Archive for June, 2009

Sounds Like a Product I Could Get Behind

June 16, 2009 @ 6:57 pm | Filed under:

Rilla asked for something this afternoon, but I didn’t quite hear her at first.

Me: “You want a popsicle?”

Rilla: “No. A pie-cicle.”

Me: “A bicycle?”

Rilla: “NO, Mommy, a PIE-cicle.”

Jane, giggling: “What’s a pie-cicle?”

Rilla: “In the fridge!”

(She opens the freezer.)

Rilla: “Oh. I mean an ice cream cone.”

Bento Trail

June 15, 2009 @ 8:13 pm | Filed under: ,

Today was another sick day for me. The kids are much better, though. I could have cried with relief when Scott told me he was staying home from work today to take care of everyone. Here at the darkening end of the day, I think I’m finally seeing a glimmer of wellness in the distance. I still have no voice and a cruel cough, but I’m getting better. Hurrah.

Sick or no, we took a fun little spontaneous stroll through an interesting topic today: bento boxes. In Harvest Moon your character is given a box lunch every day, and Rose was curious about what exactly a box lunch IS, and I told her about bento and starting looking up links, and oh my, the internet is a wondrous thing.

Links we enjoyed:

Anna the Red’s Bento Factory. Amazing site. What an artist she is. My girls are Mario fans and loved her Super Mario Galaxy characters. But my favorite were the totoros and—here’s one for all my kidlitosphere friends—her tribute to Where the Wild Things Are.

This isn’t a bento but it may be the cutest thing I have ever seen in my life, EVER. (Remind me to tell you someday about my family’s deep affection for My Neighbor Totoro, which I think is my favorite animated movie of all time.) (You see how Totoro brings out the extreme declarations from me.)

Bento Box has some good background, especially the page about bento staples.

Loved the FAQ at Lunch in a Box…and every other page we went to!

Cooking Cute is everything its name promises.

You could spend all day oohing over the bento photos on Flickr.

We are almost always home for lunch, but these beautiful pictures give me much food for thought (ba dum bum) about simple ways to bring more beauty to the table and make healthy foods appealing. Not that all of the links above are about simplicity…there’s some pretty elaborate artistry happening there. But the principles are worth pondering.

I Have Too Many Tabs Open

June 13, 2009 @ 11:57 am | Filed under:

I’m kind of quarantined at the moment. The baby and Rilla seem to be more or less over the nasty little bug we’ve been passing around, but it appears to find my company irresistible and invited its nasty little friends over for a keg party in my immune system last night. I woke up at 4 a.m. with a fever and honest-to-goodness chills, the kind that make your teeth chatter. Fun!

So Scott’s doing Saturday morning cartoons with the rest of the gang, and the baby just crashed on my lap (he’s the one who gave me this blasted virus, so no quarantining needed), and my book is way on the other side of the room, and my foot is falling asleep. Hang on, now my other foot is falling asleep. This is a serious situation. Must take mind off physical misery. Twitter, what have you got for me?

Ahh, sweet distraction. First there’s Liz B tweeting a teaser about her latest post, a link-rich discussion of her frustration with parents who “treat reading like a race,” pushing their kids to read too early, or to read “more challenging” books. Hear hear! Couldn’t agree more. I recall, long ago, when Jane was a baby, watching a visiting 4-year-old explore our bookshelves, which were even then loaded with picture book treasures. I’d worked at a children’s bookstore during grad school and pretty much converted my paycheck into books every two weeks. The little girl was a precocious reader, already gulping down chapter books on her own, but she was having a fine old time with our picture-book stash when her mother noticed and steered her away from the picture books toward, and I quote, “something more challenging.” The little girl was crestfallen, and I found myself quickly jumping in to point out to her mom that actually the reading level in picture books is often more sophisticated than in young chapter books, since, after all, picture books are meant to be read by an adult to a child. This satisfied the mother’s concerns and she allowed her daughter to finish the book she’d begun, but I felt intensely dissatisfied by the exchange. “Sophisticated reading level” wasn’t the point at all. The point was that a four-year-old child wanted to read a picture book—four! she was only four!—and she was being given a message that reading purely for pleasure was beneath her. Why must she only read things that “challenge” her? What’s wrong with reading for fun? Well, I was very new to mothering myself at that point, and I didn’t know how to carry the conversation further without offending the mother. I’m much mouthier now, I suppose.

Liz also led me to a Roger Sutton post on a topic much discussed of late, the difference between professional film and literary criticism and the kind of reviews, responses, and recommendations now so abundant on blogs. Roger quotes a New York Times article about online movie-review aggregators and the shrinking numbers of in-print film reviews, and he wonders whether “Internet 2.0 is turning us all into better talkers than listeners—that’s what will kill criticism from wherever its source.” Looks like a good discussion (among folks who both talk and listen) is shaping up in the comments there.

The Times piece led me to a Roger Ebert post about a YouTube poetry clip that was pulled because of nudity in an accompanying image. (The clip was later restored to the site, image intact.) I clicked through to listen to the poem, “The Cinnamon Peeler” by Sri Lankan poet Michael Ondaatje, and was fairly blown away both by the poem (beautiful in a kind of Song of Solomon way—please vet this before sharing with kids) and the voice of the reader, who calls himself (on YouTube) Tom O’Bedlam. I’ll be revisiting the SpokenVerse channel for sure.

