Wish we were there!

There’s an art installation happening in New York on Saturday night (1 August 2015 NY time)  –  images of endangered animals will be projected onto the Empire State Building.

It's the brain child of Travis Threlkel - this from NYT, “Illuminating the Plight of Endangered Species, at the Empire State Building” :

"Mr. Threlkel, who designed the euphoric lighting for the Grateful Dead’s recent farewell concert, excitedly described plans for a cascade of animal images, some moving, including a sequence involving human hands that will morph into a kinetic blooming, ending with a representation of Mother Earth looking “not angry, but powerful.”’ 

It looks pretty wonderful to me and according to the article they're trying to live stream the whole show. It will run from 9 pm – 12 am on Saturday 1 August New York time – and the live stream is scheduled for Sunday 2 August between 11 am and 2 pm Australian time if you can catch it. There's a link about timing in the NYT article and here's the link to the slide show.

Accessible art creates vibrancy in a community and lifts minds and hearts to a happy state, don’t you think? This is art that’s public, free and completely relatable. Love that.  

And then to have art that makes such an important statement makes it even more wonderful. 

The ‘how’ of saving extinct species may be politically fraught with difficulty, but pretty much everyone is on board with the ‘why’ and the ‘when.’  Why: because every species is important, beautiful and fascinating, and when: now!

There’s a whole slew of picture books about endangered species, but a few of our favourites are:

COUNT THEM WHILE YOU CAN by Anne Bowman

ME ... JANE by Patrick McDonnell

ANIMALIUM  by Jenny Broom

CROCODILE'S TEARS by Alex Beard

TYGER! TYGER! by Elizabeth Stanley

OI! GET OFF OUR TRAIN by John Burningham

WHADDAYAMEAN by John Burningham

Pretty much anything by Graeme Base but especially THE ELEVENTH HOUR

Making art accessible and affordable is one of the very many reasons I love picture books so much. It's great when art is available on a large scale too, hooray for NYC and here's hoping the live stream works.

HALF SPOON OF RICE :: harrowing, important, triumphant and inspiring

Age guide: 10 and up

Roger and I recently visited Cambodia – Angkor Wat had long been on my would-love-to-visit list. (It was just as fascinating and beautiful as expected.) 

But we were unsure about visiting The Killing Fields and S21 Prison.

We’d read a bit about the Khmer Rouge and that awful time and of course we’d seen the movie - in the end we decided to visit both sites. I’m so glad we did.

In spite of ‘knowing’ a reasonable amount about the history, it was a whole different experience to be there and ‘feel’ the history. Still I’m not completely sure that I would take children to the sites. It’s confronting and difficult to process, the whole experience stays with you and muddles your brain for a while – probably a really good thing for adults.

That’s one of the things I love about picture books. They have the ability to help us feel the history as well as know the history, but they can do it in a way that leaves us with a sense of beauty and hope. 

Half Spoon of Rice does this brilliantly. 

It’s a generic story of a boy whose family are swept up in the Khmer Rouge genocide.

He’s separated from his family, suffers through desperate privations, is terribly scared, and somehow survives to be reunited with his family.

And yet because it is a beautifully worded and illustrated book it carries a sense of hope rather than despair.

This is not a true story in the sense that it is not about one particular child, rather it is representative of the stories of millions of Cambodian people. Neither the words nor the pictures sugar-coat the events of the time – both lead us to empathy and outrage – but they are also beautiful, hinting at the beauty that remains in the boy Nat and his friend Malis.

There is however nothing beautiful or hopeful about the actions and ideologies of the Khmer Rouge – and this is also clear in Half Spoon of Rice. The contrast is striking. 

Reading a book like this to a child requires some forethought and some time. The moment needs to be right – there needs to be time to talk and process the story after reading it. Ideally, an adult would have some additional knowledge about the genocide and the goodness and life that is wonderfully in motion in Cambodia today. But if those things are in place a wonderful experience beckons.

Half Spoon of Rice is perfect for talking about:

The importance of freedom, politics, governance, and power;

The effects of war;

The harm caused through violence;

The profound impact of family love;

The worth of friendships;

The blessings of peace;

The value of empathy; and

The privilege of plentiful food.

I’m not sure that there is anything more important or more helpful in preventing future genocides than engaging children with history and with ideas and building in them empathy and awareness. Half Spoon of Rice is perfect for this sort of learning.

