Courage in Kids Literature

IMG_9012 I always root for a main character who shows courage. Don’t you?

This week, World Read Aloud Day’s theme is courage. 

Please indulge me as I share one my favorite passages in kidlit. In this excerpt from The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, one little girl courageously enters a new world with curiosity and wonder. Hmm, maybe my own journey into the world of kidlit is like stepping into Narnia.

“‘This must be a simply enormous wardrobe!’ thought Lucy, going still further in and pushing the soft folds of the coats aside to make room for her. Then she noticed that there was something crunching under her feet. ‘I wonder  is that more moth-balls?’ she thought, stooping down to feel it with her hand. But instead of feeling the hard, smooth wood of the floor of the wardrobe, she felt something soft and powdery and extremely cold. “This is very queer,’ she said, and went on a step of two further.

Next moment she found that what was rubbing against her face and hands was no longer soft fur but something hard and rough and even prickly. ‘Why, it is the branches of trees!’ exclaimed Lucy. And then she saw that there was a light ahead of her; not a few inches away where the back of the wardrobe ought to have been, but a long way off. Something cold and soft was falling on her. A moment later she found that she was standing in the middle of a wood at night-time with snow under her feet and snowflakes falling through the air.

Lucy felt a little frightened, but she felt very inquisitive and excited as well. She looked back over her shoulder and there, between the dark tree-trunks, she could see the open doorway of the wardrobe…She began to walk forward, crunch-crunch over the snow and through the wood. In about ten minutes she reached it and found it was a lamp-post. As she stood looking at it, wondering why there was a lamp-post in the middle of a wood and wondering what to do next, she heard a pitter patter of feet coming toward her. And soon after that a very strange person stepped out from among the trees into the light of the lamp-post.”

  

Hon, do you think I was courageous or crazy to rappel and rock climb on cliffs abutting the Atlantic Ocean? 

Rappeling down Otter Cliffs, Acadia National Park, Maine.

Rappelling down Otter Cliffs, Acadia National Park, Maine.

Rock climbing at Otter Cliffs, Acadia National Park, Maine.

Rock climbing Otter Cliffs, Acadia National Park, Maine.

Confidence in Kids Literature

IMG_9089IMG_9090IMG_9091

Confidence is the theme of the week.

In honor of World Read Aloud Day, Litworld asks,”What stories make you feel confident and proud to be you?” It must be the kid in me and my love of kidlit that makes picture books the natural place to find confidence. Here are my picks for the…

Top Five Confidence Boosting Picture Books 

  1. Yoko by Rosemary Wells. Yoko has the confidence to bring her unique lunch to school. She doesn’t “yuck anyone else’s yum” even when other kids call her lunch icky.
  2. Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein. Little Red Chicken knows what he knows. Fairytales are dangerous.
  3. Zoomer by Ned Young. Zoomer isn’t afraid to let his imagination run wild.
  4. Ninja by Arree Chung. Maxwell is ready to face any obstacles as a true ninja.
  5. The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak. If you need the confidence–and permission–to be silly, you get both in this book.

Hon, do you think I’m confident or crazy to take lessons on the flying trapeze?

Me on the flying trapeze. Confident or crazy?

Me on the flying trapeze. Confident or crazy?

Kindness in Kids Literature

IMG_9043

IMG_9042

World Read Aloud Day’s theme this week is Kindness.

I admit it. I’m not always kind. If I’m picking up or dropping off kids and I’m behind the only-person-on-the-face-of-the-earth who slows down when driving through a green light, or lets ten other cars go so that I miss a left turn arrow, or is holding a phone (illegal in NJ), or drives below the speed limit, I may honk my horn, may say things not appropriate for a G-rated audience, and may have a bit of road rage. May, I say. It’s not pretty.

Hmm, it sounds like a good time to answer LitWorld’s prompt this week: “What kindness role models have you met through reading?”  

Top Five kids’ books where kindness is key. 

