Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Secret Lives of Princesses

Do you have a princess in your midst? Maybe, a wild, wonderful princess or a quiet, stoic princess? You may find someone you know in The Secret Lives of Princess by Philippe Lechermeier and illustrated by Rebecca Dautremer. I didn't know there were so many different types of princesses ...some zany, quirky and even wacky. The stories are a little different from the usual Cinderella tales and the illustrations are beautiful. This is a tongue in cheek look at the world of royals so it can be a lot of fun if you approach it with a sense of humor. Visit their website and have fun taking their quiz, playing the games and finding out more about the different princesses' personalities.

No Not Picture Books?

Recently a New York Times article mentioned that the sales on picture books are down. The explanation they received from editors and educators was that parents are now pushing their children to move on to chapter books. The rational being that children are more advanced when reading without pictures. If this is true the pressure to excel is taking the joy out of learning. Picture books can be the first introduction to art for young people. They feed young children senses and spark their imagination. Children can make up their own story; they learn verbal and observational skills, and the joy of art and color. They can also learn to read and discover some amazing facts. I can’t imagine a childhood without picture books. Reading is important and so is art so why can’t we have both. Maybe, now we need to have a “Read A Picture Book Month” to remind parents to keep the fun in learning. Picture books are good for the soul.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Family Storytelling Month

Last month my godmother, Blanche Hodges passed away. She played an important part in my early years. You can read about her in my first post, Coney Island in February. She was a special person to me and a wonderful storyteller. When I heard that this month is "Family Storytelling Month," I decided to focus on storytelling and to dedicate the stories to her.

Happy Thanksgiving Day! and may everyone have wonderful family stories to share this holiday.

Return to Children's Focus

The Story of the Amazing Mama Seal

The other day I sat mindlessly watching TV until a Discovery Channel program on seals caught my attention. The story centered around a mother seal and her new cub living in a colony of seals. As the cub grew the mother slowly introduced him to the water while I learned from the announcer that seals are not born knowing how to swim but must learn this skill. You could see the absolute joy of the baby as he hits the water but his mother was very cautious. The camera soon showed us why – lurking in the waves right off the beach was an Orca whale, one of their biggest predators. He hide in the waves waiting for an opportunity to swoop down. At one point the baby decided to go further out in the water and enjoy himself but his mother nudged him back. He, however, was very determined and tried to quickly maneuver around his mother’s rotund body. Watching the little seal move with his small and more agile body I thought he was going to win the battle but his mother was not giving up. Thankfully, she turned out to be faster and more determined than she appeared.

It was intense watching this life and death battle. At one point I thought, My! this cub is even more stubborn than our little people. In my family we have super animated children. They have all inherited very strong and determined personalities. So watching the fight that this mother seal put up hit a strong inner note with me. We are not alone even the animal kingdom has some uncooperative babies. The mother with all her awkwardness finally won the battle, with some force she toppled her little one on its’ back and he finally decided to head back to the sand with his mother.

Unfortunately, some mama seals were a little too lax with their parenting skills and allowed their cubs to wonder off alone to the shore. We watched the Orca scoop them up and disappear. By the time the mothers made it down to the shore there was nothing left of their progeny. They peered out into the ocean and I can only imagine what their thoughts were.

After writing my seal story, my friend Cheryl Hanna sent me another interesting story about seal mothers. Little did we know what great adoptive parents they turn out to be. Check out their story,

Laura Simms Master Storyteller

Storytelling is one of mankind's oldest living arts. Imagine our ancestors sitting around the camp fire talking about the successful hunt or the escape from being hunted or describing their dreams and the other adventures in their lives. Even though we have gone electronic just about everything we do still involves similar stories usually with heroes, villains, challenges and drama.

I never thought of storytelling as an art until I attended a storytelling conference and heard Laura Simms perform. She is definitely a gifted performer. Since then Laura has become a master storyteller performing traditional stories interwoven with personal narratives for adults and families throughout the world.

She has also offered master classes for those interested in developing the craft of storytelling. I remember once she had organized a trip to explore and hear the stories of Morocco. It sounded so exotic and fascinating to me, and was at the top of my wish list. Unfortunately, I was not able to go. Now she is offering The Storytelling Mentorship Program which is described as a storytelling journey. She will help individuals prepare and develop a "traditional" story of their choice. So now I have something else to add to my wish list. To find out more about her workshops and see her perform visit her website at