HALF SPOON OF RICE was written by Icy Smith, illustrated by Sopaul Nhem

TED :: a fun book about searching for and finding the puurrfect friend.

TED :: a fun book about searching for and finding the puurrfect friend.

Age guide: 2 - 8 years

Sometimes it takes a while to find a perfect friend or to recognize the greatness in someone who might be your friend. 
Sometimes we can overlook someone’s best efforts just because they don’t match our expectations.
Sometimes we might not see the kindnesses we are being offered or the fun that is waiting for us.
All those things happened to Ted. 

Ted is a determined and funny little dog who sets out to find a place where he belongs. But he's overlooked. Again and again. And finally

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ANATOLE :: a charming French mouse teaches the joy of contributing

ANATOLE :: a charming French mouse teaches the joy of contributing

Age guide: 1 to 9 years

Anatole is a mouse who is completely content with his life. Until he gets a new, paradigm-shifting perspective when he hears some people talking about mice. He had no idea that people thought:

“To be a mouse is to be a villain!” 

For Anatole, this revelation puts his pride, honour and self-respect at stake.

So he sets out to remedy the situation. 

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THE TABLE WHERE RICH PEOPLE SIT :: you probably have one at your house

THE TABLE WHERE RICH PEOPLE SIT :: you probably have one at your house

Age guide: 4 to grown-up

This story was first published in 1994, perhaps intended as an antidote to 90’s consumerism. There’s certainly a flower child, peace loving vibe about it – I love it!

A young girl tells us in a conversational way about a problem she has with her parents. She thinks their family doesn’t have enough money.

So she calls a family meeting to discuss the matter. And in the course of trying to convince her parents of the need for ‘better’ jobs so that they can ‘buy a lot of nice new things’, the girl becomes convinced of the value of the life they live. 

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GUT: THE SECRET POWER OF A LITTLE-KNOWN ORGAN :: a fascinating look at the gut - and poo!

GUT: THE SECRET POWER OF A LITTLE-KNOWN ORGAN :: a fascinating look at the gut - and poo!

Giulia Enders is a twenty-something microbiologist and she has written a blockbuster bestseller book about the gut and poo. It's pretty fascinating - I heard her interview with Natasha Mitchell on Radio National Life Matters today and loved it.

One part that I found super interesting was that the gut has its own nervous system. It's a system that's big, vibrant and active enough to rival the brain!

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DEAR ZOO :: lift-the-flap surprises and fun on every page, just add noises!

DEAR ZOO :: lift-the-flap surprises and fun on every page, just add noises!

Ivy (23 months) read me her first book last week, it was a well-loved copy of ‘Dear Zoo’. We were sitting on the floor and she ran up to me book in hand, so I asked if she'd like me to read it to her. To which she replied “No, I read." She plopped herself down, opened the book and started:

‘What will be next? Elephant!’ (insert elephant noise here!).
‘What will be next? Raff!’ (Giraffe) (apparently Giraffes growl :))

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THE LITTLE WORLD OF LIZ CLIMO :: every single page is a laugh, so good for the soul!

This is such a funny book. Liz Climo draws amazingly appealing animals in all sorts of situations - but her talent extends way beyond the drawings.

How she gets the humanity into them I don't know, every situation is completely relatable to ourselves or to someone we know. I've had the book sitting on our coffee table for a month or so now and it brings giggles from everyone who picks it up.

It's wonderful for kids but I've tagged it for adults because it's the kind of book that makes a perfect present for so many hard-to-buy-for people - I'm thinking of my uncles!

Here's Joan's relatable, she bought the print and it's now on their kitchen wall. And I'm liking this one to add to my Christmas cartoons collection.  

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There's a sale on at National Geographic Kids!

There's a sale on at National Geographic Kids!

Have you seen the National Geographic Kids site? It's great to explore with kids and I really like their straightforward no-frills explanations for myself.

Try this link for an example, in their Science and Nature section. It drew comments from kids like: Too scary for me - WOW - Awesome! - That is so cool -  Tsunami's are pretty powerful! How many horse power?

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MILLIE :: a 'lesson' about unconditional love

MILLIE :: a 'lesson' about unconditional love

There's one particular book that I've read and re-read to my class this term. The first time it was my idea, since then it has been requested over and over: "Could we please read that Millie book again Jesse?"

