Archive for October 2011

Just imagine how my heart rejoiced when Sophie announced she wants to go as Word Girl this Halloween. This is an incredible decision for a girl who has been all princesses and fairies for the last two years! As someone who would rather read than watch TV, it seems a bit strange that something called Word Girl originated as an animated children’s TV series, not as books (according to Wikipedia). All this to say we haven’t actually read a Word Girl book yet, but we have seen her occasionally on TV and recently got a DVD from the library that featured her in some Halloween episodes. In one of the episodes Word Girl’s friend dresses as Word Girl for trick-or-treating. Word Girl’s superhero identity, similar to Superman’s, is never revealed even to those closest to her “regular” self.

Even though it has proven impossible to find a ready-made costume, I’m continuing my hunt for a orange cape, because this blogging mama is pretty pleased about this development. I’m ambivalent about TV and video (while it turns my daughters into viewing zombies, it allows me to actually get some things done), but I can’t deny some of it has value. The television episode of Arthur (another of my favourites) that features the school cafeteria lady’s diagnosis with cancer comes to my mind as an incredibly educational and lovely example of quality programming. In the case of Word Girl, I think it is creating an excellent character role model – what’s not to love about a girl who can fly, has a monkey side-kick and a special talent of introducing interesting words?!?

This character, whether in book or animated form, is helping to reinforce the importance of words with my daughters. Word Girl(s) Everywhere – You Rule!

[Update] Here is a Halloween photo of Word Girl –


The Eraserheads, by Kate Banks. Pictures by Boris Kulikov

The amount of plastic, battery-depleting and usually-pink stuff we have amassed with two children often feels overwhelming. While I fantasize about making a big sweep and getting rid of a few full bags, I don’t. I can’t stand:

(1) the idea of all that contributing to landfill (let’s be honest, even if it makes a trip to the Goodwill, it’s plastic–it’s going to outlast us all!)
(2) the guaranteed question, “Mom, do you know where my [blank] which I really love [even though I haven’t wanted it for months] is?”

As some observant visitors have noted — our home is full of stuff! I console myself with the idea that this is because we have no basement, so everything is visible in our living space (or crammed in a closet!)

The book Eraserheads gave us a new slant on plastic stuff – here are an alligator, pig and owl with imaginations (no batteries required). They make the story and help their young artist owner create details and adventure. This book made me wonder about the possibilities of our relationship to our stuff. It is an usual story that the girls enjoyed and Elizabeth picked up to read out loud on her own following our first read together. Maybe this book will inspire us to breathe a new life of adventure into something from our collection of stuff during the cold, dark winter months that loom ahead. Who knows?

What unexpected piece of stuff has sparked your child’s imagination lately?

A Few Blocks by Cybèle Young

Illustrations in children’s books can not only depict what’s happening, they can also encourage readers to use their imagination and engage in creating a story in many ways. One way is to have minimal or no words and use illustrations to nudge young readers into developing the storyline (A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka). In other books, there is a written story and the illustrations encourage a deeper look and interpretation of the mood and perspectives of the characters.

A Few Blocks falls into the second category; it’s a book that, after an initial read, Elizabeth picked up herself and began to read out loud! (Hurray!) She was keenly interested in how the illustrations worked to show both what the characters are thinking and feeling, and their “real” surroundings. We know she is interested in art and drawing and we have been encouraging this skill with our activities and her camps.

In the book, two children are on a journey, with Viola encouraging her reluctant younger brother Ferdie with all of a child’s favourite pretend scenarios. Where do they end up, and how does Viola keep her own spirits up? You can use your imagination, or pick this one up to find out! Enjoy!