You know how sometimes you just kind of randomly grab books at the library, and don’t really screen them until you get home? Sometimes I do that and get weirdos that I quietly hide back in the library bag. And sometimes I get books like Dear Flyary, which are so cute and silly and surprising (and sometimes I use the word “sometimes” too much). This book is the diary (or, well, “flyary”) of an adorable alien named Frazzle, and it takes a moment or two to get your head around Frazzle’s galactic vocabulary, but author Dianne Young does such a brilliant job of writing it just on the edge of comprehension. Ok, that doesn’t sound like a compliment, but what I mean is, she uses alien words, like “noteymaker” for an instrument, that are foreign enough to sound strange, but close enough to be understandable, so the whole reading does seem like you’re reading another language, but it’s a language that you somehow are able to speak. Listen to my review — I read a few sections, and you can get the idea of what I mean!
Plus, look at how cute Frazzle is with his one giant eyeball!
You can see information about this episode here, or you can get it right in iTunes here. Enjoy!
When the book Unusual Creatures: A Mostly Accurate Account of Some of the World’s Strangest Animals by Michael Hearst showed up in our mailbox, Henry (my nine-year-old) yelped with delight. He’s obsessed with animals, geography, and weirdness, so this book seemed tailor-made for him.
However, he’s apparently working through a cynical period, so, after looking through the book for a few minutes, he said, “Yeah, I wish there were more animals I didn’t know about.” Well, excuse me, Mr. Know-it-All (note that I didn’t say that out loud; seems like sarcasm breeds cynicism, yes?).
Well, the book looked pretty cool to me, but I left it on the table and walked up to my room in the attic to fold laundry.
Over the next hour, Henry probably burned 1000 calories running from the dining room to the attic to relay amazing facts. “The hagfish can make enough slime in five minutes to fill five 1-gallon jugs!” “The blue-footed booby’s nostrils are permanently closed!” “A baby echidna is called a puggle!” “The star-nosed mole is the fastest-eating mammal!” “A platypus bill is not recyclable!”
So it turned out he liked Unusual Creatures after all. And why not? Every page is a new wacky animal, complete with drawings, biological classifications, and geographical locations (with map). Some pages have crazy facts, some have poems, some have a list of multiple choice questions, and some have lists of facts that all seem ridiculous but are under the heading “True or True?”
This book can be very silly (see above: poems, and the fact about a platypus bill not being recyclable), and that makes it even better. The only thing that might make this book even better would be if there were photos of the animals, but there’s a pleasing, old-school-textbook feel to the drawings, and it definitely gives the animals a nice continuity. Really, I don’t see how you could go wrong with a book about incredibly bizarre animals, all of which are real, with a bunch of crazy facts about them.
You know how they say that, for instance, every 3-year-old has OCD? Or that, if you met an adult who acted like your 4-year-old, they’d be clinically insane? I think all 8-10 year olds think they’re trying out for some kind of Jeopardy/Trivial Pursuit Quiz-a-thon. So, basically, if you have a 4th or 5th grader to buy a book for, this is the one you should get. They’ll love you for it.
Do you really need me to sell you on a book called Cecil the Pet Glacier? Plus, look at that cover — Giselle Potter’s illustrations are lush and rich, somehow simple and complex all at once. I originally picked this book up because Giselle Potter is the illustrator; her The Year I Didn’t Go to Schoolwas honestly some of the inspiration in our year of homeschooling (not that we went to Italy and became puppeteers, which is what happens in that book).
This week Katie talks all about Pinterest (ok, that was a link to my Pinterest boards, you can check out Katie on Pinterest here). She’s doing a free (free!) webinar all about Pinterest tomorrow (September 20) at noon. Listen to the podcast to hear more, and you can check out the info on the webinar here and sign up for the webinar here.
There’s also a Julie Hedlund gratitude segment, as well as my review. Did you see how I was the featured author on Julie H’s site yesterday? Thank you so much to everyone who commented, and especially to those of you (including Julie H) who said that my reviews make you want to run out and buy the books. That’s a huge compliment, and it was a colossal ego boost. Thank you, everybody!
You can see more about the podcast episode here, or listen in iTunes here. Thanks!
As you know, I hurt my knee a few weeks ago. It turns out I tore my ACL, which is a common injury among athletes, apparently. Also a common injury among dogs, according to Brook Gideon. I am neither a dog nor what one might call an athlete (although I’m super athletic in my head). Just unlucky, I suppose.
