‘Pierre: A Cautionary Tale’ – Look at this Book!

* 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…


Today’s great book:  Pierre:  A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue by Maurice Sendak (1962, HarperCollins)

Time to Read: short and funny; bedtime or anytime

Summary: from www.goodreads.com…Pierre’s ‘I don’t care!’ intrigues a hungry lion. ‘A story with a moral air about Pierre, who learned to care.’

Best Quote: “I don’t care,” said Pierre.

Our View: The moment you start reading this book you are going to love every word and idea of it.  The rhyming rhythm makes it so easy and accessible for a read-aloud and the several characters (mother, father, doctor, son, lion) are so much to read in different voices.  This is a favorite at our house.  Our youngest found it in a box of books for sale at a local church bazaar and we bought for a quarter.  I’ll never forget her reading it to us from the backseat of the car on the way home that day.  We laughed and were so surprised by this little book with the big heart.  We learned one thing – it pays to care!

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe – “Lion’s Mouth!” – created by the kids to accompany this particular book.

The Wisdom Tooth Reader


We are sitting in an oral surgeon’s waiting room this morning. Our 13-year old is having her wisdom teeth pulled. I am waiting and relishing the opportunity to read something that is hanging on this long rack of great magazines right by my chair. I have a book with me, but these are just too enticing.  They are all current (what a miracle!) and include TV Guide, Time, Boy’s Life (which I used to read when I was a kid), People, Golf Digest, and Sports Illustrated.

Isn’t it something that there are things to read nearly everywhere we go? The sheer number of words hanging here on this wall beside me…millions, trillions…who knows?

One thing in common among them is that they are all written from a point of view.  Somebody wants us to read these words.  They tout some wisdom, be it cheap and shoddy or profound and priceless. It may be a whole article, a paragraph, or just a sentence, but if you read anything you know what I mean when I say that there will often come that moment when the lightbulb goes off while you’re reading…and a whole new world of thought (aka wisdom) opens before your eyes.

All of that to say this – reading is too important to not find a way to enjoy it.  If my daughters come home with a book that they start reading and decide they don’t like, we get a new book!  Life is too short to waste time reading a book or article (unless of course it is necessary for you to read either for school or work or to improve something about your life) that you can’t find a way to enjoy.  I have friends who have nearly given up on getting their little boys to read because nothing interests them.  But that’s just not true – there is something that interests them and sometimes it takes some time to figure out what that something is.  Here’s a hint though – it may not be a book in the true sense of the word.  It might be a comic book or a magazine or an instruction manual or an encyclopedia or a Ripley’s Believe it or Not/Guinness Book of World of Records fact book or a cookbook or a map or a brochure.  Reading is everywhere and is everywhere available!

I remember the day my dad bought me The Empire Strikes Back movie book in script form.  It was the published screenplay (from my favorite of the Star Wars movies) and included original artwork from Lucas and his team and even had the stage cues and camera angle ideas typed or written into the margins.  It was the coolest bit of reading I had done at that point in my life and it was a turning point for me in helping me look at the library and at bookstores for the things I wanted to read.

Here is an excellent article from Scholastic about the subject that I hope you’ll take a minute to read.  It is a short list that just might give you one of those “lightbulb” moments of wisdom (with or without the teeth!).  Just click on the photo below and it will take you direct to the article at Scholastic:


Father Knows Five 10-18-13

*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.  No sooner had I arrived home from work today, than my daughters were yelling my name and asking me to close my eyes.  Here is what I received (“just because”)…a Hot Wheels from 1976 and a book about the science of imagination behind Star Wars.  I love these kids!


2.  The Home of Hot Wheels – You are gonna love this video made at the place where Hot Wheels brand cars come to life!  “A recent voyage to El Segundo, California, brought us to the doors of the Mattel headquarters. Inside, we were given the chance to take a behind-the-scenes look at the Hot Wheels design studio, and spent some time with the head of design. We learned all about the brand’s design ethos, new products and the never-ending joys of being a toy designer. Also on show was the brand’s latest Car Maker product, which gives you the chance to mold custom Hot Wheels at home.”

3.  Some great Hot Wheels trivia – “In 1966, Elliot Handler, one of the co-founders of Mattel, Inc. and part of the Barbie doll empire, was the inventor of Hot Wheels. Handler experimented with axles and rotating wheels being attached to tiny model cars. The innovative gravity-powered car he developed had special low-friction styrene wheels. Hot Wheels have been clocked at speeds of up to 300 miles per hour.”

