Let’s Eat!

Advocates of multicultural children’s literature critique the fact that children’s books that highlight other cultures and diversity often center around the four Fs: food, festivals, fashion and folklore. I agree that authors, educators, and parents need to delve deeper into other aspects of culture, issues such as identity and belonging, but as someone who grew up in another country, my childhood memories often focus around special meals and times spent around the table with family or friends.

 

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Ratatouille, a Disney Pixar movie about a mouse who becomes a French chef is a favorite movie of mine – just ask my kids! There is a scene where the food critic enters a restaurant and is presented with a dish. As he takes his first bite, he is transported back to his own childhood – he is a young boy who he comes into his family kitchen from a day on the farm and his mom places a plate of streaming ratatouille in front of him. To him, a taste of ratatouille, years later, reminds him of home, of belonging, of love.

When I think of my own childhood, in a very cosmopolitan and multicultural setting in the greater Paris area, it’s crusty french baguette fresh from the bakery, it’s fresh artichokes from the market, steamed and dipped in butter, it’s Madame Lopez’s Moroccan paella, it’s the Sionath’s guadalupian chicken columbo, it’s Marie-Jeanne’s endive salad and grilled trout almandine, it’s a piping hot bowl of cafe au lait on a cold, wet morning, it’s my mom’s fresh homemade apple pie with a cup of tea – wow, such food memories! I’d love to hear yours – please share in the comments.
But on to books!

This series of four books by Norah Dooley and illustrated by Peter Thornton are a great way to introduce multicultural cuisine to your kids and help them appreciate the rich culinary diversity of the culture you live in, or come from. Each of these four books include recipes at the back.

“Multiculturalism at its best” – Parent council

Everybody Cooks Rice (1991)

It’s almost dinner time! As her mom finishes up meal preparation, she sends Carrie on an errand to find her younger brother. As she goes from house to house searching for him, she is invited in and discovers that in her multicultural neighborhood, everyone does indeed cook rice, including rice and black-eyed peas from Barbados, biryani from India, and Vietnamese nuoc cham. Not surprisingly, Carrie comes home to her own mother Italian rice dish, she isn’t very hungry.

Everybody Bakes Bread (1996)

It’s a rainy day in the neighborhood. Carrie is bored. The soccer game she had planned was rained out. Her mom, who is baking bread, sends her off on an impossible errand – find a three-handled rolling pin. As she asked around, she learns about all the various ways families around the world make bread, from Barbadian Sweet coconut bread to Mexican pupusas. When she returns home, although she is full, she can’t resist a slice of her mom’s homemade Italian bread, before heading out to a game of soccer, rain boots and puddles included.

Everybody Serves Soup (2000)

What better way to warm up on a snowing day than a hot bowl of soup? The neighborhood is blanketed in snow. Carrie sets up with her snow shovel to earn a few dollars to buy her mom a Christmas present. As she works her way from house to house, she is welcomed in with the delicious smell of steaming pots of soup – from Puerto Rican chuleton to Jewish beet and cabbage soup. At the end of the day, Carrie not only learned about other cultures and sampled lots of soup, she also comes up with the perfect gift for her mom.

Everybody Brings Noodles (2002)

It’s summer! The neighborhood is preparing for a fourth of July block party, which includes a picnic and a talent show. As she helps set up and collects food, she discovers the wide variety of noodle dishes from around the world that her neighbors are preparing – Chinese yellow sesame noodles; Greek orzo; Vietnamese spring rolls, and Jewish Kugel to name a few. Carrie is delighted at the end of the evening when the neighbors present her with a reward of her own.

The Story of Chopsticks by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by YongSheng Xuan (2001)

If you live in an area of the world where chopsticks are the main eating ustensil, you will really enjoy this lighthearted tall tale of young Kuai, who never gets enough to eat as the youngest in a large family and comes up with a plan to rectify the situation. Both the author and illustrator are born and educated in China. The book includes a brief history of chopsticks, rules for eating with chopsticks and a recipe for Sweet Eight Treasures Rice Pudding.

How My Parents learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman (1984)

A little girl recalls the story of how her parents met in Japan years ago. Anxious to learn each other’s culture, the Japanese girl learns to eat with a knife and fork, and the young American sailor gets a crash course in how to use chopsticks. The outcome is humorous and makes a good family memory. With Illustrations by award-winning artist Allen Say.
The book is wonderfully thought-provoking in it’s portrayal of the subtle similarities and differences among cultures.” – School library Journal


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Feast for Ten by Kathryn Falwell (1995)

In this rhyming counting book, perfect for preschoolers, an African-American family prepare a festive meal together, from shopping, to preparation and cooking, to a family all gathered around the table eating together. Bright colored paper, patterned fabrics, and felt all come together to create beautiful collage illustrations, making this a great read-aloud book.

