Posted in Books, Idle Chatter

nothing says happy mother’s day like a little raw fish

612Mj0FkueL._SL500_AA300_  So, I'm two days into my six-week run of solo-parenting; Chris packed his bags and left to start his new job in Vietnam on Wednesday. So far, so good, with the exception being an unexpected clean-up of puke in Sadie's room shortly after tucking her in last night. Amazingly, she miss her crib sheet completely, so I just needed to change her pajamas and sleepsack, wipe her face, and quickly wipe the floor. It was an isolated event, and the rest of the night passed without incident. I slept so well that I have no recollection of how two little girls ended up tucked in with me, but there were two extra bodies in the bed when I woke up around a quarter to six. 

It's also Mother's Day weekend – at least in countries other than Thailand, where Mother's Day is celebrated on the Queen's birthday. I remembered to send my mom a little something, and I'm planning to celebrate a day early myself. I made a massage appointment for Saturday, which means two whole hours of quiet for me. 

Mothers are the theme for this week's installment of Feed Me Books Friday, and I'm going to write about My Mom Loves Me More than Sushi, penned by Filomena Gomes. Our copy is autographed – if I recall correctly, the author lives in Calgary. The mom in this book is also solo (at least, there is no partner anywhere in the book), and this story is about how food brings her and her daughter closer together. The daughter is the narrator, and as she remembers making jamabalya or Portugese chicken soup or any of the other international gourmet dishes, she remembers a comforting memory, an adventurous time, or feeling important as the sous-chef. It's a sweet story, really, and I never fail to feel a little hungry after reading it with Madeline. 

Now, I'm off to see what books others are blogging about for Feed Me Books Friday @ The Adventure of Motherhood.

Posted in Books

books are my favourite souvenirs

81dc3f96e7dd4237534d67bb873c5343 Sadie was tugging on leg this morning while I strained to make sense of the phone conversation I was having with a person for whom english was not his first language. I was quite lost until my caller said "Apple" and then it immediately clicked! My computer was fixed! It escaped the crowd of sixty thousand unhappy Thai people protesting in the Ratchaprasong shopping district, had a case/screen repair, and now it could be picked up at the location across from Chris's office, far from the mob of protesters! Do I need a better reason than that post about a book about Thailand for Feed Me Books Friday?

I picked up a copy of When I Grow Up (in Thailand) by Janice Santikarn at Asia Books yesterday. Obstensibly, this book is for Sadie – a little souvenir for my girl who is going to be too little to remember the country where she was born.

The guise of this book is that a little boy, growing up in Thailand, imagines himself in a variety of professions. What I like about this book is how it talks about the things that we see everyday - the police officers wearing their ultra-tight brown uniforms (which must be incredibly hot in the sun), the tuk-tuk drivers, the men and women who sell fruit from carts on the street, etc. I think that it will be a couple of years before Sadie gets into this book, as it's rather wordy, and the text on the back cover suggests "ages 5 – 8" but I think that she might like looking at the illustrations and even her big sister can talk about the times when we went to see traditional Thai dancers or watched mahouts do their work with elephants. I don't mind books that my kids will need to grow into one bit!

PS – check out more of this week's book reviews at The Adventure of Motherhood.

Posted in Books

stories from home

Between my busted MacBook, Songkran holidays, and school closures, my track record for participating in Feed Me Book Friday hasn't been that great lately, but I can squeeze a post in under the deadline today! And I'd like to write about three great reads for kids by Canadian authors.

Drumheller Dinosaur Dance was one of the first picture books that we ever read to Madeline. It's an awesome book because a) it's about dinosaurs – are dinosaurs ever not popular? b) the cadence of the repetitive  dinosaur rhythm is addictive – boomity boom, rattle-y clack, etc, and c) Drumheller and Dinosaur Provincial Park happens to be only a couple of hours away from where we lived, and Madeline's been there twice. The basic story is that at night, dinosaur bones un-dig themselves from the depths of the earth to have a dance party, much to the amazement and joy of pajama-clad children. It's just a lot of silly fun, but it's popular in my household.

