For today's post, I had planned to read and recommend an E book (not an e-book, a book with a title beginning with the letter E.) However, although I’ve requested the book from the many-many-miles-away library, it hasn’t arrived at my branch yet. ...
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Eight versus Enormous

Photo licensed from Fotolia

For today’s post, I had planned to read and recommend an E book (not an e-book, a book with a title beginning with the letter E.) However, although I’ve requested the book from the many-many-miles-away library, it hasn’t arrived at my branch yet. When I started thinking about E words, this is what emerged.

When I was eight (well, technically eight and a half) we went on our first family road trip. My parents were eager to show me the mountains and share something that brought them enormous joy.

However, it wasn’t total joy that happened inside their little eight-year-old as the car wound through the mountains of Yellowstone National Park. The mountains were enormous. The eight-year-old was used to flat prairie and roads that were relatively straight, or, if there were curves, they were visible from quite a distance.

The curves in the roads in the Wyoming Rockies aren’t visible until you get right up to them. To an eight-year-old, it looks as though the car is going to drive straight into the mountain with an enormous crash.

Grandpa had asked me to bring back a bear for him. I happily agreed — and indeed, did get a little flocked plastic black bear on a small piece of wood, stamped “Souvenir of Yellowstone.” I was delighted to present him with it when we got home.

I was less than delighted when a real black bear, albeit a small one, suddenly appeared at the edge of the road and walked along the barrier that kept us from driving off that exceptionally scary edge.

There were some joys for me in that trip — the swimming pool at the motel in Helena, Montana; the playground in the tiny yard of the motel in Gardiner, just outside the park; the man who chatted with us while we waited for Old Faithful to erupt (Old Faithful is amazing!), fireworks on the hillside across from our motel room on the Fourth of July (that first experience was cool!) — all these I remember with great fondnes.

As I look back at it now, I’m sure my parents were disappointed that I didn’t immediately share their love of the mountains. And two years later, when we drove through the Canadian Rockies on our way to Vancouver, I loved every moment of the trip, and still love the mountains.

My point, and I do have one, to quote another E, Ellen DeGeneres, is that for those of us who are writers, it’s important that we remember that the children we write for see things through a different lens than we do as adults. Things that bring us joy, like mountains and bends in the road, may be seen very differently by a child, who sees them as enormous and frightening.

That isn’t to say we should only write about things kids are familiar with, but we need to remember their limited experience when we write, and be sensitive to the way we introduce things — as my parents were, when they decided not to spend as long in the mountains as they’d intended on that first trip. But they didn’t give up, they tried again later, and I’m grateful they did.

Photo licensed from Fotolia

 

E is about being Eight, and seeing things as Enormous. It’s about having limited Experience, but it’s also about having Empathy, Easing fears and Empowering someone to persevere and do something that’s new. It’s modelling Eagerness about new experiences. E is Encouraging.

        

Dream

Quite some time ago, Langston Hughes wrote a poem called I Dream a World. Despite some non-inclusive language (it was from another era) it resonates with me. It begins

 

I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn…

That is a dream that I’m sure many wish would come true. There was another man who had that dream, as well. Their dream still lives in the hearts of many, many people. Some dreams go deep.

We each have dreams — some are large and encompass the world and the fragile state it is in, some are smaller but no less worth of voicing.

Some of my dreams are small, closely held to my heart, the sort that grow as a response to the sentiment in Johnny Mercer’s song Dream When You’re Feeling Blue. You likely have dreams like that of your own.

I dream of having my writing touch someone the way some books have touched and changed me. That may resonate with you, as well.

And yes, like Langston Hughes, I dream a world “where black or white, Whatever race you be, Will share the bounties of the earth And every man is free.”

The thing about dreams, though, is that they don’t come true just through wishing. They take hard work. They take persistence. They take doing. Sometimes they take daring. They definitely take determination.

All that isn’t easy. But I am convinced it’s worth it. Let’s keep dreaming. Let’s keep doing.

What are some of your dreams?

D. Dream. Do. Have the Drive and Determination to keep Doing. Be Dedicated and Dauntless. Dare to believe the world can be a better place. Dare to believe we can help, in great ways and in small. Dare to Dream.

        

Caring. Connecting. Changing.

Until earlier today, I was planning a different blog post. I didn’t get it written over the weekend, but was planning to write it first thing today. Then, this morning, I read the news about Las Vegas, and my plans changed.

Last night, I attended an annual event in my city at which seniors are celebrated. Specifically, the contributions of senior volunteers are celebrated. The people whose stories I heard last night have served their communities and their country, they have wrought change through their service, they have cared for people, they have cared for the natural world around us, they have cared for the gifts and talents they have been given.

As well as hearing their stories, I was moved and inspired (as were all those in attendance, I’m sure) by the guest speaker, singer/artist/activist/speaker Heather Bishop. Her words were good to hear. In the current climate of so much of the world, her words were crucial to hear.

Among other things, she encouraged each of us to connect with our own personal story, to be true to our story, and to tell our story, as it is. Only by having the courage to share our stories with each other can we connect, and truly care, and grow and change.

Quoting her, “Our stories are most profound when we truly discover who we are.” “Our stories connect us. Our stories diminish the difference between us.”

Please go to Heather’s website, watch the brief video on the main page, and experience a few of the highlights of the same talk I heard last night. Then connect with your story, and tell it, so that you can connect with others who are telling their story.

