Grandparents’ Day may be in September, but a new crop of picture books is here to help us celebrate grandmas and grandpas and nanas and paw-paws year-round. That’s only fitting, because there are more grandparents today than ever before, according to The Census Bureau. And the special ways they love, teach and relate to their children’s children is proven fodder for vivid, powerful storytelling. Look no further than these three titles I discovered at the Texas Book Festival. May they remind . . .
I read picture books to my daughter for nearly five years before I gained a deep appreciation for the form. Sure, I read them daily and with enthusiasm (mostly). But I read them the same way I would read a chapter book or an illustrated dictionary. That is, I read them as if the pictures were servant to the text, secondary and utilitarian. If I referenced a picture at all, it was to capture Zora’s attention with quick questions like: What color is her shirt? or How many ducks do you . . .
I celebrated Dr. Seuss’s 112th birthday by donning a red and white stovepipe hat and reading “The Cat in the Hat” to eager first graders at University of Texas Elementary School. On my way over, I worried that the book selection was too young for them. As the mom of a four-year-old, I knew the elementary schoolers should have mastered Cat in the Hat vocabulary years ago. They’re beginning readers, I thought, but they’re veteran listeners too. A chapter book might better capture their . . .
Jim Trelease’s “The Read-Aloud Handbook” is so much more than its title suggests. Sure, it explains what to look for in storytime selections (no dialect, obscenities or weak plots, for starters). But its real strength is a smart and compelling explanation of why parents should read to their children early and often, from infancy onward. Raising a lifelong reader is the single-best investment a parent can make, Trelease insists. Enthusiasm for reading ensures the range of knowledge and . . .
Layered with academic and poetic insights, Maggie Nelson’s memoir “The Argonauts” is a meditation on love, maternity, family, sexuality, and gender. It’s distinguished by a brutally tender chronicling of the physical and hormonal transitions of the author and her partner Harry Dodge, as Nelson undergoes artificial insemination and Dodge navigates a double mastectomy and testosterone injections. From the first paragraph Nelson establishes that this is not a book for the faint of heart or . . .
Convincing American women to transform workplaces by voting in family-friendly laws involves no small amount of cajoling—and for good reason. Even after decades of feminist manifestos and women’s empowerment tomes (or perhaps partly because of them), it can feel like an admission of deficiency to clamor for a new world order, like you aren’t Oprah or Hillary or Sheryl enough to win in a man’s world. That’s why personal growth books like Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” are so seductive. . . .
I had the honor of participating in a lively discussion on HuffPost Live recently about an outcry over the misrepresentation of slavery in a Texas textbook. The conversation in this case centered around a single misleading caption in a high school geography text, but the issue is much more widespread. So many wonderful points were made by host Nancy Redd and my fellow panelists Roni Dean-Burren and Mark Anthony Neal that I wanted to share the full text of our discussion in addition to the . . .
It’s a joy to look back at the evolution of Zora’s parties as captured on this blog. On her second birthday, just two short years ago, I declared myself a lover, not a planner, and outlined all the reasons why I didn’t “go all Martha Stewart on the occasion.” Still, I hinted that bigger things might be in store the following year. Turns out, I kept her third birthday party super simple, but went all out for a sendoff on the eve of our move to Austin. Fast-forward to Zora’s 4th birthday last . . .
“You’re such a good boy,” Jazz Jennings’s mother always said. “No, Mama. Good GIRL,” returned Jazz, a transgender child who would grow up to write a picture book about her path to girlhood. Until that book, I Am Jazz, appeared on the Girls of Summer reading list, I had not thought about introducing the transgender experience to my three-year-old daughter. She’s got quite a girl-power library, but this particular narrative of individuality and self-acceptance was not represented. Realizing . . .
I drifted through the farewell party, feeling unmoored. Our house, no longer our home, stood empty a couple of blocks away. Our belongings were en route to a new city, our departure imminent. Yet here Zora and I stood in celebratory pause, having our last hurrah, a Happy Trails party to launch us toward our new home. I knew I would be back in Richmond again soon. I had a house to sell and projects to lead, but I didn’t know if I would be back again with Zora, and I needed to reassure . . .