Book Review: Abby’s Adventures “Picture Day and the Missing Tooth”

"Picture Day...and the Missing Tooth!" by Suzanne Ridolfi

Meet Abby. She is the newest character to come out of Eifrig Publishing, an independent book publisher with a reputation for being a great place to find books that build up a girl’s self-esteem and positive body image. Abby wants kids to know, “It’s okay to be me!”.

Author Suzanne Ridolfi created the Abby’s Adventures series, which can help your kids counteract the effects of the media, build resilience and self-acceptance, and start each day feeling good about themselves!

Abby is a first grade girl with a creative mind and good heart, she just sometimes needs help along the way her way through some of childhood’s difficult moments. There are four stories in the Abby series, each one leaving you and your kids with positive lesson to reflect back on. The illustrations are adorable, and really bring Abby and her friends to life.

My family received “Picture Day…and the Missing Tooth!” right before our kindergartner Amelia was set to take her school picture. Amelia had lost three front teeth over the summer, while many of her friends had still not lost their first tooth. She was a little nervous about taking her picture, but her dad and I assured her, the more holes the better. In “Picture Day”, Abby feels the same way so her mom shares with her the baby album that shows Abby how much she has changed over the years, and how awesome it is to enjoy the different stages of growing up. Abby learns that true beauty comes from within.

Don’t miss the new Christmas book in the Abby series: “Christmas Carol…and Little Miss Scrooge”.

Abby shows kids how to be full of awesome!

Book Review: The Happiest Mom

"The Happiest Mom" by Meagan Francis

I view motherhood as a privilege. I think it is very special to be responsible for two little people, and show them what life is all about. I had a hard time getting pregnant, difficult pregnancies, and childbirth was no picnic. So while I don’t necessarily enjoy making humans, I really enjoy raising them. I think kids, especially mine, are fantastic.

Most of the time.

Mommyhood is, well, really hard work. I’ve been known to say it is a ‘no bullshitter’. But being a mom means you get to experience childhood all over again, this time through the eyes of the tiny people you love the most. At what other time in life do you get to be wildly excited about things as amazing as the Tooth Fairy, googly-eye art projects, new sneakers, and learning something new every day?

The trick, of course, is for parents to find a way to enjoy the hard work and not lose yourself during the years of diaper changes and midnight feedings and runny noses and sibling fights and dinner needing to be made. Moms need a way to find the joy, and put the nitty gritty stuff into perspective.

I love Meagan Francis’ book “The Happiest Mom: 10 Secrets to Enjoying Motherhood”. It is a fun and quick read, which is perfect for moms who need some reflection without having a lot of time to do it. Her chapters are full of really sound advice, and it should be noted that Meagan is a mom of five, so this gal knows a thing or two about raising a crew of kids. As Meagan says, “We can learn to deal with the hard stuff, let go of what doesn’t matter, and enjoy our lives as mothers.”

“The Happiest Mom” is simple, honest, and funny. I think that is a spot-on description for a great mom, too. Simple. Honest. Funny.

Whether you are a seasoned veteran mom, a new mom, or a mom who knows someone about to have a baby, I think y’all should grab this book and make a commitment to be happy.

*Excellent baby shower gift!*

Mommy, 0, Scholastic, 1: The Story of a Princess Book

**A Guest Post by Sue Carney, mother and director of Targeting Teens – a group that looks at teen marketing and media literacy.**

Mommy, 0: Scholastic, 1

 I tried, really I did, but I think we can label this as #parentfail. 

We’ve done the Scholastic book fairs before, in preschool.  It was very controlled.  I went in with the kids and my checkbook and thus had veto power over their choices.  If I’m paying (and even if I’m not,) I prefer them to choose real books, not ads for movies and products that I find unhealthy disguised as age-appropriate reading material.

Silly me, I thought kindergarten would be the same.  We would go as a family on Parent’s Night, choose books together, go home and read together, and bond over our mutual love of healthy, inspirational literary choices.

Ha!

No excuse, but she caught me in a perfect storm.  I had forgotten to discuss my “family night” vision with her, and I am sick in bed with what I am certain must be pleurisy.  It’s almost 8pm, she’s had her bath, and she’s kissing me goodnight.  She asks if she can have money for Book Day tomorrow.

“We’re going to go as a family on parent’s night, and we can all pick the books together.  How about that?”

“But mom, if I don’t have money for books, I have to stay in the classroom and do coloring pages!”

I don’t know what to say.  I am too sick to think clearly.

“Well,” she says sadly. “I do like to color.”