Community Soup by Alma Fullerton

In this African version of “Mary had a little lamb”, a group of children work hard to collect the vegetables from a community garden outside the schoolhouse to make a soup for everyone to share. Kioni is late for school! As she rushes to get to school, she discovers that her flock of goats have followed her and have snuck into the garden. The class works together to come up with a creative solution to the goat problem. This lively and amusing story, great for preschoolers and reading aloud, is beautifully illustrated by Alma with vibrant and eye-catching 3D mixed media collage.

Let’s Eat! What Children Eat Around the World by Breatrice Hollyer (in association with Oxfam)(2003)

With colored photographs, fun facts, maps, and recipes throughout, this book reads like a scrapbook. Each chapter highlights a day in one child’s life and the special foods that are prepared and eaten in that part of the world. We learn about a wedding in South Africa, a fiesta in Mexico, a day out with Dad in Thailand, mushrooming in France, and a birthday in India.

Mama Provi and the Pot of Rice by Sylvia Rosa-Casanova, illustrated by Robert Roth (1997)

Mama Provi, the grandmother of Lucy lives on the first floor of a city apartment building. Her grandaughter and her family live on the eighth floor. When their evening together is cancelled after Lucy gets sick, Mama Provi decides to cook her a large pot of arroz con pollo to cheer her up. As Mama Provi sets off up the stairs with her big pot of rice in a large shopping bag, she stops at each floor and trades each neighbor a bowl of her delicious rice for samples of their ethnic food – crusty Italian bread, frijoles negros, salad, collard greens, even Mrs. Woo’s green tea and a fresh slice of homemade apple pie. When Mama Provi arrives at Lucy’s door, Lucy is thrilled to see her grandma. “Let’s eat,” said Mam Provi. And that is exactly what they did.” Spanish words scattered throughout the book adds to it’s appeal.

Potluck by Anne Shelby, pictures by Irene Trivas

When I was a student at the University of Illinois in Chicago, I attended an International Church. The pastor was from India. Sam and his wife Sharon have the gift of hospitality. Sam’s curries are the best curries I have ever tasted. Our small church often had over 30 different nationalities represented. When we had potlucks, it was a smorgasbord of delicious dishes from around the world. This book reminds me of those special gatherings. Alpha and Betty decide to invite their multiethnic friends over for a dinner – going through each letter of the alphabet, starting with asparagus soup and ending with zucchini casserole, the pages are filled with colorful, festive dishes that parade across the pages. I especially love “Don did dumplings” and “Quincy, of course, brought quiche, Rose her famous rice and raisin recipe”.
“…Kids will like the way the words sound tripping off the tongue – tongues that may be hanging out a bit, especially when the readers view the final, scrumptious two-page spread.”. Booklist

Let’s Eat by Ana Zamorano and illustrated by Julie Vivas

In this picture book by award-winning Illustrator and her daughter, a large, lively boisterous family gathers together every day at two o’clock to share a meal, prepared and served up by the mother – there’s empanadas, gazpacho, chickpea soup, pollo, and sardinas. Each day, a seat at the table is empty as in turn family members are too busy to come for dinner. The mom sighs and exclaims: “Ay, que pena!” (what a pity). On Saturday, it’s Mama’s turn to be away from the table. When she returns, the following day with their new little sister, Rosa, the family is finally all together again. This calls for a celebration and what better way to celebrate than a pan of paella!
As we say in France, bon appétit!
Quotes:


Poetry Potluck

Poetry Potluck

To compliment the post “Let’s Eat” (coming soon!), today, for poetry Monday, I’m setting the table and dishing out poems about food, some humorous and some multicultural, and ending with a Nicaraguan prayer, as we remember that many children face hunger, and as we are thankful for the food at our table, we need to be mindful of this and ask God he would have us do to help those in need. I know many of you work in relief and development. Thank you for being the hands and feet of God.

Enjoy this poetry smorgasbord!


Mango



On Sunday afternoons in mango season,

Alleyne would fill his enamel basin

with golden-yellow fruit, wash them in clean water,

then sit out in the yard, under the grapefruit tree,

near the single rose bush, back to the crotons,

place the basin between his feet,

and slowly eat his mangos, one by one, down to the clean white seed.

His felt-hat was always on his head. The yellow basin chipped near the bottom

with its thin green rim, the clear water, the golden fruit,

him eating slowly, carefully, picking the mango fiber from his teeth,

under those clear, quiet afternoons, I remember.

Me sitting in the doorway of my room, one foot on the steps that dropped

into the yard, reading him, over a book. That’s how it was.

 
Poem by John Robert Lee (poem from Around the World in Eighty poems by James Berry)

JOHN ROBERT LEE (b. 1948, Saint Lucia, West Indies) is a St. Lucian writer who has published several collections of poetry. His short stories and poems can be found in many Caribbean and international journals and  anthologies.

 

Realarro


I love the

friday night

smell of

mammie baking

bread – creeping

up to me in

bed

& tho I fall

asleep before I

even get a bite

I know for sure

when

morning come

the kitchen table

will be laden

with bread

fresh & warm.

salt bread

sweet bread, crisp

& brown &

best of all

coconut buns

make me

love the friday

night smell of

mammie baking bread

putting me to bed

to sleep

dreaming

 

Poem by Marc Matthews
Marc Matthews (b. 1940) is an award-winning Guyanese writer, actor, broadcaster and producer.


