27 years ago today, just off the coast of the island of Enoshima, Japan, I was surfing. It was mid-morning and there was a typhoon swell activating a seldom-surfed break. I caught a few waves that day. and recall eyeing the grilled octopus while walking past the shops to my home a few blocks inland. Work began in a couple hours and I needed to sip some miso soup before jumping on a train.
About half-way home, I ran into a fellow american. He talked about the NBA rookie, Shaquille O’Neal. “Unbelievable. Seven feet tall and quick as a cat.” As we parted he called out “Happy Thanksgiving.”
It was Thanksgiving. I had no idea.
On the train that whisked me off to work that afternoon, I read a book by an author, whose writing resonates with me to this day: Haruki Murakami. I was interrupted when one of my students and her eight-year-old daughter saw me from across the aisle. We visited. They asked me about my family. “It must be hard to be so far away from your mom and dad?” “I have a sister also” I said. “And my grandmother lives with my parents.”
That day in class, I taught a lesson on the Thanksgiving holiday, turkey and pie. And I asked about the Japanese holiday traditions. At the end of class, we went around the room saying what we were thankful for. One man said he was thankful for his mother, who had died from cancer earlier in the year.
I am thankful for so many of you: family, friends, pleasant memories of that mother and daughter on the train, my former students, even Shaquille O’Neal.
And as Haruki Murakami put it:
“Everything passes. Nobody gets anything for keeps. And that’s how we’ve got to live.”
The Book Detective
One of my favorite new shows is called “The Book Detective” It is an author’s presentation about “Zar and the Broken Spaceship” that I developed while working with the Brooklyn Public Library in New York. The show engages children while teaching them to analyze the 5 W’s and discern the differences between fiction and non-fiction.
The show is wonderfully interactive, flexible enough for even Kindergarten students, and is especially suited for elementary schools, authors’ fairs and book festivals.
“Out of this World” Summer Tour – 2019
We travelled to California, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas; and presented exactly 100 shows in June, July and August.
Kid’s like Mika from Portland, who drew the picture of Zar the Space Alien, and Danny from Kansas City, who colored it, were genuinely appreciative.
“Learning hasn’t been this groovy since School House Rock.”
- School Library Journal
Zar and the Broken Spaceship review
Zar and the Broken Spaceship just got a shout-out from Kids Rhythm and Rock. We tested Zar at library story-times because, despite my years of experience working with children, I am still occasionally surprised by what garners a strong reaction from four-year-olds. As a result, the edits made a big difference for group presentations.
Here’s a snippet from the article:
“One of the librarians who works with me has been using this book in her preschool visits this winter. The fun, interactive aspects of the story have made it such a hit with the preschoolers that it quickly became the finale of each story time.”
Here’s the link to the full article.
February 13, 2017
I will be visiting St. Peter’s Early Childhood Learning Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
Last year St. Peter’s began a new tradition. The 8th graders were asked to join our audience and sit with the preschool students. The four-year-olds had a wonderful time while unwittingly giving the thirteen year olds permission to be little kids again. And the teens took full advantage of it in the best way possible: helping the preschoolers count on their fingers, fixing Zar’s spaceship, handing out imaginary high-five pizzas, and even puppeteering a story about little monsters under the bed.
During adolescence, we are often at our most vulnerable. Hormones change our bodies and intensify our feelings. The teachers at St. Peter’s created a “Win-Win” when they asked the 8th graders to help during the Dino show. It’s heartening when a school goes out of it’s way to foster an environment that allows their students to connect. St. Peter’s eight graders didn’t learn anything that could be measured on a test, but they did feel the wide-eyed adoration of the youngsters in their community. And the next time that the preschool kids see the 8th graders in the hallway, instead of being scared by their loud voices and large presence, they will have fond memories of how fun and caring these teen-agers can be.