“Although I couldn’t attend the 2012 Bologna Book Fair which just closed last week, my first picture book, The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister, was on display. This annual fair is the most important international event in the children’s publishing industry. Publishers and agents from all over the world met to show off their wares and buy & sell foreign rights. While insiders reported that there seemed to be fewer attendees this year than last, business was robust. “Ernestine” proudly took her place at the active SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators) stand which showcased the work of some of their members.” Linda Ravin Lodding, author, The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister
Posted on the KaBOOM! site by Guest Blogger: Linda Ravin Lodding on September 14, 2011
Originally from New York, Linda Ravin Lodding has spent the past 15 years in Austria, Sweden, and now The Netherlands, where she lives with her family in a one-windmill town. She is a working mom, shutter-bug, yoga class drop-out, cheesecake lover, hula-hooper, dreamer, and author of the wonderful children’s book, The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister. Here, she reflects on the child- and play-friendly culture she has encountered in her new home:
When my family first moved to the Netherlands, four years ago, it wasn’t just the quaint windmills dotting the landscape that tipped me off that we were living in a foreign land. Nor was it the tractor-wheel-sized rounds of cheese in our village shop. It wasn’t even the picture postcard views of tulips ‘ribboning’ through the fields. No. It was the children – biking, running around, and freely playing outdoors.
Let me explain. When we first arrived in The Netherlands, we decided that we’d “go Dutch” and cycle everywhere. My then nine-year-old daughter was keen. Her school is only a stone’s throw up the street – but it is a busy street with a tricky roundabout . To complicate matters, there are so many cyclists on the bike path that it feels like the Tour de France. So, naturally, I strapped a helmet on her head and off we cycled – together.
It was soon very evident (especially to my daughter) that no other parent was biking with their child like a Mother Goose making way for her gosling. Dutch children were biking by themselves — and not only to and from school. They were biking to the town, to their friends’ houses, to the beach, to their sports activities. I’d see children on bikes and wonder, where was the adult? Granted, kids here are basically born on bikes, but weren’t their parents worried that their little ones would get lost? Side-swiped by a bus? Plucked off the street by a pedophile?
Obviously Dutch parents didn’t have such concerns. Or, if they did, they decided to not let them get in the way of embracing a free-range childhood.
As a friend of mine said, “The dangers have always been here – it’s no more or less dangerous today than it has ever been in Holland, yet parents, on balance, opt to give their kids freedom and independence.” And she, like many Dutch parents, thinks this attitude leads to happier, healthier and more resilient children.
She may very well be right. A 2007 UNICEF study found Dutch children to be the happiest among children in the 21 industrialized countries surveyed.
That well-being seems to be cultivated at a young age through parents, schools and communities. “I want for my child the same kind of playful childhood that I had,” another Dutch friend of mine told me. “I tell my children to go out and play and not come home until their pants are ripped!”
Communities are also on board – especially as childhood obesity is on the rise here in The Netherlands. In an effort to reverse that trend, nearly every Dutch child is engaged in some sort of physical activity. As American schools slash recess and P.E. to make time for more sedentary classroom instruction, Dutch schools provide half-days every Wednesday so kids can pursue sports.
What else explains why Dutch children so happy? Play!
You only have to look at the painting, “Children’s Games” painted by Pieter Bruegel, the Elder over 400 years ago, to see that children in this region have been engaged in independent play for centuries.
And, today, Holland has an abundance of play facilities for children – from construction playgrounds to water playgrounds to natural playgrounds. Just take a look at this Dr. Seuss-inspired playground, featured previously on Play Today, in Hoenderloo, in Netherlands’ Landal Miggelenberg park.
So, I’ve been trying to “go Dutch” in more ways than one. Beyond eating Gouda and tiptoeing through the tulips, I now let my daughter bike to school by herself and ensure that we all make time to lighten up a bit and to play.
Don’t miss Linda’s book! Read about The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister, whose “well-meaning busy parents have packed her after-school hours, turning Ernestine into the over-scheduled poster child of today. But Ernestine is about to opt out and do what no Buckmeister has ever done before: just PLAY.”
by Jane Naliboff
Every year, sometime in late November or early December, sometimes crossing over the biggest winter holiday for most Americans, comes Chanukah. Not a major holiday by any means, but one that is associated with gifts, delicious food, and family, if you’re lucky enough to have them near you.
When my husband and I moved to the woods of central Maine with our then 14 month old, income was what we had in mind and there was a good job waiting for my husband amongst the piney woods and lakes. Not having family close by wasn’t an issue, we were strong, independent, and anxious to begin new traditions with our own little family that soon ballooned to five of us. Being on the secular side, we chose to offer culture and holidays that included food and gifts to our girls. Naturally Passover and Chanukah easily became their favorites.
Three small menorahs, three boxes of drippy, colored candles, star of David and dreidel cookies sprinkled with blue sugar, mountains of latkes and sour cream and applesauce, and a pile of blue and silver gifts was a happy time of year. Continue reading “Chanukah: A Different Celebration”
In honor of Veterans Day, we asked Flashlight author and US Army Major Thad Krasnesky to share some of his thoughts on being a children’s author and on serving in the military. This is the first in a series of posts from our authors, illustrators, and other Flashlight folk on the holidays.
by: Thad Krasnesky
Veterans Day is a wonderful time here at West Point. Although any holiday celebrating the soldier cannot be far removed from the more serious side of the occupation, it is a much less solemn occasion than Memorial Day. Veterans Day is a celebration of life and a remembrance of victory. More importantly for the soldier, it commemorates the end of war. Although some people think that soldiers long for war, this is simply not the case. There are violent people in any occupation. Certainly there are some among the ranks of the soldier. The true soldier however, the one who practices the profession of arms and is not simply a hired gun, longs for peace. Douglas Macarthur, a West Point graduate and a leader of character once said, “The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” Dwight Eisenhower, another West Point graduate and distinguished leader said, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity.” Veterans Day remembers that moment in time, when soldiers on both sides of the line in WWI were able to lay down their weapons. The day that they said, “This many deaths, but no more.” Continue reading “Veterans Day: A Soldier and Children’s Author Celebrates”