Words to Laugh By

Christmas Cookies

As I was helping our daughter gather up the things in her room that would make the journey with her to college earlier this week, I picked up a copy of Homer’s Iliad (circa 760-710 BC) from her bed. This ancient classic marks her first official college text bought for school.

And here’s the funny thing about it – it reminded me of the first book that she really fell in love with around age 2 or 3. It was a tiny little board book entitled Christmas Cookies by Wendy Lewison and illustrated by Mary Morgan (1993, Grosset and Dunlap). It would also be the first book that I remember her ever pretending to read because she had memorized what I read to her from it so many times. She loved this book, but mostly it was a sentence right in the middle that was her favorite. I would read along about these little mice and how their mother suggested that they make Christmas cookies because it was too cold and snowy for them to play outside.

We would read together through the short narrative as it rolled along in that great board book style of simplicity and sing-song rhyme. And then we would arrive at this page with the phrase, “In go the eggs now, crack, crack, plop. Oops! I dropped one. Get the mop!”

In the moment those words would leave my lips, our daughter would begin to laugh that deep, belly-laugh that only a little child can produce. It would light up the room and she would laugh so much about that phrase that we could rarely move on for several minutes. I am still not sure what it was that was so funny, but the mixture of just the right words and these little mice children having to clean up a mess were all she needed to laugh every single time we read it. To this day, all I have to do is quote that particular sentence and we fall into a fit of laughter. No idea why…

I am not sure she will laugh with that kind of abandon as she labors through Homer’s Iliad, but Lewison’s Christmas Cookies remains the first book that ever really got her attention and stirred something deep inside of her. Here’s hoping the same happens for all the books to come.


Look at this Book! If You Give a Pig a Pancake

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique “recipe for fun” this week over on our Book Cook page…

Pig a Pancake Book

Today’s great book: If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff and illustrations by Felicia Bond (1998, HarperCollins Publishers).
Time to Read: short and funny, especially for young children; great pictures with words for emergent readers
Summary: From the inside cover…One thing leads to another when you give a pig a pancake.
Best Quote: “If you give a pig a pancake, she’ll want some syrup to go with it.”

Our View: There is just something incredibly fun about a Laura Numeroff children’s book and we love them all. One of our favorites is this story of a fuzzy pink pig (perfectly illustrated by the great Felicia Bond) who gets himself into quite a predicament when one thing leads to another and another and…another. There’s a funny bathtub scene and piano playing and treehouse building and pancake eating, all following that wonderfully familiar cadence of the “if-then” statements that have made this series such a runaway hit. Our first daughter and I actually have this book signed by the author, whom we met at a special pancake breakfast for the debut of the book at a local mall. There were even live baby pigs to hold and pet as we waited in line for her autograph! A great memory with a great kid to celebrate a great book.

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe – “Omelecakes and Panpigs” – created by the kids to accompany this particular book.


The Beginning of Fatherhood

I once read a book about a family…

Emily empty chair

It was a dramatic weekend for us, though nothing that unusual in the grand designs of history and humankind, the day our first daughter was born. The short drive home was so quiet, none of us completely certain of what to do and still happier than we had ever been about anything else at all. When we pulled up in the driveway of our home that late Spring night, all was right and we were suddenly a dad and a mom and a baby.

Of all things, I can still remember the way the front of our house looked as I turned off the ignition and tried to think of what to do next. The soft orangey glow of the evening lit the sidewalk and front door in such a way that an Academy Award for Best Lighting Design would surely have been in order.

We were two when we had walked out that door and down that sidewalk two days before, and now we were three – this little person, her mother, and me. And something made me realize in just that moment that this was the beginning of fatherhood.

It was a dramatic weekend for us, though nothing that unusual in the grand designs of history and humankind, yesterday when our first daughter left home for college. The short drive there was so quiet, none of us completely certain of what to do and still happier than we had ever been about anything else at all.

Of all things, I will never forget…well, everything.

We were three as we had walked up the sidewalk and unloaded the car and said our goodbyes – this grown-up, her mother, and me. And something makes me realize once again that this is the beginning of fatherhood.

Father Knows Five 8-16-13

*Every Friday we serve you an “a la carte” style list of 5 unique videos, articles, ideas, etc. from all kinds of locations. (If you are viewing this blog through your email subscription, please follow the link to our website to view all videos.) See you next week…

1. We are more than excited about this movie preview about P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, and her book-to-movie “partnership” with Walt Disney. Here’s the preview:

2. Pencil vs. Camera Images – “born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast and now living in Belgium, Ben Heine is an amazing artist who overlaps hand-drawn works of art with photos to create stunning images.”

Donkey Drawing

3. Nothing to click on here, just something to see from chrisbeetles.com…the drawing below reminds me of our kids. Our oldest moves to college tomorrow night. What a moment!

girl on book stack

4. Xander’s Panda Party – by Linda Sue Park, 2013; a great new book introduced by this clever 50 second video for your kids!

5. What’s really killing students love of reading – this is worth your time to read! The author of this article/blog writes, “Think about the best reading experience you ever had in school. Then think about what you did with the book in class once you had read it. Did it look anything like that quiz question? I’m guessing not. In fact, I would wager that no matter how much you actually liked the book, if the payoff for your efforts was something like an AR quiz, it marred the experience.”

‘The Mountain Part 2’ – Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

*Every Thursday we introduce you to another quick bedtime story about our family’s favorite resident reptile – Baby Frederico. The backstory can be found here. Enjoy!