  1. Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
  2. Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne 
  3. Matilda by Roald Dahl
  4. Ginger by Charlotte Voake
  5. Ella the Elegant Elephant by Carmela and Steven D’Amico

 Hon, in which books do you think kindness plays a large role?

Animals and children always bring out kindness in me. This sweet goat got a nice neck scratch.

KIND KID: Animals and children always bring out kindness in me. This sweet goat trotted over to me and got a nice neck scratch.

 

Italian Stew with Winter Squash and Chickpeas

Italian Stew w/Winter Squash and Chickpeas

Italian Stew w/Winter Squash and Chickpeas

IMG_8995

Italian Stew with Winter Squash and Chickpeas

Whether you are digging your way out of a blizzard like we are, or are just in the mood for warm soup, this recipe is delicious, hearty and healthy! Shout out to my niece and her hubby who served this at a family gathering. I took one spoonful and said, “Send me the recipe!”

If you have a food processor, it’ll make quick work of the chopping and dicing. One of my daughters and I made this together. We made some for now and some for later so I’m hoping it freezes well.

Happy cooking, hon!

Ingredients:

3 cups chopped onions

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 15-ounce can chick peas, drained

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 cup diced carrots

2 cups diced, peeled butternut squash

1/2 cup diced bell peppers (optional)

5 cups chopped kale (about 1 pound kale=5 cups sorted, stemmed, chopped kale)

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil (I used about 1/2 Tbl dried basil)

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Directions:

  1. In a soup pot on medium-high heat, cook onions and salt in oil, stirring often, until very soft and beginning to carmelize, about 12 to 15 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, coriander, thyme, and black pepper, and stir for a minute. Stir in water, squash, chickpeas, tomatoes, carrots, and bell peppers. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Stir in kale, cover and simmer 5 to 10 minutes until greens are tender but still bright green. Stir in basil and vinegar.

Prep Time:  1 hour, Serves:  4-6 cups, Yield:  8 cups

 

Friendships in Kids Literature

IMG_9013IMG_9012

IMG_9014

World Read Aloud Day’s theme this week is Friendship, and friendship in kid’s literature is one element that keeps us reading. I have so many favorites, but here are the Top Five Friendships in kidlit that make me care and make me cry.

  1. Watership Down by Richard Adams, Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig and Silver.
  2. Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant, Henry and Mudge
  3. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, Lucy Pevensie and Mr. Tumnus
  4. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, Despereaux and Princess Pea
  5. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger

Who are your favorite friends in literature, kids or adults?

Hon, of course I have to add one more friend to this post. She’s a best friend to everyone in our house.

My Plus One and Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds--everyone's best friend!

My Plus One and Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds–everyone’s best friend!

World Read Aloud Day

litworldWRAD16logo

Call me a WRADvocate.

I love children’s books. I write children’s books. And you know how much I like a theme. (see recent post, Story Time in Sweet Sixteen)

What could be more me than weekly themes leading up to World Read Aloud Day, a worldwide celebration of reading? Just the thought of being involved makes me want to throw a party for my favorite children’s book characters and, for some reason, it makes me want to bake!

Reading to Kids

World Read Aloud Day calls attention to the pure joy and power of reading aloud, and connects the world as a community of readers. World Read Aloud Day is now celebrated by over one million people in more than 100 countries and reaches over 31 million people online. “WRADvocates” – a group of reading advocates and supporters take action in their communities and on social media.

Weekly Themes

To mobilize for the big day, LitWorld introduces the 7 Strengths countdown to World Read Aloud Day. The 7 Strengths celebrate all of the ways that reading makes us resilient and ready to thrive in school, work and life. They are: Belonging, Curiosity, Friendship, Kindness, Confidence, Courage, and Hope. Starting January 3rd, we will celebrate one strength per week until World Read Aloud Day is here!

Awesome Message

Read Aloud. Change the World.

