Thanks so much for visiting HipWriterMama, my blog about children's books, authors and readergirlz!

It's time for a change. I've decided to focus my attention on my writing blog, www.vivianleemahoney.com. Hope to see you there!


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Maintaining Focus and Hope in the Odd Couple Wars

Author Lisa Yee is so cool. Plus she has a smile that lights up a room. Forget Julia Roberts. If my fairy godmother would just show herself to me, I'd ask for Lisa Yee's joyful smile and humor. Which leads me to Lisa Yee's funny post. This just had me laughing. After Lisa announces the Anonymous Grand Prize Winner of her Bodacious Book Title Contest, she writes about her new theory on couples:

In coupledom, one person is always way more squeamisher than the other. So
I took a semi-scientific survey and asked around. And yup, sure enough,
generally there is one person who has no problem watching the surgery channel
while eating dinner, and another who will nearly pass out if you say, "look how
far back I can bend my finger."Which one are you?

When I was a teenager, I was often amused by the antics of Felix and Oscar in the TV show, The Odd Couple. Felix is the loveable fussy neatnik and Oscar, the rough around the edges messy slob with a heart of gold. Two people, so different. Learning to tolerate each other and their differences, sometimes not so well, but with lots and lots of compromise.

Compromise. Webster's definition: 1 a : settlement of differences by arbitration
or by consent reached by mutual concessions b : something intermediate between
or blending qualities of two different things2 : a concession to something
derogatory or prejudicial

Compromise. Something few of us really want to do, because let's face it. That inner child in us just makes us want to have our own way. It makes us want to scream, connive, whine, manipulate, and sometimes torture others simply so they can see things our way. If the situation is really big, thinking about compromise makes us plain uncomfortable as we think about what it is we need to give up of our own beliefs to satisfy the other person. It makes us wonder whether it is worth losing ourselves in the process of compromise or if we should just fight to the end. Thankfully, there are situations out there, where it's easy to be gracious and concede, making the other person think you're just one swell person.

I find all this quite interesting, as I focus, contemplate and gather my words to describe a conflict in my book. How will the characters' differences influence a given situation? Will they work it out or make it a total chaotic mess? Will it create a situation where everyone hates each other and suffers in total despair? Or will it create something special, where the characters learn to dance together with a gracious give and take, giving each other some hope that their differences are accepted, tolerated and understood? Something to think about as I'm writing.

And in case you're wondering, I'm the one who was always first in line to dissect all those formaldehyde scented victims in science class. And I'm the Oscar. My husband, who could be Felix's twin, heads for the nearest exit whenever there is blood and gore. Except when it absolutely counts...like when I was throwing up my guts after drinking way to many margaritas when we first started dating and most especially, for the birth of our children. My husband intently watched each dramatic birth of our little ones. Despite all the blood, gore, interesting sights and Ripley's Believe it or Not scenarios. He saw it ALL and survived. Good man.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Yellow Star and A Sunday's List

I am compelled to write about Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy for just a moment. This is such an incredible book. No wonder people have been talking about it. Franki couldn't wait for me to read this. Jen Robinson's review told me how special this book is. And there were other reviews I read that just silently teased me...you're the only one out there who hasn't read the book...go get it.

When I finally located a copy of Yellow Star, I read the whole book in one sitting. It was a bit of an adjustment for me to read the book as it was written in the style of free verses. I have a habit of overanalyzing verses to try to find the hidden meaning behind the words. It soon became quite clear to me how perfect this style was for this book. So many thoughts told in simple sentences and short verses, all told from an innocent young child's point of view. An innocent young child's point of view. Who is sheltered and protected from the terror as much as possible by her family. Which only makes this book even more poignant and powerful--this must be a hundred thousand times even more terrifying to the adults who knew. I can't, no, I don't want to think about this, but I have to...what if this were one of my children or one of their friends. Forced by unbelievable circumstances to have to shoulder the weight of such a horrific time, unable to enjoy the innocence, joy and freedom of a simple, carefree childhood.

Let us not forget this happened not so long ago. You simply must read and see for yourself what happened to Syvvia and countless others. You will see how the bravery, the courage, the hope, the love for each other, the love for life, and respect from others helped Syvvia's family and other survivors live just one more day, despite all the fear and hopelessness. All truly heroes and heroines in my book.

