Welcome to 2018!

Happy New Year! Or as my daughter put it at midnight last night: “Happy Totally Random Reason to Celebrate!”

The year ahead looks full of projects and new initiatives, but I pledge to continue reviewing and sharing my thoughts with you on this humble little blog. After all, if my calculations are correct, I’m only 14 reviews away from finishing ALL the Newbery medal winners! And after that I’ve still got Carnegie winners to cover, so (happily) the work goes on and on.

IMG_7975

My bedside table.

My own writing projects outside this website can be followed on my official authorly blog here. In a nutshell, I am at the moment writing a play, developing a fiction podcast, finishing a book about early childhood development, and researching a particularly rich historical fiction topic. Plus another half dozen things, including the most important job of all: being an Awesome Parent… or at least a Not Entirely Out of Touch, Embarrassing and Hopeless Parent.

IMG_7976

And another stack over here. (I’m out of cookies!)

If you’d like to follow along with my admittedly eccentric reading list, I’m on Goodreads, where I’ve just set myself the audacious goal of reading one hundred books in 2018. (gulp) Look me up if you are a Goodreader too.

Wishing all of you exciting projects and prospects this year, along with the good health and energy to tackle them all, as well as peace, happiness, and many, many good books to read!

cheers!
Kim

Advertisements

The Great Screen-Time Tug-of-War

Tug of war contested at the 1904 Summer Olympi...

Tug of war contested at the 1904 Summer Olympics. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The screentime tug-of-war is, I’m sure, a very very common sport in households today. Technology offers us ever more brilliant and enthralling ways to entertain and educate ourselves, and the desire for knowledge is a good thing, right? And yet, and yet, many parents harbour great anxiety about the slippery slope of screen time.*

Steve Almond has written a great piece on this for the New York Times: My Kids Are Obsessed With Technology, And It’s All My Fault. More

Summer Hikes… with Kids

DSC08958

Here’s a great post about hiking with little ones: Five Tips for Joyful Hiking with Little Kids courtesy of nature mom.

A particularly good suggestion is “forget about the destination”, though this can change with the age of the child. At age 3-4 this definitely applies, as they are distracted by every little thing they see, and it’s best to just resign yourself to the fact that as soon as they start flagging, it’s time to turn around and head back, no matter how far you’ve gotten.

More

Real Books Printed on Paper Still Hold a Place in the Nursery

Well this is encouraging. I’ve jumped into the virtual world of gadgets for an awful lot of things, but I still can’t let go of real books, especially not for reading with kids. And now there’s a study that finds a whole lot of other parents feel the same way I do.

(I particularly like the Dad who says he reads paper books so his kids will know that he’s reading and not just updating his facebook!)

IMGP3993

A real big colourful picture book still delivers a bigger sensory punch than the same thing on a screen. Imagine a very young toddler gazing at the pictures, flipping pages, holding the book and turning it all around to admire it, even gnawing a little on the corner… All good exploratory fun and vital in forming a concept in their minds of what a book is.

At that age all those lovely board books are actually toys, sensory toys! Especially pop-up books. A screen can’t deliver that kind of excitement!

Not to mention the thrill of walking into a library, with shelves and shelves and shelves of books. Even the tiny library my home town had simply filled me with awe at the vastness of its reserves. I don’t think scrolling through an ebook catalogue will ever give you that feeling.

It’s just nice to go out in the world and encounter books there.

Well-Written Books: A Joy to Read

8291200329_5b38b57771_mI’m afraid I haven’t churned out many reviews this week, partially due to a couple of headachey, unproductive days, but also because I am immersed in rereading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I will be writing about it when I finish, but in the meantime I am thoroughly enjoying Tolkien’s masterful style. All parents will know this problem: far too many books we read aloud to our children are so badly written they are a struggle to get through. Like picking your way through a rock-strewn field. So when we pick up a true gem by someone who really knows their craft – E. B. White, Tolkien, Kenneth Grahame, A.A. Milne – it can be quite a revelation. So perfectly evocative, so smooth to read, so musical!

A few months ago I was reading Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories and “The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo” was so liltingly written I had to read it aloud to my daughter immediately. Look it up and you’ll see what I mean.

Why do you think Goodnight Moon is so universally loved, even after 66 years? Because books like it were not written quickly, every word was laboured over and the whole project was carefully, meticulously crafted. Plus Margaret Wise Brown knew what she was doing. Dr. Seuss books too, give the impression of freewheeling, chaotic abandon, but he took a long, long time achieving that tone and constructing rhymes that scan so perfectly that you never stumble over them when reading.