Top Ten Cool Elephant Seal Facts

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When Hubby and I went to California in October, we stopped at Elephant Seal Beach in Big Sur and saw these fascinating sea mammals.  I could have watched them all day! If you want to read why I Turned Into an Elephant Seal click hereI hope you enjoy the slideshow of my photos, along with…

Top Ten Cool Elephant Seal Facts

  1. Types: There are two types of elephant seals:  Northern seals are found in California and Baja California; Southern seals populate the waters of Antarctica.
  2. In the Sea: Seals spend months at sea diving deep to forage. Southern elephant seals can dive over 4,921 feet (1,500 meters) deep and can hold their breath for over two hours, which is the longest of any water-based mammal.
  3. Food:  Seals hunt for squid, eels, octopus, small sharks, rays and bottom dwelling fish.
  4. Lifespan:  Northern seals live an average of 9 years while Southern seals live about 20 to 22 years.
  5. Size:  The largest Southern seals grow up to 20 ft (6 m) and weigh up to 8,800 lbs (4,000 kg).
  6. Noses:  Seals aren’t called “elephants” because of their size. They take their name from their trunklike inflatable snouts. The seals we saw on Elephant Beach were young males whose snouts hadn’t grown yet.
  7. Staying Warm: To keep warm in freezing cold water, seals not only have thick skin and fur, there is a thick layer of insulating blubber under their skin. Since their skin molts every year, the seals have to find land in order to molt.
  8. Aggression:  Males battle each other for mating dominance.
  9. Alpha Males:  Male seals claim breeding territories and defend them.  They collect huge harems of smaller-sized females–about 40 to 50 females to one male.
  10. Birth:  After an 11-month pregnancy, females give birth to a single pup. In the one month that the pup nurses, mother seal doesn’t eat—mom and pup live off the energy stored in mom’s reserves of blubber.

What did I tell you?  Fascinating! Hon, have you ever seen elephant seals? Have you seen any fully grown with trunk-like snouts? 

Sources: National Geographic, a-z animals

Story Time in Sweet Sixteen

Cousins.

Cousins.

Grandma and my Plus One.

Grandma and my Plus One.

Happy New Year and Sweet Sixteen! (2016, that is)

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions. Instead, after deciding what to change (exercise more/ eat less desserts), I try to accomplish those goals. Sometimes I’m successful. Oftentimes I’m not. But, I’ve been itching to make a Story Time Resolution this year. Hopefully, saying my goal “out loud” isn’t like blowing out birthday candles and then revealing a wish. Stories, characters, voice and plot fill my head. Can I put on paper what I see in my head? Most importantly, how will I get my stories in the hands of children?

Two recent articles in The New York Times were gifts to my goal. The quotes below are from The Gift of Reading by Frank Bruni and Long Line at the Library? It’s Story Time Again by Winnie Hu.

Winnie Hu quotes,

“It is clear that reading and being exposed to books early in life are critical factors in student success,” Anthony W. Marx, president of the New York Public Library, said.

Frank Bruni writes,

The list of what a child needs in order to flourish is short but nonnegotiable.

Food. Shelter. Play. Love.

Something else, too, and it’s meted out in even less equal measure.

Words. A child needs a forest of words to wander through, a sea of words to splash in. A child needs to be read to, and a child needs to read.

Reading fuels the fires of intelligence and imagination.

“Reading follows an upward spiral,” said Daniel Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and the author of “Raising Kids Who Read,” which was published earlier this year. “Kids who read more get better at reading, and because they are better at reading, it’s easier and more pleasurable so they read still more,” he said. “And kids who read well don’t just do better in English class — it helps them in math, science and every other class, too.”

I’d go even further. Reading tugs them outside of themselves, connecting them to a wider world and filling it with wonder. It’s more than fundamental. It’s transformative.

 

Amen, Mr. Bruni. Amen.

winter 2005-06-25

Hon, if you are a “New-Year’s-Resolution-Person,” what are your goals this year?

