Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck ... maybe it's a dot

It seems like most parents experience those blissful days when their little ones need nothing more than a cardboard box to entertain themselves. I remember those hours of entertainment watching our daughters make games, toys and surprising playthings out of anything they could find - they would spend hours decorating cardboard boxes left over from deliveries and even longer crawling in and out of them and incorporating them into games. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to bottle that creativity so we could tap into it when we get older (and by older, I mean adolescence and beyond)?! In toddlerhood, creativity seems to be unrestricted and unlimited. Our teenage daughters currently inhabit the stage where they consciously limit their creativity. They are creative storytellers in writing, music, art, and drama but when they look at a box, they see a box and the many facets and possibilities they may have noticed in and about that box when they were younger are no longer apparent to them. The creative spark has not fully extinguished - after all, when I see I cute top in a store, they'll insist it's a mini-dress - but it has definitely changed. I like to step back every now and then and ask our daughters to look up at the sky and tell me what they see when they look at the clouds (and the answer cannot be clouds) and sometimes we'll point out strangers on the street or in restaurants and make up back-stories for them.  I truly believe that people who are able to keep creativity infused in their outlook are ultimately happier people than those who are unable to do so and quite likely more successful as well.

Patricia Intriago's first picture book Dot, a finalist for the Children's Choice Book Awards 2012 Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year, is a wonderful exploration of creative perception applied to the most basic of shapes. Patricia Intriago is a clever graphic designer whose talent and wit are sure to make you appreciate a seemingly simple shape in a whole new way; many ways, in fact.  If you and your child love this book (and, really, what's not to love?), then don't forget to vote for it. Voting for the 2012 Children's Choice Book Awards is now open and you can join the legions of children's book fans already voting for their faves by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

This little piggie goes...

One of our daughters came home from school earlier this year and announced that one of her teachers had decided to stop using shampoo. She wasn't able to provide enough detail about the reasons behind this decision or the alternative method of hair cleansing selected by the teacher so we were unable to seriously assess the merits of this decision. We agreed that it's best to refrain from judgment in circumstances where you're lacking the facts, even in circumstances such as this one that so easily lend themselves to stinkin' jokes and greasy judgments. This reminded me of a humanities class I took in college in which the professor showed a tiny squirt of toothpaste, the size of a baby pea, and insisted that is the amount she used to brush her teeth each day and we should all do the same. Whatever their reasons, people clearly approach matters of hygiene in different ways. Though generally less principled, kids vary in their reactions to cleanliness as well. Many toddlers try to avoid bath time. Maybe it's because it's often the last step before bedtime and they figure it makes sense to get a head start on delaying the process. Maybe it's because some kids are afraid of the water. In our home, bath time was a joyous time in toddlerhood but became a challenge later on. In those days, I am reasonably sure the concern that bath or shower time would conflict with television viewing or game playing was the real issue. As our girls adolesced, they began to appreciate the importance of regular showers and we never have to remind them to take theirs anymore. Deodorant, teethbrushing, hairbrushing and handwashing still require the odd reminders. Gross, I know.

If you're at the stage where the child in your life is trying everything to avoid bath time, try pinning him or her down before bath time and reading John Segal's Pirates Don't Take Baths together. The story presents a fun conversation between a child trying to get out of bath time and a mom who has a quick and clever answer for every excuse. It's pretty much a battle of wits with mother and child being well matched in creativity and the illustrations are so much fun! After a little cuddling followed, of course, by cleansing, you might want to reunite and follow-up by reading the Margaret Wise Brown/Clement Hurd classic, The Runaway Bunny, together for a perfect end to a lovely evening. Your child gets to hear another wonderful story and you get to introduce your child to yer another parent who has a quick and clever answer for everything!

