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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Debra Frasier

Books for My Grandbaby and Me

Reading to my GrandbabyIt’s no secret that I am a big fan of books and reading. I am actually an even bigger fan of babies. I am instantly smitten. I can think of nothing better than cuddling an infant, blanketed by that new baby smell, reading to an audience of one. You can imagine how thrilled I am to announce that there’s a new baby in town! My incredible daughter-in-law and son are celebrating the joy of transitioning from loving couple to loving family and I am a first-time grandma.

A sweet, little baby boy (well actually, not so little, with a birth weight of 11 lbs. 12 oz. and length of 24”) to bounce on my knee as we create reading memories together! I’ve looked forward to sharing my passion for literacy with a precious grandbaby for a very long time. And so, with my heart full of  more love than I ever thought possible, I will settle into this esteemed and honorable role as grandma by reaching for a treasured stack of books. Carefully selected books that will begin a lifelong adventure of discovery, wonder, snuggles, and joy. Books filled with lessons for my grandbaby and me!   

Book and Lesson #1: On The Day You Were Born
Books help us celebrate and learn.

On tThe perfect first book to share with my grandbaby offers this sweet greeting: “Welcome to the spinning world… We are so glad you’ve come.” Debra Frasier’s lovely picture book will, without a doubt, become a tradition for us. The miracle of nature explains the miracle of a very special baby’s entrance into the world. Each year on the anniversary of his birth, we will marvel at the universe as it is depicted in page after page of charming nature collages. An extraordinary book to commemorate an extraordinary event in our lives!   

Book and Lesson #2: More! More! More! Said the Baby
Books help us cherish memories from the past and create new ones.

More! More! More! Said the BabyLittle Guy, Little Pumpkin and Little Bird, toddlers from More! More! More! Said the Baby, by Vera B. Williams, bring out the silliness and playful fun that are essential qualities for grandmas and grandpas. After reading this delightful story to my grandson, I will share another story, one about his own dad that I will call “Little Fish.”  Centered on the memory of an energetic, not quite two- year- old, I’ll reminisce and recall the giggles and squealing “I do gan, I do gan” as my son jumped off the dock into the lake, again and again. You can bet that each time I read this book it will be grandma who pleads for “more, more, more” tummy kisses and toe tickles!

Book and Lesson #3: Snowy Day
Books help us find new friends.

The Snowy DayIntroducing my grandson to a curious little boy named Peter will be the beginning of what I hope will be many friendships sprouting from the pages of a good book. While reading Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, we will get to know an adventurer who loves building smiling snowmen and making snow angels. It won’t be long before my grandson and I enjoy winter days doing the same. And though he will be too young to understand the historical significance of this book (considered to be the first full color picture book featuring a child of color as the main character), it will always be a reminder to me about the importance of providing a plethora of books with diverse characters, books that offer “windows and mirrors,” books filled with friends my grandbaby has yet to meet.

Book and Lesson #4: Four Puppies
Books help us understand life and the world around us.

Four PuppiesThis grandma’s “must read to grandbaby booklist” would not be complete without the book that was my very first personal favorite. As a kindergartener, I fell in love with this classic Little Golden Book. My hope is that my grandson will delight in the antics of this rambunctious pack of pups as they learn about the changing seasons. Eventually my special reading buddy and I will talk about the wise red squirrel and the positive life lessons he passes on to his young protégés.    

Book and Lesson #5:
The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear
Books help us have a little fun.

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry BearThis delicious story by Don and Audrey Wood provides another walk down memory lane. It seems like just yesterday when my three-year old preschooler begged for another reading of this highly interactive tale. This time around, I plan to wear a pair of Groucho fuzzy nose and glasses as I read it with my grandbaby. The captivating tale that mixes a bit of fear, mystery, humor, sneakiness and, best of all, sharing with others, will likely find a spot on grandbaby’s “read it again” list!

Book and Lesson #6: The I LOVE YOU Book
Books help us express our feelings.

The I Love You BookUnconditional love is a natural phenomenon for parents and grandparents all over the world. The I Love You Book by Todd Parr describes the powerful, unwavering affection that I will forever feel for this child who has captured my heart. With bright, colorful illustrations, the message is simple: I love you whether silly, sad, scared, or brave. I love you whether sleeping or not sleeping. I love you and I always will, just the way you are!

Once Upon a Time BabyBooks for my grandbaby and me will offer a wide range of lessons on all sorts of topics. However, the greatest gift they will provide is a chance to share meaningful moments, a chance to relive fond memories, a chance to create new memories. Books for my grandbaby and me are a gift that will last a lifetime, a legacy of literacy and love, for my grandbaby and me.

