May 10, 2014

Guys Read: Jon Scieszka

The Guys Read Group fully immersed themselves in Jon Scieszka's work during the month of April and it turned out to be a very good thing. They giggled their way through Knucklehead and Guys Read: Funny Business with some Stinky Cheese Man and Battle Bunny thrown in, too. And then they headed over to the Bethesda Library for his author event as part of the Bethesda Literary Festival. 

Within seconds, Jon had the crowd roaring with laughter. Seriously, he is a very funny guy. I loved watching the kids' faces because he had them hooked the entire time. And during the signing session, his good humor and kindness continued. Jon not only took time with each kid, but he made a special presentation to the Guys Read Group....he gave them an advanced copy of the newest Guy Read book (coming out Fall 2014). The boys have been so excited about that special gift with it inscription to them with their official name: "To The Swagger Muffins and Co" and they are taking turns with the book by handing it off each month at the meetings.

And with summer quickly approaching, here's a plug for the audio version of "Knucklehead". Add it to your list of necessary items for upcoming family road trips. It is really one of the best audio books and guaranteed to make all ages laugh out loud.

April 12, 2014

Cherry Blossom Girl

Kenwood Neighborhood, Bethesda, Maryland

Thursday evening stroll with Camille. Planning to head back this evening for a Japanese-style picnic (hanami) and early birthday celebration. Missing yesterday's flight, means we have more time to enjoy cherry blossom season which is always a good thing.

April 4, 2014

Guys Read!

Well, the slumber party book chat morphed into a full fledged book group! 

That dinner conversation back in February got the boys so excited about the idea of a book group, that not only have they started reading monthly selections, they have also attended their first author event, and they are currently in the process of designing their own club t-shirts. I am blown away by their enthusiasm and never would have dreamed that a  group of 11 year old boys would embrace this with such fervor. They are even spending their lunch periods creating lists of books to read in the next few months!

Their first read was the super creepy, but incredibly captivating The Screaming Staircase by the beloved British author, Jonathan Stroud. I knew that Jonathan was coming to town as part of his American tour and suggested that it might be fun for the boys to read his book and then attend the signing.  On the afternoon of the author talk, the boys met at our house to discuss their thoughts on the book and prep a few questions. One of the most exciting parts of the afternoon was the discovery that one of the boys had e-mailed Jonathan the night before to express his admiration and within just a few hours he had gotten a very friendly response from Jonathan's publicist. The boys were all impressed with K's brilliant idea to contact the author AND the fact that he got an almost immediate reply.

After a quick pizza dinner, we piled the boys into cars and headed over to the local library for the event. It took me while to park and by the time I got inside, I was thrilled to discover that the boys had seated themselves on the very front row and were engaged in a private chat with Jonathan. Having spent the afternoon with him for An Open Book school visit, I already knew that Jonathan was a friendly guy, but to see him chatting in such a warm and genuine way with this little group of adoring fans really made me smile. The event was wonderful and the boys were giddy with excitement when it came time for the book signing. Needless to say, it was a GREAT way to kick start the book group and the boys even got a special post on Jonathan's blog.

Our April reading selections are in honor of Jon Scieszka. In addition to being a fabulous author and the first Children's Ambassador of Literature, Jon is also responsible for the Guys Read movement which is dedicated to promoting the joys of reading, especially for boys. The boys will be listening to Knucklehead,Jon's wildly funny memoir about growing up in a family full of boys. I am encouraging the boys listen to this on audio book for several reasons: 1) Jon is reading it and really brings it to life, 2) audio books are an important way to read , especially for boys and 3) it will be perfect for Spring Break road trips....our family has listened to Knucklehead on several trips and we always end up howling with laughter. In addition to Knucklehead, the boys will be reading Guys Read: Funny Business. AND to top it all of, Jon will be at the local library this month so the boys will have another opportunity to meet an amazing author.  

Watch out world!  There is a fierce pack of young bibliophiles on the loose and they are fired up about reading.

March 18, 2014

Like A Red Verb Over the Snow

The Cardinal

Not to conform to any other color
is the secret of being colorful.

He shocks us when he flies
like a red verb over the snow.

He sifts through the blue evenings
to his roost.

He is turning purple.
Soon he'll be black.

In the bar's dark I think of him.
There are no cardinals here.

Only a woman in a red dress.
--Henry Carlile

March 13, 2014

Thoughts on Terezin

This recent radio interview on The World thrust me back in time to our visit to Terezin (also known as Theresienstadt, a concentration camp outside of Prague. Adam and I visited this eery destination on a sunny day in September 2011.  As we emerged from the van with our private guide, we were surprised to discover ourselves in the center of a quiet little village with attractive buildings grouped around a pleasant main square. This didn't seem anything like the concentration camps I had seen in movies or books and this surreal perfection created an additional layer of creepiness.

As a "model" camp where many artists, musicians, and writers were imprisoned, Terezin was a place of both intense sadness and creativity. The prisoners were allowed to make art and in the midst of trauma and uncertainty they pieced together a cultural community of their very own with lectures, theater productions, opera performances, and even a library. The Nazis used the camp for propaganda films and for Red Cross tours to demonstrate the "civility" of their camps, but the artwork that survived also indicates that the Jews of Terezin were fierce in their attempts to fight for life and longevity. One of the most enduring pieces of work to survive from that hellish experience was the children's opera, Brundibar, which was written at Terezin and is still performed by children around the world.

I remember how stunned I was in 8th grade when I studied about the Holocaust for the first time and those feelings of shock continued over the years in various situations, but visiting Terezin as the mother of two Jewish children brought everything into a very different focus for me. Of the 15,000 children that were at Terezin, only 100 survived. Those numbers hit me in the gut with such ferocity that even four years after our visit to Terezin, I feel sick to my stomach. Survivor, Ela Wiessberger, is an amazing woman and her dedication to the children of today and the children of Terezin is truly inspiring.