Papa says that thinking about food
all the time is not uncommon
among people in the ghetto,
who are around starving bodies.
The mind can latch onto nourishment in this way.
"People have different ways of surviving the days,"
Papa says.
"We must honor our differences while we
find our own courage and our own strength
the best we know how."

Thank you Syvvia for sharing your story and letting us not forget. About what happened. About the people who survived. And the people who lost their lives. Thank you Jennifer Roy for finding a way to bring your Aunt Syvvia's voice into our lives.

The Sunday's List of Strong Girl Role Models

1. Syvvia, Dora, their mother, their father, and so many more - Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy. I have to make an exception for this book. There are so many amazing role models in this true story. All who chose to step up to the plate and show true heroism despite all that was lost. It is so clear they did not lose themselves in all the fear and rushed to help others regardless of what they could lose. Their own lives. A must read.

2. Queen of Attolia, Queen of Eddis and all the Goddesses from The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner - Just as I loved the books The Thief and The Queen of Attolia, I loved this book as well. Megan Whalen Turner recreates a world of long ago where Queens rule kingdoms and men bow down to them. The Queen of Attolia and Queen of Eddis are both politically astute, excellent strategists, and just plain smart. Men and women worship and listen to the Goddesses. The Queens and Goddesses are oh so clever.

3. Ivy and Bean from Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall- Ivy and Bean are neighbors who are very different from each other. They quickly become friends after Bean torments her sister. They are funny, spirited and stand up for each other. One funny moment is when Bean wiggles her butt at her sister. Too funny.

4. Millicent Madding, Miss Ogelvie the librarian, Goody Constance Madding, long lost Aunt Felicity from The Misadventures of Millicent Madding: Bully-Be-Gone by Brian Tacang - This is a wacky fun adventure of brilliant Millicent Madding who invents a potion to fight off bullies. Add an inventor uncle, an eccentric club of school geniuses, a librarian who fights to protect books from destruction, bullies who fall in love with the very kids they bullied, and an amnesiac aunt who used to be a circus performer, and you've got a great story that's fun to read. The females in this book are smart and fiesty, unusual, inventive, speak up for themselves and just plain fun. A great read with great female characters.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Madam Speaker, What's Next for Strong Girls?

Madam Speaker. Wow. No matter what your political inclination, you have to admit, seeing a woman right up there behind the President, in a State of the Union address...well, that's plain powerful. An indication that women are moving in the right direction. I look forward to the day a woman will be acknowledged simply for her accomplishments, rather than the first focus being she's a woman. That will be a sign we as Americans are truly embracing equality for all, and are able to look beyond gender, race and religion.

Nancy Pelosi, you are one great role model. You have raised the bar for what girls can hope to believe in and achieve in a male dominated world. And now, some girl is going to set her sights higher, knowing that it is truly possible to reach her dreams. Empress of the Universe...Now that's what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I Finally Have a Copy...of...Yellow Star!!

I have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Today, I received a notice from the library. I just love libraries. It was my turn to read Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy. There have been so many wonderful reviews of this book. I hope I haven't gotten my hopes up too high.

But I have already gotten sucked in, just from the flap:

In 1939, the Germans invaded the town of Lodz, Poland, and moved the Jewish population into a small part of the city called a ghetto. As the war progressed, 270,000 people were forced to settle in the ghetto under impossible conditions.

At the end of the war, there were about 800 survivors. Of those who survived, only twelve were children. This is a story of one of the twelve.

You'll just have to wait to see if this makes it to my weekly Sunday's List of Strong Girls in Children's Literature. For some reason, I have a feeling it will head up the list.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Funny Bumper Sticker and A Sunday's List

There is finally peace in the house. My husband is off with friends watching the Patriots game, getting in some much needed male bonding after being with the hyper gaggle of girls over here. It's not my fault he gave them some sugar spiked drink that just upped their enthusiastic need to sing and dance to The Cheetah Girls at whirlwind speed. Now they are tired out, happily fed and zoning out in front of the tv. And I'm armed with my coffee and my new list of strong girl role models for the books I've read this week.

First, I need to share this hilarious bumper sticker I noticed earlier today on a shiny, pristine Suburban, "Men are Idiots...And I'm Married to the King." Oh, I laughed. Laughed out loud. Not that I think this is true. Of course not.