Two of my favorite baby literacy gift sites:

I ordered a personalized copy of On the Day You Were Born with my grandbaby’s name printed on the cover and throughout the book.

Adorable t-shirts for my grandbaby, encouraging literacy and learning

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Molting Advice

Debra FrasierI just survived the Great Blizzard of 2016 from a cabin atop a mountain in western North Carolina. When the snow and wind stopped we emerged into a soft, untouched world. Tall snow-heavy pines. Layers of Blue Ridge mountains now white. Silent.

We shoveled.

Two days later I could finally drive down the mountain to a friend’s home and there, on the twisting creekside road, two red cardinals suddenly crossed in front of my car. Piercing red. An event lasting no longer than two seconds.

I should mention that I am currently artistically lost. Me, who once gave lectures on what to do when lost. I am more than lost. Psychically molting, I am the lobster who has outgrown a shell and shivers naked behind the coral arch, waiting for something dreadful to happen, or, in more hopeful moments, the caterpillar turned to mush with absolutely no brain to even invent a conception of the future. Every assured being amazes me—tree, bird, human—how can anything have such strength, bones, shell, wings, purpose?

Debra Frasier letter forms

Those two seconds of red birds flashing magic in front of my car’s first post-blizzard trip pierce this mush. But, I argue, what will it possibly matter if I try to put words to this tiny, tiny, startling moment?

Cardinals’ wings cross,
quick red threads stitch tree to tree
on snowbed’s white quilt.

Later, THIS quote crosses my Facebook (oh, inadequacy!) feed:

“The world is full of magic things
patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”  
W.B. Yeats

In the dark the mush tremors slightly.

So I try again:

Startled red wings cross—
two sudden cardinal threads
stitching winter’s quilt.

Yes. Yeats speaks to ME on Facebook, of all godforsaken places.
Artist wakes artist.

I suddenly realize:
This is what we do to form the long bucket brigade to save each other.

Red flashes, flick, flick,
Two cardinal threads cross-stitch
The slow falling snow.

Debra Frasier Calligraphy

This is the advice I heard deep inside the molting mush: forget everything, every longing for meaning or contribution, for riches, for applause. Simply do this:

Grow your senses sharper.

Yeats told me. On Facebook.

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Skinny Dip with Debra Frasier

ph_orangesWhat is your favorite holiday tradition:

When I was fourteen years old I assumed the role of Christmas Ambrosia Maker in my southern-novel of a family. I was the youngest appointee, ever, and surprising, as it requires welding a very sharp serrated knife, but I had a knack for it. We were a “fruit-rich” family due to a small, scraggly orange grove west of Vero Beach, FL. You needed to be fruit-rich because my family ambrosia method requires cutting deep into the naval skin to not only remove the white pith, but to also cut into the tiny juicy orange cells, leaving a little ribbon of actual orange on the spiral skin. This is why our ambrosia is better than any other you will taste. Ever. But. You need a lot of oranges for this method.

When I was sixteen, and had faithfully repeated the recipe for two years, I removed the traditional canned pineapple. Scandal! There were arched eyebrows from my grandmother. When I was seventeen, I removed the coconut, and my mother raised her eyebrows. But once the knife had been passed, it turned out you can do what you want, my first taste of family matriarchal power. Now we have ambrosia just how I like it: plain, un-doctored naval oranges in a brimming bowl. And I now add finely chopped mint. My daughter will probably remove it one day.

Long answer to a short question.

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s challenge?

My teachers loved me because I was a perfectionist amid a pack of wild Florida boys. In those days we received paper report cards where teachers could write, in gorgeous script, comments for each child. A reoccurring comment was: “Debbie is an excellent student however she is very hard on herself.”

Little did I know that this would be the report card for my life…

What was the first book report you ever wrote?

bk_YearlingI don’t remember my first book report but I remember Book Reports. I always drew the cover and an illustration in a carefully measured box. My favorite book was read aloud in the fourth grade by a long-term substitute. It was a desperate attempt to control an unruly class—and it worked miraculously well: The Yearling, by Marjorie Kennan Rawlings, trumped 25 Florida ruffians committed to ruining a substitute’s life. My report on the book was filled with pictures of fawns, curled in the Florida scrub, and bounding in the cabin yard. This book changed my life forever, as hearing it kept the divorce–wracked world at bay, and I realized that stories were the ultimate magic, some kind of medicine for the heart.

Do you like to gift-wrap presents?

