You know, I do a lot of research when I write–even for children.  I want it to be accurate.  For this spider book, I discovered that spiders can smell with the hairs on their legs.  And that they have a tender spot on their belly where they emit the solution to spin their webs.  I searched to find what buildings would look like in ancient Egypt and what foods they might eat.  Even what type of trees would be typical in that setting.

If we find a spider in our house, we try to gentle lift him and place him outdoors.  Spiders are so beneficial.  Don’t want to destroy one.

Compassion in Wearing a Mask

What does wearing a mask mean?  For me, it means that I respect other people.  I may not be in great fear of contracting the recent Covid virus, but I recognize that others are.

So, when I wear my mask, I am saying, “I see you.  I understand that you feel more comfortable if I cover my face with a mask or shield.  So I will.”

It is saying that we’re all in this complicated, frustrating situation together.  I trust that, together, we will all get through this…and come out on the other side stronger and happier.  More resilient.

Wearing my mask might hide most of my face…but I can still smile at you with my eyes.

Zoo Trip

Yesterday we went to the zoo in Navarre, Florida.  It was fun to go to the zoo, but pretty cold.  Low temperatures for Florida with wind.  Many of the animals were sheltered because of the cold, but we had fun feeding the goats and giraffes.

Went into an enclosed area with budgies and I was suddenly surrounded by them.  One persistent guy was riding on top of my shoe and several landed on my arm and hand.  One even flew on top of my head.  Beautiful little birds so very close…without fear.  Amazing colors.  Tiny feet curled around my fingers and hand.  I had a cupful of lettuce to feed the giraffes and the budgies were happily pecking at it.

Of course, the big cats are always an attraction for me.  Last year there was the most magnificent adult tiger that I had ever seen.  But he was not there this year.  Instead, they displayed two tiger cubs.  One was a white tiger with unusual markings.  Playful.

Even had to take a picture with one big cat…

Fortunately, he was pretty docile.

I saw one guy with unblinking eyes in the water.  Reached to pet him, but then had a close-up view of his very BIG teeth.  An alligator grin.  Decided that it would be a better move to back off rather than pat him on his head.

Some animals deserve a little more distance than others…

Ananse the Spider’s Folk Tales from African Culture in honor of Black History Month

Would you like your little one to read about Ananse the Spider from western African folk tales?  Stories about Ananse have been told in the oral tradition from Ashanti culture for centuries.  His tales have traveled to the Caribbean and into North, Central and South America.  These stories are original—created in cooperation with Juliet Ajaab of Ghana.

Ananse is smart and resourceful.  Mischievous.  Always looking for a new adventure, he often creates havoc.  And what looks like an impossible situation.  For anyone but Ananse, that is.

But, with his quick wit and cunning, Ananse solves problems without tangling himself in his webs.  Well, only occasionally…

Bonus: fun facts about spiders

Bonus: resources for parents

My Very Favorite Book

A friend and I were visiting an independent bookstore in Grand Haven, Michigan.  As usual, I gravitated to the children’s books.  I snatched one book because the illustrations intrigued me.  Looked inside.  Kept turning pages and…giggling.  It was hilarious.  The language, the witty illustrations. I knew immediately that this book would accompany me home.

What was it?  Frogs and the Ballet by Donald Elliot.

For some inexplicable reason, now out of print.

I have given this book as a wedding gift on more than one occasion.  It speaks to the pas de duex that all couples must navigate.

You see, the best children’s books aren’t just for children…

Why do authors ask for reviews?

And then you panic.  Who, me?  What can I say?  That doesn’t sound stupid?

Writing a review doesn’t have to be a big deal.  Some of the best reviews are only a word or two.  A few short sentences.  Did you like the book?  Why?

Doesn’t have to be a 3-paragraph re-telling of the story.  Using every 25-cent word that you know. 

Just tell people why you liked it.  Or not.  Or whether your kids liked it.

No one is going to grade your grammar.  Or spelling.  Or even notice it.

Just be real.

Why is a review important to an author?  Because it gives credibility.  Shows that someone else has actually read the book and enjoyed it.  And you might, too. 

So give your favorite author a few words of your own.

Writing for Children

Most writers are procrastinators.  Their top skill.  They sit down to write, squiggling to get comfortable, adjusting the light level and relaxing their shoulders.  All set?  Oh no, I need to check the laundry…feed the cat…put the bills out in the mailbox.

O.K., done.  Now are we ready?  Hmmm…maybe I need a snack.  You get the idea.  Their overactive imagination focuses on the Dove treat instead of the words on the page.  Until their characters call out to them and demand, “Take me somewhere!”

I squirreled out of writing for most of my life for the same reason.  Friends kept telling me, “Nan, you need to write.”  Except for reports, grants, business ideas for friends and letters, I ignored them.  Like most writers, I’m an expert procrastinator.  Not just a nap, mind you.  I fiddled for decades before I wrote for myself. 

And the children who might laugh and imagine and dream with my stories.