Now the List:

1. Clementine from Clementine by Sara Pennypacker - Darling Clementine starts off this week's list. Mother Reader recommended this book, and I must say, she certainly knows how to pick them. Clementine is sweet, smart, and creative. She's a fun sister and willing to help out a friend. And Clementine is so funny, my daughter wants to read this book. What can be better than that?

2. Thora from Thora: A Half Mermaid Tale by Gillian Johnson - For girls who ever wanted to be a mermaid, this enchanting tale will entertain you. Thora's mother is a mermaid; her father is human. Thora reminded me of Pippi Longstocking, but without being too over the top. Thora is kind, loyal and generous to her friends, ready to help all in need, and is a confident free spirit. She doesn't mind being or looking different. In fact, she uses it to her advantage. This is an enjoyable read.

3. Susie Salmon, her sister Lindsay, Grandma Lynn, and Ruth from The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - Okay. I was a bit surprised when I read Chicken Spaghetti's post about this book. I first read The Lovely Bones about 2 years ago, and fell in love with this book. At the time, it never entered my mind that this would be appropriate for middle school age kids. So I had to read this book again this week. And once again, I was an emotional wreck. I think if the teen is mature enough to handle the topic, then so be it. With all the shoot 'em up, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll movies and YA books out there; the exposure to violent national and international news; the public hanging of Saddam -- I wonder whether the topic of this book would affect them as much as it does to us adults, who grew up in a more innocent time.

Given that, Susie Salmon's beautiful description of her heaven brings glimpses of hope and beauty. She is anxious about her family and watches over them and wishes she could show them she's okay. Susie's sister Lindsay is one cool character in dealing with her grief over Susie's murder. She ends up risking it all to find some sort of clue that would link her strange neighbor to her sister's murder. Grandma Lynn is just outrageous and shows up when the family needs a strong female figure to keep things together. She really proves there are cool grandmas out there. And Ruth is quite interesting. She barely knew Susie, but becomes quite the friend after Susie is murdered. A very disturbing, very beautiful book that gives hope of a perfect heaven, shows the beauty of life, and the promise of healing.

4. Annabel and Lucy from The Steps by Rachel Cohn - This is a charming coming of age story about how 12 year old Annabel is dealing with her parents' break up, her parents' new relationships, her new step family and trying to get her Dad back. Sound confusing? It must be even more confusing for a kid who has to deal with all these conflicting emotions and wants things to be the way they were before. Annabel is funny, pretentious and sassy. She misses her Dad, hates her step family and wants her Dad back. By spending time with her stepsister Lucy, Annabel ends up understanding that she is not the only one who feels lost. Annabel and Lucy become friends, stand up for each other and welcome each other as sisters.

5. Princess Allie, Princess Mellie and Princess Libby from Princesses Are Not Quitters by Kate Lum - A cute premise for a picture book. Princess Allie, Princess Mellie and Princess Libby are bored and decide they would trade places with their servants for a day. They do all the work and do not quit, even though they are tired. The industrious princesses realize there is more work to be done and they are determined to get it done, no matter how long it takes to complete the work. They simply will not quit. This was a bit too didactic for me, but overall, these princesses are on my list since they realize that being spoiled with nothing to do is just as bad as all work and no play.

6. Claire from Claire and the Unicorn happy ever after by B.G. Hennessy - This is a beautifully drawn picture book. Claire loves fairy tales and wonders what makes the characters in the tales "happy forever." Her Dad tells her to think about it and tell him in the morning. As Claire dreams, she asks a Library Fairy, a princess, a frog, a fairy godmother and a wishing well "what makes someone happy ever after." Everyone tells her a different thing. Claire learns everyone has different needs that will make them happy. Very sweet.

7. Dona Flor from Dona Flor by Pat Mora - A Southwestern tall tale picture book of a gigantic woman, Dona Flor, who has a huge heart. Children laughed at her in the beginning because she was different. Soon Flor's friends and neighbors fell in love with her, realizing Flor's differences were to be admired and respected. Flor is generous, kind, loving, and helps her friends and neighbors. She loves to read too! Nice story.