Hot Wheels

4.  Children’s Books about Hot Wheels – if your child loves these toys, why not get them a great book about them?  There are even old comic books that starred these famous Hot Wheels.  Among the best, this one comes with a car – Hot Wheels : the Ultimate Handbook , Fun Facts, Stats & More All About 150 Cars (2013, Scholastic)

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5.  Dad alert!!!  Gather your kids for this one…so much fun to watch!


‘Win or Lose’ Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

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

 Science Car BF

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn, and…the way it sounded to say “Pottawatomie County”; but he did not like to lose.  Here is his story:

Five, four, three, two, one…go!  The race was finally on and Baby Frederico’s heart was beating faster than ever.  He and his best buddy Grenelda had been waiting for this Saturday race all week long and it was finally time to see who would win.

The cars had been lined up perfectly along the starting line of the bright orange tracks that Baby Frederico and Grenelda had set up along the long hallway at his house.  They loved this hallway.  It had been a bowling alley, a Nerf bow and arrow target course, an air-powered balloon/water bottle car testing facility, an art center, a paper airplane race course – and today it was the perfect spot for their long-awaited Hot Wheels race.  It included six long lanes of ramps and loops to guide their favorite cars from his toy chest at one end of the hallway straight into the winner’s circle at the other end of the hallway.  They had even found a way to use Grenelda’s old girly-looking Barbie swimming pool, which they placed just beyond the final ramp so each car would make a massive, spectacular, wonderful, wet splashdown at the end of the great race.

Baby Frederico was certain he would win.  It was his racetrack and his cars and besides, Grenelda was a girl.  She couldn’t win a race with Hot Wheels, especially with the car she had chosen – an old pink and purple van that Baby Frederico had received from his grandma (who clearly did not understand that he would never like anything that was purple or pink).  Baby Frederico had tried to throw it away, but his Momma Mia found it in the trash and had scolded him for not taking better care of his gifts.

So now here he was with his favorite Hot Wheel, his best buddy Grenelda who was using his least favorite Hot Wheel, and he was about to win a good old-fashioned race!  And then….it happened.  At the very last moment, just ahead of the final ramp that would catapult him into the winner’s circle that was Grenelda’s Barbie swimming pool…the pink and purple car jumped ahead and landed square in the middle of the splashing water of that pool and, horror of all horrors, she had won the race.

It was too terrible for Baby Frederico to comprehend.  He hated losing, especially to a girl using a purple and pink Hot Wheel, and now….he had lost.  What would he do next?  Smile and congratulate his best buddy?  Jump up and down and yell and scream and accuse her of cheating?  And what in the world would Grenelda do?  Would she be so proud of her win that she would call Baby Frederico the biggest loser ever?  Or would she just think that he was the sorest loser ever?  What do you think Baby Frederico should do (or not do!)?  Stay tuned next week, same website, same weekday, same best buddies and find out!

Only an Open Book Gets Read


“We convince by our presence.” – Walt Whitman

I think if there is one thing I have learned about being a dad that has proven especially helpful to me as my daughters get older, it is this:  open up the book of your life and get to know each other.

Last week, I came home from work and the girls were so excited to meet me at the door because they each had a big surprise in store.  They had been shopping at their favorite antique stores for the day and had me close my eyes as they presented me with two gifts – a Hot Wheels car from 1976 and a coffee-table size book entitled Star Wars:  Where Science Meets Imagination (2005, National Geographic Society) with a cool introduction written by Anthony Daniels, also known as C-3PO.  My wife received a Shaun Cassidy album, the very one that she had cherished as a middle schooler and about which she had always told them stories.  She was so surprised to receive such a personal gift – and they have been listening to it all weekend!

We like that our kids know us and know our memories and know our likes and loves and dislikes, the things that make us laugh and the things that make us cry.  They know when we are happy and when we are frustrated.  We have been getting to know each other since their birth, and we have all been taking notes.

Toys have been a fun and interesting thing for us to have in common.  Today, they play with all kinds of things including some of the very same toys I played with as a little boy.One day, I came home from work to find that the girls had pulled out their box of Barbies AND my box of old Hot Wheels and combined them into a huge and very colorful car dealership.  I don’t think the toy purists would ever allow such things to be mixed, but it was sure funny to watch these very tall Barbie people sell these very little cars to each other.

