Kids Books: My childhood adventures

By Barbara Reid, illustrator and author

Madeline coverstuart little

As a child, my travels took place between the covers of books. I read and re-read kids books until I knew the landscapes like the back of my hand. While I haven’t been able to get to Narnia or Through the Looking Glass (yet!), I have visited the Paris of Madeline, the Central Park pond sailed by Stuart Little, the highlands of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped and other storied places. Traveling to a book setting is a journey of discovery and a homecoming at the same time.

where the forest meets the sea

When our daughters were young we spent hours pouring over the pages of Jeannie Baker’s Where the Forest meets the Sea. In simple words, a young boy describes a day trip with his father to the Daintree Rainforest in North Queensland, Australia. The real story is in the illustrations. Using modeling clay, papers, textured materials, natural materials and paint, Baker has created stunning relief collages that draw the reader into each page. Along with the narrator, our eyes adjust to the light filtering through the trees and more details appear. The richness of plants, animals and insects is astounding; double exposures hint at creatures and people from the forest’s past, and the boy’s imagination adds to the sense of adventure.

Where the Forest meets the Sea encourages readers to slow down, explore, observe and ask questions, perfectly mirroring the way the boy in the book experiences the forest. The attention to detail and child’s eye view influenced and inspired my own work in creating kids books.

BarbAusTreeDaintree trees[1]

Recently, we followed one of our now grown-up daughters to Australia where we had the opportunity to visit the real Daintree wet rainforest, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The forest was so exactly like Jeannie Baker’s illustrations I thought my head would explode. I couldn’t stop leaping around, pointing and exclaiming. Buttress roots! It’s those ferns! Oh the vines! Look at the butterfly! Oh my gosh, look at the stream! Much to the relief of my family, I eventually was able to slow down, observe and absorb the spirit of the place.

Having read Where the Forest meets the Sea enriched my experience in the rainforest, and experiencing the rainforest heightened my appreciation of the book. This back and forth exchange between art and life is magic—almost like stepping through the looking glass.

Picture A Tree

Author and illustrator Barbara Reid lives in downtown Toronto with her husband and two daughters. At the Ontario College of Art and Design, her focus was illustration, and it was for a class assignment that she first experimented with plasticine artwork. While she likes working with authors and enjoys writing her own stories, she still loves making pictures best of all.

Kids Books: My childhood adventures

Father’s Day: Authors Tell All Part 2

Summer is officially here, and it’s Father’s Day weekend! Our authors’ fathers continue to influence their lives to this day.

Leslie Kimmelman dadSam & Charlie

(Pictured: Author Leslie Kimmelman with her dad, mom, and son) My father is the person who instilled in me a love of words. He delights in them. When I was little, he used to have a huge stack of file cards on which he wrote the meaning of (and a sentence for) every new word he came across.  He also gave me my appreciation for good writing. He never gets tired of declaiming Shakespeare soliloquies, Winston Churchill speeches, and excerpts from Sir Thomas Malory’s “The Death of Arthur.” When he finishes, he inevitably is teary-eyed, saying something along the lines of, “Man, now he could write!”


Sherry Shahan Father's DaySkin and Bones

(Pictured: Author Sherry Shahan with family) This 60-year-old family photo is the only one that remains of my dad. That’s me the lacy collar and cuffs, looking deceptively innocent. My dad was a voracious playwright, submitted his work when the mood struck, and remained frustrated that his stories were never produced. I began my writing career with edgy short stories for the adult market. He offered terrific feedback, usually telling me to amp up the tension. He and Mom tied for “Proud Parent” when my first novel came out in 1996. Miss you Daddy-O!


Eric Futran and fatherShow Me Happy

(Pictured: Photographer Eric Futran and father) Take a look at his YouTube video on ruminations on Love and Walls between fathers and sons.