8. BabyMouse from BabyMouse, Queen of the World! by brother and sister team Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm - When I ever saw my second grader bring home this book from the school library, I groaned. Great, I think. A silly comic book. This is all I need her to start reading. How is this going to encourage her to read a real book? So I read it. And BabyMouse is sassy, funny, dynamic and a great friend. She wants to fit in with the popular group but soon realizes she would rather be with her true friends. She is true to herself. A great role model in an easy to read fun format with great comic drawings. This is a truly, truly entertaining graphic book that will encourage my child to want to read. How about that?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Clementine, oh Clementine, How Joyful you Are to Me

My second grader really doesn't like to read that much. However, she loves going to the library. I watch as she runs her fingers along the books and select something that looks interesting. She'll start reading her books. But after awhile, she'll get bored or frustrated and move on to another activity.

As an avid reader myself, I have had a hard time figuring out how to get my second grader to want to read. The biggest hurdle I've found is getting her more confident in her reading skills. Of course that means practice, practice, practice. Translation, read everyday. Groan. Sometimes this can be so painful. For both of us. Because in order to build my daughter's reading confidence, I need to find books she wants to read, at a reading level both of us are comfortable with. And some of these chapter books out there are just plain boring.

Enter Clementine, by Sara Pennypacker. Imagine my surprise when my reluctant reader came home from school one day early last week in complete enthusiasm for a book her teacher was reading to the class. Clementine. "Mom, you'll never guess. My teacher read the most amazing book in class today. Could you get it for me? Please? It's so funny." Now isn't that something. I had one happy surprised little girl on my hands when she found out the book was on order. "You are the coolest mom in the world. Wait until I tell my friends at school!"

Now I have to backtrack a bit. When I started my list of Strong Girl Role Models in Children's Literature, I mentioned the Junie B. Jones book series. I love this series. Junie B. is just too funny and quite the assertive character. Mother Reader stopped by and recommended Clementine. Mother Reader, thank you thank you thank you, for making me the coolest mom in the world. You are so right on about this book. I can't wait for the second book to come out this spring.

You cannot imagine the effort it took to find this book. Originally, I figured if I ordered the book from Amazon.com, it would take a week to get to me. Since I'm a gal who is on a mission, I go to my local chain book store. I am shocked because I found out the book store was closing. To add insult to injury, no one in the book store even heard of this book. One of the salespeople looked at me like I was the most ignorant person on earth and said, "Clementine? I think you mean Tangerine." And that seemed to be my experience in another book store in the next town over. I gave up and went to the library. I should have gone there from the beginning. I requested the book and then went home to order the book from Amazon.com.

Fast forward. Everyday after school last week, the first thing my daughter would ask me was, "Did the book come in yet?" And she is disappointed when I tell her no. I am floored that she has this much enthusiasm for a book. I can't wait until the book comes in either.

Finally, the big day arrives. Clementine is here. My daughter is excited. She is picking the book up herself to read it. Without me having to ask her to read. This is progress. I even dangle a carrot in front of her. When she finishes reading the book, she can have her first sleepover. I'm not sure I'm really ready for a sleepover, but that is another story. My daughter and her best friend have been torturing me about a sleepover for months. So. I'm just trying to give my child more incentive to read. And if it takes a little bribery, well...

All I can say is Clementine is a winner. I was laughing. Laughing. Laughing.

Here is one of my favorite lines from the second chapter of the book: "But then a great idea popped into my head. I am lucky that way: great ideas are always popping into my head without me having to think them up."

This could be one of my kids talking. Because whenever they start talking about their great ideas, I know someone is going to be banned from something. Just as long as they're not banned from reading. Or Clementine. Not Tangerine.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Perfect Ending to a Chaotic Day

At the end of the day, the pure simple love from my children just make it all worth while. The whining, the chaotic mess, the in your face "I want it now!" moments were forgotten this evening when I heard these lovely words from my little one. "Mommy?" "Yes, love." "You are amaaazzzing. I love you." Oh sweet child. You take my breath away. You are the amazing one. Truly, truly amazing.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A Sunday List of Some Strong Girl Role Models

Last Sunday, I started my weekly list of Strong Girl Role Models in Children's Literature. As promised, I'm back today with a new list of Strong Girl Role Models from the books I finished this week.

