23 March 2011

Meerkat Manor

One of our favorite places to go on a warm, sunny afternoon is the local science center. A few years ago they added a zoo, which is rather impressive for its size. The first exhibit you see as you enter is the meerkat habitat. Sometimes we strike out, but most of the time the clan is active and playful. We could stand for hours and watch them.

We visited the science center the other weekend, the first warm one in a while. I thought of this book while we were there watching the meerkats go about their business. Meet the Meerkat by Darrin Lunde is a book geared toward beginning readers, but it is packed with information. The format is question and answer. Each page begins with a question which the author proceeds to answer in language that young readers will understand, but which does not detract from the informational value. The illustrations help convey the playfulness of this animal.

Isaac and I read this book before bed last night and we talked about what we had learned about meerkats. I know the next time we visit the science center we will both be armed with a few more facts to think about as we watch their antics.

13 March 2011


I wrote this for Girl Museum's Women's History Month blog project last year. I thought I would share it here this year . . .

As a young girl, I devoured Nancy Drew books. I thought Nancy Drew was amazing. Not only did we share the same first name, but she was independent, resourceful and smart. I often imagined I was her.

In my small town, there was a used book store with a bookshelf that held nothing but Nancy Drew books. My great-aunt Sarah often took me there to choose one to add to my personal collection.

Aunt Sarah reminded me of Nancy Drew. She was independent, having never married in an age when marriage was one of the few options women had for security. She was resourceful, having taken care of her dying father while maintaining a career of her own. And she was smart, able to debate the most domineering men on any topic thrown her way.

Aunt Sarah showed me that women didn’t have to follow the rules of society and always do what was expected. She lived her life her way, taking less than ideal circumstances and making the best of them. And she loved me unconditionally.

I still have my collection of Nancy Drew books. When I look at them, I remember the two women who taught me as a girl that life is an adventure and the path that I chose to follow could be of my own making. They showed me how to define my own life, rather than let the circumstances of my life define me, and that is lesson I will always treasure.

11 March 2011

You Scared Me!

You can tell when Isaac has been in a room because every light is on when he leaves. His bedroom is in the basement, along with the den, laundry room, bathroom and a storage room. When he wakes up he immediately walks to each of them, opens the doors and turns on the lights. He has a bit of an issue with the dark.

His fear of the dark is what connected him to the book Jumpy Jack and Googily by Meg Rosoff. Jumpy Jack and Googily are an odd pair, a snail and a blue, two-fingered monster. Jumpy is a bit, well, jumpy and thinks there are monsters behind every bush, tree and rock. Googily is his best friend and gladly checks behind each bush, tree and rock to assure his friend that all is well. But Googily has his own fears, and Jumpy Jack is there to check under the bed when the lights go out.

It is important for young children to know that everyone is scared of something and to feel confident that they have someone who will look out for them. Jumpy Jack and Googily make a good pair, odd as they are. It makes me glad to know that Matt and myself are that someone for Isaac right now. Now if I can just get him to turn off the lights.

06 March 2011

Bonjour, Hola, Howdy, Hey

I never studied Spanish. In middle school I begged my mother to let me take French, and she did, against her better judgment. I took French classes all the way through high school, passed the AP test, which meant I did not have to study a language in college, and now can barely say au revoir.

I know some very basic Spanish, but it's not much beyond hola and muchos gracias. I work with Spanish speaking students and have had colleagues from Central America, yet I still can't wrap my tongue around the language. Which makes reading the books in this post especially fun. I think Isaac laughs more at the way I butcher the Spanish words, than he does at the story. Not that he knows how to pronounce them any better than I do.

Ann Whitford Paul has written a series of books about Iguana, Culebra, Tortuga and Conejo. The first, Manana Iguana, is an entertaining rewrite of The Little Red Hen in which Iguana plans a party expecting help from her friends who have one excuse after another to let her do all of the work. But they come through in the end. The follow-up books, Fiesta Fiasco, Count on Conejo and Tortuga in Trouble, highlight each of the characters in their own adventure.

Throughout the books, Spanish vocabulary is interspersed in a way that readers can figure out the translation using contextual clues. They are fun reads, the first being my favorite. Isaac really liked Tortuga's story.

Matt has more experience with Spanish than I do, so he is the better choice to read these books at bedtime. But sometimes it's as much fun to laugh at mommy as it is to hear a good story. And a few laughs before bedtime is always a good thing.