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Review:  Finding Winnie: the True Story of The World’s Most Famous Bear

Review: Finding Winnie: the True Story of The World’s Most Famous Bear

“Winnie the Pooh” and the “House at Pooh Corner” were often requested when I was growing up and it has been such a pleasure to be able to share them with my children.  With Finding Winnie, we get the story behind the story and my children were delighted to learn that Winnie-the-Pooh started out as a real bear.  Echoing the format of Winnie the Pooh, the book opens with a conversation between a mother and a little boy, Cole, asking for one last story… Just like Christopher Robin, Cole has lots of questions.  Cole’s questions though are about Harry, his great-great grandfather, and Winnie, a black bear cub, his great-great grandfather adopted on the way to Valcartier and took to London along with 36,000 men and 7,500 horses during WWI.  Winnie became the camp mascot and followed Harry everywhere, but when it was time for Harry to be shipped to France, Harry decided it was too risky to take Winnie and that is when the real Christopher Robin entered the picture. This is a wonderful story of an impulsive animal rescue that ended up being the inspiration for a series of stories that have thrilled generations of children, though perhaps the chagrin of the real Christopher Robin whom the public never allowed to grow up! If you’re planning a trip to Winnipeg or the London Zoo, you have to read Finding Winnie and of course all of the Pooh stories written by A. A. Milne.  In Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg, there’s a statute of Harry Colebourn and Winnie as well as the Pooh Gallery filled with Winnie the Pooh Memorabilia.  The real Winnie the Pooh owned by Christopher Robin is on permanent display in the New York Public Library and at the London Zoo,  sure to delight any Winnie-ther-Pooh fans! If you’d like to add Finding Winnie to your child’s collection, click here:  Finding Winnie:  The True Story of the World’s Most Favorite...

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Review: The Man Who Walked Between the Towers-New York with children

Review: The Man Who Walked Between the Towers-New York with children

While the  book provides a poignant reminder on the absence of the twin towers, this is a great book about reaching for your dreams.   If you’re planning a visit the Memorial plaza in New York city, this is a good introduction to what the towers symbolized and gives a child perspective on how tall they actually were and the impression they made on the city without dwelling on how they fell.  They could also watch  “Man on a Wire”  as they get ready for their trip to New York.“Once there were two towers side by side.”  For those who lived through the destruction of the twin towers, this fairy tale beginning may make your heart catch a little.  But the story of the Man who Walked between Towers is about following your dreams, not dwelling on what happened later.   This is the true story of Philippe Petit, a French aerialist and street performer who was inspired by the construction of the towers.  “He looked not at the towers but at the space between them and thought, what a wonderful place to stretch a rope; a wire on which to walk.”  This unusual perspective made me smile as it is definitely something children are great at, a view of the world that is full of wonder and things that a grown up might overlook. Inspired by the distance between the towers, Phillipe starts to plan his feat and, dressed as a construction worker, ends up carrying a 440 pound reel of cable the final one hundred and eighty stairs to the roof.   The images of Phillipe and his friend standing on the roof and looking across to the other tower helped us understand the magnitude of the task, the images made me feel daunted! Through a series of near misses over a city in which the Statute of Liberty looks like a child’s toy, Phillipe and his friends manage to string the cable and in triumph, “[a]s the rising sun lit up the towers, out he stepped onto the wire.”  Given how much attention window washers on really tall buildings attract, I can only imagine what his feat would have looked like from the ground.  Mordachi Gerstein’s use of perspective,...

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Review: Strega Nona-Italy with children

Review: Strega Nona-Italy with children

“In a town in Calabria, a long time ago, there lived an old lady called Strega Nona, which meant “Grandma Witch.”  Strega Nona is one of those magical people who can do anything, “even the priest and the sisters of the convent went, because Strega Nona did  have a magic touch.” In Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola everything was going well and Strega Nona was content, but as she was getting older, like many of us she decided she needed help.  Who answered her ad but “Big Anthony, who didn’t pay attention.”  This line always makes my children giggle.  Big Anthony is given a list of  his duties but the most important one is never touching the pasta pot!  Of course Big Anthony wants to impress the town… The Strega Nona stories are a wonderful start to a trip to Italy.  Calabria occupies the toe of Italy and is a bit off the beaten path, but with 500 miles of coastline, shipwrecks and four national parks, there is lots to explore.   Some of the smaller towns like Locri which has been around since 680BC have amazing ruins, perfect for exploring and  allowing your children’s imagination to run as they enjoy all of the pasta Italy has to offer, even if it doesn’t come from a magic pot! If you’d like to add Strega Nona to your child’s library, click here:  Strega Nona You may also enjoy:         ...