1. Miri from Princess Academy by Shannon Hale -- I expected a bit more from this book, being a Newbury Honor book and all. However, with that said, I found this to be an interesting, enjoyable tale of families, community, intelligence, competition, ambition, education, bullying, cliques, finding your strengths to help others, friendship and bravery. Miri is quite the role model. She utilizes her knowledge of Commerce to help her village, discovers "quarry speak", urges the girls in the Academy to show a united front, and shows empathy and bravery to protect her friends.

2. Becky and Abby from Fault Line by Janet Tashjian -- This book covers violence in teenage dating with empathy for both sides. Who would have figured there could be a tiny flicker of understanding for a boy with anger management issues? 17 year old Becky Martin falls in love with Kip Costello, who turns out to have trouble keeping his fists to himself. Becky finally shares her troubles with her best friend Abby. Best friend Abby is there when Becky most needs support and caring. Abby lets Becky know that dating violence is not acceptable at all. Dating violence is a tough subject matter. Tashjian offers hope in this book when Becky is able to ask for help, grows from this experience and in turn is able to give back to others. It takes a strong girlfriend to try to help out a friend in danger. It takes an incredibly strong girl to realize that she deserves more than an abusing boyfriend--even if he is cute, charming, and pays alot of attention to her. A girl who can realize her own worth is truly amazing.

3. Cousins Lily, Tess, Rosie and Aunt Lucy from The Cobble Street Cousins: In Aunt Lucy's Kitchen by Cynthia Rylant -- My 8 year old's book club chose this book for next week's meeting. This is such a sweet book. Cousins Lily, Tess and Rosie live with their Aunt Lucy. They are helpful, considerate, industrious, enthusiastic, fun and creative. Very creative. Aunt Lucy takes her nieces in and is well loved by her customers and friends.

4. Olivia from Olivia Kidney and Olivia Kidney and the Exit Academy by Ellen Potter -- I found these books very enjoyable and touching. Olivia shows her strength, sweetness, imagination, intelligence and loneliness, as you watch her cope and heal from the loss of her brother, Christopher. She has many interesting adventures, which shift from the real to the imaginary. These books touch on death, communication with spirits, loneliness and healing with such compassion and imagination that it is comforting.

5. Aunt Celeste, Madame Vera and Lila from Lila Bloom by Alexander Stadler -- This sweet picture book shows how moods can change from bad to good with just a little change in attitude. Poor Lila has had a bad day and doesn't want to go to ballet class. Her Aunt Celeste shows a little staged indifference. Her teacher, Madame Vera, fuels the fire in Lila by "taking away" what Lila loves. Lila finds joy as she rediscovers her passion for dancing. Ah... Manipulation to prove a point.

6. Princess and Queen from The Princess and the Pea by Lauren Childs -- This is such a beautiful picture book with a witty, humorous version of the fairy tale. The princess turns out to be quite independent, curious, and adventurous with a mesmerizing certain something. And the queen is protective and loving of her son since she has her servants place a pea under all those mattresses just to make sure her son marries a true princess. Who doesn't love a good fairy tale?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Finally, The Message

I just finished the YA novel, I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak late last night. So different in style from Zusak's book, The Book Thief. Just as amazing and thought provoking in a quieter way. I couldn't sleep last night. Couldn't stop thinking. About all the possibilities out there. Who knew that an enigmatic book full of dark turns would get me thinking. Warning: If you haven't read the book, and you don't want your reading experience to be sullied by any commentary whatsoever, just skip right on to the last paragraph. It's okay. No worries.

The book's Message to me. We are all capable of more than we think we are. For random acts of kindness. For not looking the other way when someone needs help. For forgiving our past, learning and moving on. For compassion for others. For forgiving others. For getting involved. For knowing what we want and achieving it. Ponder that for a moment. And act. Deliver your Message to yourself, to your loved ones, or to people you just always wanted to reach out to, but just didn't. Not necessarily the way Ed Kennedy, Zusak's character, sometimes delivered his messages. I'm sure there are more creative, peaceful ways for letting your Message be heard. As for When? Ed Kennedy would tell you, "You'll know when the time is right."