When I was a child, I had a copy of Dennis Lee's Alligator Pie book of poetry, and I remember my own parents reading the verses to me at bedtime. Alligator Pie is still one of my favourite humourous poems, and Madeline has a small board book of it alone. Dennis Lee's poems are quite goofy in a way that probably appeals to the sensibilities of a young audience, and I remember being quite shocked the line "in Winnepeg, I'll eat your leg!" when I was really young.

At the risk of sounding un-Canadian, I have to admit that I don't care to read Robert Munsch to my kids, with the exception of The Paper Bag Princess. We all love this story, though, of Elizabeth donning a crispy paper bag and setting off to steal her prince back from the dragon that set her castle on fire. She's such a sensible girl, and more refreshing to read than a Disney-fied fairy tale.

Posted in Books

wherein i get in a little trouble by judging a book by it’s cover

I got a bit lazy at the library this week and picked out books from the shelf without getting a feel for the stories. For me to pick a book to read to my kids, it has to have good artwork on the cover, so often that is all it takes to get a pass from me. That's how I ended up reading I Remember Miss Perry to Madeline at bedtime on Wednesday night, and it's what I've got for this week's edition of Feed Me Books Friday.

I remember wondering, upon reading the title there amid the stacks, what exactly happens to the Miss Perry in the title that leads to her being remembered. The obvious sprang to mind, of course, but then, maybe Miss Perry was a fondly remembered supply teacher or maybe she was a kindly neighbour who moved away. So I checked it out. Midway through reading the book last night, though, it became apparent that I'd borrowed a book about a beloved teacher meeting her end in a traffic accident. Chris and I haven't exactly talked about dying with Madeline much, so I wasn't sure what she's make of it, but she continued to quietly listen as I read about how the class came back to lunch to find their parents sitting in their desks, and their school principal standing at the front of the room, saying that she had something sad to share with them. 

This is a very thoughtful and gentle book. It's the only book that I can recall reading to Madeline where one of the protagonists dies, and even though I am now paranoid that she will become inordinately worried about death and dying, I liked the simple messages in this picture book. No one needs to grieve alone – Miss Perry's class has their dearest loved ones to support them, their school counselor, and a very compassionate principal. Remember the important things about the person who has departed – in Miss Perry's case, it was her daily "fondest wish" that lead her students to grow academically or socially. And lastly, not to be too sad. It's hard to me to put my finger on exactly why that seems to be an important message, but it just feels right. Sort of like Charlotte's Web.

I can't end this post without mentioning that the illustrations are done by Stephane Jorisch, who also worked on another of my favourite picture book, Suki's Kimono. He has such a beautiful way of drawing people with attitude and grace at the same time. 

For more Feed Me Books Friday selections that probably aren't all about dying schoolteachers, go and visit The Adventure of Motherhood.

Posted in Books

even easter bunnies get the blues

When I was small like Madeline, my parents read me The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward. I memorised the fine illustrations while they read, and later, I read the book myself. So, I thought that I knew all about The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes and it would, of course, be a perfect book to write about for the Easter edition of Feed Me Books Friday.

It's the story of a bunny from the wrong side of town who aspires to be one of the Easter Bunnies from the time that she is a little girl-bunny to when she is a parent of twelve. The job traditionally went to rich or manly man-bunnies, who openly scoffed at the idea of a little girl bunny from out in the country ever joining their exclusive ranks. But one day when she's all grown up, she and her children turn up at the Easter Bunny try-outs, and manage to catch the attention of the old Grandfather Bunny, the one who chooses the new Easter Bunnies, and the story takes off from there. 

This picture book is a long read – I've summarised what first quarter to a third of the book – so it wasn't a great choice to read to Madeline until she could sustain her interest in a book for at least fifteen minutes. 

When I was doing a bit of research on this book for today's post, I learned something about it that shocked me. It was written in 1939! So, seventy-one years ago, an author wrote a novel about a little girl who stood up to the male establishment and broke the glass ceiling. How visionary! 

