Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Very Own Grandpa Green

Have you ever connected so much with a book that it takes your breath away? For me, reading Grandpa Green by Lane Smith to my daughter the other night was like getting a warm hug. I had read glowing reviews of the book, and I knew that I would like the book. However, I had no idea the book would bring "happy tears" (as my daughter would say) to my eyes.  The book beautifully tells  the story of one man as his great-grandson follows him through the gardens of his life. And with each page, we see the grandfather age and become more forgetful, as the great-grandson carefully picks up the gardening tools that were left behind. Grandpa Green may grow forgetful, but he has left behind a lifetime of memories through his topiary trees.

After the first time I read it, my daughter looked at me and asked if it reminded me of my Poppop. I nodded, and she asked if we could read it again. We read it a second time, noticing so much more in each of the illustrations. And by the third time I read it, my daughter was able to point out how the little boy pick items the grandfather left behind.

After I tucked her into bed, I ran downstairs to share the book with my husband. His first response after I read it to him was to ask if the book had been written about my grandfather. You see, last summer I lost my very own Grandpa Green and reading this story felt like opening a door into his life.
My grandfather raising quail.
He was born a long time ago and raised on a farm. He went off to Rutgers to study agriculture, but had to receive his diploma in the mail because he was sent off to fight in World War 2.  He got married, had a family, and lived a long full life. However, that barely scratches the surface of who he was and how he shaped the future generations of our family.

My grandparents in their Christmas Tree Farm
I grew up living next door to my grandparents and their Christmas tree farm. He may not have shaped topiary trees, but he did spend countless hours trimming and shaping the Christmas trees. While he was out in the fields trimming the trees, he would take time to show us the difference between the needles, how some were flat and some shaped like squares. He would quiz us on the different types of evergreens. And sometimes, he would send us over to his garden to pick the tomato bugs off his delicious Jersey tomatoes. I could write pages about the impact he had on my life and the lives of everyone in our family, but the words just wouldn't do him justice.
My grandfather showing off the trees at Wood's Blue Ribbon Farm

The reason the words wouldn't do him justice is because the memory of him lives in something bigger than any words can express. The memory of my grandfather lives in the "Victory Garden" I first planted with my oldest daughter in 2009 and the stories I share with her about why the term Victory Garden is important.
My oldest daughter when she was just 2 1/2, enjoying her first garden.
...and in the heirloom Rutgers tomato seeds we plant and carefully save each year.
...and in the stories about selling Christmas trees we share around the holidays.
...and in the belief that all trees look beautiful when trimmed just right.
...and in the fact that my younger brother went on to study horticulture in college, getting a his Master's degree from Texas A&M, extending the memory of my grandfather through my his own  life's work.
...and in the songs that I can still hear my grandfather singing because he loved to sing silly songs.

Really, I could go on forever listing the memories he planted and grew in each one of his children and grandchildren and the great-grandchildren that had the privilege to meet him. But, I know that for as long as I will live, when Christmas time comes, cutting down a perfectly trimmed evergreen and bringing it into my home will bring back the memories of growing up next door to my grandfather's Christmas tree farm and part of him will be with us once again.

I have already sent my brother a copy of Grandpa Green, and I know that this is one picture book that will be read over and over again in our family.

If you would like to learn more about the book, check out the publisher's website or check out this book trailer:
To learn more about the amazing illustrator and children's book writer Lane Smith, check out his website. He has so many wonderful books from which to choose.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Toss That Book on the Floor

Several months ago I purchased The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. I was so exited to share the book with Miss M because we have a family membership to ZooAtlanta, the zoo where the real Ivan eventually spent his remaining years. Also, I know one of the zookeepers that took care of Ivan. I envisioned us snuggled in bed reading the book and then taking a trip to ZooAtlanta to visit my friend, asking her to compare the real Ivan to the fictional one. However, my daughter could have cared less about the book. We read through the first couple chapters, but she was not engaged at all.

If I start a book, I feel compelled to finish it. I sometimes suffer through books just to say that I finished them. I felt compelled to force her to listen to me reading the rest of the book. But, to be honest, forcing my daughter to listen to me read something she didn't care about seemed counterproductive.

So, I tossed the book on the floor in her room.

And there it stayed....until the other day.

 My daughter came running downstairs in a panic and cried, "Momma, Stella died!"
"What? Stella who died?" I replied. She then showed me the book and informed me that she had been reading it on her own. And by reading, I mean she has been carrying the book with her everywhere she goes consuming the words with a voracious appetite.

She found the book on her floor. She choose to read the book. I was no longer telling her to read it. And maybe that made all the difference in the world.

Her room is filled with books on bookshelves, but books are also on the floor, in bags and tucked in any place where a six year old might stumble upon a book and decide to start reading.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Seize the Summer and Read Aloud 15 Minutes Every Day

Well, we missed the kickoff a couple of days ago for the "Seize the Summer" campaign from Readaloud.org because we were on vacation seizing the summer.

Back to reality today and catching up on my social media, I fell in love with the campaign's message regarding the dreaded "summer slide." The simple dollars and cents message that not reading to your children could be very costly is not only a huge motivator to pick up a book and read, but it also provides the justification I need for the financial investment I have made with the copious amounts of books I have purchased in the past couple of months.

If you are looking for some great ideas on how to seize the summer with reading, I highly recommend checking out Jen Robinson's post. The post has some great tips for reading aloud and helpful information about why reading aloud is so important.

So how did we seize the summer? Well, we went to a Wetland's Institute on their "Turtle Tuesday" and learned all about animals that live in the wetlands and the nearby ocean. We picked up this adorable finger puppet book from the gift shop. My little one giggles up a storm when we read it. (It is the Little Shark Finger Puppet Book from Chronicle Books.)

We also went on a Pirate Cruise. (We brought our "Flat Percy" along for the ride. Percy is the mascot  for the daycare both my daughter's attend.)

Which, of course, meant that we had to read I Wish I Had a Pirate Suit by Pamela Allen as soon as we got home. It has been a favorite in our house for years now.

With all the adventures we had during our week and a half traveling, somehow, books just seemed to be a part of the fun. And of course, at the end of the day, books provided the much needed calming moments to ready ourselves for bed.

Check out the Read Aloud 15 Minutes Every Child. Every Parent. Every Day. summer reading message for more tips on integrating reading into your summer activities.

What books have been a part of your summer adventures?

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