The Boy from the Sun

The Summer is coming to an end. Kids are back in School next week. Pears and apples are maturing on the trees. The Celsius dropped from it’s peaks. The Sun sets earlier, and earlier, and earlier, and so do we. I look back and think of beautiful evenings at the beach, abundance of B.C grown fruits and veggies, and warm morning walks, getting away from our south facing home heat. I look forward and I see the charm of Autumn. A time to retreat, drink tea, read, and snuggle. Our first Autumn with Georgia. I am excited to watch her watching the season change. During our strolls, she glances by concrete walls and stares for prolonged periods at the tree-tops. I wonder how she will perceive them slowly turning, from green to yellow, from yellow to orange, from orange to red, from red to brown, from brown to the ground…

Fascinating fact of life to realize: everything is constantly turning, becoming, aging, changing, transforming into something else – but essentially all small matters remain a part of the greater oneness on earth. Same but different. Re-arranged. We are currently re-arranging life. Once again packing into storage the little bits and pieces of our life. Soon we travel across the Coastal Mountains for a month-long family farm stay until our much further and long overdue journey to Brasil. One final remark before I get ahead of myself (in time and space) this post is about the beauty and balance between city and nature, shelter and outdoors. For a glimpse of Summer, here’s Akira, Madoka and Adam’s son, moments before he picked his first cherry tomato off the vine. The most handsome creation. An explorer, food lover, and bare-foot walker.

Akira in the Garden

This post brings to you another one of Max’s thrift-store finds: The Boy from the Sunwritten and illustrated by Duncan Weller.

On their way to school on an idle black-and-white morning, three kids sit and stare at the grey nothing around them. An industry and fumes lies in the background. Suddenly a boy with a bright yellow head lands from the sky. The Sun boy is decidedly going to cheer them up and as quick as a magic trick, he shows them a magnificent rainbow bird. The boys look surprised and eager to see more. The paths around turn green, butterflies, children, musicians, and animals all appear as the kids follow the Sun boy across the concrete path. Through ancient forests and fields they run until the sidewalk stays behind. The Sun boy brings color and beauty to life. The abundance of space and air welcome imagination and play. His advice is wise “And when you take the time to fill the worlds within you will join the world without”, for one can find happiness inside and bring color to life in the greyest of days. And so the children learn this trick. The industry remains in the horizon but the children take the path that leads to the trees dancing in the Autumn wind.

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Night Sky Wheel Ride

This week’s post is a deserved mention and a “fun-tastic” picture book. So back in January, there was I, five months pregnant, enjoying life between rainy days, snow-muddy sidewalks, movie torrents, pre-natal yoga, and home-cooked feasts. God knows why, I was still insisting on finding a job and being honest about the fact that I was due in May was clearly not helping. Long story short, I started out 2012 canvassing for the Wilderness Committee. And another long story short, it all ended one evening (seven days later) when I had knocked on more than 25 houses in three hours and all I managed was to hand out flyers on Salmon Farms and the Enbridge Pipeline. To be specific it ended when I desperately had to pee behind a bush at a North Vancouver yard (people weren’t even answering the door, let alone letting me use their bathroom). That was it. No more canvassing for my pregnant self. Defeated. Until one happy morning when I had the idea to contact Michael, co-owner and publisher of Tradewind Books. Mike took me in despite showing a very thin layer of experience and knowledge in the field of children’s book publishing.

The following Monday I started an internship at Tradewind Books and a teaching assistant position for the Children’s Book Workshop Mike teaches at UBC. Days went by and I felt happy and productive. Mind mapping and quick notes were my way of keeping track of all the information, knowledge, and experience on children’s books Mike has to share. During my internship I learned about web design, copyrights, editing, book design, and the woven network of publishers and editors across the continents. Mike’s wife, Carol, is the art director at Tradewind Books. She is always in tune with what is out there and has an incredible talent to visualize and bring books to life with a fresh breath of art. Along with Carol’s touch is the brilliant work of the graphic designer, Elisa Gutiérrez. An example of their extravagant results is the book Night Sky Wheel Ride.

Night Sky Wheel Ride brings together Sheree Fitch‘s playful poetry and Yayo‘s breath-taking illustrations, in what literally feels like a wheel ride daring adventure into the night! Nothing is impossible, everything is imaginable, and movement is the only permanent thing. All is grand and turning, from apple trees, to laundry machines, all the way into the sky. Anyone who reads this book through will be moved along and thrilled by a contagious joy. Elisa designed this book wonderfully, giving the text movement and life in Yayo’s art work. This book was one of Mike and Carol’s gifts to Georgia and they will always have a special place in our bookshelf. At this stage, Georgia only half pays attention when I read her books, but the musical read and vivid colours sure grasped her attention. She waved her arms around and licked her fingers in delight.

Check out an interview with Yayo on Taleen Hacikyan’s Art Blog.

