for wanting to escape from that.

The Wall in the Middle of the Book is not a terrible book; it’s not just a terribly interesting one.

Suggested activity: Most every child has an activity table (horizontal surface); let them have a wall (vertical surface) to mess up. Put up a whiteboard wall or paint a chalkboard one.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37969835-the-wall-in-the-middle-of-the-book

Book Review: Let the Children March

March

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

What I liked about this book is that it uses all of its real estate (a historical timeline with children holding up cards like protest signs is printed inside the cover; it was clever and visually appealing).

The illustrations capture that time period perfectly with its retro colors.  Let the Children March opens with a child’s-eye view of a chain link fence supporting a White Only sign.

Even though it is stated that Dr. King is in a church, a Bible passage that Dr. King also used should have been included (though I can understand the author wanting this book to appeal to more than just Christians, as equality is an issue that should transcend religion).  The page of Dr. King in profile behind the microphone with his Bible on the pulpit was a powerful image and a wonderful likeness. 

This book contains some of the best children’s illustrations I’ve seen, as so much depth of emotion is conveyed in the faces of the main characters.  

I can understand why the adults feel like they don’t have the freedom to march–as exercising that freedom would come with consequences⁠—out of fear of losing their livelihoods.  You’re told you have these rights, but if you exercise them, there are dire consequences.  No one should have to choose between their jobs and their freedom.  

March showed the fearlessness of children⁠—children who were able to do what their parents could not.  They represented an almost innocent sacrifice, though it is stated that Dr. King did not like children being put in harm’s way.  It is heartbreaking that children had to fight for what adults should have been able to fight for them rather than just be children, learning to read and playing with their friends.  How frightening it must have been to march towards the unknown, knowing only that it was filled with angry people who were much bigger than you.  

The aerial shot of the children surrounded by hate in the form of angry dogs and rushing water made my throat catch.  The policeman with the hat over his eyes, pulling the curtain on the windows to his soul as he pushed a little girl by the neck and locked these young children into a jail cell was chilling. 

Children need to see that Dr. King promoted non-violence as the news prefers to cover only violent protesters.  It would’ve been nice to include the song lyrics to the songs of freedom.

“For they are doing a job for not only themselves, but for all of America and for all mankind,” Dr. King says.  I think this was an important quote to include because what is not good for a certain group of citizens cannot be good for any citizen, as it promotes feelings of disenfranchisement and stirs unrest.  

The juxtaposition of the white parents whose children sat safely between them in the comfort of their own home, watching the television where this ugliness was not a part of their world but something they saw on TV with the black parents being separated from theirs, not knowing what might happen to them, struck a chord.  I could just feel love and relief emanating from the black parents who held their children in their arms as if they never wanted to let them go, contrasting this tableau with the white parents who didn’t have to hold onto their children so tightly, knowing that they would never be targeted because of their racial make-up.

I greatly admire these (fictitious but based on truth) followers of Dr. King, for it must have taken an amazing amount of grace for them not to become violent back; they gave their enemies no ammunition for treating them like non-persons.   

The last picture shows children in the park (bringing it back to the beginning), black and white, playing together; it was never the children who minded⁠—it was only some (not all) adults who wished for the races to remain separate.  

Let the Children March is a beautiful book that will help any child “walk in another’s shoes.”

Suggested activity: Read Dr. King’s most famous speech, but if you can, listen to it in his own voice. It’s all the difference between reading someone else’s poem to yourself and listening to the poet who wrote it, speak it.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32510367-let-the-children-march

Book Review: Bowwow Powwow

BowWow

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

The only redeeming value of Bowwow Powwow was the title, with its nod to ablaut reduplication (https://www.rd.com/culture/ablaut-reduplication/).

I can understand why the author would make this book bilingual—if it was only published in the Ojibwe language, few would buy it, so including the English translation was smart.  

It has been said that in 100 years, the only languages that will be around will be English, Spanish, and Mandarin, which I think is a shame, for I do believe it is important to preserve languages (like animal species, trees, art, etc.), especially in this world that is becoming increasingly homogenized.  

The illustrations were awful—flat, without nuance, and downright creepy—all had a darkness to them and the people looked like something out of a cheap comic book.

The humanoid dogs and cats—wearing human clothing, marching, and playing the drum—was extremely creepy; closer representations to nature would’ve been appreciated.  And what was up with all the sunglasses when it was dark out? Was it to mask the windows of their souls? 