With an age guide of say 4 to 9 years, Millie by John Marsden with Illustrations by Sally Rippin is a book of less words, more thinking. It begins with the line:
“Everybody loved Millie. She was so good.” 
The reader is led to believe that everybody’s love of Millie is BECAUSE she is so good.
“Millie ate her broccoli and cauliflower, peas and pumpkin”
But there is something not right, as the next page reveals…

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WILFRED GORDON McDONALD PARTRIDGE :: a loving look at memory loss and friendship

WILFRED GORDON McDONALD PARTRIDGE :: a loving look at memory loss and friendship

Ages baby to 8 years and grown-ups
Some years ago, after my grandmothers died, Roger and I realized that our children didn’t have any old people in their lives. (They had their own grandparents of course – but they hardly qualified as old.) That’s a major gap in a child’s life and one we tried to fill with elderly friends from church and other grandparents and great-grandparents of friends. 

I think that one of the reasons we realised this was so important was that we had both read Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge dozens and dozens of times.  

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Found On The Web :: a gorgeous bookplate embosser

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
— Stephen King

It's wonderful to lend books to friends, to have the pages turned and softened by other hands. And it's helpful to all if there's a little something on the fly leaf to show where the book actually lives.

Plus, how nice when you're the recipient, to see a familiar name in the front. Even nicer to run a finger over that name and feel a lovely tactile surface.

We're all pretty excited about finding this embosser - if you'd like to see more about it just click here or on the image.

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COLLECTIONS :: 12 beautiful board books, for baby showers, newborn gifts, or simply for love

COLLECTIONS :: 12 beautiful board books, for baby showers, newborn gifts, or simply for love

Baby Oliver has arrived! My fourth grandchild. He’s number three in his family, after Savannah and William, so when I visited I took a board book version of The Boss Baby.  It's sturdy enough to stand up to three little ones playing with it and amusing for parents who know just how much a baby is the boss!

In celebration of Oliver’s arrival here are a few board books that are great for baby showers or newborn gifts or simply because you love a baby or the parents of a baby.

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DREAM ANIMALS :: sweet slumber comes in many ways

DREAM ANIMALS :: sweet slumber comes in many ways

Ages birth - 8 years
It’s nice, especially on cool, dark nights, to think about how wonderful it is to dream. To dream about our friends and fun, or dream about places we have never been, or about our hopes and dreams. Dreams that beckon and entice us to a deep and peaceful sleep.

Dream Animals is just the book for that kind of night.  Arrays of ‘animals from long ago’ come to help children on the way to their dreams. The words in rhyme are simple and sweet and lead in an enticing way into each picture - and that’s where the magic lies. 

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MAX'S WORDS :: brilliant for children who feel a little left out, or who might be excluding others

MAX'S WORDS :: brilliant for children who feel a little left out, or who might be excluding others

Ages birth – 8 years
It sometimes happen that we value things that are rare over things that are common. That’s not always a good idea. 

In this story, Max has two brothers with impressive collections – one collects coins and the other collects stamps. They hold those collections pretty tightly too. 

When Max asks if he can have a coin or a stamp he is roundly refused

So he decides to start a collection of his own – a collection of words. Could there be anything more commonplace?  

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Found On The Web: a great opportunity for kids to get involved with micro $'s

Found On The Web: a great opportunity for kids to get involved with micro $'s

When we first moved into our current house there was no electricity – for a year (a year!). Actually it was kind of fun – you know, dark nights, lots of reading, less interruptions etc. But the cost of running a generator and refuelling kerosene lamps even for a couple of hours a night was obscene.

And the thing is, for people living in very poor circumstances in very poor countries who rely on kerosene lamps for lighting at night, the cost becomes completely untenable. There are also the fumes, the danger, and the environmental costs ...... The Gravity Light is going to be a real game-changer. -

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DRAGONS LOVE TACOS :: a heap-of-fun book to increase imaginations and appetites!

DRAGONS LOVE TACOS :: a heap-of-fun book to increase imaginations and appetites!

Ages: 2 - 8 
Dragons have shifted in childhood imaginations in recent decades. There was a time when they were the embodiment of evil and needed to be slayed, or fought, or at least feared. As in St George and the Dragon, or Smaug from The Hobbit who was ‘the chiefest and greatest of calamities.’ Now, although we still enjoy a frightening dragon, they are often likeable and even friendly, as in movies like Mulan or How to Train your Dragon.

The Dragons in Dragons Love Tacos are the likeable kind … until  -

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