Which is the Best?



Ice cream on a stick,

Covered with cold, shiny chocolate,
Or ice cream heaped up in a cone,

Dripping fast on a hot day,
Or ice cream in a big blue bowl

And a spoon you can take your time with-
Which is best?
It is too soon

To give the answer.
I have more testing

To Do.
Poem by James Stevenson (b. 1929) American illustrator and author of over 100 children’s books.

The next two poems are taken from Poem Stew (1981), a fun book filled with humorous poems about food, with poems selected and compiled by William Cole, with his own poems as well as many other poems, from writers such as Ogden Nash, John Ciardi and Shel Silverstein. William Rossa Cole (November 20, 1919 – August 2, 2000) was an American editor, anthologist, columnist, author, and writer of light verse.


Going Too Far



I could eat pails

of snails

cooked with garlic and butter –

they make my heart flutter –

with maybe a shallot

for my palate,

and parsley,

sparsely.

But I would never eat a slug!

Ugh!
Poem by William Cole



It’s such a shock, I almost screech



It’s such a shock, I almost screech,

When I find a worm inside my peach!

But then, what really makes me blue,

Is to find a worm who’s bit in two!

 

Poems by William Cole

This prayer is taken from Thank you for This Food by Debbie Trafton O’Neal – this picture book includes 24 action prayers (with diagrams), songs and blessings perfect for mealtimes with young children.

 

Nicaraguan Prayer


O God,

bless this food we are about to receive

Give bread to those who hunger,

and give hunger for justice

to us who have bread

Prayer from Thank you for This Food by Debbie Trafton O’Neal, illustrated by Nancy Munger

Rickshaw Girl and Tiger Boy


Mitali Perkins

A friend of mine in Romania recently mentioned these books by Mitali Perkins to me – I had previously read Bamboo People by her and loved it, so I checked these two books: Rickshaw Girl (2008) and Tiger Boy (2015) from the library. I devoured Rickshaw Girl in one sitting, and read Tiger Boy several days later. I can’t recommend these two books (for ages 8 to 12) more. Both these novels are set in other countries – Rickshaw Girl is set in Bangladesh and Tiger Boy is set in India.

I get so excited when I discover a new author whose writing I love (new to me, I mean) and I find out she is a TCK. Mitali’s father was an engineer and his job took their family from port to port in different countries. By the time Mitali was 11, she had lived in India, England, Ghana, Cameroon, Mexico, and then The United States. Settling in the United States as a Middle school student was very difficult for her (I know the feeling – although I didn’t stay, our family returned to the United States when I was in eighth grade). Mitali struggled as a child to find her place in these different cultures, and books became her refuge.

“Books were my rock, my stability, my safe place as I navigated the border between California suburbia and the Bengali culture of my traditional home.”

She was brought up as a Hindu but became an agnostic in her teens. During her junior year of college, while studying abroad in Vienna, Austria, she came repeatedly face to face with images and stories of Christ. As she read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, as well as the New Testament, Mitali was confronted with the person of Christ. Mitali explains her reaction upon delving into the New Testament this way:

“I was encountering a Jew with olive-colored skin, black hair, and dark eyes. This Middle Eastern man healed foreign women; he knew what it was to feel lonely and rejected.”

Through her reading, Mitali came to understand how Christ’s death on the cross conquered evil and reconciled man to God.  She came to Faith and upon her return to the US, she was baptized.

She later realized that the many stories and novels she had read as a child were deeply steeped in the Christian Faith. In an article she wrote for Christianity Today, she reflects on books from her childhood:

“Louisa May Alcott wove John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress into Little Women. Johanna Spyri’s Heidi described God’s forgiveness through the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett perhaps subconsciously provided a metaphorical glimpse of the Trinity—Father (Susan Sowerby), Son (Dickon), and Holy Spirit (the robin). And of course, C. S. Lewis’s Aslan leapt into my mind and heart. For years, these spiritual mothers and fathers had been teaching me about the Bible. I just didn’t realize it.”.    Christianity Today – Testimony: When God Writes Your Life Story by Mitali Perkins/ DECEMBER 31, 2015

 

Mitali has written nine books, including Rickshaw Girl, Bamboo People, an American Library Association’s Top Ten Novels for Young Adults and her most recent novel, Tiger Boy. She and her husband currently live in the San Francisco area, where she continues to write, lectures at St Mary’s College and visits schools and libraries throughout the country.

Rickshaw Girl 

Naima is a young girl growing up in a small village in Bangladesh. She loves art and is the best artist in her village, famous for her alpana patterns, a traditional art work. But Naima wants nothing more than to help her family make ends meet. Her father is a rickshaw driver and their family is barely scraping by. They can’t afford to send both Naima and her sister to school at the same time. When Naima accidentally damages her father’s rickshaw and the family is unable to pay for the repair, Naima must find a way to make things right.