Though those who have an interest in Native American customs would probably give this book a look, especially those who are a part of the Ojibwe heritage, but there isn’t a story here; rather, the nonfiction portions would’ve been better rewritten as a passage in a World Book Encyclopedia or Encyclopedia Britannica, sans the illustrations.

I generally come up with a suggested activity related to the book, but when I hate a book this much, I just don’t have it in me to do that.  

Highly not recommended.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39665297-bowwow-powwow

Book Review: All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah

Jewish holiday

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

For those unfamiliar with the Jewish faith, this is an excellent introduction to one of its biggest holidays.  The most I knew about Hanukkah was from watching the 1959 film, The Diary of Anne Frank.  I don’t think the title does it justice (Gertie’s Hanukkah would’ve been a better title and made a lot more sense), but the illustrations worked (as the illustrator said, she kept them roughlike potato latkes); they reminded me a lot of Mercer Mayer’s (of Little Critter fame).  These earth-toned sketches fit the impoverished setting (life was hard if you lived in a tenement; A Tree Grows in Brooklyn came to mind, except the family was Irish rather than Jewish).

The title page is nice, but more NYC background throughout the book would’ve been great.  I have noticed in many children’s books that maps are sometimes printed inside the covers—I think that should’ve been done in this one, which would’ve added another teaching tool.

The story is simple and relatable—younger girl wants to do what the older girls are doing, which the youngest of any family could relate to. My daughter loved the page where all the girls are cooking—it is something she is quite familiar with.  All the illustrations should’ve stuck with a double-page spread layout.

Though this is set in the era of “children are seen not heard,” the mother—who appears authoritarian and much more masculine than her husband—should’ve tried to find something for Gertie to do—telling her child to look at a book or go play, rejecting her when she actually WANTS to help, was not nurturing at all.  Children want to feel included, not be exiled. Besides, Gertie can hear her sisters having fun while she is banished to her bedroom as punishment.  How was that supposed to make Gertie feel? A lot of things take longer with kids, but when they want to help, let them, because the time will come when they won’t be offering.  

But, Gertie’s dad understands and lets her have the job of lighting the menorah (with his help); the picture of him holding Gertie to light the candle was my favorite. 

I liked that a glossary was included but rather than putting it in the back, there should’ve been footnotes at the bottom of the page, as flipping back and forth disrupts the story. 

The deal with the dad asking Gertie’s pillow and library book where she was was odd—if you’re going to ask an inanimate object, ask a doll or stuffed animal—something with a face. 

I’m glad the author just stated that the blessings were done in Hebrew rather than including them.  I’ve never liked other languages (other than the occasional word, accompanied with a context clue) embedded in the story as they detract from the story; I often end up skipping over them anyway.

The last picture is heartwarming—I loved looking through their window, watching this large family sit around a table, enjoying a holiday meal.  I got the impression that the mother offered Gertie the first latke as a consolation prize/peace offering, which was her way of saying sorry without admitting she was wrong. 

All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah is the kind of book I like just enough to read around that time of the year.  

Suggested activity:  It is interesting to note that many miracles have to do with increase (i.e. making something last longer or increase in number).  Whether or not you’re spiritual or religious, show how being thankful can make what you have seem like more than you have, as it takes the focus off what you don’t have.  Have your child write down (or say) what they are grateful for—a reverse holiday wish list. You can even make a game of it by making it less serious (e.g. I’m thankful for the letter X because it gets me a lot of points in Scrabble).  Watch some of Jimmy Fallon’s “Thank you notes” for ideas.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31193452-all-of-a-kind-family-hanukkah

Book Review: The Rough Patch

Patch

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

I’ve always found it strange when animals have other animals as pets (I’m still getting over Minnie Mouse, a giant rodent, having Figaro the cat as a pet)⁠—just like a fox owning a dog, when dogs generally hunt them down. What’s more, Evan was an odd choice for a fox’s name⁠—I think Mr. Fox would’ve been better. (Generic names worked for The Berenstain Bears.) However, Evan should’ve been a little boy rather than a grown-up fox (or even a grown-up human).

Yes, it just seemed strange for one animal to be practically human but the dog to be just a dog (i.e. like Mickey and Pluto). Disney made it work but Mr. Lies—not so much.

The author did, however, beautifully capture the weather, mood, and time of day with different “filters” and conveyed Evan’s grief perfectly (and heartbreakingly so) in the scene where he sets his paw on his dead dog, their faces turned away from the reader, which lent to the tableau a certain dignity. The lack of background on that page solely was symbolic of how alone Evan felt.

