Archive for July, 2009

Holy print media, Batman!!!

Friday, July 10th, 2009

The Wall Street Journal likes ANY WHICH WALL!

And the last line is somethng else…

Ms. Snyder may not quite yet be a Nesbit or an Eager, but on their model she has written a ­delightfully entertaining story.

Not quite yet?

Umm…

As any child who as ever found a sand-fairy or a magic talisman can tell you, it’s important to set humble goals in life.

I’ll settle for sharing a sentence with my heroes.

(also, I have no interest in becoming beautiful as the day, or rich beyond all dreams of avarice.  In case you wondered)

Bad Jewish Poems!!!!

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

My Jewish Learning's Bad Poetry contest

August 18 is Bad Poetry Day! As Jews, this event is of the utmost importance, since Judaism has been responsible for some of the best poetry in the world. The Book of Psalms. The Song of Songs. Barry Manilow. No matter what the emotion, no matter the occasion, some poet has probably captured the sentiment perfectly in verse form–and, as likely as not, that poet might be Jewish.

MyJewishLearning is determined to fight this disturbing trend. What could be better than bad poetry? Whether it starts with “Horseradish is red/The Red Sea is blue” or rhymes the words “you,” “Jew,” and “snuggle-poo,” it’ll probably make a hit in our Bad Poetry Day contest.

Submit your Jewish-themed work of Bad Poetry to badpoetry@myjewishlearning.com by August 11. On August 18, we’ll publish the winners on MyJewishLearning.com, and reward the triumphant bards with a prize package:

First Prize

* An iPod Shuffle, loaded with poetry mp3s (not the bad kind, though)
* A prize package from JDub Records including: Michael Showalter’s Sandwiches and Cats, The Sway Machinery’s Hidden Melodies Revealed, and Balkan Beat Box’s Nu Med
* A rubber chicken

Second Prize

A prize package from Jewish Publication Society including:
* Arie Kaplan’s history of Jewish comics From Krakow to Krypton
* Josh Lambert’s American Jewish Fiction
* A pair of bongo drums

Third Prize

A copy of David M. Bader’s Haikus for Jews.

Just remember–every day might be Bad Poetry Day, but MyJewishLearning’s Bad Poetry Day contest only happens once! Send us your bad poetry at badpoetry@myjewishlearning.com today.

The very worst books for kids…

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Now, while the blogosphere is burning up with responses to Kristof’s “best books for kids”, I think it’s time to post a little essay I wrote, back when Betsy was paying attention to our best loved picture books.

Enjoy!  Respond!  Criticize! Tell me what you think! And when I get back in a few days, I’ll have some quotes from folks you know, about the books they loathe the most!

**

The Worst Books of All Time!

Recently, I conducted an informal survey on my blog, asking readers to name a beloved picture book that they absolutely hate.  Because that’s the kind of person I am. I enjoy seeing sacred cows burned.

And while it didn’t surprise me that many of my readers hated the same books, I was surprised to discover that three of the most despised books in the history of classic children’s literature share a common theme.

Each of these horrible books is detested for the same reason, for artfully describing what I’ll call overlove.  Each is about a parent (or a tree) who cannot separate themselves from their child.  Each depicts an adult who cannot live beyond or outside their children, who cannot set healthy boundaries.

By now, you’ve correctly guessed at least one of the terrible titles.  And maybe you’re nodding your head, and thinking, “Yes, yes—that book is over the top. It’s almost creepy, really.”

And in theory—as you chuckle you might agree with my basic premise: that our discomfort with such books is related to our discomfort with our own over-parenting culture.  Because sure, the world is complicated, and we’re inundated with scary stories about toxins and bird flus and child abductions and the rising cost of college and so on.   And it’s hard to watch our kids grow, and leave, and we only want the best for them.  But still, we wish we could lighten up and let the kids run loose a little more.

Olly olly ox and free!

But here’s what’s most interesting to me—since I began this project, whenever I talk to people about the three horrible books, I find that though everyone dislikes the idea of over-parenting, and though everyone hates at least one of the books, most people also love one of them.