Rickshaw Girl was chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the top 100 books for children in the past 100 years.
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What I loved about Rickshaw Girl:

  1.  An easy-to-read moving story for ages 8-12
  2. Culturally rich, and beautiful charcoal-on-canvas illustrations by Jamie Hogan
  3.  Well developed characters and relationships including Naima’s close friendship with her neighbor Saleem and Naima’s loving family relationships
  4.  Steeped in Bengali cultural details, with a glossary of Bangla words at the back of the book
  5.  Strong, courageous and loving female heroine

 

Tiger Boy


When a young tiger cub escapes from the nature preserve and is at risk of being attacked by the island poachers, Neel and his sister set out to find and rescue the cub. Neel is a bright student and the headmaster of his school has selected him to take an exam to win a scholarship to a prestigious school. But Neel has mixed feelings – he doesn’t want to leave his home, his family or his island. It isn’t until the hunt and the rescue of the tiger cub that Neel comes to understand how his academic abilities can help him to someday return and do his part to help preserve the natural beauty of the island, the lives of tigers, and help improve the lives of his family and friends.

  • Tiger Boy is Junior Library Guild selection.
  • NCTE 2016 Charlotte Huck Award Honor Book
  • Junior Library Guild Premier Selection 2015
  • CCBC Book of the Week
  • Selected as a Waterbridge Outreach Book

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What I loved about Tiger Boy

  1.  Easy-to-read, yet gripping tale – perfect for ages 8-12
  2.  Amazing charcoal-on-canvas illustrations
  3.  The natural beauty of the Island in the Sunderbans of West Bengal painted so well in the book, from the cool freshwater ponds to the mangrove forest to the long stretches of beaches
  4.  The fragile connection between nature and humans, beautifully portrayed by Mitali
  5.  The fact that Mitali does not down play the poverty and hardships of life on these island (for example, the mother’s illness, and the father’s difficulty finding work)
  6.  Neel’s love and bond with his older sister, Rupa, and his deep respect for his baba (his father)
  7.  Neel, the main character, portrayed as smart and a book lover, but also someone who is passionate about nature and animals, and the great outdoors
  8.  The plight and magnificence of the wild Bengal Tiger, presented in a way that children can understand – Great book for animal lovers – your child will want to learn more about tigers.

Can you tell I love these books?

It’s only once a while that you get a book that manages to create a lump in your throat and at the same time makes you read as fast as you can because you want to know what happens next.” – Indian Moms Connect


Books by Mitali Perkins

For ages 8-12

  • Rickshaw Girl (2008)
  • Tiger Boy (2015)

For Young Adult (*books I’ve read and recommend – I definitely want to read Open Mic!)

  • *The Not-So-Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen (Originally published as: The Sunita Experiment). (2005)
  • *Monsoon Summer (2007)
  • First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover (2007)
  • First Daughter: White House Rules (2008)
  • Secret Keeper (2010)
  • *Bamboo People (2012)
  • Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices (2013)

Psalms for Young Children


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Psalms for Young Children
 by Hélene Delval  illustrated by Arno
As we explore poetry with children, what better place to begin then to turn to the Psalms, the poetry of the Bible. This amazing book, Psalms for Young Children makes the Psalms accessible to young children (for ages 4 to 8). As I read through it, I wish my children were young again and I could read this book with them at bedtime.

Each Psalm is beautifully illustrated, the art work so original and vivid, depicting the world and emotions through a child’s eyes.  The children and the scenes in the illustrations depict diverse cultures and landscapes, from deserts to stormy seas.  This little book, originally published in French as Les Psaumes pour les tout-petits, is now available by Eerdmans for Young Readers.

The author does not shy away from Psalms that speak of fear or sadness, confusion or uncertainty, but also highlights Psalms of thankfulness, reassurance of God’s presence and love and the praise to God for the beauty of nature.

Each “poem” of David is paraphrased in one or two sentences, written in bold letters, in simplified language so even a young child can understand, and an early reader can read the words on his/her own.
I think this book should be in every TCKs home library.  With 40 Psalms, this book is a great little devotional and bedtime book.  Psalms for Young Children might inspire your young writer or artist to write and illustrate their own prayers for God.

Expressing our feelings, however raw or fearful or confused they may be, up to God in prayer, knowing He is there and yearns for us to come to Him in whatever state we are in, is a great gift from God to us as His children – a gift we need to encourage our own children to cherish all the days of their lives. I think this book, Psalms for Young Children, is a perfect little book to encourage this practice.

Here are a few selections:

Let’s shout out loud

with joy to God!

Because God is a really big God.

He can hold the world

in his hands,

the deep caves,

the mountaintops,

the blue seas –

and you and me too!

Psalm 95

If the grounds starts to shake,

if the mountains break into pieces

and fall in the sea,

if the waves grow big as giants,

I’m not scared.

God is with me.

God provides a safe place

for me to hide.

Psalm 46

God is like a rock,

strong and powerful.

God is like a warm, dry place

during a storm.

He protects me from

things that might hurt me.

