‘You Could Be Your Own Twin’ Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

Imaginary friends and bullies…*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!

BF Mirror 2 BF Mirror

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn…and the songs of Jackie Wilson, but he did not like to tell people about his imaginary friend. Here is his story:

Baby Frederico has a great friend. He first met him when he was very young and his Mama and Papa’s friends would peer down into his crib and say, “Well, look at that sweet little thing. He is so cute and green.” Baby Frederico could understand them perfectly and wondered who they were talking about in the crib with him. He never thought they were talking about him because they always said things like, “That baby” or “He is so cute and green” instead of saying, “You baby” or “You are so cute and green.” He began to wonder who “he” was and finally decided that there must be someone else in that crib with him – thus was born his very own wonderful, imaginary friend.

Whenever he would look in the mirror, he would say, “Hello my friend. How are you today? You are hip and green and your scales are so shiny today. Nice job!” He would smile back at himself and laugh all the way to the bus stop, where he and his friend Grenelda waited for the big yellow bus to take them to school.

But one day, he stopped laughing. Here’s how it happened: He was riding home from school on the bus when his best buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper asked him how his imaginary friend was doing. Grenelda knew everything about Baby Frederico because she was his buddy. She often said she even liked his imaginary friend as much as she liked Baby Frederico! On this day, however, Grenelda never noticed that the school’s biggest bully, a smile-less groundhog named Billy, was listening to their entire conversation.

Baby Frederico and Grenelda loved to make up stories about his imaginary friend, who of course looked exactly like Baby Frederico in every way, and the friends were laughing and telling funny stories all the way home that day.

But the next day, when they arrived at the bus stop, there was Billy the Groundhog and he looked meaner than ever.

“What’s up?” said Baby Frederico, trying to be as kind as he could to the grumpy groundhog.

“Nothing,” Billy said. “Nothing that is, except that you’re a big baby because you still play with an imaginary friend.” He then began to laugh so hard that he nearly choked himself. At that moment, the big yellow bus pulled to a stop in front of them and the children climbed on board. But Baby Frederico just stood frozen to the sidewalk. His stomach churned and his face burned red.

Baby Frederico was embarrassed. How had Billy known about his imaginary friend? What could Baby Frederico say in reply?

What do you think he should do? Will he just change his name and move to another country? Will the bus driver snicker and tell him that no imaginary people are allowed on the bus? Will everyone on the bus laugh at him? Will Grenelda stand up for him? Will Baby Frederico just smile and introduce everyone on the bus to his favorite imaginary friend? Stay tuned next week to find out!


A Good Day for Being a Dad


Today’s blog is a very short one because I want to make a different impression on you. Being a father is many things, and all of them are wonderful and scary and exciting and worrisome and breathtaking, difficult and funny and heartwrenching. And once it happens, it is forever. Being a father is being a father.

When I read the last page of the book Danny the Champion of the World to my daughters last Wednesday night, I could barely make it through the last paragraph. It was so powerful and challenging to me as a father that it made me pause. Here is how the son ends the book: “I reached out and slid my hand into his. He folded his long fingers around my fist and held it tight, and we walked on toward the village…And after that, we would walk home again and make up some sandwiches for our lunch. And after that….And after that?…And after that?…And after that?…Ah yes, and something else again. Because what I am trying to tell you….What I have been trying so hard to tell you all along is simply that my father, without the slightest doubt, was the most marvelous and exciting father any boy ever had.”

Enough said.

Look at this Book! Danny the Champion of the World

* 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…

Danny Review

Today’s great book: Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl with great illustrations by Jill Bennett (1975, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.).
Time to Read: a chapter book; about 200 pages; 2 weeks reading every other night, about 20-25 minutes per reading.
Summary: From the back cover – “A daring…adventure story.”; “The hilarious adventures of Danny and the best dad a boy ever had.” This is the story of a young son who admires his father, and a father who loves his boy, the woods, and pheasants.
Best Quote: “I have decided something,” he said. “I am going to let you in on the deepest, darkest secret of my whole life.”

Our View: I can’t tell you how surprised we were by this book. There is nothing in the title or on the cover itself to give away what this book is really about and so it kept us wondering and guessing and then it all truly surprised us as this wonderful story unfolded. This is a book about how a son ultimately sees his father and it is glorious, truly a kind and wonderful work of classic writing that my kids (ages 8 and 13) loved right along with me (age 41). This is the book they couldn’t get enough of, and so often were late getting to bed because they wanted me to read “just one more chapter.” I don’t want to give away the plotline, but when you read it you will understand why I was so surprised at how much we loved this story. It is about hunting and poaching and pheasants and a father and son who live in a gypsy caravan right beside the gas station that they own in a little town in England. I will never forget how the three of us felt when we happened on the line, Danny the champion of the world, near the end of the book. It was as though that line, and therefore the title of the book, brought it all together for us and we understood the entire book’s meaning. This is a book that moved us and got us thinking and kept us talking long after we closed the final page. You need this book for all kinds of reasons…and only you and your kids will really know all the reasons. I’m thankful we found it and read it and now talk about it so often together. I’m more thankful that it is about a real dad, not a fancy dad or a wealthy dad or a genius dad…just a normal dad who loves his child, misses his deceased wife, and realizes that every single day is a good day for being a dad.

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe – “The Grapes of Stuff” – created by the kids to accompany this particular book.

A Triumph for Dads

Danny 1

My younger daughters and I just finished a new old book. By new I mean that we had never heard of it and bought it for 50 cents a few Saturdays ago; by old I mean that the book was originally published in 1975. We found our copy in a thrift store and it was printed in 1982 as part of its 7th, that’s right 7th, printing! The book is Danny the Champion of the World.

