‘A Bedtime FairyTale’ – Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

And now for something different and at the request of our youngest daughter.  A Baby Frederico Bedtime FairyTale:

photo 2 (1)

Once upon a time there lived a little green boy.  His name was Baby Frederico and he had some wonderful friends.  They included his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, Rob the Robin, Julia the Jubilant, Skylar the Smiler, Courtney the Cute, Laine the Laugher, Sarah the Sweet, Katrina the Kind, and Kendall the Caring. They had all met amidst a thousand giggles on a distant playground under a brightly colored construction in the mysterious Land of Centennial.

When the Christmas holiday had arrived in this special Land, the friends celebrated with music and candy and coloring sheets and decorations of all kinds.  However, little did they know that their time together would come to an end, at least for a short time, because the Land of Centennial always closed during the holidays – the drawbridges were hoisted, the carriages were shuddered, and the leaders of that fair Land attended to their own homes and families, somewhere deep and hidden within the Land.

Concerned that they would not play together again for several weeks, the friends agreed to meet next to the long, wooden benches that sat just below the old windows of the Land’s Grand Gymnasium.

Baby Frederico had been waiting all day for this meeting. He could hardly think of anything else. He couldn’t eat his snack; he was bored with board games; and he was certain that the clock that blinked a fluorescent green on the great instructor’s desk had purposefully slowed itself to a maddening crawl.

His friends felt the same way. While the Land’s leaders cleaned floors and washed sidewalks and its instructors put away the clutter of the week, there were others who put away Christmas lights and tree ornaments.  Deliciously Happy Chefs prepared the final lunch in this Land of Centennial – a simple spread of honey wheat loaves of bread and dishes of almond butter and holiday jams, sweet and dill pickles, and tortilla chips dipped in salsa and cream cheese.

When the clock finally tocked, it welcomed the young people of the Land of Centennial to the Time of Recess and Baby Frederico raced to meet his friends in the appointed place.  As he rounded the corner, he noticed all of his friends sitting and talking near the old log benches and smiled.  There they were, the people he had laughed and studied and giggled and joked and ate with for so many months now that they seemed like family.

As he joined them on the bench, the friends told some new jokes and discussed what they most wanted for Christmas, while others worried that the long holiday away from the Land of Centennial and each other would be too long.  They were friends and they needed each other.

Baby Frederico smiled and said, “It’s true that it might be long, but it won’t be so long that we won’t remain friends.  Great friends are friends wherever you go to do whatever you do, whenever you need to do it.  We are those great friends and we shall return to the Land of Centennial as even greater friends.”

And so sat Grenelda the Grasshopper, Rob the Robin, Julia the Jubilant, Skylar the Smiler, Courtney the Cute, Laine the Laugher, Sarah the Sweet, Katrina the Kind, and Kendall the Caring. And, for at least one more time, they met amidst a thousand giggles on a distant playground under a brightly colored construction in the mysterious Land of Centennial.

And they indeed lived “friend-ily” ever after.

-The End-

‘No More Worksheets!’ 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!

 BF 2

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn, and…microscopes; but he did not like to do worksheets.  Here is his story:

Baby Frederico loved his microscope more than any gift he had ever received in his life.  It was painted entirely in black, except for the small yellow dial that brought things into clear focus under the lighted lens that opened up a whole new world of tiny objects to him.

He used it to investigate all kinds of things, from locust legs to butterfly larvae to tadpoles, water, sand, marshmallows, and leaves.  The microscope included long plastic beakers with bright red caps and small clear plastic boxes with magnifying lenses for covers.  There was a pair of tweezers for extracting pieces too small to hold with human fingers and a long metal probe that helped him move things around on the microscope lens.  It was everything he needed with which to experiment and investigate and wonder. He loved this microscope.

What he did not love was worksheets.  In his estimation, these pieces of paper were among the most horrible things ever to be invented; they held such massive power and, if not completed by the end of the class period, could wreck a kid’s evening or ruin his entire weekend.  Worksheets were just asking too much of him – to work on them all day at school was bad and boring enough, but then to come home to toys and comic books and snacks and video games and a microscope and have to do more homework – what were they trying to do him?

This particular month at school had also presented him with a brand new teacher.  She was soft-spoken and calm with long red hair and lots of very bright white teeth set inside a smile that seemed nearly permanent.  But Baby Frederico knew those kids of teachers well, all happy and grinning those first few weeks and then barking out orders and frowning for the rest of the year.  He wasn’t about to be tricked this time, so he kept his distance and waited and wondered when the worksheets and frowning would begin.

As the classroom clock ticked down to the final minutes of Friday’s math lesson and the end of another week at school, the teacher reminded them that their science lesson on observations was due Monday.  Baby Frederico had completely forgotten about the assignment.  And homework, on a weekend.  He let out a frustrated and sorrowful sigh.

