Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed. Illustrations by Stasia Burrington

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed. Illustrations by Stasia Burrington

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmen.  Illustrations by Stasia Burrington

Picture book for ages approximately 4-8

Published January 9, 2018

“If you can dream it….”

Not so much a biography but a testament to the power of supporting a child’s dreams. Mae Among the Stars introduces us to a young girl, who hopes one day to see the Earth from space. With warm, inviting illustrations, we follow our young dreamer as she reads about space, creates astronaut costumes and spaceships, and draws pictures of what she might see as she dances among the stars. At school, when Mae shares her plans to become an astronaut, she is ridiculed by her classmates and discouraged by her teacher who suggests she pursue nursing, “a good profession for someone like you.”  A despondent Mae returns home and there, receives the refrain of support and encouragement of her parents. Our heroine’s spirit restored, she vows to wave to her parents from space one day. And she did. Mae Jemison became the first African American woman accepted into the NASA’s Astronaut training program and in 1992, finally flew in space.  

This little picture book has drawn criticism from adult reviewers with a variety of grievances such as not enough information about Jemison’s accomplishments, how she reached her goal, and an overly simplistic view of how one becomes successful.

But I still love this book. Why?

The insensitive teacher who is ultimately proven wrong, the powerful demonstration of resilience that comes when young people receive consistent messages of belief and support, and the underlying message that every child has the right to dream.   

Fast Flight Friday

Fast Flight Friday

Here’s to rest, relaxation and little windows of time to let the mind wander where it will.

  • If you love on-line quizzes and trivia and want to impact world hunger – freerice.com will probably become your new obsession. Test your knowledge with vocab and subject quizzes about famous paintings, quotes, world landmarks. If you’re ready to find out everything you’ve forgotten since high school, tackle literature, chemistry symbols or human anatomy. You can play for one of 100’s of groups or start your own. Set up an account and you’re a contender for a position as a top player. For each correct answer, the site owners donate 10 grains of rice to the World Food Programme. There is even an SAT section and many of the quizzes make for a pretty good review.

 

  • Fresh, fun, imaginative. Ukranian artist Alexy Kondakov photoshops figures from classical paintings into utterly mundane everyday scenes. Check it out on Instagram.

 

  • Happy Birthday Harriet Beecher Stowe. Did Uncle Tom’s Cabin inspire you to confront injustice and fight the wrongs of the world? Celebrate Harriet’s birthday and revisit the novel that changed the world. Reconnect here.

 

Be Fearlessly You,

 

Julie

Summer Adventures. How to Enjoy a Trip to the Museum

Summer Adventures. How to Enjoy a Trip to the Museum

I love museums. Growing up in a rural area, we didn’t have easy access to places with towering walls lined with big paintings, dioramas of great moments in history or skeletal displays of the age of dinosaurs. Books were my primary window to the world. I will never forget the first time I saw a painting by my favorite artist, Claude Monet, and a reconstructed giant mastodon that once roamed not far from where I lived. And magically, all those pages came to life!

As a teacher, one of my greatest pleasures was to take students to museums. Didn’t matter what age; 5th graders or college students – they were all wonderful experiences I will not soon forget.

A few summers ago I accompanied a group of high school juniors on an out-of-state college tour. One can only traipse through so many carefully staged dorm rooms and dining halls, so along with a day of community service, we made time to visit some nearby cultural institutions.

On one afternoon in the Denver Art Museum, I learned more about my mentees than I had over our previous year together! Their casually-offered insights and reflections gave me a new understanding of their interests, passions and world views, and words can’t fully express the satisfaction of hearing, “Hey, we talked about this in my class.” Experiencing the sheer beauty and creative force all around us through their eyes made me fall in love all over again.

Obviously, I’m a HUGE advocate for visiting our cultural treasures with young people, and encourage you to make time this summer to explore the museums near to you or, if you are lucky enough to be on a get-away, at your destination. Many are free and all are looking forward to welcoming you.

A great day at the museum does involve a little planning, and here are my tips for making your day in the museum one of the best.

 With young children:

Manage Energy

Let your little guys burn off some excess energy before taking on the more quiet space of a museum. Many museums have beautiful lawn areas and even nearby playgrounds and a little time stretching, running and playing might make for better focus.

Clear Expectations

The irony of parents screaming at their children to be quiet never fails to get me. All children want to behave appropriately; I truly believe that. Before you go, talk about how people enjoy museums. “What does a museum voice sound like?” for example.

Doing is better than just looking

Behavior has a lot to do with an appropriately engaged mind. Hop on the museum’s website and construct a fun scavenger hunt for your child to complete. Give them a notebook to keep track of the number of paintings they see, the numbers of big, medium or little canvases or the names of the artists. Think of it like the license plate game for the museum!

Break and Snack

A large museum can wear out a fit adult. To avoid whining and stress, build in time to rest and pack a few snacks and drinks to enjoy in “food allowed” areas.

Point of View

Give your kid a camera or let them take shots with your cellphone. (Personally, I’m a fan of the camera – too many distractions on a phone.) Digital cameras are becoming quite inexpensive, and what fun to create a digital scrapbook of the day.