My Message to you is this. Believe in yourself.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Food, Food Allergies and a Sometimes Resentful Sister

Food is simply fuel for our bodies. We just need a little bit of it now and then just so we have enough energy to go about our business. Right? In my household, food takes on a whole new meaning. My middle child has severe food allergies. And she seems to be just about allergic to anything that I can think of that makes me want to think about downright gluttony and indulgence. Dairy, eggs, nuts and shellfish. My little girl has never had the pure enjoyment of things most kids scream for--a rich ice cream sundae, a real buttery in your face birthday cake with tons of whipped buttercream frosting, real pancakes and waffles, cheetos, cheese pizza, decadent brownies and cookies, a grilled cheese sandwich, or a simple PB&J. My oldest daughter though, has. And she loves every single one. This is what makes managing food in my family just plain challenging every once in awhile.

I keep a completely nut free house. Just because I know that some people are so allergic to nuts, that just with a smidgen of exposure, they can go into anaphylatic shock and die. I'm not sure how allergic my child is to nuts. Just that she is. Quite frankly, I'm just not that into experimenting with this one.

Middle Child banned eggs. "Oh Mom. I can't stand the way they smell when you cook them! I'm getting iiiitttcchyyyy!" Of course, I comply. And then Eldest Child (EC) gets mad. "But I want eggs for breakfast! That's not fair!. You don't care about me. You love M more than me!" Stomp, stomp, stomp, silence. Yes! There is no slamming of doors in my house. Most of the time anyway.

On the other hand, we do have dairy products and an occasional shrimp here and there so the rest of the family can still eat what they enjoy. It's important that I'm able to find a reasonable substitute for Middle Child (MC) so she doesn't feel left out. And as long as the rest of the family can obey the rule of not touching MC until after they wash their hands. MC has very sensitive skin. She will break out into a rash if dairy touches her skin. Gooey cheesy pizza is my enemy. My Youngest Child (YC) loves washing her hands so she'll run to the sink. My eldest, on the other hand, will sometimes trail her hands along the table and pretend to touch MC, when she thinks I'm not looking, on her way to wash her hands. "Mooooommmm!" "I didn't do anything! She just wants to get me into trouble!" Some point later on, MC will figure out how to torture EC.

What I find interesting is how MC is so careful about what she eats when she is out of the house. Although I bring MC friendly food with us wherever we go, people usually want to offer MC something to eat. She questions people on what ingredients are in the food they offer her. She will ask them to doublecheck the packaging. She will also ask people to wash their hands. MC will not eat anything until she is sure it's okay. What assurance and self-control! This past Halloween, she nonchalantly handed me her bag and waited for me to siphon out the 90% (seriously) of the candy she couldn't eat. Of course I replaced it with candy she could eat.

Most of the time, MC is fine about having food allergies. After all, it is not the sum of her. It's just those times when she can't totally participate in activities when she is bothered. However, she always makes the best of it. As my girls get older and are exposed to more interesting kinds of food, it will continue to be my challenge to make MC feel normal and safe, while at the same time letting EC and YC know they are just as special. And yes. I'll let them enjoy their food. As long as they keep MC safe. No need to have sisterly resentments get in the way over food. Certainly not over food. It's just fuel for our bodies, right?

Monday, January 8, 2007

Finding Children's Books in Kid's Music

My kids are SteveSongs groupies. I have to admit, Steve is a pretty good entertainer. He blends cute kid jokes, a great beat and fun music with an educational and positive flair. Who knew listening to a song about Biodiversity could be so fun? It took me awhile to figure out that Steve took two children's books (at least that's all I know about so far) and wrote songs about them. Okay, one song and one entire musical! Very cool indeed.

My husband, kids and I went to a SteveSongs concert this past summer. Of course we bought a couple of CD's. Then, my groupie girls, who were hyped up from all the excitement of dancing and singing along with Steve, rushed to be first in line to get his autograph. So did what seemed to be about 40 other kids. Poor Steve. Nothing like having your personal space invaded by swarmy sweating kids in 90 degree heat. Even if they are admiring fans.

One of the CD's we got was Marvelous Day. Overall, this CD has quite a few inspirational, upbeat songs. And then I heard it. This incredibly beautiful song. A young girl sings Bridge to Terabithia and it just killed me. I cried. (Okay, if you're a kid lit expert, just nod and humor me, because I am now going to share my Duh! moment.)