When I was growing up wrapping presents was considered An Art. I was taught to carefully fold tucked in corners, and to make sure the scotch tape was perpendicular to the gift’s base line. My mother, somehow, got on the mailing list for the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog. She could never have afforded to order anything but she studied the wrapping methods in the over-the-top section. I remember one particular wrapping that she showed me with such amazement: Take ten cashmere sweaters, each a different bright color. Find a very tall glass container, preferably shaped like a fountain soda glass. Lay each sweater in the glass so as to appear to be a layer of ice cream. Add a bow to the base, and save a white sweater for the whipped-cream top.

So, yes, I grew up loving to wrap presents, wrapped at a department store for a teen job, and now…am the worst present-wrapper you ever met. Sloppy, I use recycled paper and bags, and never match my corners. What happened?! But I STILL often think about my mother’s delight in the ice cream glass filled with cashmere sweaters—

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year old self?

Laugh more. I was a serious child, and had this thing for doing everything too, too perfectly. The report cards were right: Lighten up, for heaven’s sake, Debra! But I could tell myself that TODAY, too!

What 3 children’s book authors or illustrators or editors would you like to invite to dinner?

OK, defying The Rules of Time my guests would be: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, after orange season so she is relaxed and she can bring Max Perkins as her date, Ursula Nordstrom, after finishing Carrot Seed with Ruth Krauss so she is pleased as punch, and Ursula LeGuin, so things are always looking forward with her remarkable mind and its insistence on recognizing the feminine in us all.

Let’s make the dinner in NYC, somewhere street level, with red leather booths but we take the round table in the window, beneath the tied back drapes…Candles on the table, wine ordered.

bk_spike_228Where’s your favorite place to read?

My favorite place to read has more to do with time than place—I most like to read wherever I feel there is space, psychic space, I mean. I love to read, for example, when traveling, especially in the air if it is not bumpy. There is a lot of psychic space in an airplane, untethered to all those strings below. I also have a little sleeping loft in a North Carolina cabin that you get to by a rope suspended ladder—perfect reading space, and once again, up high, always summer, always untethered. But if I waited for an airplane or summer, I’d never read, so I squeeze reading into a lot of odd spaces: before sleep, waiting in lines, over lunch, in my studio…In later life I have developed a severe addiction to narrative so I have to ration myself or I will stay up all night trying to find out the age old question’s answer: What happens NEXT? At night I have to read only cookbooks because it does not matter so much what happens next and I can turn the light off at a sensible time and go to sleep. Seriously. It’s a problem.

 

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Traveling In-Word

For this week’s writing road trip, I journeyed to the Alphabet Forest. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting, the Alphabet Forest is the remarkable creation of author/illustrator/innovator Debra Frasier, who through pure passion and persistence, managed to carve out an oasis for words in the midst of the consumable craziness that is the Minnesota State Fair.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the State Fair. I just don’t think of it as a place to sit quietly and muse deeply. And yet, Debra’s love of fair lettering started her on a journey that led to creating this enchanted place: in the midst of sunburn, sore feet, and stomach aches, here is a corner where there’s shade and plenty of places to sit down and people who offer you fun for free. But better yet, there are words enough to stuff your imagination even more than those mini donuts have already stuffed your stomach.

Lisa Bullard

Last year, I watched as my niece ignored every other fair offering (okay, with the exception of that giant brownie) as she obsessively filled out her Fabulous Fair Alphabet Game Card. This year, I had the pleasure of serving as author-in-residence at the Alphabet Forest for a day. I worked with oodles of kids who settled in at my table and promptly became utterly absorbed in writing or drawing. It didn’t matter that the parade was passing them by (literally!) and that there were still corndogs and cotton candy to be eaten: when given the option, their number one priority was to lose themselves in the creative act.

It reminded me, all over again, why I do what I do: giving kids the gift of words and story is like handing them the magic key to life. Even kids who think they hate reading and writing can be won over easily once you find the right key for them. A forest full of words can beat a clutch of corndogs any day.

If you’re near Minnesota, and you’re going to the fair, you can be inspired with ideas for how to create an Alphabet Forest in your own classroom or dining room. If not, there are a myriad of amazing downloadable resources to help you, starting at this link and moving on from there to Debra Frasier’s website.

You’ll be mighty glad you made the journey.

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Gifted: Spike, Ugliest Dog in the Universe

Spike, Ugliest Dog in the Universe Debra Frasier, author and illustrator Beach Lane Books, October 2013 Ever since I saw my 10-year-old niece pose in front of the television, trying to imitate the supermodels at the end of the runway, my awareness of the beauty culture in this country has been acute. We took her […]

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Controlled vocabulary

These two words always make me shudder. I know there are sound pedagogical reasons for this concept, but it arouses images of fences and cattle prods and all matter of uncomfortable constraints. Vocabulary is the last thing we should control. One of my earliest memories is walking around the house repeating a word over and […]

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