‘Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend’ – Tuesday’s Look at THIS Book!

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room.

Scaredy 1

Today’s great book: Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend by Melanie Watt (2007, Kids Can Press)

Great Website: http://www.scaredysquirrel.com/aboutmw.html

Time to Read: short and very funny; we read it right after dinner

Summary:  from the website…”That lovable little worrywart is back. And he’s as scaredy as ever! In his latest adventure, Scaredy Squirrel sets out to make The Perfect Friend. And once he’s spotted a perfectly safe candidate (with no teeth), Scaredy’s ready. Armed with a name tag, mittens, a mirror and a lemon, he’s prepared to make The Perfect First Impression. But just when every detail is under control, Scaredy’s Action Plan takes a surprising — and “toothy” — turn. Will he survive this ordeal? Will he find his kindred spirit? Will he discover the true meaning of friendship? Read Scaredy’s nutty story to find out…

Best Quote from the Book:  “If all else fails, play dead…”

Our View:  Among the great 1st grade teachers of the century is Kathleen Brannen.  She has been our friend since Claire was in her class nearly a decade ago and she has shared so many good books and ideas with us – and the Scaredy Squirrel series of short books are among our newest favorite!   This is the story of one scared squirrel who has learned to handle his fear by simply having a plan.  The plans are hilarious and they are drawn in map form in detail on the pages of this wonderful story.  Watt is not only a fine storyteller but a master illustrator for young children and their dads, and this book is a treat in every way.  If your children have any fears, we happily recommend this book because it helps the reader understand courage and making a plan.  When the plans don’t always work out as expected, Scaredy Squirrel does a super job of rolling with the punches (in this case, energetic dogs in parks).  I only wish I had heard about this series sooner.

Favorite Illustration from the Book:

Scaredy 2

‘Eli the Minnow’ – Tuesday’s 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.

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Today’s great book: Eli the Minnow by David Sterling with illustrations by Tony Thunder (2013, Rowdy Boys Books)

The Author’s Book Website: http://www.elitheminnow.com/

Time to Read: short and sweet; bedtime or anytime

Summary:  from the publisher’s website – “The Coral Cave Adventure is the first kids book in the Eli the Minnow series, and it deals with teaching our children to never give up regardless of the circumstance. In this story, all the friends get trapped in a cave! After watching multiple friends try to get out but failing, Eli’s confident determination to get his friends to safety pushes him to find a way out. Don’t let Eli’s size fool you! He is a very determined and dedicated little minnow, and he always gives it his all! Come join Eli and all his friends at Coral Cave Park in this adventure filled kids book!”

Best Quote from the Book:  “I might be small, and I’m not very tall; but I always give it my all!”

Our View:   As the father of three and an early childhood education professor, it is always refreshing to see a book like this available for children and their families and their teachers. This is an adventure story rich with characters who resemble the kids your children already know, which makes this the best kind of book to start conversations about important things among your family. The illustrations are also vibrant and express the storyline very well for toddlers and emergent readers, as well. Beyond that, the debut of this book is as wonderful as its interactive website.  My favorite link, http://www.elitheminnow.com/index.php/characters/, provides a great summary of each of the book’s characters.

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe – Here Fishy Fishy – created by the kids to accompany this particular book.

The Art of Taking a Bow

 “It’s hard for a fellow to keep a chip on his shoulder if you allow him to take a bow.” – Billy Rose

Bow Julia

I was sitting with my mother and father-in-law at our youngest daughter’s Christmas play at school this week.  It was a wonderful, kid-filled story of learning that the holiday is worth much more than receiving gifts…that the heart of the season is giving.  It was told in music and drama, and the children were dressed in great outfits to fulfill their respective roles in the program.  There were a dozen or more Santa Claus characters and, for some reason, only one Mrs. Claus.  There were reindeer outfits and snowflake people and even children (mine included) with battery-powered Christmas tree lights on their shirts.  It was festive and funny and had many opportunities for lots of children to have a speaking part, dance or sing at the top of their lungs.

The most intriguing part, however, was the bowing.  That’s right – bowing.  After every song, whoever was spotlighted in the action – the actors, the singers, the dancers – whoever it was for that particular scene (and usually it was 10 or more children spotlighted in each song), the music teacher would pause the play and have the children who had done the particular work for that song/scene step to the front of the stage and take a bow.

It was interesting because you could immediately sense the importance of this moment to the children.  Their faces grew vibrant and, though some had appeared nervous while doing their part for the scene, they threw off such worries when it came time to step forward and bow.  It seemed as though they felt as special and important and appreciated as much, if not more, than the great Academy Award winners or Grammy superstars of years past.

At one point near the end of the program, my mother-in-law leaned over and said to me, “Bowing is clearly important.”

She’s right.  You could feel the necessity of it that day, as I have never felt it before.  These children had spent long hours and countless school sessions working with their teachers to create this event for us, but also for themselves.  I am grateful for a music teacher who notices such things and senses the long-lasting importance of it all.

It’s a simple idea, just three little words:  take….a….bow.

Courage in Oz

Cowardly Lion:  “All right, I’ll go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I’ll tear them apart. I may not come out alive, but I’m going in there. There’s only one thing I want you fellows to do.”

Tin Woodsman & Scarecrow:  “What’s that?”

Cowardly Lion:  “Talk me out of it!”

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Oz

As my wife and I and our friends get older and move into this stage of our children leaving home and living their own lives, I was deeply struck by some words attributed to John Steinbeck.  He wrote, “Perhaps it takes courage to raise children…”

I have tried to think back to our early days of parenting to discover when the need for courage really begins. Was it when the doctor first confirmed that a baby was indeed on the way and we rejoiced while at the same time wondered what it really meant for two people who still enjoyed romantic dinners and quiet nights at the movies and sleeping in on Saturdays? Was it in the long hours watching the pains of labor that finally produced a real live baby who would bear a name only we had chosen for her?

Maybe it was the hard and frustrating nights around our kitchen table when money was tight and bills were voluminous and the future of our young family loomed somewhere out there in the darkness? Could it have come when another’s rising fever forced us to the emergency room on her birthday and we thought we had lost her on the frantic drive there?

Maybe it came when one made a bad decision that ended with discipline and heartbreak and anger and mercy and forgiveness near the midnight hour around our kitchen table? Or maybe it truly began when one left for life on a college campus that she would soon call “home?”

Then again, maybe the courage to parent is always present, lying dormant somewhere within us and just waiting for these and a million other moments to arrive and pull courage from its slumber.  Maybe, just maybe, if courage was required of parents all the time, we would never want to be parents, never want to accept the journey to live and love and lose and win and fail and try and try again.

It all makes me think of our youngest’s favorite book, The Wizard of Oz.  The cowardly lion is so worried about everything that he somehow ends up hiding in the shadows of that forest, a recluse, all alone and going nowhere…so discouraged to have no courage.  And then, only after he stops worrying about not having courage and accepts Dorothy’s invitation to join her and her friends on that now famous journey – then and only then does courage come, just when he needs it most.