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Category Archives: children’s book

My Little Chat with Dame Julie Andrews Edwards

I had hoped for a small interview with Dame Julie Andrews Edwards.  One in which I could ask her what is her favorite movie that she is in? (I am hard pressed to answer that one because I love them all.)  If there is a particular message she wants to share with kids and their parents through her books?  How cool is it to be working with her daughter on this book series? If she has a movie project on which she is working?  What is her favorite kind of tea?  No, seriously, I really don’t know that I would ask much more than that, because the truth is, it has been asked.  And I know how to get around on Google and can probably find the answers to any question I could come up with.

So really, I just wanted a chance to talk to her. Because it was her movies that hold special childhood memories of getting to stay up really late to watch with my sister and my mother.  “The Sound of Music” that inspired hours of pretending that I was Liesl in the backyard, singing “You Are 16” while circling the fishpond.  And listening to my dad’s stories of swimming with the real Von Trapp kids who did make it off of those musical hills and into the United States where they settled in New Hampshire and swam in a swimming hole that my dad also liked.

My Julie Andrews memories also come from when I was 21 living in London and working as a nanny.  Could I have had movie that I loved more than “Mary Poppins”?  My only beef with film was that she set the bar so incredibly high (Because to me, she really was Mary Poppins).  But Sara, the two-year old in my care, and I would watch and sing.  And cuddle.  One day we were walking home from the market and it was cold, dark and rainy.  In London, the wind whips down certain streets.  We had just turned a corner and it caught Sara’s umbrella and lifted her a few inches off the sidewalk before she landed on her bum.  I was sure she was going to cry and I wasn’t sure how I was going to pick her up as I was carrying massive package of diapers and other bags of whatnot.  I looked at her sitting a little stunned on the ground, she looked up and smiled excitedly.  “I blew away like all the bad nannies!”  Grateful that I had not blown away  too for she would certainly have looked at me with a new regard (bad nanny), we walked home, spit spot.

It was a surprise that my kids have also had the chance to love Julie Andrews.  Of course they were going to watch my favorites with me, but she won them over with their own favorites as Queen Clarisse Renaldi of Genovia in “The Princess Diaries” movies.  Different from my own childhood, technology allowed my kids watch those movies over and over and over again.

When I was running a couple of bookstores I became aware that Julie Andrews is also an accomplished author.  Who has written children’s literary classics!  We are not talking the usual stars cashing in on their name to write (or have a ghostwriter write) some fluff.  “The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles” is … really great.

So “interview” might be too loose of a word.  I wanted to hang with Dame Julie Andrews Edwards.  Swap some stories.  Chew the fat.  And last night I got my chance.

Yesterday at 5:30 at A Whale of A Tale, we joined the line of 200+ people, all with a golden ticket, standing through lots of wind, and rain that teased, threatening to come down in buckets but never making it past a couple of minutes of fast drops. The doors were closed, opening just before 6:00 to let 4 – 5 people in at a time to have their new copy of “The Very Fairy Princess, Here Comes the Flower Girl” signed by the legendary Dame Julie Andrews Edwards.  Ten minutes after the doors opened, the kids went and counted – 17-18 groups of people ahead of us.  She was speaking to each person.  Graciously.  Just as you would expect.  I asked the kids if they knew what they were going to say when they got up there.  No, they said, but 17 – 18 groups ahead of us was going to leave them plenty of time to think about it.  Mind you, these are kids that act and write and have goals of being accomplished artists of various means down the road.  These are kids who have had the chance to meet some big name authors and conduct their own interviews with kids who have starred in movies.  These are kids who went their whole 6th grade year with a student / friend who was in a highly acclaimed Oscar-winning movie sitting next to them in their class.  I was confident they would have fun clever things to say.  As would I.

Moving towards the front of the line, we could see her through the window.  And she was beautiful. She looked like she just stepped out of Genovia and I was mildly surprised she was not donning a tiara.  She was engaging each person in a small conversation.  We moved forward.  Traded our tickets for books.  And then it was our turn to be standing opposite of her at the signing table.  She thanked the girls for coming.  They stood there with the mouths open and nodded.  She asked them their names.  They pulled it together enough to answer.  Correctly, I might add.  It turns out she has a daughter who shares the same name as mine.  Nothing.  Nothing clever comes to mind to respond.  I say something about Princess Mia also having the same name as if Julie Andrews doesn’t know this.  I took what could have been a personal moment… and made it lame.  I really don’t remember what else was said.  But the truth of the matter is that the two 7th grade girls, my friend Liz, and I, were all way to star struck to say anything clever.  Between the four of us, all we could muster was to stand there and smile and nod.  And then it was over; the people behind us in line moved up.