This is the only book I’ve read in this challenge that made me choke up, especially when Evan destroys what he and his dog loved⁠—turning their Garden of Eden into a rough patch of weeds that looked like something out of a Tim Burton movie—hacking his garden to pieces so that nothing good would ever grow there, reflecting the bitter, angry plot that had grown in his heart.

The Rough Patch shows that whatever we choose to nurture will grow. When an ugly vine snakes in under the fence—a vine Evan hopes will choke the life out of his garden—he decides to give it his care, only for it to grow into a prize-winning pumpkin⁠.

The juxtaposition of the cheery bluebirds and the creepy blackbirds, the cartoonish scarecrow and the shrub tree monster, the nourishing vegetables and the fruitless weeds (the last of which, along with pests, were fabled not to exist until after The Fall and death entered the Garden), the joyous sundown vs. the ominous twilight served as an allegory of Genesis, with Death representing Cain, the dog, Abel, and the new pup, Seth. Some might even see the Son of God as the pumpkin (fruit of the “True Vine”) that grows its way into Evan’s garden to finally ripen in his heart.

We know at the end that Evan is ready to make another friend, but I would’ve liked to have seen him plant something over the rough patch where his dog was buried.

What makes this story timeless is the lack of technology depicted—where a fox and a fox’s best friend (in this alternate universe) enjoy outdoor games, gardening, music on the radio, and sweet treats like old-fashioned ice cream cones. However, what kept this book from hitting the 5-star mark was the fox being a little too human and the abrupt ending; it needed an epilogue showing the happily ever after rather than alluding to it.

Suggested activity: I’m a huge fan of frozen vegetables⁠—they’re cheap, healthy, and taste good. They don’t go bad and make great soup additions. However, take a field trip to your local farmer’s market where it’s as much about buying produce as it is about the experience—where you’re able to feel and smell the produce (and sometimes even taste it⁠). Show your child(ren) that good food comes in a rainbow of colors. I often plate a pinwheel shape of different fruits and vegetables, and my daughter loves it.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35887584-the-rough-patch

Book Review: Blue

Blue

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

The more I read this book, the more I liked it. The keyhole cutouts in the delightful thickness of these pages seemed unnecessary, but my daughter enjoyed locating them; the book’s square shape and the large, simple, bold font is perfection. The lush, sumptuous color—bright but not unnaturally so—so beautifully textured, is stunning. Most of these pages, given the panoramic treatment in double-page spreads that bleed into the spine, would make perfect nursery art: the deep, twilight blue butterflies were like something out of a Technicolor fairy tale, the water shooting out of the garden hose captured the summertime magic of childhood, the granular texture of the snow against the smooth, sable brown of the tree was striking, and the brushstrokes depicting the frothy whitecaps looked so real, I almost expected to feel seafoam.

Simply titled, Blue has a very organic feel—a certain spirituality and harmony with nature (including human nature). It is a childlike, coming-of-age tale.

The concept is rather interesting, for how many unexpected ways can we describe blue using the word blue (i.e. besides light, dark, powder, navy, etc.)? It’s almost like a series of paintings turned into a poem. Everything that was described as blue was connected with an emotion, a state of being, or something gifted to us by the Creator; Laura Vaccaro Seeger totally nailed midnight blue.

Though few words, it tells a story. Each two-word set “maybe blue,” “true blue,” etc., I treated as the title of the story that the pictures painted. Blue is open-ended enough where you can add to the story, but not so open-ended that there is no story. I’m not a fan of wordless picture books (and this was close to it), but the way I felt while “reading” this timeless tale of friendship—the boy growing up while his dog grew old—resonated with me. No preaching, no message—just life—distilled into the most poignant parts.

It was sweet that the boy (now a young man who had yet to befriend another dog) met his true love through their love of dogs—her dog actually seems to choose him first, as if it sensed another dog lover, leading (or rather, dragging) her to her destiny.

My daughter liked this one, and I enjoyed reading it to her. Blue is the kind of book I read when I want not just to make a memory but a connection. If there was a complete set on all the colors, I would buy everyone one of these books.