When he arrived home, he sat at the kitchen table and looked through the mail that his Mama Mia had left for him.  Baby Frederico didn’t often receive much mail, but on this day there was Cricket, his favorite magazine of interesting stories, and a letter from….his teacher! The postage stamp was of a big, colorful commemorative illustration and inside was a long list of the most interesting objects that included things like marshmallows, roofing nails, hair, postage stamps, fingernail clippers, socks, ladybugs, water, bread, apple skins, dirt, leaves, and lipstick.  At the bottom of the list was a note from the teacher.  It read, “Hi wonderful student!  I love being your teacher and I thought it might be fun to send you this note about your homework assignment for the weekend.  We are learning how to get better about using a great science skill – observation.  On this list are just some of the ideas I want you to observe and write down some interesting things about.  Tell me their shape and size and color and texture.  What do they smell like?  Are they soft or hard, cold or hot, wet or dry, stinky or wonderful?  And if you have a magnifying lens or even a microscope – tell me even more about what you see!”

Baby Frederico was nearly speechless.  Here was a teacher who was asking him to use his favorite toy in the whole house, his microscope, for homework!  No worksheets or fill-in-the-blanks or questions at the end of the chapter…but real live THINKING to do!  He immediately got to work and would soon discover a tiny world he had never known.

That night as he was brushing his teeth and getting ready for bed, Baby Frederico looked in the mirror and noticed that he was smiling.  He was content with the day and his hard work.  Maybe this year, with this great teacher, would turn out alright.  Maybe he would get to think again, and again, and again, and again.

He said to himself, “No wonder that teacher smiles so much!”

BF 1

5 Great Kids Reads for Halloween

Halloween books

Thirteen years ago I was assigned to a student teaching position in Kindergarten at Windsor Hills Elementary School in Putnam City, a suburb of Oklahoma City.  It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget, but one of the moments that stands out to me was the day my assigned classroom’s wonderful veteran teacher told me what she wanted me to use as my theme to teach when my professor came to evaluate me as I taught that roomful of 20 young children in late October.  She said one word – ‘monsters.’

She had always used that as her theme for this particular week and so that was the theme she wanted me to use, as well.  I was crushed.  As a boy, I was scared to death of monsters and spent many creepy nights sleeping outside my parent’s bedroom in my Battlestar Galactica sleeping bag.

Now here I was faced with having to create a five-day curriculum for little girls and boys about the one thing that surely sent them fleeing on most nights – monsters!  To make a long story short, it went wonderfully well (this was one great teacher and I trusted her) and I had the time of my life.  We used the puppets of Where the Wild Things Are and learned Monster tunes for Kids that my daughters and I made up at night and I taught to the children the next morning in circle time.  We completed math lessons with monsters and wrote stories and talked about scary monsters and funny monsters and fears and worries and everything in between.  The whole room was a monster wonderland!  I also collected quite a variety of great children’s books with monster themes during that semester of my life.  Here are a few of our favorite short read-alouds to celebrate some reading time with your little ones during this especially monstrous week of the year:

1.  Ten Creepy Monsters by Carey Armstrong-Ellis (Harry N. Abrams, 2012) – Julie Roach and School Library Journal reviewed the book for Preschool to Grade 2 and wrote, “When ten creepy monsters meet beneath a pine tree, they get into all sorts of trouble that helps readers count backward from ten to one…After the second to last monster-a vampire-rushes off in the sunrise, readers are left with one monster hurrying home. An abandoned mask, strewn candy, and a sleeping boy tell the rest of the story. Fun for Halloween or for counting anytime.”

2.  Monster Mischief by Pamela Jane (2001, Scholastic) – This is a wonderfully inventive book of creative monsters visiting a monster home to trick or treat for Halloween.  This quote from the book sums up the fun, “On Halloween, for trick or treat, five monsters mixed a stew to eat of which they never ate a bite, because their stew ran off that night.  A few, I know, are glad of that – spider, lizard, frog and bat!”

3.  Haunted Halloween:  A Choose Your Own Adventure Book #37 by Susan Sanders (1986, Bantam-Skylark) –  If you grew up in the 1980’s in America, this was the hottest series on the bookshelf.  It is still around and still exciting and interesting and interactive.  If you don’t remember how it works, the reader reads a few pages and then at a key point in the story there are two questions at the bottom of the page.  You must choose your own adventure at this point, sometimes for good and sometimes for not!  These are so much fun and your kids need to be reading them – there are many choices so I was happy that we had this one for Halloween week here at Father Knows Books!  In this book, “it is halloween night and you’ve been invited to a costume party at an old, spooky mansion.”

4.  Monster Pops Counting 123:  How Many Monsters Can You See by Gill Davies (2002, Parragon Publishing) – “Discover a pop-up surprise on each page as you enjoy a monstrously good counting rhyme.”  This book is super for preschool and Kindergartners, as well…and who doesn’t love a pop-up book!