And my little chat with Dame Julie Andrews Edwards is tucked away in my forever memories because it was…awesome!!

Waiting for Normal – a great rec from my kid

 

I had pulled some books from my boxes that I am still sorting from my now defunct book fair business.  Books that I wanted my own kids to read.  I tossed “Waiting for Normal” by Leslie Conner, over to one of my girls who responded “Yeah, it’s really good.  You should read it.”   There are some advantages to the kids getting older.  In theory shoes can now be shared between us.  And yesterday after finishing this book that one of them recommended, I picked up the book the other own just finished and headed to bed with it tucked under my arm.

“Waiting for Normal” tracks a life changing year for Addie, one of the most resiliently lovable book heroes you will ever route for.  Her mother, Denise, is a mess, possibly bi-polar.  She is an all or nothing sort of person – and Addie is never sure which side of that coin she is going to get.  The two of them live in a trailer provided by Dwight, her mother’s last husband, the closest thing to a father that Addie has ever had.  At age 12, our hero takes care of herself and has become quite adept at creating wonderous meals from cans of soup and toast.  When her mother starts to spend more and more time (as in days upon days) with her boyfriend / boss, Addie is left cooking for one.

There are people all around her keeping an eye on her situation.  Soula and Elliott who own and run the mini market across the street.  Grandio, her dad’s father, who loves her but is gruff and to the point with his dislike of her mother.  Dwight and her half sisters, Katie and Brynna whom she desperately longs to be with.  But Addie has been down this path before and knows that her mother’s behavior could cause the two to be separated forever.  Addie is loyal, smart and ultimately scared, as she protects her mother and herself from those who are poking around to make sure she is being taken care of.  But she makes one mistake, revealing all of the lies that she has created to cover her mom… and it just might get her the Normal she has been waiting for.

Warning:  cried at beach for the last 70 pages of this read.  Thought sunglasses we hiding but it turns out they were not enough.  Beautifully written!

Thing I Love Most – A Deal!

 

Nothing makes a new dress cuter than knowing it was purchased on sale.  A new ball is bouncier when it is 20% off.  Jump ropes are jumpier.  Games are more fun.  Swimsuits are splashier.  You get the idea.  I think it is an interesting peek into a mom’s psyche to consider such things.  And a smart retailer would take note.  It is not about the price.  It is about the deal.  It is about getting something a higher perceived value for far less.

For instance let’s say the above noted Dress A has a price of $25.  It’s a fair price for a girl’s dress.  In the same store, however, there is a Dress B that has an original price tag of $35 that has been marked down to $25.  Two dresses, sided by side.  Same price.  Which one do you want to get?  Do you even have to see them to know which one you think you would like better?  Be honest.  I know if I am being honest, it is hard for me to let Dress B go, even if I really like Dress A better.  I’m not judging – I am just observing!

With that being said, the pop-up of the daily deals everywhere is pure heaven for me.  I am the perfect customer because I am buying things solely because they are a deal.  Things that I would not buy today. Things that I wasn’t looking for today.  But things that are a discounted today – and I am loving it!  I have many different sites that I will share over time.  I am starting today with the mini social because in addition to being a deal, they are featuring a couple of my favorite items.

Currently listed for the next couple of days is the Scholastic sale with a couple of my favorite Scholastic items, being the Bob Books set and the I Spy Books.  I used the Bob Books to help both of my kids learn to read.   They are fantastic at building phonics as well as confidence.  The books build upon each other so once a sound is mastered it is incorporated into the next book with the next sound that is being taught.  And kids can move along at their own pace, sometimes moving quickly, other times taking it a little slower.  The I Spy Books I love because they can be enjoyed alone in the car on a long trip, or together in bed with parent and child playing together.  The photographic artwork engages children for a very long time.