If you and the child in your life love this book, there are a few things you should do. First, take a look at the author's blog and website. Most authors and illustrators have at least one or the other these days and they're often amazing destinations that enable kids to relate reading and fun while they learn about the books, authors and illustrators they love. You never know what you might learn. Had I read through John Segal's blog before writing this post, I'd have seen that John had declared September 19 to be Talk Like a Pirate Day (in honor of this book) and that would have led me to write an entirely different post because I have a daughter who defaults to pirate-speak with some regularity. No matter! The second thing to do (maybe even the first but I'm trying not to be pushy) is to head on over to the Voting Site for the Children's Choice Book Awards and encourage that child to cast a vote. This book is a finalist for Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year. Of course, if you followed my first piece of advice, you'd have headed over to the Voting Site anyway because John Segal has an awesome call to voting action on the homepage of his site and who could resist a precious pig?! Click here to take a look. Happy Voting!

This is the first post in my quest to blog about each finalist for the 2012 Children's Choice Book Awards. One down, twenty-nine to go. To find out more about the Children's Choice Book Awards, click here. And to vote, click here. And here's a fun fact for you - the award for this category (Kindergarten to 2nd Grade Book of the Year) will be presented at the Children's Choice Book Awards gala on May 7 by Marc Brown, creator of the Arthur books and television series.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Exercise your right to vote!

Last Wednesday, March 14, voting opened for the 5th Annual Children's Choice Book Awards here. This program is the only one of its kind. First, in 4 of the 6 categories (Book of the Year for 4 different age groups beginning with Kindergarteners and ending with teens), kids and teens select the finalists. Approximately 20,000 kids and teens from across the country participate in the part of the program. To select the Author of the Year and Illustrator of the Year finalists we review bestseller lists. Second, this is a national program where kids and teens select the winners. Votes have already been submitted by participants in every state in the country (and beyond). We are expecting to receive one million votes this year.

The program was developed 5 years ago by the Children's Book Council and the literacy foundation Every Child a Reader for a number of reasons.
  • It makes reading fun and gives kids an easy way to talk about their favorite books with their friends - yes, it makes talking about books fun for kids. 
  • It gives kids and teens a chance to express themselves and let book creators know what works best for them and what they love most. 
  • Because the majority of finalists are selected by kids and teens, it offers a peer-approved reading list.
  • It is an essential component of the strategy developed to instill a lifelong love of reading in young people, the mission of Every Child a Reader
If you have children in your life, please encourage them to participate in the amazing program. Read with them and ask them about their preferences. If the child in your life is a teen who has no desire to share preferences with you at the moment, consider reading what he or she is reading or read the Teen Book of the Year finalists and get a sense of what moves other teens. It might help you find a conversation starter. So get started. Click here to see the finalists and start reading!

Beginning tomorrow, each post (and, yes, for those of you doubters, there will be posts to come) will tie one of the thirty finalists to a parent/child issue or story until I've covered them all.

The winners of the Children's Choice Book Awards program, by the way, will be announced live at a gala event on May 7 in New York City that will officially kick off Children's Book Week 2012. The 5th Annual gala will be hosted by the award-winning and beloved creator of the Lunch Lady series of graphic novels (not to mention Punk Farm, Ollie and so many more!), Jarrett J Krosoczka. Awards will be presented by iconic authors and illustrators like Marc Brown (Arthur), Mary Pope Osborne (Magic Tree House), Andrew Clements (Frindle) and S.E. Hinton (The Outsiders), Jack Gantos (Dead End in Norvelt) and Chris Raschka (A Ball for Daisy). An Impact award will be presented by National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Walter Dean Myers to Super Bowl Champion New York Giants’ Justin Tuck in recognition of the important work he has done connecting kids and books through his charity, Tuck’s R.U.S.H. for Literacy.  It will be an evening of champions! A video of the awards presentation will be available on May 8 so remember to tune into the Children's Book Week website to see it almost live if you can't be there in person.

Rest well, my friends, for tomorrow we start the marathon of Children's Choice Book Awards reading!