“OK,” I cave. “But I don’t want you choosing any princess books.”  Left to run wild in the elementary school library, she had been bringing home, on average, a princess book a week.  It was getting old.

“OK, Mommy.”

And that is how Megan wound up going to school with ten dollars in an envelope that was clearly marked with her name and the words “No princess books.” 

It was at this point that I guess I should have reiterated clearly my reasons for the “No princess books” dictum.  But I was sleepy and sick, and at the moment, it seemed like just saying that was enough.

After school I say excitedly, “How was the book fair?  Can I see what you picked out?”

“You aren’t going to like it.” My husband warns.

“Oh no.  Princess books?”

I look inside her bag.  She bought a book about a group of fairies and one called “Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale”

The fairy one is passable.  It’s about a group of friends who are trying to reunite a baby unicorn with its mother.  OK, at least the fairies are doing something.  Barbie, however, I want to rip to shreds right there.  Some fashion-industry storyline, and punch out paper dolls with waists so thin their organs would not even fit into their bodies.  Their legs are so long and stick thin I’m not sure how they support themselves.  Of course their heads are disproportionately huge, Bratz style, to appeal to little girls.  They get their man in the end.  Of course they do!  What else would they have as a goal besides fashion superiority and boy-catching? The cover is pink and sparkly.  Naturally.  That’s how they sucked my daughter in.  She can’t really read yet.  She didn’t browse through this book to see what it was about.  She saw the cover and she was hooked.

I know my issue is with the school, the librarian, with Scholastic, with every person along the train that got this book into my daughter’s five year old hands.  I’ve known about these types of problems with Scholastic for years.  I know I need to teach my daughter media literacy, but she can’t be solely responsible for making sure she has appropriate reading material when crap like this is being flashed at her in a sparkly pink package.  Do I complain to the librarian?  I already had to email her once this year, when my 5 year old son came home with a Star Wars book that contained themes (such as assassins, strangling, dying babies and other fun stuff) that I thought was way uncool for a boy who hides his face in the curtains when we watch, well, almost anything that he deems has a “bad guy” in it.  She could put a flag on Jake’s account, she said, so he wouldn’t be able to get any more Star Wars books.  OK, but that seemed to be missing part of the point.  I know we are numbing our kids to violence right and left in our culture, but in a SCHOOL LIBRARY?  No other parent has ever voiced a concern, she said.  That was almost more frightening.

So, I can complain again.  Or I can get into it with Scholastic, except that my neighbor is a Scholastic rep, and do I really need to be not only the school complainer but the neighborhood complainer as well?  I will, for my kids, but is ANYONE else concerned about this, I wonder?  I post my woes on my Facebook page, and while I get some support from my peeps, others tell me to, basically, lighten up, she’s only five.  Lighten up?  How much clearer can I be with people about why a Barbie book is not really a book but an advertisement for a product that contributes to body image problems in girls?  Body image problems which, by the way, are a MAJOR source of stress for adolescents, as I read in at least two published studies this week.  Higher than bullying.  Higher than drugs.  Body image.  Yes, really.

Barbie has been around for ages and isn’t going anywhere.  I get it.  I’m not trying to ban anything, and we probably even have a Barbie or two in the bottom of a toybox somewhere.  But in a book?  Somehow, I expect books, libraries, schools, to be better.  Especially when parents aren’t there to draw limits, except for a hastily scrawled “No princess books” on the money envelope.  There are other choices available.  I do expect better.

So ultimately, no matter how many people I speak to or letters I write, I need to teach my daughter, so she doesn’t feel that she did something wrong by picking out a book Mommy doesn’t like.  And so that when she doesn’t choose a princess book or a Barbie book, it’s not just because Mommy doesn’t like them.  So here goes:

“Do you know why Mommy doesn’t like the Barbie book?”

“No.”

“Well, Barbie is too skinny, and she doesn’t look like a real girl.  And all she cares about is being pretty and getting a boyfriend.  I know girls are interested in so many other things.  It doesn’t seem like Barbie is a real girl.  She’s just a doll.  I’d rather that you read stories about real girls.”

Megan looks confused.  I don’t know if I am on track or if I have completely run off the rails. 

“I can take my book back and get another one,” she offers.  She knows I am disappointed, I only hope she knows I am not disappointed with her.

My heart breaks.  “That’s OK baby.  We’ll just pick something different next time.”

“At the next book fair, I won’t get princesses or Barbie.”

“OK,” I say, feeling like I have just cancelled Christmas.  “Megan, can you tell me something?  Can you tell me why you picked out this Barbie book in the first place?  What did you like about it?”

“It has a pretty cover,” she says.

I rest my case.