Stunning Short Film–Terror and Resilience

Dome of the Rock, also know as Al-Haram al Sharif, Jerusalem, Israel

Dome of the Rock, also know as Al-Haram al Sharif, Jerusalem, Israel

Arab souk (market), Jerusalem, Israel

Arab souk (market), Jerusalem, Israel

The two times I toured Israel were intense, emotional, amazing experiences. The Dome of the Rock, or Al-Haram al-Sharif, stands head and shoulders above Jerusalem while the Arab market’s sellers, locals and tourists scurry like mice under the watchful eyes of Israeli soldiers.

Although I usually add upbeat lifestyle posts to Bmore Energy , on occasion I add serious ones.

After I viewed Vitals, a 5-minute documentary filmed in Jerusalem, about Hananel David, an Israeli who survived a knife attack, I knew I wanted to share it. The film, directed by friend Jake Oleson, a talented filmmaker whose work I’ve featured before, is stunning.

I hope you’ll watch it.

Wishing you–and our world–peace in 2016.

Naomi

Directed by Jake Oleson, Cinematography by Todd Martin, Produced by Alon Simcha, Animation by Casey Drogin, Original Music by Matthew Kidd, Commissioned by Magen David Adom.

 

Bow-eautiful Holiday Wreath Linzer Cookies

IMG_8816

Holiday Linzer Cookies

I love these cookies. After seeing them decorated as wreaths by a judge from the t.v. show Top Chef, my daughters and I decided to do the same.  We added the bows. How festive! Wishing you and your families a peaceful holiday season.

Happy baking, hon.

Source: Previous post on Linzer Cookies, Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking cookbook, Top Chef judge Richard Blais’ Jelly Wreath Linzer Cookies

Right after cookies come out of the oven, decorate with sprinkles.

Right after cookies come out of the oven, decorate with sprinkles.

We added bows with vanilla icing dyed with red food coloring.

We added bows with vanilla icing dyed with red food coloring.

So pretty!

So pretty!

Ingredients:

2 cups (10 oz/315 g) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (8 oz/250 g) unsalted butter, room temperature (or margarine)

3/4 cup (3oz/90 g) confectioner’s sugar, plus extra for dusting

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

6 Tablespoons seedless raspberry jam (I used strawberry jam)

Directions:

  1.  In a small bowl, combine flour and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine butter (or margarine) and confectioner’s sugar. With mixer on medium speed, beat until smooth. Add vanilla and almond extracts and beat on low speed until well-blended.
  3. Add dry ingredients to butter/sugar mixture and beat until dough comes together in large clumps.
  4. Press dough together into a ball, divide into half, and form each half into a ball. Flatten each ball into a 5 inch (13 cm) diameter disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 40 minutes.
  5. Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 325 degrees F (165 C). Line two rimless baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Lightly dust work surface and rolling pin with flour.  (TIP:  Dough can be rolled out sandwiched between two pieces of wax paper.) Roll out dough 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick.  Make sure dough doesn’t stick to work surface by sliding a thin metal spatula under dough to loosen it.
  7. Cut out cookies with larger shape.  Cut out center of HALF the cookies with smaller shape. Place shapes on prepared baking sheets. Press dough scraps together and repeat rolling and cutting process. The small center cut-outs can be baked along with the cookies.
  8. Bake cookies until edges are light brown, 12-15 minutes. Let cookies cool on baking  sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely.
  9. Decorate with sprinkles.
  10. Leaving a 1/4 inch (6 mm) border uncovered, spread about 1 teaspoon of jam over each cookie without a cut-out.  (TIP:  If cookies rise a tiny bit while baking and aren’t flat, spread jelly on the BOTTOM of the cookies without a cut-out. That way, the two flat halves will mesh seamlessly.)
  11. Decorate with bows. We mixed red food coloring in white icing and used a piping bag with a thin tip to create the bows.
  12. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 4 days.

Yield: This depends on the size of your cookie cutters. This batch yielded 24 cookies sandwiches and 24 miniature cookies.

Vegan:  There are no eggs in this recipe and margarine can be substituted for butter.