This song really touched my heart, and I obsessed about it. What did this song mean? Why did this song make me cry? Here I am, worried about Jess and what he's going through. Comforted that his friend (nameless in the song) will always be there for him. I am in awe of the magical world Jess and his friend created over the Bridge to Terabithia, where they are King and Queen. I am wondering why Steve wrote this. All because of a song. Terabithia--what an interesting name. Being the curious gal I am, I had to Google Terabithia. Lo and behold. I discovered Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson. After a little more research on this book on the web, I knew I had to read this book. I read it. I cried.

I am blown away that Steve was able to convey the poignancy, the beauty of Jess's and Leslie's friendship, the tragedy, the sadness and the love into his song. I'd love to know what inspired him translate this beautiful book into a song.

So imagine my excitement, when I discovered another book today at the library that Steve bases his musical on, The King, the Mice and the Cheese, our 2nd CD. The book obviously is called, The King, the Mice and the Cheese and it's by authors Nancy and Eric Gurney. I just finished this quick easy reader book and it's cute. But nowhere as good as Steve's musical. Steve brings to life the King, mischievous mice, wise men, cool lions, stomping elephants, and even takes liberty to introduce a cheese loving princess in this rocking musical. This CD unfortunately bit the dust from too much handling, but what fun it brought to our family. If you enjoy musicals, check this one out--you'll want to sing along with it and it's just plain fun.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Cool Strong Girl Role Models in Children's Literature

I have three girls. Yes. Three. And no, my Husband and I were not trying for that coveted boy. Nor did we care if we had a boy or girl. We just wanted a baby. According to my OB, my Husband and I were one of the few who didn't want to know the sex of the babies. We simply wanted the element of surprise without all the techno mambo stuff going on. Each time, we were pleasantly surprised. Shout from the rooftop joyful surprised. I always wanted to have a girl. And to have three...well that's just icing on the cake. Most of the time.

So here we are with three girls--8, 6 and 3. All fiercely independent, smart, funny, imaginative, sassy, loyal and spirited. My goal is to keep them that way. I love the fact they are insanely curious (even though they have to ask "Why?" all the time). I love the fact they are not afraid to try new things (Haircut anyone? What about pen tattoos?). I love the fact they stand up for what they believe in (It's not fair! And here's why!). They are assertive (Let's go check...can you just ask?) I even love the fact they question authority (although why it has to be mine at the moment, I'm not so sure).

Right now, I know I'm the Central Force in their life. It's so easy for them to believe they are awesome, smart, strong, brave, funny, curious, creative, resourceful, etc. Just because Mommy consistently tells them so. But sooner or later, they will get reeled into Life's Dramas, and they will start having doubts and insecurity about themselves. It will perhaps be the hardest thing for me to bear.

So right now, while I have the clarity of mind and forethought, I want to create a resource of great friends (with books of course!) my girls can turn to, when Mommy Power is just not enough (oh, I can't believe I wrote that down!) It is so important to me that they have an avenue to turn to--where they can find comfort, feel empowered, maybe have an Aha! moment or two, and understand what wonderful individuals they are. I want my children to read about strong girls who can take on whatever life gives them and still find hope, heroism and strength without losing a sense of themselves. I want them to have strong girl role models so they have something to aspire to, to dream about, to think about. I loved Jen Robinson's list of 200 Cool Girls in Children's Literature. I'm going to borrow her idea and tweak it a bit for my own selfish purposes.

Hence, here's the first of my weekly List of Cool Strong Girl Role Models in Children's Literature of the books I have read so far this year:

1. Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - Liesel resorts to thievery when she feels sadness and loss. Not necessarily role model actions on surface level, but these are desperate times and I was rooting for her every step of the way. Liesel steals books and will steal your heart. One book at a time. And a little food too. Even when faced with dangerous consequences, Liesel proves she is a Stand By Your Side No Matter What type of friend to Rudy and Max. She is truly magnificent.

2. Millicent Min from Millicent Min, Girl Genius and Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time by Lisa Yee - You have to love a brilliant, geeky, socially incompetent Asian-American girl who figures out a way to get back at a bully and just wants to be like other girls her age. Millicent learns about loyalty, friendships, and being comfortable with who she is from her new friends, Emily Ebers and Stanford Wong. Brilliance never looked so fun!

