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We found the real comic book heroes

standard September 22, 2015 Leave a response

I have a thing for books. I mean, duh, I’ve written one, but it goes way beyond that. Bookstores are my happy place. I’d rather drop a wad of cash on a stack of books than a pile of new clothes any day. I love to surround myself with books and tend to feel a little off in homes where I can’t see a single tome anywhere. Books. They’re part of my lifeblood. And I’m working hard to make them part of my children’s lifeblood too. I buy them books more frequently than I should admit to my husband. (I can hear him right now moaning “What’s wrong with just going to the library??”) I let them pile books around their rooms. I let them leave books in every bathroom, in the car, on the dining room table. I almost always let them read “just one more page” at night. And I let them see just how much I love and value literature. I’m not picky about what they read. Fiction. Non-fiction. Poetry. Little kid books. Picture books. And yes, graphic novels and comic strips. All the graphic novels and comic strips they want. Because books are books, words are words, and whatever helps them foster that love for reading, helps them feel like books are a safe haven to dive into when the world gets to be a bit too much to handle, works for me. They love a good graphic novel. They love a good comic strip. I endorse it all heartily. So much so that this week we went to not one, but two book signings in a row to see people who draw as much as they write and enchant our lives with their art. On Sunday we braved the heat and the crowds to hear from Stephan Pastis, author of the Pearls Before Swine comic strip. We arrived just on time for the event, but not early enough to get a “good” spot in the book signing line. Unfazed, the girls were patient almost two hours without uttering a single complaint about either the heat or the wait and finally beamed as he signed their new book and posed for a quick photo.

Little L, C, and Stephan Pastis.

Little L, C, and Stephan Pastis.

Then, Monday, we said to heck with bedtime and ventured to a local independent book store to hear from Ben Hatke, author of, among other things, the amazing Zita the Spacegirl and Gene Luen Yang, author of a crazy number of graphic novels. The two authors interviewed each other and answered a ton of questions, keeping the audience highly entertained, but the highlight of the evening was when C showed Ben one of her comic strips and he laughed.

Ben Hatke with C and Little L.

Ben Hatke with C and Little L.

And really that’s why we attend these things. For inspiration. Because nothing says “You too can write a book!” or “You too can draw comics!” more than saying “Look! These people do this every day! They’re people like you and me! They started drawing when they were kids like you! And they got to this point because they just kept on going.” We rode the high of Ben’s giggle all the way out of the store where M whispered to me that one girl sitting near him had been doodling and he couldn’t believe how talented she was. I asked him if he’d recognized her, and he mumbled something about a kid running up to her and asking her if she was the author of the Babysitters Club graphic novel series. She was. So, of course, we had to turn right back around, because it’s not every day that you get to meet not just one, but two of your idols in one day. Raina Telgemeier could not have been sweeter about our fangirl onslaught and all the requisite gushing and even posed for a photo with the girls, who, at this point could barely contain themselves. To be fair, in this photo, Little L is trying to match the smile on the cover of Smile, but I don’t think it was much of a stretch.

C, Raina Telgemeier, and Little L.

C, Raina Telgemeier, and Little L.

Sometimes you go to book signings and the authors aren’t exactly what you expected. It’s a treat when they are just as amazing as you thought they’d be. Without a doubt we met some true comic book heroes, not just authors. Today, all books purchased over the weekend have been read and are being reread and little fingers are hard at work drawing more comics. All in all, I deem the two events an unmitigated success and another great stop along the road to growing lovers of books, reading, and writing. Go books!

Just like their mom

standard February 8, 2012 Leave a response

Lights out is around 7:30pm. I’m pretty strict about it. Even with such an early bedtime both girls struggle with waking up at 7am, and C has trouble making it through a full school day without needing to rest at school.

Recently though I found myself confounded. Instead of being their usual well rested selves, the girls were waking up more tired than ever.

I actually went so far as to call the pediatrician.

Little L? That I could understand. She’s still up a couple times a night. But C? There was no good reason behind the bone tired exhaustion she was claiming.

Scary, scary words were flung around, so before I subjected C to a battery of tests, I decided to have a little chat with her first.

In all innocence she revealed that…

she reads under her covers until she’s “sleepy.”

Mystery solved.

In fact, mystery solved for both of them. This under the covers reading is something they’ve both been doing.

A few weeks ago, in an effort to give them both a little more night-time security I purchased some press-on LED lights for their beds. With the push of a button C can climb down from the top bunk without falling. With the push of a button Little L can locate the lovey that’s fallen on the floor.