The other line that interests me today is the National Geographic Maps.  The mini social is highlighting quite a few beautiful themed maps including the world, the heavens, the United States, dinosaurs, and The Civil War.  Lots of information to pour over while laying in bed at the end of a busy day.

What’s not to love – it’s a deal!

The Care and Keeping of You – The Body Book for Girls

The Care and Keeping of You - The Body Book for GirlsAmerican Girl is celebrating 25 years in business this year.  And in my mind, that is 25 years of excellence.  One of these days, I will review their dolls for which they are best known. But as a former bookseller, it is their books (all of them – historical fiction to games to information pertinent to girls) that rock my world.  And hands down, the creme of the creme, is “The Care and Keeping of You – The Body Book for Girls”.

We are not prudes in my house.  We are pretty open about our bodies.  About sex.  About being comfortable in your own skin.  I’m just saying this so that you know that I talked with both of my girls about their bodies before I just handed them this book.  Truthfully though, I didn’t have to.  Everything was in there.  Of course, I think open dialogue is important but if you truly can’t handle the subjects of puberty and sex with your kids, this book has you covered.  I can only imagine how great a single dad of daughters would find it!

This is how it went down in our house.  When my oldest was in fourth grade, we had the very basic talk – about her period, body changes, and a little bit about sex.  Then I gave her the book and she didn’t put it down until she had read every one of the 104 pages.  Then I said “Do you have any questions?” and she replied, “Yes, can I get a bra?  What did they call them?  A sports bra?”  I was a little taken aback by her directness but I went with it, lamely answering “Do you think you need one?” (A little bit of the role reversal going on because I could not imagine my first baby needed a bra – thankfully she replied …) “Yeah, I don’t think I need one of those underwire bras, but yeah, I could use a sports bra.”  Okay…. So then I said, “Fine, we will go this week.  Any other questions?” And she said “Yes, do you use pads or tampons?”  And it has been like that ever since.

By the time her sister read the book (four year age difference) I think she knew most everything.  She had been around for the purchase of many bras, but also pads and tampons.  The two shared a room, also sharing a load of information, I am sure.  But I still loved the fact that it is a great resource.  A book that girls can come back to as they start going through the changes.  And the message is very much “This is what happens to EVERY girl, it is normal, you are normal, and there is no reason to be embarrassed.”  It is written so a fourth grader can understand and an eighth grader won’t feel patronized.

Sidenote incase you are wondering when is too early.  I learned about sex from our older girl neighbor when I was in 1st grade (yep, you read that right – 1st grade!).  It was obviously the biggest news she had ever had and it was certainly the biggest I had heard.  I remember where I was, what I was wearing, and that I thought she was the grossest person I had ever met.  With that as my own experience, I was determined to be the one to break it to both of my children, having a private talk at the end of second grade with each.  While many of their peers parents thought I was nuts, I must tell you – both of my kids had already had the playground schooling on this subject.  It hadn’t come up in our “How was your day?” conversations but when asked directly, both kids at age 8 already knew the answer to the oh so telling question, “Where do babies come from?”

Skippyjon Jones – one of my favorite all time read-a-louds

Skippyjon Jones

You know it is good when you can’t finish reading the page out loud because you are giggling so much, and your child doesn’t care because he or she is laughing so hard along side you.  Truth is, they are probably laughing as much (if not more) at you as the book.

If you are not familiar with the Skippyjon Jones series by Judy Schachner, and you have  child under the age of 7, you need to get yourself to the nearest library or bookstore (don’t forget to shop your independents!) and meet the lovable Siamese kitten…who spends his timeout in his room as the Spanish sword fighting Chihuahua, Skippito, charging through his adventures with many amusing Spanish words and phrases.  This energetic and somewhat sassy hero forces you to read his comic lines with a strong Spanish accent – for readers whom are not fluent in the language, the story quickly becomes an opportunity to share your silly side with your kids.

There are multiple offerings in the Skippyjon Jones category – board books for the very little guys, plush, caps, even adult tees.  A new hardcover edition, Skippyjon Jones Class Action, will be available on July 12th.  However, my best rec is the first book (with the CD so that kids can listen to it being read aloud when you are not available to read) paired with the Skippy “ears” headband.  Classic fun.

Why another blog about kid stuff?

Why another blog about kid stuff?

