Category Archives: KidLit


Catching a glimpse of a small sign tucked in the corner of a local beauty parlor’s front window advertising its participation in Locks of Love immediately reminded me of another of Pat Brisson’s life-changing books: Melissa Parkington’s Beautiful, Beautiful Hair.

Although Ms. Brisson’s main character, a young school girl, donates her hair to a fictitious hair-to-wig program, the poignant story of the heroine’s sacrifice of her beautiful, beautiful locks has indeed prompted real-life hair donations, as I can attest—starting with the author’s son’s donation.

Seeing before-and-after photos of Ms. Brisson’s young adult son, as well as the young adult son of the book’s illustrator, donning and donating long hair grown and cut in response to the words and art in their mothers’ deeply moving book, was indeed inspirational! …And not only to me!

Following Ms. Brisson’s school visit, one of the teachers donated her hair, ceremoniously cut in the presence of her students by a cancer-survivor hairstylist, grateful to use her talents to support an unknown recipient, who like her, will no doubt appreciate the outreaches of love in practical matters, including the love that rests, like a blessing and wish for healing, securely upon her head!

Beauty parlor. Advertisement in the window. Pat Brisson’s book. Beautiful gifts of self-donation. Life and literature totally connected.


Among a whole cadre of memorable literary dads, one stands out for me this Father’s Day: the father whose story is told through the voice of his daughter, recounting what took place, as she says, The Summer My Father Was Ten.

So impressed was I with the tender reactions of the fifth graders with whom I first shared the book, that I changed my intention to target the book for their grade level only, and began reading the book with fourth and third graders, who reacted with the same sensitivity as did the ten-year olds.

Based on the students’ reactions—to say nothing of my own!—I knew that I must find a way to fund an author visit, and that the author I needed to invite was Pat Brisson, whose fatherhood tale has so deeply moved my mind, heart, and spirit.

And so it came to pass that eighteen months later, during Respect Week in the month of October, that Ms. Brisson was inspiring our children, through a trio of assemblies, to become better writers and readers—truly, more full human beings.

In the interim, I had met Ms. Brisson, read her other books to our students as part of an author study to prepare them for her visit, and come to admire her more and more, so that on the day of her arrival, I felt the same “star-struck” giddiness, of sorts, that I had experienced decades earlier in the presence of a baseball hero.

Surely, I will devote more writings to more fully elucidate the impact of Ms. Brisson’s books on my life and the lives of the students with whom I shared them. For now, on this Father’s Day, I invite you to read or re-read her deeply moving tale and to let her writing catapult you on a personal journey of recalling life-lessons taught by the father figures in your life, by way of their having shared with you poignant remembrances of their own childhoods.

And let the recollections inspire you to repay your gratitude by making a commitment to share your story with the children in your life!

Happy Father’s Day!

Mice tales

Whose Mouse Are You? was a question first asked by Robert Kraus in his picture book mouse tale published “way back” in 1970, when civil rights and women’s rights were raising all kinds of societal, racial, and gender self-image questions.

Posing our adult selves with the same question, albeit 45 years later, it seems to me, remains a healthy self-test–maybe even a necessary reality check–even if (especially if!?!) we think we have ourselves all figured out.  Who—or what– “owns” us? Motivates us? Takes first place in our minds and hearts? Who or what takes precedence in our time, energy, or checkbook? Who or what is our life all about?

Finding adult meaning in stories such as Whose Mouse Are You?: that’s the beauty of reading children’s picture books, with or without the children! …Deceivingly simple plots that children can follow often present philosophically deep journeys into self that adult readers can take!

Whether or not you have a child to whom to read (or re-read) the book, treat yourself to a read of Kraus’s book, and if you are okay with mouse allegories, and you are facing an unintended change in your life, particularly in your work life, you might wish to (or re-read) the grown-up mouse tale question book written for adults—Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson.

Then, just for fun, read both books to a child. There’s no telling what message and meaning a youngster might take from them! The insights of a child can be insightful for adults, indeed!

here’s to familiar refrains…

My daughter recently gifted me with a Melissa Manchester CD, and I was amazed—although I should not have been—how readily I remembered the words to her “old songs.” And as I reveled in singing along, I felt transported back to the time and place that I listened to Ms. Manchester, waiting for my teenage children to return from school. I relived the intensity of the emotion I felt then, especially when singing about the clown who was me. (Maybe I read too many young adult romance novels for my own good…)

It wasn’t only her music that accompanied me through the day; it was Barry Manilow’s and Diana Ross’s voices who did me the honors, too. Quite a threesome they were: Manilow, Manchester, and Ross. I alternated listening to them, not in any particular predetermined order, sometimes enjoying all three voices in one day, and sometimes sticking to one of another of them exclusively for a number of days. Why, I hadn’t really thought about. Nor could I verbalize my motives—even to myself. Not that I ever asked myself…till one day…..

Years after they left the house, my children boasted knowing what kind of mood they would find me in before even opening the front door. Their secret technique? They would listen through the door for the sound of the songs playing in the living room. They didn’t share, and honestly, I didn’t want to ask, which artist they paired with which mood of mine. But they insisted that they used the music as a barometer of how to approach me—or not approach me—with certain information or requests. And to think that I thought I was home alone enjoying music until my children came home, with the music having nothing to do with them… (Neither of them liked any of the three artists at the time, though in recent years, my daughter has been to a few Manilow concerts. I never have.)

So there’s the real life. What does Melissa Manchester’s music have to do with literature? For years, I have encouraged my students to hear the music in poetry and vice versa (okay, I know it can be a challenge to hear the poetry in some of today’s songs). Having taught so much poetry in the intervening decades since I first hummed and sang along to my favorite threesome, this time when I listened to the lyrics of so many of Manchester’s songs, I appreciated all the figures of speech they embraced in ways I never had been attuned to years before. And I find myself repeating some of those lines to myself, just as I did years ago, but with more sensitivity and appreciation for the intricacy and the beauty of the figurative language.

I thought, too, about how lines from works of literature can emblazon themselves on our hearts and minds. “It was the best of times….” …”I think that I shall never see…” “It is a far, far better thing…,” and my personal all-time favorite: “I think I can; I think I can…”

As an adolescent who considered the familiar refrain from Wally Piper’s Little Engine That Could as just so much propaganda from adults trying to dupe their children into believing not to fear or striving to reach new heights—or even to do the mundane, like trying their dreaded spinach, as an adult, I have grown to have deep respect and gratitude for Mr. Piper and his positive message. Now, as a certified psychology teacher, I have read the studies that support the effects of our words—positive or negative—on our self-esteem and achievement.

So now, unashamedly, when I hesitate to do something tough that I know I best do, I say to myself, sometimes even out loud: “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.”

And sometimes, not always, I prove myself right.

p.s. Did I mention that my daughter is taking me to my first Barry Manilow concert soon and very soon?  … I promise to be on my best behavior and not to scream:)  “I think I can. I think I can… I think I can.”