Book of the month: Escargot

I love to share what brings me great joy and delight.  As an avid reader of picture books (it comes with the parenting territory), I occasionally find a great one I want to shout about from the rooftops.  So this year, I’m going to bring you a picture book review each month of something that I (as a parent, former Montessori preschool teacher and aspiring picture book author) truly recommend.  So here is my first review/recommendation for 2020.

As winter blues, cold and flu kick into high gear, a little way to combat these downers is a natural pick-me-up: laughter.  It is an antidote to stress and discomfort. Tastes in humor vary widely, so I can’t guarantee my recommendations will align with yours, but I have recently encountered what I consider to be an absolute gem in the picture book world.  

escargotEscargot (2017), written by Dashka Slater and illustrated by Sydney Hanson, makes adults laugh as much if not more than children.  And even if it doesn’t entice laughter, it will leave you speaking a little French  “Ooh la la”  and probably craving salad.

Written in the speak-to-the-audience style popularized by the Pigeon books by Mo Willems, Escargot is the story of a self-loving, carrot-loathing snail en route to enjoying a salad.  The audience/reader is invited to interact, from making fierce faces to answering Escargot’s handful of questions (is your favorite animal the earwig or wildebeest?).  This androgynous main character is engaging for girls and boys. Modeling healthy social skills such as good sportsmanship, self-confidence, interest in others and even some vulnerability, the reasons to love this book are vast.   For as masterfully as Slater’s writing is, Hanson’s illustrations are equally delightful. Her colorful renderings take the reader on a mouth-watering tour across a picnic table filled with olives, cheeses, and of course, salad. Making a snail lovable in text and picture is no small feat.

This book begs to be read with a French accent, the worse the accent, the more you will laugh at yourself or whoever is reading, so don’t be shy, give it your best effort.  Targeted for the 4-8 year old audience, my 2 year old daughter and 44 year old husband love this book; it truly speaks to all ages. It engages the older reader with its francophilial flare and absurdity, the young audience with opportunities to interact with the “beautiful’’ and charming Escargot.

Next time you are looking for a good bedtime story, need a gift for a young child, or just want a light-hearted escape from a dreary day, you need look no further than Escargot.

 

Where Do You Focus Your Sights?

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” 

Charles Dickens

Sometimes we have seasons of change, other times are more “things as usual.”  Just as life starts to settle, there often seems to be a wave that brings up an “opportunity for growth” as I like to call it, i.e. a challenge.   

The past few months have brought an interesting new wave of challenge into my life: terrorists- literally on my doorstep.  I have found it to be a teachable moment: I’m learning a lot about how to decide when and where I put my attention.  It has been a strange mix-up of my home being misidentified as the home of someone who has upset a host of terrorist groups.  They are trying to intimidate him by stalking and posting (online) suggestions of harming my family’s home (which they believe belongs to this disrupter).  

So what does one do when your home and family are threatened by terrorists?  Well, there are a lot of ways to go, but human nature is fight or flight.  My initial impulse is to sit in fear and self-pity.  What does that accomplish though?  I started to reflect on all the people who don’t just live in fear of intimidation but who live with frequent violence in their own homes, neighborhoods and towns.

I thought about people who are mistreated simply for the color of their skin.  Listening to recent stories of Jews being the targeted has made my heart ache for them with a newly heightened sense of empathy.  Then there are the millions of refugees and migrants who brave life-threatening journeys to escape extreme abuse and poverty.  

My current conclusion: overall, I have a really great life and a lot to feel grateful for.  Does the posed threat of my home burning down and losing my children sink in? Painfully so.  But then I remind myself: I still have healthy children, a loving marriage, a home, food and so much more to appreciate.  You never know how long things will last, so embrace them while you have them.

As you embark into the future, perhaps you’ll ask yourself with me:

What do I want to focus on: the light, the dark, or the whole picture?20191127_090456

And while I recommend taking a moment each day for a gratitude practice, if you are ever feeling sad, angry or fearful, that is an especially helpful time to take a few minutes to ponder:

What do I have to feel grateful for right now?