When I ask for God’s help,

I feel safe.

Psalm 18

Everyone, everywhere,

in every country in the world,

sing a song to God!

Let’s praise God together,

for his great love and strength

will last forever.

Psalm 117

When I trust in God,

it’s like being wrapped

in a warm blanket,

With God on my side,

I am not scared of anything –

not during the day,

not during the night.

Psalm 91

Marie-Helene Delval has also written several other books, including Animals of the Bible for Young Children (2010) and Images of God for Young Children (2010) and The Bible for Young Children.  I currently have several copies of The Psalms for Young Children available for families living overseas.

Be Glad Your Nose Is On Your Face

The poetry of Jack Prelusky
If you are looking for poetry your child will actually enjoy, even laugh out loud at, even ask for more, Jack Prelusky is your answer. Jack Prelusky’s poems are humorous, playful, witty, quirky, full twists and turns and surprise endings. Jack has a vivid childlike imagination and can turn anything into a fun poem. Prelusky is also great at capturing the emotions of a child. Prelutsky has written more than 50 poetry collections. His most popular collections include:

  • Something BIG has been there
  • The New Kid on the Block
  • A Pizza the Size of the Sun
  • It’s Raining Pigs & Noodles

These four collections of poems are beautifully illustrated by James Stevenson, with pen and ink drawings, in perfect pitch with Prelusky’s playfulness and humor.
Jack was born in 1940 and grew up in New York City. He now lives in Seattle, with his wife Carolyn and assorted pets.

Did Prelusky enjoy poetry as a child?

He says no. In grade school, he had a teacher who left me with the impression that poetry was the literary equivalent of liver. She would read what he considered the most boring poems in the most boring tone, and the whole class would wilt.

How did he become a poet?

Jack says he always enjoyed playing with language, but discovered writing as a career only by accident when he was a young adult. He tried his hand at drawing and spent months drawing several imaginary animals. A friend encouraged him to show the drawings to an editor. He decided at the last minute to add some poems to go along with the drawings. When the editor — Susan Hirschman — called him it was not the drawings she raved about, but the poetry. She thought he had a rare talent for writing verse. She published his first book and remained his editor for more than 30 years. In 2006, the Poetry Foundation designated Jack as the nations first Children’s Poet Laureate.

Here are three poems from various poetry collections. The first Be Glad Your Nose is On Your Face captures the vivid imagination of a child, the second I Don’t Want To captures those days when nothing seems to excite you, and the third one We Moved About a Week Ago is a light-hearted poem about moving away and missing your friends – a great TCK poem.
Be Glad Your Nose is On Your Face
Be glad your nose is on your face,

not pasted on some other place,

for if it were where it is not,

you might dislike your nose a lot.

 

Imagine if your precious nose

were sandwiched in between your toes,

that clearly would not be a treat,

for you’d be forced to smell your feet.

 

Your nose would be a source of dread

were it attached atop your head,

it soon would drive you to despair,

forever tickled by your hair.

 

Within your ear, your nose would be

an absolute catastrophe,

for when you were obliged to sneeze,

your brain would rattle from the breeze.

 
Your nose, instead, through thick and thin,

remains between your eyes and chin,

not pasted on some other place–

be glad your nose is on your face!

 
-Jack Prelusky from The New Kid on the Block

 

I Don’t Want To

 
I don’t want to play on the sidewalk.

I don’t want to sit on the stoop.

I don’t want to lick any ice cream.

I don’t want to slurp any soup.

I don’t want to listen to music.

I don’t want to look at cartoons.

I don’t want to read any stories.

I don’t want to blow up balloons.

 

 

I don’t want to dig in the garden.

I don’t want to roll on the rug.

I don’t want to wrestle the puppy.

I don’t want to give you a hug.

I don’t want to shoot any baskets.

I don’t want to bang on my drum.

I don’t want to line up my soldiers.

I don’t want to whistle or hum.

 
I don’t want to program my robot.

I don’t want to strum my guitar.

I don’t want to use my computer.

I don’t want to wind up my car.

I don’t want to color with crayons.

I don’t want to model with clay.

I don’t want to stop my not wanting…

I’m having that kind of day.

 
-Jack Prelusky from It’s Raining Pigs & Noodles

 

 

We Moved About a Week Ago

We moved about a week ago,

It’s nice here, I suppose,

The trouble is, I miss my friends,

Like Beth, who bopped my nose,

And Jess, who liked to wrestle

And dump me in the dirt,

And Liz, who found a garter snake
And put it down my shirt.

 
I miss my friend Fernando,

He sometimes pulled my hair,

I miss my sister Sarah,

She shaved my teddy bear,

I miss the Trumble Triplets

Who dyed my sneakers blue,
And Gus, who broke my glider,
I guess I miss him too.

 
I really miss Melissa

Who chased me up a tree,

I even miss “Gorilla” Brown

Who used to sit on me,

The more I think about them,

The more it makes me sad,

I hope I make some friends here

As great as those I had.
—Jack Prelutsky from Something Big Has Been Here

 

This book (A Pizza the Size of the Sun) should be required reading for those out there who claim they don’t like poetry.” – School Library Journal.

