Category: Parenting/Family (Page 1 of 2)

Isn’t There Supposed to be a Mad Scientist in This Story?!

Original to the Clarion-Ledger 

WFES062252111-2What is there to do when a picture book has been canceled? Pencil is the narrator and director in this story. The crayons are getting ready to act out their parts. Frankencrayon is sent to page 22 to make his grand entrance. He is, as his name suggests, a crayon towering over the rest, a mix of green, orange, and purple broken crayons held together by masking tape.

When the lights go out, there is a horrible screeching noise. And worse yet, when the lights come on, there is a terrible scribble all the way across the page! As Teal crayon says, “A scribble can ruin a picture book!”

The mystery scribble just keeps getting bigger and bigger…where could it be coming from?

The pencil (director of the story) gets a notice that the picture book has been canceled.

1. No one likes the scribble thing.

2. The characters are gone.

3. Isn’t there supposed to be a mad scientist in this story?

But the pencil forgets to tell Frankencrayon that the picture book has been canceled, and on page 22, Frankencrayon makes his grand entrance onto the page with the scribble! But the lights are off, and where has everyone gone, and most of all, WHO IS SCRIBBLING IN THIS BOOK??

Frankencrayon is clever, funny, and teaches kids to make a creation out of what other people might perceive as a mess. Bring the kids to meet the author and illustrator, Michael Hall, and join us for a FRANKENCRAYON story time on Thursday, January 28th, at 3:00 p.m. at Lemuria Bookstore.

Call 601-366-7619 with questions.

‘The Christmas Mystery’ By Jostein Gaarder, translated by Elizabeth Rokkan, and illustrated by Rosemary Wells


Jacket (1)There are officially 24 days left until Christmas. In the Christian tradition, Sunday marked the beginning of Advent, the period of anticipation and preparation before the birth of Christ on December 25th. This book is the perfect addition to any home, and will help your family on the journey towards Christmas, much in the same way Mary and Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem. The Christmas Mystery is a Norwegian tale about a young boy named Joachim who goes with his father to buy an advent calendar on November 30th. They find a very old one that looks home-made. The book-seller gives it to them for free, saying, “I think you should have it for nothing. You’ll see, old John had you in mind.”

When Joachim opens up the door to December 1st, a piece of paper falls out. On the back of the paper is a story of a little girl named Elisabet who follows a lamb out of the department store, and each day continues her journey following the lamb. The book is divided into 24 chapters, each representing a day of Advent, and would be perfect to read aloud for each day leading up to Christmas. Every chapter is preceded by a jewel-like illustration by Rosemary Wells, and flipping the pages feels like opening up the flap on an Advent calendar.

Discover the story within a story; as Joachim unfolds each day on the Advent calendar, he also reads about Elisabet’s journey through time to Bethlehem and the birth of Christ. Joachim and his parents also become involved in a journey to discover the identity of John, the man who made the Advent calendar, and the mystery of the real-life Elisabet, who disappeared 40 years ago on Christmas Eve. This Advent season, pick up the The Christmas Mystery for the whole family to enjoy the wonder and mystery of Christmas.

Why Young Readers Need Independent Bookstores

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Carson Ellis

Carson Ellis

One of my favorite things about working in Oz is seeing reactions from people walking in for the first time. It’s a different reaction from the rest of the store, because being surrounded by children’s books brings about a unique feeling, one of nostalgia and hopefulness. You remember what you read as a child, where you read, who read to you. People are delighted and openmouthed, trying desperately to take it all in.

But the children are the best. Their eyes get big, their jaws drop. Sometimes they start running towards the first thing that catches their eye. They try to describe what they’re seeing, but mostly it’s just a lot of words like “Wow.” For children and adults, being surrounded by children’s books is a special, magical experience.

Levi Pinfold

Levi Pinfold

Independent bookstores themselves are magical entities. They pop up in the strangest places, inhabit the strangest buildings, and are run by the strangest people (it’s true, you know it). These buildings, these places, these people, they have histories and pasts and layers. They have stories, and that in turn gives independent bookstores their unique brand of magic: the place and person you buy that book from has as unique a story as the one you hold in your hands.

Jon Klassen

Jon Klassen

People feel that magic when they walk into Lemuria. Even children feel it. It’s a special kind of wonder you don’t get when you walk into a chain bookstore, and definitely not when you order a book off of Amazon. It’s a feeling that makes people excited to visit Lemuria, excited about reading, excited about even the idea of holding a book in their hands. It’s a feeling that manifests itself most beautifully in children. When they come into Oz, a place that seems so otherworldly, a place made just for them, with adults there to help them find something they love, something clicks. It’s a moment I love seeing, a moment I wish everyone could see at least once. All of a sudden the child realizes, “Wow. So this is what reading is like. So this is what books can do. “ They realize places of magic house objects of magic, and those objects are books.