Posted in Books

worth repeating

Maybe it's just that my kids have good taste in reading material, but we own a lot of books that I don't mind reading several times. Of course, there are some that I reject for a myriad of reasons – Berenstain Bears because they're overly wordy and I think that the parents calling each other "Mama" and "Papa" is a little icky, The Cat in the Hat because he's like an annoying high-pressure door-to-door salesman who refuses to leave unless you've bought a new vacuum and a new carpet – but for the most part, our bookshelves are stocked with winners. This was my lengthy and roundabout way of saying that for this open-theme edition of Feed Me Books Friday, I'm choosing the books that I'll read over and over again to Madeline and Sadie. Without further ado …

  1. The Paper Bag Princess – the best of Robert Munsch, by far. I love this heroine who is a princess yet not a stereotypical princess. She cares more about doing good than looking good, and knows when to dump a guy. Need I say more?
  2. Everywhere Babies – This book is really sweet, talking about various things that babies do or need over their first year of life. The text really comes to life through the illustrations (by Marla Frazee, one of my favourite illustrators), though. I like the inclusiveness that the artwork lends to the story. Besides showing families of all colours, the illustrations show some things that aren't always depicted in mainstream books – a baby being breastfed, two men being a family, babies who joined a family through foreign adoption. I rather doubt that my kids really noticed these things, but I did, and they made me like the book a lot more. 
  3. Hippos Go Berserk – it's tough to pick just one Sandra Boynton book, but this one was an immediate hit with Madeline, and it looks like Sadie is going to share her fondness for the cute Boynton Hippo. The story here is that a lonely hippo decides to invite a couple of friends over, and things sort of escalate out of control until his house is invaded by plenty of party crashers. This all happens within the structure of a counting book, too, which is kind of cool. And the text also rhymes. The illustrations are completely adorable. 
  4. Hand Hand Fingers Thumb – My favourite Al Perkins book! I had this book when I was Madeline's age, and the monkeys with the groovey sideburns still give me a weird feeling, but this book is adored like no other. Sadie (like her big sister before her) pats and drums along with monkeys in this book with the wonderfully flowing rhymes and refrain. That's what I love about this book – what it bring out my sixteen month-old. 
  5. Fancy Nancy – my American friends tell me that Fancy Nancy has become some sort of commerical franchise with aisles of tie-in merchandise in Target stores, and that would probably make this book less appealing as bedtime material for me (for me to read to Madeline, that is). Luckily, I live on the other side of the planet and am still smitten by this little girl who struggles daily with her decidedly un-fancy family. 

I'm still rather happy with the books I chose last week, too.

Posted in Books

confessions of an artwork junkie

This week the theme for Feed Me Books Friday is completely open, so I'd like to chat about the thing that totally pulls me into picture books – the illustrations!!! Here are three of my favourites!

1. Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. I adore the artwork that Robin Preiss Glasser does for this series (though she only works on the hardcovers, as best as I can tell. The soft-cover Fancy Nancy books are inked by someone else who is not quite as good). I love the whimsy and I love the small details, like how Nancy's elaborate outfits are dog-themed and especially how Nancy's little sister is usually in the background, trying to copy the actions of her glamorous older sister. The illustrations in this book help make Nancy's family members, friends, and neighbours very believable.  

2. Man on the Moon – A Day in the Life of Bob, illustrated (and written) by Simon Bartram. Madeline borrowed this book from her school library many months ago, and we were both drawn in by the rich colours and the appealingly-yet-slightly-exaggerated features of Bob, our man on the moon. Each page is full of crisp and almost shiny artwork, and when Madeline and I looked closely enough, I swear that we might have actually seen some little green men … but there's no such thing as aliens, right? I really love Simon Bertram's style – there's something a little bit retro about it, and I am very curious about which artists were his inspiration.

3. The Seven Silly Eaters, illustrated by Marla Frazee. This book makes the list because, like the Fancy Nancy book I wrote about above, the detailed illustrations really add another layer to the story that they accompany. Let's be honest – if it wasn't for the artwork of Marla Frazee, us readers would never see poor Mrs. Peters doing anything outside of her kitchen! I love that Marla Frazee makes the Peters family a realistic one – their house looks full of love but also lovingly cluttered, not all of their children have mastered closing the bathroom door behind them, and you can often just tell from Mrs. Peter's expression that sometimes she's rather be playing her cello with a glass of wine beside her. 

I missed the link-up at the Adventure of Motherhood last week as we were in Singapore, but this week I have no excuses. There will surely be a lot of great new books to learn about there today.