Showing posts with label Riverside Kids. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Riverside Kids. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Whatever We Talk About, We Talk About Books

On days when the children fight with each other, talk back, and generally misbehave (that is, every day), it is nice to get a reminder that at least I'm doing something right - I'm raising readers.  In the last few days, these reminders have come frequently, as my daughters have been using books as their reference point - to describe themselves, events, toys, and relationships.

My five-year-old and I were discussing Mrs. Mind-Your-Own-Business, a character in the Riverside Kids books, and I pointed out how she sees the negative in everything.  My daughter responded, "Like Eeyore." and then went on to say, "I'm the opposite of Eeyore.  I see the funny in everything."  (This is true!)

A few days later, as she and I worked on a project together (or rather, I did the project - an addition chart, and she acted as my gofer), she said, "Whenever I do art projects with H [her older sister], I'm Tib.  She always makes me do things for her [just as Betsy and Tacy make Tib do things for them]."  True again!

Another evening my 8-year-old was placing a disproportionately large doll into a small dollhouse.  "She's Alice in Wonderland!," my daughter exclaimed, referring to when Alice grew and was similarly disproportionate to her surroundings.

I have written before about our love of the book My Side of the Car and how we use it as an inside joke.   Well, the other day it actually rained on only one side of a train I was in.  My girls were delighted when I came home to report this and knew, without my mentioning it, that it was a reference to a book.

And how could I forget the North-going Zax and the South-going Zax, included here, neither of whom will budge an inch to the east or west so the other can pass?  My kids love to assert that they are Zax when they meet head-on in our hallway!

What about you and your kids?  Do you frequently use literary frames of reference?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Hairy Situation

Betsy, Tacy, and Tib's Lopsided Haircuts
The other morning, as I was cutting my daughter's hair to remove it from a comb she had tangled it in in a misguided attempt to curl her straight hair, I started thinking about children, real and fictional, and hair.  Almost every kid has cut her own hair, or cut a sibling's or a doll's hair, or had her hair cut by a sibling.  Not to mention the chewing-gum-in-the-hair-type incidents.
Ella and Her Hair

In the delightful, rhyming Ella Kazoo Will Not Brush Her Hair, Ella lets her hair reach extreme proportions before succumbing to a haircut.

Betsy, Tacy, and Tib, in the second book in the series go overboard when they cut their hair to put in lockets to remember each other by (in case they die) and end up with very lopsided 'dos (see photo above).

In Russell and Elisa, the children take their pretend game of haircut to a new level when they actually cut first Elisa's doll Airmail's hair and then Elisa's friend's hair.

Ramona and Her Crown of Burrs
And of course, in Ramona and Her Father, Ramona makes herself a crown out of burrs, which, predictably to us, but apparently surprisingly to Ramona, gets stuck in her hair, forcing her father to cut it.  This is the scene to which my mind immediately flashed as I dealt with my own daughter's hairtastrophe (yes, I just made that word up) that morning.

Can you think of other fictional characters who get themselves into such hairy situations or do you have a story about yourself or your own child's hairtastrpohe?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

What Mothers in Books Do

The other day I fulfilled my children's fantasies by saying to them when they came home from school ("alone" - they waited in the hallway while I entered the apartment and then they came in without me), "Welcome home.  Would you like some milk and cookies?  I just baked some."  I even donned an apron for some June-Cleaver-esque authenticity. They had recently asked me why I didn't do this, saying it is "what mothers in books do."

That got me thinking.  What books had they seen this in?  Granted, we read a lot of classics, many of which are old-fashioned, even dated in certain ways.  In the Betsy-Tacy series, the mothers are constantly offering the children homemade baked goods (although sometimes they've been baked by the "hired girl").  In the Ramona books, I think Ramona mentions that she'll miss the afterschool cookies when her mother starts working (and becomes "liberated" as Beezus says)... but I don't remember any scene before that where her mother actually gave her homemade cookies as an afterschool snack.  I don't remember the B is for Betsy books well enough but certainly one could imagine Betsy's mother baking cookies.  When asked, my 5-year-old cited the families in the Riverside Kids books.  Of course, none of those mothers (except for Ramona's, at times), worked. But when I asked the girls what was different, why those mothers baked cookies, they said, "Because they didn't know then that they weren't healthy."  So there I was, making a feminist mountain out of a nutritional molehill.

I also found it interesting that they said this is "what mothers in books do," not "what mothers do."  So they instinctively differentiated... between what exactly?  Fact and fiction?  The past and the present?

What's funny too is that I bake.  A lot.  But they were fixated on three things: the baked item had to be cookies (preferably chocolate chip), they had to be offered with milk, and they had to be offered after school.  I even let them each have an unprecedented-in-our-house two on the grounds that the saying is "milk and cookies" not "milk and cookie."

In any event, those mothers in books, whoever they are, knew what they were doing.  Our milk and cookies were delicious.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sibling Math: The Age Gap and New Baby as Plot Device

I'm sure you've noticed how authors (and TV sitcom writers) often add a new baby to a family as a way to give them new plotlines.  (Weddings, the other big TV plot device, are not, for obvious reasons, as prevalent in children's books.)  But did you ever notice how siblings in books are often spaced far apart?  Off the top of my head, I can think of the Ramona books (Beezus is 5 years older than Ramona, Roberta almost 10 years younger), Peter and Fudge and eventually Tootsie Hatcher (there's a 5 year age difference between Peter and Fudge and 8 or 9 between Peter and Tootsie) of the Fudge series and, in the books about Anastasia Krupnik, the title character and her little brother Sam (with an age gap of around 10 years).  Less well-known, Johanna Hurwitz's Riverside Kids books also feature siblings with a big age gap: Russell Michaels is 5 years older than his sister Elisa, who in turn is 4 or 5 years older than their new baby brother.

The reason, I think, is that the dialogue and action between the two siblings can be a lot funnier this way.  A two-year-old can't really star in a chapter book... unless he has a much older sibling who reacts to his antics.  There are, of course, books about siblings much closer in age (The Pain and the Great One, another Judy Blume series comes to mind) but I did find it striking that several of the best-loved children's books have brothers and sisters who are pretty far apart, age-wise.

Can you think of other fictional siblings with a big age gap?