I thought $8 would buy me a little more shut-eye. Instead it bought my kids the ability to adopt one of my own childhood habits. 

I remember the thrill of pulling the covers over my head, of turning on the flashlight, and of opening a book. I was (and still am) a voracious reader. I read late into many, many nights. Somehow books are better when read in a dimly lit little blanket cave.

I’ve had to put the kibosh on C and Little L’s late night reading. I did it somewhat half-heartedly. The reader and writer in me is doing jumping jacks about their budding love of reading. I would love nothing more than to have given birth to a couple of bookworms. But the mom in me is winning out. These girls need to sleep at night.

They’ll just have to do their reading during the day… until they’re grown-ups and can get away with reading until all hours of the night like their mama.

Leaping Into Learning to Read with LeapFrog

standard September 2, 2011 Leave a response

When my daughter was about to start school for the first time I softened the blog with a fun DVD featuring Tad’s first day of school. You know, Tad, the cute LeapFrog frog? He and his friend Lily bounced around a classroom showing off all the things my baby would be discovering for herself in just a few days.

That video was a staple in our house for weeks. I already loved LeapFrog, but this only cemented my belief that they really knew what kids need.

Later I learned that LeapFrog builds toys backwards. Instead of starting with a cool concept and manipulating it to tie in an educational component, they start with the educational component and, with the help of educators, grow it into an awesome concept. Neat, right?

This year LeapFrog is jumping into the learning-to-read arena.

Well, no, that’s not true. LeapFrog has been in that arena forever – impressively so, but they are mixing it up a bit with a fun new game for their Explorer, their newest hand-held game console.

LeapFrog LeapSchool

LeapSchool Reading innovates in that it allows a custom path to reading. Instead of serving up a “one-size fits all” game, this game allows the child to focus on areas that they’re passionate about (or at the very least interested in). Five friends — each with a different interest from music to cooking – guide the games and make learning to read fun. And as we all know, they don’t even realize they’re learning when they’re having fun! (Learn more about the game and get to know the friends on the LeapFrog LeapSchool site!)

My 6-year-old is a pretty good reader already, but the 4-year-old is desperate to teach herself so she can catch up. She latches on to any reading game we give her and keeps impressing us with her ability to sound out letters and words. With LeapFrog and LeapSchool we might be a step closer to having a really early reader in the house!

This post was sponsored by LeapFrog as part of the Fill the Backpack campaign. As always the thoughts, opinions, and stories contained in the post are mine and mine alone.

If you missed it, check out the Fill the Backpack giveaway of the year – $750 worth of awesome back-to-school goodies to make your year sweeter.
Want to check out other Fill the Backpack posts? Visit the Splash Creative Media bloggers. They’ll be thrilled to have you!

The Journey Begins with a Single Book

standard January 21, 2011 Leave a response

Her fingers glide under the words, following along as her mouth stumbles over some words and lets others flow out.

We are both snug in her top bunk and I’m trying hard not to think about the tiny railing right behind me. I built this bed and while I’m confident that it will hold her 40lb body safe, I have considerable doubts that it would do the same for my significantly heavier one.


She hesitates and glances at the picture.

“Pan!” She says triumphantly.

“Don’t look at the picture, read the word.” I chide gently, smiling at the silly image of a boy wearing a pan as his hat.

She goes back to the word and reads it flawlessly this time. We high five over our grins and she keeps reading.

A page or two in, I pause and ask her to explain to me what’s going on in the story. We laugh for a moment at the ridiculous image of a pig sitting on a tin man’s lap and we resume our reading.

Not long ago I was the one who read to her, the keeper of the words, and she was the one who interrupted with the questions.

I shift a little, poking her pillow into a better place. I love to read – can devour a book in mere hours – and I’ve cherished evening reading fests with my girls – stacks of books piled precariously next to us on the couch.

The reading material is changing over time and the voice of the reader is getting younger. Even Little L is begging to be taught to read. But this shared intimacy over a love of book has remained a constant in our evening routine.

Through books I have traveled to the four corners of the world and imagination. Through stories I have learned about people’s emotions, strength, joy, and sorrow. Books have shaped how I think and who i am and I’m proud to be holding my daughters in my arms as they start their own journey.

This post was written as part of a BabyCenter campaign to help promote literacy. Click here and take the pledge to read more to your child.