 

Note: I have several copies of Prelusky’s poetry collection at Kids Books Without Borders. If you are a family living overseas, order while supplies last.

May Flowers

April Showers Brings May Flowers – poetry Monday

Lena Anderson is a Swedish author and an illustrator of children’s and young adult books. Some of her most popular books translated from Swedish include Hedge Hog, Pig, and the Sweet Little Friend, Hedgehog’s Secret, Linnea in Monet’s Garden, Tick-Tock, Tea for Ten, Stina series and Bunny series. Her books of poetry include Anna’s Garden Songs and Anna’s Summer Songs. These two books of poetry are beautifully illustrated by Mary Q. Steele.

In Anna’s Summer Songs, the 14 poems celebrate trees, flowers, ferns and fruit. Anna, a blond, energetic and adventurous little girl with glasses frolics in the beauty of nature.

As the saying goes “April showers brings May flowers“. Here in Central Indiana, the flowers are bursting to life all around me – as I go out on my daily walk, the trees and the flowers are there to greet me – a reminder that God is one who delights in beautyI I hope that flowers are blooming wherever you may be.

Here are some flower poems for you and your children to enjoy. Lena Anderson’s book Anna’s Garden Songs is available to order if you love the poems below.

Iris

Now I’m dreaming

Iris dreams.

Green and yellow,

White and blue.

And while I’m dreaming

Iris dreams

Do iris dream

Of me and you?

Forget-Me-Not

Forget-me-nots

Have magic powers,

They make my rabbit

Dance for hours

On starlit nights.

He leaps and whirls

And jigs and jogs

And jumps and twirls.

He kick his ears.

I wish I heard

The tune he hears

For though I dance

With all my might

I never get

The steps quite right …

he says.

Poppy

A bright red poppy

Can make me feel happy

And hoppy.

Hop, hip, happy!

Hap, hip, hoppy!

Poppy!

Cornflower

I picked these cornflowers by the road.

Their petals are so blue.

They match the color of my eyes.

They match my ribbon too.

So many summer things are blue,

The sunny seas and skies

And cornflowers growing by the road…

And they all match my eyes!

Lavender

How Lavender loves heat and sun!

Its flowers are sweet to smell.

We dried the blooms and put them in

These little sacks to sell,

So people can on snowy nights

Remember summer’s smells and sights.

Wonder 


Even though I read this book recently and it left a deep impression on me, I was reluctant to do a review of it here. I mean, there are currently 7,994 reviews of it on Amazon. Wow! that’s a lot of reviews… Do I really need to add my review?

I decided that if my review causes you to read this book than YES, it’s worth another review. Besides, I think this book is amazing and I just have to share it! By the way, even though this is a children’s book, it is more widely read and adults and children alike are reading it. The author notes with humor that it is more often the adults that cry, even weep, over the book.

I also feel like Wonder is tailor made for third culture kids. It addresses issues that are part of the fabric of our lives: being an outsider, showing kindness to other outsiders, and finding humor in difficult circumstances.
In this review, I have added excerpts from an interview the author had with Michelle Pauli on The Guardian Children’s Books podcast (which I’ve included below)

Being an outsider

No, most TCKs do not face the kind of ostracizing that a child with a severe cranial/facial difference faces, but we have all experienced some forms of rejection for being different and can empathize with Augie on some deep emotional level. This is what Patricia Pollacio says in the interview:

“Everyone can identify with that kid because we all know what it’s like to be the new kid, we all know what it’s like, or remember what it’s like, to be the outsider at some point in our lives and I think, for parents, watching our kids grow up is a way of reliving all of those heartbreaking moments in our own lives and trying to protect our children from having the same heartbreaks which, of course, is impossible.”. R.J. Palacio

As I read Wonder, I could identify with him on his first day at school, watching everyone around him chatting with friends and Augie, feeling so alone and isolated.

Showing Kindness

The second thing I wanted to mention about Wonder is the theme of compassion and kindness that flows throughout the novel. Yes, children can be cruel and unkind, but some kids have the courage and compassion to reach out to others, like Summer, who goes to sit with August and gets to know him. I know many TCKs are often like Summer because they can put themselves in the shoes of those who have been an outsider. There is that connection, there’s that “I know what that feels like” thread of empathy that draws us towards them.

“In some ways, yes, it’s a book about a kid with a cranial/facial difference, but for me, this was ultimately a meditation on kindness, the impact of kindness and the power of kindness to save our lives, to save the world. It is something that needs to be prioritized more in the way we approach raising our children.”. R.J. Palacio

I feel, as a TCK, deep empathy for the underdog and that person sitting alone in a crowd. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always act on it – I am by nature shy, but when I do act out of kindness, it makes my heart glad I did.