One particular quality of my favourite writers, most notably writers from a past era, is their restraint. So many books today seem purposefully over-wrought – whether it’s an avalanche of action, torrents of emotion, or a hyper ping-ponging of current teen slang. The more timeless writers, I think, are the ones who slow down, step back a bit from things and comment more thoughtfully. More omniscient, more measured. An old-fashioned style, yes, but it lends itself well to carefully crafted sentences and turns of phrase that are sheer poetry.

(More to come about The Hobbit, restraint, and the complete lack of it in Peter Jackson movies…)

So, all you weary parents, do yourself a favour and pick out an old classic for bedtime tonight, be it prose or poetry. Here’s a good one for a start: The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear. So soothing it’s like meditation.

pussy1

Our Little Artists – Why Should They Have All the Fun?

Here’s another great TED talk, this time about how each and every one of us is an artist. Really.

Young-ha Kim also says that our kids are making art… all the time. Even when/especially when they are driving us crazy.

One thing I’ve really been enjoying lately is joining in with my daughter’s art projects. She is keen to learn how to do everything she comes across – two weeks ago it was macrame jewellery, last weekend it was paper maché, this weekend it was embroidery, and some night this week we’ll be making paper with bits of moss in it. I don’t always have the time to get right into things myself, I’m usually just the facilitator and brush-cleaner, but every once in a while I’ll join in. The how-to craft books for kids these days are just so engaging and wonderfully put together that I can’t resist. I even picked up a needle on Sunday and tried some embroidery! (If you know me at all you’ll appreciate how crazy that is.)

We should definitely all be trying new things all the time, but we get too set in our ways, too lazy. Thank goodness our kids can help us shake things up a little, eh?

As Young-ha Kim says, “Be an artist. Right now!”

IMG_0601 - Version 2

Film Club and Cultural Literacy

Here’s a TED talk about visual literacy through watching old movies, similar to what Martin Scorsese talks about here.

What do you think? I’m a big fan of showing old movies to kids, and I think showing them movies that are radically different from current offerings (ie. historical settings, foreign stories, subtitles, art films, experimental narratives, silent movies, etc.) serves to broaden their experience and knowledge of film and of the world.

So many movies today, especially ones made for kids, are such formulaic, pandering pieces of junk that I can’t help but worry that we’re limiting the very scope of their imaginations. As well as shredding their attention spans and ability to concentrate for long periods of time. Too fast, too loud, too violent. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – watching old movies is a wonderful way of slowing down the frenetic pace of our lives and opening up a window to other times and places.

Related posts:

Watching Old Movies

Click on “Old Movies” in Categories over there on the right, to see all the old movies I’ve reviewed.

Role Models for Boys

It sometimes feels like there are a lot – almost too many – male role models out there in the media, but we should be thinking about exactly what they are teaching children.

Here’s a fantastic TED talk by Colin Stokes, “How Movies Teach Manhood”.

There has been an awful lot of effort over the last few years to present young girls with empowering role models that we haven’t spent enough time really analyzing what baggage is being toted by all those male role models we’ve been trying to balance against. Colin is right, they are usually renegades, fighting (always fighting) all alone against the odds, etc. His comparison of The Wizard of Oz with Star Wars is spot on in its implications of the changing face of movies. (It’s also another argument for watching old movies instead of newer ones, in my opinion!)

After my post a few days ago Positive Role Models for Girls I wanted to follow up with some info about boys, and that TED talk really put everything into a nutshell for me.

Here are a couple of great posts from Commonsense Media on the same topic –

Boy Games With Positive Role Models

And in case we forget that boys are just as inundated with media messages about body image as girls are –

Boys and Body Image Tips

Death in Children’s Books

Here’s a great essay from the Random House website Hazlitt – Life and Death in Children’s Books by Jowita Bydlowska. I like her point “what’s better than books to ruin a child’s innocence?”

I’m also more than a little smitten with the 18th century children’s book that would make your hair stand on end – Der Struwwelpeter. It’s particularly fascinating because children are much less horrified by it than their parents. (Generally. It’s still not for everyone, I hasten to add.)

Der Struwwelpeter: Die gar traurige Geschichte...

Der Struwwelpeter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fantasia (1940)

Fantasia (film)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Released: 1940

Rated: G

Length: 120 – 124 min. (varies depending on what version you have)

Age: some parts 3+, others 5+ (see below)  Commonsense Media sez: 6 +

Scary Factor: Mickey attacks renegade broom with an axe and savagely chops it to bits; battle to the death between two dinosaurs; a gigantic devil rises over a mountain commanding a host of demons, the dead rise from their graves

Also: some modest (dare I say artful) nudity among fairies and mythological creatures; much wine drunk by very tipsy god Bacchus

Interests: classical music, fairies, mythology, dinosaurs, ballet

Next: the movie Fantasia 2000; live symphony concerts for children; Nutcracker ballet live or movie version
More

Previous Older Entries

All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.