For months I have been trying to come up with a blog.  Why? Because I am writer, a communicator, and I am fascinated with this online world.  I know bloggers and I think “I can do that”.  But then I don’t.  I get stuck.  Why?  Truthfully, I don’t want to share the ins and outs of my day with the world.  At least not on a regular basis.  I’m not private, necessarily.  Or at least I never thought of myself that way.  But I am also not at the height of my game.  I have regular screaming matches with my teenager.  We struggle with $4 at the gas pump (along with everyone else).  I drive a carpool.  Seriously – who cares?  I don’t want to have a blog of complaints – who would read it?  I can’t imagine writing it.

So the advice is, write about that which you have passion.  It could have been worded differently.  But you get the idea.  And what I love I have always known and considered but then thought – really?  Aren’t there enough people out there doing that?  Loving kid stuff?  And there are. But not the way I do.  And lots of time, not the same stuff.  Why?  Cause I have seen it all!  Well, at least a lot.  Let me tell you about myself.

I started a children’s product website BEFORE etoys ever launched.  I had been invited to attend a Gift Show for retail buyers in LA and walking those many aisles that day 14+ years ago was a life changer.  I was hooked.  Never had I seen so much great stuff!  What store carried it?  Where could it be bought?  It’s not like I live in the boonies and didn’t have retail.  In my adult past alone, I had lived in New York, London, and San Francisco.  I had shopped!  Newport Beach, where I lived then and now, was/is the mecca of retail haven for many – I had seen stuff before!  But this was different.  Some items were brand new!  No stores had even had the opportunity to purchase them before.  It was truly thrilling – but how to make it my world?  And then it came to me (things like that often do – let me tell you – if I had some financial backing and an assistant, I could rule the world!) – not a children’s product catalog (too expensive to produce) but an online children’s product catalog.  Believe it or not – this was a groundbreaking idea back then.  When I tried to explain it to people, there was plenty of concern as to whether or not anyone would ever put their credit card information online.  Think about that for a moment.  I do not consider myself old but when I think about the magnitude with which things have changed within my adult life, I am awed… Okay – enough awe, I digress (which is why I love a blog – I can digress or do anything else I want!  It is mine!)  So a year plus and a business plan later, I launched my site, duckduckgoose.com.  I sold some really cute stuff.  I met with investors.  But I was a little too early – most investors didn’t quite get it.

So I decided to learn a little more about the children’s toy and gift industry through some other retailer eyes and I became a sales rep for what ultimately became 40+ lines of specialty products.  During my eight year tenure as a rep, I worked and walked many trade shows from New York to Pomona.  I saw lines come and go. (Was just thinking about one of my old favorites – the knotty dolls – earlier this week – I wonder if they are still around? ) I saw unique lines develop only to be copied and mass-produced by the big guys.  I saw terrible lines that had to have some sort of financial backing which left me with a whole different kind of wonder.  And I developed an eye for the it thing. The thing that was not out in every store.  The thing that had enough merit to warrant just being in existence (it is amazing how many things don’t pass this test!).  The thing that could be sold at a price that made sense for what it was.  And the thing that would pass both the child and the parent test – it would make sense in both worlds.

One of my customers recognized that I had developed this eye and brought me on as her children’s bookstore buyer for all non-book items.  A dream job for me if ever there was one.  My husband said that I went to work happy and came home happy.  I was in my element!  As circumstances changed, I became the buyer of children’s books, as well.  I learned the book industry a crazy fast pace (thanks to the brilliant help of many a great rep!) and began to develop the eye within all things published as well.  The book that had a great message – one that readers hadn’t encounter 8 bazillion times before.  The illustrator who used unique media and colors to create pages that one wants to climb inside.  The read aloud that a parent enjoys as much as the child.  The book whose author truly crafts each beautiful sentence.  Heaven.

But then the economy did it’s thing, and money dried up, and stores closed.  And I moved on.  I ran my own small business bringing book fairs to local schools for a while.  It allowed me to pursue catalogs and continue to receive ARCs (advanced reader copies of books – which I really tried to read!).  But it didn’t work $ wise.

So while I am continuing to piece together my next big project, I know that my passion is kid stuff – kid products, kid books, kid projects, kid events.  I am excited to have a home to make note of the stuff I love.  If you know of products, or manufacture your own, I am happy to take a peek.  For now, let’s get started.