Archive | April, 2013

Illustrator Crushes

30 Apr

I love children’s books. And though I hate to admit it, my love does not come from a place as a parent where life lessons are passed down to my children through books, it is because they are pretty. Sure there are stories that are great and sweet and charming. Sure there are children’s book authors out there who work hard at creating a story that draws young readers in, but for me it is all about the pictures. They are not just a complement to a story, but bring the story to life for children who cannot read. Once they grow up into readers it is all about the author, but until then the illustrator is king/queen.

Illustrators hold a special place in my heart. They add danger and darkness (ala Edward Gorey) or lightness and humor (Laura Cornell) to what would otherwise be scribbles on a page (we are still talking about non-reading children, so don’t jump down my throat). Some of my favorite illustrators are authors themselves: Shirley Hughes, Mercer Mayer, David Shannon.

Astrix and Obliex Comics

Astrix and Obliex Comics

My bookshelves are lined with children’s books, that I am ashamed to say my children will not and do not touch. They are off-limits, collector’s items, all based around the pictures that are held within. If the story is good enough to share, most of the time I end up buying them their own copy so that my childhood and adult memories are kept safe from grubby little hands.

Recently my father dug into his collection, because of course this crazy behavior of keeping “special” books from your children had to have been passed down from somewhere, and pulled out a copy of Astrix and Obliex and handed it to my daughter. I was so happy about seeing the comic that I nearly snatched it out of her hand.

These comics, and other odd ball illustrations my dad would let me take a peek at, were the beginnings of my love affair with illustrators. On second thought, some of those “illustrations” were not kid-friendly, but that’s just a side note and tells you my parents also passed down poor judgment on to me. It takes time and great talent to draw the same thing over and over and make it look interesting. The slightest placement of an or eyebrow could change the whole course of the story. Now looking back on it I can’t recall even if these comics were funny or even interesting (I have a funny feeling they might have been racist even, well I went on to marry a black man so they didn’t do their job in instilling hate) beyond the illustrations.

And that’s just it, and maybe I am flawed since I am a writer and should pay attention to stuff like this, in the end it is not the words that stood out with me as a child but it was the pictures. It is that in which my tastes in aesthetics have been formed. Through reading hundreds of children’s books as child, my tastes in art and how the world should appear to me was formed by the picture books that I was drawn to. I will forever be thankful for illustrators to adding a bit of color and odd humor (and maybe a splash of sexism and racism for perspective, we all need that right?) to my life.


Fear Factor: Will My Kid’s Lunch Kill Someone?

9 Apr

I have learned over the years there are many ways to make yourself feel like crappy parent. Locking your baby in the car along with the keys in the front seat… more than once. Rolling up the windows on your child’s hand. Laughing at them when the cry. And the one I just can’t shake the habit of, mocking them when they are whining. All equally can add up to some way tarnishing your child’s emotional development, but I just say “add it to the therapy bill” (because I am tough as nails!) But what if you kill your child’s classmate?


Accident waiting to happen or just an innocent sandwich? Image by

Not in a Dexter kind of way, but by packing something in their lunch that causes the kid to have an allergic reaction.

This is my biggest fear. That one day my daughter will reach into her lunch box and pull out a banished food item that I have totally forgotten about (etc. citrus), and the kid next to her drops dead. And my kid is watching the whole thing go down, traumatized.

According to the CDC  4 out of every 100 kids suffers from a food allergy, and out of that number nearly 90 percent of food allergies are caused by milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. That is just mind boggling to me. There is death (well if not death at least a mean case of the hives) lurking in every lunchbox.

If you have kids you know where this fear lies. Every classroom at my child’s school has a sign declaring if it is a “Nut-Free Zone”. We have been to birthday parties with egg-free cupcakes. And not to mention the “talk” at every back-to-school night about proper lunch items and what is not allowed.

Normally I am really good about this. I happened to grow up around people with food allergies and I am not one of those crazed parents who is going to create an all out war on the kid with the nut allergy because I am inconvenienced by getting creative when it comes to a bag lunch. So today when my 7-year-old daughter came home an lectured me about the nuts that were in her leftover Chinese food I felt like a crappy parent and automatically went into a mental freak out of how I have once more harmed my child’s mental growth by killing off a kid (0r kids) in her class. I my mind I had basically murdered a child in front of my own child. God help me!

But in all reality nothing happened… this time.  In the end I figured this is one more reason my daughter should pack her own lunch. She would not willingly off one of her classmates, like her absent minded mother would. And it helps takes one more thing off the list of being a crappy parent, now I can peacefully go back to mocking her while she whines about how her little brother getting everything and is loved more.