Winter Reading Week continues into this week because superior French parenting sort of derailed my theme last week…and so in this time to celebrate what we love, it seems perfectly appropriate to celebrate books and authors we love.
Among my circle of friends, I am surrounded by women with a range of really cool, creative and artistic talents. One edits films, ads for Etsy vendors or corporate videos, one takes fabulous pictures of children and families, one paints beautiful customized canvases for kids rooms (oh, and yes, those are my sisters), another is a party planner and then there is my friend Vanessa Giancamilli Birch, who along with several talents, has published four children’s books. Receiving a pitch letter from one of your best friends is pretty much hilarious but along with her pitch came an autographed copy of her latest book, Seagull by the Shore; the Story of Herring Gull.
Not only is the book a delightful read, my girls absolutely loved it, it is also beautifully illustrated. In her well written pitch, Vanessa immediately noted, “Why would children be interested in a book about a seagull?”
And while it’s a good question, I wouldn’t have asked it because we spend countless summer days in Bethany and my girls are obsessed with the seagulls. My personal feeling towards those birds is a little different from my girls – so I actually can see that it’s a great bird to feature in a kids story – and Vanessa’s book even softened my attitude towards the seagull as I learned about the mommy bird forgaging for her babies.
Vanessa pointed out that seagulls aren’t nearly as interesting as tigers, monkeys, elephants or pandas but it is precisely because they aren’t exotic and they don’t live in faraway lands that she believes this book appeals to children – and I couldn’t agree with her more. Learning about creatures they see every day is endlessly fascinating and fun for little ones. We absolutely loved Vanessa’s book, just as we loved her other three, reading about Patches the dog remains one of our top favorite books in the nightly book rotation chez moi (we also love the Platypus and Gecko books too!).
This is the first book Vanessa has published since she had her first child, so I had to ask her if she feels differently about writing children’s book now that she is a mother. “I feel much differently about children’s books now that I have my son. I don’t necessarily have the time to write, but I feel like now when I write I’m a much more creative thinker. I try to view the world from my son’s perspective. Before I had him, I would write about the everyday life of an animal (like the seagull in my latest book) and take for granted the little things, like the bird plucking a piece of bread from a picnic. But now, thinking about that same small action from Rocco’s perspective makes those everyday habits fascinating and full of wonder,” was Vanessa’s response to my question. Leaves me eagerly awaiting to see what she writes next and how she’ll feel about that project once it’s completed.
So, please, check out Vanessa’s book and if you’re interested in having this local mom and author come read at show-and-tell at your children’s school, then be sure to post a comment here. She is absolutely open to it – so don’t be shy.
Moving on to other books or authors I love, and in my attempt to highlight authors that aren’t as common as, say, Mo Willems, I feel compelled to talk about Barefoot Books. I found this line before Christmas while shopping in New York City and we love them. I bought six at once and plan to go buy more. We’ve started off with a dinosaur book, a pirate book, a book about a fruit thieving parrot named Tico Tango, a poetic book about animals in the meadow, two kids’ adventures with a Dragon on the Doorstep, and finally a mathematical twist on the Princess and a Pea. True, I might have a compulsive book-buying problem but these books are fabulous. Not only are they exciting and creative but they come with CDs that sing-along with the book. I think the word for these books is infectious. Beyond Vanessa’s books, they are my new go-to gift books for all kid related birthdays, occasions, etc. After reading more about Barefoot Books on their site, I am even more loyal to this small company as it was founded by two mothers who wanted to instill creativity and imagination in their children while also teaching them about diversity and the world around them. If a tango thieving parrot, portside pirates or mathematically sophisticated princesses don’t do it for you, then surely they have something that will.
Now let’s move on to apps. I don’t know about you but I am constantly overwhelmed with app choices and what are the best ones for my kids. I’ve given up the “is it good for them” fret and have moved on to, if they’re going to do it, it’s limited and it’s going to be strictly educational (minus the zombie killing game I can’t seem to get deleted off my husband’s iPhone much to my chagrin and 3-year-old’s delight). That being said, I still don’t spend much time researching great apps, because I don’t need too, thanks to Moms with Apps. I hop onto that site or Common Sense Media and come away with plenty of ideas on great books or apps for my girls. The Common Sense Media app has proven particularly useful to me time and again. Seems I need an app for my apps.
Finally, I recently learned about We Give Books. We Give Books is a free website that enables anyone with access to the Internet to put books in the hands of children who don’t have them, just by reading online. Simply choose the charity you want to read for and then select the books you want to read. For each book you read online, they donate a book to a leading literacy group on your behalf. It’s as easy as that – and points back to the question I asked at the begining of Winter Reading Week – are people reading books to their kids on the computer? It seems if you haven’t yet – now is an easy time to read a few – to benefit others!
Starting tomorrow, they are launching the Read for My School Campaign, which will enable you to earn books for your public school!
If you have any beloved children’s books at home, tell us here! Don’t forget, if you’re new here, be sure to “Like” the Wired Momma Facebook page, to keep up with shenanigans, great articles and really any other gossip that appeals to moi.