Monthly Archives: January 2015

Always A Brighter Side

After reading Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s upcoming (9/8/15) title, It’s Tough To Lose Your Balloon, several things came to mind.

“Always look on the bright side.”

“Accentuate the positive…” this song. 

“When life gives you lemons…”

Childhood is tough. Losing a balloon, melting ice cream, wet shoes and socks are just some of the woes that can bring any child’s happy day down the tube quite quickly. These kind of events are not only traumatic for preschoolers, but I’ve seen even the strongest first grader have a meltdown for things as simple as a mom forgetting to put a treat in a lunch box.

This book is a see-saw back and forth, as Jarrett presents readers with a dilemma followed by the positive… the brighter side of things. As I read the book and came upon each scenario, I always said, “How is he going to turn that into a positive?” But Jarrett always does.

And that teaches us a lesson- there is always, always a brighter side to things. The idea for this book is explained in an author’s note at the end. Jarrett’s daughter lost a balloon, and his wife, Gina, told her that the bright side was Grandpa and Grandma were flying home from vacation and could see the balloon in the sky.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that my 19 year old sister died very unexpectedly about a month ago. It opened my eyes to the fact that not only is childhood tough, but adulthood can be tough, too. Let me tell you, it’s one of the most painful things I have ever experienced. I am still wading through the muck and the mess of grief. But Jarrett’s title has opened my eyes to the fact that there is a brighter side to all of this.

I received the book and had to do about an hour’s worth of traveling tonight, so I had plenty of time in the car to think about what the bright side could be. If anything, the whole experience has shown me how much people care. I was continuously amazed as people from my hometown came together to be there for my family when the tragedy first struck. The experience has brought my family closer together. It has brought me closer to many friends I had “met” on Facebook, but not in real life. But, they reached out and I have had so many meaningful conversations via private messages with so many wonderful people. The acts of kindness still continue to come.

It’s tough to lose a balloon. It’s tough to lose a sister. Its tough…. (you fill in the blank). But Jarrett leaves us all with an important message here… when life gets you down, look up. Celebrate the bright side of things.

This is one of those books that came to me at just the right time. I don’t think Jarrett knew that this book was going to be of such comfort to a grieving brother, but it was. The next time life gets rough and seems too hard to handle, I’ll reach for this book and be reminded to look at the bright side. And of course, I will share this title with my first graders and always remind them… when life gets you down, look on the bright side. You can find it if you look hard enough.

Coming Soon

I am preparing for a presentation for Missouri teachers and I wanted to include some picture books coming in 2015 to watch out for, so I put out an “all-call” on Facebook asking authors and illustrators for what we can expect. Here are some titles you can look forward to in 2015. Some book covers have not been revealed yet! These are in no particular order, and please let me know if I left any out! We readers are in for a good year!

Big Bear, Little Chair by Lizi Boyd

Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett, Illustrated by Christian Robinson

Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson, illustrated by David Shannon

Little Red Gliding Hood by Tara Lazar, illustrated by Troy Cummings

Prince Fly Guy (Fly Guy #15) by Tedd Arnold

Llama Llama Gram and Grandpa by Anna Dewdney

Dewey Bob Crockett  by Judy Schachner

Little Tree by Loren Long

The Turnip by Jan Brett

The Nonsense Show by Eric Carle

The Nuts: Sing and Dance in Your Polka Dot Pants by Eric Litwin, illustrated by Scott Magoon

Who Needs a Bath? by Jeff Mack

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo

Roar! by Tammi Sauer

Felix Stands Tall  by Rosemary Wells

Maple and Willow Apart by Lori Nichols

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk, illustrated by Brendan Kearney

THIS ORQ. (HE SAY UGH!) By David Elliott, illustrated by Lori Nichols

Totally Tardy Marty by Erica Perl, illustrated by Jarrett Krosoczka

Moving On

I wrote a few days ago about how I was looking forward to heartfelt books in 2015. Books seem to be a safe haven for me. I can escape the world for a little while and avoid reality. I can also relate to other characters and feel less alone in my journey. Even picture books can do the job for me as an adult.

I’ve been in communication with Marla about this, and I wanted to share the unique connection I have found in Marla Frazee’s The Farmer and the Clown. Actually, it’s more than a connection. It’s more like an analogy to what happened recently in my life.

I was seven years old when my sister was born, so I had pretty much established my way of life, my routine. That’s the way things were. So, I had to adapt when that little bundle of joy arrived during my first grade year. The farmer in this wordless picture book has his life and his routine settled- and then the clown bounces in.

But, the farmer makes room in his heart for the clown. The little clown grows on him, especially when the farmer realizes the clown’s heartache. He’s there for the clown. He loves the clown.

So it was with my sister. She grew on me. We had our differences- she was a girl, after all, and she was so much younger than me (or so it always felt). We had little in common to connect about growing up, as I was always too old to understand much of what was going on in her life. But, still, I was always there for her. I loved her.

And one day, the clown’s train came rolling back through. I don’t think the farmer expected it. I don’t think the clown expected it. But, nevertheless, it came.

And so it went with my sister. Her time had come. She didn’t expect it. And I certainly didn’t expect it. But, nevertheless, it came.

And with love, comes grief. When you love someone and it’s time to say goodbye, grief is unavoidable. While my heart was so glad to see the clown reunited with his family, my heart hurt for the farmer, who was left alone again.

I believe my sister’s soul was carried to heaven on angels’ wings. While the clown turned around and bid the farmer goodbye, I didn’t get that opportunity with my sister. When I left her hospital bed, I kissed her forehead and said “Don’t you dare give up on me.” And a week later, without a goodbye, she was gone.

But, Marla’s book does not end on a sad note. The final page shows us a monkey trailing not far behind the farmer. There is hope in that last image, and so I believe there is hope. As Marla told me, “I believe that your monkey is somewhere nearby.”

It is nearby- I’ve been surprised with acts of generosity, kindness, and sincerity from so many- friends from home, friends from college, authors who have sent me artwork and other inspirations, and so much more. When I start to get sad, something always taps me on the shoulder, like a little monkey and says, “It’ll be okay.”

What a gift, when a book like The Farmer and the Clown can bring us hope. I can only imagine what kinds of messages that students all around are carrying away from this treasure. Think about all the books out there doing this for people.

I am thankful that this book has shown me that there is hope in moving on.

Doing Their Job

If you’ve stumbled across this post and don’t know me or my story, let me begin by briefly sharing. In December, my 19 year old sister died unexpectedly, suddenly, and left us with a lot of questions and heartache.

Each member of my family has found a way to begin healing and going through the grief process. I am going through grief counseling, group counseling, and my faith has helped tremendously.

But you know where I’ve found comfort as well? Books. They’re just doing their job.

Some books are there to make us laugh. Some books are there to make us think. Some books are there to help us relax.

But some books- heartfelt books- are meant to make us feel good. Maybe let a little cry out. The book I’m currently reading is 

This book is about sibling loss too. I’ve made connections with the main character and grieved with her as she lost her brother. I don’t know what Lisa’s intent was when she wrote this book, but I’d say if the job was to provide some comfort to someone with grief or questions, this book is doing its job.

Do you know any books like this? Heartfelt books that do their job?

Here are some heartfelt titles I am looking forward to in 2015. My heart is going to be hurting for a while, and I think these books will be providing some comfort and warmth where it needs to go. Feel free to share any other titles you know of. I’m sure I’ve missed a lot. (I have not read any of these books – I just know about them through the grapevine and I anxiously await their release.)