Even if you don’t know the book, you know the author – Ronald Dahl (1916-1990). He wrote many favorites including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Dahl’s birthday was just last week, September 13, and though he passed away more than 20 years ago, I imagine his kids miss him more than ever. Here’s why: he was their storyteller first. Many of his great children’s works were first told to them and often came from his own experiences and interests as a child. In reading his autobiography Boy: Tales of Childhood (1984, Penguin Books), I get the feeling that he knew what it really means to be someone’s dad. And Danny the Champion of the World is a dad’s literary paradise.

The entire story is viewed through the son Danny’s eyes and his descriptions of his caring and focused father are profound and helpful to understand how important a father’s words and actions are to his children; whether those words and actions are directed at the child or others makes no difference at all.

We will tell you more specifically about the book in our Book Cook/Review tomorrow, so for now suffice it to say that this is one for the dads. It is a story like this that makes me want to be a better dad – and a children’s book that can do this is truly…a triumph for dads.

Father Knows Five 9-13-13

*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. Hear Helen Keller Speak! – this is amazing.

2. The author of Bully – here is an insightful interview with the author and illustrator of Bully, the new book we reviewed this week and celebrated on our Book Cook page.


3. Leo Leonni Book Resources – among our favorite authors of children’s books. His book Illustrations and topics are outstanding!

Leonni books

4. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – Steve Carell to star in the film of a favorite children’s book.


5. Worth a thousand words:


‘Bullies’ Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico (and Claire!)

This is a special day, for my wonderfully creative 8th grader decided to write this week’s Baby Frederico story for you.  Claire knows him well and is especially interested in this week’s story topic.  She is encouraging those who bully to stop; those who are bullied to tell someone about it; and those who are neither to take a stand and help the one who has been bullied.

Bullies BF

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn…and Incredible Hulk comic books from 1982; but he does not like to see anyone being bullied. For from the time they are very young, all iguanas are taught to practice respect. Baby Frederico, being an iguana, learned this  important lesson quite well. Here is his story:

It was around the middle of the year when Baby Frederico`s new teacher came to his school. Mr. McHiss was a very intelligent and kind snake. But everyone in his class overlooked those nice qualities as soon as he said, “Hello classs! My name isss Mr. McHisss!” The class erupted with quiet giggles as he told them how he “decsssided to ssstart teaching and how excsssited he wasss to be teaching them.”

Baby Frederico let out a small giggle when Mr. McHiss said the first few words because he didn`t expect it. But as his classmates` giggles continued right along with their teacher`s speech, he knew it wasn`t right. Turning to his best friend Grenelda the grasshopper he said,” Our class is being very disrespectful. Shouldn`t we do something?” With a nod of her head, Grenelda began hushing her classmates. This worked for a few minutes, but after a while silent laughs became visible on each student`s face once more.

Later at lunch, Grenelda and Baby Frederico decided that they must do something about the giggling. But just as they had begun to talk, the two meanest boys in class came over to the table where the two friends were sitting.

“Hey!” they said, “We`re going to write a note with all the ‘s’ words we can think of and pass it around in class. Mr. McHiss will be so embarrassed!”

Baby Frederico looked up at the boys, “What`s so bad about talking different anyway? I think it`s kind of cool actually.”

Grenelda spoke up too, “Yeah! What`s so bad about it?”

The two boys looked at each other, trying to find an answer. They really didn`t know why talking different would make somebody be labeled as weird.

One boy said, “Well… I mean… I guess…. maybe it`s not so bad. Actually, we might sound kinda funny to him because we don`t hiss!”

“That`s right,” replied Baby Frederico.  “But he would never make fun of us for it because he knows it would make us sad. I think that is really what is meant by practicing respect – what we say can make a difference, for good or bad.”

Later, each of Mr. McHiss’ students returned to his classroom and apologized for making fun of him.  Mr. McHiss was very proud of them and even told them a story from his own childhood:  One day, a cricket named Michael visited his school, which in those days was a school entirely for snakes like Mr. McHiss. Everyone made fun of Michael because he DIDN’T make the “s” sound at all! It was there and then that Mr. McHiss learned a wonderful lesson about practicing respect.  He decided to be the one person who would be kind to Michael and not make fun of him for being different.

“After that, I decided that no one was going to bully Michael, or anyone, ever again.”

The students began to applaud as Mr. McHiss finished his story.  And it was then and there that a classroom full of students of all shapes and color and sizes and sounds learned to practice respect for each other and for all time.

Friends with Books


Each and every time the memorials of 9-11 come, I am reminded of so many things – but especially of how thankful we are to have friends.  Friends so often take the edge off of all the trials and troubles and anxieties and adversities that the world brings into our lives and it is unusual to hear that someone made it through a difficult time without at least a friend or two who has helped them recover.

My wife and I have many wonderful friends, and two in particular who are just starting out on their marriage journey. We get together just a few times a year, and it is always to help each other along on this often great, sometimes boring, sometimes frustrating, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes like a dream, sometimes like a bad dream, and all the time a roller coaster of adventure that we call happily ever after.

This couple loves great food (she is a gourmet cook) and great old records (he is a true collector) and great books and are great friends. And when they are on vacation, we sometimes get a text and photo of them visiting an interesting place – and this past Labor Day weekend they visited Cadillac, Michigan. What a great town name, right?

The photo they sent (below) is of a historic-looking bookstore originally built in 1930 as a car dealership. It became a bookstore in 1981 and is among the largest bookstores in northern Michigan. I don’t know that they would have otherwise visited it (this was after all a romantic weekend getaway for them), but they knew how much I love places like this so they stopped in and even interviewed the owner, Sherry, about her treasured store’s history and her love of books, and bought me a nice old book from the store!booknook1

There are just a few things I love more than books, and our friends and family and Faith are among them. So when I can mix those three loves with books….well, who could ask for more?