The nice thing is, I guess, that it’s such a common injury that the medical establishment knows what to do. Some people don’t do anything about it, and just work on getting stronger. I can’t really walk, so I’m opting for surgery. On October 1 I’ll have allograft surgery (allograft is a euphemistic medical term for “putting a dead person’s ligament in where yours used to be”).
Being on crutches is a pain. You can’t really carry anything. I’m kind of crutch-walking now, so I can maybe carry something, very slowly, if I shove one of the crutches into my armpit and hold it there. For the next three weeks I am working on regaining my full range of motion (I can’t straighten my leg, and can barely bend it) and putting weight on my leg.
It also turns out that my wardrobe is not at all suited for a knee injury. I mostly wear skirts. You can’t wear a skirt if you’re lying on a table with your knee bent, having a medical professional mostly looking underwearward. I have one pair of decent shorts, and I mostly only wear them for hiking or biking or house renovating. I do not look cute in hiking shorts. Not awful, mind you, but not really like I’m paying attention. Not that it’s about that. At all. It’s just: isn’t September all about dusting off tights and scarves? Not about hiking shorts. June is about hiking shorts.
Oh skirts and dresses, I miss you.
The worst part is truly that our bedroom is in the attic, and, because we’re renovating our second-floor bathroom, the only bathroom is on the first floor. So I now cut off liquids (for me) after 6 pm, like I’m a 4-year-old giving up nighttime diapers or something.
This is the SECOND set of stairs I have to ascend to get to my bed. It takes me a good five minutes to get all the way up there.
So today marks one week of school. So far it has been really, really good. Both boys are making friends and love their teachers. Henry’s teacher seems to be book-obsessed (though are there 4th grade teachers who aren’t?) (not that they’re all Colby Sharp or anything, but I would imagine every 4th grade teacher loves books), so that suits book-obsessed Henry. Eli’s teacher is sweet and kind, and about two inches taller than he is.
We didn’t really tell them that we were viewing this completely as a trial, and if they hated it, we’d pull them out. I mean, they knew, I think, but I didn’t want them to go in wanting to hate it. But they don’t hate it, at all. Eli is still not completely sure (“She made us do the hokey pokey. Do you have any idea how embarrassing that is?”), but Henry is clearly loving it, all of it, from kickball to multiplication worksheets.
Eli’s mood about school increased 1000-fold on day 3, when he got a love note:
So, to sum up: I’m ok. Tore my ACL. Can’t quite walk, but I’m working on that, and I’m hoping to be walking and driving by…what? November? I’m feeling surprisingly vain about my inability to wear skirts and cute shoes. And the boys are in school, and that’s ok.
Goodbye for now, cute shoes. I'll see you in the spring.
Now, listen: I am not generally a fan of messagey picture books, or ones that are obviously trying to get kids to think something in particular. Sure, all picture books are probably trying to get kids to feel something in particular, but I back away from books that seem to be all, “HELLO CHILDREN! FEEL THIS, PLEASE!”
So I was a little nervous about Kimochis. Would they be hitting me over head, telling me how my Feelings were Ok?
So: yeah. There is the definite sense that, you know, if you give a shy kid Bug, then it might help that kid to feel braver, since Bug is shy, and does things to feel braver. But before you get all gaggy, you should know that these books, and critters, and just so darn cute that you have to forgive them for talking to you about Feelings. As soon as we pulled our Bug out of the package, all my kids passed him around and cuddled with him (and then, well, fought over him, which is a Feeling he doesn’t really address). I will also say that the illustrations in the books (by Hanako Wakiyama) are FABULOUS — sweet and spare and totally fitting the books.
And as we were sitting there, reading them, I decided to get over myself. Not every book can be quirky and odd and hilarious (if they were all Chloe and the Lion, then Chloe and the Lion wouldn’t seem so remarkable). Also it occurred to me that we’ve been doing a bit of a Berenstain Bears marathon lately, and The Bears are nothing if not messagey.
And you know what? My kids love Kimochis. They think they are adorable, and they think the books are fun. Each book seems to have a silly part, and a sweet part, and a part that makes them kind of quiet and contemplative (likely thinking, “Yeah, I remember when I went totally nutbar just like Cloud is doing”) (which is kind of the point).
The website has some info for educators (including downloadable handouts for using Kimochis with autistic kids). I think these could be extremely useful in the classroom, where books about feelings (and controlling inappropriate ones) are even more needed than at home, I imagine, and Kimochis would be a welcome change from Bobby Bear Gets Angry and Hits Things Sometimes (ok, I just made that up, but I’m sure there are books like that).