When In Rome

I love seeing young children on a bench in front of a vibrant canvas, coloring and drawing away. Pack a sketch book and some colored pencils. Or, many of the great masterworks are available in coloring book form. Why not take advantage of such an inspiring environment and let your child be an artist among artists?

Don’t Try to Have It All

Pick a few exhibits to start with and see how the energy and attention hold up.

Read Ahead

There are some great picture books about artists and art. Try some pre-visit reading to generate some excitement and background knowledge to make the visit more meaningful. Likewise, if the museum is specific i.e. focused on dinosaurs or transportation for example, try some read-alouds featuring those topics as well.

     With teens:

    No Lectures!

    This is not the opportunity to show off your Art History 100 creds. Give your teen the freedom to take away what is relevant to him/her, not what you think they should know. Sure, if I get an opening I’ll take it, “Hard to believe this was painted 500 years ago” or “I love the yellow shades….” But nobody wants to be chattered at so if the conversation doesn’t pick up, its okay – let it go.

     

    Art is personal

    Let it be that. Teenagers have a whole lot of things on their minds that we don’t relate to. Don’t hover or direct – let them wander and find the pieces or exhibits that speak to their unique perspective.

     

    You still can’t have it all 

    As with younger children, it’s important to not make a marathon out of the day by insisting on seeing every single canvas or display. Pick a few things that are likely to be interesting and work your way from there.

     

    Peace, cell phone

    Smart phones are a permanent part of the teen lifestyle. What’s that saying, “if you can’t beat it….? ” Put that phone to use!

    I encourage my mentees to actively snap photos with their phones and share them with friends.

    Many museums now have interactive elements that incorporate smart phones into the museum experience. Check out the museum’s website to see if this will be available for your visit.

    Check out Instagram. Does the museum have an account that showcases their collections?  Teens easily relate to content on this platform and it’s a good way to get them interested in what they can see on a visit.

    And, the million $ question: Is it okay to wear ear-buds in a museum? I’m mixed on this one.  Definitely not when on a guided or formal tour, or to the point of total isolation. Personally, I’m not bothered by them enjoying some music while taking in the scene as long the volume doesn’t disturb others. The key is to discuss it BEFORE you get to the museum.

     

    Ditto on Snacks

    A hungry teen is often a surly one. Encourage them to pack some favorites to nosh on, and remind them to find appropriate spots where eating is allowed.

     

    Friends

    Consider bringing along a friend. Peers are very important at this age and it might make the outing more fun for them, and for you. Sometimes, getting off the couch and trying something new is easier with a compatriot along. Think of all the smiling selfies!

    Fast Flight Friday

    Fast Flight Friday

    Ah, Fridays and the promise of a little unstructured free time ahead. Sure, there will always be the laundry, but the great thing about the weekend is those little slivers of time that aren’t completely mapped out. If you’re seeking a little something for those little slivers…..

    Fly to Mars. Sort of.

    Even though it will be years before the first humans set foot on Mars, NASA is collecting names (to be stenciled on chips) to send to the Red Planet with its Mars 2020 rover. Here’s how to hitch a ride:  https://mars.nasa.gov/participate/send-your-name/mars2020/

    I love history. Can’t get enough – especially when there is some new discovery or insight I have yet to learn about. It’s easy to while away the minutes (and hours if you’re not careful) on All That’s Interesting a neat site that has good pics and just right article length. They have science and news, too. https://allthatsinteresting.com/

    Trivia, quizzes of all kinds, and hearing about interesting people? This is one of my fave trivia podcasts to enjoy when I want my mind to soar free but I still have to drive, mow or mop. Ask Me Another from NPR. https://www.npr.org/programs/ask-me-another/?showDate=2019-05-24

    Be Fearlessly You.

     

    Julie

    Life On Mars by Jon Agee

    Life On Mars by Jon Agee

    Life On Mars by Jon Agee

    Picture book for ages approximately 4-8

    Published January 1, 2017

    Young children are curious and creative in their quest to understand the universe, and Jon Agee has drawn an absolutely charming story of the ageless question, “is anybody out there?” 

    In LIFE ON MARS, a young astronaut lands on Mars in search of life. Our fearless little explorer sets off from his spaceship with a box of cupcakes (a gift for whomever or whatever he might encounter) and starts his trek across the beautifully drawn, desolate landscape of the red planet.

    As he hikes along, what he can’t see is the tall, pointy-eared Martian hovering in the background, and we are “in on the joke” as it follows the boy on his quest. The next details of the story include a yellow flower and the aforementioned cupcakes, however, if the two meet is for you to discover! 

    Obviously, evidence does not support the presence of a giant cuddly creature on Mars (or yellow flowers) and that may be a problem for some. Yet evidence did not support the veracity of the adventures of Buck Rogers or the fantastic voyages of Jules Verne, which inspired many of the early astronauts and NASA engineers to pursue the stars.

    For myself, I love the whimsical adventure story – particularly the lovely detail of our voyager packing cupcakes to offer in greeting. The book also subtly delivers the message that there is power and satisfaction in pursuing the answers to your most important questions, which if instilled early, can inspire a life-long learner.

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