This St. Patrick’s Day we have a special treat for our Bookboard readers! ?We wanted to share our enlightening conversation with acclaimed children’s book writer and storyteller?Cynthia DeFelice about one of her wonderful picture books, One Potato, Two Potato, which is set in Ireland.
The tale, beautifully illustrated by Andrea U’Ren, is the story of The O’Grady’s, an elderly Irish couple who although happy with each other and accepting of their modest life, long for enough food to eat, candles to light the dark and the company of friends. ?One day the husband digs up a magic pot in his potato patch, and they find that whatever they put into the pot comes out doubled–including themselves! ?Faced with such a gift, it is what the O’Grady’s ultimately do with it that shows the things that are truly important in life.
There’s a big debate raging, sparked by the new Common Core State Standards, which require public schools to ramp up the use of nonfiction text in the classroom in a big way. ?There seems to be a lot of back and forth about whether or not these new standards will help or hurt our children. ?Will they be more prepared for college and the workplace? ?Or will their imaginations die on the vine?
Personally, I don’t know the answer to these questions. ?I do know that my own kids have been exposed to both fiction and nonfiction at home and in the classroom, and seem to be equally enamored of both. ?At the moment, my daughter delights in reporting the adventures of the mouse protagonist of The Tale of Despereaux which she is reading at school, and my son has just surfaced from total immersion in the Alex Rider adventure books now that he’s read all nine cover to cover. ?But when he came home with a biography book report assignment, they both started reading the “Who Was” stories and now they can’t get enough of Helen Keller, Paul Revere and a number of other historical figures who, while not talking animals or super spies, are heroes in their own right.
So it’s a new year, and time for those new year’s resolutions! ?In my house, I had begun to notice that our bedtime reading ritual had changed. ?Before, I had been reading a chapter a night to my kids. ?We had read The Wind and the Willows, the BFG, Ramona the Pest and other classics. ?I’ve always believed in the importance of a bedtime routine to?help the children settle into a good night’s sleep, and reading to them was a fun way for me to rediscover the favorites of my own childhood while introducing the kids to characters that they fell in love with too.
But over the holidays, with more social and family obligations, we had fallen into the habit of letting the kids read to themselves at bedtime. ?Of course this autonomous reading has its own merits — not to mention being a homework requirement. ?I found, though, as the new year began and our evenings quieted down, that I missed the ritual of reading aloud to them. ?To have everyone engaged in the same story, giggling or gasping at the same hijinks or heroics, creates a real bond — and is just plain fun!
It’s that time of year again…the elf is on the shelf, Clark Griswold is up to his old holiday shenanigans, and I’m trying to find just one decent photo of our whole family to use for the holiday card–a near impossible feat. ?Truth is, I’m a real jingle bells junkie. ?I love trimming the tree, watching holiday movies, and baking cookies (not to mention the dozens of frosted mint fudge brownies I deliver to friends every year, and, no, you can’t have the recipe). ?And of course the kids have their favorite festive books, which we read every night while snuggling in our matching holiday pajamas — well, except for my husband, who draws the line at red and green striped long johns.
A few years ago, my husband and I decided to trade in the inconveniences of city living for the comforts of the suburbs. ?With a toddler and a newborn, we found that late nights in San Francisco–checking out the latest mixology haunt, Fillmore concert, or farm-to-table restaurant–had been replaced by even later nights with a fussy baby and a scared-of-the-dark toddler. You know what I mean, when their nightmare?becomes your nightmarishly disrupted REM cycle!
Last week I shared some thoughts about reading with grandparents, and it brought to mind another staple of every trip to my mamaw and grandaddy’s house: pancakes! My grandmother had an ancient griddle where she would make the most delicious “hotcakes” for me and my brother, which we’d pile high and smother with syrup. Total comfort food! One bite and I’m back in mamaw’s kitchen on the window seat at the long oak table, watching her bustle around in her faded apron, the delicious smell of pancakes filling the air.
When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house in the next small town over. ?(Hey Mom, are you reading this?? ?My kids are available!) ?I hate to date myself, but back in those days there weren’t a lot of ready-made activities at hand, not to mention a lack of techie toys — too bad the Atari wasn’t portable!