“Weeds gone wild, refusing to be tamed. I hope more people start to rethink why some plants are considered weeds and start to see the beauty in their resilience.” – SJ Okemow
You’re probably thinking “Megan, why are you writing about dandelions in the winter?” Don’t worry this book takes place across all the seasons, so you’ll get a taste of winter. “Dear Dandelion” by SJ Okemow follows the life cycle of the dandelion all year long. According to the author’s note, it was made as a part of the Animating Our Stories Program at Banff Centre of Arts and Creativity. Okemow uses Cree words throughout the book and has translations at the end of the book.
This book goes through the life cycle of a dandelion in such a beautiful way. Most people see dandelions as weeds, but they are often seen as a symbol of resilience and overcoming adversity. Dandelions come back year after year in our yards and sometimes through cracks in the concrete, and a wise woman told me recently they are a reminder to look for beauty in unexpected places. And that’s exactly what this book is about — finding joy in the small things like making a flower crown in the summer or making wishes on a mud pie. So even though it’s cold and dreary, I challenge you to pick up this sunny book about dandelions and look for a bit of joy in the world around you.
People all over the world have constructed traditions over time to create intentional spaces for unity, festivity and collaboration. Many of these traditions take place during specific times of the year, such as Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Samhain, which take place around the midpoint of autumn. These holidays, which both memorialize those who have passed on, are inspired by culture and traditions, and also by the weather, as trees begin to lose their leaves and animals retreat into their nature homes. Many of our holidays are connected with Earth’s trip around the sun and the effects it has on our weather. In the case of winter holidays, humans like to celebrate warmth, hearth and home. Because people are inside more often, they spend more time with their family members, which makes winter a wonderful time to celebrate family and friends! Continue reading “Holiday Crafts”
I don’t know about all of you, but 2023 has flown by for me. I have definitely felt the truth behind this wonderful quote from Gretchen Rubin: “The days are long but the years are short.”
Being (miraculously) at the end of 2023 means it’s time for us to bring back our handprint calendar once again! These calendars can be wonderful personalized gifts for loved ones. They can also serve as heartfelt mementos. If you decorate a calendar every year, you’ll have a beautiful way of showing your child’s growth through the years. If you can, continue your collection. But remember, it’s never too late to start. Continue reading “Handprint Calendar 2024”
One of my favorite things about late fall and winter is watching the birds outside my window. Last year, I got to know a cardinal couple who were regular diners at my feeder. It felt good to offer them and others food even though birds are highly resourceful creatures. When I gazed at them from my window, a feeling of warmth spread through me that eased the winter chill. Robert Lynd says, “In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.” Whether you interpret that as being quiet and still in your body or your mind, watching birds stirs our hearts and activates our imaginations — opening us up to mystery, wonder and hope. Plus, it’s just plain fun! My namesake is the robin, but I’m still learning the names of more than 400 birds that visit Missouri (150 of which regularly nest in our state). I love going old school with a printed field guide, but the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a free app for smartphone and tablet users called Merlin Bird ID that is quite magical and very kid-friendly (one feature I love is the sound identification that takes an audio sample you record and isolates each call or song of any and all birds in the near vicinity).
Below are the steps to make a fun and simple bird feeder. After you set your creation outside and give it some time, see if you can identify the top 20 birds that visit Missouri backyards in the colder months. The library also has a wonderful Virtual Activity Bundle to help keep young minds active while indoors (recommended for ages 3-6), and here is a staff-created book list with some favorite picture books about our feathered friends.
Continue reading “Upcycled Bird Feeder”
I think there are two types of people in the world. Those that enjoy pumpkin spice, and those that wait for peppermint season. If you are like me, pumpkin spice is nice, especially when it is in pie form. Peppermint is the flavoring I seek out in the winter months. Cookies, cappuccinos, candies, chocolates and more. If you are a peppermint fan, or just a little tired of pumpkin spice, read on for a fun way to create your own peppermint-flavored milk. This recipe is low on the effort scale and would be easy for a little one to assist with.
Continue reading “Peppermint Milk Recipe”
Did you know that Thanksgiving was not an official holiday until 1863? In fact, the so-called “first Thanksgiving” wasn’t even the first Thanksgiving feast; both the English and the native Wampanoag had celebrated similar harvest feasts for centuries. Furthermore, the first Thanksgiving table probably did not feature turkey, and they certainly didn’t serve pumpkin pie!
Amidst the handprint turkeys and paper Pilgrim hats, there’s a kernel of truth to be found. But it can be challenging to find historically accurate, well-researched resources on this beloved holiday. Children deserve to learn the real history of Thanksgiving, not just the feel-good myths we’ve long perpetuated.
Before we get down to the business of debunking, it’s important that we honor the original caretakers of the land we now stand on. According to MU libraries, modern-day Missouri lies on the ancestral lands of the Chickasaw nation, the Otoe-Missouria tribe, the Illini tribe, the Osage nation, the Ioway tribe and the Quapaw tribe. Keeping in mind that the story of Thanksgiving can be a painful one for many Indigenous people, I’d like to point to this excellent article on centering Native voices during your Thanksgiving festivities by Alexis Bunten (Aleut/Yup’ik).
