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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: 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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Review: Madeline-Paris with children

Review: Madeline-Paris with children

“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.”  Who doesn’t remember the opening lines of this childhood favorite?  Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans was first published in 1939 and four of the six original stories are set in Paris.  They are perfect for creating a tour and an introduction to some of the most popular sites in the city. In the original, Madeline, the twelve little girls in two straight lines leave the house at half past nine in rain or shine. Even a case of appendicitis doesn’t interrupt their routine much.   On their walks, you see the Eiffel Tower, the Opera, the Place Vendome, The Hotel des Invalides, Notre Dame, the Garden at Luxembourg, the Church of the Sacre Coeur, the Tuilleries Gardens and the Louvre.  The rhyming language is great for younger children and Madeline is very easy to relate to.  In Madeline’s Rescue, Madeline manages to fall into the Seine, much to the horror of Miss Clavel, the nun in charge of the girls.  Fortunately she is rescued by a quick thinking dog, but there is only one dog and 12 little girls.  Needless to say, there is more than enough love for the dog to go around!  Unfortunately, the board of trustees does not approve of pets and the dog must be sent away.  The girls aren’t willing to settle for that, and as soon as the trustees leave they all go looking all over the city for Genevieve without any luck.  Distraught, they return to the school; but late that night Genevieve shows up with her own surprise. Instead of going for an unexpected swim in the Seine like Madeline, we’d recommend a boat tour.  There are lots of options ranging from short tours to longer dinner cruises and a range of prices for different budgets.  Madeline falls into the Seine from Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris with a view of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in the background.  Madeline is carried past the Institute de France which houses the Académie Française, Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, Académie des Sciences, and Académie des Beaux-Arts.  When looking for Genevieve, they walk up to Montmartre.  They pass Les Deux Magots (which still exists),...

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Review: Anatole-Paris with children

Review: Anatole-Paris with children

“In all France there was no happier, more contented mouse than Anatole.”  Anatole has his friends, his family, and his nightly foraging.  What more could a mouse ask for?  Then, one evening he overhears humans complaining about mice, “[t]hey are a disgrace to France…To be a mouse is to be a villain!”  He is absolutely distraught to learn that mice are unwanted; his pride is wounded and he is determined to redeem the reputation of mice, or at least salvage his honor!  He decides to find some way to give back for the food they take. The next night, he excuses himself from the daily foraging and stops at the Duval cheese factory.  Sliding under the door of the cheese-tasting room he sets to work.  He carefully tries each cheese and on each one he leaves a little note with suggestions for improvement. After all, who would know better than a mouse how a cheese should taste?  He has pre-typed signs that say things like “good, ‘specially good, not so good, and no good” and to each sign he adds a note -“needs more salt, “add more goat’s milk,” or “add some more orange peel.” Each cheese gets a sign, and with a feeling of satisfaction, he heads home. The next day, everyone at the factory is surprised by the signs, but, following the directions, they change the cheese recipes and soon business improves beyond their wildest imagination. But Anatole is a mystery to the factory.  Who is he? Mr. Duval desperately wants to find and reward the mysterious Anatole.  Will Mr. Duval find out that it’s a mouse leaving the note? What will he do?  You’ll have to read the rest of the story to find out and discover if Anatole’s identity remains a secret! Anatole written by Eve Titus with illustrations by Paul Galdone is such a great story and it’s one we’ve read over and over again.  If you’re planning a trip to France, it’s a perfect introduction to the idea that there are lots of cheeses out there (besides cheddar), with more than 500 recognized cheeses in France alone.  Anatole’s tasting adventures at the Duval factory would be a great idea for introducing your little one to...

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