And my buddies who are dads… these men are opening the book and stepping up to the plate to hit home-runs with their sons and daughters.  I’m lucky to know each one of them and learn from each one of them.  Here are just a few:  my friend Rob takes his little girl bow hunting with him now that she is a little older and his pictures of her excitement over just getting to hang out with her dad in a world of things that he loves are priceless; Andrew and his son referee high school volleyball games; Michael coaches his son in soccer and plays barbies with his daughter or takes all three fishing at a nearby lake; Dustin takes his 11-month old son strolling through the zoo; Jared and his boys love motorcycles and superheroes; Chris does his morning exercise routine with his kids, including his 3-year old daughter, who sits on his back while he does push-ups!  Some like to share the latest video games (Minecraft, Madden Football, Harry Potter Lego) or arcade favorites from their childhood (Dig-Dug, Pac-Man, Q-Bert, Chopper Command, Moon Patrol, Frogger); and others enjoy sports or music or running or walking or sledding or building snowmen and on and on and on.  They all have one thing in common – working on living their lives like an open book before their children.

And it all makes me think, open books are the best (and only) kind of books to read.

Look at this Book! ‘An Extraordinary Egg’

* 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…


Today’s great book:  An Extraordinary Egg by Leo Lionni (1994, Alfred Knopf Inc.)

Time to Read: short and sweet; bedtime; when you need a good laugh

Summary: from the inside cover…”For three frogs, an ordinary day on Pebble Island becomes extraordinary when one of them discovers a beautiful white egg.  Although they’ve never seen a chicken egg, they’re sure that’s what it is.  So, when the egg hatches and out crawls a long, green, scaly, four-legged creature, they naturally call it….a chicken!”

Best Quote:  “Alligator!”  said Marilyn.  “What a silly thing to say!”  And the three frogs couldn’t stop laughing.

Our View:  Leo Lionni is a must-have children’s author for your book collection.  He has written many children’s books and all of them are worth gold.  This funny story about three frogs, one egg, a chicken, and an alligator is just right for a quick bedtime story and some wonderful belly laughs!  The artwork is colorful and simple and the case of mistaken identity that fuels the plot of this great book will really surprise you.

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

Books about Books

We love the idea that exists behind the creation of a bookstore.  Where else can people of all ages and backgrounds find so many well-placed words, written or typed or sketched or colored on pieces of paper of every size and shape and color and texture, from so many gifted writers and illustrators producing the most imaginative works and artwork on the planet?

Books on Books

At this moment, my favorite shelf in the bookstore is the one titled ‘Reading’ or ‘Books about Books.’ The first book I ever bought from this particular shelf, about 10 years ago, was How to Read a Book:  The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren (Touchstone, 1940).  At the time, a buddy of mine was challenging himself to read all of the great works of literature and he kept noticing that Adler’s name popped up in nearly all of the commentaries about these classic works so he did some searching and there it was – Adler’s most enduring work, How to Read a Book.  My friend described this book with such enthusiasm that I decided I couldn’t live without it and made the purchase within that very week. At our local bookstore, I had no sooner sat down in their awesome row of movie theater chairs to begin reading my purchase when a person walking by noticed its cover and quipped, “Now I’ve seen it all.  A book about how to read a book.”  We both shared a laugh as he walked over and picked up the same book!  Mortimer Adler would have been one proud author.

Today on that “Books about Books” shelf we bought Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book (2009, Roaring Book Press) by Anita Silvey.  It is a massive coffee-table size work that seeks to answer the question, “What children’s book changed the way you see the world?” Asking more than a hundred leaders (from actors and singers to financiers, athletes, world leaders, and teachers), this is a book full of great illustrations, classic book covers and wisdom beyond its pages.

Her question though, “What children’s book changed the way you see the world?,” has had me thinking and asking my own friends and family to tell me about their experiences with the books from their childhood.  There are a particular handful that stand out in my own answer to that question – The Hardy Boys series, Where the Wild Things Are, Pinocchio, The Snowy Day, Make Way for Ducklings, Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, Harry the Dirty Dog, The Story of Ferdinand, The Ghost of Windy Hill, The Indian in the Cupboard, Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Superfudge, Ralph S. Mouse, A Wrinkle in Time, Farmer Boy, Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, Bridge to Terabithia, Charlie and The Great Glass Elevator, and The Toothpaste Millionaire.

So here’s the “Book about Books” question for your dinner table tonight or bedtime with the kids – what’s that one book that YOU will never forget?  And if you haven’t yet read it or at least described it to your children, start now and let that same story impact their lives because when it comes to raising kids, there is just no time like the present!