Monday, October 14, 2013

Even Firefighters Hug Their Moms

Well, just look at this cover:

I really just couldn't help but pick it up and look through it when Even Firefighters Hug Their Moms showed up on my shelving cart at the children's department I supervised back in 2002.  Christine Kole Maclean's endearing picture book follows a young boy through his busy, busy day of sampling various career choices (firefighter, police officer, EMT, construction worker, helicopter pilot, train conductor, astronaut and garbage-truck driver).  I first read and fell in love with this book before I had kids, because the little boy (whose name changes with each occupation) brilliantly uses what's available to him in the  household to construct the things he needs.  His fire truck is the couch with a bowl as steering wheel, the police officer's prisoners get locked up in a crib "jail", the EMT's patient gets bandaged with toilet paper, etc.  Now, I have little boys who not-as-brilliantly-but-just-as-persistently attempt to build things.

You guys, the boys pull these pillows and blankets out and around my house multiple times a day. It's honestly a source of frustration to me, so I love to read Even Firefighters Hug Their Moms to remind myself that they're not hurting anything and they are growing their imaginations and it's actually a really beautiful thing.  That's DD there in the second photo, inside the toy box, surrounded by pillows.  And his firefighter hat. 
I love the way the little guy in the story incorporates his sister in every new imagining, and how she's right there with him.  The little sister in our house is too young to play along, but that doesn't really stop my boys from including her.  The other day DD and Teep were having this conversation at the breakfast table:  DD:  "When I grow up, I'm going to be a construction worker!" Teep:  "Me, too!" DD:  "And we'll have a special seat for Gorilla up on our digger machine."
As you might have guessed, a common theme throughout the story is that the kids' mother is (so much more sweetly than I) encouraging this play, and repeatedly reminding her little son that "Even firefighters" (police officers, helicopter pilots, etc) "hug their moms".

(Firefighter playing trains, and unenthused "astronaut".)
This whole book is a good example of how my children translate things they see in books into their personal reality, but I still love it when books come up in everyday life.  Here's a quote from the book, during the portion when the little boy is playing a train conductor:

"What do you get when you buy a ticket? a lady asks.
"You get a ride to Chicago," I say.
"No, but you can buy food in the dining car."
"No, no hugs.  Only a ride to Chicago."
"Even conductors hug their moms," she says.
Recently,  DD asked where his friend Sam lives.  When I told him that Sam lives in Chicago, he immediately grinned and said, "No, no hugs.  Only a ride to Chicago."
I really wanted to get my act together and post about this book on September 11th, because another really great thing about it is that the publisher donates a portion of the sales from the book to the Twin Towers Orphan Fun.  You know what else?  Christine Kole MacLean is such a friendly person!  You want to think that's a given for a children's book author,'s not.  She has several other books and you can check her out at her website above.
I'll stop sitting around at the computer now, because....
...I've got some little firefighters who need a hug.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bear Feels Scared

Are you the kind of person who thinks your friends and family are the best and smartest and best looking?  And they are, of course, but you also think that because you love them?  I am totally that kind of person, and in the spirit of full disclosure I've got to let you know that author Karma Wilson and I are friends.  It's also 100% relevant to this post that you know that we are friends because she writes amazing books for children, and not that I laud her talent simply because we are friends.  Once upon a time (over ten years ago, in fact), I sang the praises of one of her books online, and she emailed me to say thanks.  We've stayed in touch ever since, and even got to meet up in Chicago in 2006.  So.  Listen.  If you pay attention to one thing I say on this blog, it should be this: run right out and buy Bear Snores On for your little guys.  If my pal gets a little royalty spike, that'll be awesome.  But you and your kids will be the real winners.


  I don't want to put an age limit on it, but you could start reading Bear at birth.  Or hey!  I read my copy to my oldest before he was born.  We are very careful with books at my house and our board book of this is the only book we've ever thrown away.  Because it was just.plain.worn.the.heck.out.  My son cried as I picked up the individual pages and threw them away, and that was with him knowing we had two more copies of the book in the house!  Bear Snores On is the first in a series of 8* (so far!) and each one deserves its own review, but that's a job for another day.  In this book, you'll meet Bear and his friends.  You will delight as your tongue somersaults around impeccable rhyme, spot-on rhythm and onomatopoeia galore.  When your two-year-old brings you this one for the 187th time, it's unlikely indeed that you'll inwardly groan.  The refrain "And the Bear Snores On" comes back again and again and your little ones will love being able to predict that it's coming.  Jane Chapman's illustrations are so lovely that you'll probably want to climb right in the book. 

But this review is actually not about Bear Snores On.  It's about Bear Feels Scared

I wanted to review a fallish book, and this is a favorite around here.  In order of publication it's the sixth Bear book, but each one can stand alone.  In this story, Bear becomes lost (I can heavily relate to that scenario) in his beloved woods.  While Bear tromps along in the middle of a storm, wind and leaves swirling, his friends are cozied up back home in his lair.  Jane Chapman really shines in this one.  I love the purplish blue hues throughout, and the storm is brilliantly depicted.  As Bear tries to find his way home, his faithful friends become worried at his absence.
"Wren tweets from his perch, 'We must all go search!  What if bear feels scared?'"
All of the Bear books have a predictable refrain, and it's "Bear feels scared" for this one.  Well, Bear does feel scared.  He's lost and cold and alone, and we see him huddled up trying to find refuge from the storm.  But his friends are on the job, and they have a plan:
"Badger lights and lamp and he shouts, 'Let's go!  All the birds search high while the rest search low.'"
I'll let you in on a secret: the friends find Bear.  Two of my favorite illustrations from the story show all the creatures cuddled up together - safe, loved, happy and warm.
Let's face it, sometimes it's a scary world out there.  For kids and for grownups.  When I see Bear cuddled up with his friends, I picture myself surrounded by the many people who have gotten me through hard times in my life, especially my brother and sister-in-law.  Kids get scared, too, and I love for my own children to listen to a story that demonstrates some real life.  People do get lost (literally and figuratively) and cold and scared and alone.  There are storms.  Life does seem hopeless when you're in the middle of it.  But then, your friends find you.  And it turns out that although you were blinded by despair and wind and rain, you were really just ten feet from your lair.

"And the bear feels safe."