With all that being said, let’s explore some of the best Thanksgiving books in our children’s collection — and bust some myths while we’re at it!
MYTH: Everything we know about the first Thanksgiving comes to us from the original Pilgrims.
We can’t forget the value of Native voices in this story! Despite the violence and disease that ravaged the Wampanoag nation after English settlers arrived on their shores, their stories have lived on. Oral storytelling is a vital part of Wampanoag culture, both past and present. Their folklore can give us a window into the lives and cultural values of those who came before, including the tribe’s account of the first Thanksgiving and the role of historical figures like Tisquantum (better known as “Squanto”).
“Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story,” written by Indigenous writing trio Danielle Greendeer (Mashpee Wampanoag), Anthony Perry (Chickasaw) and Alexis Bunten (Aleut/Yup’ik). This lyrical, uniquely illustrated picture book recounts the Wampanoag version of the first Thanksgiving through the eyes of Weeâchumun, one of the “Three Sisters” that appear in Native folklore across North America. Continue reading “Busting Thanksgiving Myths!”
…it’s hard on everyone. Cancer can be unnerving, unexpected and unwanted. In a way, it’s like a twisted magician. It takes a world and miraculously turns it upside down. It makes what-ifs appear as if out of thin air. As if through an enchantment, where there was more, there’s suddenly less. Less hair. Less certainty. Less time. It’s a show that no one wants to attend. Sadly, we don’t get to choose whether we receive a ticket to the exhibit or not. If we do, it can be beyond overwhelming, especially if there are young children in your care. How can you help them understand something that you may still be struggling with yourself? Luckily, you are not alone. Whether your child is struggling to understand what’s going on or trying to manage the myriad of emotions that they are surely having, we have something for you. Of course, you can always come to the library to ask us for help. The library is a safe place to ask whatever difficult questions you may have, and we will point you towards whatever resources we can. If you need time to process at your own pace, I’ve created an entire book list on this topic that you can access at any time. While I love all of the books on there, there are a few that truly have my heart. Here’s a rundown of my top 5:
“Cancer Hates Kisses” by Jessica Reid Sliwerski
Continue reading “When a Loved One Has Cancer”
I am a self-proclaimed nerd in multiple ways. I spend most of my free time hanging out with my friends on Discord playing video games. When I’m not actively gaming, you can find me reading fantasy novels or watching superhero shows. If it’s considered geeky, I probably have some connection to it. That’s one part of who I am. Another part is that I crave deep connections with those I love. I’m one of those people that truly wants to be known. I have discovered that one of the best ways to satisfy that aspect of me is to share a love of a common topic, and there are very few topics I love as much as nerdy things. As a nanny, I struggled to connect these two parts of me. I believed for a while that I couldn’t share the nerdy side of me with children, because it wasn’t age-appropriate. But then how could I feel connected to the children in my care if I couldn’t share any of my interests with them? Over time I came to see that there are ways to share a love of nerd culture with children that are fun for both parties involved. When you care for children, it doesn’t have to be completely focused on their interests all the time. If you’re like me, you will feel most fulfilled in your role as a caregiver when you don’t ignore parts of yourself but rather use them as a way to find a deeper connection with the kids. Hopefully these tips help you to find what works for you when introducing your kids to the wonders of nerd culture! Continue reading “Sharing a Love of Nerd Culture with Kids”
It’s that spooooooky time of year when you might encounter a monster on your morning commute or evening stroll, in a grocery store aisle or neighborhood yard decoration, amid your dreams and under — or next to you in! — your bed. While monsters have long served humans as metaphors for fear of what is different and/or unknown — the word “monster” comes to us in part from the Latin words for warning and demonstration — there’s been a necessary rehabilitation and welcome expansion of the concept of the monster in Children’s literature and media in particular. From Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” to Sesame Street to “Monsters, Inc.,” monsters are not just lurking in the shadows to antagonize or gobble us up. In this more generous, compassionate light, monsters can also help us to empathize with other human and nonhuman creatures and consciousnesses, reflect on and shift our perspectives, challenge assumptions and biases and process and understand our tender and turbulent emotional lives. That’s why I like to think of monsters as ✨ marvelous ✨ — real/imaginary beings who are connected to wonder, surprise, astonishment and even smiles.
This spooky season, I invite you and your loved ones to consider how and where monsters show up in your lives and imaginations. To open the conversation up or keep it going, check out some of the titles on this ✨ Marvelous Monsters ✨ booklist. Below are a couple of my favorite titles that playfully and/or powerfully complicate how we might think of and experience monsters.
This story is for night owls everywhere. Ever had a morning where time seemed to unspool out of your grasp and every chore or part of your routine was disastrously disrupted? You might find some validation or consolation in Bartholomew’s mischievously monstrous morning.
read-alike: “Monster Trouble” Continue reading “👹 Marvelous Monsters 👹”
If you have been following my blogs, you’ll know that I’m a big fan (pun intended) of Vashti Harrison (see “Illustrators We Love: Vashti Harrison”). Her latest book is no exception. “Big” is the story of a brown-skinned baby who is well . . . BIG. She is an adorably round baby who then grows into a little girl. She has “a big laugh and a big heart and very big dreams.” Continue reading “Picture Books We Love: Big”