Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Yukata Always Get What You Want

Last spring my daughter's class was studying Asia. For show and tell, my daughter decided to take her yukata from Japan. However a few minutes before her presentation, she decided not to put it on. I thought that was a bit strange since she had been so excited about wearing it all week, even doing a dress rehearsal the night before.

Perhaps she was motivated by stage fright or even shyness, but I suspect she had a premonition of what occurred next. The teacher called on another volunteer to dress up in the yukata. As soon as she put it on, the class erupted in laughter. Now maybe it was a laughing-with rather than laughing-at situation, but it was not the reaction I was expecting. Looking back I wish we had known about this book beforehand. 

Suki's Kimono, by Chieri Uegaki, tells the story of Suki's first day of school. Suki wants to wear her new favorite outfit- a kimono. Her sisters try to talk her out of it: "People will think you're weird," says her sister Mari. 

Suki and her sisters walk to school. Feeling like a butterfly, Suki is oblivious to the snickering crowd walking behind her. She ignores the giggles on the playground, but when she gets to class the teasing becomes harder to ignore: "She's a bat!" one boy yells. 

When her turn comes to talk about her summer vacation, Suki stands up straight and tells about her grandmother's visit and the festival they attended. Then she begins to dance. One of my favorite illustrations (done by St├ęphane Jorisch) shows the students settling down to watch with expressions that show interest rather than derision. Suki gets a standing ovation. 

On the walk home from school, Suki's sisters complain about no one noticing their new shoes or sweater. Suki just smiles. And continues to dance.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Midweek has caught me mid-book in, well, several titles.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
I am reading this one to my son at bedtime. We began with the picture book edition illustrated by Tudor Humphries. Then we watched this movie version . We've begun the chapter book and I for one am delighted by how much fun it is to read out loud.

The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt 
Having finished Part I, I hope to be as riveted by the next chapter in her life as I was by her account of her childhood of the late 1800s, her education abroad, and her early years managing the household and raising children. Whether it's breakfast at boarding school or traveling with AP reporters, Roosevelt includes just enough detail (and humor) to remind us that she is just as much human as she is icon.

You Are One of Them by Elliott Holt
Sarah Zuckerman works in Moscow. She has come to Russia in part to solve the mystery of what really happened to her childhood friend, Jenny.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sweet and Sugary

Lately my kids have been obsessed with this show. They act it out in the car, on the playground, and since summer vacation has started, in the kitchen. Therefore it came as no surprise when my daughter became equally obsessed with a series of books starring a family of magic bakers. 

The Bliss family runs a special bakery in Calamity Falls. Middle child Rose dreams of becoming a kitchen magician like her parents. When her mother and father are called away to help with a flu epidemic, Rose finally has her chance to try out a few recipes from the sacred family cookbook. 

Before Rose has a chance to crack an egg, a stranger rides up on a flashy motorcycle and claims to be their long-lost Aunt Lily. Although her brothers quickly grow smitten, Rose is suspicious and convinces them to keep the cookbook (and pantry of magic ingredients) a secret from Lily. 

The arrival of Lily doesn't stop Rose from trying out a few recipes. First, she decides to play matchmaker by whipping up a batch of Love Muffins. Then she tries to cure a lonely customer of her tall tales with some Snickerdoodles of Truth. However, when the ingredients include eggs of masked lovebirds and tears from a warlock eye, things are bound to go wrong. And they do. 

Rose tries to fix the mess with an upside-down cake that leaves the town, well, not exactly upside down but definitely backwards. Soon she has no choice but to show Aunt Lily the cookbook in attempt to set things right. Lily helps save the day, but the temptations of a magic cookbook are too much to resist. Although this installment ends in a happy family reunion, the rogue aunt has set the scene for the second book of the series.  
With a fist of flour, and a pinch of magic, Kathryn Littlewood has filled Bliss with enough mystery, humor, and baked goods to appeal to the eight (or thirty-eight)-year-old in your family.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"Zine of the Month"

So my subscription to this magazine has long expired but my heart still did a little skip when I discovered Lynda Barry has a graphic novel about writing called What It Is

Through collage images and personal reflections, Barry takes us through her own discovery of writing as an artist and teacher. I was especially drawn to the section where she illustrates how to find a starting point for writing using word banks and images.

Take a deep breath, set your timer for seven minutes, and write about drugstores, refrigerators, or writer inspired fashion spreads featured in your once favorite magazine.