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Review: The Mousehole Cat-Cornwall with Children

Review: The Mousehole Cat-Cornwall with Children

I have always had the sneaking suspicion that my cat thinks she owns me and not the other way around.  In the Mousehole Cat, Antonia Barber tells the legend of Tom Bawcock from the perspective of his owner, the cat, Mowzer. Mowzer had “an old cottage with a window overlooking the harbor, an old rocking chair with patchwork cushions, and an old fisherman named Tom.” Tom spent his days in the most useful way possible, catching fish for Mowzer’s who was very particular about his fish.  On Mondays they made morgy-broth, on Tuesdays they baked hake, on Wednesdays they cooked kedgeree, on Thursdays they grilled fairmaids, on Fridays they fried launces, on Saturdays they soused scad and on Sundays, they made star-gazy pie.”  My children were definitely inspired to try different types of fish as we explored old recipes and traditional Cornish fare. Mowzer led an idyllic life, well tended by Tom with no reason to complain.  All was well until one winter there was a terrible storm that did not end as the Great Storm-Cat raged outside of the harbor walls.  With the storm raging, boats couldn’t get in or out and the town slowly ran out of food.  Just before Christmas, Tom talked to Mowzer and told him that “no man can stand by at Christmas and see the children starve.” He would be venturing out to face the storm and catch fish for the town.  Mowzer knows that men are no more than mice in the Great Storm-Cat’s paws and determines to go with him.   They will face the Great Storm-Cat together. Nicola Bayley’s beautiful images of the storm cat playing with boat are beautiful as is the language used to describe the actions of the storm toying with the boat as Mowzer and Tom work to save the town.  Mousehole, Cornwall is a traditional fishing village on the south coast of Cornwall between Penzance and Land’s End.  The Guardian put together a list of things to do in Cornwall with children a few years ago. There’s lots to explore in Cornwall including a castle on the Island of St. Michael’s Mount and a nearby Bronze Age Lanyon Quoit and of course giant sand dunes and caves along the coast with time to stop to try one of Mowzer’s favorite...

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Review: Fly High, Fly Low- San Francisco with children

Review: Fly High, Fly Low- San Francisco with children

 Fly High, Fly Low (50th Anniversary ed.) offers a wonderful tour of San Francisco from a bird’s perspective.  The book opens with pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge, China town, cable cars-there’s even a cable car museum, and Coit tower.  Birds see quite a lot as they fly over a town!  Every morning, the pigeons fly to Union Square park to find breakfast.  After breakfast, they stop by Fisherman’s wharf,  and back through the Golden Gate Bridge before settling down for the evening in the big letter “B” of the Bay Hotel. Everything was going well until the sign was removed with their nest still in it!  Fortunately, Midge was able to alert the movers that her nest was in the letter B, but when Sid came back, there was no sign of his family.  Sid has quite an adventure trying to find his family, sailing over the waterfront, peering from the bridge, when suddenly, he gets stuck in a dense fog (which as everyone knows is not unusual in San Francisco)!  Will Sid ever find Midge? This is a charming book about the search for the perfect home and provides a great tour of the highlights of San Francisco.  It would be a fun adventure to find all of the locations pictured in the book and settle in for a snack at Emporio Rulli Il Caffe at Union...

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Review: Balloons over Broadway-New York with children

Review: Balloons over Broadway-New York with children

Puppets and parades, what’s not to like? Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade  by Melissa Sweet, tells the story of Tony Sarg, the man who created the first balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. In our house, we can certainly relate to kids who are always designing and making things and trying to get out of chores is certainly universal, but I don’t think my son’s inventions have been as practical as Tony’s design for feeding the chickens.  Inspired by the desire to stay in bed longer, Tony rigged pulleys and rope so that he could feed the chickens without getting up.  Our attempts to design things with pulleys and ropes have been entertaining, but not particularly useful! As a grownup, Tony designed amazing marionettes and had a show, “Tony Sarg’s Marionettes,” which traveled throughout the U.S.  Learning of his puppets, Macy’s asked Tony to design puppets for Macy’s holiday windows.  Based on storybook characters, he attached the puppets to gears and pulley’s that made them dance across the windows.  He was then asked to help with the first Macy’s parade which was intended for the employees who missed their own holiday traditions.  Tony created costumes and horse-drawn floats and Macy’s even arranged to bring in animals from the zoo.  The parade was such a success that Macy’s agreed to have one every year.  Each year the parade grew bigger and bigger and eventually some of the live animals were deemed too scary so Macy’s looked around for something to replace the animals, something that would be spectacular. Tony wanted to create puppets for the parade, but his marionettes were little, less than three feet tall, far too small to be used in a parade.  Inspired by Indonesian rod puppets, he deigned air-filled rubber bags that were propped up by wooden sticks.  Big hot air puppets are so standard in large parades now; it’s hard to remember that they’re a relatively recent  invention.  The wooden stick puppets Tony initially designed were a success, but they still weren’t big enough or high enough for the huge crowds to see.  The next year, he designed balloons out of rubberized silk filled with helium, upside...

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