If I Were a Lion

Who doesn’t love receiving gifts on the good old mail? A couple of days ago, I got startled by an exaggerated door bell noise “Canada Post, I have a package for Georgia Brown.” So I grab Georgia on one arm and run down the stairs. It was a package of treasures: two beautiful pictures books and a green peppa snuggly rabbit (the ones with wool inside especially designed to gather smells, memories, and miles). Precious! Georgia laid beside me wit her peppa near as I flipped through the books. So this post is dedicated to “the other” Brown family in Cawston who sent us these gifts, Corey, Colleen, Simon, and Mia.

Through the Coastal Mountains they travelled. In a beautiful Valley they settled. Healthy and happy chickens they raise. While Simon and Mia thrive in energy, health, and charisma. From the first time I met Simon I’ve been charmed by his adventurous spirit and smiles. And Mia, she is one of a kind. Or, one of my kind. Tough, but so incredibly sweet. She likes the color Pink and doesn’t put up with mean roosters. We don’t see each other as often as I wish but I notice them grow, move on to the next grade, learn riding all kinds of wheels, and hear stories that happen in their own world- acres of backyard where everything is possible. These guys chose the quiet life. Not so quiet when you have rooster and kids running around in the morning. But their home is a place of nurture. I look up to their gentle and respectful ways of parenting. And look out for the blue Toyota whenever I’m in town, just to wave hello.

On to our book… This one, I must say, is one of my favorites of all times. If I Were a Lion written by Sarah Weeks and illustrated by Heather M. Solomon.

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The book begins with this young red-haired girl sitting on a corner (time-out chair) and her mother saying “You try my patience, child! I do not like it when you’re wild.” The following spreads take us on a journey of this girl’s imagination. Taking on examples from the wildest animals she goes to portray what wild really is and what wild will do. And why is it that she isn’t wild. The illustrations are fantastic! As if straight from a child’s mind they picture animals going wild inside the girl’s home. Wild coyotes howl to the moon and rummage through the trash, an orca whale splashes in the kitchen sink, seals and walruses scatter around the tiles… Like every child this girl is creative and knows right from wrong. She brings incredible creatures to her home, which turns out in chaos, just to show that if she was wild…. Things would be a lot worse!

I love the playful text and the textured illustrations, which incorporate the girl into images of her fantasy. We make mistakes, we drive our parents crazy, we make a mess, we hide, we can be mean…. One thing is that we have to learn from it, know how to fix it up when we can, and apologize when we can’t. Until one day, we are on the other end, as parents of our own wild child.

A Bit Lost

This post goes way back in time… the time when I was a little bean in my mom’s belly. July 1988, it must have been a cool Winter day. I picture my mom with a great round belly and her great luminous smile. Perhaps she spent the day at home, cherishing her temple and the simple pleasure of being home. I imagine my sister, Ana, in her toddler days, a blue-eyed blondie that could get around with just about anything for her cuteness prevailed. Ana probably dove into my mom’s bed (that’s if she wasn’t already there) and gave her a million kisses and happy birthdays before 9am on that July 26th. At the moment, I might have actually known what the day was like… from my mother’s womb perhaps I knew there was a celebration, perhaps I knew my birthday too was drawing closer, and likely, I knew my sister’s voice, the sound of kisses, and the taste of chocolate cake.

Two days later, there was I. Born at 9:00 in the morning. A new bundle of life. I believe that even the earliest moments of our lives linger with us and in us. The abundance of care, devotion, respect, and warm love, are an intrinsic part of me. I think of my mom as a fountain with a constant flow of energy. This energy stays positive no matter what comes her way. It translates into happiness and courage. It divides easily three ways, so we all feel the desired attention. She brought my sisters and I into this world, three distinct souls that converge in the essential ways we face life, laugh, and play. And these are essentially my mother’s ways.

I reflect on these things as I watch Georgia’s expressions trying to imitate mine. I watch her mouth trying to follow the exaggerated movements of mine. And fall deeper in love every time she blinks slowly and smiles – to start all over again. I believe this “game” of imitation has great influence on us. The gestures we develop. The attitudes we take. To respect ourselves and others. To speak our opinion. To laugh. To help. To hug. To be hugged. To trust. To stand back up after being hurt. To bake incredible brownies. To celebrate. To be loyal to our family and friends. To fold clothes and care for our home. To be cautious. To dream high. To cry in both happiness and sadness. To have courage.  And foremost, to bear fruits that will nurture the grounds of our own tree of life.

Finally, here’s one of my mom’s book choices for Georgia: A Bit Lost, by the Irish illustrator and designer Chris Haughton.

This baby owl falls off her nest and can’t find her momma. As simple as that. This book is about that feeling of being lost, or even worst, lost from our nest and mom. I mean, look at this baby owl… she’s lost! Luckily she comes across a friendly squirrel that truly feels for her. And her descriptions of what momma looks like takes them to different animals that are definitely not momma, finally leading baby owl back home. The motto behind this story is also the simple fact that in life, sometimes we don’t value something until it’s gone – or out of sight – or lost for a little while…

The illustrations are beautifully crafted by hand and digital means. The characters really stand out with full emotions and expressions, while the forest is playfully designed in contrasts of blue, pink, red, and green. It is definitely worth a glimpse on the post by the author on A Bit Lost: the making of.

And I confess: I fell A Bit Lost every time I loose my mom of sight. I still do, and always will.