Oh boy, this is a good book. Which you’ll figure out after hearing my near-rapturous review. This book manages to pull together sweet-sad poetry and humor in just a few words, and the words are perfectly matched with Erin Stead’s illustrations.
What I didn’t mention in my review is that the first few times we read this, each reading took (or, well, seemed to take) about six hours, because on every page, Ramona would scream, “DOG! TURTLE!” So it went sort of like this: “First you have — DOG! TURTLE! — brown, all around — DOG! TURTLE! — you have — DOG! TURTLE! — brown…” But these are the dangers of reading anything to a 2-year-old, and I have to say that “And Then It’s Spring” held up beautifully despite repeated interruptions.
You can check out more info on the podcast episode here, or go straight to iTunes here.
And yes, the podcast episode happened almost a week ago, but we had lovely guests, and then I hurt myself, so things are a little behind schedule here at World of Julie, sorry.
In a flurry, rushing to get things done, always rushed, I stepped out of the shed carrying boxes of camping food and SNAP! (BAM? WHOOTZ? some kind of comic book sound for sure) my knee buckled and camping food went everywhere (flying marshmallows!) and I was in the dirt, helpless. Good thing I have all these kids to bring me ice and clean up the cans of baked beans I’d thrown asunder. Dave came home ten minutes later and helped me hobble inside.
That was Friday night. The doctor on Saturday said I’d done something. It might be a tear, but we’re hoping for a sprain, she said. Though later it occurred to me that I’ve never heard of anyone having a sprained knee. Have you? So I’ve got to go get an MRI this week and see what I did.
Until then: crutches, ice. Less frequent internet communications since I’m on the couch.
First I want to tell you about how happy I still am about our Little Free Library. You know, you have this idea in your head, and it seems like a great idea, and then you make your idea, and put it out there, and then there’s that panic, the feeling that maybe it was a huge mistake (is it just me? that cycle of thought happens about 100 times a day for me). So we put up the Little Free Library, and…
It has been awesome!
The first day there was almost a 75 percent turnover in books. Books were flying in and out of there. It was so fabulously gratifying. These have been my most favorite exchanges:
Two 8-year-old girls, riding by on their bikes, who stopped and said, “Let’s play bookstore, and pretend this is a bookstore where we can get books!”
An 8-year-old boy running (RUNNING) to the Little Free Library first thing in the morning, flinging open the door, and taking out a book, saying, “Phew! It’s still here! I had to get it before anyone else did!”
Best of all: the 12-year-old boy who declared, “I don’t like reading” when I told him he could take a book, who then, the next day, came back and took out “The Way Things Work, Volume 2″ (not the David Macauley one, but this vintagey thing we had kicking around), declared, “I found a book I like!” and then held it to his chest like he’d found treasure.
Do you know about Little Free Library? The first time I heard about it, I had an immediate dream to have a Little Free Library of my own. The problem is that we have a house we’re constantly tearing apart, and four kids hanging from us needing some sort of parenting, and all those other life things, and taking the time out to make a little wooden box we’d fill with books seemed sort of frivolous. So I never mentioned it.
Then one day Dave and I were talking about community, and giving back, and teaching the kids about service, and suddenly I was rambling on, and on, about Little Free Libraries and how they embody all of my favorite notions of service: literacy, serving your immediate neighborhood, and fun and surprises where you don’t expect them (ok, I don’t think that last one is really a legitimate “notion of service,” but it’s one of my favorite things about life).
And Dave, wonder that he is, thought it was a great idea and started helping me build one the next day. We were able to use leftover shingles so it matches our house. We involved the kids as much as could in the design and building. And of course we had to put in a light — we get a lot of late-night dog walkers, and I wanted them to be able to pick books at midnight. (Another dream I didn’t know I had: the desire to give late-night dog walkers a way to choose books in the dark.)
I am so happy and proud about this. I’ve been spending a lot of time staring at the Little Free Library, hand over my heart, and sighing.
Plus it’s my first library job! I’ve got to put that MLS to use sometime!
Here’s the sticker we designed for the inside. We made it so it looks like a library card in a pocket, but it’s got our address, and, under date due, says, “WHENEVER.”
The Library at night.
If you’re in South Portland, stop on by! Little Free Library #2354 open and ready for reading!