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Wednesday, January 25, 2012



As a summer kid, I always envied all those other kids whose moms would bring homemade cakes or cupcakes to school on their birthdays. We'd get to take a break from times tables or spelling tests and sing to the kid who was suddenly our class's closest thing to a celebrity.

Also, we'd have that weird world-collision of seeing that kid who was just a kid, just a friend or even not-friend -- with his or her MOM (I don't think a dad ever came; it was the 70s but still -- and also in the 70s "homemade" meant from a box mix rather than from the A&P. In the interests of full disclosure.)

Seeing a kid in class but with her -- or even weirder, since I didn't know many of the boys' moms -- his mom was jarring. Kids who seemed independent, big, even scary, were suddenly just little kids with their moms in the room. You'd see the mom smiling at the kid so lovingly and then look over at the kid she was glittering her eyes at -- that kid?! That's your BABY? Who you LOVE? Really?

It was odd and sweet and even if it was a little embarrassing to wear the classroom crown and have everybody see your MOM kiss you on your hair -- I wanted that. But there was no school on July 25. Ever.

So when my younger son was born July 28, I knew he was destined for the same awesome summertime celebrations, the glory of being a Leo -- and the lack-of-mom-in-school-on-birthday sadness.


Destiny's destiny is to be derailed.

I decided we'd celebrate half-birthdays in school. I started bringing half-cakes, with half paper plates and napkins cut in half, to school for him in nursery school. Now he's in seventh grade, though, where that will not fly.

But perhaps I will make a half-cake tonight for dinner and celebrate with the family. My guys are always up for a celebration. Especially if there is cake involved.

The other half of the day I will spend revising the book currently staring me down.

And hanging with the tortoise.

Maybe I'll call my mom, too. 

What'll you do today?

Hope it's fun.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Sometimes all a kid needs

Sometimes all a kid needs to feel powerful and huge

                                                  is for somebody to see that he already is.

or, other times, maybe he needs
to climb on a tree and show his massive muscles, with the sun setting behind him

or maybe that's not what my son was doing, or feeling, or needing at all.

Maybe he was being a warrior, or a mountain lion, or just checking out the view
or dancing to the music in his head
or testing the muck beneath his boots
or something else entirely.

Maybe it was just me who had the need,
and seeing him so big -- and so little -- against the horizon,
through my camera lens
suddenly separate and far from me
and seeing him run there, his back to me,
watching how he fit into the natural world so perfectly.
Maybe really that was what I needed:
to see him like that
perfect, strong, independent, joyous
and then to see him run, again
back to me
to see how I had seen him

Or maybe it was just a happy day
and today is happy in the remembering of it

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A starred review for PIGGY BUNNY!

I just got this by email -- a starred review for PIGGY BUNNY!:

 This review will appear in the February 2012 issue of BCCB. 


Vail, Rachel Piggy Bunny; illus. by Jeremy Tankard. Feiwel, 2012 [32p] ISBN 978-0-312-64988-3 $14.99
Reviewed from galleys     R* 5-7 yrs
“All the other piglets wanted to be pigs when they grew up. Liam wanted to be the Easter Bunny.” That’s a peculiar and lofty ambition for anybody, let alone a young pig, and Liam’s perplexed immediate family tries to point him toward pragmatism (“‘You are a piglet,’ said Liam’s big sister. ‘Deal with it’”). It’s Liam’s grandparents who heroically defend his dream (“They just have the imagination of a kumquat, the lot of them,” sniffs his grandmother), rustle him up a bunny suit (“We will order one on the Internet”), and see him through to the fulfillment of his fantasy. Vail’s high-spirited and highly comedic text just begs for a whole-souled readaloud with rich vocal characterization that’ll make the most of both the humor and the touches of poignancy (“This is the kind of problem,” sighs Liam, “that is called heartbreaking”). It’s a hilariously absurd story about a pig, but it’s also a cheerful championing of the kind of role play for which “pretend” seems a dismissive term and which sees little kids wearing their superhero capes to the supermarket; even beyond that, it’s a subtle reassurance about finding workable ways to explore a dream or an identity that may seem initially impossible. Tankard, author-illustrator of Grumpy Bird (BCCB 3/07), employs thickly solid yet fluid brushstrokes in figures that have a touch of Japanese graphic flavor in their streamlined cuteness; digital color makes the piglets a luscious pink that stands out against gently patterned tone-on-tone backgrounds in stripes and spots. This will be an enjoyably loopy and stealthily reassuring readaloud any time of the year, and it would make a terrifically offbeat Easter entry. Oink.  DS

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Piggy Bunny MOVIE!

Look what Jeremy Tankard made!


Every time I look at little Liam's earnest face, I fall in love with that little piggy bunny all over again.

School Visits

I just got back from visiting 2 schools in Manhasset, NY today. I visited with over 200 third graders -- they were AWESOME. So full of ideas and enthusiasm. Thanks, all of you! Here they are.

(Okay, you can see why I did not become a professional photographer.)

Aren't they adorable?

I shared lots of secrets with them about my past adventures, current stories, and books coming out soon... and they shared some eavesdropping secrets with me, too! I'm not saying anything specific, just a word of warning to my fellow parents out there: Watch out -- they are ALWAYS listening!!! Yikes!

Thanks for a wonderful day, kids and faculty -- and parents of third graders across Manhasset: congratulations on how terrifically engaged your kids are.

As promised, here's the link for anyone who wants to purchase a personally inscribed, autographed copy of JUSTIN CASE (or any of my other books) by ordering from Bank Street Bookstore: just click here!

Rachel Vail