Maybe, just maybe, if we are true to our own story, and truly hear others, we can connect with them and we can change our broken, hurting world, one connection at a time.

C. Caring. Connecting. Celebrating what is good. Calling out what is not. Having courage. Creating. These things are crucial to our lives, and to the life of our world.

        

The Blue Whale by Jenni Desmond — Picture Book Recommendation

Title: The Blue Whale

Author/Illustrator: Jenni Desmond

Publisher: Brooklyn, NY: Enchanted Lion Books, 2015

Genre: Picture book, NON-FICTION

Audience Age: 4-9

Themes/Topics: Whales, endangered species, reading

Opening Sentences: Once upon a time, a child took a book from a shelf and started to read. He read that the blue whale is a mammal of gigantic size and strength. It is the largest living creature on our planet.

Synopsis: Jenni Desmond’s THE BLUE WHALE is an entrancing, intriguing, informative non-fiction picture book in the form of a story – a totally identifiable story. “Once upon a time, a child took a book from a shelf and started to read.” Those words resonate within us, and, no doubt, within any child reading the book or being read to, as we see the child lying on his tummy on his bed, reading the book.

While completely factual in its information about the blue whale, it takes us inside the story in the person of the child who opens the book to read. The book the child is reading is the same one that is being read by the person who holds the actual book. Not only that, but the child is soon in the book interacting with the blue whale – in a way that seems natural and doesn’t detract from the facts being presented.

The facts themselves are given in terms a child can relate to, and with delightful illustrations that make them even more understandable. When we read “An average blue whale weighs around 160 tons, or about the same as a heap of 55 hippopotami,” the illustration shows the child sitting on top of a pile of hippos, each with a different facial expression. “A blue whale’s … mouth is so big that 50 people can stand inside it. Fortunately, blue whales don’t eat people.” The illustration shows the child standing at the edge of the whale’s mouth, looking at the 50 people crowded along the lower edge of the gaping open mouth.

The book has a wonderful circular ending, bringing us back to the child in his bed, now snuggled down asleep, while the whale’s tail fluke seems to wave goodnight.

I highly recommend this book. I discovered it serendipitously at the library, when looking for Jenni Desmond’s POLAR BEAR, which is written in a similar manner. I’m very glad I came upon this one.

Activities/Resources: You can see all of Jenni Desmond’s books, and get a glimpse of some of the illustrations of THE BLUE WHALE, at her website and there are links to interviews about her artistic process in this book and others here.

There is an excellent review and overview of the book at BrainPickings.

There are lots of whale- and dolphin-related activities for kids at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation website.

Whale Facts has information for kids about blue whales and other species.  So do Whale World and National Geographic Kids.

There are easy whale crafts at Artists Helping Children.

Here’s a more realistic blue whale to make, at Learn, Create, Love.

Availability: Readily available. Find a copy near you, or order one online from an independent bookstore – search Indiebound to find out where you can do that.

Every Friday, bloggers join together to share picture book reviews and resources, thanks to author Susanna Leonard Hill’s brainchild, “Perfect Picture Book Fridays.”

        

Anywhere Farm — Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Anywhere Farm

Author: Phyllis Root

Illustrator: G. Brian Karas

Publisher: Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2017

Genre: Picture book, fiction

Audience Age: 4 to 8

Themes/Topics: Nature/Gardens, Neighbors

Opening Sentences: For an anywhere farm, here’s all that you need: soil and sunshine, some water, a seed.

Synopsis: In simple, delightful verse and equally simple, delightful illustrations, Phyllis Root and Brian Karas show kids that they can grow their own “farm” or garden anywhere, in pretty much any kind of container. Indoors or outdoors, in a community plot or an old teapot, you can grow “kale in a pail” or “corn in a horn” – as she says, “plant whatever you please.

Although the anywhere farm starts out as a solitary project, it soon blossoms (pun intended). Butterflies or bees, ladybugs, birds – your anywhere farm might have some cool visitors. And an anywhere farm attracts people, too. An anywhere farm can become an anyone farm, with neighbors working together to grow and share vegetables, flowers, and friendship.

It may seem odd to share a book about gardening when those of us in the Northern hemisphere are looking toward winter, but an anywhere farm can be an anytime farm, too. A container garden can live by a window indoors just as well as in a plot in the ground.

The possibilities for growth are endless!

Activities/Resources: Make your own anywhere farm! With a container (Plant pot? Old teapot or coffee mug with a few pebbles at the bottom for drainage? Use your imagination!), and a bit of potting soil, and a seed or two (A carrot seed? A flower seed? A bean? Some herbs?) you can have your own anywhere garden. Then, as the author says, “Your seed with sprout out at its own seedy speed.”

School Library Journal’s Classroom Bookshelf offers more suggestions for activities, including Going on a Garden Hunt, Find the Rhymes, and Readers Theatre.

And I see I’m not the first to share this book – but, since Keila shared it in the Northern Hemisphere’s spring, maybe it’s okay for me to share it in the Southern Hemisphere spring!

Availability: Readily available. Check your local or online indie bookstore!

Every Friday, bloggers join together to share picture book reviews and resources, thanks to author Susanna Leonard Hill’s brainchild, “Perfect Picture Book Fridays.” Susanna then adds the books (and links to the reviews) to a comprehensive listing by subject on her blog. Find the entire listing at her “Perfect Picture Books.”

        

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