Suggested activity: Numbers, letters, shapes, and colors are some of the earliest building blocks of learning. When I was a child, getting Crayola’s 64-count with the built-in sharpener was something quite magical. Try having your child come up with naming their own colors (they don’t have to be blue; I was always intrigued by names like periwinkle and lavender; if your child is older, you can come up with double adjectives, like mascarpone-white or tiramisu-tan. Someone has to come up with all of those names, after all. For a field trip, go to a paint store and get a handful of paint sample cards (which I’ve used to make Christmas cards: https://onelittleproject.com/paint-chip-christmas-cards/). And take time out to visit the author’s website. It’s gorgeous! https://studiolvs.com/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37534395-blue

Book Review: See Pip Flap

Pip

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

The purpose of See Pip Flap is to introduce reading to children just learning how.  In that respect, it works beautifully. What’s more, there is actually a story here where the words and pictures are equally important.  That said, a little repetition is fine, but we don’t need the word flap fifteen times in a row. At least reduce the flaps to three, following it with something else between flaps.

Basically, a mouse named Pip wants to fly with his bird friend, Tweet.  So, Otto the Robot seeks to equalize things for his friend by building a remote-controlled drone for Pip to be able to see what Tweet sees.  (Just remind your child that mice can do things birds can’t do, like burrow under tiny spaces.) Pip’s persistence, combined with Otto’s know-how, made Pip’s dream flight happen.

See Pip Flap was awarded the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor, and it does remind me of Dr. Seuss’s early learning books.  It takes some talent to make a simple book like this enjoyable for the parent. The illustrations aren’t as good as Seuss’s, but they’re just as cute.  Page numbers would’ve been a nice addition, as I’ve taught my child her double digits that way; when children see numbers used in practical applications (e.g. digital clocks) rather than just flash cards which are only used for the purpose of memorization, they see the why, not just the what.   

Of course, my daughter being a lover of robots was a sell for me.  Anything that introduces children to technology (and how it can help overcome challenges) is a plus.  

Suggested activity:  Just as animals have their ways of communication, they also have their ways of moving.  Fish swim, snakes slither, turtles crawl, etc. Teach your child about these modes of transportation–even how humans get from one place to another (e.g. horse and buggy, bicycles, cars, trains, planes, etc).  Such is a good way to teach your child about the sixth sense: kinesthetics (the sense of movement): https://www.painscience.com/articles/sixth-sense.php.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38533032-see-pip-flap

Book Review: Thank You, Omu!

Omu

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

Thank you, Omu, is a story about a single, grandmotherly lady with a giving heart, though I’m afraid this book might teach my child that it is acceptable for random strangers (after all, Omu refers to her visitors as Ms. Police Officer, Mr. Hot Dog Vendor, etc.) to just show up at one’s door, unannounced and asking for free food.  Lucky for Omu that in a Capra-esque way, they return her generosity tenfold.  

However, the story would’ve been more believable had it centered on Omu’s apartment neighbors rather than nameless strangers.  

The illustrations aren’t that great, yet I liked them.  The inside of the book is printed with a birds-eye view of the city; the collaging medium using newspapers (in part) fit the big city vibe, though some of the cutouts (like the faceless people in the bus) seemed thrown in to fill space.  Some finer detail work would’ve added depth and interest–like a title on the book Omu was reading. The colors are muted and the paper almost has a recycled feel, the look making me think of brown paper bags–as humble and heartwarming as Omu’s stew.  

I didn’t like the font changing back and forth; font should always be kept plain when it’s part of the text.  (However, when it’s part of the art, anything goes.) Furthermore, I didn’t care for the giant “Knock” words as they came across as loud banging rather than polite knocking.

I’m glad the author included a policewoman but not a woman construction worker in the attempt to be politically correct at the expense of believability.  

What I got from this story is that food, made with love–including self-love–brings people together.  It was almost a Biblical allegory in that there was no way Omu made that much stew for herself yet had enough to feed everyone who came.

This was a nice effort, and one I will read to my daughter again.  Also check out the author’s website–very sleek and comprehensive.  

The little thank you card at the end was perfect–it brought me back to the days when my parents and I would invite the Mormon missionaries over for dinner, and they’d always leave one as a surprise.

Don’t let thank you cards become a thing of the past.

My note to the author:  “A thick red stew” was repeated so much, I wish the recipe had been included.  Little extras like that are like a lagniappe, and such would be a great addition to your site.

Suggested activity:  Go over the list of vocations mentioned in the book.  Ask what a cop does, a baker, a mayor, etc. Convey to your child that by working, we make the world work.  As a child, I loved dreaming about what I wanted to be when I grew up, which was everything from a “beauty shopper” (i.e. beautician) to a chocolate cake baker.  Let your child dream and imagine, showing them that working with your hands as well as your mind can help solve at least one of the world’s problems somewhere, and that a trade school certification is just as honorable as a college degree.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34642482-thank-you-omu