William Joyce

William Joyce

I don’t think I need to explain why fostering a love of reading in children is so important. But I’ll do it anyway, for clarity’s sake. Reading allows children to imagine, to grow and think outside of the box. Reading allows children to learn about worlds outside their small personal ones, to grow in empathy and understanding. Reading provides children with opportunities to succeed, to improve themselves and their situations. Reading teaches children that they are not alone, that somewhere, someone understands their unique experience as a person and has a written a story to speak to them. Reading gives children power and self-confidence, the opportunity to choose what information they consume. Reading is a life-skill that offers so many wide-open doors.unnamed (2)

Anthony Browne

Anthony Browne

But to foster this love, to bring the magic to life, children need places like Lemuria. Readers from seven months to seventeen years old need spaces that seem magical, adults who appear to be wizards pulling books out of thin air. They need a place that ignites a desire to read, and they need guides who want to foster that desire. What they need are people who love books. And I can guarantee you won’t find those people in Amazon warehouses or behind the counters at chain bookstores. You find them in independent bookstores, because independent bookstores are created by people who love books, people who spend their entire lives trying to explain this love to others. So come on in. Bring your kids, stay a while. There is so much we’d like to share with you.

David Wiesner

David Wiesner

It’s time to be honest about summer reading.

If you have walked outside recently you know that it is definitely summer in Mississippi again- and I couldn’t be happier. I love the way the summer smells, I love the long days, and I might be the only one that loves the heat. Spending an entire day outside getting filthy and sweaty is still a real pleasure to me- one I rarely get to enjoy anymore. But there’s also fresh veggies being pushed by a farmer’s market that has made some real strides in making fresh produce more available to people in this city. Fondren had it’s first all day First Thursday last week, which I hope a lot of people went out to support the small but growing group of artists blooming all over the city. If you work in a bookstore or have children of your own you know what the summer is really all about: SUMMER READING!


I loved reading for school and then getting to have a teacher explain the significance of what I just read. Novels became a true love for me with my summer reading books because I learned all books have secrets in them. A single page could contain the right combination of words that unlocks a secret, but this is not just the author’s secret- it is your secret as well. Hidden in that book the author has spoken right to you, to an experience you never knew anyone else felt; but if the author felt it, then it must follow logically that some other reader- somewhere reading those same words as you- knows it too. If we are to join in this community of thinkers and shared experiences we have to start somewhere. A shared library of classics we have all read could be a beautiful way to create a shared experience and understanding.

e9cf1If that was the best of times, then what was the worst of times? Dull classics that crushed my imagination and frustrated me. When children are nothing more than hormones and imaginations why would you ask them to read The Scarlet Letter or A Tale of Two Cities? These are dense, complex novels with imagery and alliterations I still cannot completely grasp, but I was forced to memorize the details that would be on the tests. The significance of the French Revolution or Puritan morality both certainly went over my head because they were inappropriate for the age group when we read them. It is a mistake to show children these books as the benchmark that other books are to be measured by. For many students these will be the only books they read that year and if you hated every book you read in a year you would stop reading until you were forced to read again,  just like most students.

17pv8zq0imq9ngifI am very happy to see more contemporary/popular books on summer reading lists these days. I think the only way to get children to become readers is to show them how much fun it is. Reading can be an amazing escape from the stresses of growing up, it can expand your way of thinking, it can nourish you and connect you and make you feel loved. We have to show young readers where to find the books that will do just that for them. Where can we find a middle ground from these two opposing views I put forth? I think it must be in a diversity of books we have all read and are able to relate to. Asking children to read dusty old classics is sure to bore them away from a love of books- but we can nurture that love with a selection of books that are appropriate in content and relatable to the culture they know.

Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon

far from the treePsychiatrist and award-winning author Andrew Solomon spent years interviewing families with children who are deaf, children conceived in rape, children who are transgender, children who are prodigies, children who became criminals, children with mental and developmental disorders. Each chapter in Far from the Tree explores a different group of families and the challenges they face. Any of these families can be terribly isolated because of their situations, but they show us all what it means to be a family. Some families come to embrace what they once feared, others become advocates, some families grow closer. Each family is so different but the one thing they have in common is compassion. Besides sharing these stories, Solomon takes a gracious step forward into his own exploration of being a son and of his hope to one day be a father.

