Yuck, A Love Story

For any of you who, at one time or another, had your braids pulled, your teddy bear stolen or your name turned into some sort of nasty rhyme (I was Katie Katie Cleaning Lady…sigh) by a boy in your class and then had your mother tell you he was only doing it because he liked you, you’re in luck. Don Gillmor’s absolutely adorable book, Yuck, a Love Story, is a step back in time when crushes happened out of the blue and manifested themselves in the strangest ways. Little Austin Grouper is just toodling along, living the life of a typical boy, when suddenly a little girl named Amy moves in next door. And miraculously (or horrifically as the case may be) Austin develops a bit of a crush on her. And his way of showing it vacillates between telling her she has a small brain to later, quite literally, lasso-ing the moon for her and dropping it in her backyard. First love is captured so honestly and hilariously, you won’t be able to stifle those nostalgic giggles. And with Marie-Louise Gay’s inimitable illustrations (you’ll remember her from Stella) this book is an instant treasure….or I’m not Katie Katie Cleaning Lady…

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Vote!, or Go Big! Go Zig!

My sons are fascinated by the election. They marvel at the signs on the backs of people’s cars, the posters in people’s yards, the commercials touting the merits (or demerits) of this candidate over the other. My older son, in particular, is a bit of a policy wonk (a child after my own heart!) and prides himself on his knowledge of not only the Presidents through history but the fun facts associated with them. (A portly President Taft getting stuck in the Presidential bathtub, for example…) He’s even started writing his own campaign speeches and slogans (“Go Big! Go Zig!”). He’s very interested in watching the Conventions as well and so we have, as a family, watched it all. No matter my or my husband’s political leanings, we want to instill in our kids the notion of making their own decisions. Of knowing the issues and learning about the beliefs of each candidate and making decisions based on human rights, kindness and intelligence. We’ve listened to Ann’s speech and Condi’s speech and Mitt’s speech and Michelle’s speech and Bill’s speech and we’re anxiously awaiting President Obama’s speech. And as we’ve discussed politics and what the candidates are talking about and how the election all works, I’ve tried to find a children’s book that succinctly and clearly discusses these complex ideas in a way that is understandable and enjoyable for kids. I found there’s no better book to illustrate the true meaning of our right to vote than “Vote!” by Eileen Christelow. In a simple, engaging, playful way, Christelow’s book offers insight into the electoral process. Using narration by one candidate’s dogs (Elmer and Sparky), the information is approachable and understandable even to younger readers.  In an era of mudslinging it is wonderful to help children understand what’s behind the vote and how important it is to remember why we do it in the first place. And what better time that now to emphasize the importance of knowledge and the amazing power that we have as citizens and voters to change the world. Big lessons for little people – but ones that will stay with them forever.

What’s Happening to Me?…or The Unwanted Hair

(Over the last year, I’ve received so many comments and e-mails about this review, that I couldn’t help reposting. Enjoy!)

In 1975, Peter Mayle (yes, of A Year in Provence fame) and Arthur Robins published a book that would forever change my life. Their brilliantly informative and remarkably unembarrassing teenage tome, What is Happening to Me: A Guide to Puberty, would prove to be my personal roadmap through acne (why yes, it does appear on your back!), periods (why yes, they do happen on ski trips!) and bras (why, yes, the woman in the bra department will quickly become your worst nightmare!). Written for both boys and girls, Mayle and Robins’ book gently and factually describes every injustice known to plague teenagers – handling each question, no matter how humiliating, with common sense, and no hint of ridicule or judgment. Robins’ illustrations bring a sense of humor to the topics and make the reader feel a lot more comfortable reading about unexpected hairs than you’d ever imagine. I poured over this book as puberty beckoned and found comfort in not being the only person on the face of the earth to experience the new feelings, emotions and struggles of that time. For any parent working through the first signs of adolescence with their children, this book is as powerful now as it was then to a little girl in her pegged jeans who just needed to know that everything was going to be alright.