3. Emily Ebers from Millicent Min, Girl Genius and Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time by Lisa Yee - How cool is this. A girlfriend who doesn't care what you look like, dress like, or think like--as long as you are honest with her and true to yourself? So cool that Emily is getting her own book!

4. Charlotte from Charlotte's Web by E.B. White - A smart girl (okay, female spider) who knows how to spell and is willing to go to bat for her friend.

5. Junie B. Jones from any of the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Parks - A funny girl who's not afraid to correct people on the right way to say her name. She just makes me feel joyful inside with all her antics.

6. Miss Delphinium Twinkle from Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes - A picture book that made me cry. You have to love Chrysanthemum. But the way I see it, Miss Delphinium Twinkle saved the day. She made Chrysanthemum believe again in all she was. And she set those snotty mouthed girls straight by just being what the girls wanted to be. Now that's a role model.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Celebrate the Successes in Life!

6 days into the New Year and I still have yet to complete writing down my 2007 New Year's Resolutions. Oh I tried. I really did. After much reflection, I found not much has changed over the years. There are no surprises. The central message continues to be the same. Lose weight. Exercise more. Eat a healthy diet. Declutter. Organize. And on and on it goes. Lots of great intentions. Just poor execution. Finally, disappointment hits and I end up feeling like a failure for everything I didn't accomplish.

So here's my new idea. This year, I am going to toss it all aside and celebrate the successes in my life. I need some wins!

So far this year I have:

  1. Had a clean house when unexpected company showed up. I gave myself bonus points for being showered and dressed. There was even enough lunch for all!
  2. Found all the matching socks in the clean laundry pile.
  3. Fed the kids by 5:30pm two nights in a row.
  4. Had an empty kitchen sink by 10:30pm each night.
  5. Found the perfect picture of the kids to send out to unsuspecting family and friends.
  6. Tried on last year's winter coat and buttoned it up.
  7. Wore last year's high heeled boots and could zip up past my calves.
  8. Was gracious when M and friends found my makeup and used it ALL by putting it on their faces, arms and clothes. Didn't freak out about M's skin--just nonchalantly checked all over for any allergic reactions.
  9. Managed not to lose it when the culprit makeup was found caked on M's freshly cleaned beautiful bedsheets and comforter.
  10. Found $1.27 in change cleaning the livingroom. Put it towards buying new makeup.
  11. Finished reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time by Lisa Yee, The Steps by Rachel Cohn, and Burger Wuss by M.T. Anderson.
  12. Wrote 6 new pages for my YA novel.
All in all, a good year so far. Celebrate the successes in life. Even the little ones. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

My Biggest Fan

M, my 6 year old middle child, terrorizes people everywhere she goes, with the big announcement, "My mommy's an AUTHOR." She tells people in the grocery line. M tells people in the library. She tells her teachers and friends. She'll tell people anywhere. Most of the time, people smile at her, "Nice child. So proud of your mom." It's just those few times, when we come across someone who we know, when the kind comments turn into enthusiastic probing inquiries and I am thrust into bearing my soul and having to explain. "Well no, I'm not published... I finished 2 picture books and am getting the nerve to send it out... I'm working on a children's book now... Yes, as soon as I'm published, I'll let you know."

When M's friends see me, they look at me in wide eyed wonder. "Are you really an AUTHOR? Are you famous? Do you know Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel? Do you get to ride in a limosine?" The answers are "No, no, no and no again." And M just shines and glows in the amazement of her friends.

I've tried to silence M. "Listen, this is our family secret. No one needs to know about this yet until we actually have a book we can touch." M just looks at me and sweetly asks, "Mommy, please tell me one of your AUTHOR stories!" I've explained to M, "Well, mommy has always dreamed about being a published author. That's why I'm working really hard on my book. I'm just not there yet." And M just gives me one of her knowing smiles. I've tried to bribe her. "If you keep this quiet, you can choose a Webkinz." So M tries and is quiet for awhile. Then she bursts in excitement over the expression on people's faces when she shares our little secret. "My mommy's going to be an AUTHOR!"

M is my biggest fan. She delights in the dramatic and revels in the excitement words create. M has given life to my characters and has given me the optimism to believe in my work. As M grows older, I hope she will continue to enjoy the power of the written word. Maybe M will be an AUTHOR!