Humor

Wonder is not just about heartbreaks, or showing kindness, but also the power of humor in difficult times.
I remember when I was in college, saying goodbye to my parents and sister at the airport as they returned to France, my brothers and I all heading off to our respective campuses. We were all huddled together, and someone or something – I can’t remember what it was – made us all laugh. We were laughing so hard, people were beginning to stare. But it was cathartic, the pain of saying goodbye dissipated in that humorous moment.

 

Saying good-bye and having a good laugh at O’Hare airport 1982

The author said in the interview:

“I met once with a family who had a child with a cranial/facial difference and what they liked the most about the book was the humor throughout… the father said to me: “In a way we have to find the humor in all of this” and they started telling me some really funny stories about the way people reacted to their child. They were making the best of it and finding humor whenever they could.”. RJ Palacio

Humor is a soothing ointment for difficult or painful experiences.

I urge you to read Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It’s a powerful and moving story.

I think this novel would work well as a read-aloud and can lead to some great discussion, but just as a precaution, keep a box of tissues on hand.

Note: This is NOT a sad story. It is ultimately about kindness, about friendship, about love, hope, humor and families being there for you in the midst of it all.

Check out this cool episode: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/childrens-books-podcast/id423549679?mt=2&i=358906814

I’m nobody!  Who are you?


Poetry Monday – Three poems by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts. When Emily was a little girl, everyone in Amherst knew the Dickinsons. Her grandfather helped found Amherst College. Her father was a lawyer and he was the treasurer of the college. Emily’s mother, also called Emily, was a great cook and loved to entertain. Emily had an older brother, Austin and a younger sister, Lavinia.

Emily was very shy, and did not enjoy social gatherings. After one year of college, she returned home and lived there until her death. She loved reading, gardening, going for walks, playing piano, her family and nature.

She started writing poetry when she was in her teens. Although only six of her poems were published while she was alive, after her death they discovered many little books of poetry, each sewn together by hand. In all, Emily Dickinson had written more than 1,700 poems!

One of her most famous poems is entitled I’m nobody! Who are you?  It addresses the universal feeling of being an outsider.

I’m nobody! Who are you?



I’m nobody! Who are you?

Are you nobody, too?

Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!

They’d banish us, you know.

 

How dreary to be somebody!

How public, like a frog

To tell your name the livelong day

To an admiring bog!

Emily loved reading. She was rarely seen without a book in her hands. In this poem, she talks about the joys of reading:

 There is no Frigate Like a Book

There is no Frigate like a Book

To take us Lands away,

Nor any Coursers like a Page

Of prancing Poetry –

 

This Traverse may the poorest take

Without oppress of Toll –

How frugal is the Chariot

That bears a Human soul!

Emily also enjoyed the beauty of nature. She loved to write about birds, flowers, trees, the sea, and all the things she saw in her garden and on her daily walks. Here is an amusing poem about insects:


Bee, I’m Expecting you

Bee! I’m expecting you!

Was saying Yesterday

To Somebody you know

That you were due—

 

The Frogs got Home last Week—

Are settled, and at work—

Birds, mostly back—

The Clover warm and thick—

 

You’ll get my Letter by

The seventeenth; Reply

Or better, be with me—

Yours, Fly.

 

If you’ve enjoyed these poems by Emily Dickinson, I’d encourage you to get a copy of Poetry for Young People – Emily Dickinson edited by Frances Schoonmaer Bolin. Poetry for Young People is a great series for kids that highlights different poets, with information about their life and work and with selections of their poetry interspersed with colorful illustrations.

Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary!

  On April 12, Beverly Cleary, famous children’s author, turns 100!

Three of her most popular works are Henry Huggins, Ramona Quimby, Age 8, and The Mouse and the Motorcycle.  There are also more than 40 Cleary titles in print. 

  Her most serious book Dear Mr. Henshaw won the Newbery Award in 1984. It tells the story of Leigh, who begins the novel as a school assignment, writing letters to a favorite author. He shares with him about his parent’s divorce, his relationship with his father and being the new kid in school.  

About Beverly Cleary

  

Beverly Cleary was born in McMinnville, Oregon. She lived on a farm in Yamhill, a small town with no library. Her mother went the extra mile to ensure her children had books to read. She requests books from the state library and became the town librarian, setting up the books in a lodge room upstairs over a bank. Thus started a love affair with books for the young Beverly. When their family moved to Portland, and she attended school, to her dismay, Beverly was put in the lower reading group in her class, an experience she will never forget. She continues to be an advocate for struggling readers. Before long though, she was a fluent reader and was reading her way through all the books in the library. It was her school librarian who took note of Beverly’s voracious appetite for reading and suggested to her that she should write books herself someday!  

  

 These eight highly amusing and easy-to-read novels for ages 8-12 center on Ramona, a fiesty little girl, her older sister Beezus and her best friend, Henry. The first book Beezus and Ramona is the only book written from the perspective of Beezus, the older sister. Two books in the series were named Newbery Honor books, Ramona and Her Father and Ramona Quimby, Age 8; Ramona and Her Mother received the National Book Award. 