5.  The Teeny Tiny Ghost by Kay Winters (1997, Scholastic) – a wonderful children’s picture book with a great read-aloud style and wonderful illustrations by Lynn Munsinger.  It is the story of a “timid teeny tiny ghost.  He lived in a teeny tiny house with two teeny tiny black cats.”  He is scared of scary stories and hides when he hears himself say “boo!”  When his friends come for a surprise costume party, things indeed take a turn for the better.

Part 2 of ‘ You Could Be Your Own Twin’ 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. Part 1 of today’s story can be found here.  Enjoy!

 Bus BF

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn…and independent bookstores; but he did not like being made fun of…….. Here is his story:

Baby Frederico could barely move.  He felt so embarrassed and angry at Billy the Groundhog.  How could he be so mean, especially to Baby Frederico, who always tried to be as kind as he could to him.  Once when they were in Kindergarten, he even shared his blocks with Billy when the other children wouldn’t let him explore with their group at the science center.  What had happened to him?  And why was Baby Frederico the lucky one to be his target this week?

But then, something that was nothing short of miraculous happened as Baby Frederico stepped on the bus.  Their driver, Gustav, welcomed him as he had never welcomed him before.  Grenelda sat near the front and smiled as the jolly bus driver began to speak.

“Hey there Baby Frederico.  Welcome to my bus,” he said as he broke into the happiest laugh anyone on the bus ever heard before or since.

“You may not know it my friend, but anyone who rides my bus and has an imaginary friend gets special treatment.  I had one of my own when I was a boy and I miss him now that I’m tall and old!  I wish you would have told me about him sooner Baby Frederico.”  He laughed again as he pulled the door closed and merged the big yellow bus back onto the road.

“Mine’s name was Charlie Chupa.  What’s your’s?”

Baby Frederico was nearly speechless.  How could he be having such a conversation about something that only moments ago was a secret between only himself and Grenelda?

“B.F.  His name is BF.  He’s green and looks kind of like…me.”  Baby Frederico could feel his strength coming back.

Gustav just smiled as he drove along toward the school.  It was good to remember the old days and his old friend, and Baby Frederico was to be thanked for that.  He also noticed the other kids on the bus, even grumpy little Billy the Groundhog.  They were laughing and smiling and telling stories about their imaginary friends.  Grenelda and Baby Frederico noticed it, too.  It seems that nearly everyone on the bus had an imaginary friend…even Billy.  He mentioned it as though it was the greatest thing in the world to have an imaginary friend.  He even told Gustav, right in front of Baby Frederico, that everyone should have at least one imaginary friend, no matter how tall or old he becomes!

But the greatest surprise for Gustav’s bus kids occurred the very next morning when they each stepped onto the bus for school.  Near the very front of the bus, just behind Gustav’s big driving chair, was a sight they could have never imagined only the day before.  Right there in Seat 1 was the grandest decorated bench you have ever seen – it had streamers of every color and little twinkling lights draped across its back, and a large hand-painted sign that read ‘Reserved for Imaginary Friends Only.”

As Baby Frederico and Grenelda the Grasshopper took their seats, they listened in amazement as every rider – from the tiniest cricket and the tallest scissor-tailed flycatcher to one “former” bully groundhog and an old bus driver – talked about whose imaginary friend was the hippest, funniest, and smartest one among them.

And Baby Frederico knew his favorite – very well indeed.

‘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!


Living Here and There

A few nights ago, my kids were dreaming about what it would be like to have their own bookstore. They had so many ideas about what it would look like, but the most intriguing one was their plan for the front door. They have always been fans of C.S. Lewis and his classic Narnia series, so they decided that they would build a very large old-fashioned wardrobe for customers to walk through as they enter and exit the store. You might remember that is how the Pevensie children made their way into and out of Narnia.

It was a neat idea, but it became even more wonderful when our middle daughter explained her reasoning for the idea. She said, “For customers, it would be like leaving the real world and entering one more magical…and when they leave it would be sad, like leaving Narnia for the real world.”

At our house, I think summertime is much like Narnia – we love it around here because it is a definite pause in the roller coaster that is the year that exists on either side of it. Yes, we still work and do laundry and cook and pay bills and worry and laugh and cry and…live. But even with all of that, we still have time to just be. It is as though our summers are a lifetime away from the busyness of the school year.

Everyone here is connected to school life, my wife and I are part-time college professors and our kids are in different grades and schools across the city. This is why summer is so important to us. It always offers us a different pace…and we take full advantage if it. The kids are not tied to any particular activity away from home and they can take their time just being themselves and thinking and playing and cooking and reading and wondering. It’s a ride-your-bike, sleep-in-late and go-to-bed-later kind of world for them.

Next week at this time, school will have started and tickets to the roller coaster that this season brings will go quickly. We are indeed leaving “Narnia” through that wardrobe and coming back into the real world. A bit reluctant yes, but not downcast, for we are preparing for the adventures of the real world, too.

Here is how Lewis ended his great book on the subject – “And that is the very end of the adventures of the wardrobe. But if the Professor was right it was only the beginning of the adventures of Narnia.”

Lewis Wardrobe