Somewhere along the line the Times article led me, with a stop or two in between, to the Magazine Death Pool. Anyone feeling depressed about the disappearance of print media should probably avoid this link. (You know who you are.) “More than 525 US magazines ceased publication in 2008, and 40 have already folded in 2009 as the downturn in the economy continues to heavily impact most forms of print media, according to” That quote is from February, and the site chronicles the demise of several more magazines since then. Yow.

Then again, I’ve let almost all of my own magazine subscriptions lapse in the past couple of years. The girls still get a bunch of good ones, gifts from Scott’s parents—Muse, Odyssey, Ask, Ranger Rick, My Big Backyard.

Betsy-Tacy News and More

June 12, 2009 @ 1:50 pm | Filed under:

Early afternoon lull here, and I’ve got so many shreds of discussion fluttering around inside my head that I thought I’d try to catch hold of a few of them and see if they can be stitched into a patchwork post.

Author Gail Gauthier and I have been having an interesting conversation about “negative” and “positive” book reviews. It started in the comments of one of Liz B.’s excellent posts at A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy, and has continued on Gail’s blog. I love what Gail says about abandoning those terms—negative review, positive review—in favor of “analytical response” and “recommendation.” It can be a terribly uncomfortable thing for a writer to voice her frank criticism of another writers’ work; I generally find myself choosing to say nothing at all (on the blog, at least) rather than post anything negative—but I think Gail is completely correct in saying, “I don’t believe a thoughtful discussion of a book’s pros and cons is ‘negative.'” Blogging makes for complicated boundaries, sometimes.

Very exciting Betsy-Tacy news. You know how I’ve lamented their going out of print. This fall the four high-school Betsy books, plus Betsy in the Great World and Betsy’s Wedding, will be reissued in the Harper Perennial Modern Classics line. These will be double-volume books, three in all. I will be laying in a set for each of my daughters. Jennifer Hart of HarperCollins tells me there will be new forewords by Laura Lippman and Meg Cabot, and Anna Quindlan’s excellent foreword will be reprinted in the Great World/Betsy’s Wedding volume. You can get a sneak peek of the wonderful vintage-style covers at Deep Valley Sun—and while you’re there, read up on the Betsy-Tacy convention that will take place in Mankato, Minnesota, this July. I’d love to be there, but it’s the weekend before Comic-con. I must pace myself.

Here’s a post I wrote about my love for the Betsy-Tacy books, especially the (related, but not part of the main B-T series) moving and thoughtful Emily of Deep Valley.

You may already have seen this in my sidebar, but don’t miss Terrible Yellow Eyes, a collection of quite amazing paintings inspired by Where the Wild Things Are. We used to have a set of framed Wild Things prints in our girls’ room; I rescued them from an oversized calendar Harper issued one year. I’d love some of these tribute paintings on the wall!

Picture Book Spotlight: Let’s Do Nothing

June 10, 2009 @ 8:08 pm | Filed under: ,


Let’s Do Nothing by Tony Fucile (Candlewick, 2009).

On July 24th, many unschoolers (and others) will celebrate “Learn Nothing Day.” It’s a tongue-in-cheek sort of holiday, the point being that it’s impossible to live a day of your life without learning something.

Well, I’ve just found the perfect picture book to read on Learn Nothing Day. Except, darn it, what if we learn something from the book?

Ah, it doesn’t matter. I’ll never be able to wait until July to share this with my gang, anyway.

Frankie and Sal are two small boys of the very busy sort. They’ve done it all—played all the games there are to play, baked all the cookies, read all the comic books. In a quest for something new to do, they hit upon the notion of doing nothing at all. Nothing. “Zero movement. NOTHING.”

Good luck with that, fellas.

Sal gets off to a strong start, suggesting they sit still as the stone statues in the park. Frankie’s game, but…statues attract pigeons, don’t they? Who can do nothing when there are pigeons to shoo?

I love it when a book actually makes me giggle out loud. Frankie’s expressions are priceless, especially when he’s being a giant redwood or the Empire State Building. Writer/illustrator Tony Fucile has a gift for visual punchline—which stands to reason, considering his background; Fucile is an animator whose credits include such films as The Incredibles, Ratatouille, The Iron Giant, and The Lion King.

Well, in the end the boys discover it’s as impossible to DO NOTHING as it is to LEARN NOTHING. So I take it back. I don’t recommend reading this book for Learn Nothing Day after all—just like Frankie and Sal, you might accidentally learn something from the experience.

Twitterlog 2009-06-08

June 8, 2009 @ 4:49 pm | Filed under:

Bwah? Why, hello, Twitterlog! You’ve been AWOL for what, over a month? Why did you suddenly decide to reappear?

Well, I’m glad to have the record for the blog, but a post this long is just ridiculous. Let’s bump you off the front page, shall we? (more…)

TBR Pile Additions

June 8, 2009 @ 4:07 pm | Filed under:


The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart.


Have read lots of posts about it this year & meant to get to it sooner, but it was this Battle of the Kids’ Books post at SLJ that got me to click to the library hold site. Frankie lost this round to We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, but judge Rachel Cohn’s explanation of her decision made me want to read both books. I’ve got a baseball story in my queue already, so I’ll save We Are the Ship for another day.



The Body of This by Andrew McNabb.


Came highly recommended by my friend and fellow writer Matthew Lickona. And because I know that Andrew is a smart and sensitive Catholic writer (or a writer who happens to be Catholic), and I’m interested to see how he works with faith and fiction. And because who can resist a description like this?—”…a tough little bundle of shards that can as easily cut and make you bleed as it can reflect the one true light…” (Brett Lott, author of Jewel). “Bundle of shards”? I’m in.