  •  Beezus and Ramona (1955)
  •  Ramona the Pest (1968)
  •  Ramona the Brave (1975)
  •  Ramona and her Father. (1977)
  •  Ramona and her Mother (1979)
  •  Ramona Quimby, age 8 (1981)
  •  Ramona Forever (1984)
  •  Ramona’s World (1999)

  

Also, be sure to read the exploits of Henry and his dog, Ribsy. Henry is Ramona’s best friend and neighbor. This series, which include Ramona and her family, is great for boys, although my kids (1 boy and 2 girls) enjoyed both series equally.

  •  Henry Huggins (1950)
  •  Henry and Beezus (1952)
  • Henry and Ribsy (1954)
  • Henry and the Paper Route (1957)
  • Henry and the Clubhouse (1962)
  • Ribsy (1964)

  

Of course, no celebration of Beverly Cleary’s life and works would be complete without The Mouse and the Motorcycle!

On April 12th, to celebrate Beverley Cleary’s, children everywhere are asked to participate in D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) to commemorate Cleary’s contribution to children’s literature. If you are not familiar with The Read-Aloud Revival (http://amongstlovelythings.com), I would encourage you to check it out. Sarah MacKenzie is a homeschooling mom of 6 who is passionate about reading. There is a blog, reading lists (hot off the press), podcasts and more. She is offering a FREE downloadable D.E.A.R. Whole Family Book Club Kit, offers suggestions for activities and a Beverly Cleary walking tour.  

  Note: I have multiple copies of all of the above books for families living overseas.

Poems about rain


Here is Southern Indiana, Spring is in full bloom. It is so exhilarating to see nature burst into life again. Along with arrays of color and greenery comes rainy days. They go hand in hand – without the rain we wouldn’t have the beauty of new life. However, I remember when my children were small. They itched to be out of doors and would awaken to rain – we would recite to them the old rhyme – “rain, rain go away, come again another day, little Johnny wants to play” to cheer them up.
O course, rain means different things in other parts of the world. In England and France where I grew up, it was a staple, a part of every day life and you never went out without an umbrella. As in the poem, Duck Weather by Shirley Hughes rain in Europe is mostly something adults grumble about. For the small child, it means a bright raincoat, shiny rain boots (or wellies, as they are called there) and puddles to splash in. What fun! For many of us, the sound of rain trickling down the gutters and the pitter patter in the roof at night, is soothing and relaxing like a lullaby as Langston Hughes describes it in April Rain Song.
In some parts of the world, there are rainy seasons and in others, rain is a rare and precious gift that the dusty dry, cracked earth gobbles up greedily, bringing much relief from the heat. I think Rain Music by Joseph Cotter and it’s drum like cadence is a good example of how rain can be music to our ears and we rejoice in it and praise God for it.

Finally, you can’t have a post about rain without including Robert Louis Stevenson’s Rain for it’s simplicity and depth. It comes down on my little umbrella, but also is expensive and reaches out over vast ocean. This is a great little poem to have a child learn by heart.

Duck Weather

Splishing, splashing in the rain,

Up the street and back again,

Stomping, stamping through the flood,

We don’t mind a bit of mud.

Running pavements, gutters flowing,

All the cars with wipers going,

We don’t care about the weather,

Tramping hand in hand together.

We don’t mind a damp wet day,

Sloshing puddles all the way,

Splishing, splashing in the rain,

Up the street and back again.

Poem by Shirley Hughes (born in 1927). Shirley Hughes is a British author and illustrator. She has written over 50 books for children. She is the winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal in 1977 and 2003 for Dogger and Ella’s Big Chance. This poem is taken from Rhymes for Annie Rose. Did I mention I love Shirley Hughes?

April Rain Song

Let the rain kiss you

Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops

Let the rain sing you a lullaby

The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk

The rain makes running pools in the gutter

The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night

And I love the rain.

Poem by Langston Hughes (1902-1967). He was an African American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. April Rain Song was taken from the Collected Poems of Langston Hughes.

Rain Music 


On the dusty earth-drum

Beats the falling rain;

Now a whispered murmur,

Now a louder strain.

Slender, silvery drumsticks,

On an ancient drum,

Beat the mellow music

Bidding life to come.

Chords of earth awakened,

Notes of greening spring,

Rise and fall triumphant

Over every thing.

Slender, silvery drumsticks

Beat the long tattoo–

God, the Great Musician,

Calling life anew.

Poem by Joseph S. Cotter, Jr. (1861-1949) – He was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. Joseph Cotter was one of the earliest African American playwrights. He was a poet, playwright, community leader and strong advocate for black education.  Rain Music is taken from The Book of American Negro Poetry. Ed. James Weldon Johnson. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922.

The Rain

The rain is raining all around,

It falls on field and tree,

It rains on the umbrellas here,

And on the ships at sea.

Poem by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) Robert Louis Stevenson was a Scottish author and is best known as the author of the children’s classic Treasure Island, and the adult horror story, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He also published A Child’s Garden of Verses from which this poem was taken. Of great children’s writers, it is often said that the child in them never dies – A Child’s Garden of Verses is the perfect example of this – a must have for any child’s home library!)