People who find the Giving Tree a good model for a doormat, and who also think the mother in I Love You for Ever is a  felon, love The Runaway Bunny.  Though friends who think Mama Bunny is dominating and oppressive will argue all day that The Giving Tree is simply about generosity.  And so forth.

Which  begs the question—what kind of overlover are you?

Are you a Giving Tree—unable to say no, to draw lines, to put your own needs before the needs of a child, even a grown child?   “Oh, honey, no—just take the money I’ve been saving for my vacation to Greece and buy yourself a car. Have a nice time!”

Are you the mom from I Love You Forever—who cannot handle her child’s growing independence, but is unable to be honest about her own need for a place in his life?  “No, that fine, sweetie.  I don’t mind that you never tell me anything about your personal life. I can always stalk you on Facebook if I need to know what’s going on.”

Or are you Mama Bunny—domineering and restrictive, convinced that your own presence is what keeps your child from harm.  “Dear me, no.  I would never let the babysitter drive Bobby anywhere. Who knows what might happen!”

I will tell you that for me, this little exercise was tricky.  As a sacred cow-burner, I wanted to loathe all three of these books.  I wanted to. But in fact I don’t.

I’ll admit it.  I think the mom in I Love you Forever is a psycho—“But sometimes on dark nights the mother got into her car and drove across town.  If all the lights in her son’s house were out, she opened his bedroom window, crawled across the floor, and looked up over the side of his bed. “

Shiver!

And I think Mama Bunny is an absolute control freak— “If you become a fish in a trout stream,” said his mother,. “I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you.”

Fish for him?  Like, with a hook?

But as much as I want to hate it, in my honest memories, I only remember The Giving Tree as a sweet book about unconditional love.  A book about a parent who never forgot their kid at the bus stop.   Who always had time to listen.

Now I can’t help mulling the question over each night.  As a grownup will, I think critically about the books I read with my kids, and see them through the eyes of an adult, a parent, a self-aware creature of therapy.  I analyze our choices, and question what they say about us.

Each night, as I settle down in pajamas, with teeth brushed and songs sung, and my own darling child reaches for his very favorite book—

Goodnight Moon.

I wonder just how I’m messing him up.  Bowlful of mush indeed!

(***Note– Rainbow Fish was a very close runner up, and I think it suffers from a very related emotional issue/ lack of boundaries. But it didn’t get quite as many votes, so I didn’t include it here)

Dispatch from the eye of the storm…

Monday, July 6th, 2009

We put in 16 hours of highway yesterday (no, Illinois was *not* faster than Missouri).  Home at 12:30, to conk out and wake to bills, doctor appointments, and an empty larder. Hence we will be eating plain noodles and butter for lunch, accompanied by various odd things I find in the freezer.

But God bless Courtney! Nanny supreme! Without whom I would be losing my mind!

I called her from the aforementioned highway in Illinois, to say, “I am in the eye of the storm!  Can you come over in the morning and save me from my insanity?”

Courtney could!

So now, even as I type this, I can hear the kids cackling and chortling as they eat their playdough and bonk each other with wiffle balls.  Hurrah for the sitter who makes all things possible!

Now, I’m off to wash clothes, flea-treat the cat, water the garden (poor garden!), scavenge groceries, harass the customer service folks at Sprint (nasty cell phones), go to the bank, and buy a pair of rainboots, because tomorrow at 6 am I leave for summer camp!  Yes, that’s right, summer camp!  I have been invited to spend a few days at Camp Ramah, in Palmer, Massachusetts, in the company of some wonderful Jewish women writers.  Including one of my very best friends.  And it happens to be raining in Palmer.

But still– CAMP!  So while things are a bit dervishy over here, I really can’t complain.

More later, about our wonderful visit to Iowa, and the hell that is my current WIP, and how much I love beets.  But for now…  you can catch me in other places:

I did an interview with the awesome Meg White, at the  awesome Iowa Source!

I’ve been answering the lovely Query Queen’s questions…

And I had this super fun chat with Ben Kieffer, for the Exchange, a wonderful public radio show in Iowa!

Give a listen!  I managed to avoid using curse words for a FULL HOUR on the radio!  Proving that all things are possible in this great and glorious world.