And Then It’s Spring

This week’s post goes out to my husband, Max Brown. On Tuesday, the 17th of July, he turned 25. A short work-day allowed us to enjoy a mellow celebration in the company of our baby girl Georgia. We strolled across the steaming asphalt streets, through refreshing parks and gardens, to our lunch destination Che Baba, on Fraser St. and Kingsway. The combination of a pleasant and minimal 70’s atmosphere with an open kitchen serving fresh ingredients was perfect for the occasion. Max and I shared an incredible roasted & pickled beet salad and the absolutely most amazing slow roasted pulled pork shoulder sandwich of all times. Trust me. Perfectly cooked and arranged on a fresh ciabatta baguette. To die for!

        Click on the photo to read a review on Che Baba Cantina.

Enough of all the food talk. Let’s get to our book of the week and the reason behind it. Over the last months Max found many many great children’s books. Just wait, keep reading, and you’ll get to know them all. But this week’s choice has a special reason. Max grew up in acres of organic orchards and fields, at his parents farm in Interior B.C. A bicycle ride from the Similkameen River, where he learned to dive, swim in the currents, and find precious stones and other treasures adrift… His childhood was shaped by the seasons, the weather, the worries, and the gift of the most delicious tasting fruits and vegetables. The farm is located in a beautiful Valley where spotting blue jays and eagles, deers and bears, are all a part of life. Perhaps the farm-life explains his patient and caring nature. And Then It’s Spring was a special book that awaited for Georgia since early Spring. We waited and watched, with wonder and excitement, as Max’s lettuce and herbs sprouted, Georgia came to this life to smile and thrive.

And Then It’s Spring is a wonderful picture book about a boy and his animal companions waiting for Spring to come and their Seeds to Sprout. It’s written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin Stead, with a unique use of block-print technique. Erin won the Illustrator Caldecott Medal for the book A Sick Day for Amos McGee, co-created with her husband, Philip Stead. Hope you enjoy this book trailer on this gentle and rainy Friday afternoon- or on a sunny side if you elsewhere reside.

M is for Music

Music has an amazing influence on us. I have friends whose babies are soothed by the same songs they recall listening to while pregnant. Last Friday we saw The Be Good Tanyas live in downtown Vancouver at the CBC musical nooner, it was sunny, it was really hot, and there were lots of people gathered.

Among the most enthusiastic and grooving ones was a crowd of kids right in front of the stage. Up and down they jumped, running after each other, grabbing the shy ones by the hand, dancing in circles wearing summer hats and lively colours. Kids instinctively shake to the beats. Witnessing this reminded me of how magically music brings people together and loosen our stiff necks. For those living in Vancouver, music is a huge part of our summer hyper of living outside. Tonight, we’re venturing with Georgia to the Folk Festival and the weekend also holds a great celebration: Nicky and Gabe’s wedding! An incredible pair of humans that live this life with equal parts of passion and justice. I am thrilled to join you in this day, rooted in commitment and respect. And this is the incredible picture book they gifted to our bebe:

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M is for Music (2003) is written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated with collage and paint by Stacy Innerst. This book brings a musical choice of words to the alphabet. Every page is enriched by instruments, genres, artists, and qualities of sound. It goes like this:

I is for interesting instrument (interval, intonation, improvisation)

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The Alphabet is followed by Musical Notes from A to Z that include an explanation/insight on the words. The large print with deep colours and shades attract the eyes of our little one- who is two months old just today. I will finish this one up with a video from L’Orchestre d’Hommes-Orchestres, We saw their Tom Waits concert at the Cultch from the front row while I was pregnant. One of the most memorable musical experiences of all times. Note: extremely talented performers and interesting instruments at play.

Ziiim

The Summer kicked in…! Again, Vancouver reveals its diverse and excited population out and about on the streets. Three evenings this week we spent at the beach, napping under the sunshine, napping by the Sea. Georgia surely likes the Pacific waves and breeze. Yesterday I left on a quest to find a summer hat to protect her face during our walks and picnics. I found a great adjustable hat that will last us through our trip to Brazil next Winter. Other than Georgia’s early start at the beach I’ve been reading and singing for her in Portuguese. I guess she is half Brazilian and half Canadian but the more I hear this, I like to believe she will grow up and feel a whole of each- rather than a half- of both.

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This picture book was written by João Wady Cury and illustrated by Ilka F. Mourão. Ziiim (2012) does not only have a beautiful cover (with all my favorite blues, greens, and oranges) but it is also written in the Q&A form, which makes this inquisitive exploration of love and dimensions very personal. It represents a child’s journey from their heart (warm and near) to the ever expanding universe- and back. The message in this book has a profound impact in my life. My heart, my home, my loved ones, are all spread between the continents. Rather than having little pieces of my heart everywhere I like to imagine it pulsing wide, remaining one strong unit beating to my Brazilian pace and Canadian ways. This book was a gift from my sister, Ana, and brother-in-law, Miguel. I’m always cruising through this city reminded of their company and joy of life – rain or shine. I’m always missing with my heart and traveling the seas to know where and how they are. Saudades is all I got.

*I will keep an eye for an English publication of Ziiim.