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, blue crayons, popcorn…and Spider-man comic books; but he still did not like to stop and wait. Here is PART TWO of his story (click here for part one):

Stuck as stuck could be – that’s what Baby Frederico had become when he slipped and fell down into a hole while he was climbing up a mountain with his family, whom he had refused to stop and wait for because they were soooooooo slow.

And now, here he was; stuck as stu—-wait. What was that sound? It reminded him of something familiar, but he couldn’t place it. It was also growing louder and seemed to be moving closer to him. He decided to stop and wait and listen – which was all he could do anyway – and see what might happen next.

Suddenly, pebbles began to roll down into the hole. This could only mean one thing. Someone or something, along with that strangely familiar sound, was nearby.

“Hi there,” a friendly and high-pitched voice called out from above. “Why are you down there?”

Baby Frederico was surprised…but there was something he liked about this voice and said, “I slid down here and now I’m stuck as stuck can be.”

“Wow! I love to slide! Here I come,” said the excited voice. And before Baby Frederico could say, “Stop! Don’t do it or we’ll both be stuck down here,” a beautifully green and brown grasshopper slid right down into the hole with him…and she was laughing all the way!

“Why are you laughing? Now we’re both stuck,” said Baby Frederico with his most frustrated voice. “We’ll never get out of here.”

“Don’t worry my little long-tailed friend. I’m a grasshopper and I can get us out of here with just one hop! For my name is Grenelda and hopping is my game,” she said dramatically as she began to laugh again. “Grab on and we’ll be out of here in less time than it takes to play a quarter note on Dizzy Gillespie’s trumpet!”

Baby Frederico was confused and interested, all at the same time, so he took her by the arm and, with the quickest jump you’ve ever seen, the two were out of that hole in no time at all.

Baby Frederico’s family was just coming around the bend in the path below him and they were surprised to see him and his new friend springing right up in front of them! With concern in his voice, Papa said, “Baby Frederico, where have you been?”

Baby Frederico was ashamed to admit that he had been mad at them for being so slow. “Well papá, it is a long story and I’m sorry I ran off. I’ll explain it all to you as we finish climbing this mountain…together.”

Papá Frita smiled; Mama Mia let out a sigh of relief; and Baby Frederico’s grandparents sat down to rest. The entire Frederico Family would indeed make it to the top of the mountain, more certain than ever that they would make it to the top together. Baby Frederico also learned something that surprised him most of all – stopping and waiting can lead to a whole new adventure…and maybe even a brand new friend.

Which reminded him! Baby Frederico was so glad to be back with his family and out of danger that he nearly forgot to introduce everyone to Grenelda the Grasshopper. But when he looked around, she was gone. He wondered if she had hopped so hard to get them out of the hole that she might have hopped right out into space. If that was the case, he was glad he let go!

Still, he couldn’t help but wonder – where did she go and what was that strange, happy music that he could already hear again coming from somewhere down the mountain?

BF Mountain 1

Land of Make Believe

Books and Movies

A few posts back I wrote about our love for good movies and their relationship, for better and for worse, to good books. On the one hand, imagination can be kickstarted by a great book, while on the other, imagination can be diminished by a great movie. I’m not a book snob about this relationship – remember we love movies and good books turned into good movies. Still, the whole idea of a movie version of a book can too easily take away some of the imaginative qualities that books possess simply by what they are – words on pages that sometimes include just enough illustrations to get the reader thinking about those words and dreaming of a world all their own.

But there is an element to turning the written word into a movie that I had not considered until now. I recently listened to an interview with the incredibly versatile actor and musician Jeff Bridges. He spoke about his decades-long history of working in the movie business and was asked how the industry had changed over the years. I was really surprised by his excited answer. He said that movie-making is far more (that’s right, he said “more”) primitive for an actor today because there is so much technology, green and blue screens, and computer animation that require a great deal of imagining on the part of the actor.

And from where does this award-winning actor trace the strong roots of his imagination? When Jeff was around eleven years old, his father, Lloyd Bridges (1913-1998), often asked him to join him on the television series “Sea Hunt” (1958-1961). Jeff loved it because it allowed him to use his imagination WITH his dad as he played his part in the show!

Today, in movies like “Tron” or the upcoming “Seventh Son”, Bridges uses that vast imagination to tell us such interesting stories.

We can offer the same to our kids – to join us somewhere in our imaginations and theirs. Sure there is a place for imaginative movies and video games, but there is at first an unequaled place for imaginative kids and dads.

Let’s find ways to give them their place.

Look at this Book! Eating the Alphabet

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique “recipe for fun” this week over on our Book Cook page…

Eating the Alphabet

Today’s great book: Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert (1989, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich).
Time to Read: short and sweet, especially for young children; great pictures with words for emergent readers
Summary: From the inside cover…In brilliant watercolor collages, Lois Ehlert introduces young readers to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables from A to Z. Clearly labeled and easy to identify, the collection includes such favorites as apples, bananas, potatoes, and tomatoes – as well as some less common edibles such as jalapeno peppers and radicchio. A glossary at the end of the book offers useful and interesting information about each fruit and vegetable. Here is an engaging presentation of fresh and wholesome foods that are popular all over the world.
Best Quote: “Apple to Zucchini, come take a look. Start eating your way through this alphabet book.”

Our View: This is a classic book by a classic children’s author and includes large-style collages of each fruit and vegetable labeled on each page – from A to Z. There is even a fruit for the letter X – who could have imagined it? In particular, books like this are a wonderful way to get your young children reading before they can actually read a word (that’s an emergent reader!) – the pictures are that good and that connected to the world in which your child lives. Healthy and colorful…all in a great children’s book!

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for a crazy A-Z game (this is more a recipe for fun and games than a food recipe, but still on our Book Cook page) created by the kids to accompany this particular book.