A Fine Feathered Friend

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Our 9-year old has a friend.  She is kind and helpful and talkative and always, I mean always, smiling.  We took them to dinner with us over the weekend and just marveled at their natural companionship, just how comfortable they are in each other’s presence.  We went for a walk after dinner and the girls were very excited to find a peacock feather, the very one you see in the picture above.  Though her friend found it and took it home that evening, when our daughter saw her the next day she received this pen as a “just because” gift.

This little present stands out in my mind for one reason – my wife and I saw how special this find was in the eyes of both little girls.  They were mesmerized by its brilliant color and fascinating, stylish design.  They were intrigued at how such an exotic bird might have wandered into the area that we were walking through that evening – the Bricktown RiverWalk in our city.  The girls spoke of little else once they discovered this single feather.  It became a wonderful token of a happy evening among friends and family.

But to have it returned and recreated in a new way especially for our daughter by her closest friend, well, you should have been there.  It meant so much more to her and was received with such surprise that her friend was as happy and surprised at its giving.

It all makes me stop and think about how a “just because” kind of gift can make all the difference in the world.  It is the stuff of a great friendship, no matter how old you are.

 

‘Friendship’ – Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

Baby Frederico sat quietly on the back row nearest the exit. It was his first official day at camp and he was worried. Every other camper in the room seemed to have a thousand friends, and he had not even one.

Camp was not something he had wanted to do, but Mama had insisted on it. “Just try it,” she said. “If you go this one time and don’t enjoy it, you don’t ever have to go again.”

And now, here he was. Alone. Friendless. Homesick. Hungry. Sleepy. Grumpy. “Hey,” he said to himself. “I sound like I’m becoming all those dwarfs in Snow White!”

Before he could stop himself, he laughed…out loud. He was immediately embarrassed and his face turned from green to red in a moment. It was just then that he felt a tap on his shoulder.

“What’s funny?” said an iguana who was just a little taller and darker in color and sitting in the chair to Baby Frederico’s left.

“Oh nothing. Nothing at all. I was just thinking.” Baby Frederico couldn’t believe he had actually laughed out loud. He was embarrassed all over again.

“Anytime someone can think something so funny that it makes him laugh out loud, especially at camp, that’s a good thing. My name’s Rob.”

With that, Baby Frederico suddenly, without a bit of warning and simply because he accidentally laughed out loud, had a friend. Just one friend, that’s all it took. Just one.

Camp might not be so bad after all.

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‘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.

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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:

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‘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.

‘A Color of His Own’ – 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: A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni (1975, RandomHouse)

The Author’s Book Website:  http://www.randomhousekids.com/brand/leo-lionni/

Time to Read: short and sweet; bedtime or anytime

Summary:  from the author’s website…”Elephants are gray. Pigs are pink. Only the chameleon has no color of his own. He is purple like the heather, yellow like a lemon, even black and orange striped like a tiger! Then one day a chameleon has an idea to remain one color forever by staying on the greenest leaf he can find. But in the autumn, the leaf changes from green to yellow to red . . . and so does the chameleon. When another chameleon suggests they travel together, he learns that companionship is more important than having a color of his own. No matter where he goes with his new friend, they will always be alike.”

Best Quote:  “And so they remained side by side.”

Our View:  Any book by Leo Lionni is worth its weight in gold.  This particular work is among our favorites in its simplicity and colorful illustrations, as well as its profound statement of the joy that can be found in finding even one friend in this big old world.  The author’s website is a wonderful treat that your young children will really enjoy, as well.  We love this book!

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe – Grocery Store Fun - created by the kids to accompany this particular book.