Sarah Scheerger Fathers DayOpposite of Love(Pictured: Author Sarah Lynn Scheerger with her father) My dad was one of those hard working fathers who missed out on the day to day routines of dinner, homework, activities, and chores. But I remember him being there for the big things. Family vacations, a trip to San Francisco when I was ten, visiting me out of state when I attended summer dance intensives, meeting my dates at the door, and waiting up for me until I arrived home, sometimes with his arms crossed. But my favorite memories of my dad are the most recent ones— seeing him morph into a grandfather. I see the joy he takes with my own children, and how they adore him. When my baby reaches her arms out to him the moment she sees him, I see how good it makes him feel.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad! Thank you for always being there for me, no matter what! I love you!


 

Laura Hurwitz Fathers DayDisappear Home

(Pictured: Author Laura Hurwitz with her father on her wedding day) My dad was your typical ‘50s dad—ambitious, conservative, and a heavy drinker. He belonged to the right social clubs and spent every clement weekend on the golf course. I was a rebel. The one thing I didn’t stonewall him on was attending college, despite my insistence that college would be an irrelevant joke. About that, Dad, I was wrong. When I was 18 and a college sophomore my father suffered a massive stroke. Doctors put his chances of survival at 10%. But survive he did, and after months of rehabilitation he resumed his life and his career. The stroke made him a kinder, gentler person. When I was home from school we’d go on long walks and talk. We laughed. We made room for each other’s different ways of seeing the world. And when I got married in a homemade dress with a wreath of wildflowers in my hair, well, Dad was cool with that.

In the aftermath of his stroke he demonstrated attributes I’ve come to rely on as a writer, including optimism and patience. Through him, I learned wisdom is like a good story; not something you find, but something that finds you.


 

Barb Reid fathers DayThe Night Before Christmas

(Pictured: Author and Illustrator Barbara Reid with her father, Bob Reid, circa 1962) When I was a little kid, I made some fake Liquorice allsorts candies out of plasticine. I’m sure they were not very convincing, but my dad played along and bit into one, much to my delight. That’s how my dad encouraged my artistic development, imagination and good sportsmanship – thanks Dad!


Margaret Read MacDonald with fatherParty Croc

(Pictured: Author Margaret Read MacDonald‘s father) My father,  Murray Read, loved to fish. In this picture he has a really big ling cod. He always caught a lot of fish for me. But unlike Zuva in Party Croc! I never promised my father a party in return. Daddy had a little wooden boat and a small motor for it. He would take me out in the evenings after work and we would go way down along the island to a place where huge black cliffs dropped straight down into the water. An oldtimer had told Daddy exactly how to line the boat up…sighting three points…and then he would drop his line. And right away a cod would grab it and he would haul it up. He knew just how to jerk the line up and down really quick and catch the cod. When I tried it didn’t work as well. We would motor back home,  climb the steep sand bluff to our little cabin,  and Momma would fry up the cod for dinner!   

Father’s Day: Authors Tell All Part 2

PJ Library

By Abby in Editorial

Have you ever heard of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library? This literacy program brings free books each month to preschool kids all across the country so that regardless of income, thousands of kids have good books to read. Dolly’s wonderful idea—plus a family Seder where the kids received Jewish-themed books—inspired Harold Grinspoon, a Massachusetts philanthropist. He founded the PJ Library to help families strengthen their Jewish identity.

Every month, the library (“PJ” as in pajamas—for cozy bedtime reading) sends a book with Jewish content to Jewish families with kids aged six months to seven years. The neat thing is that these books, too, are all free—interested families just need to sign up when PJ comes to a participating community.

The Harold Grinspoon Foundation works with local funding partners to provide the books (and one CD of songs each year). The PJ Library is now in over one hundred twenty-five communities coast to coast and in Canada and serves more than sixty thousand families. In four years, the library has given away more than two million books!

We’re delighted that the PJ Library has included several Albert Whitman picture books in its offerings. These include Linda Glaser’s simple and charming Hoppy Hanukkah! and Hoppy Passover! in which two young bunnies observe the holidays with their family; Barbara Reid’s Fox Walked Alone, an unusual take on the Noah’s Ark story, with stunning plasticene art; and Frances Harber’s The Brothers’ Promise, a retelling of a Talmudic tale of brotherly love.

Take a look at some of these great stories. And you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy them!

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PJ Library