You will also think, as Solomon does, of your own journey as a child, your journey into parenthood–or not. You will remember that child in your life who is different. You will consider the degree of acceptance and prejudice our society has for those that “fall far from the tree”, for those who gain their identity not just from their vertical parents but from a broader, or horizontal, culture and genetics. In exploring family after family, Solomon does a great deal to show the love despite the difficulties:

“For some parents of children with horizontal identities, acceptance reaches its apogee when parents conclude that while they supposed that they were pinioned by a great and catastrophic lost of hope, they were in fact falling in love with someone they didn’t yet know enough to want. As such parents look back, they see how every stage of loving their child enriched them in ways they never would have conceived, ways that are incalculably precious. Rumi said that the light enters you at the bandaged place. This book’s conundrum is that most of the families described here have ended up grateful for experiences they would have done anything to avoid.”

I tried to ignore this book, but every where I turned someone was talking about it. I tried to think that it was too long for me to read, but it’s not. Even it takes you a year, take it slow and read this book one chapter at a time.

In Praise of Love

Alain Badiou is a french philosopher and professor at European Graduate School. He is a Marxist and has been called a contemporary Plato.

His latest book, In Praise of Love <a series of interviews conducted by Nicolas Truong w/Badiou>, is at heart a cleverly formed argument against online dating (OLD) agencies – that OLD is deleting love. This book is a quick read and very approachable (a welcome consolation in the irritating circuit of philosophy).

praise large“We must re-invent love but also quite simply defend it, because it faces threats from all sides.”  It is in reaction to posters for an European internet dating-site, Meetic (the particular), and a collective mutation/transfiguration of modern love-action/language-representation (the general), that he takes up his sword-pen against and strikes. The slogans: “Get love without chance!” and “Be in love without falling in love!” and “Get Perfect love without suffering!” Badiou parses out the constituents of love and risk, he says, is a major ingredient. Love cannot exist truly without the randomness involved. It’s like cracking an egg but finding it full of water rather than yolk and substance.

He argues that the language of these dating companies is deceitful and parallels it to modern American wartime propaganda such as “smart” bombs and “zero dead” wars. Such terms are deceitful because there is risk and there will be deaths. This type of language conditions us to be cold and calculating.

“If you have been well trained for love, following the canons of modern safety, you won’t find it difficult to dispatch the other person if they do not suit. If he suffers, that’s his problem, right? He’s not a part of modernity. In the same way that “zero deaths” apply only to the Western military. The bombs they drop kill a lot of people who are to blame for living underneath. But these casualties are Afghans, Palestinians… They don’t belong to modernity either. Safety-first love, like everything governed by the norm of sayfety, implies the absence of risks for people who have a good insurance policy, a good army, a good police force, a good psychological take on personal hedonism, and all risks for those on the opposite side.”

meeticThe risk is not for you, the consumer of this love-commodity, who can easily discard the perfect compatibility, no surprises here, sameness-as-you match and move on to the next Prada-mini-tote-of-a-person drummed out of an algorithm computed by photo likes of possible lovers and the answers to an intimate questionnaire. The “zero death” war is true only when you can forget about the other side of the equation, and today the commodity most desirable is ignorance, which will decay the fabric of any truly good thing. To be able to forget, to not experience the reality of the situation, is what is being tailored for us, and as Badiou suggests, love is at risk to this bourgeois virus, which can be restated as _everything good is at risk.

“You must have noticed how we are always being told that things are being dealt with ‘for your comfort and safety’, from potholes in pavements to police patrols in the metro. Love confronts two enemies, essentially: safety guaranteed by an insurance policy and the comfort zone limited by regulated pleasures.”

If this is the age of ‘convenience is king’, we must be very vigilant, because while our heads are turned and while we take our ignorance pills and sleep very very well, horrors will happen. Love is the killer of this fetishized ego-centrism, and I think Badiou is right.

Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon

I heard about this book from a customer and then saw an interview on TV. I tried to ignore this book. I tried to think that it was too long for me to read right now. But it’s not. This beautiful book is about parents loving their children no matter what. To loosely paraphrase from the video:

“There really isn’t an definition of what’s normal or what’s far from the tree or under the tree. The love that parents have for their children can see them through an enormous amount.”

Andrew Solomon spent years interviewing families with children who are deaf, children conceived in rape, children who are transgender, children who are prodigies, children who became criminals. Each chapter explores a different group of families and the challenges they face. Take it slow and read this book a chapter at a time. This is a book about exceptional families. Listen to some of the stories in the video below.

The ADHD Workbook for Kids

There are many books out there about kids with ADHD, but how does a parent cultivate and reinforce good social skills, self-confidence and self-control into a busy day?

Child Psychologist Dr. Lawrence Shapiro has compiled a workbook of 44 simple activities for a child to work on alone or with a parent’s help. The workbook is divided into four sections on the following ADHD challenges: Learning self-control; Overcoming school problems; Making and keeping friends; and Feeling good about yourself.

Shapiro has written this workbook to teach the skills of emotional intelligence as research shows that these skills can be taught just as a child can be taught to read or play a violin. This workbook is designed to compliment a comprehensive treatment program for ADHD. Schools may provide extra help for children with ADHD but that is often not enough. Even after medication and counseling, parents still need to set aside extra time to work with their child. Shapiro’s activities on “How to sit still,” “You can have a best friend,” and “How to handle days when everything seems to go wrong” may be a good place to start.

Who can resist a puppy?

I can’t, anyway.

You can't handle this

A few weeks ago my wife and I got a standard poodle puppy. We had plenty of opinions and ideas (no froo-froo poodle haircuts for this guy!), but we realized there were plenty of things that we didn’t have settled in our minds. Even basic things — house training, for example — can get very frustrating if you are inconsistently applying different methods and ideas at the same time. We realized that, as with much in life, what we really needed was a good book.

There’s plenty of material about dog training out there, but we wanted something specific — straightforward, no-nonsense, easy to understand and apply. Books about dog psychology are fascinating, and I can appreciate the unique approach of the more esoteric puppy whisperers. But we wanted something that cut out all the unnecessary theory and boiled it down to just the essentials: some clear instructions that we could follow.

After asking around and looking at a few different books, I hit on Before and After Getting Your Puppy, by Ian Dunbar. It’s actually two previous books (Before Getting Your Puppy and…10 points if you can guess the title of the other book) bound together in a nice hardcover format. You know how some cookbooks are bound as hardcovers with glossy boards and no dustjacket, so you can use it in the kitchen and just wipe it off if it gets dirty? Same idea here, and they managed to keep the price down to $19.95 which is great for a hardcover — especially after heading to the pet store for a new collar, leash, food and water bowls, extra puppy food, some new treats, dog toys, replacement clippers after the old one burns out, trips to the vet for shots, trips to the vet for upset puppy tummy…

The book is structured perfectly — it’s broken down into “developmental deadlines” — so you can follow along, week by week, and keep track of what your puppy (and you) should be learning and working on. Dunbar is explicitly clear about what behavior is normal (and can be ignored) and what behavior is a sign of bad things to come (and needs to be addressed quickly).

Something else I really appreciated is that the language of the book, while it is written for a committed and willing owner, never assumes an advanced level of understanding or some previous experience of the reader. I’m familiar with some of the ideas and training methods, since I grew up with dogs all my life and have read about dog training before. But I still appreciated the clear explanations — and found that some of the things I thought I understood, I really didn’t.

A new puppy is great fun, but the funny puppy misbehavior can quickly become a huge hassle and annoyance as the dog grows older…and too frequently, what results is another “bad dog” in the city shelter hoping for a rescuer. Hoping that you just end up with a good dog occasionally works, but there’s no reason to leave it up to luck — put in some good work early on and you vastly increase your chances of getting a “good dog” — because you will be a good owner.

Rebecca Walker – Alice Walker

one big happy familyI have written about Alice Walker before. In case you don’t know, Alice is Rebecca Walker’s mother. As I read more and more by and of Alice Walker, I became more interested in her daughter, Rebecca. I then found that she is a published and well-respected author and activist in her own right. I have had her memoir, Black, White and Jewish, on my bedside table for some time but was afraid  I would not have the time to finish. So I when I realized that she had edited collection of short essays from different authors writing about their own family life, I thought I could at least read one. Well, I am almost finished with One Big Happy Family. It has been a thought-provoking read. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about the great variance of family structures.

hard times require furious dancingworld has changedWhile I knew that a new collection of essays, The World Has Changed: Conversations with Alice Walker, was coming out in April, I learned this weekend that Alice has a book of poetry coming out in September 2010: Hard Times Require Furious Dancing.

Alice also has quite an informative website these days. Rebecca has one as well. Sadly–and while both are inspiring women–Rebecca and Alice have not had very good relations. If you have read both of their works, you would understand why I add this comment. When I read Alice and Rebecca, I do not admire them so much because I relate or agree with everything they say, what keeps me reading is the privilege of witnessing a woman’s development. Both of them are very adept at showing show how they work through life’s intricacies. And I think that this is what keeps me reading One Big Happy Family–I can witness and learn from so many different types of families dealing with life.

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